Feb 28, 2009

One More Video

Maya Live tutorial video

This is a really cool maya live tutorial video.  He doesnt really explain too much but it shows how maya live works.  I am going to read the maya tutorials to see how he did this all.  I am not very curious about sticking objects to a table but the end of the video he a video of someone picking up some letter.  I am curious how to do something like that, because he had to animate the move of the letter betweens the hands. 

Feb 25, 2009

Video Capture to Animation Pipeline

The main objective of this is to take what these guys are wearing:  

And turn it into motion for this guy(and any other character):

So here is a list of things that will be needed to complete this task:

  • A Video Camera (or two)
  • A Suit similar to the ImoCap one
  • Some sort of software for capturing the points on the suit that can translate it into 3d motion (Bujou or whatever)
  • A rig and presumably Maya
  • A room relatively clear of clutter ( a solid colored wall would be ideal)

Pipeline Proposal

1.        Get actor into suit and the place where the animations motion will be filmed.  Set up the camera to reflect the shot's camera as best as possible.  

2.        First take a reference shot of actor standing in a neutral pose, arms and legs clearly visible.  This shot is important because it is setting up a reference for the distance of all the rest of the shots based off how far our dots on the suit are away from the starting position.

3.        Begin filming and acting out the animation.  The actor needs to act for animation and perhaps odd proportions if the character is not realistic.  This may take some practice, it's one thing to act for live action but acting for exaggerated motion is harder.  

4.        Get a good take that everyone is happy with.  Next bring the video into our motion capturing software.  Define the points on the first shot and have it track those for the shot.  Hopefully this will give us the basic motion of our actor.

5.        Next is to constrain this motion in Maya onto the corresponding parts of our rig.  I assume we would use a parent constraint without maintain offset on.  Now the part I am not sure about is does each dot correspond to a dot on a control of our rig that is almost identical to our suit or before we bring the data in do we somehow average all the dots on our bands to one point in the center.  Then once we have that one solid point that moves around then bring it in and constrain to something similar to a rig we are use to in maya.  

6.        The data we brought in should be keyframe date for our controls, so next we could go in a delete or change some of those keyframes that we feel do not contribute to believable motion.  

7.        The last step would be to refine the motion with more traditional techniques.  We need to animate the face, hands and feet by hand.  As they say in animation, an animation is never finished until the deadline, so keep refining.

I am very aware of how complicated this sounds.  I don't know if it's beyond our scope or not.  There are few things I don't know,  an example is what the best constraints in maya would be to use.  Some other questions are is this actually faster?  I feel that if  we do get a system down where you can record motion and track it then put it into maya, it will be faster.  I think a huge problem is actually making this system.  We are only 6 people with only a couple programmers.   The math involved appears to  be very high.


I'd love to see it work though and would really appreciate feedback, ideas and anything else to contribute to this idea.  

Feb 18, 2009

Posed Based Animation With a Camera

So we have been thinking alot about how to get good performance animation faster and I think that being able to convey your ideas quickly into the computer is key.  Many people think that the most time consuming part of animation is transference of the idea or pose in your head to the character in the computer.

I have been trying to think of ways to keep the essence of pose to pose animation alive while vastly improving the input methods of poses.  

Here is my idea, it is somewhat similar to motion capture but not quite.  Perhaps I am thinking too much in the realm of what we work with but I feel if it works in our realm quickly, not much development will need to be done.

My idea is to setup a video camera in a very similar to the camera in the shot.  Keeping in mind where the character is in virtual space and translating that to our world.  The closer to the shot in the computer the better.  The animator will be wearing a suit that looks very similar to the curves around our rig now and in the same placement as the rig we are using.  These rings will be a very distinct color and will correspond to the nodes on our character in the computer.  No fancy mo cap stations will be needed though, it will all be based on the placement and distance of the rings from the camera.  

So the idea is this:  The animator in the suit gets in front of the camera and acts out the pose he wants as the first frame.  This frame will setup a reference to go by for the rest of the shot.  Then they shall act out the poses in the scene with the camera taking pictures or video every so often to record the poses.  

