Thursday, February 26, 2015

VIST 405 - Vidarr Character Rig Progress

The above video is a timelapse of the rigging work I've done for the Vidarr group. If it's not clear from watching the video, I worked on defining the skeletal joint system, setting IK handles, creating external controls, editing attribute connections, and general troubleshooting.

After working out some issues with the geometry mesh and doing a smooth skin bind, I went to work painting weights. Weight painting took nearly half of my work session, which lasted nearly four hours.

Technical Issues

  • The model for Vidarr is too complex. Some parts of the character mesh include things like individually modeled rivets on his boots, individual laces on his gauntlets, etc. which made weight painting a nightmare. I mean, even on my Skyrim character tiny details like that are just painted onto the texture with displacement/normals mapping.
  • The model for Vidarr came to me in different grouped parts rather than a single combined mesh. This caused major issues when I ran the smooth skin bind because many of Vidarr's limbs were mirrored instances. Because several parts were instanced, Maya wouldn't let me freeze transformations or reset their history.
  • When I tried to combine these mesh groups in Maya there was a loss of data - apparently an infamous bug that occurs a lot - and Vidarr's right arm disappeared. I tried things like exporting the mesh as an .fbx, re-importing it and binding the skin but it made Maya run ridiculously slow. Finally I re-modeled his right arm myself, stuck it into the hierarchy, and this time the combined mesh turned out alright.
  • Maya's skin weight painting utility is barbaric and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what brush size will get those tiny spots painted the way I wanted.

What's Next

The rig is far from perfect; I still need to refine painting the skin weights. I'll also add things like shoulder controls, elbow controls, and hand rigs, with some custom attribute connections.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

VIST 405 - Animated Texture Demo

Hand-Painted Digital Cels

After taking a 2048 x 2048 UV snapshot of a proxy tree object, I "painted" the color spread, frame-by-frame, for 24 frames. I imported the images into After Effects and compiled them into a video running essentially in half-time, so the video file ran for about two seconds.

Demo Animation in Maya

I then imported the video itself into Maya as a maps-based texture for the proxy "tree". The result was a demo on what a 2D-animated texture might look like:

This approach could be as time-consuming and tedious as we want it to be, but I think we could achieve a unique animated effect with this method. I also researched procedural animated masks in After Effects as an alternative method. Maybe we could use both methods on hero assets vs non-hero assets.

The "painted texture" will certainly be more time-consuming, but I think we'll achieve some striking effects. I'll advise the texture artists to take more shortcuts animating the textures on the non-hero tree objects in our environment.

Demo finished on 21st February, 2015

VIST 405 - Milestone Progress

2D Storyboard & 2D Animatic

I drew the storyboard images in ink on paper and later scanned them, doing a little post in Photoshop (levels adjust, contrast/color adjustments).

The shot of the deer taking notice of the color magically spreading through the tree underwent an important revision; after passing the shot off to management and layout for critique, it was determined that the camera direction didn't work. After working out the issue with layout, I revised the shot like so:

Original shot direction:


Revised shot direction:

I acted out the scene with layout until we got the shot we needed. After reviewing the new shot, it was approved for the 3D animatic by management and layout.

I passed the images off to editorial for the creation of the 2D animatic.

Completion of milestone: 12 February, 2015

ARTS 308 - Body Extension Sculpture Concept


Technology, particularly mobile hand-held technology, offers a compelling distraction from the world around us. My body-extension sculpture is a mask that amplifies the distracting quality of technology. The mask fits on one's face and connects to a long tube structure attached to a fixture. Inside the fixture is an iPhone, iPad, or similar device.

The mask obscures the peripheral vision of the wearer, and the hand-held device is the only object that can be focused on. The flexibility of the tube demands that the viewer move and bend in order to bring the technology into their line of sight. Once in view, the device is too far away to be operated by the viewer, symbolizing the the idea that we have less control over our technology than we think.

Mask Making Techniques

Paper mache techniques using plaster of Paris seems to be the quickest way to form a rigid attachable mask. The mask part would have to be open so that a flexible tube or tunnel structure can attach to the fixture where the iPhone/iPad will be placed.

I've read on the web how clay can be used to make a cast with paper mache being overlaid on top. Paper mache takes 24-48 hours to set.


Ultimately, the aesthetic quality of the materials used to build/embellish this sculpture will be more important than the actual function of the sculpture.

