And we’ve been done

So I thought I’d consolidate 2 posts into 1. I have more things to blog about later so I want to make this as a reflection.

First of all, matteland project, the project involving experiments into digitally painted / projection mapped environments for character animation.

Matteland project has been a big feature, even if I took the effort almost like my side-job (HAVOC was a bigger thing for me.) Either way the goal of Matteland was to bring a surreal 3D experience in 2D paintings, especially as an background for animated films. While the 3D part wasn’t THAT hard, what took longer was the 2D painting. This involved manipulating photographs using Photoshop to painting them in Studio Artist 4. It takes a bit long, since I did go about developing some techniques I never tried before, but ultimately it doesn’t look bad. Overall, I painted 5 backgrounds which 3 of them were used to create simple 3D meshes for projection purposes.

Of course, this project has 1 purpose. I’ve recently began planning my thesis project, where I do want some characters interacting in the environment. So that’s ultimately been tested out here.

Since this project began there has been several reactions one in particular was unexpected. John Dalton, the creator of Studio Artist 4 saw some potential in the senior thesis I’m headed to do. He ended up writing stuff about the whole thing. Take a look at the article here: Studio Artist News: Matteland and The Door to Tomorrow”. That’s pretty cool. I’ve been looking at Studio Artist since version 1.5 when it was first introduced to the Japanese Mac community via Macworld Japan (or something like that.) Either way, since then, I’ve always wanted the program personally. Either way, Studio Artist 4 has been the biggest part of the project and will continue to be one of the primary painting tools I’ll be using for my other projects. So stay tuned if you’re interested.

HAVOC part 1: Havoc part 1: What Your Dreams are Made of received much attention for being what it is. I’ve been wanting to do HAVOC for quite some time, and I’ve finally gotten my chance to do something about it.

HAVOC was too large though. It involved everything from recording voices (my voice), making sounds, timing things, animating, editing, making assets etc etc etc…. Being THAT huge, I think 10 weeks was simply not enough for the whole project. Somethings ended up sadly not done. I had to cheat a bit too, which isn’t always the best but it does give me a result.

Either way once I start blabing about Havoc, it never ends so here’s the final product.

So my overall on both projects. How about we’re done for now but not exactly a full stop. Of course! I’m still doing stuff to them! We’re moving on though, since if we just keep going on and on about the same thing, yea sure the thing gets better but I can’t work on my other things.

That’s it for now. The next project: The Door to Tomorrow. Keep your hopes up for that.


Production Pipeline: Getting Closer and Closer

In the last “Havoc post” I’ve shown you the assets of a particular scene in the film I promised that I would post how it would look. Well it took a while, but I did it and finished this scene off, now it just needs to be added into the film. I used Cinema4D for its super-easy-to-use clone tool and ultra fast render. Of course I can do this in Maya, I just didn’t for all sorts of reasons. Either way, The houses were modeled and UV mapped in Maya, painted using Photoshop and FilterForge. The fun stuff was in Cinema4D. By throwing the models into a Cloner Object, I can easily scatter the assets in various arrays and otherwise. I then applied a Mograph random which allows me to scatter the objects all over the place. I have control over the size and rotation as well giving me further randomness.

Rendering this is actually the cool part. Cinema 4D’s render engine is super robust. When I say robust, I really mean speed. I baked all the GI first per frame. This is mostly done automatically, though I enabled a couple settings to help the speed up the render. Further more, I optimized this render by baking some of the lights. It’s easy as Maya’s light baking, though at the same time there are several more interesting options that give Cinema4D’s light baking an further edge.

Either way here’s a sample of the render. You can click on it to see the large image.

The animation took around 3 hours to render, kinda long, but it’s with GI. I don’t think it’s not that bad. Anyway, I wonder if I should spoil the ending for this post as it is something I want to leave it quiet till the end of the animation. OR you can totally spoil it for your self by viewing it here:

The other thing I wanted to show was the compositions (layering) in After Effects. You can click on the image below to see the structure for yourself.

