Thursday, December 31, 2009


Hmm... so let me see if I understand this correctly:
I'm unable to watch my own film from the very same computer that I, the sole creator of the film, created the film on, and this on your page that just links back to my youtube page where I have it released free without any restrictions on viewing. ':|

Now, I don't mind people linking to my film and spreading the word around, that's why I put it up on youtube in it's entirety for free. But at least be smart about it :/

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Production begins again once again for the first time...again...

Back in production, the first shot for the main sequence of 'tales from the afternow'. Most of the sets are modeled (at least the complex ones that is) and most of the characters are modeled.

The animation process:
  1. Storyboard based on the script (in this case portions of the audio transcript from the original episode...)
  2. Sscanned in the storyboards
  3. Cut an animatic, synced to the audio (narration in this case, but this is where you would record all the voice actors if you do a film the normal way, which I dont)
  4. Figure out the frame timings of each shot, including overlaps for any transition effects, so that you don't end up rendering any more than you need to.
  5. Animate and render the shots
  6. Comp in effects, edit, sound effects and music
  7. Send film to festivals at your own expense, fail miserably, and turn to drugs and alcohol instead of making films
So right now I'm in the middle of rendering the first 'official' shot of the main sequence, as seen above. In this shot, as opposed to my usual shots, I decided to make a long camera tracking shot, which means rendering full frames for the whole shot (418 frames at 24fps = 17.xx seconds) Typically I'd render overscan and fake camera movement in after effects, to cut down on rending the background for each frame...saves a lot of time. However, every now and then you have to render full frames.

So I've got all my render nodes going right now:

node frame time
p4 1.4 ghz 5:24
p4 2.0 ghz 4:10
p4 2.6 ghz 2:51

yup, so a bit of difference in the performance of the computers, time to get another cheap off lease one to replace my p3 500 that I don't really use anymore. Not exactly top of the line, but I'll leave these guys overnight and then it's on to the next shots.

Now what's taking so much time is the face that the 'sketch effect' renders a frame 5 times instead of 1, plus doing full frame renders. Ouch. Not much I can do about the x5 bit, but I try to avoid camera tracking shots as much as possible... when you need something to stand out or an important bit that carries the story. You can get away with a lot by spicing up static shots with fake camera panning in post.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dark City

I'm starting to be happy with the look of the street level city set which I will need for several different shots. These shots are from different angles, and so the set must work up close as well as distance elements. Together this makes for a challenging build, as all elements must work together seamlessly to fill the shot without any obvious gaps. As I stage the actual shots, I'll have to extend and move elements so as to fill the frame. For example, the foreground 'PanoShiba' building doesn't actually extend much above the frame at the moment, although it's intended to be a taller building, and I have a shot planned which will be looking up towards the sky at it at some point, so the models have to be created with modular construction and flexibility in mind.

I'm happy with the way the office lights in the far buildings turned out, that's a bit of a cheat and I'm going to have to use that method a bit in the future to make my life easier when modeling city buildings.

As you can see, the set has to work looking down onto street level as well, plus I intend to recycle the set elements for any other city shots I have planned.

So this all took 4 days on and off to build, and I didn't previs it with a concept sketch, so I was kinda pulling the rabbit out of a hat on this one, luckily some reference jpgs of Toronto helped out a bit on this one. (Modeled loosely on Queen St...)

This is what the set looks like from a distance:
As you can see, there's no point in modeling anything that
will not be on camera.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Low poly 4 lyf3

Low poly buildings for the distance, high poly buildings for up close.

Street level scenes are one of the most labor intensive environments to set up. There's tons of little details to create, both up close and in the distance. And your buildings have to be varied enough that it's not totally obvious that you are recycling them. Also don't forget to model all the little street details such as:
  1. garbage cans
  2. light poles
  3. electricity poles
  4. posters and remnants thereof plastered on any available surface
  5. graffiti
  6. sewer drains
  7. litter
  8. cardboard garbage boxes
  9. dead squirrels on the road
  10. cars
  11. signs
  12. bus stops
  13. stop lights
  14. newspaper boxes
  15. manhole covers
  16. etc...
One of the biggest mistakes I see in 3D animation and 3D stills is not enough detail on street level. I'm even guilty of it myself (rocketmen ep 1) You just gotta spend the time putting all the details in, and when you think you are done, time to spend another day or two because your shot still sucks.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Set Building

I've spent the last week working on this set. Seems time consuming, but if you want it to look cool then you have to put in enough details until you are happy with the result. Plus, this set has to be used for multiple angles and shots, and so has to be a full 360° set. Which means enough detail from enough angles that I might want to use and no black space. For some shots you can get away with just building the straight 'on camera' set, not in this case. But I'm finally happy with the level of detail and I can add small changes in production if I need to.

I used a couple tricks in this to make life easier. Notice how the ground fades into the horizon color as objects become more distant. This gives depth to the image, plus I don't have to model a whole bunch of stuff in the distance because it wouldn't be visible anyway.

All the textures are created with procedural fractal noise, with multiple layers to add large scale and small scale variations to the texture. This is set to 'world space' coordinates, so that I don't have to worry about two objects having the same texture when I clone and move them, plus objects textured in this way will automatically blend in together when you put them side by side (such as in the case of two ground planes, for example)

A lot of the distant objects are simply modeled as silhouettes: the cranes, the hydro towers, even the chainlink fences. With the distance fade effect applied, these blend into the background but don't need to have as much surface detail themselves. The sketch effect I use also helps to add more detail to these objects, so there's a certain amount of detail that they need, but beyond that it's unnecessary.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Angry Mob

Well, it was bound to happen eventually.
My voice actors found out about all the negative
comments about them on youtube,
and came after me with crowbars and nail boards.
(as above)

Revenge: not so sweet when you're on the receiving end :(