Monday, 29 November 2010

Depth of Field study

During the last few weeks i have been borrowing the canon 30D from the university loans to conduct different photography projects so i can apply what i learn to the camera within Maya, a 3D graphics software package. The following study is on the depth of field. Before starting this project i didnt know what aperture or F-stops ment, which are all terms used within the camera in Maya as well as for photography of live-action films. Something as simple as depth of field or a lens flare can trick the eye into adding alot more life to a 3D environment or animation.

During this study i learned how to adjust the shutter speeds, aperture and iso (light sensitivity) to capture the desired shot. I then went into Maya to replicate the same shot. In this case a shallow depth of field.

 The image to the left was created by zooming out and moving in close to objects. Focused in on object in front. The shutter speed at 200 and F-stop down to 5.6 (lower F-stop focuses out more of the foreground and background and the aperture is controlled by these F-stops). The iso is turned down to 800 as the shots were taken early in the morning with lots of sunlight.
The image to the right uses the same attributes as the image above except the focus in on the object in the back.

 I then replicated the same effect within Maya. Once a camera is set up in Maya you can access it's attribute editor. Half way down the list is a section called depth of field. Once this is activated the options are Focus distance, F-stop and Focus region scale. For the image to the left i applied a Focus distance of 12.3, F-stop of 5.6 (same as above) and Focus region scale i left at 1.

The image to the right had the same attributes as the image above except i changed the F-stop to 25. This gives a more subtle shallow depth of field because the F-stop is up a lot higher.

This shows the same results come from the Maya camera by changing aperture as from the digital camera but they use different techniques to capture the same effect. The break down of the Maya camera functions is that the Focus distance allows to choose which object in your scene to focus on, the Focus region scale allows you to choose the distance that focus will travel and the F-stop controls how blurred the out of focus objects become. Also its important to mention that if objects are rendered out separately through render passes from Maya that effects such as depth of  field can be added in during the composting stage using software like After Effects or Nuke. This is usually the preferred way to apply these effects in a professional production pipe line. This means effects can be played with afterwards without having to render out scenes again which can be time consuming.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Programme of study progress

Research Poster

I began this course wanting to explore the potential of 3D animation as an art form and developed into how to create a particular mood or atmosphere through the design of an environment using 3D graphics. I quickly learned that lighting and colours played as an important row as well as the actually modeling and texturing of an given world created using 3D graphics. I began to break down the different elements that i could study and bring together to apply to my final project. In this case will be a 3D animation, although could have also been the development of an environment for a computer game.

As i explained in a previous post understanding the elements that make up cinematography are fundamental to my programme of study. That is learning how to use light, colour and camera movement to set up my scene. I began with photography projects concentrating on depth of field and framing. This was mainly to get a better understanding of how to use aperture and shutter speeds. The same elements are used to control a camera with a 3D software package such as Maya. This lead to me looking into artists like Gregory Crewdson for his amazing ability to tell a story through lighting. I have been reading into some books on cinematography in live-action film making and 3D animation and contrasting the two. However it is important to actually be on set to help out on a live-action film so i have made contact with a local cinematographer. I am hoping i'll get to help him out on one of his film projects by next semester.

Concept Work-
Before i begin work on creating an environment i need to start drawing up concept work. This can be a blueprint used in 3D space or just as a guide. Personally i refer to use the concept as a guide which allows design to be developed during the modeling process as well. I have begun some sketch work but only some ideas to play around with rather than towards a final project. I find Syd Mead's work interesting from a creative point of view but also the mathematical structure. A story from the final animation is still in progress but once it is finalised i can begin to question how the environment should look.

3D graphics-
Since starting the course i have completed a tutorial on designing a beetle using only Nurbs and i finished modeling and uv mapping a cryolab. I still have to finish texturing and lighting which will be completed over the Christmas break. I have begun to work on my own environments taking the knowledge from the tutorials as well as testing out some new techniques. I will be posting up my own work in the next week. I have also began work on blocking a house for a forthcoming arts council project.

Final Project-
A three minute short 3D animation working in collaboration with other students. I have been working with Adam to develop a story but is still a work in progress. The story wont be finished till sometime during the Christmas holidays. Then work will begin on concept work, story boarding and blocking out a 3D animatic which is planned to be completed by the first week back to semester one.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Inspiring Works - Syd Mead

Design for 3-dimensional website intro
I recently discovered the works of Syd Mead, two of his books Sentury and Oblagon were recommended to me by Adam. Syd Mead is artist/designer most known for his futuristic designs in movies like Blade runner, Aliens, and Tron. Through his career he has worked with many different industries from designing cars for Ford to Donald Trump's yacht.

