Jul 30, 2009

Retooling Time

Work has drastically picked up this term, which is good for the wallet, but not so good for the projects. I've worked 4 days this week, and my day off was occupied with various not fun must do activities.

Despite this I've been picking away at Traumador, and it looks like I will just miss one of my creative goals! I had hoped to get Traum out of his current Drumheller storyline by tomorrow. Well sadly he's not quite out yet. However there are only 1.5 major events in the arc, and they flow nice and seamlessly together... So I'm hoping I should only be a week or two late (which of course will impact all my other goals, but at least I'm trying, right?).

In preparation for the big Canada finale I need to get some 3D stuff done. As to why is a secret for now ;)

One of the big implications for The Tyrannosaur Chronicles at the end of Canada is dependant on this old "mark 2" model (mark 1 being the first version of Larry, mark 2's being the first wave of "improved" models... models I'm working on now would be mark 4's, and I think shortly I'll being have the mark 5 break through!). However as the Mark 2's are failing behind in their quality this model needed a serious tweak.
I have properly documented the refitting process (for a future post, when I have more time), but here is the original mark 2 version for reference.

It is a Troodon, and areas I was specifically feeling needed changing were the head, neck, and hands.

This is were it currently stands. I'm not sure if this is a final product or not.

Palaeo experts what do we think? Troodon or not? Suggestions welcome. I'm not one 100% pleased with the snout, but at the same time I can't figure out how it is not the same...

This is the old model (whose snout I know isn't quite right, but I still like more) with old feathers. Again for reference...

as I've also been improving my old friends feathers on this guy... Here is his new feather scheme, I AM happy with it. You'll notice the "mohawk" tuffed on his neck, and the extended fringe on the base of his tail. I'm going to extend this fringe down his leg Mircoraptor style, but didn't quite get there today.

Many followers of Traumador have correctly guessed that Zendin the Troodon would be returning to Traum's adventures (in particular a hat tip to Albertonykus for his digging out the clue in the flashback post). However despite all the clever guesses, no one has yet to correctly guess how Zendin will be entering the Chronicles...

Jul 21, 2009

Not Quite Pixar, but...

Work is picking up this week. So things are good overall.

As I just worked an 8 hour day haven't had much time to do any 3D work.

However as my computer was sitting idle otherwise, I put it work while I was at work (I thought it was only fair ;p). I set up my new and improved Burgess Reef for an animation test.

The bad news about this test is it confirmed my worst fears. Animating this version of the reef takes FOREVER! While I was away at work for nearly 9 hours my computer only managed to render 5 seconds! That is insanely slow...

Some of my recent Delta Patrols for a similar length clip only take 1-2 hours!

So I'm going to have to plan my shots really well. Otherwise I could waste tons of time on faulty renders!

However this is showing me the planning and difficulties are worth it! I can't believe I made this clip...

Jul 20, 2009

How far I've come...

I'm breaking into the new (second) job rather well. Tomorrow is my third day there, and with term starting back up this week I'm also starting to get booked by some of my usual skools. So I'm hoping that the slowness of last term is a thing of the past...

The only down side to this is of course I've had less time for creative things. I've combated it by being really efficient with my time usage and working on only key projects.

Today for example, despite having lots of other things to do, I also managed to squeeze in a rather impressive 3D feat in the spare time blocks between everything else.

Today's project was to try and build a Cambrian reef. So the first thing I needed were the "parts" that would make up the reef. This is the current roster, but if you know anything about the Burgess Shale you'll know I'm only 1/3 done. Many more species of Sponge and Algae.

In the process of building these I stumbled upon a set of ancient files that made it over to this system from my old computer. Included in this virtual time capsule was my first attempt at building the Burgess Shale. Here it is in all its primitive glory!
I find it hard to fathom how far I've come on the 3Ding stuff since 2003. Yet here it is in hard form!
In 2003 I was rather proud of this accomplishment, but doesn't even remotely compare with my modern efforts. I guess practise does make perfect (or at least better ;p still a long way to go!). It has me rather curious as to where I'll have progressed in another 6 years time.
Though the "Defenders of the Reef" project died long ago, a new more exciting Burgess themed project is in the works with some of the biggest Palaeo-Art movers and shakers on the web!
Before you guess the upcoming gallery at ART Evolved, I'll warn you it's then that... You'll have to stay tuned to find out what it is though!

As proof of how much further I've come since my first Cambrian reef, here is what I turned out today after an hour and a bit of tinkering. To finish it all I really have to do is add some more species of things into the mix.
What's even cooler about this current rig, is that it is totally animatable (granted it might be slow as to render... I haven't properly tested that yet).

