Dec 31, 2011

Transformer Ripoffs #2

Name: Deformation

Another Optimus figure, whose payoff is all in the title.

Dec 29, 2011

Lighting Retry

So me and Bond have been creating art for nearly hours. We must be getting rusty or something, because neither of us is anywhere near done...

Mind you as we were both trying out new techniques and methods, so while the art isn't done we did make a lot of progress each. In Peter's case figuring out how to use his new tablet in conjunction with his new Photoshop suite.

I on the other hand am making a fresh start on 3D lighting (in addition to the challenges of 3D feathers) with the help of Jeremy Birn's amazing book Digital Lighting and Rendering. This book has given me a good catch up on professional terms and concepts my friends David and Matt have been trying to relay to me for a while.

I've made it through sky and bounce lighting this proto scene and Troodon so far. I need to definitely come at him (and his feathers) with a rim.

Thoughts on this initial prototype. Especially from the lighting crew?

Live Blog 2011 #1

Working away on my ART Evolved feathered Dinosaur, while talking to Peter Bond.

While we've worked on art while talking together on skype in the past, the new feature of being able to share live screen shots, has massively increased the experience. Not only can we discuss our art, we can take the other through our process. Amazingly fun stuff.

I finished rigging and feathering the Troodon.

However as rigging 100's of individual feathers is slowing things to a near halt I'm tempted to engage in a short side project of "billboard" decal replacements that might let me not slow down.

Dec 28, 2011

Transformer Ripoffs #1

Name: Chenge Rnboes

So kicking off my Transformer toy ripoff series is this unique, but all telling entrant. The toy itself could be passed off as a medium quality Optimus (and smaller bumblebee) figure. However the names and titles instantly give away this particular unit's counterfeit origin.

The title Chenge Rnboes was clearly someone in China smashing a keyboard at random till they got something that vaguely resembled changing robots. While this might sound silly, but it is very common in China.

What endears this one to me is the "alternative title" of Chariot Missile at the top. When spotting this particular model in the toy markets, it is the Missile title I always notice first.

Most of the other Transformers toys I'll be posting have proper english titles, but these can be just as funny as random letters. So stay tuned.

More than meets the eye

The public transport in Hong Kong is unlike any I've ever seen before. No matter where you want to go, there is a bus and/or train to take you there. Anywhere!

As of such you'll see small 16 passenger buses like this EVERYWHERE... only this one is completely unique. It also makes me wonder how safe I am wandering this city...

For the decipticons have apparently infiltrated the city's infrastructure.

Speaking of infiltrating, all the local toy markets and stores are selling transformer toys that are not quite what they seem. In the spirit of "More than meets the eye" I'll be posting all the Transformer ripoff toys I've been coming across. Some are cute, some are just plain bad, and a few will make you laugh until you cry!!!

Best name wasted on the worst toy!

I just love the name "Dinosaur Epoch" for a toy series. It'd be even cooler is the first Dino of the line was an Acrocanthosaurus...

They appear to have mispackaged this fellow instead :(


Scary events reported in our area, every evening between 6-7pm.

A bright blue object can be seen wheeling its away along the sidewalks...

It can be seen from blocks away...

What is this unidentified wheeling object?

A more honest name for Mickey

From Lady R's new umbrella purchased at our local mall.

No Empty Success here!!!

Welcome to the Club

Bags that Ham it up

Women's fashion here in Hong Kong are always amusing me and Lady R. These handbags being a definite example of the weird...

Yes that is not only a pig handbag your looking at, but it is made of sparkly beads.

This was a whole store full of such bags too!

Back to the HK style

Just got back from my Xmas break in mainland China.

Still a little brain dead from semester one at work, I figured it was well about time I got back to funny Hong Kong (and China) photos.

While this first one isn't so funny, it is cool. I have no idea why, but Dinosaur (specifically T-Rex) origami is THE thing to put on print ads. This one is for one of the big banks in HK.

Dec 22, 2011

Style is everything

Semester is over. Leaving me realizing I've been in Hong Kong a while now. I just never had the time to look around and truly absorb that fact. Not that it is freaking me out. I'm just finally taking in the fact I've been here a while.

Anyways so while I have some spare time (sadly not as much as I'd like), I need to sort out some concrete creative objectives. Right now I have any number of options. However I've decided to focus on two.

1. Is my 3D lighting. I finally acquired what is considered the textbook on 3D lighting, and have read half of it. I however have not had time to try out anything discussed within. So that will be my priority. I will use it on my feathered Dino ART Evolved piece.