Now here is the tricky part.   Movement that is on the same plane as the camera lens will be easily recorded.  It is obvious if the hand moves up and down if shot from the front.  What you may be wondering is how it will record movement towards and away from the camera.  Well if the camera takes a reference image the first shot, all the controls on the body will be a certain size.  My idea to record the movement towards and away from the camera is based on how much bigger or smaller those controls get compared to reference.  If the controls become smaller we know its moving away from the camera and if the control becomes bigger it is moving towards the camera.

This idea sprung upon with the notion that we only need to make something look good from the view it is being seen.  This lets us only where about animating to our camera.  

Some concerns are:
  1. I am not sure if this would handle camera movements, I feel like it could in some way but it may require an easily moveable video camera.
  2. I am not sure the changing of the size of controls can translate to distance, I feel like it should but I am not sure of the math behind it all.  
  3. This may be trying to stay to close within the realm of what we have now.  The reason I though of this is because not everyone can get a mocap recording studio but I feel like most people can get a digital video camara today.  I wanted to keep it within the realm of something possible on a smal scale and large scale.

If a single camera does not work perhaps a 2 camera system to record distance as well may be possible.

I also like the idea of recording poses.  I feel a big strength of pose to pose animation is the ability to easily delete/change poses.  If you have a feel poses that are not work you can simply remake them with little to no trouble.  

You may also simply needed a digital camera to do this entire process if it works the way I envision.

Performance Animation

I really wish I could remember where I found this.. somewhere online when I was googling animation and motion capture and stuff.

I didn't read the whole thing, but the first two/three pages seem to explain it well. I think it's a lot like the wii thing people made last year?

Anyways, it looks like it's just two rods that the animator holds and moves around to animate various parts of the character. It looks pretty cool.

link to download the pdf:

Feb 16, 2009

World Building Pipeline Notes from Thursday 2/12

World Building Pipeline:
  1. Back Set Building
  2. Camera Animation/Layout
  3. Add + Size Domes/Cylinders or model depending on complexity
    -  Take object through Priming
    1.  Automatic UV Mapping
    2.  Connect Shader
    3.  Decide whether the shader will be opaque or transparent
  4. Select Object for Painting
    - Determine resolution, brush size and type, and color
  5. See results in scene camera

Some thoughts and concerns.:
  • First we need to create the shader that is able to be painted on.  That shader needs two options, opaque or transparent but still visible.
  • It seemed Maya paint could do alot of this but we want to melScript it so its a very streamlined process with as little work as possible.  
  • It would also be nice to go to photoship if needed. 

Feb 15, 2009

An alternative animation interface

Two of the problems I most immediately recognize in the animation interface are:

1. The fact that you can only move one degree at a time, e.g. rotate X, translate Y, etc.
2. The general awkwardness of using a mouse (or two), particularly the fact that you have to click on everything before you want to control it.

What if instead of a mouse, we hooked up each computer to a mixing board with 6 or (depending on if squash and stretch is being used) 9 sliders? Three would be devoted to Translate XYZ, three to rotate, etc.
Instead of clicking a joint (assuming we end up using joints, of course) and then clicking and dragging the translate/rotate/scale tool for each channel, all you'd have to do is click the joint (if that) and slide the sliders back and forth, even simultaneously, in order to get the position you want. Since the sliders have limits and Maya doesn't, the knobs can be used to adjust the "strength" of the slider. Or if the slider has already reached the end, the on/off buttons for each track (not in drawing) can serve as toggles for which direction on the slider is a positive or negative transformation.  I feel like this can make things substantially easier because:

1. We're more used to moving our fingers independently of each other than our hands (piano, typing, ...mixing boards, etc.), so learning to move multiple channels and degrees at the same time would ostensibly be more intuitive than learning to use a mouse with your left hand.
2. The sliders are just as one-dimensional as the channels, and can move more smoothly than a mouse for this reason. 
3. There's no switching between tools or clicking on the right arrow/circle/cube in order to select/move it.

