Here’s my showreel. It’s in WMV so will play in Windows Media Player which is on any Windows PC or you’ll need VLC player (or similar if your on any other Operating System).
VLC (for Mac/Linux)
Renders are complete and the films are done. The Light Of Us' turned out really well even though most of it was changed to 2D. The last week we were worried that we wouldn’t get rendered in time as the plugin’s used on the Mac After Effect’s didn’t work properly on my 2 laptops (my old repaired one and my new one). So the final render was made without the help of my laptops and I used these to help render Moe’s film in the end.
Moe’s film came out really well, there were a few glitches in the film and while I believe the film has reached its potential, there are a few tweaks here and there which could bring the film up to festival standard. Talking to other film groups, It seems no one had a perfect film to hand in, everyone had issues with rendering and some people are still dedicated to work on the film after hand in. I know I’ll be working closely with Moe to make sure all the visual effects are perfect for the Degree show and the festivals that we’ve submitted them to.
My housemate Anja’s film 1000 cranes is a great film, Anja would be working most day and nights to get things done throughout the year, It’s a shame I had so many problems with Maya crashing her files that I couldn’t help her with the final scenes I spent countless hours even to a point of using her Mac but nothing worked. I was excited to make a great scene with her exploding city….
People in Moe's and Luisa’s team worked so hard to make our final films great and if you guys are reading this well done dudes! Thanks for your hard work and well done for making an awesome film!
I’ve had to baby all 4 render computers in the house throughout the night as some of them fail at random points and end up with a ‘frame204.iff.ng’ file. So I have to continue rendering from frame 203. This rendering should have been done on schedule yesterday but this ng thing has been happening for a while slowing us down. It’s almost done so will be fine.
Stopped rendering again, Clicking on ‘reload’ on the barrel textures fixes it for a bit before this error is shown again. Anyways, rendering is getting though as it’s still rendering frames. The other 2 computers are rendering smoke dynamics and frames are being sent to Moe.
here’s 2 screenshots of the smoke/fire only. The fire smoke is an modded Maya example nparticles file, the fire is made using paint effects and the smoke generate by the feet and on the floor is made using keyframes and lambert colours using the same method I used to make the tyre smoke earlier on– all in particles.
I’ve been rendering out the smoke alone on one of the machines here at my student house (one of my housemates is away and letting me use his computer as a render node). the 2nd image is the smoke rendered out on its own and the 1st one is the smoke composited into the film (by Moe). The shortest frame to render is around 2 minutes, the longest frame takes as long as 25 minutes for the smoke alone.
Meet up with Luisa and Danny, film is going great but we need to render the scenes out. The scenes are currently set up to render on Luisa’s Mac and Danny’s Mac laptop. We tried to get it to render on my laptop but we couldn’t find a working plug-in for Windows that would allow my laptop to view the After Effects working files correctly.
We found out that tweaking the settings on Mental Ray allowed us to get very similar (if not identical) results as the Maya Software renderer and speeds up to around 6x faster as the Mental Ray supports multi-core processors and threading much better so we’re changing over to Mental Ray. I’ve been rendering frames –60 to 350 on the render machines I’ve set up here, and Moe has rendered the rest of the frames on the scene. I’ll send him my frames and he can composite them with his ones. We’ve done checks along the way to make sure the renders are identical and they are.
Me and Moe had been working together all night and so I went into uni today to meet with Dan D and let him know how things are going and let Moe sleep in as he lives 2+ hours away! I said we we may have an issue with sound which he was already aware of- Moe told him last week. Also spoke about folders and how they should be set out- 3 folders each with another folder for each film to separate development.
Also, we were wrongly told at the start of this year that Maya 2009 would be installed on the computers by the end of the year which hasn’t happened so rendering could have been an issue as Maya 8.5 doesn’t support the more advanced nodes used in Moe’s film. Regardless, if we did know that the uni would be sticking to 8.5 we still would have continued development on 2009 as it has allowed us to feature better dynamics that would have been much harder to make on 8.5. Also 2009 has been crashing far less than 8.5 for me (for working with Moe’s film at least!).
