Archive for October, 2006

Some of the favored projects of my school are those featuring C3 Minimates, which are Lego compatible action figures. These little guys are quite detailed and poseable, and are rather simplistic in their geometry. This makes them excellent candidates for CG animation teaching tools.

We were given some footage of a video monitor with several of the figures on top. We were also given pre-generated and rigged versions of Batman and Wolverine. We were told they should interact with each other. They should convey a theme. At least one should pass behind an existing figure in the video. Beyond that, be creative. Oh yeah… it’s about 15 seconds long, and they have to remain perfectly still for the first four.

Well, I’m not done yet. It’s due tomorrow at 12:30pm. But I have a low-resolution copy of the video uploaded, so I thought I’d give you a preview. I hope you enjoy it!

For the critics… here’s the list of “known defects”. I don’t know how well you can see them in the embedded video.

  • Shadow issues. There’s a new render of the monitor shadows in progress. Right now, they cross on top of several characters where they shouldn’t.
  • A non-existent Minimate is reflected in the front edge of the monitor. This is a “stand-in” for Frodo Baggins so Frodo can cast a shadow on Wolverine when appropriate. A new reflections render has already been generated.
  • General lighting issues and such.

These aside, I’m pretty happy with it. By the end of these projects, I always have a dozen things I’d like to fix, but you have to set cutoff points. Otherwise, I’d still be working on what I consider to be rather hefty “smoothness” issues in the motion of the characters.

By the way, did you get that Batman thinks he’s Buzz Lightyear in this? Think of the scene where Woody first confronts him on Andy’s bed. :)

Last night, we went all over Fort Wilderness looking at Halloween displays (yeah, you heard me, “Halloween”, not “fall festival”!). Anyway, it is utterly amazing what some people tote along in their campers to put up as a display.

One family had an inflatable haunted house you could walk through. Another had a 30-foot tall flapping ghost on top of their camper waving back and forth in the trees.

The coup de gras, however, was this one. We walked by it in the daytime as they were getting set up. We then came by at night. It was INCREDIBLE. Unfortunately, our camera’s batteries joined the dead after just one photo, but you can only really get just a hint of the whole impact here. They had ghost heads flying around the site (wires and pullies at three points encircling the entire site!).

Grave Yard Site In Daylight

Grave Yard Site At Night

If you live nearby and can make it in to visit, get to Disney’s Fort Wilderness and take a nighttime walk around. It was utterly incredible!

By the way, I left my blog address in the guestbook. If you’re the owner of the site, please leave a comment. If you include your loop number, I’ll consider that proof enough that it’s actually you! Thanks so much for all your work… we LOVED it!

I plan to do an “expose” of my life in SL (Second Life) with photos of my friends and places I go there. In the meantime, if you like keyboards (of the musical variety) and vocals, check out my friend Jaycatt’s blog.

Jaycatt and another friend, Frogg, play live music in Second Life at concerts. The concerts are free, but a good citizen will always throw a few bucks in the tip jar (Linden dollars, that is… currency within Second Life).

In case you’re wondering what a concert is like in Second Life, it’s just like a real concert. The music is played on real instruments and streamed to the Second Life residents just like a streamed MP3 would be, except that it’s live. While the music plays, the artist’s avatar plays an “in world” version of his instrument.

I’m hoping to entice some of my regular visitors into Second Life so we can meet there. Just be prepared… Second Life has a tendency to eat Real Life for dinner!

Jaycatt’s Blog

Jaycatt’s CD Sales Page (with samples of his songs)

You know the stories you hear about “that quiet guy in the house next door”? Well, I just gave my neighbors one of those stories.

My Church is buying out our neighborhood. They got four homes, and the rest of us have stood firm so far. This is not about some protest to protect our neighborhood, though… read on.

Well, yesterday, they levelled the first of the four homes to make way for a new school building. Today, they made it halfway through the second. So, what use would a fan of the Hitchhiker’s Guide and budding F/X artist have for a partially demolished house? Watch the following video…

This is a slightly out of whack reproduction of the scene in the story where Arthur finds his home torn down and first spots the Vogon constructor fleet arriving to demolish Earth. Now, I just need to add music, sound effects, and an immensely HUGE alien construction ship, hanging in the air in much the way that bricks don’t. :)

Recently, a good friend of mine at my job, Donna, won 5 passes for two apiece to see a special preview of “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. I have three black tee-shirts dedicated to this film alone (and only one for Hitchhiker’s Guide, to give you an idea of the importance of this film!). At first, when she invited me, I didn’t think I’d be able to go. Michelle had a work function and I had the boys. Alas, Donna had 4 free spaces, so we could all go (the boys LOVE this film, too).

So, we showed up. There was still one unused admission left, so I called my friend, Jim, from school. I waited for him while Donna, the kids, and the others secured seats in the “dead center” (little Halloween pun for ya there) of the theater. Another guy was standing nearby and walked over. He sighed and said “I can’t wait any longer. I have to go in.” I thought it odd that he suddenly felt the need to emote to me. “Ooooh Kaaayyy. You can do that,” I replied. He gave me four of the two-person passes. Well, there wasn’t time for 8 more friends to travel to the theater, so I started peddling the tickets off for free. I was wearing a simple Jack Skellington shirt, so I probably looked to a rare few like an official theater rep.

