Monday, October 31, 2011

Messing With Particles and The Hypershader

I got a little bored of the chess set so I took some time to do a little tutorial. Rather than being a video the tutorial was made up of pictures and text. It was of a rocket flying through the air in a ballistic trajectory. It can be found here. This is a screen shot from my results.

I could have been a little neater when drawing the initial curve for my missile. The smoke coming from the missile is created with particles. The smoke also could have been more interesting but it required skills from another tutorial I hadn't done. The tutorial told you to add stucco and a solid fractal to the smoke color ramp to make it similar to a lava texture. The smoke is ramped by color and by size so that it expands as it gets further from the missile. I also applied a turbulence layer to disperse the smoke as the missile flies. Not shown in the picture, the tutorial has you draw a curve and shows how easy it is to parent an object to a curve and have it travel that path. It was as simple as stating which frame I wanted the missile to start and end its flight on.

Maya Chain Reactions

I was working on getting the chess pieces to react to each other and came upon this tutorial. it makes a very simple chain that is just doughnuts but the possible inplications of this are pretty cool. if you wanted to have your chess pieces act like the ones from Harry Potter something like this would be extremely helpful. Having

the process is extremely simple but with many links in a chain or multiple chains you could create a character or very quickly clap one on irons to create a realistic prisoner.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Graphical evolution

Perhaps more than anywhere else, the evolution in complexity of 3d graphics can be seen in video games. While movies like Toy Story offered reasonably detailed characters right at the outset, video games simply couldn't. Consoles were severely handicapped by the need to constantly update graphics in real time on machines with limited power. However, the capabilities of game consoles have improved quickly, and so have game graphics. It's incredibly evident in these two screenshots of the character Mario, one from Super Smash Bros on the Nintendo 64 (from 1999) and the other from Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008) on the Nintendo Wii. 

In the older picture, The polygonal shapes that form Mario's body are incredibly obvious. His gloves are nearly diamond shaped. His eyes, eyebrows, buttons and mustache are flat textures, and the rest of his body is textured with solid colors.

In the newer picture, his eyes, eyebrows, buttons and mustache are modeled, rather than being seemingly painted on. His gloves are detailed and his fingers are individually modeled and animated. While some polygonal edges are occasionally noticeable, generally, his form is rounded and smooth. The texture on his overalls goes from a flat shade of blue to detailed denim and the buttons have some interesting shaders applied.

One thing I've noticed in many newer games is that as characters get more realistic, colors tend to get more muted. This is also evident in these two pictures of Mario and is largely a stylistic choice.

One Day

So since we have all "mastered" creating in Maya, it is now time to move on to lighting. I was searching around for different lighting tutorials when I came across a lighting reel posted by piyankadeyable. It is amazing to see what a huge role lighting plays when creating different scenes in Maya. I especially enjoyed this reel because the creator made a point to say what was being done with the light. Maybe one day we will be able to make great things such as these. Though I doubt that I will ever attempt it. It requires to much patience. And I don't really have that. But any way check out this reel!

Cinema 4D

I've been looking at a lot of broadcast graphics recently and one of the more popular programs for this is called Cinema 4D. Instead of being designed primarily for character animation, like Maya, Cinema 4D is designed for graphics, such as for branding purposes. However, it is still capable of modeling 3D objects and characters. Maxon, the company that creates C4D brands the program as being "Renowned for its ease of use, speed and professional results, CINEMA 4D Prime is an ideal choice for all graphic designers looking to add 3D to their toolset."
C4D is compatible with file formats from most of the other 3D modeling programs, including Lightwave and 3D Studio. It can also work with After Effects and Motion in 3D, which allows you to add 2D graphics and effects into the 3D environment of After Effects/Motion by importing camera angle information, which is something important for creating a great final composition. The new version also allows for Stereoscopic 3D.