2. Try and get a bit of an idea how I want my eventual future Traumador project to look. So I'll be playing with styles of rendering like below.

A possible (though not likely) cartoon style.

The original

I'm also planning on finally catching up on all my silly HK discoveries and adventures.

Dec 15, 2011

Footing about an Ankylosaur

Albertonykus was nice enough to alert me to a bunch of papers about Ankylosaur feet and how they apparently look more like Sauropod feet than traditionally rendered.

Sadly the papers were all in technical speak which I can't read effectively enough to be sure of how to draw, and the diagrams only helped me a little bit. Hopefully someone will want to take a crack at them on the Palaeo-art Database once it launches here in the new year.

So I took a leap into the dark, which I sure is wrong.
So attack with feedback science enabled people. Let's get these feet fixed!

Dec 14, 2011

Starting to look like an Ankylosaur

Been toying away on the Minmi. It is finally starting to feel like I might be getting it a bit right.

There is still work to be done, but do let me know what you think. I've only added the bigger scutes to the body itself, not the limbs, and I'm not sure if I need more on the head or not.

Oh well here it is.

I have a big post on Ankylosaurs in art coming up on ART Evolved.

Dec 6, 2011

Ankylosaurus, like no living animal

I'm hitting a very interesting set of issues in recreating my Ankylosaur. That namely being there is nothing even remotely like an Ankylosaur alive today.

At least if the way the three palaeontologists I've talked to about them were accurate (in their defense none were specialists in armoured Dinosaurs). What I gathered was that all the scales of their skin had been hardened to some extent. The more advanced the Ankie the more hard the skin. However this essentially meant the whole (adult) animal was covered in varying sized bones on its hide. A true exoskeleton.

The problem is no reptile today has this type of protection. At least not to the degree and complexity of an Ankyosaur. So how do you reconstruct them?

There seem to a lot of memes and trends in how Ankylosaurs are recreated. I'm collecting various "official", professional, and museum sanctioned Minmi recreations to supplement Peter Bond's original Minmi post on his blog. All the recreations I'm collecting should have had scientist input at some stage, which leads me to hope there was science behind the armour placements. There are a few methods and choices I follow, but others are making me wonder if there are some really rampant Ankie armour memes out there. Standby for a more detailed post on ART Evolved, and possibly reposted here.

At moment I'm just trying to finish the baseline of my Minmi so that I can play next week.

This is the animal completely covered with baseline textures. Thought and comments?

This is the body and legs covered in actual armour objects via a surface replicator (my favourite tool of all time!). I think I need to bring the scutes up on the limbs to about knee level, but otherwise I'm really digging this look so far. That and I'm really starting to like my unique warning colouration scheme. Of all Dinosaurs to be flamboyantly coloured I'm thinking the hard and prickly Ankies were the ones to sport this look!


Dec 4, 2011

Why Ankylosaurs are like onions

Perhaps my years long battle with 3D feathers has finally paid off...

My new quick and easy method seems to work perfectly fine on armour too. Okay easy yes, sadly the quick part gets taken out with rendering times.

Armour is requiring a few more layers than feathers. Though I may try multiple layers of feathers later to see if it helps them.

First I need a rough colour scheme. I opted for a bright coloured scheme as I see (grownup) Ankyies wanting to warn predators they're not to be messed with. I got this rough pattern by mixing together a few different snakes.

I tried to build initial armour into my standard skin texture. The results as you can see are wanting.

Lucky for me that was but one of many layers. As of layer 2 all is covered up.

This is all still just a texture.

Next I applied physical objects to the skin with a replicator to get actual osteoderms in place.

The first ones were too small, so I came at it with another round of larger ones, which I think do an admirable job.

Thoughts, comments so far?

Dec 3, 2011

I HATE armoured Dinosaurs!

I think if there is one thing I'm good at in my art is always trying new things. In putting together my new portfolio I can't believe how much my techniques and methods have changed and refined in just 2 years!

The only problem with this constant change is I'm always having to relearn and rethink how to do things when I return to them. My wife has once or twice challenged my focus on Dinosaurs in my art, and if their look were remaining static I'd accept. Thing is I'm never doing them the same way more than 3 times (first model of a "mark" is a break through, second model is me hoping I've finally nailed it, the third model ends with me thinking "this looks terrible!"). I'm constantly coming up with new things to try and work on with them... The rest of my modelling is following them quite well.

So while I've conquered feathers for the time being, there are other Saurian qualities to can still cause me no need of trouble. Enter armoured Dinosaurs...