I also added a very quick and simple (and realistic) eye blinking within After Effects. It’s missing the eyelashes right now, and I have no idea when I can actually accomplish this within time. The hard part is the animation. We need to get that done first.

Havoc in Comps

That’s it for now. It’s almost there, it just needs to be done now.

Production Pipeline: HAVOC gets “tools”

So if you’ve been wondering “where is the animatic??” the answer is: I did it! And totally kept the render to myself for the whole time. Yes it’s the same thing only with the old doctor talking weird stuff. Come to think of it, I did go back and knock out several parts just over matters like “they don’t sound good” and otherwise.

Either way, allow me to introduce you to another concept: tools. Because “HAVOC” is being created at the speed of a rabbit racing away from a big, hungry wolf, I had to create some tools to aid me in quick creations of assets. Some tools are already available, like Adobe Illustrator which was very useful for making this:

The doctor’s castle is basically like a tree. Awesome. I used several new (and frankly, the best) features of Illustrator CS5 to assemble this work in about an hour or two. By the way, all the assets I’ll be showing you here will be used in the last shot. It’s a bit of a spoiler, but I don’t think it really matters.

Other tools were used to aid in creating backgrounds and simple assets such as windows. For this, I created a “generator” in a program I use often called FilterForge 2. Very useful for rapid content generation.


The Window Generator

These “windows” will be pasted onto a UV map for a bunch of houses and buildings I created over the week ends. I’ll be showing you those in the next blog post I guess. I don’t think any of them are ready for viewing yet. These windows will be seen from a distance, so I did minimum texture work on it, and went straight to just making sure it was reasonable and easy to use. Now because I am doing this procedurally, I can change parameters I set up around easily to create various windows instantly.

Example generation 1


Example generation 2

The basic idea is to avoid doing repetitive tasks that can hinder work times and flows. But not only that, because the project’s scale is huge compared to the time I have, it’s just one way to save time and costs.

Here’s the source of the window generator.


Explanation of the window gen.

I also wanted to save a bit more time making backgrounds for this one scene. So I patched together a background generator that will get me stylized vector backgrounds instantly.


3500x4000 pixel background generated with FilterForge

I have various parameters that I can easily edit to generate different moons, stars, and otherwise.


Yup. FilterForge saves the day.

Here’s basically the source for how FilterForge was patched to create the elements in the skies.

The generator for the Background

And of course, because it’s all procedrual I can quickly change parameters and make new backgrounds if I felt that the previous background wasn’t fitting the scene. Fun stuff!!

Generated Example of StarrySky gen

So those are some of the tools I made using FilterForge to create some elements of the film. Next blog post I’ll show you what it looks like when it finally all comes together.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this picture:



Well! That’s pretty much it for now. I’ll update with more things next time!!

Production Pipeline: HAVOC is finally a Film

I’m finally up and running with HAVOC! It’s week 5 and I feel a bit rushy but I have to get going with some of the defined parts of this film since I only have 3 or 4 weeks left!! For your entertainment, however, I thought I’d just put the full length audio online. I’m probably going to cut several parts, change some of the sound effects, and if you have any suggestions / critique, now is the time! Otherwise I have to set everything down and really get going with the animation / animatic and otherwise. So I basically have 3 or 4 weeks to finish this… huh… now this is going to get very tricky. I’m scheduling my much of my time on this project, but of course I have other things to attend to. Balance… balance… balance….

Where’s the video? The link’s below this sentence.

Also some screenshots.

Production Pipeline: Sneek Update

I finally got some IK to work. I was originally planning to use the puppet tool, but it’s honestly not the best tool for complex animation. It makes the animation look… a little too soft and wobbly. So I switched IK instead. By using IK, I get crisp animation, expected animation out of the joints, and a lot more control over what I’m doing. By the way, I am using Duik which is an amazing, free tool! Go and install it, watch the tutorial.

I also made some mouth movements, A, E, I, O, U and M/N sounds. They’re not perfect, but I think it works for this film. I put them in a composition in After Effects, then I used time remapping (freeze time specifically) to call out the frame that makes the mouth. Frame 1 = A. Frame 2 = E Frame 3 = I and so on basically. The eyes were created in the same way.