Mudbox Success

I sent my knight piece into Mudbox to add some finer details to it.
I added ridges to the horses hair, an indent for its eye, some ridges on its nose to make it look meaner, and added a bit of a jaw. Before doing this I smoothed it in Mudbox by 3 layers raising its geometry to around 9000 polygons. I am happy with the end result but now it looks much better than my other pieces and I may go back and fix a few of them. I found it easy to add detail in Mudbox.

While it's not directly animation related, I stumbled onto this and thought it was really amazing that these were 2D paintings made out of 3D subject matter. When I first saw these, I thought they were just plain paintings (beautiful, but still traditional 2D) but then after scrolling down, you see that it's much more than that.. This artist is also taking it far beyond the painting, creating art installations and using both as tools to create more intimate portraits. Like I said, it's not really animation-related, but I really enjoyed the thought of using a three-dimensional space to present a two-dimensional image (or at least, a two-dimensional image on first appearance). Here's a link to more paintings and a video where the artist explains her ideas more in-depth

Lighting (or shall I say "darking") Troubles

Well, I followed the lighting tutorial step by step, doing exactly what she said, yet for some reason my lighting looks like this. (I accidentally quit before taking this picture and when I went back on it rendered a bit differently. Not sure why that happened because I saved? Either way, it didn't look much better before) Did you guys use your chess board as the bottom plane? I added a NURBS plane under my board so maybe that is causing a problem? It seemed to be okay until I added the spot light. I'm guessing that's what the large spot in the middle of my board is but once again, not sure. Anyone else have similar problems??

Animation Hub 2011

So I was searching for something cool to post from Vimeo and I found this short film. At first glance there's nothing particularly special about the video. It is certainly a well done piece but nothing necessarily stands out until you read the little blurb underneath it. Apparently this minute and thirty second short was created as a collaboration between a group of Irish university students and professionals. The students were part of a three month long summer program called Animation Hub which is funded by the Irish Film Board and Science Foundation Ireland. The film is a combination of 3D animation and motion capture techniques. The animation is really very good and could even pass as a fully professional animation piece. The story is also pretty good in my opinion and it even has a funny/surprise ending! I guess the real point of this post is to give everyone the opportunity to visualize what the results of three months working with a team of animators looks like.

The Last Train from Animation Hub on Vimeo.

Google Shmoogle

So check this out, as I am all "Chessed" out at the moment and needed something new to post about.
I was always under the impression that Google took snapshots/arial videos, you name it to get their 3D images. I mean, how many of you have been on a street while the Google Video Camera car drives by recording a street? (Also on another note, check out the link to see all of the crazy things that car captures on film as it drives by, just click "Google Shmoogle").

But back to 3D - This is pretty crazy. It appears as though they animated the entire city of London (well at least as much as this video has shown). And it is in ridiculous detail. The things we are doing with 3D these days!

3D spaces

Just a quick hint for the class... I couldn't think of anything to post for this week so I went to and "stumbled" through animation. I found some really great articles on 3D animation and a lot of cool videos like this one...

...Crazy stuff... and so much to talk about. This was a piece created by a guy named Tim Marchant for his final degree project (3D animation degree, obviously).

First off, the orginal basic space he creates is really cool. It looks so creepy and every detail is paid attention to... yet it's definitely something achievable in Maya.

You can also really see how lighting in camera angles are important. Right now we're just working on chess sets and haven't done much with lighting and only know how to adjust camera angles... well this clearly shows what can be achieved once those skills are mastered.

When he lifts the chair I was proud enough to think "well I could do that in Maya"... lame but whatever! Just a few move and rotation moves with keyframing!

And don't get me started on the warping and breaking of the room... it was so cool! You actually felt like this "monster" was a force on the room. Sometimes he made it move as the monster breathed or laughed. A really nice touch.

It's a little bit of a creepy video buy definitely shows 3D mastery!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

3d checkers

You do all know that checkers would have been much easier right?!!! Scrabble and Boggle pieces would have been even easier!
I feel like game pieces in general would be very easy for us now because of the revolve tool. The soft select tool is another tool that really helps when making pieces like the knight because you can form the object without selecting specific vertexes. I feel much better working with Maya now because after you fail so many times you start to learn the tools, where they can be found, and when to use them.

