Saturday, 23 May 2009

Oinkfrog Next

I am liking where the Oinkfrog is at now, but there is always plenty more that can be done. Here are the things for the next stretch:
  • Build mouth close and Ooo blends
  • Build driver keys for fingers
  • Make arm shrink on stretch blend and driver
  • Neaten up the skin texture - esp seams
  • Make interface elements
  • Tidy Up Outliner and so forth.

Moebius Doco

Just watched a neat documentary "Moebius Redux - A Life in Pictures" on French comic artist Jean Giraud aka Moebius. I am inspired by people like him and the many folk who weave their way through his tale. I like the way comics and illustration work like his broaden an industry and bring so many perspectives to an art form that I still find very cool. Check his wikipedia entry for all the influential things he has been a part of and here are a few images of his work via the 1930sblog which has some thoughts on the documentary and with the link to the full doco online if your keen:

[images of Moebius work via the 1930sblog blog]

Oinkfrog Evolves

Lots of work on the Oinkfrog today.

After a few more touches to the parenting and controls for the foot I set about skinning him again. Note that because I parented the eyes into the rig they kept being skinned along with the actual skin, so I had to go back and unskin the lattices and eye geometry. For future reference perhaps a parent constraint rather than an actual parent would be better.

While skinning I also realised that I needed a better shoulder controller, so I added that and continued my merry way around the skin painting away.

I was working on the mouth and hands, but then popped down to have some fun with the tail. Again I noted that after skinning I needed a bit more rigging. I needed a controller for the scale of the main bone. This new controller in conjunction with the other allows for some pretty fun swishy springy tail movement.

I set about building driven keys for the mouth bones to get his nice HUGE smile to frown going. He feels much more animated and complete now that I have this big working. I did have to change the bone structure again to get the rig functioning more elegantly. So now there is a bone with no length that joins each side of the mouth to the bone in the middle of where his spine runs through his mouth.

Sculpt deformer time. I had to do quite a bit of experimenting to get something sensible with the sculpt deformer. There is an interesting relationship between the locator and the sculptor objects and I still feel that there can be some odd shading, but it is working and jiggling his Adam's Apple is fun (just like his nose, belly and tail).


Still Earth and Source of Quality

Was watching the film again and it is proving to be an intriguing case-in-point for my ongoing thoughts around how seemingly hairline the boundary is between something good that contains quality element across the board, but that fails to be actually good as a whole. If we look at the music charts, every one of those artists is trying to create a track that captures everyone's enthusiasm with essentially equitable levels of skills - yet we have very successful tracks and flops. Maybe it is like football (take AFL) where if each player plays just a few % better, then they will outdo their direct opponent and with that across the field equates to an utter domination. Just like genes - small changes can have big effects. So I am thinking film is the same, a few small changes have big effects and an extra couple of % in the skill department throughout again makes a huge impact.

So, if the above brain-dump has any merit, then perhaps that is why it is proving difficult for me to pin down where a film like The Day the Earth Stood Still went awry. Maybe it didnt, it was still the product of an army of very talented film makers but somehow it either missed that catalyst gene or we didnt get that last percentage point from everyone.

Here is the trailer, which is actually pretty good as it draws from a heap of pretty good content (I have mentioned many times how cool trailers are):

Note that things arent all bad here and it is still completely watchable, yet it falls flat when compared to a growing armada of films in this very specific genre alone. Plus we do get some awesome CG effects work to admire, the Giant's stadium being swept away is awesome:

New Feet

I spent some time creating a completely new foot rig for Oinkfrog. I referenced a few Maya foot tutorials including several Reverse Feet. I have ended up with this rig, which is a blend of the reverse foot which will still be helpful in having him bounce about. The foot then has an extension which allows his toes to wiggle about and flip flop as well.

I am not sure what the best technique is to get the handles all nicely aligned for rotations with the bones I have which arent axis aligned. Snapping them by point and orient without the offset maintained gets things in the right spot, though I dont seem to be able to freeze things in that way neatly. The same goes for adjusting the local rotation axes as well.

Anyhow, after quite a bit of work, here is a quick shot of the foot rig and tomorrow will be all about skinning again. After that will be some more blends, driven keys and interface elements.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Oinkfrog Refit

Today I set about the task of refitting some of the larger elements of the Oinkfrog rig. There are lots of things I would like to improve and elements that I can now see arent so good - this should hopefully fix all these up ready to add the details and refinements that every model/rig needs.

Here is the basic workflow for this exercise:

De-Skin the model, this allowed me to do more invasive things on the rig - then I will come back to re-skin later.
I smoothed down the Adam's apple and shrunk it down, this with the long awaited inclusion of a sculpt deformer should make for some real fun there.
Remove the hand and arm rigs. With the mental local rotation axes I ended up with somehow - this allowed me to create a new hand rig, this time being more careful I created the fingers and arm separately then parented them. Though some of the secondary axes vary between chains, for each chain they are nice and aligned now which is gooood.

I also added the special joint to handle the elbow - not only could it then be animated (which could be cute) but this will keep it as a nice ball even if the arm boned are stretching all over the place.
Though I had fun experimenting with IK fingers, I am going to go for FK with some controllers to allow for some quick rotations without having to do each finger joint. Plus I will FK the arm as that will give better stretch control than the IK versions I tried.
My plan is to have the blend shape that narrows his arms driven by an expression calculating the distance between the elbow and wrist in the case of the forearm - that should be fun.
I like this image looking down through a finger inside the hand with the joints inside:

Creating the controllers with an eye to doing translations and rotations was next - almost like a mix between IK and FK. Creating the various arcs/circles was ok and parenting them (point and orient) to the respective bones worked like a charm after some controller parenting. I thought I might have to deal with keeping my controllers aligned with things - but as they are the masters of orientation - it just works.
I am keeping the Es and other controllers from past experiments just until after I skin and it doesnt work completely to plan.

