Tuesday 31 July 2012

Infected by HIV - update

@ Alan: I've posted a question on the group blog but i'll repeat it here. I can preview render the luminance depth pass ok, but when I batch render the entire sequence I only get black screenshots. Can you help?

Here is a review of where I am so far. I have been cracking on with the cross over scene from live footage to CG:

 Here is a screen capture of the final frame of live footage:

Here is the first frame of the CG takeover:

And here it is again with a luminance depth pass controlling the depth of field:

Here is a another example but a few frames down the line:

Without Luminance depth DOF control:

With Luminance depth DOF control:

So this is beauty pass sequence WITH OUT the luminance depth pass, hopefully I will be able to fix the batch render problem asap:

Friday 27 July 2012

Commission - Revisited

It's been a busy summer moving house and catching up with friends and family back home. Uni work wise, I've eased back into things after a week or so off by catching up with tutorials and other work I missed out at the end of the academic year. I've also been brainstorming ideas regarding my minor and major projects for year three, (more on that later). Plus I will be starting on my dissertation in the coming days. A little late compared to some but I'm confident about my subject and the research I did for the framing practice unit.

I've also had time to reflect on my transcription project and absorb the feedback from Alan and Phil after hand in. I've realized that in order to make "Grandad's Story" the best it can be, I need to address minor issues with the first act before I move on to complete it. Hopefully with the help and advice from my course mates and tutors this will be achieved. For now it is on the back burner but not forgotten.

The rest of my time I've spent revisiting the commission project from year one. I've looked at the piece I handed in and gone over the research that went into making it. I've identified what I think needs to be changed but I welcome feedback from everyone else too. Here is the final piece which I'm treating as an animatic for its newest incarnation:

I'm still really pleased with the live footage shot by my friend Pete Latham. This won't be changed. However he may return to the project to help redo the voice over work. Speaking to him over summer I discovered he has a lot of voice over experience and access to professional equipment. Although the voice over work in the above version was done for free, I feel it doesn't match the emotional highs and lows inherent with  the narrative. Before I forget I'd also like to mention course friend Kayleigh, who I forgot to thank for her help recording the voices for the 2D animatic. Thanks Kayleigh. (Sorry it's late).

One of my issues with this piece is the cross over from live footage to CG. The project duration was set at five weeks and to meet the deadline I feel I cut a corner. So... I have been building a digital set to make this transition smoother. Here are some progress shots with comparisons pictures of the live footage:

I still have a few more bits to model but, the hand is rigged, UV mapped and the weights painted. The next stages for this particular scene will be texturing, lighting and then rendering. As the camera will be shrinking on it's journey down into the hair follicle, I will be looking into creating dust via Maya's particle system and After effects. I will also be putting into practice everything I have learnt with regards to depth of field over the past two years. I hope this will sell the realism of the piece before I delve into the next scenes. 

I want to improve on the visuals as the camera travels through the epidermis and dermis layers of the skin before reaching the bloodstream. I will also redesign most of the cells that feature in the story, from the white blood cells to the dreaded HIV cell. Hopefully this will bring the consistency to the same level as the red blood cells.

That's all for now. Got lots to be getting on with!

Thursday 26 July 2012

High Res Body Modelling Progress

Maya Tutorials: Lighting and Rendering - Mental Ray

Sub Surface Scattering grapes:

Sub Surface scattering cartoon shader:

Ambient Occlusion Lighting & Light Decay:

Lighting Profiles: IES Lighting

Maya Layered Shaders with Mental Ray Nodes:

Mental Ray: Round Corners Node

Depth of Field: Using Luminance Depth:

World Animation Review (USA) - The Secret of NIMH

The Secret of NIMH - 1982
Director - Don Bluth

1. The Secret of NIMH - poster

Plot summary / review:
Director Don Bluth's debut feature is adapted from Robert O'Brien's children's novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (1971). It tells the story of Mrs. Brisby (her name changed due to trademark issues), a widowed mouse living with her children on the edge of a farmers field in a breeze block. With the ploughing season approaching, she must move her family away from danger. However, when her youngest is diagnosed with pneumonia, she is warned taking him outside will prove fatal. Instructed by the Great Owl, Mrs Brisby embarks on a mission to seek out the mysterious rats of NIMH who may be able to help. Along the way she meets a clumsy, but good hearted crow called Jeremy, a particularly fun and well designed character. The majority of "the anthropomorphic animal characters are, for the most part, charming to look at" and "the backgrounds, the colors, the perspectives, the soft differences in shades of light are extraordinarily lovely." (Canby. 1982).

2. Jeremy and Mrs. Brisby

Mrs. Brisby discovers the rats have a colony beneath the rose bush next to the farmers house. It is evident that these are no ordinary rats. Led by Nicodemus, a wise but frail rat, they have developed an understanding of literature, mechanics and even electricity. It is revealed that they are survivors of experiments to increase intelligence by the National Institute of Mental Health. Mrs. Brisby's late husband Jonathan, was also a victim and was instrumental in their escape. In light of this, they agree to help her. Meanwhile, the colony are mid debate, unhappy that they are stealing from the humans, they decide to leave their home in search of an independent life. This view is not shared by Jenner, an evil rat who plots to kill Nicodemus during the move.

3. Meeting Nicodemus

The political and morale messages in the second half of this feature might be lost on the younger audience. However the trials and tribulations of Mrs. Brisby's grounded story will keep them entertained. Perhaps NIMH's meagre run time of 82 minutes was not enough to flush out the complicated back story from the source material. It can be argued that the over arching narrative was not a priority for the first time director. Bluth and the animators behind NIMH, were previously employed by Disney. "Disillusioned by the company's cost-cutting animation production and lack of artistic ambition, (they) formed new companies and made animation features with ambitions toward the old levels of artistry". (Cavalier. 2011:16). They experimented with traditional, often more labour-intensive techniques on a tighter budget and produced impressive results. Particularly the glows in the Great Owls eyes, achieved by using backlit, multiple camera passes.

4. The Great Owl's eyes

The Secret of NIMH is a valiant effort to reproduce the success of Disney's "Golden era". "It looks good, moves well, and delights our eyes. It is not quite such a success on the emotional level, however, because it has so many characters and involves them in so many different problems that there's nobody for the kids in the audience to strongly identify with." (Ebert. 1982). Bluth addressed this successfully with his subsequent features An American Tail (1986) and The Land Before Time (1988).


Canby, Vincent. New York Times Review 30th July 1982

Cavalier, Stephen. (2011) The World History of Animation. Aurum Press Ltd. UK.

Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times review 1st Jan 1982


1. The Secret Of NIMH poster
http://thesilvermirror.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/classic-review-the-secret-of-nimh/ Accessed 25/07/12

2. Jeremy and Mrs. Brisby

3. Meeting Nicodemus

4. The Great Owl's eyes