Monday, 7 October 2013

GAR - Graphic Processes 2013

One of the modules I took this year was entitled Graphic Processes, which I suppose could be described as looking at different processes used for the creation of graphic pieces.  This post will showcase the work I did for the year, starting with the final piece, Enlightenment of the Void, v2:

For 720p & downloads, please head over to Vimeo.

It's a fairly abstract piece based on the theme 'Systems.'  I started looking at existence as a system within the void, and then turned towards a systematic progression through this void.  The 'enlightenment' part came from a sister module, Visual Arts, in which I looked at humankind's own enlightement through their own creation - technology.  I suppose Enlightenment of the Void, v2 is a more natural take on the achievement on enlightenment.

The first scene is a close-up of a particle in the void,which can be identified as being a human soul.  This was created using a nurbs sphere and playing around with the scene's master glow node.  The rim effect was created by attaching a sampler info node's facing ratio output to a ramps shader's V value and connecting the ramp to the objects shader's transparency node.  The central sphere represents the human core; the rim represents the physical human appearance; the wiggle glow represents energy, I suppose.

The second scene was done using an old school (like 10 years ago 'old school') sprite effect that mimics a depth of field effect without having gross render times of having to play with depth maps in post.  Some particle runtime expressions were used to drive an animation that blurs the particle in and out, as well as driving the transparency of the sprite based on its distance from a locator attached to the camera.  I picked up the technique from some old Gnomon Workshop Effects Dynamics DVDs (I think it was Advanced Sprite Rendering?).  The effect really helps create an eery environment of floating souls, appearing nearly microscopic (in comparison to the universe, or the void in its entirety).

The third scene is simply a basic setup using a volume axis field conected to a CV curve, which traps emitted particle within a certain radius and pushes them down the curve.  A very nice method of creating a flowing energy type effect.  The last scene was also a simple setup that caused particles to be emitted from the surface of a female human base mesh.  The particles then get pulled towards a spherical force field placed around the emitting mesh.  I should have added a turbulance field to mix up the particles, but I think the effect turned out to look fairly enlightening, particularly when comparing it with imagery from Hindu and Buddhist origin.

After everything got rendered out I created some music for the scene.  I should seriously start making my music before doing anything in Maya, as I feel the score was a bit too fast paced for the visuals (although this has a bit of sa juxtaposing effect, I guess).  It's sometimes nice to mix fast paced visuals with slow paced music and vice versa, so I suppose it can't be all bad.

I have to wait a week before I can upload the older version of the piece in HD, so this blog will be edited at that time.  But for now:

nethernode, signing off...

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Ping #003


Right, so this blog is basically dead now.  I didn't feed it for four months and it died.  Good news, however, is that the blog--upon its death--moved one step up the ladder of enlightenment and will become one with my upcoming 'folio site.

The move - a frame from one of my storyboards.

More on this later.

nethernode, signing off...

Friday, 5 April 2013


A super quick post - I uploaded a 35 second song I had to make this semester, CyberVoodoo:

It was made using FL Studio 10 and Audition CS5.5.  I'll have a longer version at some point, but for now there's a ton of visual stuff to do.  And eh, yeah, there it is.

Nah, that's too short... here's a song from Arsis' promising 2013 album Unwelcome:

Ah, that looks a bit better.

nethernode, signing off...

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Ping #002

Pong.  Blog is fairly dead... again.  But hey, that's what these pings are for.  I'm busy with some more theory related modules at the moment, so there's not much to show or talk about.  Also doing a ton of Maya and Mudbox studying, as well as some digital drawing/painting practice - but nothing worth showing yet, haha.  I saw the Pendulum post I made is getting quite a lot of hits, but I have a feeling these hits were hoping to find a tutorial, so I'll make one at some point.

Other than that -- and in the spirit of "the city" -- here's an amazing Assembly 64k entry for 2010 by Portal Process, "X Marks The Spot":

Now, what makes this particularly impressive is that the entire thing was made using no more than 64kb of  Assembler code.  For more of these, read the post "How Scary Can An Old-School Programmer Be" by Tyler Durden on the Kaspersky blog.

And, yeah, that's that - for now.

nethernode, signing off...

