Sunday, November 25, 2012

Blender Lip Sync Rig

I've been developing a version of my facial animation rig for Blender:

As you can see I use a very simple face for my characters,  I find 'normal' CG face rigs and lip sync to be very stiff and wooden, due to the 'uncanny valley' effect, best avoided if you don't want your film to look terrible.  They've managed to overcome this in recent years,  Avatar was the first film that I can recall where the facial mocap / animation system was pulled off convincingly... fun-ortunately this means you have to throw tons of money at the lip sync alone to make it look *acceptable*   My approach is to establish a consistent stylized look and concentrate on the story, characters, and action to carry the film.

The eyes are another conscious choice to avoid 'Disney' or 'Anime' style eyes.   This is again a stylistic choice with the intent to set my work apart from the 'mainstream' and already well established genres.

I have a few more controls to add to the rig seen above,   mouth smiling and frowning,  a 'yelling' control... then it's a "simple"* task of creating a Python script to parse lip sync data from Papagayo into the little '+' mouth control seen here.   Papagayo is a free lip sync tool that lets you align text with a wav file, then exports a list of frame numbers with corresponding "phenomes"  (the yellow U,  FV,  E  etc seen above)    I use three simple mouth shape keys which are mixed together using Drivers, controlled by the XY controller I've built, mapping out the various positions where these phenomes appear on the controller lets me lip sync manually,  the Python script (which I have yet to learn how to make  :(   ...)  will let me do this automatically...

... because there's nothing more tedious than lipsync :(

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Blender render output styles

I've been doing some tests with the blender scanline renderer and the Freestyle NPR renderer:
From left to right here are a few tests with mr paper bag head guy here, starting with the straight 1 pass scanline render with no other effects added to it. In all the cases here I've used the Catmull-Rom antialiser set to 0.65, as this seems to give the best antialising of all the settings I've tried.

The images rendered here were taken from a wide camera angle, so the model is actually a bit further away from the camera vs the other close-ups I've shown recently.   This is important to consider, since the toon line rendering will appear to be wider in proportion to the scale of the model, the further the model gets away from the camera. 

In the second image from the left, I've applied a 4 pass HF Sketch effect using the displace modifier, you can see how the silhouette of the model is broken up and will blend better into the background.  At this distance the 'painted' effect is less prominent, but this does help to soften the image and blend objects together.

Third up is the 4 pass sketch with the bog standard blender Edge pass turned on.   This works ok for models that are close up to the camera, but for objects further away, you can see how the toon lines get ridiculously wide in proportion to the actual model.  There's no way to control the line width in Blender (...yet...) 

Fourth up, the Freestyle renderer does a fairly reasonable job, with much better artistic control of where lines will go, and a global width control to change the base width of the toon lines for an entire scene.   This could be handy for actors who approach the camera, for example, since this control can be animated with an IPO curve.

So it looks like my rendering pipeline will be a layered approach like in my previous productions, with the backgrounds given a liberal dose of the HF sketch *without* toon lines (as in image 2 here)   with the actors using a combination of the standard blender toon renderer and the freestyle method depending on if it's a closeup shot or not.

Time to go pester the Blender devs to integrate Freestyle into the main Blender distro for an upcoming release ;)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Engine and mechanicals sound effect synth in Reaktor - Updates

Props to user Yanni Fyassas who has updated my Engine and Mechanical sound effects generator to work in the newest version of Reaktor (which I don't actually have either...) Grab the updated version here:

Blender Tutorial - Multipass Sketch Effect

A quick tutorial on how I get the multipass sketch effect in Blender using the Displace Modifier and the Multipass motion blur effect in the render settings panel.

Blender Tests

'Been testing out some of the cool new shizz in Blender:
The physics engine opens up some interesting possibilities. I was quite surprised how well this chain worked with a little tweaking and finding the right mesh collision settings, and it calculates a lot faster than I would expect too. Just have to figure out how to get it to 'read' the motion of an object or character (or bounding boxes attached to a character to get some cool 'walking through spooky chains' type scenes going.
The Blender Freestyle development fork is looking promising for some NPR rendering, here's the monkey head with my usual multipass sketch rendering effect, PLUS the edge enhancement of the Freestyle render passes. This wiggles like shit when you move the camera, but it would be great for matte shots, skies, and distant objects that don't have to be animated. Look to see Freestyle incorporated into the main Blender distro once it's a bit more refined.
I'm not happy with Blender's volumetric shadows... too slow to render and not enough artistic control over them. Some things are still best done in post fx.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Script Writing and Character Modeling