The tube will have to be a flexible material like plastic or maybe latex (although I don't know where to get a lot of latex). One conceptual idea for the tube was to have the materials transition from organic around the viewer's face to electronically-themed around the hand-held technology. My original idea was to use wires, cords, etc. that will run along the length of the tube, giving it a kind of "cyberpunk" feel.


The final exhibition for this sculpture is March 10, and the sculptures will be installed in Langford C Monday afternoon. This means the sculpture needs to be finished Monday the 9th.

Thursday, 26 February - cast paper mache parts

Tuesday, 3 March - attach tube, finish basic sculpture structure

Thursday, 5 March - add material embellishments

Monday, February 16, 2015

ARTS 308 - Project 1 'Feeling Like a Ghost' Post Mortem

Project 1 is finished! The exhibition was Thursday the 12th and I think our sculpture was a success.

The sculpture was safely suspended from the ceiling of the walkway connecting Langford A to Langford B/C. The wind was blowing but the stiffness of the treated fabric didn't blow too much and actually gave the sculpture a life-like feeling.

While observing passers-by on the walkway, I saw that many reacted to the sculpture as if they were looking at a real person. Some thought it was funny to see what looked like someone standing there with a sheet over their body. I thought that reaction was interesting, because it connects to my original concept of a sculpture that represented a real human beneath the guise of a ghost. I think the posture and placement of the sculpture reinforced the theme of loneliness and isolation.

If I could redo this sculpture project I would spend more time figuring out a way to stand the sculpture up without suspending it with string. I chose the walkway for the economy of moving/placing the sculpture, but if I had the entire campus I might choose an area with even more student traffic, like the area around Rudder or the MSC.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

ARTS 308 - More Project 1 Progress

 Dressing the Body Cast

After stuffing the cast with newspaper, we assembled the sculpture and stuck the feet into the old jeans and boots. At this point the sculpture looked mediocre, but we knew everything but the legs would be covered up in the end anyway.

Applying the Sheet

Using 50 lb fishing line, we suspended the body cast by its belt loops to the ceiling. The sheet is a King-sized sheet folded long-ways. Once draped over the body cast, we arranged the layers of fabric around its head and arms until we got an appealing, life-like pose:


Treating the Sheet

We did the above-mentioned pre-arrangement so that we could plan out how we would drape the body cast with the treated sheet. After all, we would only get one chance. We filled a bucket with a mixture of wood glue, regular Elmer's glue, and water and submerged the sheet. The weight of the soaked sheet caused a few issues with the structure of the body cast, but we were able to secure the sculpture into place with some more fishing wire.

To emphasize the shape of the sculpture's head, we tightened some duct tape around the sculpture's neck. After arranging the folds of the sheet into the shapes we wanted and holding some parts of the sheet together with safety pins, we left the sculpture to dry.

This final process was finished at 12:20 PM yesterday; by about 4:00 PM much of the sheet had dried and stiffened. We will continue to monitor the drying process, possibly re-applying wood glue/water solution to parts that need additional treatment.

The final challenge will be the process of transporting the sculpture outside to the bridge between Langford A and Langford B/C Thursday morning before we install it in its final exhibition space.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

ARTS 308 - Project 1 Progress

Body Cast
The plastic/tape body cast is finished for all intents and purposes; the process only took a couple of hours to complete.

Fabric Stiffening

On Tuesday we tested a mixture of wood glue and water on an old t-shirt; after a few hours the technique didn't seem to work but by today the fabric was nice and stiff; I'm guessing a thinner fabric like a white sheet will do even better.

There is an issue regarding the weight of the wet treated sheet on the body cast; resolving the issue will require either strengthening the body cast or using lighter fabric; probably both.

At this point I think it's obvious we need to stuff the body cast with something like packing paper which is easy enough to find. To stabilize the cast in the exhibition space, we've thought of either using a wooden armature/skeleton to stand the cast up or suspend the sculpture from the ceiling of the bridge between Langford A and Langford B/C discreetly with fishing wire; since the sculpture will wear old heavy work boots the weight of the boots will "settle" the cast to the ground.

As for an alternative to the bedsheet, I've discovered that cheesecloth and bottled fabric stiffener can make striking ghost-like structures:

The result would be a much lighter material with more potential for detail. The cheesecloth process, in the end, could turn out cheaper and easier to manage than using a white sheet.