Saturday, 25 April 2009

Recent Viewing and Fun

I love my nice new blu-ray of The Dark Knight, amazing film. Australia was beautiful (also blu-ray) to watch, seeing our country come to life, with the stellar cast and some stunning effects work. I watched the nice old Pyramids of Mars, a flashback for the Tom Baker lovers. Have watched Kung Fu Panda again as well and even more of Spirited Away - soo good.

Mighty sore (but fortunately not broken) finger is a good excuse to watch things on the nice large screen at home, so today I watched Twilight, again on blu-ray. This was much better than I expected and some pretty good teenage actors pulled it all together in a really absorbing way. I have the twin pack of the Hellboy films (DVD) as well and I am looking forward to them.

Oh and one of my recent accidents on the iPhone saw the port of the original Castle Wolfenstein 3D appear. A complete joy seeing this instant classic on the little platform. I have only played a teensie bit, but look forward to more :-)

Friday, 24 April 2009

Wiggly Stereoscopy

I was having a little look around at some 3D stereoscopy methods for the desktop - starting in NVIDIAland. The interesting thing I discovered along the way is a quirky little way of playing with the stereo effect called Wiggly Stereoscopy. It is basically just a way of playing with our vision to enhance a 3D effect using 2 oscillating images of a scene. The Wikipedia Stereoscopy page has some info to start with and there are more examples on sites like: Martin Sutherlands Blog, and these Castle Crag images. Note when it starts getting slow like these and many others on the net, to me it starts to give more the effect a video does rather than a still stereo image.

Here is one of many artistic works in the format by Jim Gasperini:

[wiggly stereo Flippant Venus Plunge via Jim Gasperini's site]

Injuries and the Oinkfrog

I had a plan to do a fair bit more Oinkfrog Rigging today, alas a game of soccer later and I am sporting a cracked toenail and more relevantly a nice swollen finger from a stint in goals - hmmm.
I am coping with this email ok, but the mousework feels really weird. Maybe I could try with my left hand :-)

Anyhow last night I did fix up the eyebrows as per the list and did the tail geometry. I did some work on the tail spline clusters, but wherever I seem to put them, I get a different effect. I have settled on one that at least doesnt deform the tail as things move, but they get left behind when larger section move. Perhaps after I define the various driven keys, I can just hide them and it wont matter any more.

I did a quick test for having nested lattices first sphere inside cube below. Then added the little yellow baby which has a geometry constraint to the red one (it is like a surface constraint). As I slide the 'cube' around with the child sphere through the lattices, the little yellow dot has great fun sticking to the surface of the red one. This was an investigation into an alternate way to do the eyeballs - alas I havent solved the otherwise simpler task of the aim constraint - but that may just need a little more work.

Maybe I will read up on things and watch some Heroes episodes tonight, see how the finger looks tomorrow.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Oinkfrog TODOs

After class and given the level of progress needed for next week here is a list of the TODOs for the Oinkfrog model and rig:
  • Eyebrows - parent to bones rather than skin, setup scale for distance and set not to mirror deformation.
  • Tail - add geometry (how dumb was it of me not to put all those edge loops in) and get the various driven keys onto the different shapes. Possibly test using blend shapes instead. Fix cluster parenting to get them moving with the right deformer handle.
  • Elbows - find a tutorial on creating blend shapes to fix elbows after bone deformation - apply to elbows.
  • Eyeball - test a way to have round pupils - add pupil sizing using this or the current method.
  • Eyes - test deformation of the head and eyes using another lattice over the top of the eye lattices.
  • Stretchy Bones - do a stretchy bone test. Apply stretchy bones first to arms - then check for viability for fingers.
  • Arms - create blend shapes for arms to thin them out after stretch is applied.
  • Feet - test some foot rigs for their suitability - apply one to the actual rig.
  • Skin - fix up the skinning for the full mesh to get the weights in nice places.
  • Legs - look for a way to fix the foot chaos when the hip goes past the leg IK.
  • Fingers - fix weights or find solution to ugly fingers.
  • Arm IK - check sanity of IK/FK for the arms and switching and stretch integration.
  • Handles - add handles for other parts of the rig - shoulders, hands, etc.
  • Mouth - do some blend/bone driven keys and blend shape tests. (mix of curves from driven bones and blends)
  • Nostrils - see if blends can let me shift them in position and even size on his nose.
  • Map - Research bump/displacement mapping and get one applied for future use.
There are plenty of other things I could look at - but this should keep me busy enough! I know I could do a better set of UVs, the set I have is servicable and I could do more on the model, in areas like the junction between the mouth and head, maybe model a tongue or something as well. But I think I will carry on, keep adding and learning more from here.

Wiiiiide TVs and Berg's movie

To help with the promotion of Philip's extra wide (cinema proportions 21:9) TV they have a fancy new site showing off the ratio and the ambilight fun. The whole widescreen concept has been accelerating as the HD resolutions begin to gain traction and with computers taking up the wider formats as well - they are now the norm. Whether the 21:9 ratio will take off, who knows. At sufficient size on a computer you can start having all manner of things side-by-side, but we are sacrificing a heap of vertical real-estate for some applications. The screen certainly looks beautiful on the web.