I'm busy writing the script and developing characters for my next film, which will be a bit of a departure from the Archon series, and a short film at that (in the 20 mins or so range) as a way of learning all I need to know for Blender to ramp up for production of the third feature in the Archon series, "The Secret Of Sound"  

In the meantime though, it's witches, cats, and spooky things for "Cold Dark Mirror" which I'm aiming for actual full on production over the xmas and into new years 2013.  I'm aiming at a few months (3-4 ish tops) similar to my production on 'Tales From the Afternow"  This one will be released straight online as well, maybe to a few of the cool film fests, like Dragon*Con and MIFF.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spooky Stuff for Halloween

Blender has some really cool new features:
I modeled these spooky trees in a matter of 15 minutes using the "skin" modifier, which takes the vertices and edges of a base mesh and creates a 'skin' mesh around it.   Scaling the vertices controls the thickness of the generated mesh, so an organic shape like the tree trunk and branches here is simple to create.

The spooky volumetric fog here is true 3D fog that you can move through, just like the real thing.  It's a bit of a memory cruncher when I combine it with 5 passes for my 'HF Sketch' look... but it's worth it in the end... Have to find a way to work this into the next film ;)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Best Atmospheric/Weird Film: Tales From The Afternow

My short film "Tales From The Afternow" has won the award for "Best Atmospheric/Weird Film" at the Wasteland Film Festival. Props as usual to the production team: Patient Zero for his killer soundtrack, Cimm for the sound editing and production, and Sean Kennedy (aka SKTFM) for creating the whole Tales From The Afternow in the first place.

It's been a while since I've even *watched* this one... in fact such a long while that I've managed to finish Origin: A Call to Minds as well as polish up the compositing and the sound mix on Archon Defender in the time since this was finished ;) If you're itching to see this, and you missed the crazy post apocalyptic action in the California desert... drop Cimm a line and tell him you want it released ;P

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Origin A Call to Minds Nominated for Animation at TIFVA

Origin: A Call to Minds has been nominated for best animated film in the animation category at the Toronto International Film and Video Awards.

Check out the TIFVA main page for links and trailers to all the nominated films, including Familiar, starring actor Robert Nolan who recently recorded some parts for the soon to be released, newly polished and extended, Uberector's cut 2012 edition of Archon Defender.

 I've finished recomps, fixing a whole pile of mistakes and adding shots I previously deleted (or rather didn't do at the time...) for Archon Defender.   Yup, the whole George Lucas treatment, hopefully without destroying anyone's childhood though.  The sound mix is completely re-done, even from the 2010 version that won for best animated film at the Mississauga Independent Film festival in 2010.  That sound mix was a bit of a rush job and I never had time to fit actors in to the roles they were suited for,  so a bit of cast shuffling plus a couple new actors into the "studio" to re-record, and Archon Defender is finally at a point where *I* can watch it again ;)

How to be an Uberector

Uberector Jay Shaw over on Youtube was asking me about my filmmaking process for creating Archon Defender, Origin A Call to Minds, etc. My response turned out a little longer than I'd anticipated, once I got going ;) and I figured it would make a good blog post, seeing as how I've been lazy about this blog recently.

Shorts are ok, but they're amateur hour and there's no money in it in the long run (actually... half true... but there's more potential in features... though I've yet to realize that myself... one day though.)

If you want to make a feature it's all about planning.   You gotta have a good script first, and also it has to be longer than you think it ought to be, so when you're finished the first draft of the script it's time of what you figure a feature ought to be, it's time to double it... you can always cut out stuff before you animate it, and it's easier than trying to shoe-horn in more footage after you've done a bunch of shots.

Make storyboards next, stick figures are fine if you suck at drawing or if you don't want to draw the same thing twice during storyboards

Record all your voice actors next, then sync up the best takes with the storyboards and a rough in of the music if you have it, to set the timing for the film.  Action shots are a bitch for this part, so I go by 1 second per 'frame' of storyboard as a rough guide, but this always changes..  You should have a rough animatic of your film that's as watchable as the final film at this point.   Show this to a friend or two, if they get bored and start talking hockey, then it's time to rethink your script.