A mancala board would be easier than chess to create as well but the chinese checker board has a lot of small circular indents. That would be difficult, except there has to be a way to make one and spread them out across the board mathematically.

Keep the faith!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

glass chess set

so im trying to make my pieces glass basically. i honestly didnt think much of it but when i sat down to try and make it work i ran into a few problems. first thing was the colors. the white (ended up clear) and the black needed and outside color of white (in the attribute editor for the dielectric material) in order to show and have some sort of reflection and transparency. the next problem i had was with the lighting, even though i guess those problems go hand in hand. i created a few lights and played around a little and tried different backgrounds (like polygon platforms to reflect light) and a bunch of different lights. this is where im at now, its not done because i still have to light it without blowing the chess board off the face of maya. all the lights i have are ambient and i have 3 rows of 3 right now. you can mess around with the scale (just like shapes) and the intensity of the light can be tweaked on the right side or on the attribute editor.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Lorax

Looks like yet another classic Dr. Seuss book is getting the computer animated feature film treatment, this time courtesy of Illumination entertainment. Personally, I enjoyed the Blue Sky Studios rendition of  Horton Hears a Who but didn't quite feel it was necessary.

While I think these images do a good job of capturing Seuss's style as computer animation, they will never match the unique quality of his drawings. The Lorax was previously traditionally animated traditionally as a TV short, which strikes me as a better format for the story. In fact, due to they're short, simple stories, Seuss's books also always seemed to me to better suit short films than features, but of course short films aren't marketable theatrically.

Hopefully, these films at least get young kids interested in reading the original stories. What do you think?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

3D Rides

Ok, so we have talked about 3D model making, 3D movies, and 3D awards. Now it is time to mention 3D rides. 3D is appearing all around us. This s a picture of my friend and I on the Toy Story ride in Disney in California. What takes place on this ride is you are brought from screen to screen and have to use your controller to shoot things at the screen. Other 3D rides are meant to be scary, or more like a movie. Its just another way for theme parks to make things more interactive. I think that 3D rides is a great addition to the many capabilities of 3D. I just wanted to bring this to everyones attention.

3D? Or not 3D?

I'm sure you guys have all seen this commercial for Nissan's Frontier truck. It's been one of the ads that YouTube and Hulu play before videos. In it, and airplane is having trouble with its landing gear and a Nissan Frontier comes in to save the day and let's the plane land in the bed of the truck where the landing gear normally comes down. Safe to say... pretty unrealistic. However, it looks like it actually happened.

So that's what I'm asking you folks... Obviously, this is some special effect... but is it 3D? Could this be a maya product? And if so is it the plane, the truck, or both that aren't real but actually 3D?

my vote is on the plane... :)

chess isn't the only game

Since we've gotten a lot of chess lately, I got curious about other board games we could potentially animate– for us non-chess players. Someone in class mentioned checkers which would obviously be quite simple but I recalled the Rube Goldberg machine someone posted a few weeks ago and Moustrap (a childhood favorite) came to mind. Apparently, I wasn't the first with this idea... another Maya-user had the same idea

As I watched this video, I looked closely at each element of the contraption and though about the different shapes I would use if I were animating this. From the slides, to the windy things, to the marble, everything seems to be made of pretty basic polygons and curves. I then looked around my room at different objects and tried to break them down into basic shapes. For pretty much everything besides my stuffed giraffe, purses and clothes it's not too difficult. Using this break-it-down technique makes the animating process less overwhelming and would have saved me lots of time on my rook!

yes another chess set blog post

ok so from reading the last few posts i realize im just about where everyone else is with their pieces. and that im having some of the same problems. right now i still can get the slit into the bishop and im still not totally happy with my knight yet. so come monday well see. but for some of the people that are having trouble combining their polygons and surfaces, you can select one of the objects to combine and press "P" for a parent shortcut and then select the other object. also im thinking about doing my pieces in the glass material we used for the bottles and just change the colors up a little and see how the hand reflects with the material.