Armoured Dinosaurs provide me with two very annoying problems.

The first is that without my books, finding good references for them is VERY hard! Added to that the actual placement of their armour seems to be a highly subjective matter for us artists.

The second challenge is getting the armour actually on the critter. In my previous models of Scelidosaur and Ankylosaurus I'd used simply body shaders and than surface replicated major armour pieces on the body. While this was good for my older style Dinosaurs, my recent improvements in texturing have meant I will need to completely overhaul how I do armour...

I will try the solution I have used with feathers. However I'm holding some doubts that it will work properly for bony osteoderms.

We'll see.

I'm trying to make a Minmi. Though as it'll be filling in for mostly unknown NZ Ankies I have a bit of artistic licence.

Dec 1, 2011

Killer Instinct

I'm trying to turn my doubts around. So I thought an aggressive Dinosaur would be just the thing to turn the tables.

A generic Carcharodontosaur. It is a retooling of my original NZ theropod. How does the shader look? The digits haven't been reshaded is all.

The anatomy shot for you experts out there.

The plan is to do a spread of generic versions of all the potential candidates for NZ's little known theropods. I'm planning on an Abelisaur, Spinosaur, and an Australovenator like animal. Are there any other Gondwannan animals or groups I'm missing (I might do a Tyrannosaur too due to the possible Tyrannosaurid bone found in 2009)?

Nov 30, 2011

Decaying results

One of my procrastination projects at work is to tinker further with my Dinosaur corpse.

I've toned done the blood into dark tones, and smeared it around a lot more.

I also played with a possible means of creating footprints. My only hesitation is that these footprints are 2D effects I painted on with photoshop. Are they effective? They are not the final anatomy, wait on that sort of feedback.
Thoughts comments?

Cheeky Hypie

Got a lot more work on the Hypsilophodont done. Mostly on its mouth, and a new method of cheeks.

I'm also quite fond of my new beaking method.

Thoughts, comments?

Nov 29, 2011

Ironic Timing

So today is a pretty huge day for my long time palaeo-friend Peter Bond. He just had his first legitimate palaeo-art publication with his illustrating our mutual ex-Tyrrell friend Caleb Brown's description of a new species of Thescelosaurus.

This makes Peter the first of the two of us to achieve legitimate Palaeo-artist status. I'm very happy for him.

This however has done a sever number on my self esteem today. Not due to Peter's publication directly, more his tactics and resulting success compared to my own. There is an implication about my own art I can not help avoid detecting.

Whereas I've been proactively canvasing and approaching scientists in a hope of finding an interested party to create art for, Peter simply posted his stuff on ART Evolved and our friend Caleb approached him. So in Peter's case who he knew was as useful as having the art they wanted. In my case I've had every one of my contacts refuse or reject me (in one case mid art creation). Leaving me to ponder does my art suck?

I can not be sure. I know as a matter of fact this year has seen my art ascend to the next level. If even just accidentally. Whenever I open any of my pre 2011 models I immediately have to embark on a major overhaul of them as they are not up to my current abilities.

So in all honesty I may not have been up to the big league standard until now. The question is am I there yet?

I'm also questioning whether approaching people I know is the way to go. My only current hopes lay in essentially strangers (who I approached for totally non-art reasons initially).

So here is to Peter, and may this be the beginning of a brilliant hobby career! Now I just need to sort out my own $h!t...

Ironically I'd started retooling my Leaellynasaura model on the weekend while talking to Bond, which is basically a Thescelosaurus. So I guess I'll call it a tribute to Peter.

In reality its a WIP, so thoughts would be welcome. I can use this for both my New Zealand Palaeo and Traumador books (as I have a CSIish case for Traum Cretaceous NZ)

Nov 27, 2011

Need some focus

At moment I find myself in something of a tailspin creatively.

To help me better focus I'm opening up the floor to outside suggestions. I'm feeling a book or similar project might help me. I seem to thrive better when I have an end product to strive for (in the past Traum or AE galleries have done me wonders).

I could:

1. Work on creating a kid's book format for Traumador. I have a few ideas. My most favourite is working Traum and cast into something of a fossil CSI spoof where he must travel through time to solve weird fossil site mysteries.

2. Work on a series of short articles or possible short book about New Zealand palaeo. Their literacy program requires many new books and articles each year. While it will never be a best seller it'll be good practise for me, and I'll talking about something I know and love quite well. With a possible side benefit of inspiring the next possible wave of kiwi palaentologists!