Although using this in the "one shot, multiple simultaneous animators working in real time" method would prove very time efficient, I feel like it would even cut a lot of time out if it was used by individual animators doing keyframe animation.

Fairground Layout and Reference Images

Here's a layout of what the world could look like along with some reference images of fairgrounds.

An example of an ice cream booth:

A crazy slide:

Feb 13, 2009


Here's the rough!


Feb 9, 2009

An article about the pose-based approach to animating

This article about effective blocking methods was recently posted with the Animation Mentor newsletter.

Relevant to this class, he makes the tongue-in-cheek remark that once you've figured out what your poses are, and at what times (largely from video reference), then you're "almost done."

I agree with him, from the creative standpoint. But practically, you still have to pose the character in 3D, get interpolation working on all of your curves, etc. That chews up lots of time. Based on our recent conversations in class, it seems that this is a key spot to brainstorm ways to accelerate the process.

The Ultimate Artist's Tool for Painting a 3D Scene Fast

Some ideas about what would be a fast and easy way for an artist to paint a 3D scene:

The main idea is to be able to paint directly on 3D objects.
The modeling structure of layered domes for distant background objects and simple models for objects closer in the scene could both be painted on directly. It would be important to be able to paint not only color and texture, but transparency as well. A clone tool would also be useful for repeating detailed textures like grass.

A nice set up would be two windows showing separate camera views.

One would be the main camera view of the scene that will be used in the movie, with a timeline allowing you to scrub through and stop at various frames. This allows the artist to see exactly what will be visible on screen at each point in time. The adjacent window would be a camera view of the scene or of individual objects that the artist could move through and tumble around. This would be the workspace for the artist to paint in. The idea would be that as the artist paints in the workspace, the changes show up in the other camera view as well, letting the artist paint details on an object up close, and see how it looks from the main camera, or whether it is visible at all. In this way, parts of the object that are never visible to the main camera don't have to be painted.

I like the idea of painting layered domes for background scenery such as distant mountains, trees, bushes, sky, etc. For objects more embedded in the action of a scene (such as a merry-go-round, car, or trash can) perhaps a simple model would work better. They could be as simple as boxes and cylinders or much more detailed shapes. Either way, they could be painted to appear to have more depth and shape than the models actually do. Even better would be if transparencies could be painted on these 3D objects. For example, starting with a cylinder for a merry-go-round and "painting away" or erasing parts of it to create the poles, which could then be painted with color to appear rounded.

Feb 8, 2009

Woody from 4 Angles

Feb 6, 2009

Toy Story Notes Presented at Siggraph in 1995

So I found this while looking for Woody Models.  It is an indepth discussion of Toy Story's production from the really early begins to the end of production.  

Some interesting things are Woody started out as ventriliquist dummy and buzz as a gijoe type action figure.  

They talk about how everything in the movie came from the art department and they were not trying to replicate reality, moreso create a stylization of reality.

The production was done so long ago that they did not use polygonal model rather NURBS and spline patch modeling.   The models were also procedural.

The layout crew did some basic animation and placing the characters where they need to be and set dressing.

Rendering was carefully done and has line placements from programs such as illustrator to create fine detail.  Procedural shading was very heavily used.

"Lighting" was the generic name given to everything required for creating the final image - lights, shaders, colors, special effects (e.g., smoke), shadows, etc.

How long did it take?
1.5 years of story development, green light, 2.5 years of animation

Definetly some good stuff in here.

Feb 3, 2009

Human-Computer Interaction

Thinking about the notion of transmitting a vision or idea from the designer's mind to the computer, I thought it might be helpful to think about different ways of interacting with the computer. Traditionally we use keyboards, mice, and other input devices.. primarily controlled by the hands.

I found an article that discusses various methods of human-computer interaction. It could be very helpful in thinking about the other ways we could interact with the computer to animate or light a scene. I'm not sure exactly how helpful it would be towards our ultimate goal of speeding up the entire pipeline, but if we are thinking of alternate computer input methods (such as motion capture) I think this article is a good jumping off point for ideas.