I’ve got my old laptop and my housemate is away this week so I’ve setup a render farm on the home network so I think we’ll be fine for computers to render our work. I’m just finishing installing Maya on my housemates Dylan's computer now.
James animated the girl up to the point where she reaches the wood slab. I’ve been animating the girl from here one, in this scene she looks across and back to check the coast is clear and runs to off shot to the next scene. I want to get some good camera angles while also showcasing the scene.
Moe is currently rendering out the above scene on his computer complete with all the textures. We’ve been using a software render as the benefits over Mental Ray with the style of the film is limited at best and so doesn’t justify the huge impact on render time Mental Ray has- Maya software renderer gives us a better style to what we’re looking for too. However, while the smoke is fine in any render the particles need to be on mental ray (it’s a Maya limitation). The particles would have to be rendered on it’s own and composited into the scene by Moe or the whole scene would need to be done in mental ray… it’s slow but the two renders export very similar results… compositing it will have to be.
Moe wants me to animate some blood flowing in from the camera. He’s sent me these screenshots to let me know where the blood comes from and where it ends up as a puddle… the flat plane shows me in the above images. He suggested using blendshapes but I’m thinking we can do something better and less old skool. I’ll have a go with particles effects with an attached fluid simulator.
I sent the final scene back to Moe for him to test render for me (he has the textures). The fire I did was way too small so I’ll need to make it larger. Also, Moe wants to add a close-up for the exploding building rather than my idea of having the building seen from a distance. I guess it would showcase the dynamics more so its all gravy.
James has shown me how the animating is going so far, the girl is almost finished and looks great. James has even animated the mounted gun on the truck to move on it’s own like it was moving with the wind and bumps on the road. He’s even done realistic recoil on the rocket launcher. I told James what i need done for the next scene where the girl looks at the house being blown up, after looking at the scene, she covers her face from the blast and runs away- James is good at animating what I describe and even adds more to the animation when he does it… the girl has changing emotions on her face when she see’s the events unfold. I’ll post a playblast/fcheck when he’s finished.
Here’s the first test of the explosion, at the moment it’s a block passing though and I need to manually key some of the random wood bits that fly too far. So far looking well though. The first video shows the explosion test and the 2nd video shows my blood splatter test- when people get shot, you’ll see a splat of blood come from them.
Moe sent me the final shot saying that he wants me to make this last scene more exciting with dynamics. I’ve decided to blow up the highlighted building below. The kid will look at it to see what's happening and will see a truck speed past smashing into the building.
Here’s the current animation for the scene in Moe’s film. I’ve had to use Fcheck again for this, but even though the file played fine when it first made it, it somehow corrupted or Fcheck has an error or something as it reports half the frames as missing by displaying a grey image and ‘???’ at the top under image number. Reloading them from frame 0 seems to make it work though. Anyways, here’s the animation play blast- including me reloading it to allow it to resume playing the playblast.
There’s a bit more, but for now this should give you an idea of the scene. The girl arrives on scene in time to see people flee from a truck. On the truck a man launches a missile which hits and destroys the house, the girl is witnessing everything happening. I’ve just been discussing the scene and camera angles I done with James and explained what needs to be animated by him scene by scene- I’ve keyed out the character positions in the scene with some walk cycles from Harry and he’ll be animating them and posing characters.
As I mentioned on the blog before I couldn’t playblast making it hard to see how things look in real time. Though for this scene I need a playblast as the scene is too complex to play in 24pfs smoothly. I got around the Maya playblast issue. I did a playblast using the image viewer which caused Fcheck to open, then I recorded the playing playblast on screen using Windows Media Encoder- opening after effects and then compressing it would take too long. I’ve started keying crowds and animated a rocket with realistic smoke.
I mentioned this to Moe and he said he pretty much had the same discussion with Harry, but it it would be a good idea to include charities at the end of this film. The film is based on a true story and there are charities out there helping the crisis in Somalia where our film is based. Me and Moe are working on a message to send out to charities asking for permission to include their logo in our film and information if people want to help.