3. I have an idea for a book/story set in Cretaceous Dinosaur Park Alberta. This one's my most ambitious. While it could be years off, I'll definitely have some goals and hurdles to over come to complete it.

4. I can just tinker and bounce around like I am now on misc portfolio pieces and ART Evolved galleries as they come up. I'm not sure this is the best for me, but people with more experience on trying things like books might have cautions for me...

I put up a poll on the right sidebar for quick input. Though I'd certainly welcome more detailed feedback in the comment section.


More Hong Kong craziness this week. Promise!

Nov 24, 2011

Soundtracks: YouTube is an album's friend!

A short request to record labels and companies.

Do NOT take full albums of your music off YouTube or other online video forums.

You're shutting down a new and unique advertising platform for your product, and not really stopping the "illegal" distribution problem you're seeking to address.

In the past two years I've taken to previewing potential soundtrack purchases by listening to the whole thing on YouTube. It is the perfect venue for encouraging me to purchase music. I can hear ALL of the music to ensure I want it (as opposed to the 30-60 second sample snippets offered on traditional preview sites), but yet not have it convenient enough for me to listen to the way I want. I can't download it properly. I can't listen to it without internet access. It suffers some major quality degradation. It is prone to net failure or lag.

So once I'm hooked on an album from Youtube I HAVE to buy it.

So far I have purchased some 20 CD's in the past 2ish years using this strategy. Of these, I might very well not have purchased 15 of otherwise. Yes I have previewed more than this, but I was never going to buy them without a preview anyways. That means out of say 100 albums I listened to the 20 I bought more than half were because I knew I liked what I was buying. Had I not had Youtube to listen further, I'd have only bought 5-7 of these 20. That is 1/4 the profit for the music industry.

Taking the album off Youtube doesn't stop the piracy of this music anyways. Youtube was never the venue for illegally exchanging the music. Those serious about pirating the music are not going to be detoured by this, and will use the real means of piracy elsewhere. Those are the sites you should engage.

I on the other hand purchase music that is available (limited edition music being another case) if I know I like it. Youtube gives you, the music companies, a new relatively safe means for letting me preview an album before a potential purchase. Remove this certainty about your product, and I won't buy it.

How is encouraging customers bad for business? The pirates will do their thing regardless. Taking music off Youtube only hurts your sales...

Soundtracks: Limiting the profit on limited edition albums.

I'm trying to figure out if movie soundtrack labels have perfected their market, or are simply extraordinarily lucky to not be out of business.

In this age of digital music commerce and easier than ever piracy how can limited edition releases honestly help the industry?

That's right, soundtrack specialist labels still engage in the pre 2000's strategy of releasing rare soundtracks in a mere 3000 disc runs. Back in the day I can see this vaguely making sense. Albums were harder to produce and distribute. It was easier to simple limit the release and make interested parties come to you. This system also helped create the collectors mentality that many soundtrack enthusiasts older than myself tend to have. So it built in loyal costumers.

The thing is the times they have changed. I'm really confused as to how this practise has not.

While I understand that increasing the physical production of albums will hurt this collector niche market, releasing the musical in digital form for sale can't be anything but good for business.

My reasoning, classic collectors covet the physical product. They want the case, the cover art, and nice shiny compact disc. It goes well in their shelves full of other such albums. So long as the album you sold them is only one of 2999 other such items they are happy knowing they possess their one share.

However the rest of us don't really care about the collectibility. If you're like me, you don't care about the case or collectibility of the CD. Hell, I don't care about the CD. I just want the music, and I'm willing to pay. If I was given a venue to purchase the music I'd do so in a heartbeat. As that is not currently the case the industry is limiting itself severely by only allowing 3000 transactions on a particular album.

The thing is they are REALLY losing out, by not offering a digital option for non-collectors. The biggest lose is in the resale of these albums on secondary markets of the modern internet age. Many of the hottest limited release albums are bought in bulk by online traders, who once an album has sold out resell them on Ebay and the like for immensely inflated prices. Meaning not only is the label not making money on these further album sales, but a totally non-related party is profiting more so on their scarcity. This form of commerce parasitism is further evidence that the labels are still living in the 90's. Ebay is not new, and clearly the labels must have noticed some of their limited edition discs going for literally $100's after their out of stock.

This increase in price, and just the difficulty in acquiring the disc in the first place has lead to piracy being one of the only venues to get this music. While still technically illegal, I suspect the label will have a much harder job prosecuting the illegal distribution on a product they themselves no longer distribute themselves. The biggest form of legal action is the lose of revenue, and if your not still selling it we're not hurting your business.

