Friday, December 21, 2012

Term 6

A year and a half down, 6 months to go. Let's dive in!

Digital Sets

When you see Spider-man swinging around New York or astronauts walking around on a strange planet, a lot of times, that environment is a digital set. It is often a combination of 3d models, background plates, and panoramas. Our class got to take a field trip up to Red Rock Canyon and take photos so we could make our own panoramas. 

My crazy color corrected 360 degree panorama
This can be used as a background element or even as a lighting tool.

Another thing we learned was how to do was camera projection. Sometimes it takes too long to build an entire environment manually, especially if the camera is only going to see about 50% of it. One thing you can do to save time and still get the 3d effect is camera projection.

Take a simple photo:

Build some simple geometry that dips and bulges in the appropriate areas, and then, just like a movie projector, you project that image on to the simple geometry.

I repeated this process for multiple pieces, and created this composition.
With a very simple camera move, you can fake that full 3d effect:

Final Video:


This class did not involve removing the skin from roadkill on Cahuenga Blvd. Skinning is the process of attaching a 3d character to a 3d skeleton. The skeleton is what animators use to make the character speak, emote, and dance the funky monkey. This class we focused on skinning a face. We were provided a head and we learned how to build accurate 3d joints, morph targets, and corrective blend shapes. For the non-3d savvy, I make computer things happen. The best part is, when you are done, you can force your character to make silly faces.

HD Cinematography

This was a lecture class which was a very informative and in depth look at the history of film, practical and visual effects, cameras, story, etc. We were fortunate enough to take a tour of Pixomondo and chat with an artist in each department. Our final project was to describe a special effects shot, pre-1993, explain how it was done, and how you would try to execute the same effect today.

I chose the original Die Hard movie, and the scene where an armored truck is destroyed by a rocket launcher, and C4 blows up the 3rd floor of Nakatomi Plaza.

It's hard to imagine but back in the day they didn't have these computer things with programs to do compositing so these big explosions were done a few ways. Some of the explosions were actually real. Small black powder bombs were used on the car and the frame around each window of the third floor. Since the owners of the building didn't really dig the idea of the studio blowing up their property, they had smoke explode outward, and bright lights flashing inside. They then filmed explosions separately and used a photochemical matte process to combine the two. The same was done in the shot where Bruce jumps out of the way of the elevator explosion. To dumb it down, Bruce was traced out of each shot and combined with another shot. Fun stuff!

Mel Scripting

I wish that I had the memory, logic, and skill to understand scripting more. This was an excellent class, and even running at 100% effort, I still would not be able to fully grasp this subject. Scripting  is learning about all the little codes that make a computer program work. It really is like learning another language, which I've never been terribly good at either. それは余りにも困難です! Anyway, I do love how much time this can save you. When you're working in 3d, you tend to notice yourself doing the same 3-20+ button clicks in a row just to do one simple thing. When you repeat this each time, you start to think, " There's gotta be a better way". If you know scripting you can take those 20+ button clicks and put it into 1. How much time does that save?!

Our final was to ask our classmates and peers what scripts they would like us to write for them to make their lives a little easier. I chose to create a script that would clean up a lot of little annoyances when going from the program Zbrush to Maya. Here is the most updated version, free to use. I will continue to refine it and feel free to make requests: Zbrush Cleaner

Character for Games

Step one in this class was to choose a character concept. 
Concept by kick433

I have a new respect for game characters. There's a lot more involved than creating something for a portfolio, turntable, or still image. Games have a limit to how much information can be displayed at any given time. There's tons of little calculations that happen in a game. Real-time lighting, normal mapping, particles, animations, and sometimes real-time displacement. So to create a high resolution character that can show off all those juicy details without taking up too much memory, you need to create your character twice. The first time, you create a hi rez sculpt:

Once you do this, you then go back and create a low rez version of your character. This term we were limited to a 20,000 poly character.

To get your hi rez information on to your low rez character, you use a texture called a normal map. It helps fake lighting and depth information. For example. I can have a plane that I want to be a brick wall. Rather than building the grout and the bricks separately, I can create a texture which will fake those grooves. 
This psychedelic image can be combined with a brick colored map and create this groovy effect: 

Another space saver for games is putting every piece in to one map. I created two for this character since she had so many pieces. Here's the final result:
This character still has many days more work that need to go into it, but this was a great learning experience.

Environment for Games

The art of making games is making an object that is structurally simple and visually complex. Games can only show you so much at one moment. There's lots of little calculations that happen in an instant to give you a colorful, believable environment. This class focused on building objects, environments,  and painting textures.

Grave Site