Sunday, 24 February 2013

CG City Construction Techniques

It's been some time since I made a post - busy busy busy.  Anyhow, the submissions for the first phase of the year are now over, and here's what I have thus far:

For 720p & downloads, please head over to Vimeo.

It doesn't look like much at the moment, but a lot of time went into researching cities and finding techniques to build a city.  Of all the techniques explored, I found that simple straightforward poly-modelling will be best for the detailed bits, whilst I'll be using Maya Paint Effects for random placement of building.  Apparently you can also generate random placement of building with nParticles, but I have yet to explore this.

As seen in the above video, I decided on going for a 3-building look for the city, thus having most of the buildings gradually get taller towards the city centre where three giants stand.  In a way, the three buildings represent a podium, and thus also the meritocratic culture of this particular city (and most other cities I guess?).

The initial development phase consisted of a very rough montage that I created by layering and masking cityscape photos in Photoshop.  I then traced a path along the rim of the newly created cityscape, which I used to create a silhouette in order to get a stronger idea of how the city will read.  Finally, I did a rough outline of the buildings for a more concrete illustration of the city.  Here are the three steps:

City Montage

City Silhouette

City Outlines

Onwards to 3D, the first technique I tried was to use a satellite image of New York as a stencil and sculpt the city on a high resolution poly plane in Mudbox.  Didn't quite turn out too well for my current purposes, but I might dive into this one again at some point for super-distant shots (planetary shots, perhaps):

The Stencil Tecnnique: New York

The Stencil Technique - Close-up

Next, I turned to Maya and Photoshop.  I made a random pattern in Photoshop which I converted into a work path.  I then imported the work path as curves into Maya, made some nurbs planes, converted them to poly planes and extruded them to different heights.  It worked fine, but I think some more time needs to go into the initial pattern creation:

The Photoshop Pattern

The Extruded City

Then I gave Maya Paint Effects a go.  I'll definitely be using this technique - just need to model my own buildings and I'll be good to go:

Maya Paint Effects - City Mesh Brush

The final technique I used was the standard poly modelling approach, and since I kept it really simplistic for now (pure poly cubes mostly), it gave me some time to work a bit on rendering techniques.  I applied a sky shader and used a nifty little trick using final gathering maps that took rendering time down from roughly one minute to about 15 seconds (though it did cause some artifacts on the far right building):

Sky Shader (Global Illumination)

All it needs is more buildings... matte time?

And that's that for now.  Next I'll be diving into some architecture research before I start creating more unique buildings in Maya.  But before I go, two things I want to mention:

One: A huge help in discovering techniques for building a city came from a Gnomon Workshop DVD entitled Digital Sets 1: Design, Modeling & Camera - Urban Environments with Eric Hanson.  It's really good and I'll be using it tons for the rest of the year.

Two: Here's a CG short that proves you don't always need an entire studio to do something big (like building a CG city) and serves as a massive piece of inspiration.  R'ha by Kaleb Lechowski:

nethernode, signing off...

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Talis Public Poster

Right, so one of my modules this year will be Graphic Processes.  The first assignment for the module deals with Art & Text, so I decided to look into typography.  The eventual idea was to create a type of futuristic information board for a city called Talis.  The board is essentially more like a mechanical poster with screens and stuff.  Initially, I wanted more graphic elements, so I also had a look at some futurism artwork, seeing that the whole idea is based on a type of technological utopia.  I also had a look at some World War I & II propaganda posters, as utopian ideals can often be enforced through propaganda.  Anyhow, this is what I ended up with:

For 720p & downloads, please head over to Vimeo.

Because it's a portrait poster, a lot of detail is lost in the video, but you can get an idea of how the different text animations work as a whole. For more detail, here's a higher quality still:

Talis Public Poster

The text was created in Photoshop, where I added some effects like stroke for the bottom public section and outer glow for all the sections' text to create an illuminated appearance.  For some reason the outer glow setting for the bottom Japanese & English notification text went haywire, and I couldn't figure out why.  Anyhow, the text was then animated in After Effects.  After the animation phase, I sent a still from After Effects to Maya as reference for modelling a polygon frame.  Once the frame was completed I exported it back into After Effects for the final scan line screen effect and the labels on the frame.