Now you haven't created any characters, sets or models for your film yet.  This is a good time to look through all the concept art, sketches, reference material, and storyboards to get a feel of the visual style of your film and the world within.   Storyboards are a good place to set down concepts, but don't get too bogged down with details, that's for the next step.

Now you go through your storyboards and script and make a list of all the characters, sets, models, props, effects, which you are going to have to build or find.  Online sites like are great places to get models, however these might not be exactly suited to what you need, and once you are proficient enough at modeling it will be easier to build what you need from scratch, especially if you need to fit into a certain visual style (ie toon rendering vs photorealistic etc..)

Once you have everything ready, animate all the "easy" shots:  dialog and environment / setup shots.  This gets you used to animating again and you iron out your animation / rendeing / compositing  workflow before you get to the action shots.  

M Dot Strange likes to animate a whole bunch of shots before he does any compositing,  I never render more than 10 or so shots 'ahead' of myself,  you never know when something is going to be screwed up and it's easier for me to go fix things while the shot is still fresh in my mind.

*presto* easy... you have a finished feature length digima to get rejected from all the major festicals...  Archon (70 mins) took 3+ years what with doing scene additions and recomps and totally redoing the voiceovers and audio mix *twice* .   Origin I did the right way (as described)  in exactly 2 years for an 80 minnute film.   A short 10 minute film should take 3 months tops, but it's just about as much work in the modeling and set building stage as a feature:  you can use the same models and sets over again for a feature, get more mileage out of them.  I've got one model "Dr Monacle's Console" from rocketmen 2 that's also been in Rocketmen 3, 4 and Origin..

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Uberector M dot Strange presents: Heart String Marionette

The long anticipated film Heart String Marionette by fellow Uberector M dot Strange is finally out :) I've been waiting for this one for a while, and from the trailer it looks like it's over 9000 times better than We Are The Strange was. No screening at the Sundance film festical this time, where half the audience walks out of the theater: M dot is releasing this directly to teh int4rw3bs, and you can get your copy here. $5 for a full 1080p HD mp4 with no DRM or bullshit region codes or any nanny screens to sit through... Cough up the scrilla, download, play... easier than pirating, and you support an independent Uberector at the same time. This could be the first 'official' pure digima release... a film made on the internet, from the internet... and for the internet...

I'm downloading my copy right now and I'll be posting a review in the next couple days...

Music videos n shizz part 2

Music video time round two, this time with Nothing by Two Moons. They emailed me a while ago about using clips from Archon for a music video, and this kinda slipped off my radar since then but it's good to finally see the finished project ;)

Two moons is a musical project founded in 2009 from an idea of Emilio Mucciga, Giuseppe Taibi (MisterRips), Angelo Argento (Ngilinex) and Vincenzo Brucculeri (Nils), active musicians for very long years with the joint intentions and aim to set up a very ambitious and important musical project.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Music videos n shizz....part 1

Electronica group Jeannie Rides A Rocket have this video out (after asking me nicely...) from their upcoming album, with video from my "Legend of the Moon" short:

..more vids to come from other bands / musicians... once I get the word they've finished their edits...


A video for the song Lanark by Horsemen Pass By set to Archon Defender check them out here.

Tutorial: How to encode Digital Cinema Package (DCP )

As filmmakers we will at some point want to exhibit our films on the large screen, to a packed theater (hopefully... though I've been to a festical screening or two of Archon Defender where I was the only one in the theater) Most film fests will be capable of screening a DVD version (this format is getting old... but in a worse case scenario it's good to have as a fallback) or directly from a computer into a digital projector using an .avi .mp4 or .mov file.

For the occasional holdout festicals still stuck in the technological dark ages, they may insist on an actual 35 mm print (this can cost upwards of $10,000 for a single print, for a feature film, give or take a few grand 'pocket change') For 3D films (of which Origin: A Call to Minds is...) the only real option for theatrical screening in 3D is a Digital Cinema Package or DCP

A DCP is designed to keep all the expense and hassle of an actual film print while minimizing any actual benefit that a digital file would permit in terms of bringing ease of creation and access to the independent filmmaker. DCP allows for optional encryption, which prevents theater staff from sneaking in and copying a 2K or 4K perfect copy of a film onto a usb drive and uploading it to The Pirate Bay. Which is one reason why we're all still stuck with crappy cam versions of pirated films which in some cases are just as bad a watching the actual film in the theater... but I digress...

