Friday, 20 December 2013

Motion Track Test

Done my first motion tracking test this week, and it was quite succesful! The quality on my camera isn't the greatest, so the track isn't completely solid... but I'm happy with the results.

The shot hasn't been composited at all in terms of lighting/shading, I was focusing mostly on the actual matchmoving. I painted out 2 of the track markers, and couldn't be bothered doing the rest.

I've also been working on several Nuke tutorials over the past 2 weeks, and I'm definitely getting there. Should have some updates for that in the new year.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Polygon Boots Final Render

So my boot project is finished, and I'm very happy with the results. The lighting, rendering and compositing took a lot of fiddling around but I got there in the end. 

The model topology (which has since been refined slightly) is viewable here.

The initial texturing and shading (which has also been refined slightly) is viewable here.

There's a screenshot of my Maya setup below, showing the outliner, render layers and boot topology. 

The lights were just a basic 3 point lighting rig, all with physically correct attributes, but with pure white colour in order to avoid any additional gamma correction. As for render passes, I rendered everything in full 16/32bit .EXR files with full Linear workflow to get the most flexibility in compositing. 

The render layer/pass setup is listed below:

- Rim light
     - Diffuse 
     - Specular
- Fill Light
     - Diffuse
     - Specular
- Key Light
     - Diffuse
     - Specular
- Ambient Occlusion
- Master Layer
     - Depth
     - Indirect
     - Master Beauty 

I imported all the .EXR files into NukeX for compositing, manipulating almost all of the sections slightly. Obvious changes include camera blur, lighting tweaks and colour correction.  Here's a screencap of my node tree:

Finally, below is the final output. It's a shame we weren't givent the opportunity to track/composite the project into a live action shot as intended, as those are my primary interests on the course. However it did give me the chance to have a quick run through of most production roles in the pipeline. 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Research Poster.

The final assessment hand in for the research module is a research poster, shown below. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Project Schedule

In an effort to motivate/terrify both myself and my team, I put together a rough schedule for the production. It'll most definitely change and become more refined as we move forward, but it's good to have a base timeline to assess. 

It's a lot of work to cram into such a short time, particularly given the fact that Jan-Apr is going to be extremely busy with the Going Live project, but I'm confident that with the right amount of dedication it'll be successful. I've never let ambitious amounts of work get the best of me in the past, and I don't plan on it any time soon. 

Some deadlines might be rather naive, so if anybody can suggest some changes/optimisations that would be much appreciated. 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

PhD filming assistance & location scout.

Kieran II was kind enough to drag me along on another adventure assisting his PhD fieldwork at White Caterthun for some live action film shooting. 

It was a good opportunity to practice using the (very heavy) equipment, which we'll probably be lugging into difficult places for our own filming next year.

This location had some really stunning light, and although we'd be unlikely to use the site itself the nearby Cairngorms could offer some impressive vistas. I took some snaps throughout the process for reference and documentary purposes. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

NURBS assignment.

Completed the NURBS assignment, which was to model an environment/scene from a reference photograph. My chosen reference image is below, along with a still from my scene. Quickly flicking between the two, some major differences become apparent. While I was modelling, the reference image was displayed on my laptop and not imported into Maya. In hindsight this was a mistake, but we were given no indication whether it was recommended to import the still.

Having never used NURBS before, it took a little getting used to, but once I got into the swing of things the process was relatively straight forward. I don't expect to use NURBS often at all, and I feel that the exercise took time that could have been more effectively used on other work.

Here's the required camera movement for assessment. I included a lighting pass to make the scene a little more dynamic.

Monday, 18 November 2013

More like... polyGONE. Hehehe.

I've completed the texturing/shading of my polygon boot model, and I'm pretty happy with the result!

For the turnaround below I rendered from a single master layer so there's no post adjustment except adding in a background and vignette. I might go back and render out different passes to experiment with in Nuke. 

I used UVLayout to map the boot, which I found to be far superior to Maya's in-built UV mapping tools. My biggest regret for the entire project was making the texture map 2k, in hindsight I'd make it 4k instead. The lack of resolution is apparent, even at 720p. 

Capturing the texture images was a pain, as the leather boot is relatively shiny and the surfaces are extremely wrinkled... making it difficult to get even detail. There was a lot of adjustment in Photoshop to correct for this. Aligning the images over the UV map was a serious challenge given the structure of the boot, which is made of up only a couple of large sections. Blending the different texture images together while retaining the intricate stitching detail was tedious, and is still not perfect by any means. 

I created a bump map and specular map from the same files, which definitely add a lot of realism to the final output. I'm extremely happy with the overall aesthetic considering I've next to no experience UV mapping/texturing/shading. Here are the different maps used. 

Bump Map

Specular Map

Diffuse Map

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Location scouting.

Went for a wander along the sea cliffs at Arbroath today and found some possible shooting locations for the film.

The idea we're running with at the moment has a montage-esque sequence which can accommodate a lot of changes in location with practically no limitations in terms of story, so it's a good chance to get some epic landscapes... which I really love.

