Friday, August 1, 2014

Playground, chapter 8 - second version

children, before/after
Nine months after completing the Playground, Anna and I agreed to have another go at this rendering, to create a more interesting version and solve all the problems we have with its quality.

First, we created new hair textures and a new skin shader for all the children, which makes them look less like plastic. I'm using overcast lighting this time, primarily so the children's faces are easier to distinguish.

details from design sketch
Here are some of the other changes we're planning:
  • add more foreground items: animals, clothing accessories, plants
  • articulate the children's fingers, so their hands can be more expressive
  • renovate the barn so it contributes more to the composition
  • model new distant hills with details like buildings, vehicles, and animals
  • create a larger variety of trees
  • paint a new cloudy sky to match the new lighting
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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Anna's Doll

Anna's doll
Anna designed and modeled the doll in this image. I modeled the environment and built the rendering, including lighting, textures and materials.

Due to the distressed nature of the architectural surfaces, my attention to detail needed to be more acute than usual. For such a task, photographic reference is useful as a reminder of how things decay.
In my studies, I noted that ...
  • More dirt will find its way into the concave edges of surfaces.
  • The convex edges of a surface are more worn from contact, making them smoother and shinier.
  • More staining and damage occurs near the bottom of a wall.
  • With age, the gaps between wall and floor expand and become jagged. Sometimes these gaps are filled with sealant, usually in a sloppy manner.
It was an interesting though tedious study. I wasn't super meticulous with the detail. I just tried to create enough so that the fakery isn't too obvious.

composite, before & after
For a multipass composite, a 2D rendering from a 3D program is separated into multiple images, then recombined in a 2D program. This provides greater control over the image quality, and results in better volume and spatial depth, and a more precise implementation of simulated lens effects: i.e, more realism.

render passes
 This is my first complex composite in Nuke. My previous Nuke composites just used a motion vector pass and reflection pass. This doll composite uses 10 passes: direct light, ambient light, specular, reflection, refraction, shadows, occlusion, subsurface scattering, z-depth, and masks.

Nuke node graph for doll composite

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Actor's Studio, lesson 1 - Pallas design

Pallas, modeling guides
For my next project, I'm developing my character animation skills and rigging strategies. The subject for this project is Pallas, a girl of around 10 years age with normal proportions: e.g., no gigantic cartoon eyes.

A character animator is an actor who applies his performance to a proxy, similar to what a puppeteer might do; hence the project name, Actor's Studio.

Pallas' appearance will be fairly generic so that she doesn't assume a particular personality type (e.g., debutante, goth girl, etc.). For now, her hair is covered by a hat because I want to focus on simulating human behavior and not be sidetracked by hair physics.

The above image shows some of the guides used within the modeling program. There are guidelines for the clothing and skin exteriors, edge flow, and bone and joint locations. The rib cage and pelvis are noted to avoid torso deformations in those areas.

next: Pallas modeling
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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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