Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Video Games

I'm sure at least a couple of you will agree with me when I say, I miss old school video games. I miss the crappy controls that only made you increasingly frustrated, (especially when Mario wouldn't go where you wanted him to and then you fell off the side of the building and lost a life.)

The new video games that are coming out are absolutely ridiculous. The graphics are so lifelike that it's almost scary. The characters are no longer generic, block faced and permanently angry. Now they look like the actual player they're supposed to resemble. Take Madden 12 for example, the players are almost spot on. Back in the 90's the players faces were practically disfigured, they had pointy cheekbones. Now it's as though each player has been hand sculpted to perfection.

I find it really interesting how far the graphics of video games has come over the years. Although I still favor the older games, but that's just me.

Here's a link to some youtube gameplay of Madden 12, just so you can see how lifelike these players really are in their looks and movements.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

MSN Butterfiles

So after creating our models by importing and tracing pre-existing images, I found this video that reminded me very much of that process. In this commercial by MSN Canada, you can see 3D models of real-life objects attached to the butterfly wings. It would make sense that these models would be easily made by tracing existing images as well. I also love how this video uses liquid and smoke effects (with the cocoon and flu shot butterfly, respectively). Check out the commercial below, it's really well done!


So this is kind of old, but I get the feeling just about everyone loves Pokémon. About a year and a half ago some guys made a dark and gritty trailer involving the original 150 Pokémon (Mew wasn't in the trailer sooooo). Anyway here's the trailer:

So yeah, that was pretty cool trailer. It took them about a year and a half to make and I have to say their final product is really cool. When it came out it took the internet by storm. Now looking at the character designs and models, they are pretty nice. I actually really like the changes they made to some of the character. They took away a lot of the cuteness and made it work for the feel that they were going for. How out of place would it be if the Pokémon were adorably murdering each other. I think it would've been a little disconcerting. I thought the texturing was also pretty interesting and unique. Each of the Pokémon retained the look that they should have in a 3-D world (i.e. Pikachu is fuzzy, Geodude is hard, Ghastly is... gassy..., and Jigglypuff looks jiggly). Were there some problems with the overall animation. Yeah a little, there were some flaws but I think overall the two guys did a great job on the models. If you want to read more about this trailer, there is an interview with the creators here.

Because tutorials are great AMIRIGHT?

This one comes from I figured since we're dealing with character modeling (and specifically heads and eyes) this one would be interesting. It shows you how to created optimal eyelids for closing and eyeball movement. Probably way more advanced than we're get to in this course (or maybe not?) but for those of you who plan on revisiting your Waynes or Rai-Chus, this could be worth a look. It's worth noting that this guy's eye surface is way smoother than what we're working with and he's using some tools we haven't covered yet. But just something to keep in mind. Keep looking forward!

Psst. I said look forward dude.

Cool Maya Tutorials Site

Hey guys. I found this site,, that has a ton of really in depth maya tutorials. One in particular that caught my eye was this one about high polygon realistic character creation. You may or may not know that for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Grand Moff Tarkin (the non-Darth Vader bad guy from episode IV) appears for a brief moment to over see the construction of the death star. Because Peter Cushing, the actor who portrayed Tarkin, had since passed away, they created an entirely CG version of him for Ep III.

The specific tutorial I've linked to, shows exactly how they did that (at least for the sculpting of the character). I chose this particular tutorial because it's just like what we're doing right now except TIMES A BILLION. Check it out, and feel your blood pressure raise at the sight of all those edge loops.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Augmented Reality

My friend told me about this deodorant commercial which I thought I should share with the class.

I think this is a great example on how to mix 3D with both reality and advertisement. Although the graphics might not seem that complex, they work with the concept of the story. The main reason I wanted to post this add was because that were in charge of this campaign took these concept of angels falling to a whole new level. They live animated a big add in London.

This technique is called augmented reality. I though it was pretty cool and innovative. It made me think that 3D and animation actually expand to all sort of platforms.

Modeling Heads

Since our assignment for next class was to finish up our character, I though I would look up some tips on how to finish modeling a head. I found a website that has some really detailed pictures about specific features on a head that is modeled in polygons, as well as where the edge loops should be and how to space everything. I think it is a good reference if any of you are still finishing your character.

