Chapter 3.1 The Walk Cycle

30 10 2008

Michele Bousquet says in her book 3ds max animation with biped,

“The walk cycle can have winning and loosing impact to the overall animation”

I have embedded an experimental biped walk cycle animation that I created to show the impact of a simple 10 step 20mm com step cycle.

See Below.

I composited the robot biped into a still plate to see if there was an increased emotional response from the viewer to the character, I added some lighting effects but didn’t take the time to add the shadow mapping as this was an experiment.

I found that compositing a simple biped animation into a live action plate does add impact to the character and its effect on its environment.

See Below


Talk with Tony Chance.

30 10 2008

Tony Chance

I Met Tony during a talk in the Arts Institute at Bournemouth on a cold Monday morning but soon after getting a brief introduction of his past and current projects I was quickly warmed up with excitement that I would get to pick at his brain.

Tony has been working in the industry for over 20 years and has a lot of big budget credits for some of the films that I have enjoyed and been inspired by. It wasn’t a sit there and listen talk we actually got to make some sketches and he went into detail about how the art departments process and create characters.

A point I picked up during his analysis of Sam Mendes Road to Perdition” was the use of the narrative and the characters progression throughout the storyboarding process and than reapplying that to the characters and scenes to ensure that the story was progressing in each scene therefore ruling out any dead air or static shots that lead nowhere and just bore the viewer.

Although this is related to live action and not necessarily to the use of CGI or 3D animation I still think that this process should be carried through to all productions of story telling, therefore I created a flow chat that would show the process of creating a CG character taking into account the story, the environment, the modeling and all the composition needed.

See Below.

Chapter 2. Character Design

30 10 2008

The building blocks of the character design process used by       See Below.

Creating a character

Research – Anthony Ward

After reading this book I got a great sense of the basic rules on creating a character.

  1. Knowing Your Character.
  2. Character Design Sheet
  3. Making Friends

If there was one thing Anthony could pass on he reminds us over and over that when creating a character make sure that you know your character, your character should be your friend, and bringing that insight into the fray of my thesis how could anyone connect and get emotional involved if there is no basic friendship between my character and me.

An Interview with Stan Winston

30 10 2008

Stan Winston is a self-described failed actor who began doing makeup effects and creature design 30 years ago as a way to pay the bills. After winning back-to-back Emmys for his first two productions, Winston decided that perhaps acting should take the back seat. Thirty years and four Academy Awards later, Winston is at the top of his game as the foremost creator of creatures in the world, a co-founder of Digital Domain, one of the leading companies in CGI special effects, and the go-to guy for a couple of filmmakers you may have heard of: Steven Spielberg and James Cameron. Unless you are a Luddite, or someone who doesn’t see films, or perhaps someone who sees only films with foreign titles, then you have seen Winston’s work.

Science Fiction Weekly 2002 (interviewer Hugo Perez)

You have worked extensively with “analog” visual effects, i.e., make-up, puppets. At the same time you are a founder of Digital Domain, which specializes in digital and computer effects. What do you think will be the relationship between “real” and “computer” effects as film becomes more digitally oriented? What is going to be the long-term impact of digital?

Winston: The long-term impact of digital is basically the long-term impact of any other great tool or device or technology that’s brought into the storytelling realm. Something to be embraced. It will continue to be used in storytelling to create certain realities or to create certain fantasies. It won’t replace anything. Technology is like that. You have to remember that the essence of filmmaking is storytelling, and the essence of art is communication, and stories and films will always be told in as many different ways as possible.

You asked me the importance of fantasy stories … basically to get your attention. The same stories will be told. The same stories continue to be told and people, audiences want to see them told in different ways, so you embrace the fact that we now have the ability to see a digitally animated film like Shrek or Toy Story. Ultimately, it was because it was a great movie with a great story that you enjoy it. It has great characters. The technology just allows us to see the movie in a different way.

You are not going to want to stop seeing movies that are actor-driven. An animated character is never going to replace Al Pacino. It will be another way of you looking at him. Digital animation will never replace cel animation. Cel animation will always be a form of storytelling that has its own life. Puppets have their own life. We do amazing animatronics and puppetry that are totally organic and real and we develop and create them with computers, we operate them with computers. The puppets that we’ve created, the animatronics characters that we have created at Stan Winston Studio, are superior to any animatronics that you have ever seen, but they are never going to replace the Muppets just because the technology is greater. There is an essence of character that you can get out of a sock puppet that you will get out of a sock puppet forever. In fact if you made the Muppets any more realistic, it would ruin the essence of what they are, and that won’t be replaced, and beautiful animation doesn’t mean that something like South Park which is the most crude animation of all time doesn’t have it’s place. It’s different methods of storytelling.

