Saturday, 10 November 2007

Day309 Peek at CoJ, HL2-EP2 & more

Half-Life 2 - Episode 2
I am having a ball actually - even though it is definatively acontinuation of the main game and EP1. Things feel very much at home with our usual cast of bad guys with a few new arrivals just to spice things up a little. I have been hairing around the place in my beat up car (either I am a terrible driver or the handling isnon-existant). There are plenty of nice touches that make the game still shine, Alix jumping in and out of the car and commenting on my driving and many more. The game also does a good job of making me (or rather the Freeman) feel special, this helps make the battling worth while.

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Call of Juarez
I spotted this title on Steam when firing up HL2-EP2. I really do like the western genre for some reason and so and FPS portrayal of it is always worth a second look. Having a little preview peek at Call of Juarez seems obvious then.

The trailer shows the guts'n'all nature of this one and doesnt really inspire like it could. The other trailers on the gametrailers site show off a few more of the bits, but it is hard to see where the real drawing power will be for UbiSoft. The idea of playing two sides of the one story as it unfolds is nice, and though some might complain about cliches - for me a western needs them to fell like a western. At first glance the weapons seem way too accurate and deadly at range - much more like our ultra modern FPS capability. I doubt I will have time for this, but is does inspire anyhow. GameSpot have heaps of great images from the game, here are a few that show the nice wild-west-ness of it all.

[screenshots of Call of Juarez from the Gamespot site]

Friday, 9 November 2007

Day308 Mouse Cleaning and Klara Images

Apple Mightymouse Cleaning
I could take it no longer, my otherwise lovely Apple Supermouse with its sexy little wheel-ball-button on the top obviously needs a clean. The next question was how...
A quick google for solutions revealed this to be a common issue with a host of methods purporting to work for people with differing levels of success.

This method worked for me:
Kevin Konikowski
By far, the best way I've found to clean the ball on the Mighty Mouse is to take a piece of bright white paper, turn the mouse upside down on it, press down on the ball, and run the mouse quickly in circles over the paper. This will remove all the gunk that's building up on the ball and when you take the mouse off the paper, you'll see everything that you cleaned on the paper -- and the scroll ball will work just like new.

and was found on the macintouch site along with plenty of other ideas. I liked this method because you can do it anywhere anytime, I just used the back few pages of my sketch book and hey presto I am working like a charm again - plus I can see the gunk on the page :-)

Here are some links which have a heap more suggestions if this doesnt work for you:
http://www.macintouch.com/readerreports/mightymouse/topic3592.html
http://shirster.multiply.com/journal/item/194

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Klara Medkova Images
I was interested to see these royalty free images for sale on Ballistic's site. They are 16 Megapixel monsters and are so detailed that every teensie wrinkle, hair and pore on Klara is there to see. Could be handy for building close-up reference textures and such, way out of my league, but interesting none-the-less.
The image sample below not only shows the detail of their images, but also nicely reveals the complexity of our eyes - check out all those lovely swirly patterns.

[Image of the detail from the Klara Images from the Ballistic site]

There have been several discussions in the last week about royalty free audio for students in particular. I will have to look further into how we might make inroads into this whole royalty free side of things. Maybe there are some that are free as long as they are for non-profit as well...

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Half Life 2 - Episode 2
I Started on Half Life 2 - Episode 2 today. I have been looking forward to this for quite a while and it was great to get back into the HL world. Though there are new enemies, those nast acid spitting ant lions being the prime example - things feel very much like the previous HL2 content. The gameplay feels the same and the puzzles have been simplistic thus far - but still enjoyable and rewarding to complete. I got my self to the end of the This Vortal Coil chapter and it looks the combine are my next combatants after the ant-lions and a few headcrab zombies to keep things interesting. I like the companion Vortigon's commentary as we went along, a nice touch.

I had my first run in with the G-Man as well - most mysterious as always...

[screenshot from the HL2 site]

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Day307 Fun and Games

I grabbed the Orange Box (cant wait to put this bundle through its paces). But before I get lost in those worlds I have some more Tomb Raiding to do... I find myself (well Lara) having just got herself the Poseidon Key deep in the chapel after completing the temple. I am enjoying the puzzles at the moment, not getting too stuck.

I also watched The League of Extraodinary Gentlemen again on DVD. I like this movie, though it was probably panned by critics. There is quite a bit of effects work in the film, some of which is pretty central to the characters, Skinner's invisibility for example.

Heroes is starting to get into gear as the eps tick past as well. Season 2 didnt kick off with the same intrigue and jaw-droppiness that the first did, but things are building again.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Day306 TRA

With session and official study done for a bit - I took the opportunity to play some gaming - Yay.
So I broke out my Tomb Raider Anniversary where I was stuck at the T-Rex. After googling for how to do the Adrenaline Dodge properly it still took some mastering, but finally the big guy fell. Then I proceeded to work my way through the temple after getting that final cog in the machine at the waterfall. The game is too 'repeaty' for me really, but it is still fun flinging Lara about.
I will start to download and collect the bits from The Orange Box over the next few days before I take on its juicy content and then there is Crysis coming as well!!!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Day305 3D Presentation

We presented our little animation piece to Will and the class and it went down very well. The polish, lip syncing, animation fixes and extra pieces like the credits we were able to accomplsh in the last week made a big difference.