Born in Sydney in 1933, at the age of only four Syd Mead was already drawing complete scenes and by the time he started grade school was already showing a sensitivity to perspective.

Each time i look through his work i seem to always find something new and interesting. The perspective and shapes within his deigns are always beautifully illustrated as well as mathematically precise.

He brings both an imaginative and intelligent methodology to each piece of work whether its the design of a product to building a futuristic world. Im hoping that the more i study his works that maybe ill begin to properly understand this methodology so i can apply it to my own work.

Street scene - Blade Runner
Future earth scene - Battle Crusier (anime)

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Context review 17/11/10 - Replay

Replay is a project film developed by four french students, Zakaria Boumediane, Camille Delmeule, Anthony Voisin and Felicite Zulma. It tells a sad story about Lana and her younger brother Theo who are forced to live down in a bunker. A disaster of some sort has happened to the world and the air is now unbreathable. Lana brings home a recorder she found while out on a salvage. We follow the story through Theo as he adventures into the waste land. The sounds reminding him of the life that was taken away from him.

The first scene shows a harsh dangerous environment as Lana battles the on coming wind and sand to reach the front door of the bunker. The gas mask and sound of her heavy breathing adds to the atmosphere. The mood changes as Lana shuts the door of the bunker behind her and the red light turns to green. The audience can relax, she is now safe. The bunker conveys both a mood of somewhere safe but also of been trapped. This is seen through Theo as his sister wont let him leave the safety of the bunker. There is a feeling of loneliness and isolation as Theo walks through the empty ruin down streets while listening to the recording from when there was once alive, the life he can no longer experience. The mood picks up pace as we have the Lana searching for Theo scene running parallel to the horror of Theo removing his mask. An anxious feeling as the audience watches an uncertain outcome. The ending has an interesting mix of emotion. Theo finally gets the life that this disaster has taken from him. On the other side we see the reality of Lana finding her brother and only companion lying dead on the playground.

A beautiful piece of music accompanies the animation, enhancing the sense of isolation felt by an innocent young boy who more than anything wants his old life back. This animation is the closet of the other context reviews to what i am studying. The feeling of safety within the small area of the bunker versus the vast landscape of a baron world.

Replay from Roger Foxtrot on Vimeo.

Concept work

Top View
Wall Detail
Door and Power Source detail

These are just some ideas ive been sketching out, taking inspiration from works i have been researching. I have begun blocking out the top view in Maya to just get started modeling my own work in 3D but all these ideas above will have changed in the next week or two. This is just a starting point. Alot more concept sketches need to be done before i begin to develop a style. Once a story/storyboard has been finalised i can begin questioning what elements within this world would have an effect on the architectural design.

Inspiring Works - Metroid Prime

The next step after working on the cryolab tutorial is to apply these newly learned skills to my own work. Adam and myself are in the process of developing a story. In the meantime i started researching into alien interiors and snow landscapes. At the moment these are the environments the story will be taking place in, however could change in the future.

When trying to recall different sci-fi/alien environments and architecture that impressed me i thought of films like Outland and Alien. Then i suddenly remembered a game i played years ago called Metroid Prime and how immersed i was in this beautifully created environments. Everything in the room around you seemed to serve a purpose (pipes and wires for alien technology) but also had a very clear design. This was very different to the traditional sci-fi design i was used to of random buttons and pipes handing all over the place. The use of lighting is also very interesting, use of warmer colours. This lead me to draw similarities to the film cube and the amazing architectural design the story took place in.

Designing an alien environment gives alot of freedom to the creator. I want to create a world that no one has seen before, mixing both alien technology with experimental design patterns and materials. Researching these different architectural environments triggered an idea id like to apply to the final project animation. The protagonist starts off in a small confined room with warm colours and as he makes his way to the outside, the snow landscape, the rooms will be getting bigger and the colours colder. This will hopefully allow the audience to feel more of what the protagonist is going through. The final room will be huge with a concrete like material. I pictured large columns and beams like in modernist architecture today.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Context review 10/11/10 - Sintel

Sintel is the latest CG project from the Blender Foundation. The Blender foundation is a non-project organisation that funds projects exclusively using Blender, a free-source 3D software package. As well as creating an amazing animation the project is also used to test and improve the blender software. The story is about our protagonist, Sintel, who finally finds companionship to have it taken away from her. She sets out on a mission that turns out to be an obsession and in the end leads to her killing the one she loved so dear.