Here are two tests of the exploding building. Most of the animation is done using nCloth and keyed cached files. Some specific parts such as the barrel that disintegrates in stages had to be key framed as well as some of the geometry inside the building. Each part of the scene had to be cached to keep CPU time low. In total there are over 7 different cached animation groups each with their own cache for the individual objects which had to be combined together as one mesh. I used the same smoke technique to create the smoke on the feet to make the brown smoke that stays on the ground simulating here dust and sand has been raised from the ground. The actual explosion is a preset alone (just the fire part) is a preset effect in the visor which I’ve re-keyed and scaled to match the scene. If I can make my own one which is better I’ll use that but for now, the one I’m using now will be adequate. The top video is the explosion in slow motion (the computer is going as fast as it can and is playing every frame without skipping) and the second video is 24fps mode. However, I still can’t get the playblast working and this is where It would be really useful. I’ll post a playblast if I get the Maya feature working.
I’ve been working on this scene for ages, I didn’t think it would work so I’ve been doing it on the side but just now I’ve sorted out how to make it work. During the fight/action scenes I proposed to add some extra scenes that would demonstrate more technical abilities of the film. Moe likes the test and has said to me to basically do whatever I want for this.. including the camera shot, so this is where I can really get creative- not that I was limited before!
Here is the current scene atm. Moe’s been working hard on getting the motion blur right- looks sweet. The smoke is perfect, all in all scenes looking good. Moe’s currently using After Effects putting the scenes together… here’s some preview renders he sent me.
Here’s the error I’ve been getting for some time now. It’s the main reason why I don’t playblast the ‘Maya’ way sometimes. Sometimes it works, most times it shows this message when I click on the ‘compression’ button.
‘could not link to movie library’
Anyways, I’ve been making do with Windows Media Encoder to playblast my videos when the Maya playblast doesn’t work.
I thought some some for the title is an easy way to blend the scenes together, told Moe about it and did a few tests and it seems pretty straight forward to do. Make smoke, give to Moe, overlay title, done, easy. Here’s some smoke overlays I made for the start of Moe’s film. For example I’m thinking that the background scene could fade out and the next scene would fade in.
yay, another scene done and ‘dusted’ (sorry for the pun). Dust/smoke can be scene from the kids feet, bouncing ball and the kid playing with a stick. This scene needed to be keyed to get it right. The film camera is in the top right of the screen and the others are custom setup ones to show the smoke working properly. It’s in slow motion to make it easy to tell that everything is working correctly… there’s a lot of stuff happening in this scene.
Here’s the near final version scene file… the scene was made a few notched below the default maya ground which is why the particles/dirt rests higher than the scene ground- redefining where the ground is, should fix this, or moving the entire scene up to ground level.
I’ve been playing about with the smoke and figured out how to control it based on movement. Some keying is still needed but is minimal, here is smoke being created by movement of feet on the ground. Also, I’ve included another video which includes key framed dynamics on dirt particles which were made in a similar way to the ones in the previous scene with the car. When the men jump of the car Moe said that he wants there to be lots of debris as it helps highlight the influence the men are having on the previously peaceful environment. This scene stresses the CPU a bit, so for now, there is no floor for the girt to react with… the grit simply falls though the floor and disappears to help CPU time.
Here’s the test render of the effects. The camera angle is new only to check that everything is working correctly… I’ll be using this setup to add detail to other scenes. The test highlights the the grit in the smoke trails, and the trail the smoke leaves in the air, and the grit thrown on the earth surface. Also, don’t know why youtube make the video blurry. Here’s some screenshots to make up for it.
Took a while, but got the smoke sorted for all 4 wheels and grit for the rear left wheel (you can see grit in the above rendered images). It really does add another dimension to the film and make things look much more real. Below is a video giving you an idea how the smoke is done. So for smoke is finished but the grit needs to be applied to the other wheels. To help with CPU time, the particles disappear after a given period and even then it’s randomised so it doesn’t look obvious when they particles start disappearing.