For the last couple of weeks (more on this later...) I've been using the freeware / open source application OpenDCP to create a 3D DCP in anticipation of upcoming film festival entries:

Software used:
Hardware required:
  • 2 TB or so of free harddrive

Step 1: Lossless AVI Master

The master for Origin is a sequence of .avi files using the lossless HuffYUV codec, 720p HD resolution, separated into "chapters" for convenience, and consisting of Left and Right eye streams, plus an audio soundtrack in .wav format.

There's a pile of these sequences and I use an avisynth script to join them all together into a master comp for both the Left and Right eye stream. From here I can do any encoding I want using *this* script as the input for another avisynth script, changing the resolution and comping the streams for:
  • DVD
  • Divx / mp4 @ 720p HD
  • 3D anaglyph 'optimized' for color
  • 3D Side by side or over-under for 3D monitors / TV's
  • Image sequence output
Avisynth will let you write out an image file sequence of your streams. OpenDCP requires a sequence of .tiff images in any of several 'compliant' resolutions, I used 2k resolution which is 1998x1080 'flat' aspect ratio. I mastered Origin in 24fps, OpenDCP accepts frame rates of 24,25,30,48,50,60 fps.

Step 2: Writing the .tiff files
Here's the Avisynth script I use to write the .tiff image sequence. This is the part that is going to eat your harddrive.

# Convert to 1.85:1 aspect 2K projection image
# which is apparently 1998 x 1080
# from 1280 x 640 2:1 aspect

# Load and prepare source files

# avisource( "ACM000 All Comps R.avs" )
avisource( "ACM000 All Comps L.avs" )

# process crop and scale
# source 1280 640
# target 1998 999 81 (40 top , 41 bottom)

BilinearResize (1998, 999)
AddBorders (0, 40, 0, 41, $000000)

# info

# ImageWriter(file = "H:\DCP\1 Source TIFF and AUDIO\Right
\OriginACM_R_", start = 0, end = 0, type = "tiff"
, info = true)
ImageWriter(file = "H:\DCP\1 Source TIFF and AUDIO\Left\
OriginACM_L_", start = 0, end = 0, type = "tiff",
info = true)

Origin is 80 minutes long. 3D means that there's twice that amount of actual footage to encode. At this point you now have 1.56 TB of images in two directories, one for the Left and one for the Right stream (folder 3 is for the audio...more on that later...):

Luckily the rest of this process is not nearly as data intensive.

Step 3: Encoding the jpeg2000 files
Now we use OpenDCP to convert the .tiff image sequence into jpeg2000 images. OpenDCP coverts these from the RGB format that a normal computer uses to one called XYZ which the engineers of digital cinema projectors came up with to make life more complicated than it needs to be:
Notice how I've circled the nice option where you can restart the encoding if the power goes out, and not have to start over from the beginning... this is handy because encoding will take you a while:

Step 4: Encoding jpeg2000 files is finished...
How long of a while, you say? Funny you should ask:

Apparently Jpeg2000 encoding is really slow... must be why nobody ever uses it for anything, ever, except the DCP bunch... meh.. w/e this is something that you just have to put up with and be patient with... having a faster computer than a Core2duo might help... splitting up your frames to multiple computers to convert in parallel might help, but it'd be something that you'd have to babysit... This is one place where OpenDCP could benefit from some network enabled task sharing...

Step 5: Packing up the Jpeg2000 images into an MXF file
The next step is to take all the converted images and pack them into a single file called an MXF file. For 3D films, this stores the left and right streams, alternating the frames, so the projector will effectively project at twice your frame rate, 48 fps for a 24 fps source.

This step kept giving me an error at about 4%: Turns out that when the power went out the *first* time during encoding, it wrote a Jpeg2000 with a bad header. So, when this happens it's always a good idea to check the last few frames that got written before restarting the convert process.

I did a 3D and a 2D version at this point.

Step 6: Converting the Audio stream into a separate MXF file:
OpenDCP can encode stereo or 5.1 channel sound. These have to be 48 khz 24 bit wav files, mono, so one wav for Left, Right, (stereo sound mix) etc... I used an Avisynth script to extract each sound channel, then I used VirtualDub to write the sound file as a wav. The bitrate conversion is handled by the Avisynth script.