The only pro limited edition argument I've seen presented by collectors (not the labels directly) is that digital releases would lead to the risk of counterfeit albums. How is this not a danger in this age anyways? Seriously if I can find this for download, so could a counterfeiter. If you're really concerned about the legitimacy of an album just make sure you buy one of those 3000 directly from the label.

Digital versions of the music won't devalue the collector's market, as it is the physical object that is collectible in this information era not the content. Like it or not through piracy the genie is out of the bottle one way or the other. Everyone should just accept it, and instead of fighting reality adapt to it make more money off people like me, and thus help the legitimate sale and production of soundtrack music albums by giving the companies more income to acquire more rights and thus increase their sales again!

The 90's are way behind us. Time to catch up soundtrack people!

Nov 19, 2011

Lunch is served

Tinkering away on things in the background.

I'm coming to grips and with much more limited free time than I used to in my substitute teaching days. I miss that job for a lot of reasons, but the biggest one was the ability to leave school at the end of the day and not worry about anything till the next bell rang. I'm certain there'll be things I find equally rewarding in normal teaching. Time to focus on art is not one of them.

Still I'm coping, and getting in work where I can.

The last few nights I've been working on something for my feathered Dinosaurs to munch on.

Enter the partially eaten remains of my Styracosaurus. It's by no means finished, but I think it is off to a promising start.

Quick test with it in the possible environment. I have plans for this scene. Oh I have plans ;)

Nov 15, 2011

More Set Play

Starting to tinker with yet another environment setting. This time for my feathered Dinosaurs to exist in.

While I'm not done, I think I've started to get the rough construction of an environment down pretty good. This is passable as is. Though I do intend on doing a LOT more work on it.

Comments thoughts. Especially from the lighting think tank. I'm thinking a sunset once this is set up a bit more.

Nov 13, 2011

A Chinese Resturant in China... Really?

A direction sign in a train station. Though it was a bit of a let down when it turned out the resturant was called "Chinese Resturant". I still post it for the amusing factor of my inital encounter with it.

They believe in quality control here...

You can order it assured it is very good!

Yet another misspelling nickname

So I have more nicknames from the past 12 years than I can actually remember.

However one subgenre of my nicknames that have always boggled my mind, a bit, are people misspelling or mispronouncing my (apparently very difficult) name. Among these are Craf (misspelled by my roommate thinking she'd found it in the dots on our roof) and Crang (misprounced by the same roommate announcing my name to our coworkers at the Tyrrell).

Now a Hong Kong starbucks employee has given me a new one!

Earthshaking Pizza

Love this name for a pizza parlour. Havn't eaten there yet. It has the worst location imaginable... Right in the middle of TST beside so many other fantastic and tasty restaurants. If this was a local joint I'd try it out, but being 45 minutes away I'd rather eat at the western style places on either sides or across the street from it.

Local Elections

For the last two months the local Hong Kong election has been building up around us. At first it was just bill boards and the odd person handing out pamphlets. However entering late October the vigour picked up substantially.

To the point that every major mall or living complex had a camp full of canvassers outside in your face with their candidate. This is right outside my front door... for two whole weeks (one of the challenges of living in a complex with over 3000 apartments. Yes you read that right. There are over 3000 apartments in my complex.)

My favourite was the ramp up to the actual election last weekend. Where we had random parades (at some points yelling at each other when they ran into each other). Note the candidate at the front wearing the sash. They all wear them sashes boy and girl.

Electrifying Church

Funny how a graphic of lighting and slightly off synonym of lighting can make for a funny sign. All I have to say that is one heck of a sparkle on this sign...

Best Pharmacy Names

Trying to figure out if the owner of this one likes soccer or not... Otherwise he's definately got himself together.

Of course you've heard of this one, even if your from Coruscant or Romulus. What with it being universal and all.

Nov 11, 2011

Feather progress

I think I've got base feathers down pretty solid these days.

While it is time consuming to render I've got my work flow on the feather base coat and over coats to near clock work. Apart from the odd replicator malfunction I can feather a body part every 40-60 minutes (with most of that being rendering time).



Feathers beyond the coats may be another story. How do these primary feathers look beyond placement (which frankly I'm not worried about as we don't know where the feathers on Troodon were).

The digits aren't finished either. I'm debating whether the fingers should be feathered or not too. The toes won't so I can play with my new scaling trick there.

Thoughts or input? (Okay including primary feather placement... Albertonykus :P)