Monday, March 24, 2014

Ring of Fire

This is fan art for Ring of Fire, a talk show about corporate crime and legalized corruption. It's simply an animated logo with a generic camera path. The animation transitions to a blue placeholder, which is where the talking heads would go.

I used Maya fluid effects (FE) for the fire. I wanted motion blur because it adds another layer of realism. Without it, animation can look choppy and flat. FE are invulnerable to motion blur, so I had to go through a tricky process to achieve it. I'm reporting the process here because I can't find any tutorials that cover it, and maybe this post will benefit someone. (If this helped you, please say "hi" in the comments.)

There's probably a better solution, but this is the simplest one I could devise. It involves creating a mesh approximation of the FE particles from which you can extract motion data to apply within a compositing program (Nuke, Fusion, AE, etc).


step 1: Create your fluid object. Ideally, create a fluid nCache for it.

step 1
step 2: Create a polygonal cube, or any other polygonal object. It doesn't matter which. Set the cube's transform vectors to 0,0,0; 0,0,0; 1,1,1

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wonder Warthog, part 12 - new head

(I'm redesigning, modeling, and rigging Gilbert Shelton's classic cartoon character, "Wonder Wart-Hog.")

NEW head
I did a little research of software and anatomy, and decided to re-engineer the warthog's head.
Some of the topology was improved for more anatomical realism and better deformations (ie, the ease of assuming various facial expressions).
The eyes were raised about a half inch.
I switched to more appropriate rendering software.
Alternate hair software has been employed.

OLD head
Above is the old head, which I last worked on over a year ago.
Geometrically, they are basically the same head, but a few tweaks and some new software resulted in a substantially different look.
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Thursday, December 26, 2013

FedEx animation

I few years ago, I did some animation for a series of FedEx industrial videos. This was another low-budget job, so I only had a few days to work on each one.
Reviewing one of these videos a few months ago, I determined that the character animation was interesting enough to justify a rendering enhancement and subsequent publication to my Vimeo account.

frames from original animation
Here are some frames from the original animation that I delivered for rendering 2 years ago. This was my starting point for creating this new version (see video above). The biggest addition is the warehouse interior with delivery trucks.

glow mask, before & after
To add optical effects in the compositing program, 3 passes were employed from the modeling program:
  • a reflection pass to accentuate the highlights
  • a mask for applying glow to the words
  • a mask for applying light-wrap to all foreground elements
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Friday, November 1, 2013

Playground, chapter 7 - final rendering

This is where all the elements come together. Thanks to Anna for her great designs.
My goals were to create a somewhat plausible cartoon world, and an interesting composition that a viewer could become lost in for a few seconds: something more personable than the typical product shot that I usually do.

Design influences for this project include illustrator Mary Blair, Dr. Seuss drawings, Matisse compositions, and existing playground sculpture.

composite, before & after adjustments
To reduce rendering time and provide greater control over adjustments, the scene was divided into 4 layers of depth which were each rendered separately. To merge the layers back together, I picked up some new compositing tricks, including spill control and light wraps.

equipment design, children's clothing and hair, modeling by Anna
landscape design, children's faces and poses, modeling, and rendering by Greg
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Playground, chapter 6 - kids

playground kids, studio rendering
These children are the last remaining models needed for our playground project.
Anna designed their hair and clothing. I designed their faces.

deformation skeletons
The children models were given deformation skeletons which allow the head, spine, and limbs to be bent into different poses. Since each character is only being posed twice and not animated, these rigs are very basic.

maps rendered separately
Geometrically, all the children's heads are identical, but each was provided with 3 texture maps to create a unique face.
The diffuse map adds the color.
The specular map determines the amount and color of reflectivity on different parts of the face. Smooth and wet surfaces like the eyes and lips get a brighter color, to create more shininess. Porous surfaces like the skin get a dark color which creates more of a matte surface.
The normal map changes the direction that the lighting is coming from on parts of the face, which results in a mimicry of sculptural detail.

Next, they'll be imported into the playground scene, where they'll undergo final adjustments to textures and poses. Below is a preview rendering test.

dancer preview

next: final rendering
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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Falling Skies

eye worm character
I got to work with this cool bug character for the TV show, Falling Skies. My compliments to whoever rigged this beast. It was a fun rig to work with.

My original animation was only 3 seconds long, produced for iPad kiosks at the San Diego Comic-Con. This is a 12-second enhanced version, created for my own pleasure, and will have no commercial application

final storyboard
I didn't create a storyboard for the original job, but made one this time to help determine more precise timing. The purpose of a storyboard is to save time animating and reduce dead-ends.

credit: beautiful background texture photographed by Steve Foster
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

my old Twitter avatar

avatar faces
Half the fun of my Twitter account - where I post designs crafted from obsolete box-drawing characters - has been creating character animation sequences and gradually appending them to my avatar over a two year period, ultimately building a 6 minute performance. Twitter has since banned GIF-animation uploads, and even third-party apps are incapable of uploading lengthy GIF movies. Therefore, I'm switching my avatar to a static image, and housing the old animation here.

It was a fun opportunity to practice and refine my 2D animation timing. At the beginning, by experience in this was scant, but toward the end the work was looking more professional. This will be the end of my drawn animation work for a while. I'll be focusing on 3D animation instead.

Below is a history of the animation production, with abbreviated sequences.

April 2011
blink & look around

May 2011





August 2011

June 2012

July 2012

July 2013


Below is a video of the entire performance that appeared on Twitter.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Playground, chapter 5 - swing

playground detail
Here's the last piece of equipment for our farm-themed playground project: a swingset shaped like a horse, with a cat on its back. Apparently, they are best friends.

deformation skeleton
The heads and swings were modeled in relaxed positions. Then the whole thing was attached to a deformation skeleton, so that rotations of the skeleton's joints determine the character poses. Because this structure will only be posed once or twice, the rig controls are fairly simple.

studio rendering
Below are some of the design stages. The cat was originally designed to be sleeping, but unfortunately looked like an orange blob in test models.

design evolution, by Anna

next: kids
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Playground, chapter 4 - seesaw

seesaw, studio renderings
The second piece of equipment that Anna and I built for our farm-themed playground project is called a two-person spring rider. We switched from a seesaw to the current spring rider because a spring is more visually dynamic than a normal fulcrum. We kept the name "seesaw" because it's easier for file & node-naming.

production stages of goat
The image above shows the production stages of the goat ride. First, Anna makes quick sketches to determine which animal might look best. Then she does the technical drawings which are the final design and are also used as modeling guides. Finally, she chooses which colors to apply through a texture map.

seesaw in landscape
next: swing
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tobia at Home, revisited

revised Tobia scene: mesh overlay
Reviewing a 2-year-old rendering from the Tobia project - by Anna & me - I determined I could squeeze out one more rendering without too much more work.

old rendering
Here's the previous rendering. There is nothing terribly wrong with it, but I wanted to make a more interesting version.

Most of the old lighting is ambient, resulting in a flattened space.
The dog seems to be under-represented, with much of the focus drifting to the colorful props.

new rendering
In the new image, there's more lighting variation throughout the space, creating improved depth and reflections.
The adjusted camera angle increases the significance of the dog by showing more of its face and tag.
Pronounced surfacing on the back wall helps to make the room more tangible.
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