Step 7: Creating the DCP file
At this point you're ready to make the final product. The DCP spec has a standardized naming convention which gives the projectionists the most amount of information that you can possibly squeeze onto the tiny el-cheapo LCD character displays which grace these multi-thousand dollar pieces of hardware. Luckily, OpenDCP has a little tool, the Title Generator that handles all this for you, just enter the appropriate data and hit OK

Now it sits there for a while, and then spits out all the files you'll need to get onto a harddrive to take to your film festival:

Now at this point I haven't checked this on an actual DCP server (I used to have one kicking around collecting dust, but I just can't for the life of me remember where I put it... oh well, easy come easy go... oshi~~~ I think I left it in the trunk of my second rolls royce...) So at this point I'm still going to have to see if a normal usb harddrive will suffice to transport this, or if (probably) there's some ridiculous and more expensive hardware requirement... :/

Step 8: Checking the DCP:
Stereoscopic Player will play DCP's.. and more importantly it will play 3D DCP's The trial version only plays back a low res version, and you're limited to 5 minutes of playback at a time. Enough to check and make sure that everything has worked:

The final product... I set up the player to show "Cross Eyed" freeview, the easiest way to check this on a flat monitor... At this point you want to make sure the audio is synced, and the colors are played back correctly. The Jpeg2000 decoder here automatically converts back from XYZ to RGB color space.

So now it's on to the film festivals...
In eye-popping 3D:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Waiting for film festivals and DCP encodes...

Department of Waiting Dept.


Yup... it's been a bit since I had anything exciting to post... and since the big "crunch" to get Origin: A Call to Minds done in time for last months (may 5 ish) deadlines for the Toronto International Film Festival, Ottawa International Animation Festival, Dragon Con film fest, another entry into MIFF, Fantasia Montreal... to name some of the "big" festivals I'm looking to get into with this film...

(...considering that it's actually good this time instead of that old kludge of a film Archon Defender...) though I can't actually prove that to you yet because I have to wait for the 'privilege' of being 'selected' to screen at these highly prestigious festivals. Amongst festivals I've screened at, MIFF and Dragon Con were two of the best... In fact it's thanks to the MIFF crew that I have the contacts with the amazing voice actor talent, and actually doing things the proper way this time (ie: recording the voices first and not using computer voices and then trying to match those... :/ makes all the difference in Origin.

Now the big festivals want to be the super exclusive world premiere of your film... some festivals will reject your film if they're not the super 1337 0day hax0r Uber-awesome over9000 d00ds who get to see your film first. And if you've released your film on the internet: forget it. Why would people go to see a film on a super huge screen with an audience of like minded fans where they can ostensibly meet the filmmaker (secret: we're not actually that interesting to talk to... but we will accept free beer...) ... and watch the film in 3D with super expensive popcorn and sticky floors covered in pop... when they could sit at home and watch a little 1/4 screen youtube window with blocky compression whilst wearing el cheapo anaglyph 3d glasses that just make everything blurry :( (note: slight exaggeration... anaglyph is perfectly fine, done properly...) (note 2: sorry James Cameron, I totally watched a pirated version of Avatar... in anaglyph >:P buwahahah) (note 3: terrorists forced me to watch their pirated version at gunpoint)

We are the filmmakers... WE dictate where and how the films get shown. Why? we create the films. No Films = Black screen (and silent soundtrack... watch out John Cage doesn't sue you if he finds out you're stealing his silent piano concerto again....)

The audience wants to see our films. We want to connect with our audience, show them our films, (sneak behind them while they're so engrossed that they don't notice us pickpocketing...oh shi~* forget that last bit....)

I've gone to films... I've gone to film festivals... I've never been to "A Festival"

And I'm itching to get Origin: A Call to Minds out to the my audience :P I'm sure some of you are itching to see it... having gotten a bunch of emails to that effect already ;) The good news is that by the time you do manage to see it, I'll be well under way with production on the NEXT one... ;)

movie cards... soon it's storyboarding time again ;)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Origin: A Call to Minds" is finished

After 2 years of production, the followup to my award winning film "Archon Defender" is done... I just watched the full 3D version all the way through in it's finished form tonight, and it's ridiculously good. A big thanks to all my very talented voice actors who definitely carry this film. ...And I'm finished just in time to send off to some of the big festivals, stay tuned for updates on upcoming screenings and news.