Finished Chess set...almost!

Hey guys,

So I've completed pretty much all of my chess pieces and made the necessary duplicates for each color. The only two things I am having trouble with are the knight and the bishop. For the bishop I am still having trouble putting the slit in at the top. I can get it to cut the NurbstoPoly part but not the revolved surface so the slit doesn't show up anyway. I thought maybe I was just selecting the wrong thing and one of you could tell me what it was? Otherwise it should be a quick fix with Arturo's help in class on Monday...hopefully. My second question is how any of you duplicated the knight once you combined the top and bottom pieces. The problem for me here again is what exactly to select when I duplicate it. Besides those two issues this chess set has been relatively easy to complete. My knight is far from perfect but at least it kind of looks like a horse :-).

I'm including pictures of my horse on here with the wire frame for Connie who was having some trouble. I tried to explain how I did some of the modeling in a comment on her post for anyone who is interested. Although, I'm not sure how helpful my description actually is. Note: my ears are pretty screwed up.


Hello everyone in Maya land. As we are working on our peices, I have still been struggling to create very detailed shapes. Jimmy, your pieces look really great. I think there is something different in my faces/amount of geometry to work with. I have been trying to fix it without starting all of my pieces over since I already all except the knight (which is very difficult).

Are people making the eyes and mouth for the knight? And if so, are they doing it in mudbox or can that be done in Maya as well?

This video makes it look like you can do a detailed horse in Maya at least, though it is difficult to understand this video. I wanted to see how everyone was doing and how they were doing it. Looking forward to seeing the boards/hand/pieces!

Hope everyone had a nice Fall Break.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chess Set Video

I thought this video of the chess pieces moving was cool, because it seemed the chess pieces were playing chess without the aid of a human hand, until a weird brown creature came out of no where and started bumping in to pieces. Then a small man came out and ran around the board, which of course reminds me of Harry Potter. The important thing to notice in the video is how well the chess pieces are made. I am hoping my pieces look that good from far away because at the moment, up close, they don't look that nicely modeled.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Progress of Chess Set

So far with my chess set, I've completed every piece except for the knight, which is by far the most difficult piece. For the pawn and the queen, I simply did the bezier and revolve. For the rook and the bishop, I started with the bezier and revolve tool, and and then created a series of cube polygons and used "difference" under Boolean to create the negative space in the crown of the rook and the face of the bishop.

For the King, I once again used the revolve tool to create the main structure. To add the cross on top, I created a cube and added divisions to it. I then put it in face mode, and selected the two middle segments opposite each other and used the extrude tool. I then made it smaller and positioned it in place and then used Mesh --> Combine to fuse them together.

For the knight, I've been trying the same method that we used with the human, where we started with a revolved object. So far, it hasn't been too successful, and I'm thinking about using a cube instead.

For organizing my project, I've been using multiple layers for each type of piece. One for the bezier and revolved shape, and one for the polygon/NERB. This is effective for only viewing the pieces that I want to view.

Why am I taking this class again?

Amid my frustration with animating a hand and chess set, I keep finding myself questioning why I decided to take this class. I decided to look for examples of 3D animations more relevant to the career path in environmental documentary work that I'd like to take, as opposed to the fictional animations that we've been posting. I came across this video online which helped reinforce my decision to take this class.

This animator uses 3D to help explain real issues that are difficult to conceptualize. For people like myself who aren't experts in industrial design or the oil industry, this visual make the oil spill much easier to understand. I think the same would hold through for many environmental issues such as global climate change that are heavily scientific and not something you can just see with your bare eyes. Especially for visual learners, 3D animation is a very powerful tool of simplification and explanation.

What other park students are doing...

I've had this video uploading all day and I give up!!! Sorry guys I'll try to post it tomorrow when I have better internet signal in class... here's the majority of my post...

