Thanks to Rachit for this killer link!
Did my bi-yearly check on Blender to see if a simplified customizable interface has been implemented yet. Looks like another open source movie is also in the works. This one’s called Durian… like the funky/stinky pod fruit**? No associate intended, I hope.
** I’ve had the durian fruit a few times. It STINKS… but tastes amazing.
A classically animated short created by Michael Dudok De Wit. Simple yet beautiful. Powerful use of the music to tell the story. If you like this short and can handle seeing something a little more simple, Father & Daughter is also worth checking out.
Thanks to Des Duggan for getting me to check this out.
District 9 was a significant film for me for a few different reasons.
- Efficient use of effects. It’s not just what you can do, but how you use it.
- Story with meaning. In a time where films rarely follow their core message… it’s refreshing to see an exception (including Pixar).
- I was almost lucky enough to work on it. Almost. :
- Oh yeah, and it’s got aliens!
The film was directed by Neill Blomkamp, a Vancouver Film School graduate who is a VFX veteran from The Embassy, who directed the popular Citroen commercial.
Long story short, Neill was supposed to direct the Halo film, but that was put on hold (indefinitely?) and so Peter Jackson assisted Neill in turning his short film, “Alive in Jorberg“. into a feature film. District 9 was green lit with a budget of $30 million.
On September 29th I attended a Siggraph talk with Image Engine, where spoke on the making of District 9. Image Engine was one of a handful of studios in Vancouver that worked on the film. While Image Engine focused on the creation of the “prawn” characters, The Embassy was working on the large robot and little critters. Goldtooth Creative worked on some of the 3D user interfaces shots and WETA, since they were busy with Avatar, was only able to contribute to a few shot elements, including the mothership.
The original intention was to use prosthetic suits for the alien prawns w/ CG face overlays. Peter Muyzers recommended that Image Engine be allowed to create the creatures entirely in 3D. In the end, about 300 alien shots were created by Image Engine. The aliens were acted out by a grey suited actor and then replaced by a CG double, which was created in Maya. It was noted that the grey suit provided a great reference for lighting. Nuke was heavily used in the production as allowed for much of the CG lighting to be adjusted in real-time.
People at Goldtooth and Image Engine both noted how the use of the “Red One” camera sometimes produced warping of the frame during fast camera moves. This was often difficult for the tracking software and forced them to fully recreate the scenes in 3D in order to do touchups. The warping effect was referred to as the “rolling shutter“.
The 300 alien shots felt like a lot more. This and many of the other tricks, including filtering footage through VHS recorders, were testiment to Neill’s efficient use of FX. He understood that 3D is expensive and when some shots were pushed through the pipe, he was quoted saying that the cost was “a snowmobile or 2“. Like Fight Club, Neill used used FX to help tell a story, not a story to show off pretty effects. The crew at Image Engine expressed how much of a benefit it was to have someone directing that spoke their language.
I hope to see more movies like this and nearly everyone who’s seen it agrees. Would Neill be able to produce double the quality with 60 million? Anybody ready for a District 10? We’ll see.
FXGuide has a very detailed breakdown that includes before/after shots organized by studio.
Although I do update my “Recent Thoughts” (forwards from my identi & twitter feeds), I shouldn’t let me think that can be considered “keeping my website updated”. Because it’s not.
I just ran across this video at odforce.net. A VERY slick road generator. Now what CAN’T this program do.
Yes yes… slacking on the blog updates, but I should defend myself a little as there have been info links appearing on the sidebar, just no full-on entries. I won’t bother throwing the “I’ve been busy” excuse at you… ok, yes I will. Next week is a big week. Big… HUGE… MASSIVE!
Almost as big as these man made beasts. How can a digital puppet guy like myself not be blown away by a machine that walks with the wind?
And more kinetic sculptures over (where else?) Dark Roasted Blend
A recent Ted Talk has Theo Jansen talking about the inner workings of his creatures, including their binary brain.
The producers & creators over at Bowes Productions & NWFX have made the first two episodes of Jibber Jabber available online and in their entirety! Not only was it a fun project to work on, the episodes still give me the warm fuzzies.
Only 2.5 hours left to vote!
Back in 2005 Shane intruduced us all to his stitched and zippered ragdolls in his short film entitled “9”. Tim Burton soon took interested and has assisted Shane in turning the short into a feature film. Starz, based in Toronto, was the 3D animation studio responsible for the work. Not too long ago the film trailer was released to to the public.
I worked with Shane on one of the initial film tests. The guy is still an animator at heart and he knows what he likes. It’s rare to have a director critizise the technical aspects of your work (in my case, the character rigs). I haven’t heard more than bits and pieces of how the final production went, but I am pretty excited to see how everything turned out.
Biggest kicker… the film is being released on my birthday. It also means I can finally put the work I did on my demo reel. That’ll be a nice birthday present to myself.
I recommend watching the original short:
And then, here’s the full film trailer (or the HD trailer on the official site):
In the afternoon of Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending Tony Chen’s 3D Animation Workshop in Gastown. The special guest for the evening was Thomas Schelesny. Tom is a Visual Effects Supervisor at Tippet Studios. He was the VFX Supervisor for Disney’s Enchanted and is currently supervising the FX for Sam Rami’s Drag Me To Hell.