Here's the link to download the PDF:

Wrath of the Lich King Interview

CG Channel recently did an interview with Jeff Chamberlain and Fausto De Martini from Blizzard Entertainment on their new animated cinematic for Wrath of the Lich King.


It is a good read despite some of the fluff at the begin. I also recommend checking out the videos and pictures. They a great idea of what quality level Blizzard is working with. It is a great brief look at what goes into a production.

Feb 2, 2009

questions to get ideas flowing

Students in the class are to choose at least two of the following seven questions and post their answers as comments for discussion in our next class meeting.

I have chosen these questions based on the film-side qualities we identified (emotional engagement, believable world) since our next task, presumably, will be to produce those qualities.
  1. How can we produce compelling facial animation an order of magnitude more quickly than the way we've been taught? Why will your method be so much faster? For background, the "way we've been taught" is the keyframed viseme/blendshape/morph target method. I think the Wikipedia entry on computer facial animation is not half bad for those wanting a little more background.
  2. How can we produce compelling pantomime/body performance an OOM more quickly than the way we've been taught? Why will your method be so much faster?
  3. This one is tricky to phrase. How can we translate the visual designs for an original character into a form that we can use an OOM more quickly than the way we've been taught? Note I didn't say "how can we model and rig a character..." because that assumes we will be modeling and rigging like we're used to. We may decide that's the only way to go, but I want to encourage people to think of other ways they might make our character exist in the final film without, perhaps, existing as a fully-rigged 3D object.
  4. How can we create the illusion of a believable world an OOM more quickly? Why will your method be so much faster?
  5. Also tricky to phrase. How will we generate the appropriate color field for a frame of our film an OOM faster than we currently do? Once again, I avoid "light" because that assumes some kind of true 3D world model. We aren't yet committed to having that.
  6. What questions would you ask the producers of today's feature animated films to help guide us in our mission? Why?
  7. What question(s) should we be asking instead of the previous 6? If you choose this route, please also answer at least one of the questions you propose.

summary of the first class

We had an exciting discussion during our first class meeting. We went over the existing animation pipeline as we know it, and made our predictions about where the majority of production time goes on a feature animated project. My notes on that are incomplete (if someone has more details and can post them as a comment, great). However, we found it valuable to differentiate those things that happen on a shot-by-shot basis (such as animation, layout, and lighting) from those things that happen on a per-film basis (like the building of a particular character).

Assuming 1000 shots in a feature film, we concluded that the economies of scale that come with saving time on per-shot events would exceed savings we might create in a particular per-film task. So we emphasized those areas as good places to explore.

We also considered the films themselves, separate from the processes which made them. After all, one mission of this course is to question the processes. In this vein, we identified qualities that we must be able to capture with our techniques if our techniques are to be competitive with current methods.

The two qualities we identified were "emotional engagement" and "a believable world." The former is really about a connection between the audience and the characters. The latter was trickier to define. It seemed to center around a world that was internally consistent, from the level of physical "laws" to the implied history of the cultures and events that made the world exist. I find it still hard to define clearly.

We identified the following contributors to what we called emotional engagement: facial and eye animation, pantomime/body animation, voice, the staging and composition of the individual shots, the color palette, and music. Basically, this is a list of the stuff we see and hear while enjoying a movie. For the moment we aren't touching story, though obviously the conflicts and desires of the characters are crucial. For our purposes in this class, we want to explore methods for getting the visuals for a tenth of the effort.

After these conversations, we thought about what kind of small production we could pursue in this class that would test our ability to achieve those two aforementioned qualities. The result? A 3 shot film:
  1. A close up of a character with facial animation (and lip sync).
  2. A long shot (moving camera) showing the character within a believable world. This should include some ambient motions and parallax.
  3. A medium shot (or wider) of the character acting out something physically.
We're hoping to get boards and designs quickly so we can move on to answering the exciting production questions these shots pose.