This website also has a lot of reference pictures about the anatomy of a head and the differences between right/wrong images to use.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I was really excited when I heard that we'll possibly get to use a MakerBot in our class! For those of you that don't know, the MakerBot is a 3D printer. If you don't know what that is, you should watch the video below:

Unlike many 3D printers out today, MakerBot 3D printers are affordable, costing around $1100 versus $25000-$250000, and open source. A MakerBot can even print its own parts! There are endless opportunities when it comes to printing with the MakerBot, you can print toys, accessories, tools, and more. It's really awesome! You can print almost anything if you have a 3D model of it, all you would have to do is scale it down and convert it to instructions the printer can understand. The printer then basically squirts out plastic in the shape of your model. If you aren't great with 3D models, you can find thousands of open source 3D models on the website Thingiverse that you can use with the MakerBot.

I would really love to get the printer we have set up so we can print out some basic models with it!

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Last night I went with some friends to see Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. I know what you're thinking, why would I even bother. Well I love terrible movies but despite that I found myself thinking that I should talk about the CG in this film. I actually thought it was incredibly detailed and that the Ghost Rider model itself was nicely textured and modeled. It really looked fantastic. If you haven't seen a trailer here it is:

The Ghost Rider model itself looked fantastic. The skull and flames looked unbelievably realistic and lifelike. I know what that sounds like but just follow me. The transformations that Nick Cage went through seemed seamless. Even the vehicle transformations looked like monstrosities from hell. The CG team put in a lot of time and effort into this film and it really shines through. My friends and I came out of this film commenting that surprisingly we hope this film gets an Oscar nod in visual effects next year.

I know what this sounds like, but I think you should give this film a chance. If not for the hilarious Nick Cage moments, but for the CG itself.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tron: 1982 vs 2010

When Tron first came out in 1982, it was considered a breakthrough in CGI technology when the majority of the movie was not live action. It failed at the box office but developed a cult following years later. The reboot in Tron: Legacy that came out in 2010 propelled the graphics into a three dimensional world that was not limited by the computer. The game in the 1982 version was stuck just moving forward and turning a right angles. But the 2010 version upgraded them to realistic motorcycle movements where the there is a non-grid scenario. I also think that light is a big contributing factor to the newer movie because it makes the characters stick out more and a darker environment caters to the audiences emotions.

Jeff Bridges stars in both films, young and old. In Tron: Legacy, they used CGI to model his face to seem younger so he could appear besides himself. Similar to the effects in Benjamin Button, Bridges face was mapped and digitally recreated, then stuck on a younger actors body. I think this is also what they used in The Social Network to create the Winklevoss twins.

This article shows how CGI has advanced through films from Tron to Tron: Legacy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

KIWI! =)

Hey everyone,
This video is titled KIWI, it's a project a student did at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. Turns out, the animation is a combination of MAYA and after effects. It's an adorable video and worth checking out.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Last week we briefly mentioned Star Wars, and I felt like there was no opportunity better than this to talk about Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The series, which is currently in its 4th season on Cartoon Network, was adapted from its film counterpart. Below is a trailer for the film:

There are a few moments in that trailer where I feel like the animation falls flat, such as when Anakin turns his head and says "Ahsoka" at about 1:43. The animation and CG just seems very wooden to me, which as an audience member and a student of 3D, you don't want to happen. That being said when I heard they were going to make a show following the movie, I was bothered. I felt like this would not live up to anything and it would not last long at all. When the show started some things were off, but the show had potential. There was something there that I couldn't put my finger on, but this seasons I figured it out. The character models, and the overall animation style has been perfectly refined. The characters look and move much smoother. I can't place exactly what it is; be it better texturing or better overall animation, maybe even everything overall is better. Either way the show has really come into its own and captured that spark that it was looking for: Below is a trailer of footage from this season:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars airs Fridays at 8 on Cartoon Network.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Maya Toon Tools

While fiddling around with Maya, I noticed there was a set of tools under a tab labeled as "Toon." As a fan of "cartoony" aesthetics for films and video games, I decided to look into how they could be used. As I had guessed, the tools are used to give that "cartoony" look to an animation, as seen below.

Impressed with the results, I decided to dig for more information and ended up finding this informative video on the tools (see below). The best part is that the video is made with toon tools as well so it also makes for a good example of what you can do with this style of animation. Come to think of it, cel-shaded video games such as The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker and Okami seem like they can be made with these tools as well!