So now, it’s time to do some simple animation and mouth movements!

Production Pipeline: Going the Extra Step

I thought I’d share some of the tricks I use to create scenery with interesting illuminations and effects. Let’s first recall what HAVOC (the film I’m working on right now) is about. HAVOC part 1, is a scene in which the cone-headed, evil doctor Rudinsburg “operates” creating Havoc, a walking, dream-eating lump of charcoal. HAVOC part 1 is played out through the eyes of Havoc who lies on the bed unable to move. In other words, this film is mostly a first-person perspective view.

In order to display that “wideness” I decided to use a very wide angle format, 2.40:1. This kinda simulates the look and feel you would experience since your eyes do have a certain viewing scope. We get an odd sense of reality simply because the aspect ratio encompasses much of the display. With that said, lets take a look at the preview image.

Ok so it’s just plain black and white and rough shading. It has no atmosphere, honestly drafty and boring. Yup, it’s just a sketch right now. Nothing more than a doodle. So what can we do to make it look a bit more final? Here are some tricks I use.

I usually end up going heavy when I post-process things. Sometimes it’s applicable, sometimes not. I figure in this case it is. The first step for me is to give the scene some lights. Unfortunately our only source of light comes from the big operating light you see towards the center of the picture, everything else is grim. I gave those just white. For the heck of it I gave the doctor some glowing eyes too. Mind you, that makes him look even more evil. With those lights in place, it’s time to simulate some Global Illumination, or in other words, brush in bounce lights. Usually doing some dodge and burn helps make nice shadows. I mean there are other ways. You can make layers, you can make a 50% gray overlay layer which can give you similar results.

The next thing to do is color grading. In this case, I made the shadows an intense, deep blue and the highlights a bit tanned. That’s a common scheme to use, and it works most of the time. Although, just to make sure, I tried other color schemes and I figured this was the best so far.

Apply glow. It’s a bit cheesy, but a simple glow filter can really change the mood of the scenery. Now sometimes we overkill glow, which is why we want to make sure it has a purpose and not just for the overall look. But of course, we can break that rule and just overkill it anyway.

Finally lens effects. This includes lensflares, grudge, chromatic aberration and so on. In the case of Havoc, there’s some vingetting, blurring, chromatic aberration, lensflares, and grudge. I figure this ultimately stylizes the shot and creates an additional layer of atmosphere. It also gives a sense of reality even in a cartoonish setting like this. It’s quite a mixture, but it works well when it’s done right.

Lastly, film isn’t perfect. It’s not exactly 100% quality as we see through our eyes. In fact, nothing is perfect, which is why ultra smooth pictures irks you and makes you wonder what’s wrong with it. So, what do we do? The simplest solution is to add a faint layer of noise. Not too much, not too little. By doing so, we get some animated grudge, and something more to see instead of just a blown out white area or overly dark area. It’s just a nice way to add depth to the shot itself.

With that in mind, here’s what that boring picture looks like now.

Production Pipeline: Am I doing the voices???

It’s time for a small debate on what’s happening with HAVOC part 1, the movie I began making. So aside from the shoddy animatic I made last night, I don’t have a voice actor. I can’t honestly tell how long the whole sequence will be without the voices which is what’s holding me up right now. So just maybe, just maybeeeee I’ll do the voice for the Doctor as well. That means I’m doing two voices for this whole thing. HAVOC the lump of charcoal is me. Dr. Rudinsburg is me as well.

I already have equipment for recording high quality audio, and I guess I’ll just quickly begin with the audio recording. Otherwise I’ll have to go and find a voice actor appropriate for the short act.

Aside from this, I’m doing a bit of scenery work and slowly getting things done. It’s a tough project over all, but much of it is flexible. So no worries. I’ll be updating this project with more visuals as it comes along, I’m just currently doing boring stuff and it visually isn’t pleasing… as in its at a low-end level right now that just doesn’t cut it in terms of my quality standards.