Tom gave us a quick summary of his career, starting with Northwest Imaging in Vancouver, where he received his first experience at 3D animation on Softimage, working on X-Files & The Outer Limits. While at work, Tom received an incoming call which he initially thought was a prank and promptly hung up on the caller. The caller was a recruiter from Tippet.
Needless to say, he got the job at Tippet and was brought in as an Anima…er… a Lighting TD. After having the TD position for 1 week, Tippet quickly moved Tom to a more appropriate position, in animation. Tom spent 3 years as an animator and followed that up with 2 years as an animation lead, working on Starship Troopers and Virus.
Eventually, Tom was surprised by a visit from Tippet, who was showing a client around the studio. Tippet whispered to Tom, “So, you want to be VFX Sup on this show?” to which Tom replied, “Yes.“. Tippet immediately introduced Tom to the client as the VFX Supervisor that would be working on his film.
During our talk, Tom couldn’t stress enough how important it is to take risks. He said how rewarding it was to be confident in yourself, to not care what other people think. If you know what you need to do… DO IT. For example, when onset with an actress who needed to react to a monster that wasn’t there, Tom took his shirt off and started towards the actress, snorting and snarling. Throw on a dress? Sure. Pose for life drawing? Why not? He says that he’s willing to take take it all off, if it needed to be done… and he proved it. This is a point that resonated strongly with me. I’ve lost track of the number of missed opportunities due to shyness or stressing about making an ass out of myself. I mean, the entertainment industry begs for people like this, so give em what they want!
I keep thinking of the song by The Kills, Cheap and Cheerful – “I want you to be crazy cause your stupid when your sane.”
Speaking of being confident with your work, one thing that has surprised me since I came into this industry, was the lack of animator reference. I’m not talking about book or video clip reference, I’m talking about STANDING UP AND ACTING IT OUT. Tom told us how animators are treated at Tippet Studios. In the animation area, you’ll commonly find animators crawling and snarling. If other artists are making discouraging comments about an animator who’s acting, that person will usually get double the criticisms fired right back at them. At Tippet, they do whatever they can to encourage live reference. I know this doesn’t need to be said, but everything is sculpted before it goes digital. Reference is key and the closer to real life, the better. Tom pointed out, “This computer monitor, it’s 2D, not 3D.” This is something we all forget, too often.
He spoke of his preference to work with rubber suits. The experience is more organic, as your are directing the action, in the moment. If it’s purely digital creatures, a director will usually just shoot the set then save the footage to be dealt with later. However, if you’re working with rubber suits, “…you want a creature to look more wet, you walk up and spray on some water…” I should note that Tom does not dislike digital effects, it’s more a preference of the process. He also stated that he feels that some 3D animated films are as perfect as you can get, simply because of the control you have over every single element. In a world of film that seems to be driven by digital effects, these comments were a breath of fresh air. Too often does the process oriented work seem too planned and not dynamic enough. It’s hard to pick out sometimes, but we can usually feel when it just doesn’t look right. A rubber suit looks more real, well… because it is real.
Thanks to everyone, especially Tony Chen @ CGMovement, for putting this together. It was a very inspiring evening that will not be forgotten.
Many remember the 3D animated instruments from Animusic, that were showcased on the Mind’s Eye DVDs produced by Sony. Due to my renewed interest in 3D animation triggered by audio, I went to see what they’ve been upto recently.
It looks like they’ve been keeping themselves busy. They’ve released the Animusic 2 DVD and are working on an Animusic 3, which is going to utilize Pixar’s Renderman.
After attending Syd Mead’s talk hosted by the Vancouver chapter of Siggraph, I have a new respect for the designer’s vision. The level of depth in his paintings becomes greater as the stories behind each work is revealed. From hand held rings where users can dial their euphoria, to time travel for the lower class.
Here’s the interview from Boing Boing TV.
* Part 1
Love character rigging and especially good rigging… and above that, I love to see how others achieve great results.
Chris Evans has dug up some info on the character work that has gone into Metal Gear Solid 4. I’m on the fence about which console to buy, but the tech put into this game is enough to end the debate.
Thanks again to “Stumbling Into Awesomeness” for these great posts.
* UPDATE * Oct 16, 2008
CGTalk just posted a production focus article for MGS4. Looks like there’s some great stuff in here that I’ll have to take the time to read later.
Andrew Lowell Productions just released an ebook entitled, Simultaneous Music, Animation, and Sound with Houdini. At $29.95, I picked it up immediately! His goal is to share his discoveries in order spark more interest in this area, and the reasonable price reflects this goal. Big props to the author for a great price that will certainly help spread this wonderful info!
Skimming through the book, it’s packed with text and screenshots that contain paint-overs that should help to avoid any confusion. The package also includes a few hundred megabytes of example files to work from. I recommend checking out his quicktime demo where he gives some samples of the contents, broken down by chapter.
For months I’ve been meaning to dig around in Houdini’s CHOPS (Channel Operators) for this exact thing. Knowing that I now have a guide to lead me through the beginning hurdles, well… I’m more eager than ever to begin my personal project. This really did come at just the right time.
Taking it a little further than the text. Make sure and crank up the volume before getting this one rolling.
Davario on Livejournal created a post where hundreds of artists are now drawing portraits of themselves, past and present. It first started as a simple “draw yourself as a teen” post and then BOOM it exploded into a meme. There’s a huge list of sketches that have been submitted, with a wide range of skill levels. I’ve only gone through a dozen or so myself, but I plan on spending more time later, here and there, checking out the rest.