Sunday, 21 June 2009

Looking Back

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!

Thursday, 18 June 2009


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 ‘’ 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.


The Maya programming error is an odd one.. like every other textures it’s correctly linked up but won’t render- even Maya says it’s found the textures but it won’t render it. Moe may have to render it and composite it.



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.

Render update

More renders being made, and I’m sending them up to Moe via messenger as they go. The current renders are special effects to layer over the scenes.

Rendering Update

Good, lots of frames and scenes finished last night. One failed near the end for some reasons producing a ‘frame’ file name (i’m guessing ng means no good).

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Another Render

image This took 23:12 minutes. Bad times, I’ll have to optimise it some more.


Rendering stuff…




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.



Moe is sending me the lights and camera and I’ll be rendering the explosion for this scene to cut render time and ensure the dynamics work.. they revaluate on his machine so I can’t guarantee my cached key frames will work properly if he rendered it.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Smoke in scene

CaptureaCapture 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.

Luisa’s film

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.



Here’s a render of a scene near the start with the smoke, the transparancy can be played about by Moe as much as he needs. The render only has the grass/car/smoke textures, so thats why everything is black.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Luisa’s Film

Meeting up with Luisa tomorrow to discuss how far the film is going and to see if I can speed up render time… it’s taking her ages to render scenes.

Mental Ray

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.

Camera Angles & Animating


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.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Grit Update

dust test for mo

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.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Blood in final scene

51kC75.tmp z7u98AC.tmp

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.

Trax Editor

feet cap Moe saw the scene and is really happy with how it’s turning out. He said that the Trax Editor can be used to change the key frames to make it look like the people aren’t running using the same animation. I did some more tweaking and fixed it.

Test Render

1aw6B00.tmp 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.

Final Scene

This scene is almost done. This screen captured Fcheck shows the dynamics in place- exploding building, fire/smoke effects, blood effects.

Directing my scene in Moe’s film

… I’m posting this literally after posting my last message.. James just told me that Maya crashed when he clicked ‘save’ so most of what I saw was lost. He’s going to reanimate it tonight.

Directing my scene in Moe’s film

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.

Explosion/Blood Tests

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.

Final Scene

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.Capture

Friday, 12 June 2009


The scene is almost done, here’s a playblast (screen capture of Fcheck). When it’s done I can send it to Moe to render with textures and compositing, overall I'm happy with how it’s looking.


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.


Playblast Explosion


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.

Thursday, 11 June 2009


prev rockHere’s a screenshot of the scene I’m working on at the moment where a man shoots a rocket at one of the houses. Maya just crashed though so I’ll need to get this far again.. I forgot to save often this time!

Charity in Moe’s Film

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.


explosion test

Moe has the textures so I have to give to him to render the scene out with the full colours. For now, here is a render of the explosion, it’s missing all the textures which is why most things are black.


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!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Update on Smoke/Dynamics for footie scene

00w6E38.tmp a7e1B86.tmp 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.

Problem Solved

haha turns out Moe  had the lights turned off which is why he couldn’t see the smoke- easy mistake to make. I spent the time tweaking the smoke scene further anyways.

fixing scene


Been talking to Moe online while working on scenes. We’re having trouble on this scene above- Moe sent me a screenshot of what happens when he renders it. The smoke seems to be black or simple isn’t there. Hmmm- I’m looking into it now.

Running Dog

Here’s the final dog with animation. Moe will be sorting out texture for it.



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.


Moe asked me to add a running animal to a scene, I quickly touched up and rigged up the dog I had made earlier and made a running animation. Here’s the first test.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Title Ideas

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.

Intro on Moe’s film

g8aF139.tmpCaptureMoe’s considering adding the above filter to the live action footage at the start to make the contrast between live action and animation less stark. I like the idea and suggested we go another stage further and add smoke as a transition… so we’re having animation over live action and some people wouldn’t be able to tell if it’s real or not… blending both worlds.

Update- Moe’s Film



Me and Moe are usually working at the same time… it’s 4am and we’re still working! Moe sent me the above two shots just now on messenger. He's rendered the smoke out on a separate layer and is adding it to the car now. Here’s how things are looking atm.

Football scene done

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.

Monday, 8 June 2009

First Scene- Moes Film

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.

FAIL- Smoke/Grit

If Fail blog was geeky enough, I’m sure my one of my failed dynamics test would make it to the site.

Test for next scene


The is one of the films opening shots, this scene needs to have the same smoke and grit effects as the other shot I worked on. I’ll see what other dynamics I can do, but first things first- smoke and grit for the wheels.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Falling, dust on Moe’s

Here’s another test, the girl falls disturbing the floor causing rising smoke, here the smoke emitter is animated.

Dynamics on feet

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.

Smoke Test Scene

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.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Moe’s Film Dynamics-smoke

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.

Moe Dynamics

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: 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.

Moe’s film/Dynamics

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.

More Tests with smoke- instanced nparticles

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).

Friday, 5 June 2009


Now I have the final scene for the truck I can add dynamics to it. I’m using particles and adding a gravity field constrained to a simple polygon surface on the ground. Here is the first test. The dynamics are brown/purple.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Grass for Moe

Rendered out 250 frames as asked by Moe and exported them to his flash drive as .tif files. Already he’s composited them into the film and they work really well. Here’s a screenshot he sent me of how it’s looking at the moment.



Had a group meeting with Moe about the film. Things are looking really good, I’ll be adding the animated grass to the film today as well.


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.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


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.