Some stats on the film:
  • Production time 2 years
  • It's in stereoscopic 3D
  • Runtime: 79 minutes
  • 720p HD

Friday, April 13, 2012

And now some good animation... ;)

Ok, here's some good stuff if you're sick of watching 35 hours of plants blowing in the wind:

Film clip for the song Bronte, from the Gotye album Making Mirrors
Directed and animated by Ari Gibson at Mechanical Apple
Background art by Jason Pamment

I love the cel shading and hand painted backgrounds on this one, and the use of color and shading really sets the mood for this music video... too bad this one isn't longer. The simple look of the character's faces also sets this one apart, very similar to the face rig I've used for all my recent productions. (the same face rig, with a few more additions, that I actually developed at the END of production on the final Rocketmen vs Robots film)

There's definitely an Anime look going on here but at the same time the (skeleton) crew of artists have gone out of their way to establish their own stylistic feel which isn't TRYING to be Anime... or Disney... Originality is rare to find and so refreshing when you actually do find it.

The best 3D animated film of plants that look like an old painting blowing in the wind you'll see this year.

at least the storyboards were easy to do.

Skip to the end on this one for the good stuff... the plants blowing around and time lapse n shizz... From the credits on this one, it looks like a whole bunch of people toiled on this one.. over 20 (I lost count...) Hmm.. ok so you (well not you... you and 20 more people...) take an old still life painting and spend over two and a half years making it 'come back to life' again. (I guess, because.. oh... arranging shopping carts in a big circle has already been done to death...)

Artists Rob and Nick Carter have breathed new life into a 17th Century Golden Age master by digitising it and subtly animating it. The result is "Transforming Still Life Painting After Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder's Vase With Flowers in a Window" - a fascinating piece of digital fine art that the result of 2.5 years and thousands of hours of work. Here Rob and Nick Carter's creative partners MPC (The Moving Picture Company) show how the work was created.

Wow, where to begin on this one. In exactly the last two years, working alone, I've made this little trailer:

(And a bunch of "filler" to pad out the remaining 1 hour 18 mins and 40 seconds of "Origin: A Call to Minds")

Hmm.. math time:

20 people X 2.5 years = 50 peopleyears / 2 years/film/person = 25 films

SO... they should really have 25 films... or 25*78 mins = 32.5 hours of plants that look like an old painting blowing in the wind. Wow... that's a lot of wasted potential here on this one... I hate to think how much money was actually spent making this...

:( they should have made it in 3D-3D while they were at it... :(

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Romantic - A Film by Michael P. Heneghan

"Deep within a mythological world of autumn landscapes and wondrous creatures, a heartbroken young Romantic swears an oath to free his race from the omnipotent control of the otherworldly gods. But as he ventures forth on his long and lascivious path, other forces conspire with their own agendas. For when all the gods are dead, who will sit upon their empty thrones? A fantastical satire on religion, responsibility, and romance, The Romantic bends genres into a haunting tale filled with humor and horror."

Over 3 years in the works, "The Romantic" is a Digima production by Uberector Michael P. Heneghan, working with a small cast of voice actors and a skeleton crew of co-animators and musicians, to create a film with it's own unique visual style. And you can watch the whole film online, and read about the production, cast, and crew over at

Digima is a quietly growing art form, every year I come across another Uberector or two, and I certainly know more people who have made their own films or are in the process of making them than I did back when I was making the first Rocketmen vs Robots film. As more filmmakers get into the game, the quality of films will only go up: the tools and resources get better, filmmakers get better with each project, The best films will stand out above the crowd...with the stuff that hollywood and the big money studios are putting out, the theater is pretty crowded... but at least it's easy to stand out: all you have to do is have an inkling of originality, creativity, and artistry

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Forever Alone Filmmaker Podcast

So Ronerey :(~~

I interviewed with M Dot Strange and Jimmy Screamerclauz on their Forever Alone Filmmaker podcast on the weeked, you can catch the latest episode with me here, and check out the previous episodes, this is a good look into the world and methods of Digima and the Uberector.