For two of the fonts (Media & labels) I went to for some free fonts, the rest were all based on more specific fonts that I actually wanted to use - some imitations, some original.  The original typefaces are Futura (Health) and Kozuka Gothic Pro (Public Opinion).  The Talis Gov. font is an imitation of New Alphabet by Wim Crouwel (1967) and the Tech&Mech font is based on Carla Bombere Warde's Bombere (1973).

Crouwel's New Alphabet.

Some of the actual messages aren't too clear, but they read:

Talis Gov.:
  • Say no to naturalism
  • Trust in Talis
  • Read your manual
  • Update 29.371_#5c//113 released
  • The war machine needs your outdated civilmech
  • Our soldiers need technicians, our soldiers need you
Public Opinion:
  • Japanese: 故障中 このサービスは一時的にご利用いただけません。
  • English: Out of order. This service is temporarily out of order.

Regarding the After Effects animation, I used the offset effect for the continuous scrolling for the Talis Gov. and Tech&Mech sections; I adjusted and manually keyframed the opacity settings before adding a loop for the Health section's three ALERTs; the Media area was just good ol' manual keyframing and looping.  The 3D rotation for the Public Opinion section was supposed to be done in Maya, but I had loads of issues with texturing, so I ended up doing it in After Effects by activating the 3D layer option and simply rotating around the Y-axis and hopping between opacity on & off to swith between the two languages.  I'm not too much of an After Effects user, and I plan on mainly using it for compositing eventually, thus whenever I try to do stuff in After Effects I always find myself running to CreativeCOW - it's a brilliant site for all things VFX.  Just wish I can get Maya sorted already.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I'm having a hard time with all things related to Maya texturing at the moment, so I'm spending a bit of time on that now.  I know I'm planning on doing animation, but at the same time I feel that Maya is such an amazing tool, and I should simply push through and learn as much as possible if I'm to become a worthy animated filmmaker one day.  Back on topic, the modelling went alright, and initially I started to texture the frame, but then I discovered mental ray can't render PSD texture files directly - they need to be placed in a PSD node blah-blah-blah.  I haven't touched render nodes & the hypershade all that much and was running out of time, so I decided to simply add a Phong material and render the thing as some super cheesy CG metal frame. Come to think of it now, why the hell did I use Phong and not Blinn? Guess it was late at night or something...

And I guess that's about it for this post.  I'm currently working on my starting project for Visual Arts, which is the initial design of the city I'm trying to create... will have something about that in a week or two.

Small thought for today: when typing public, type public; when typing public, don't type pubic.

nethernode, signing off...

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Ping #001

Pong.  Haven't updated the blog for nearly three weeks now, so I thought I'd just give an update to stay in habit.  Studies are going full steam for 2013, but because everything is still in its initial "dirty" phase, there's not much to show.  I might have something up by next week though.

Overview of the year to come:  aside from dreaded art history essays and some communication studies, the 2013 practical year modules seem like they could be a lot of fun.  I guess you could expect a lot of stuff with a strong cyberpunk essence and some screwing around with utopian/dystopian concepts (mostly around the notion of humankind's future and its habitat... if you can call it that).  I also have a digital music-making module this semester, so I'll be diving into MIDI and Adobe Audition quite a bit for the next six months or so.

I made a song the other day whilst playing around with LMMS and Audition. The main instrument was done with a plugin called DVS Megabass, and the additional music box instrument was done with DSK's Music Box plugin:

I'm actually more of a metalhead, but I'm really enjoying the whole electronic music-making process, so I might be doing this every now and then.

As for Maya, after having a lot of trouble with texture mapping, I decided to spend more time on just the animation phase. I can model and make a basic skinned puppet rig by now, so at least I can make some personal rigs for animation, but I want to push anything else aside for now. Maya is really a huge program and it's going to take quite some time to get to know it well from the initial model through to the final render, so for employment purposes it might be better to focus only on animating for now.

Bouncy ball exercise from How To Cheat In Maya 2012.

Lastly, I'm going to spend some more time on digital painting and sketching as well - simply because it's awesome.  Well, and because it helps to visualise projects... but mostly because it's awesome.

And I guess that's more or less all for now.

nethernode, signing off...