I removed the tail splineIK setup - I have a different plan for that now as dealing with that IK and a spiral tail was tricky. I created a new big tail bone and a controller so I can swish his curly tail around after it is skinned. Working through an increased set of loops in his tail I methodically created the spiral in his tail looking from his back. Then working around again getting the orientation right, thus keeping the tail thickness and smooth geometry going.
After skinning, I will be able to see how much in the way of blends the tail needs and how much that new controller can deliver.

I then had a little play with some new foot'n'leg rigging - not happy with it though. I will have a bit of a read and try and get some advice on a cool short-leg-flipper-foot rig...

Next up - feet, then skin then back into blends and controllers.

The Guild and Twitter

A quick check of who Felicia Day was on Twitter, one of the 20 I follow, led me to The Guild! I admit to only watching a single episode so far, but I can see it could be fun and have joined the BIG subscriber set. This web show (lots of short episodelets) is on youtube and their site. It is about an online guild and the real humans behind the characters - extra geeky for sure). I am not sure how these people find the resources for such things, but it clearly works as a promo tool, like an evolving showreel.

Gotta say that following 20 folk on Twitter is more than enough for me, I dont know how people follow thousands. It is a great little feed into various things, much like someone pointing you at interesting things to check out several times a day - if only there were time. I am enjoying the extra connection to the online world that Twitter is giving, it rests between blogs and say email acting as some nice public glue binding the online galaxy together...

[T-Shirt for The Guild available via their website.]

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


The idea of real-time quality graphics is what fuels a great deal of our experimentation with game engines. The idea that we can have lighting, textures, geometry all being rendered to us in real-time is what it is all about, if the quality of that render is high, then that is another step up and if we get interactivity, physics, effects and more then we are set.

The VRay guys (Chaos Group) have a new release of their renderer plugin for 3ds Max which is the standard for architectural visualisation which they have tagged RT (for real-time). I havent had a hands-on play at all as yet, but if the videos are anything to go by, we get one of our viewports continuously rendering away as we update the model, lighting, camera position etc.

I think this is a stretch to refer to this as a Real-Time release of the renderer, as the viewport is sitting there trying to keep up. My thoughts are that the last thing we would want is our computers struggling away on rendering a viewport making all the others slower. The idea is great and it is what we will take for granted in years to come. Have a look at the vids to get a feel for the state-of-play - one things for sure, VRay makes for some very pretty renders - they look awesome in the viewport.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Generi BadNews

One of the quick tasks for this week was to pose Generi getting some bad news. I went for some news with a tinge of real disaster in it. This was actually a little tricky, emotions often rely on a little context to really hone things with a comic character and rig like Generi. Hopefully he at least reads as really disturbed by something - holding his chest and bringing a fist to his mouth with concerned eyes (bug-eyes-as-they-are).

Generi WholeTime Boards

The second project for the Maya animation course and I am working with a nice emotional voice-track. The audio has some nice repetition, build-up, pauses and some nice expressions spring to mind - or maybe I have listened to it too many times already.

The concept for the piece is a lady, shocked at finding out she has been cheated on by her friends. She is letting out some realisation and frustration on photos of them. Here is a MKI bio for her:
Generi Character Bio MKI
She is a trusting young lady who quickly adopts friends and sees the good in people. She is engaged to Genero her long time friend and has been having the best time planning her wedding with her very best friend Gen.

Generi is a happy person, she likes to take her dog for a run in the park, trying to keep up as best she can. She dresses in a youthful way, perhaps reflecting that she still feels so young at heart. Her fiance she still sees as a teenage sweetheart, though they have been friends and then more for many years now.

Her empathy towards others has helped her keep longtime friendships with girls and boys from throughout her life. She loves a good romance novel and always cries at the emotional turning points as she invests her emotions in the characters, no matter how corny the story may be.

The very notion that she could be betrayed by a close friend is beyond her, she knows that may happen to fictional characters, but definitely not to her.
Here are some very quick storyboards breaking down the audio and starting to hint at some posing. I think I will have to work on having her use the full frame field and get enough emotion into the camera angles etc. I have been working on the Generi model a little so it will work in better with the audio - should be fun once I find some time to really get into it!


Oh and having Jumper on in the background is cool (awesome car sequence) - though a little distracting perhaps...

Sunday, 17 May 2009


The landscape of graphics engines is always changing and with plenty of attention for Unity, it may be worth keeping a close eye on others like Unigine. It runs under windows and Linux thus far and seems to produce some pretty nice visuals.

[images of the Unigine engine via their website]

Check out their site for more pics and such - here are a few videos as well:

Oh and I was pointed the way of Unigine through Twitter - still enjoying myself on there...

City of Ember

This movie didnt ever get much attention, perhaps only getting what it did via those who had read the book. So I wasnt expecting a great deal to be honest, but I actually had a great time. It is a fun family-style adventure when managed to build enough tension to keep me watching intently throughout. I liked the soundtrack as well by Andrew Lockington, though it doesnt seem to be on iTunes for me...

There are plenty of effects shots of various types which are used to flesh out the future-city of Ember, in its rundown and rustic state. The main use of the effects is in pulling off the many action sequences.

[Promo images from City of Ember from the main site via IGN]

City of Ember site