In the meantime I've posted new versions of the Origin: A Call to Minds teaser trailer, a 2D version and a Youtube 3D version

And for your daily film entertainment, check out "Lost Planet", a film by Uberector Dmitry Petrov who made this film working by himself over 8 years (!!!) There's definitely some good cinematic shots in this one, using Bryce for the animation and rendering, a program I remember well from the "Rocketmen vs Robots" Days:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Toon Shading and Paint Effect in Blender

I've been playing around with Blender lately seeing as how it's packed full of up to date features including video editing, compositing, game development, not to mention it's open source and freeware as well ;) One of the main requirements for me was to evaluate Blender to ensure that I can migrate my visual style to it, the 'toon' render style based on Issac Botkin's Painting with Polygons method.

This is how you achieve this effect, very easily, in Blender:

Starting with any object, create a standard blender material

For the texture, you want one of the procedural textures, the animatable properties of which will become important momentarily.

A: I've used "clouds"

B: You want to set IPO keyframes with the "I" key for the Mapping Offset at frame 0 and frame 1. I set it to -10 X at frame 0, and +10 X at frame 1

C , D: You want to set the map's influence to only affect the displacement of the object's verticies.

E: In the curves editor, set the Channel Extrapolation Mode for the keyframes we just set to Cyclic. Now for each frame, it will cycle from -10 to +10 and will repeat each frame.

Now as far as the renderer is concerned, the object will now have the same displacement for each frame, but we are actually animating the displacement on a sub-frame basis.

To get the 'painted' effect out of the renderer, we need to use the Sampled Motion Blur, which combines a number of render passes over a user definable time period. I've typically used 4 or 5 passes depending on the complexity of the scene. Because it is a multipass technique, each render pass increases rendering time. 5 render passes means your render will take 5 times as long. Do this in stereoscopic 3D and you now have 10x the render times as opposed to NOT using this techinque ! :(

The important thing here to remember is that the renderer is taking sub-frame time slices and combining them into one image. If you have moving objects, for whatever reason ( in your animation ;) then they will appear motion blurred (which is ostensibly the original purpose for this feature....) The trick is to use a very fast Shutter speed: I've found that 0.042 frame duration works best. SO... for each frame it's actually combining 5 'slices' over a time period of 0.042 frames. Because we are using the animated texture displacement to move the verticies of the model during that time period, the overlapping render passes combine to create the 'painted' effect. Synchronizing the effect to each frame ensures that the effect will be consistent from frame to frame.

To get the toon shader look, you can use a Ramp on the Diffuse channel, as well as setting the Edge effect in the Post Processing section of the render settings. I also add in a bit of Specular, set to a very soft setting which helps the material catch a little bit of colored lights and which also gives the models a slight 3D effect without completely overwhelming the 2D tooning effect.

Monday, February 27, 2012

And teh weinner is...

Right, so the O-Scars were handed out to hollywood's best and brightest last night. It's always interesting to see what gets passed off as the "best" film of the year... This year it's some silent, black and white, 2D film that I hadn't heard about until now and probably won't even pirate...

"The Artist" ...formerly known as prints...negative prints... =D haw haw haw haw =P

Ostensibly the best film of the year.

Hey I know another black and white film that was released this year:

Ostensibly the worst film of the year.*

Man, it's a good thing those two films didn't fall off the top of the DVD player and land on the floor together... I would have been hard to tell them apart... being black and white... and in 2D...

If they only told me earlier that you could release a silent film and win the O-Scars with it then I wouldn't have bothered spending the last week syncing up footsteps to all the characters in my film. :(

Now the film that won for best animated short ( award they've been giving out since before Mickey Mouse had round ears...) is some short about magical books or something... You'll never see anything truly artistic or original win here.


is the best animated short I've seen in a long while.

"The Artist" is also a "FOREIGN" film, they seem to have made a big deal about that in the news all day, There's a tired old concept that doesn't make sense in the digital age. Almost fitting that the relics at the "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences" would pick a film that goes back to the films of ~100 years ago. Digima is the future, and the Internet is the revolution. The Uberectors have been unleashed, empowered by the technology of true liberation. We are the Anonymous of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Join us ;) there's lots of room up here at the top.

