Franssiss – Sunday Short #9

Here’s a cute camera tracking experiment with Blender, directed by Mathieu Auvray. All done in Blender, except for the compositing which was done in After Effects. This is a perfect example of how far on Blender has come in the past couple of years as a stronger production tool.

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Sally character – wip 2

Here’s the latest mesh of Sally, co-star of our 3d short, iRover. I think this is pretty much the finished mesh now. I still have some tweaks to add in a few folds to her clothes, and I need to work some more on her textures, like her eyelashes, eyebrows and hair. I’ve decided not to use particle hair in this, I still haven’t quite got the hang of it, so I’m sticking to poly hair for now. She’ll also need a couple of wardrobe changes throughout which I’ll work on later. But this will be enough for now to work on a rig. I did some mild tweaking to her face and head, my previous version seemed a little too young in my opinion, you can see the comparison in the pic below. I think you’ll agree she looks a lot more natural.

Tears of Steel – Sunday Short #6

This week saw the release of the 4th short film from the Blender Foundation called ‘Tears of Steel’. Traditionally these shorts test out and implement any new features that have been in the pipeline for latest versions of Blender.

This time round, we see a slight change to the style of the short. The first three films were all exclusively 3d animation, but with Tears of Steel the focus is on visual effects. In the later versions of Blender, the Foundation has been gradually working on some major new features, most notably the 3d camera tracking system. Along with the various node and compositor improvements, the purpose of this short was to try out the with visual effects enhancements.

Although the film has generally received favourably, it has been slightly slated for not having much of a storyline compared to the previous shorts. The acting is slightly hammy in some places, but the music is beautifully produced. As a demonstration of Blender’s current abilities though, it’s a great showcase. In the short time that the small team had to produce the Mango Project, its working title, visually looks great and they’ve managed to cram a great deal of concept into the 12 minutes. Although Sintel stands as the more inspirational of the four films, because of its combination of great design and storytelling, Tears of Steel still manages to create a feeling of pride amongst the Blenderhead community.

As a bonus here are the links to the other three films, have your own little Blender film festival and enjoy!

Elephants Dream

Big Buck Bunny

Sintel

Improve Your Home Commercial

Here’s a commercial I produced last year for a local DIY event, based on a concept and storyboard by Stephen McCreight over at GraphicsGarage. The tape measure was built and rendered in Blender 2.5. The logo was comped and the commercial was finished in After Effects. I still know After Effects too well to be finishing commercials in Blender. I’ll maybe get to the stage where I’ll become proficient enough with the video sequencer and nodes, but in the meantime, I’ve been using After Effects for about 15 years now so I’m way more confident with it.
It was quite tricky to get the animated shape of the tape measure. From what I can remember I modelled a straight length of the tape then used a curve modifier on it. I then used the Rotobezier plugin to animate the curve into the shapes of the house and the pound signs, while the mesh moved along the length of the curve. It was pretty fiddly in places, the transition of the curve from shape to shape almost had to be keyframed every frame to make it move the way I wanted it to. But once I got the hang of the Rotobezier it got a little easier.

iRover in the garden

I came out to the back garden yesterday and found this lovable guy playing on the patio!

Another test for Blender using the camera tracking feature. I’m still practicing with this quite a bit, and trying to check out its capabilities since I still get quite excited by the results. Considering this was footage just shoot on my iPhone 4s it turned out pretty good. Blender currently only has camera presets for the top end cameras, so finding sensor sizes and focal lengths for the iPhone on the net can be tricky. However, I found a post over in Blenderartists where Malcando has been collecting settings which seems to have worked perfectly.

I took the opportunity to test out my iRover rig too. It was a productive experience since I’ve discovered a few things that need sorted out before I use him again, particularly his feet. They need some tweaking since they don’t seem to rotate around the z axis without twisting. I had also previously added IK/FK switches too, but I don’t think he’s going to need any FK control for his feet. I may simplify the rig and remove the FK controls. I also need to add in some custom control bones to make the rig easier to pose. And I still have to work on his textures, particularly his eyes, which I intend to have as a digital style display.