Managed to snap a couple of moody shots, and only nearly died twice (left a decent chunk of palm skin scraped onto a sharp rock though).

Friday, 15 November 2013

Life Drawing

Our Thursday class was cancelled this week which gave me te chance to head along to the 4th year life drawing class, I was pretty rusty but didn't realise how much I missed drawing. Im planning on heading along when I can.

Tried some new things this time, mainly drawing entirely in pen, which was quite liberating once I got over the fear of making mistakes... also tried a new stylistic approach to my shading, I'm quite happy with it, but I think it'd be a lot more effective if the base drawing was stronger (particularly the face).

This one was a 10 minute pose, looks weird due to the fact he's floating with no legs... need to get the whole figure down at the start. 

Monday, 11 November 2013

Polygon Boot Mk.II

So after losing all my files, the main loss was the polygon boot which was finished. I was hoping the second version would be better, and I think it certainly looks better, but the topology isn't quite up to scratch. There's one or two errors I actually spotted after rendering this turnaround which I hope to go back and clean up, but it's not essential at the moment. 

Decided to go for a video this time, just in case.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Final project inspirations.

I've been collecting a large number of inspirational videos for our final project, and it's starting to form into a clearer idea.

The idea itself is still in development, but we're going for a mix of live action and 3D animation, with elements of exaggerated character animation, 3D motion graphics and VFX. Here's some sample videos which are similar to the potential look/style I'd like.


Friday, 1 November 2013

Lesson learned: back up your stuff.

So the uni servers deleted all my stuff, putting me a couple of weeks behind. Here's my artists representation of that exact moment.

The silver lining is that it could have happened 6 months from now and I'd have been properly screwed, so I now know to back up my files religiously. Also, I'm hoping the quality of work will be higher the second time around.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Mudbox Sculpt

We were given a default head to mess around with in Mudbox, so I went for a zombie type character. It's not particularly complete or detailed, but I got the chance to use pretty much every aspect of the sculpting tools in the process. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Polygon Modelling

We were given a polygon modelling task a couple of weeks ago, which involved modelling an old item of clothing such as a shoe. 

My trusty cowboy boots have recently given up the ghost after 10 years of faithful service, so I figured it was only right to model them so they can survive digitally forever. 

The next stage is to UV map then sculpt additional details, which is when I'll add in more of the wear and tear (of which there is a lot), but the base mesh is completed and you can check it out below!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

ISO in love with photography again.

I've recently rekindled my love for photography.

I'm still continuing my photograph a day project, which is currently at around 3.5 years and 1,300 images, but the last year has been predominantly boring "diary shots", randomly interspersed with the occasional adventure and/or climbing photograph.

Since coming back to Dundee I've had the chance to do a lot more photography for the sake of photography... and I love it. It's good to get the creative juices flowing again, and I've always found the surrounding area pretty inspiring. The stunningly unique Tay light certainly helps.

Here's a handful of highlights from the past couple of weeks. 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Masters film concept art.

In a mild panic, I've been trying to think up some potential film ideas for the Masters... particularly considering Ticked Off was written, boarded, designed, modelled and textured by this point in the production timeline. 

My esteemed drinking buddy animation peer, Tom Paxton, and I have been fleshing out an idea over the past couple of days about a guy who gets turned into a cartoon version of himself. It's early days yet, and we're going to keep the details under wraps until we figure it out... at which point we'll no doubt pitch it then start the hunt for potential collaborators. 

In the meantime, I whipped up this first concept piece today to give us something to work with. I've included the original image and a cropped in section as well. 

Fire away with any feedback and/or suggestions! 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Masters assignment - Mindmapping

Earlier in the week we were given a small talk on the benefits of mindmapping ideas to gain a more holistic view of projects/aims/research.

We were asked to draw out a mindmap with potential research areas for our studies, so I decided to start out with what I'd consider to be my current skill set and expand on that. I didn't find this particular mind map useful, but the exercise in general was pretty handy. I wasn't quite sure what direction to take it in, and it's not something I've done in the past, but I can definitely see why it'd be useful throughout the course.

48 Hour Film Project


To go straight to the video, skip to the bottom of this post! Last week we were given the challenge of filming a short movie in 48 hours, with a few extra days of our own (limited) time for post effects & edit. It was an intense punishment of both body and spirit, but a jolly good laugh too. 

I had the pleasure of working alongside two of my former undergrad animation cohorts Lilly and Steph, as well as our new Greek φίλη, George, which was a top-notch team. 

Each group was given a set of 3 "rules" to abide by... a theme, a quote, and an object.

Theme: Comedy.
Quote: "Listen to them... children of the night, what music they make" [Source: Dracula]
Object: Leather gloves. 

Initially we were flabbergasted at the atrocious combination of rules the animation gods had bestowed upon us, but it all worked out rather well. 

We collaborated on the idea together from the start, and slowly began forming the tragic tale of a nameless vampire who's down on his luck. Various plots were thrown around, including a phobia of blood, fear of the dark etc. Eventually we settled on a vicious character who ends up losing his fangs, his only weapon and (more importantly) only way of feeding off innocent graveyard lurkers.