People literally ran from me! You would have thought I was a Hare Krishna guy at the airport (note to the young ones… rent “Airplane” if you don’t know what a Hare Krishna guy at the airport is). We’ve reached the point where people don’t trust anyone giving something away for free!

I was able to give out three of the four, only wasting one pass.

All in all, this was a great experience. To be 100% honest, the 3D didn’t add much to the movie. It was very well done, perhaps to the degree where you forgot about it. But what really got me was the ability to see this wonderful film in a large format with incredible sound (I really think they’ve enhanced the surround effect!). If Burton-esque entertainment is your style, you have to see this. Even if you already have. It will definitely re-awaken your love of the film!

Here we go… final version. Not much different than the last, and the changes are almost not worth posting (I doubt you can tell at all in Flash video). However, I can’t leave the “almost final” without the “final”.

I tweaked the sound a bit. Primarily the impact of the AT-AT on the ground (and it was a little blown out at parts before). I think it placed pretty well as far as the assignment is concerned, but there were a couple that were just mind blowing. I really have to learn to unleash the old imagination with these things.

Problem is, if you enhance in a way the teacher didn’t expect, it’s counted as a negative. I just never know how to make that call. For example, one guy, instead of dropping screens off the bottom as they transition, made them shrink like turning off an old TV. Very impressive effect, but very negative comments from the teacher. Others put elaborate frames around the video like it was in video player software. They were commended. Not knowing how “creativity” will be greeted has kept me pretty tight to the project guidelines.

The PDA video is almost finished. I think it looks good, but the teacher gets bored with the same sound every time a button is pressed, so I’ll be replacing some of those (so much for all that “consistent behavior” stuff we learned in applications interface design!). Anyway, I’m sure I can find other deficiencies to correct over the next day.

How RARE to have a little extra time at the end of an assignment! Wonderful, but rare!

Once again, life gets in the way of blogging (I love you guys, but it’s no secret that life comes first). I’m going to start of with a little bit of a bummer. Grades are not all A’s right now. Our class is subject to quizzes of 10 questions apiece on Fridays. They are pure rote memorization and history. I don’t do well at all at this and it’s dragged me down to the bottom of the “B” range for this class. Needless to say, it’s a bit of a morale buster. The questions are obscure… Name 3 of the 6 items in a drop down list (I gave the right answer… wrong dropdown! — 10 points off). “Name the man who urged Steven Speilberg to use computer generated dinosaurs in Jurassic Park”. Left that one blank, but you can bet I know who Phil Tippet is now! It’s in a textbook that we’re assigned, but I just do… not… retain… rote… facts. All through school, I was straight “A”‘s except for the “D” in History.

Ok, griping over. Time to show off the latest videos. First is our AT-AT redux. This is the final version I turned in. I learned about a required element (smoke billowing from the vehicle after the main impact explosion) with an hour left to complete it… ouch! But I think it looks pretty good considering.

The other video is a work in progress. This is a video of someone poking a turned-off Visor (Palm Pilot competitor). We were given some slides and asked to make some video (i.e. rotating schematics of the AT-AT). I need to tone down the edges of the finger, but overall, I’m happy with the progress on this one.

Thanks for listening to me whine. If you want some cheese with that whine, take a look at this. I tried one of the effects from our textbooks. I took a Marvin figure and placed it right near the camera positioned very carefully. Then I took a few shots of me in the distance (relatively) interacting with it. The came out pretty funny, although not very convincing. Still, I enjoyed it and have always wanted a robot in my kitchen! Pure cheesy photo goodness!

Take Care!

No, I’m not stuttering. What would you do if you saw an Empire AT-AT headed your way on a road in this galaxy, on this planet?

You’d call for a missile to take it down, right? Well, welcome to our latest work in progress…

If you’d like to see this one full-scale (I’m seeing a lot of lost detail in the embeded version), click here.

Left to do: Improve the missile’s path, work on the smoke, add an explosion, and hide the distant part of the smoke trail behind the trees. I kind of feel that shadows could use a bit of work, too.

This stuff is REALLY fun!

We’re moving along with our compositing skills. In this set of videos, we had to merge a computer-generated helicopter into existing video footage. They are very short videos, but interesting nonetheless. I wish we had more base footage to go with. Ten seconds of video would not have taken much more work and would have given more than just a tiny taste of what we were trying to achieve.

So, on to the videos. Starting with this…

We made this…

But apparently, they didn’t get very far. Don’t worry, no simulated or real people were hurt in this disaster. But the helicopter is beyond repair.

Late edit: So you know, these are the completed works of two assignments. The tiny little video snippets had no helicopter in them. The first was a “free moving camera” pan. The second was a “nodal pan” (meaning a camera rotating in one place). ALL the helicopters and their parts were not in the original video, and are computer generated.