Vector Park

Hey wow cool look at this. This weird little game popped up on my stumble account and I've been addicted to it. This website "Vector Park" is filled with all kinds of seemingly simple/deceptively complex little interactive animations. Spider in particular applies a really neat way of looking at depth. When you move your mouse up, it moves the spider not just but farther away. Down = closer. It's a fun little experiment and somewhat mesmerizing. Enjoy!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Light Beams

Given that we just started exploring with lights in Maya, I wanted to go further and check what type of environments can we create in this software. I did some research and found this blog, Fstoppers. They do a really great job putting up tutorials about different aspects of photography and film. One of the articles I found was about natural beam light photography. Here are some examples of photographs that I really liked:

Penetrating Light Beam

Witness of the sign


Pueblo Indian Kiva

All of these give a different mood and color to their environment. We can actually see the lighting has different behaviors depending on the setting. I'm a firm believer that we have to keep in mind all these aspects before starting any kind of production. This idea applies to Maya as well. We need to know what environment we want to create before starting playing with lights, polygons, etc. Now that that's been said, I though that it would be pretty cool to create some beam lights in Maya. I read in some websites that this is accomplished by placing a spotlight and fog in your scene.
This video gave me a pretty good idea about how you would create a beam light in Maya. You guys should check it out!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

4D Movies

Cinemas around the world, starting with Glasgow, will start offering D-Box technologies which add another dimension to your movie going experience. Cineworld Glasgow, the tallest cinema in the word, will be installing new seats in their theaters which move and vibrate along with the movie. This lends the audience an entirely new experience. While 3D currently puts the movie right in front of you, 4D will actually put you into the movie.

To test this out, last year a South Korean company put similar products into a cinema and screened Avatar. Along with the shaking, the audience was also met with the smell of smoke and explosions, flashing lights, water mists and more. While products such as this usually find their home in amusement parts and tourist attractions, they will very slowly be incorporating themselves into the average trip to the movies. Especially since 3D movies seem to be becoming the norm. The tests in South Korea, by CJ 4D Plex, brought in 50% more viewers than with 3D or 2D movies.

The new Spy Kids movie will be incorporating some 4D into it's releases, putting 8 opportunities for smells into the movie, which they hope will enhance the action, adventure, and comedy. Since not all theaters are equipped to deal with smells, every audience member will get a card with numbers on it. When that number flashes up on the screen, you scratch the corresponding number on your card and smell it. It isn't exactly up to par with the newest 4D theaters but it's a start and will bring in most of your senses to enjoy the movie.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

"Scott Pilgrim vs The World" - Lucas Lee Fight

"Scott Pilgrim" is one of my favorite movies of all time. As a huge fan of comic books and video games, it really speaks to the geek in me. But what's truly impressive is director Edgar Wright's amazing use of CGI in this movie. Start it at 2:54 for the good stuff!

The transition of real world Michael Cera to CGI Michael Cera is all but seemless. I certainly can't pinpoint the moment when it happens. The CGI lends a sort of elasticity to the character that makes for an amazingly unique look. The idea of using CGI to make a character who wouldn't normally be able to pull of these kinds of moves makes for an entertaining movie. throughout. Most generic action movies (I'm looking at you "GI Joe") are content to put their characters in super suits or some other kind of shell that will give them their super abilities, but still allow the animators to avoid going for a totally human look. Here, we have to believe that it's our boy Scott throwing the punches, and he isn't masked for a second. Take note of the unflinching camera. It never cuts during the fight!

Textures & Render Passes w/ ZBrush & AfterEffects

Working with textures for our class, particularly the ones for the vases and glasses, made me think a lot about texture art in general. While I've never worked with 3D modeling or animation until this class, I've always been interested in texture art. I used to keep files of 3D models that had textures that interested me saved on my computer, so I decided to use one of my favorites for this blog post. It's a dragon created by artist Karol Pawlinski. Click on the image below to view it, it's actually a Flash file that contains a rotatable version of this 3D model.

I've always thought the sparkling texture used on this model was really pretty and unique. I was wondering if there was a way to recreate this in Maya or another program. Lucky enough, the artist also posted part of her work process on this model (seen below).