Production was pretty hectic, and we had 5 different locations to shoot in and the weather was annoyingly beautiful... making our planned day-to-night conversions rather dubious at best. Thankfully we'd decided to go for a "quantity over quality" approach, and cram in as many jokes as possible, so we probably won't win any awards for our film making prowess... but we're confident it ticks the "comedy" box with a satisfying swoosh.  

Given the fact I was (justly) deemed the most vampire-esque, I was given the responsibility of "acting". With regards to other production roles, I set up most of the camera shots, as most of the kit was my own and I was very familiar with the camera. This included a moonlight timelapse from my bedroom window, which inserted a rather incongruously pretty shot amongst our hammed up cinematography. In post, I done most of the dodgy VFX (all showreel worthy, I'm sure you'll agree...) and a decent chunk of editing, which was actually great fun.

All in all the project was a blast, with the exception of the sprained ankles, red hot chilli peppers, multiple slaps to the face, and a scraped back... but apart from that it was OK I guess.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Tutorial - 2: Basic Pass Editing & Intro To Mattes

Hey guys! Here's my second tutorial looking at compositing in After Effects, this one is essentially a quick and basic introduction to tweaking individual layers & passes to get a more refined look. I then go on to introduce the concept of masking using mattes.

Mattes are a difficult one to explain, and I'm not sure I done a good job, but it should give you at least a simple example of how they can be used practically. I'll probably dedicate an entire video to alpha/luma mattes at some point in the future, as I used them extensively on our project. They are the ultimiate "we'll fix it in post" tool.

Although these first few videos are quite specific to Ticked Off, hopefully it'll give you an insight into some of the cheap tricks you can do with your own passes to modify and enhance them. It's always worth experimenting with different effects to see what you can get from your own passes. 

In the next video, I'll be looking at how to use a depth pass for camera blur, then moving on to animating the time machine effects. I realise the current 4th years are nearing the compositing stage, so I'll try and up the rate at which I'm making these so they can be of some use.


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Tutorial - Compositing in After Effects - 1: Importing, Compositions, Layer Setup

Salutations droogs!

As I've mentioned previously, it's my plan to start making some simple tutorial videos focused around compositing specifically for animation in Adobe After Effects. This is the first of several, so I've got a few things to get out of the way before we get stuck in. 

Firstly, I've got no idea what kind of stage to begin at. After asking around a little and getting some advice I figured the best place to begin would be the start... so with that said, some people might find the first video pretty useless. I'm going to chat a little about passes, layers, importing and setting up a comp, before moving on to setting up all the layers in my new comp. If you're already comfortable with all of that then you'll probably be more interested in the next one where I'll show what you can do to pimp them out. 

Secondly, I've never really done anything like this, and I know I've got a tendency to ramble, side track, and not finish sentences... so I'm sorry if anything isn't quite as clear as I hope. If folk have any questions I'm pretty easy to get a hold of. 

I don't know everything about After Effects. Pretty much everything I know was just sort of figured out over the course of a couple of years. There could very well be much more efficient and successful ways of solving these problems, but I hope everybody will be able to at least take away something from this. I just want to try and get people thinking about what you can achieve with compositing, which I feel is something that wasn't really explained to me during my time at uni. 

I'm not going to be looking at anything to do with Nuke, for two reasons; unless you want to be a compositor in the industry or are working with live action plates, it's unnecessary. Secondly, I can't use Nuke for shit. 

I'm also not going to be covering anything on the maya rendering side of things. For a few reasons; I knew what frames I required for comp, but my good friend/saviour/wizard Finlay handled all of the actual rendering so, to be honest, I don't feel confident in my rendering knowledge to put it in the videos. Also, there's plenty of better resources where you can find that sort of information.

Finally, I'm going to be using assets from our degree film Ticked Off for most of the compositing examples. Mainly because I've got all the frames, but also because it's something that myself and most of you guys will be familiar with.  

I think that's pretty much everything, check out the video below. I'd love to hear any feedback both good and bad, and I'm not just saying that. 

Happy comping!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Oops... I arted. (Also, tutorial update)

I've been working on some fresh concepts for our old 3rd year project, which Paxton and I are going to remake. We're pretty keen to realise the idea, particularly after everything we learned in 4th year. Here's the first of a few concept pieces I've been doing, just to get the general feel. Although, it might not make a lot of sense to those unfamiliar with the project.

We're working on getting some other pre production goodies together too including animatics and designs so stay tuned for that.

Also, after receiving a bunch of messages from DJCAD students about compositing I've decided I'm going to make some short and simple tutorial videos covering the basics of pimping stuff in After Effects. I started doing this, but my planned 10 minute tutorial turned into about an hour... so it's going to need some more structure. If any 3rd & 4th year students have any pressing questions, please just get in touch. I'll be covering passes/layers, importing, basic comping, cheap tricks, colour correction and exporting. Maybe some in-depth geekery...