So clearly the people in this class aren't the only ones who do some pretty awesome stuff with 3D. This may count more towards Motion Graphics and Animation but I thought I'd show it you guys anyways.

I produce ICTV's entertainment news show, Entertainment16, and this year my co-producer and I decided it was time for some new graphics. We went to Ithaca College Junior George Ahlmeyer gave him some color and theme ideas. What he came up with worked perfectly and like I said it's been over an two hours loading so tomorrow I'll figure out a better way to put it up here!

Otherwise it's pretty impressvie stuff that would have taken me light years to have done by myself. Thanks George! To see more of his stuff you can visit his website here.
I highly recommend him for any future projects you might need help on!

Chess Piece References

So I found some really good images on Google to use as references for my chess pieces. I thought I'd post them on here in case anyone else wanted to use them.

Boardwalk Empire VFX Breakdown

Hey guys,

I almost posted this one last week and since we watched that video breakdown in class I figured I might as well put this up here for everyone to see too. Like the other video we watched some scenes are almost completely designed through animation. Most of the stuff in the video shows how they made scenery but there is also a breakdown of the visual effects they used on one guys face. Maybe I'm just easily impressed but I think it's pretty incredible how you can animate such realistic sets through 3D programs.

Boardwalk Empire VFX Breakdowns of Season 1 from Brainstorm Digital on Vimeo.

3D Awards!

So we've been chatting all about these fantastic 3D things that have been made and that we can make but with all these great things, you would think that they'd have something to honor it with. Oh wait...they do! The International 3D Awards. This award show is new to the mix. In fact this year, was the first ever televised award show. Oh and I got to be there. It was pretty cool. At the award show every one was given these super intense 3D glasses which I left at home so I can't take a picture of but you can kind of see in the picture of us awkwardly putting them on. Everyone sat in Gruman Chinese Theater and for each category they would play clips from the winning film, game, animation, etc. Then the winner would go on stage and accept the award/ make a speech. I've placed the link to the website for the International 3D Society website at the end of this post if anyone would like to look further into these awards. Also feel free to ask me any questions you'd like about them!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chess Set Troubles

So I was attempting to work on my board and the pawns, and Maya had a little freak out. Turned my hand into a tie-die catastrophe. But any-who, I just wanted to check in with people on their boards. I am hesitant to start making more pieces without checking in and making sure that everything will work when it comes time to animate. Also, I moved my hand into my chess board area and then tried to move it off of the origin, but it wouldn't let me take the bone and the skin at the same time. For some reason it would "unbind." Did anyone else have that problem? I am sure we will go over things more in detail, but I figured I would post here first.

Happy Weekend.

Much love,


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Skrillex Show

I went to see Skrillex last night in Syracuse. If you're unfamiliar, Skrillex is a well known DJ and dubstep poster child. The show was amazing to say the least, but one of the things that really got me was the animated visuals that played on a giant three dimensional wall behind him throughout the whole set. There was a constant stream of lights, as well as complex animations that were changing throughout the night. It is hard to explain what they looked like exactly, but here is a YouTube video of one of the songs that gives you a better idea of what I'm taking about:

Another element they had that I thought was especially cool was a giant robot/skeletal version of the DJ, doing the exact save movements as him. They had some sort of set up that tracked Skrillex's movements on stage, and had a giant alien looking man (and later a robot much like the FOX football one) matching his movements in real time. It created an awesome effect and was an extremely impressive use of animation:

I am not sure if he was wearing a suit/gloves that matched his movements to the animation, or if it was through technology similar to the Xbox Kinect... but regardless I was impressed. Sorry for posting so many videos.... if you can't tell I really like Skrillex.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Piano

I found this while Stumbling and while it's nothing brilliant, I really enjoyed it (I really think the tearjerker of a song by Yann Tiersen helped...). It's a really simple video but also really nicely done and the animation matches the mood of the music really well. Also, in the beginning there's a bird's-eye shot of the man's hands playing the piano and all I could think of was our hand models and how we should be more or less able to do that by now, and then a huge wave of "what-the-..." hit me as I realized that we can actually create a video like this just from what we've learned so far...

a little off topic. but still pretty cool

If you got a second check out this video. Its the Qatar world cup bid. basically its what they showed FIFA to get the 2022 world cup there. The ideas are pretty wild for the stadiums/sports complexes. none of these stadiums are built. sooo....everything portrayed in this videos was dreamed up and drawn somewhere (yes probably in Qatar)and put to a computer. I find all of the ideas for stadiums really interesting and the video flows really well.