* Oh wait, that's "Another Earth"... my mistake...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Freeware apps for the 3D artist

DAZ 3D is giving away free versions of DAZ Studio Pro, Bryce 7, and Hexagon 2.5. I started out with Bryce back in the day, and it's what I used for the fist 5 mins or so of Rocketmen vs Robots. If you're looking for some software to jump into Digima production, these tools are great for the beginning to intermediate artist.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Origin: A Call to Minds... Main production is finished

After just over a year and a bit of animation, main production on Origin: A Call to Minds is finished. I'm slightly over time target, I'd wanted to be done this Jan 1 2012 of this year, but production ran a little slower once I got into the heavy effects and action shots. ... however... 403 days for an Uberector to animate and comp a feature length digima is pretty good.

...How long does it take a studio of typewriter monkeys to make a feature animated film..?...which is someone Else's "creative" vision... and is usually not as good as something that an Uberector can make on their own with the help of some talented voice actors and musician friends. Give it a few years and the way I make films will be the NORM instead of the FRINGE... Instead of a handful of UBERECTORS there will be OVER 9000!!!!!

(I think there's what.. 4 or 5 of us that I know of off hand... myself... m dot strange... Jeff Lew... Tyler Gibb... Jay Shah's vids on youtube are starting to get some quality... Matt and Dan O'Donnell ... if there's anyone else you know of let me know..) Update (/ Warning): Screamerclaus has a new film coming out...

Some stats on the film:

  • Running length 78 mins... definitely the longest film I've ever made
  • Main production: 403 days
  • Pre-production: 246 days
  • so that's ... umm.. 649 days..
  • Archon Defender took 976 days ( 2 1/2 years...)
  • It's in 3D
Still left to do:

  • Sound FX and Foley...
  • Music...
  • Some shots have to be tweaked and theres a couple shots to insert....
Getting the voiceovers recorded first and timing the animatic really helped a lot this time, also building *most* of the sets and characters before doing any animation. Animating physical fight scenes also turned out to be easier than I thought it would be, so you can expect more of that and crazier sh** in the future...

Oh did I mention it's in 3D too.. as in 3D glasses 3D... (which looks great btw)

Monday, February 6, 2012


by Alessandro Bavari

Metachaos is a rare example of the cinematic art in it's perfect form. (Man, it's going to be hard not to pinch some ideas from this one without being too obvious ;) Digima is the highest form of art and offers the greatest freedom and scope to the artist in terms of the range of emotions and concepts that can be infused into the art. The best examples of any art are those which not only connect with but engage the observer, bringing them into the work so that the observer becomes just as much of a creator as the original artist (that is on a conceptual level, the experiential aperture, if not the physical act of creating the work; the corporeal aperture).

Experienced through the cognitive aperture of creative expression, art represents a window into a reality which is fictional by our experience, but having a reality unto itself nonetheless. A reality which we cannot directly experience. In the case of Metachaos, that might not be a bad thing ;)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

New blog design

Time to dust off the ol' blog, thanks to the fine templates from the Blogger folks... A fresh look... same old junk, all new shiny package !!! ;D

Just in time for Origin: A Call to Minds being almost done (... well, main production, after that it's music, sound / foley , and fixing and changing a few shots... but it's getting close ;)

Somehow my standard file reference scale got changed at some point... so when I imported some "running low poly civilians" from earlier in production, they came out as miniature people... This could be a humorous side project, once I get 'Origin' in the can...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Top Secret Stuff

Origin: A Call to Minds
Top Secret final shot infos:

Seeing as how I'm working on the one single extended climax-of-the-film fight scene (it's currently rendering, at least the "pre-master precomp is" I can't obviously show any of this to you :P so you'll just have to trust me on this one: this is by far the most intense, crazy, over the top ambitious single shot I've ever done (and this one shot was also the entire point of the whole film ;)

  1. I've been working on this one shot for 18 days now
  2. My p4 couldn't handle this shot, so I had to move animation production over to one of my core2duo render nodes.
  3. The shot is a single continuous 2 minute shot as inspired by the film "Children of Men"
  4. Those of you who happen to have copies of my script (there's a few copies floating around that I sent to my voice actors way back) should be able to figure out what I'm talking about here ;)
  5. NO spoilers... you'll have to trust me on how cool this shizz izz.
And with just 27 shots remaining after this in main production, it's very soon off to sound and music production,which will take no where near as long this time ( the vocals were all locked down ages ago,... so no worrys there...) A few fixes, tweaks,and some shot replacements,but when these shots are done and assuming they all look cool, I'll lock down the edit so my music composer can get to work on the score.