I guess it just goes to show I didn't really waste my time and effort 6 years ago!

Jul 15, 2009

One door slammed shut, but a new open flew right open

Well I was of course laid off last week as you may recall. Good riddance is all I have to say! After today it's nice to remember what being appreciated feels like.

So after losing my job last week I put in a good 2 day effort into a find a replacement. I was mostly looking at skool holiday programs, but of course they were all in the midst of their programs (and thus having the staff required) AND the economic climate down here being what it is (most holiday programs are at 60-75% capacity from what I heard today) meant I had as much of a chance as Harry Potter against a Balrog getting on with one!

However phoning any reference to a kids holiday program I could find, I accidentally stumbled onto the number of a "daycare" (I'll get to why this isn't what my readers in North America might think it is in a moment). As I introduced myself as a registered teacher in my phone calls this place was very interested, and immediately insisted I come in to talk to them.

So "daycare" down here is short for Young Childcare and Education. What we in Canada would call daycare has been combined by the government with Playschool and Kindergarden. Meaning it is a formalized educational institution= my teaching degree and certification allows me to work there as a teacher!

Long story short I was added to their relieving pool a couple days later after the appropriate paperwork was filled in. Leading to my first day of working with them TODAY!

I'm pretty excited (but also tired... little kids take up LOT of energy). It is so far a great place to work, and I ended the day with high praise from the staff (not that it was hard to impress, without boasting, I have YET to meet a room of young children I can't win over in 8-20 seconds!). More the point they're already booking me in for more, and getting right into the one (of course) red tape battle I have to contend with. I proved today I'm worth the fight and the trouble (or so I hope)...

This gig also goes on all year. Meaning for those weeks where primary skools slow down I'll have this as a backup!

It is only 3 blocks away from my house too turns out, so it is a quick (very uphill sadly) walk away. Additionally I get PLENTY of exercise entertaining the kids. So I may yet turn into Arnold...

The only down side to it all is that as I'm not a proper "early childhood" trained teacher, again I'm primary, I get paid on the lowest tear of the payscale (though this daycare was nice enough to give me the highest level of said tear... again I really like this place already, and I only just started!). So I'll have to figure out how to balance between it and my primary teaching once primary starts back up again.

Jul 14, 2009

Kung Fu Water

I have always been fascinated with 3D water effects since the film Finding Nemo (one of my all time favourite movies).

My first large scale animation project, the Prehistoric Insanity logo, saw me try to tackle water head on.

Considering this was my first try at water, I'm surprised knowing what I do now how successful I was. It is really rubbish, but for a first try I nailed a few things. The problem is that in my inexperience (and older software) I was using the wrong tools and techniques to try and achieve the goal of underwater.

The light shafts you see in this animation are all individual lights, and there is about 40 of them if I recall correctly. That is way too many! In comparison these days on even my most complicated scenes (Karoo Sunset being the one that jumps to mind) I might use 5. Every light adds time to the render, and as I recall this 40ish second animation took nearly 48 hours to render.

The murkiness of the water is about the most cutting edge thing I managed in this animation. Though the tool has changed a bit between Raydream and Carrara, I still essentially use the exact same thing (just now I have more control and options... but ancient me can't be blamed for that).

Despite the fact it does my head in everytime I watch Finding Nemo, I always pick up one new thing to try. Pixar's "making of" special features have produced some real gems of insight (at other times causes me to despair as I don't have the software, tools, or manpower they do!)

The biggest one is light gels. I've played with these before, but up until yesterday I'd never had a high enough resolution animation of water rippling to pull off the underwater light shafts with but a SINGLE light. However I acquired a little brilliant program off the web yesterday that generates such ripples. So now I'm back on track with Kung Fu water (which I've been doing in still photos for a few years... but I could move or animate it to save my life!)

Tinkering with Motion

I love phoning home!

Not only am I able to catch up, but I've perfected casual 3D modelling which doesn't effect my concentration at all. So I get back in touch, and tend to have built something brand new at the same time!

My latest construct are these Dinomischus, one of the truly stranger creatures from the Burgess Shale. They may look like a flowerish coral or Crinoids, but their a totally unique type of animal that appears to have gone extinct by the end of the Cambrian.

The coolest thing is that due to work on my Anomalocaris, I've got animating segmented 3D models down pat. So while chatting to people back home, I was able to painlessly and casually animate these bad boys too!