When movies came out, theatre actors thought that would be the end of theatre, because of the movies. There is more theatre today than there ever was. When television came out, moviemakers thought that was going to be the end of movies, because now no one would leave their house to go see a movie. There are more movies today than there have ever have been. Every time there is a new technology, there is this instant paranoia from an artistic community saying that I’m going to be replaced by this technology. It is totally absurd. When you can do it live, you will do it live. You will always want to go and see a play. There is something that is so visceral about storytelling when you are there, one-to-one live theatre that has it its own essence. No movie, no film, can ever replace that essence of live theatre. On the same line there is an essence of life on film, live actors that will never be replaced and can never be replaced by artificial actors or artificial life forms. You will want to see it, you will want to see the digital life form. You will want to see the digital animation, but you also want to be able to see a movie that is about life that you know is reality that you are touching.

One of the reasons that people love Jurassic Park, and these movies that have been created by filmmakers like James Cameron and Steven Spielberg is that you do not know whether it is all digital or real. You would not enjoy the movie nearly as much if you thought, “Oh, the dinosaurs are animated.” One of the things that you love about it is that people know that those dinosaurs are there. They are full size and they could eat you, and they could kill you. They are machines that are dangerous. You as an audience, you don’t want us ever to stop improving the robotic and live aspect of it, because it entertains you. Just the fact that I can give you a dinosaur that really is there is something that you will not give up as an audience and you would rebel if it all became digital, but you still want to see as much as you can digitally, you will want to see as much as you can robotically. You will want to see as much animatronics as you can. You want to see stuff that you’ve never seen before. You don’t care how you see it as long as it’s something that’s new, and there is a story to be told, and the story is told well. It’s not about the technology. Embrace the technology. Use it when it is a good storytelling tool but don’t think for a second that that’s what it’s about.

Character Design & The Movies

29 10 2008

Taking all that I learned during my research into the uncanny valley and putting it to use in term of character development. The biggest choice when choosing a character is human or creature.. Looking at the success of all the CG films released over the last ten years you would be mistaken to thinking that creating a human character is the way to go, I don’t want to go to much into that right now as I will be covering that entire subject matter later on but for now, lets look at successful CG creatures.

Like most of research before I turned to the guys at Focal Press for an insight into all things computer generated. The book begins with a brief historical timeline and overview of creatures in the movies from the ice-monsters and lunar sprites of George Melies, to the earliest fantasies of mind-blowing CG creation.

Taking the Uncanny Valley further…

28 10 2008

Consider the Uncanny Valley crossed… at least on some level.

That’s right, that picture is a CG version of Korean actress Song Hye Kyo.It was created by Indonesian CG artist Max Edwin Wahyudi using a 3ds max and zbrush.The next big jump will be animating the mesh without it looking all stiff and dead like…

There are a lot of people who would argue that just because these collections of polygons are a physical representation of the human form they do in fact lack the essence that is what makes humans human. So what makes us human humans.. is it our soul?

But our souls are more of a spiritual concoction than a physical object, right?

Do you have a soul?

Are you a soul?

How did that “soul” get into your body?

Was it imparted to you at the moment of conception?

Did it come into your body at some time during your fetal development?

Were you given an “soul” at the moment you took your first breath, shortly after birth?

If you have a “soul” can you touch it, taste it, feel it, hear it, or smell it? Can you take it out and look at it? Can you see the “souls” of others? Are You, you the real person, the innermost, private, human being with all of your thoughts, inclinations, perceptions, concepts and beliefs, hidden longings, doubts and fears, beliefs and convictions, sensory perceptions and feelings?

If that can be answered than maybe we can be one step closer to creating CG imagery that connects with the soul, but for now I think we will have to be happy with CG imagery that aesthetically connects to us.

Crossing the Uncanney Valley with CGI

28 10 2008

The BBC tackles the photo realistic challenge facing video game developers dubbed “the uncanny valley”, that uncomfortable feeling one gets from looking at a digital recreation of a human being that looks… almost human.

Crossing the Valley in 2009

Crossing the Valley in 2009

So where does that leave us… Does that mean that just because we can we should.. Does that mean that all animation or CGI work that doesn’t fall above the uncanny valley should be considered a failure.. Later on I will conduct an experiment to test that theory but for now i will leave you with the words of Thomas Kang. (USC) and Ralph Eggleston in response to the release of the big buget CGI Film “Beowulf” (Artist Director for the Incredibles) 

“In my opinion it’s always been a fallacy, the notion that human characters have to look photo-realistic in CG. You can do so much more with stylized human characters. Audiences innately know how humans move and gravity works, so if a human character doesn’t feel right, they’ll feel something’s wrong. But if the weight works for stylized characters, the audience doesn’t question it.”

And, the General Public writes:

*Okay, so maybe I’m just a geek cinephile but it totally looks like CGI to me – it’s the lack of emotion in the eyes, the stiff appendages and the rubberized body motions that give it away so easily.

However, that said, the technology has come a long way and it still looks pretty darn fantastico*

*I hate this type of lazy film making. It gets big stars on the cheap so they don’t have to work too many days. Then a computer does the rest. No real investment in actors at least trying to get into character (any wrong expression can be fixed by the computer guy) and no real sets. It’s lazy and an insult to ones intelligence*

*Animated Angelina HOT…Buuut. She’s also animated, which defeats the purpose of daydreaming in my book. Why go thru all the trouble for the animation technique when you can just shoot live-action. Obviously it’s cheaper, but it kinda takes the magic out of the movies*