This film is beautifully animated, but it is not without its flaws. During production, for the first while there was only one animator. This is why some of the moment in the first town scene looks unnatural. There seems to be a lack of a sense of gravity when Sintel is moving the piece of wood and then when she jumps up to the roof. After analysing the movement there doesn't seem to be enough squash and stretch in the character. Saying that, the animation of Sintel running up the temple is beautifully done. You can see there was a transition, this is where the extra animators started work on the project. The facial animation of both Sintel and Scales work really well together. Expressing the feeling for each other without the need for any dialog. Sintel's body language was consistent through out of sensitive, innocent girl just looking for companionship. In the raining scene you could almost feel the force of the rain from the body and facial animation of Sintel reacting to it.

A beautiful crafted animation with a story that flows really well from scene to scene. This context review was a look into the animation but i was also amazed by the beautifully modeled and textured scenery and the lighting that brought it to life.

Sintel from BULGARI on Vimeo.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Importance of traditional film-making to 3D animation

One of the most important finds i made this semester is that if i want to create a 3D environment using light, colour and movement as a tool i need to understand cinematography used in live-action film making. When we create a scene in maya, bringing it right down to its core, we're dealing with just numbers. Its the techniques learned from traditional film making that can bring these numbers to life.

It was an interview with Micheal Chapman (cinematographer for Taxi Driver) that open my eyes to this. He works from more of a technical approach and every so often the art slips between the cracks. This got me thinking about the great scenes that can be created by randomness of the moment or even been on a budget. When working in 3D there is no randomness, everything is as you want it by the number. There is no lack of budget, you don't have to pay technicians if you want that crazy swooping or spinning shot. This is just a theory thats going through my head at the moment. Id like to find a way to find that randomness and replicate it in a 3D scene/animation.

I find it kinda interesting how live-action films usually try to get everything right where as 3d animations replicate these faults to look more real. That's why you see a lot of lens flares in big production 3D animations.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Gregory Crewdson

As part of my study ive been looking into photography to learn more about lens, like aperture and focus. Animating the depth of field is a great way to take the flatness out of a scene within Maya. Ive also been looking into various artist and one to catch my attention is Gregory Crewdson. Ive been looking through his work in a book of his called Twilight. His images seem to all be of a day to day suburban American life but lit up to tell another more sinister story. The lighting feels like something you'd see in a horror movie. The imagery is very cinematic and dream like. The photos of course are all staged and he has a large crew to help set up.

There are a few pages of text as an intro to the Twilight book by Rick Moody. What i found interesting was in the text he talks about Gregory Crewdson's childhood. His father was a psychologist who used to bring his sessions home and Gregory would over hear them. Would be interesting to know how much of that could have influenced his dream like imagery.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Context review 03/11/10 - Left 4 dead intro/trailer

The story is very clear from start to end, exploring the zombie movie genre such as 'Dawn of the Dead' or '28 weeks Later'. You and your team have been left behind in a zombie infected city and your objective is to get out to safety.

The characters types are all clearly established zombie movie cliches from the tough biker to the army veteran. The facial animation is slightly over-exaggerated which makes characters clear and avoids the uncanny valley effect.

The pacing is similar to the game play in that it goes from calm to barely surviving with hordes of zombies after you to back to calm. The storyboard of the intro/trailer cinematic is built around the idea of preparing the player mentally for the different types of game play mechanics involved, another words creating a tutorial as well. Examples of this would be not shining a torch at a witch or setting off car alarms. During the movie the characters have to save each other a couple of times, this is an important element to simulating the movie genre experience. Team work is key, it is not till you play this game on co-op with your friends that it really comes alive. The group dramatics, specially with audio communication, become very similar to the group dynamics in classic zombie movies.

The transition from the movie into the game is very clear. The camera pans away from the team on a roof top and they are safe. Even though you start the game in a safe location the movie has communicated that once you leave the rooftop you will more than likely encounter alot of zombies very soon.

The game cinematic works on many different levels as the story acts as a game intro, trailer and tutorial. It sets the player up for what type of gameplay is expected as well as clearly establishing the characters. It has a refreshing style of tutorial that entertains as well as giving the information needed. The intro movie is a zombie movie genre chiche in every way and does it better than any other game has before.

Left 4 Dead - Intro - HD from Edsta713 on Vimeo.

Friday, 5 November 2010


This is part of a space station i just finished modeling using a tutorial from Digital Tutors. The tutorial continues with setting up the UVs, texturing, lighting and rendering. Point of this tutorial is to help me learn different techniques for building environments in upcoming projects.