"YouTube Will Convert Your Terrible 2D Movies into Terribler 3D Movies"

I am confused on how people can take 2D movies and make them 3D. This article here ( explains in detail how to start making your 2D videos 3D. There are a lot of programs to download and install to make this work correctly. After all that time and effort, how well do these videos even come out? Alex Castle says, "It’s not magic—the script simply exploits some common visual cues to take a decent stab at applying a 3D effect to a 2D movie, but it’s certainly better than nothing."

An easier way to convert would be to use a 3D video converter like this website does: ( One day I want to try this and see how effective it is.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Computer Generated Characters in Movies

a short history of CG characters in movies from lnrdshelby on Vimeo.

This video, created by "lrndshelby" on Vimeo, chronicles the history of computer generated characters in Hollywood films. I think it's interesting to see how well computer generated characters from as far back as almost 20 years ago can hold up. It goes to show the the application of an effect and the skill of the artists can often have a bigger impact on how the effect looks than the technology available at the time. The dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are more convincing than some of today's CG characters because the 3D effects were smartly integrated into the film along with animatronics. Gollum still holds up largely because of Andy Serkis's motion captured performance. Effects like the glass knight in Young Indiana Jones and the "liquid metal" effect in Terminator II are effective because they played on the strengths of computer graphic technologies at the time.

The fact that this list already seems outdated by not including the fantastic ape characters in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which represent real animals and are motion captured in completely real environments, just goes to show how fast computer graphics are improving.

Gummy Gummy Gummy bear

This is my favorite song. And it has a great music video to go along with it. It is a CGI gummy bear bouncing around and singing the song. It was created in Softimage XSI, an Autodesk program very similar to Maya. I chose to post about this video because it is pretty simple animation wise. The gummy bear is a rounded little dude with basic features. He is also very shiny/glossy. He reminds me a bit of our sausage guys that we modeled, which makes me feel like I could create a character similar looking in quality to the gummy bear after a while. Maybe.

Great 3D Open Animation for MLB Quick PItch

This is the open for MLB Network's Quick Pitch, which is a nightly baseball highlight sow on MLB Network. They did at recreating an old-fashioned ballpark scoreboard in 3D and mixing it with video elements. The pacing of the animation to the sound is done very well. This shows the importance of editing a sequence outside of your 3D animation program.

This video also uses a variety of different camera movements for each clip. The wide spectrum of shots prevents the shots from appearing tedious and repetitive and helps keep the intensity elevated.

Another part of this open that impresses me is the use of skins and textures to really make the 3D objects "pop". Textures and skins add the attention to detail that can make an object truly look realistic.


As we create objects in 3D and read posts about 3D television it made me think of a recent 3D product put to market by Nintendo. I don't know if any of you have had the experience of picking one of these gadgets up, but you can try them out at the mall. It creates a 3 dimensional effect without the need of glasses by shooting an image into separate eyes.

It works surprisingly well. Gave me a little head ache but I was surprised by the quality of the effect while flying a little plane around a 3D world. I would compare it to looking into a small box that it appears you could reach in to. Cell phones are also picking up on this method. Nokia Samsung and HTC all released phones recently with 3D capturing and viewing capabilities. Of course with this method you have to position your eyes a certain distance from the screen, but I find that less of a hassle than constantly wearing glasses. Hopefully it won't make everyone cross eyed, on the contrary the device may actually make vision problems apparent for treatment in children under the age of 6. I have the link to an article discussing that here.