I am mighty happy with how it all wound up for us and it means all the more having Alicia and Wes in the credits :-)

I will have to dive into a project over the summer if there arent any summer session courses for my MDM. Perhaps something that wields the Crytek Engine...

Monday, 5 November 2007

Day304 Touch more dusting as always

Episode51 Final Touches

Logbook
I spent a few hours migrating my content across from the blog to Dreamweaver. This will let me submit a file that will load up nicely enough and will then grab any linked material off the net. This way even the embeded vids are working. I ended up reconfiguring my blog template into the logbook, this is a nice reference to the original source.

Even though I was blogging away anyhow, the idea of keeping a log of all that we have learnt and explored is a good one. It clearly shows us where we have come from and how we got to our current skill-set while also being a reference for finding things as we go forward.

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Credit Imagery
The guys have been working on the stills to include in our credit reel. Some of them are a blast and I am really glad this idea we had come through in the end. The red dress that Yaz created really pops for Bimbo, and had we done these fun bits earlier we may have gone with this for her throughout. Bimbo kept her 'little black dress' just as 3Dbabe had back at the outset.

Even though our 15 seconds of animation has a long head and tail, it does tell a grander story this way and allowed us to explore a few more ideas and processes.

[credit image collage]

Here is how it turned out after placing these images into the credits and making the final changes to the text. Onto compositing this in next.

[final credit reel image - well a shrunken version of it anyhow]

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Last Composite
Bringing this final piece to the puzzle into Premiere was exciting and seeing it run through complete for the first time was a great relief. I reset all the footage back to None under the Field Options. Even though having it as Interlace Consecutive Frames gives a better result in the preview, on render the results just dont seem as good.
I even found an OK set of options for the export, which got me a decent look with only an 8.8MB file which is alot better than the 120MB I had previously.
Settings I used in the Media Encoder: Quicktime, custom with video and audio; H.264 codec (this was the default - though I tried others); Quality 50 at 720x576; Frame Rate and Pixel size as per project; Non Progressive field order; I didnt set the bitrate (so not sure what it used)

Setting the quality to 100 instead gives me a 16MB file and it does look a little clearer. The main video issues are jaggies and interlacing complications still.
But then I worked on things some more and settled on these settings as being the best I found thus far:
  • Quicktime, custom with video and audio
  • H.264 codec (this was the default - though I tried others)
  • Quality 100 at 720x576
  • Frame Rate and Pixel size as per project
  • Non Progressive field order
  • Bitrate at 2000
  • Under output - turn off de-interlace
It now really looks the part:

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Day303 Ep51 Done and Dusted

Episode 51 ready for packaging
Premiere proved to be a good tool for compositing the various pieces together. I could animate the fade out of the titles, shot cross fades and credit movement etc. Indeed if I had this a few weeks ago I would have used this for everything including audio I think.

Video Ghosting
The next hurdle (there always seems to be one more) was video ghosting in the export from Premiere. It is as though Premiere is trying to smooth things out for me, a bit like motion blur, but in so doing is making things all smudgy.
It turns out that my footage from Fcheck (compiled from Maya's TGAs) needs to be set to Interlace Consecutive Frames under the Field Options for each video Clip. That gets things to look correct inside Premiere (CS3). But when Exporting the Movie, the settings with DeInterlace Video Footage in the keyframe section - actually this doesnt work - give a different but no more pleasing effect.
hmmmm the whole interlacing problem doesnt seem to have a one-button solution and could require quite a bit of playing with different formats and settings. I will add more to this whole thing when/if I work it out.

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After a group meeting to sort out the last few bits we need to do between now and submission, I am going to attack the build of my logbook from this blog content. The guys will send me the last of the images to include in the credits and I will composite them in before us having a final version.

Working on the translation of the logbook, I thought this image captured the top of the page pretty well:


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Background Inspiration today was provided by The Lord of the Rings (extended edition). The effects and animation work is so well integrated that it is just part of the film. From Golum to hordes of orcs, beasts, riders and oliphants the animation work is a real feat. Add to that the digital landscapes and effects work and there is simply too much to digest.

It actually makes our little piece of 15 seconds worth of animation feel rather meaningless - but all things start somewhere and given enough dedication wonders can be made.

One of the lovely shots (amongst the endless number in the whole thing) that I always look forward to is the 'pan up through the ring' shot in the belly of Mount Doom when Golum gets his hands on it. It is this attention to detail that is made all the more amazing by the enormous feat that the movies are as a suite.