Their not perfect yet. The sway is a little jerky, and the tide move them must be bloody strong, but considering I just moved the model back and forth while talking to a friend of mine's 6 year daughter this isn't too bad!

Everyone involved in the "Top-Secret" project let me know what you think. This is the first step towards it!

Jul 12, 2009

Who knew pictures could cause such a fuss?

Over on ART Evolved a totally unexpect debate has popped up over the use of other artists work. We're looking for as many opinions as possible so please go check it out and tell us what you think of the subject.

I actually haven't touched anything Cambrian or even 3D today. However I rendered this particular pic late last night. What scares me is that though neither of these critters have been posed, but yet I could probably get away with putting this pic in the final gallery. Not that I'm planning to, but I expect at least one of my Anomalocaris pics will top my Karoo Sunset.

Jul 11, 2009

That was quick

Today I got sidetracked from the things I should have been doing. The one plus is whilst sidetracked (mostly talking on skype to Canada) I was able to do some 3Ding at the same time.

I managed to churn out this half descent Marrella. It's not finished mind you. I'm missing the antennae and the front gill "arm"... not sure what its called.

However I'm quite pleased with my solution to delicate gill strands on the other gill arms. The gills are simple up close, but from afar it does the trick nicely (and doesn't eat up render time AS bad... there are nearly 2000 cylinders acting as gill filaments, which still sadly slows things down).

I'm disheartened as he might prove fairly difficult to animate. Which is something I was hoping to tinker with. Oh well. I'll see what can be done.

Jul 10, 2009

Moving Right Along

Still tinkering away on my Anomalocaris model for the ART Evolved gallery in Sept.

Overall I'm very happy with my model, but now it is down to pesky details. I need to fix how the lighter under"belly" of the tentacle segments wrap around to the front, and remove this lighter tone from the eye stalks.

With the completion of the new mouth, I think it is safe to safe to say Anomalocaris is nearly done.

What is so scary though is how my Anomalocaris is quickly outshining my Dinosaurs by so much. I'm happy with this guy in a way few of my Dinosaurs even come close to achieving.

Jul 7, 2009

This is becoming a really BAD week...

Where to start.

This summarizes my mood at the moment... Though it is an old photo from before my current haircut a month ago. Unlike today though this anger was a joke.

I was hoping for a pretty standard skool break here at the end of term 2 2009. The New Zealand skool year of course goes from Feb till Dec, so to make up for the lack of natural breaks (as remember summer is nov-feb down here) at the end of every term we're given 2 weeks off.

Well ever since graduating and becoming a "real" boy (aka working) I've been working at a holiday program during these 2 weeks to try and help pay the bills. Due to the economic climate around here (the world's problems have hit NZ pretty hard) there aren't as many kids in the program as when I started there last year. So I found out this week I've been effectively laid off.

Which is a mixed bag. As the most senior non-management staff still on with the program, I'm a little hurt by the lack of loyalty I'm being shown back in return for my year long service to them (or at least it would have been a year had they hired me back on this break). At the same time we had some major disagreements at the end of last program, and I can't help but feel I was cut loose due to my trying to hold them to higher safety standards.

Whatever. The pay wasn't fantastic, and now I have a real break. I just hope that teaching starts off and stays strong in the next term (not that this loose of the daycare job is a huge financial hit again). I can handle the lay-off in isolation.

So why did I take this very grumpy self portrait a couple hours ago?
It seems in my life when one thing goes wrong everything else needs to follow suite at risk of feeling left out. So in addition to being laid off yesterday, my camera just died today...
It seems my shutter has worn out. It either stays open 3-5 times longer then it should, and thus way over exposing photos like this one here. Or if it does manage to snap a good photo the shutter will not reopen without me turning the camera off and restarting it. At which point it overexposes for the next 5-20 pictures, randomly taking a good photo and requiring the whole cycle to start over!

It has also been taking pictures with these scan lines. I'm taking this all to mean it has a bunch of problems all hitting at once, and no doubt means my camera is on its last legs!
I guess I shouldn't be too sad, it had a very impressive lifespan and career considering how much I used it! I took my camera everywhere with me, except work!
It was my graduation gift for my first degree back in 2006. As of such it jumped right in documenting the many adventures of "Team EXTREME!" TM at Badlands Science Camp, and then progressed immediately there after to its greater lifelong purpose. Being the official camera of Traumador the Tyrannosaur. It is responsible for 95% of the photos that currently grace The Tyrannosaur Chronicles.