Found a tutorial on soft bodies, this is useful stuff as there’s a lot of sand that would deform in real life. The advantage of applying a ‘soft body’ along with gravity/drag fields is that characters and objects can deform the environments/terrain. Here’s a test with the car. If It isn’t too hard I’ll add it to the car for this scene so Moe can consider using it. Here’s a tutorial on it: http://www.highend3d.com/maya/tutorials/dynamics_fx/335-3.html though you’ll still need to add a drag field and some more tweaks to get the effect above and with flat surfaces. Above is my test for the car on the ground… I don’t have the sand texture from Moe (I don’t need any textures for dynamics) so i’ve applied my own to better demonstrate what’s going on. Ignore the grit and random objects in the video… I’m still putting all the dynamics together so the scene looks a bit iffy.
FYY: Youtube doesn’t seem to be accepting my videos at the moment which is why I’m using msn video at the moment.
So I’ve been Working with grit. Dirt/grit will be thrown up when the driver is driving normally but will increase a lot when the car is breaking. The trick is optimising the particles enough that they don’t take up too much CPU resources and don’t slow things down for rendering.
We had a group meeting over messenger today as it’s easier to meet up with each other this Monday. We spoke about time and deadlines and Moe caught up with everyone to see where we are work-wise. For time we’re pushing it but with the new dynamics looking so good I suggested to Moe to add another camera angle to showcase them a bit more. So he said I could try out some camera angles for the car and if they fit in well, we’ll use them.
Maya comes with some example files, one is the smoke effect that shows that it’s easy to create smoke using the particle tool. Here I created an emitter, configured it to emit blobby clouds (using the software) and key it with the moving car. Then this can be instanced to the other wheels to reduce time on the CPU… the technique is similar to methods used to create the early water in Luisas film (look near the start of this blog) and leaves dynamics (look a few pages back).
Met up with Luisa today we discussed the film and progress, she’s been good in telling me what she wants from the rig and how complete the film is. She sent me the rig after it’s been animated and the left hand had been messed up while animating on Mac Maya(if you animate it on Windows Maya it’s fine). So I fixed it from my end and sent it back to her but now Maya crashes when she opens it.
Been stressful these weeks. My laptop broke, I fixed it, but keyboard on the laptop was on it’s way out (3 keys wasn’t working) and Maya has been crashing and forgetting my weight painting for the rigs I’ve made for Luisa’s film… regardless of the computer I use. Even she can’t open the weight paint maps for editing on her Mac. I got a new computer though so working is easier and I can work easier on Anja’s film.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on getting the rigging sorted for Luisa’s film. Everyone has been really busy with their own work and it’s hard to find someone who knows more about rigging than I do when it comes to fixing the rig (not saying I’m the best rigger but I know I'm good :D ). The problem seems not to be with the rig itself but with Maya for Mac and Windows.
What I’ve been told is that Maya for Mac and Windows is the same, however me and Luisa are getting to different problems that seems out of my hands to fix. The rig I made works perfect on my computer- the weight painting disappears sometimes but as the rigs are perfect there’s no need to edit them… so no problem there. The problem arises when the file is opened on Luisa’s Maya for Mac. When she animates the left hand alone on BOTH models grows to the size of the character itself, while on Windows the character works perfectly without issue or problems.
I’ve spent plenty of time but I can’t find anything wrong with the rig on my end and I' can’t replicate the problem. We’re meeting up tomorrow to fix this and worse comes to the worst, I’ll be lending her my old laptop (with the broken keys and a new Hard Disk which I installed to fix it when it broke down before).
Everyone’s been stressed these past few weeks as everyone starts to feel the crunch the last thing we need are software problems.
more walk stuff. The kid needs to look like he's walking on sand and not concrete... on sand, the walk must be heavier on the feet and he mush look like he isn't gaining too much distance compared to the amount of effort he is putting into his strides. So far, the walk is looking good.
Modelled and textured a bullet for scenes in Moe’s film. Had another group meeting today talking about progress and what we need in the film. I’ve been given some kid rigs to animate children running etc. Also, adding smoke and decals to a moving truck.The bullet on the right is low poly so can be multiplied lots of times without stressing out the CPU.
Ok, Anja is my housemate, and we frequently talk to each other about the films we’re working on. I said I’ld help her out with some complex parts of the film. One part i’m animating is an explosion which is complex but shouldn’t be something hard for me- I’ve done plenty before for Moe’s film and with this film having a 2D look, everything should be easier.