For this model, the artist used ZBrush for rendering and Adobe AfterEffects for compositing.

The following descriptions of each render phase in the image above are from the artist:

"1. the basic color material - a modified version of the "cb silver pearl" material from the pixologic matcap library. this is the basic layer on which everything else is layered. 
2. environment reflection - the flat material with a "light probe" texture assigned to it 
3. directional color - the flat material with a texture made in photoshop ( a slightly distorted rainbow gradient) it is used to create the overall color of the skin

4. directional mask - the flat material with a spherical black to white gradient - used to mask in the sparkling effect 
5. shadow pass 
6. ambient occlusion pass 
7. alpha mask 
8. depth mask - with an added disc mesh (under the feet) to keep the depth values consistent throughout the turntable 
9. model-parts mask 
10. 11. 12. three different noise textures on the flat material - these are used to create the sparkling effect"
 I couldn't find a "cb silver pearl" texture in Maya but I'm sure one could obtain it through files from ZBrush. I'm a bit confused as to what a "light probe" is in Maya even after research. Everything else seems to be possible in Maya or Photoshop and the last three passes were added in AfterEffects. This process turned out to be more advanced and harder to understand than I thought it would but I still would love to have a shot at recreating these textures one day.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Repairing Woody

One of the most amazing animated scenes I've seen in my life is from the second movie of Toy Story. This scene sis the one where Woody gets fixed after losing one of his arms. I think this scene is ridicoulous. There compelling part about it is that it is mainly XCU. This kind of proximity allows the audience to appreciate all the details and the work in this take. The lighting is phenomenal. Also the materials used for this scene are extremely realisitic. Some of the details that I appreciated the most, are the little pieces of threat coming from woody's shirt, the way light reflected on woody's eye, and the use of paint in woody's hair and boot. This is without any doubts one of the most memorable scenes in the history of Pixar (along with Up's heartbreaking intro, lol). I would love to be able to create something like that. Here's the video, check it out!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Adventures of TinTin

I went to see this movie over winter break and was really surprised how much I enjoyed it. I had never seen the animated books, but the movie was a complete re-imagination of the concept, directed by Steven Speilberg. It centers around a young reporter who uncovers an old secret that could lead to treasure, which leads him on a journey with a captain and his dog (it's a lot better then it sounds). The characters and environments were incredibly realistic, especially since the movie was in 3D, the storyline and humor was actually pretty mature for a kids movie. The movie used it's own internal art department in order to create all of the animations for this movie that referenced real items and locations in order to create picture-perfect recreations. The characters stayed true to the actors performance through captured motions and keyframe animation.
An interview with Matt Aikten, the visual effects supervisors, goes over how they recreated cities, oceans and entire deserts for the movie. They first did a template of the entire movie in CGI and previs, where they used the actors and doubles to create the scenes that were then turned over Aikten to edit and add lighting, animations and effects to create "a highly detailed world or idealized reality". The characters themselves were created with intention to look human, through their skin and movements, but kept a connection with the original characters through cartoonish sized hands and heads. I think this is interesting because when we eventually try to animate body parts, we have to make that distinction between real and animation sized objects. Many animated movies distort the characters so that there is a very noticeable difference, but TinTin had a very real feel to it's characters, and a look that even mirrored the voice actors. Below is a behind the scenes look at some of the high action scenes and how Speilberg created them and the artwork.

Aikten also mentions in the interview, that they used raytracing in order to create many of the reflections seen in the movie. One of the characters is introduced from the other side of a whiskey bottle, there is another scene in the beginning of the movie where we see a model ship through several mirrors. Rendering with raytracing gives them the correct spacial relationship between the character and the object.
He also mentions working with fluids to create an entire ocean, and that moving the stable objects with the flowing ocean is very hard to do. Aikten even mentions that a short shot of one character falling into the water and creating a splash was one of the most difficult things his company has ever done.
I would recommend this movie, even if you're not a fan of the original story, the animation is definitely worth it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Partly Cloudy

I'm sure everyone has seen at least one Pixar movie in their lifetime (and if you haven't, well shame on you.) This is the animated short that played before the movie Up! in theaters, and in my honest opinion this is one of the best shorts I've seen. Even in complete silence Pixar manages to evoke so much emotion into their animations. By far, this one is the best.