[Shot of the website in action for the Philips 21:9 screen]

Perhaps the coolest thing though is the short film/loop/piece by Adam Berg and Stink Digital titled Philips Carousel. The whole thing is a wonderful blend of physical setwork and post production - here are the youtube versions of the full thing and then the version with commentary.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Stanley Lau art wonders

[Stanley Lau image via his DeviantArt gallery]

There is a feature article on Stanley Lau in the current ImagineFX magazine, I love getting this mag each month - never fails to inspire. The article covers some history and the current projects that he and his studio are involved with. I like his work for its clarity, without it feeling underdone, or like a piece of contrived Illustrator art - it still has an organic softness to it. He brings a comic styling to the art though, which works wonderfully for the gaming and concept characters. My favourites are the ChunLi portrait and the Thanks Ashley one with the robot.

Here are a few images from his pretty large collection on DeviantArt:

[Stanley Lau images via his DeviantArt gallery]

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Oinkfrog gets some more skin and rig treatment

Some more work with the skin weights tools and Oinkfrog's bits and pieces are starting to be controlled by the right bones. Here we can see that his mouth is starting to get the character of the sketches after being rigged - YAY. It doesnt have quite the same nuance of the sketches as yet, not sure if this is a modelling, rigging or combo problem for me to solve.

His hands will need a heap more work in rigging and weighting to get them to deform nicely. I have the stretchy rig to add and need a way to stop the folding that occurs with the larger deformations. But it is alive.

I added a nice big pentagon at the base which after some parenting of the right bits gave me a way to move the whole rig around and not have things flying off in all directions. I have skinned the eyebrows to their own special bones (so far my only bit of rigid binding here) and this is working as designed. Alas it will need more thought as I need to either make the bones stretchy - or perhaps add another bone to allow the distance from his head to vary. The tail skinning isnt working as planned yet either, should be fixable I think and of course his feet need something clever. Here is where the rig stands at the moment.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Oinkfrog Skinning

I have a heap of rigging to do yet to get things even remotely as cool as I am driving for. But I thought I would run through some skinning on him to start to get a feel for the intricacies of this dark art.

Before I dove in and did a full auto skin in Maya, I added bones for his naval and the tip of his nose, both will let me do some nice jiggly animation later on with some follow-thru and bounce that will reinforce his pliable nature. I added the IK_spline solver to his tail with added clusters for the CVs - I hope once skinned this will bring his little curly tail into being. I also upgraded his skin to give more of a slick frogginess feel - while still being a nice cartoony pig pink.

The autoskin worked ok in some of the areas ok, but only ok. Almost everywhere needs some fixing and there are some bits that are just a train wreck. But that was to be expected and so into the paint weights tool I ventured. The automatic nature of these tools is something I will have to master yet, as I paint a weight away it just pops back to the last joint I painted. This I knew was coming, but I hoped it would be a little more polite.

Immersive 3D

One of the smaller projects we will run this year in FBE revolves around some nice kit for handling our capacity for presenting real-time environments. As the student (and research) models arent optimised in the same way that game levels are, they take some more grunt and people like to push the boundaries - this should help us do exactly that. One piece of this puzzle is to actually get stereoscopic viewing alive in a more approachable way, without going up to iCinema etc. NVidia and others are pushing ways to get 3D on the desktop more prevlent and we will have to grab hold of one or two as that is the next logical step, esp with movies taking the lead here.

Anyhow, here is a vid showing some pretty high levels of immersion with a little projection room and 3D. The effect us much like the iCinema setup, but doing the floor I think takes it all to another level:

Amazing 3D immersion technology from IDEO Labs on Vimeo.

Oinkfrog Eyes

I played around with Oinkfrog's eyes more today. I love the Aardman look and having the pupil and lids animated through Set Driven Keys is very cool. Alas with the degree of distortion that the eyeball goes through - I cant get a nice round pupil yet (will have to explore a way to get that).
They arent perfect, but they are there in the right place with rigged controls, moving lids and more. Here you can see the eyes with 2 stages of lid opening. One of the tricks was having the lids close not facing forward, but rather matching his diagonal head...

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Oinkfrog Rigging WIP

Using various references from class and online (I like Will's vids - 'bones' in funny places, crazy dogs and all), I have been rigging away on little Oinkfrog. Without knowing exactly how it would all come together I built the basic structure using a few more bones than is often the case as he is more pliable than a normal human and his stretch points may need the extra bones.

Building a stretchy rig is something I have references for and it seems like it will be fairly complex to have working nicely, so I am hopefully just setting up for some fun with that over the next few days. The basic rig is looking nice, though I haven't embarked on weightings yet apart from a few tests. I am not sure for example how well his big belly will deform and if the spine may need to move - or in fact if I will need some belly-bones to control it (I think this is the way to go at the moment).

His tiny little legs make my nice IK rig for them seem rather silly and I will have to try one of the many foot rigging methods to get something that works down there. His foot is much bigger and flabbier than a human foot, more like a scoober flipper - that is a challenge still before me.

I have rigged his huuuuge mouth in case I want to se bones to get the bulk of the deformation done rather than blend shapes. This will give me some nice arcs and I can use the blend shapes to tidy up and add nuence where I can. I have also rigged his eyebrows so I can do the same thing, get nice arcs for movement and use blends or lattices to get the shapes required for the various expressions that rely on them.

Eyes, eyes, eyes, I am onto version 4 of them now. I am learning a heap along the way and am currently trying a variation on Brian J Immel's Cartoon Eyes tutorial. Since I need to do the rig setup while I model as the final shape doesnt come until the controls are in place I end up getting it done then realising I need to start again. I am working on a solution that will get me his very wide open eyes and also let me close them altogether - probably using the sweep angle somewhere perhaps or a secret third eyelid to help out at the back...

As we can see his WIP eyes combined with his teeth and mouth is oh so very Ardman : 'cheeeeeese'

much more to come - this is great fun.