Over the 3 years I owned it my, now poor deceased, Canon PowerShot A430 managed to take 54, 413 pictures. Which from what my other photograph buff friends tell me is a lot of pictures... To give you an idea of just how many that is, I've "only" kept about 20,000 of these pictures, and they take up about 23 gigs.
Oh well. So I'm bummed out. Not depressed, but anything more going wrong and it could very easily push me over that edge.

On the positive, last night I made some huge progress on my Anomalocaris. Apart from some minor model re-tweaks the big change is of course the shading.

So finally, outside of Dinosaur scaly skin, I've found a critter whose textures are easy to create. This new (I think rather good looking) colour scheme took me under 20 minutes!

So my next for my gallery submissions I need to build the Burgess environment, and other critters to occupy it (sadly this cartoon Trilobite doesn't cut it).

Jul 4, 2009

Already have my nose to the grind shale

Well Septemeber's ART Evolved gallery is centered one of my all time favourite critters, the Anomalocarids. They're not exactly a household name, but I think on many levels they are just as cool as T-Rex (which to put that in context, my favourite Dinosaur is T-Rex!).

I'm planning on going all out for this gallery, and am aiming for at least 3 new pieces! Not small scale ones like my Pterosaur one either (which was pretty pedestrian, apart from making the 3D wings flapable) but more in line with my flukly awesome Gorgonopsid one.

So the first two tasks I set for myself this week are to improve both my existing Anomalocaris model and my water effects. After that I move on to modelling the environment and other prey critters.

Without ego I will state my water effects are one of the strongest things I do, and are worthy of a low budget Finding Nemo (Nemo being the greatest 3D inspiration I've ever had, but yet my greatest nightmare! It hurts my head to watch it with a 3D CG sensitivity. Yet Nemo's "making of" extras have given me so many ideas and hints!...).

In this test render I've made a minor alteration of my water "sunlight" effect. The improvement aren't as obvious in this render, but once I add the Cambrian "forest" underneath you'll see how cool the rippled light shafts look.
My first real progress has been on my Anomalocaris model. This pic here is of my original 2003 version. It received a few modifications in 2007, but they were just colourization and the two long tails at the back.

Considering how much my 3Ding has improved in the last couple years, this is one of my strongest old skool models. I haven't had to change about 50% of it. Though in fairness Anomalocarises are nice in that they have fairly simple body forms.

The two biggest problems with this guy were the "arm" tentacles at the front of the head and the body.

My tentacles though conveying the anatomy, are utter rubbish. This was mostly due tolaziness of younger me. I didn't want to build the tentacles out of multiple segments as back then they'd take my much longer to pose. I didn't have a grasp on how to link and group models for proper posing in those days. I would have to move each and every piece as they won't move with other pieces they should have been connected to... which isn't easy to do in 3D as you might think!).

So this models tentacles are simply a single tube like object I've modelled into a curved shape. To make life easier (again I was trying to be lazy) I tried to invoke the illusion of segments through a shader with lines. Then to get the trademark spines on the tentacles I added them via a surface replicator, which though made them quick and easy to reposition if I changed the tentacles position, made them rather unrealistic.

The body though somewhat functional as is it here, no longer matches what I think these animals should look like. In typical restorations following the trend set by Marianne Collins' landmark Laggania restoration these animals have been shown to have large almost fatty bodies. Which this body matches (other then lacking a fating of the body in the middle as seen in the fossils).

This to me makes little sense as specimens show they clearly had flexibility in their bodies, but yet having an exoskeleton this shouldn't be possibly without built in segments or joints. I intend on doing a big post about this topic on ART Evolved in a week or two.

So here in the new version. I have completely rebuilt the body so it is a sequence of 14 separate segments, each corresponding to and housing a pair of the fins. The tentacles I'm most proud of. Not only are they made of the proper 13 segments, but each now wields the correct pair of three pronged spines, and the whole thing is a unified linked model.

With my new mastery of of groupings and rigging this guy if fully posable without the need to move and position each individual piece. Rather he is a link form model. This is different from the skeletal rigging I've been ranting and raving about here lately.

Linkform models are put together as though they are a machine or action figure. Each individual part links to the next with a natural rotational point created inbetween them. This is different from a skeletal rig which puts bending joints into the middle of a single 3D object.

Though I could probably mimic the effect of an exoskeleton with a skeletal rig, this seems to me a LOT more work and precise setup, where the modelling of an exoskeleton lends well to simply using links to achieve the perfect effect. I'm preparing a series of posts on ART Evolved about various means of posing and rigging 3D models (due to the misadventures setting up my Pterosaur) if you don't follow what I'm saying here.