But I swear that Maya is playing some kind of psychological warfare on me. I’ve spent hours removing vertices and checking as I go along that it’s helping the scene work dynamics out quicker and all seems well. Now that it’s all done, Maya decides to crash when I open the file. I’ve been saving along the way but Maya just crashes at random stages at these points to. If I try to make dynamics without simplifying the scene it takes ages to move to the next frame- If i decided to wait until frame 8 (7 minutes) Maya decides to crash. It only decides to crash when I’ve done work on the scene and not a moment before.
It’s true! I’ve even filmed it. In the video you see me innocently making the scene. I apply an ‘ncloth’ to an object and everything is fine. I then decide to apply it to another object and Maya crashes. Why can’t Maya be more like other software like Photoshop or even notepad and not crash???
You can’t see it in the video but after clicking ‘ok’, Maya closes itself.
Ok, I went round to Luisa’s a few days ago to show her how to animate my rig. When I turned on the laptop I got the dreaded blue screen of death for the first time! Scary. When I got back home my hard drive was making a weird click noise and so it turned out that my laptop Hard Drive was broken.
So I’m always prepared for the worst, I ordered a new Hard Drive for the laptop and connected up the backup external Hard Disk to my friends computer to check that my work was all backed up… It’s lucky I backed up my computer a few days ago. Anyways, turned out that my backup Hard Drive that had the only copy of my Maya work/photos/videos- etc everything was broken.
In a panic I ripped the Hard Drive out of the external caddy and plugged it into a friends computer, ran a diagnostic check which fixed the file system and managed to recover my entire computer.
I always keep a backup just in case but it’s never happened where both the backup and laptop hard drives fizz out on the same week! Anyways, everything is fixed now and I’m catching up with Maya work, but I've been without a computer for the best part of this week and I’ve been using Anya's old slow laptop to get work done.
We also had a group meeting on last Monday to refresh everyone on their roles and Moe set us all deadlines. I’m working through the night to get it all done in time!
I’ve been working on explosions for Anja’s film ‘A thousand cranes for peace’ but works going so slow because of the scene complexity and I don’t know why this scene is so complicated- it’s a simple 2D animation with flat surfaces only.
I know what’s causing Maya to take up so much RAM to keep the scene in memory but I don't know why it’s been done like this.. each flat polygon in this scene is filled with LOADS of polygons- they don’t add detail. It looks like someone ran a shatter plug-in for every object to prepare them for an explosion and then left it like that.
I hope there’s another version of the file that doesn’t have all of these polygons as this file is slowing any dynamics I add to the film and making it a horrible file to work with- Maya is taking up all my RAM!
Here’s a video demonstrating what the (body only) of the finished rig does. It shows how easy it is to pose and some of the functions which make animating easy such as the ‘assume pose’ sets I’ve done and some other useful methods. Oh I’ve include a song for funsies
It looks great and is tinted red by the default fire paint effect (which will be replaced by my own later on) but this simply takes too long to render so I’ll have to look up on another method of smoke. The shot above took 20 mins for the frame- and it hadn’t even finished! The smoke would be composited onto the film but I think I’ll have to find another approach- its too slow!
This guy does special effects for films. He seems pretty good- his blog has loads of visual stuff and is really interesting.
Here’s a screenshot of the fire, this is only a test but Moe said he wants realistic looking fire. This fire looks a bit fake so could work with the style of the film. I’ll keep working on making fire that looks different and Moe can choose which one he likes. It will be used on the scene where the attack starts and the final scene.
The rig is totally finished for Luisa’s character but I can’t figure out the mouth… Moe gave me a flash file (thanks again!) which shows how to rig… but it’s impossible to pause the file so it shows how to rig and won’t stop when you watch it- you have to restart it from the beginning! It really is the most annoying flash tutorial animation ever- it plays and won’t pause or anything until the end of the 40 min animation.
..This is the only time I’m going to use my blog to let out frustration. Promise! :)
I made this character rig carefully so it’s easy to animate. Don’t let my test animation above put you off- it took me literally only 50 seconds to animate it!