Passive

Here’s another motion track using Blender 2.62. I thought I would try something a bit more static to test a better example of how well the object is moving with the camera. Another little lesson learnt with this one, I managed to figure out how to pull out a reflection pass to add to the comp. These tracking experiments are as much an experiment in use of Blenders’ node system as they are in testing out the tracking. Of course, I couldn’t just have a completely static object, so I had to throw a little bit of character animation in there as well!

Dragon’s First Flight

This is the first relatively successful track I’ve managed to create with the new motion tracking features in Blender 2.62. I wasn’t really concentrating on the animation too much, I just gave the little dragon guy a bit of life to see how well he would sit among some live footage. I’m still trying to get the hang of it, I haven’t done much 3d motion tracking in the past (plenty of 2d though). This footage I just shot on my iPhone at my desk, so the compression and motion blur on clip isn’t overly conducive to tracking but with a bit of fiddling and tweaking by hand I eventually got a decent timeline. I had downloaded various clips from the internet, if you do a search for ‘free tracking clips’ you’ll find a few places to download them from, but I was having trying to find sensor sizes and focal length for these particular clips. I then decided to shoot some footage with my phone since I already knew these details and finally got this result. It’s far from perfect but it’s a good start with a Blender feature which I can see fast becoming a powerful tool in my arsenal of vfx tools.

Blowing Flowers

I’ve been experimenting with the Cloth Modifier and the Wind Force Field this week. A client wanted a spring season feel to their logo, so I decided to play with part of their logo which is in the shape of a flower and try to blow it across the screen with a few others before it settles in place. I found the perfect tutorial on Vimeo by the ever faithful CG Cookie, so thanks to them for helping out once again.
It took a while to play around with the force fields and get the results I wanted. The flower was set up by creating a plane and subdividing it a few times, then applying the flower as a png texture with an alpha channel. The flower was duplicated, repositioned and scaled a few times. One big thing I’ve learned is that both the cloth modifier and the force field seem to rely a lot on the global scale of the scene, in the same way that lights also seem to be related, so I had to adjust the cloth settings on the smaller flowers differently from the larger ones. It’s something I’m going to have to play around with and try to get used to building models the correct size. A simple plane was set up as a floor for collision and shadow catching. Here are a few of the experiments, and the final result.

Sally – wip mesh

This is Sally, she will be the other star of the iRover short, in other words iRover’s owner. I built her head over the past couple of weeks and her body was adapted from the Pepper model I built a while back. I was never happy with Pepper’s head, the topology was very messy and didn’t animate very well. Here’s my initial sketch of her, I did play around with her proportions quite a bit.

So I did a bit of searching and found a few good professional workthroughs on youtube that helped me sort the head topology out. So a quick thank you to Angela Guenette of Ponder Studios for her ‘Sintel’ making of videos:

And also a thank you to Glen Southern over on 3D World’s youtube channel for his 14 episode topology workthrough. Be warned his whole tutorial is around 2 hours long.

After studying these videos for a bit, I started building Sally’s head and got a better feel for the flow of the curves, it’s looks and feels a lot better now, and I’m 100% confidence that it will animate a lot better.

Apartment mockup

I haven’t had much time for posting recently, but I have been doing a few bits and pieces here and there. I’ve finally moved up to Blender 2.59, and looking forward to some of the integration from the GSOC developments, particularly the tracking feature. We’re all gonna have a lot of fun with that, tracking robots into our backyards, etc!
In the meantime, I’ve been trying to plan out a set for a short animation of a script written by Craig Smith over at Motion Comics. It’s been in development for what seems like forever, simply because I can only get working on it between work. More on all that later. I’ve so far been trying to build an interior to get an idea of how things will act out, and roughed in some furniture. I’ve also put some figures in there to get an idea of scale. I had originally built it as an apartment, but I think it’s going to end up being a house, therefore I’ll be losing the bedroom. Still a lot of work to be done with it, but it’s a start, and it’s the first time I’ve ever built a proper interior set before.