13 December 2012

Houston We Have A Problem.....

After putting some ridges on the top surface and some lights around the edge, I figured it was time for a flight test.......

This is a really quick test clip to see how the UFO looks as it starts it's engines, retracts it's legs and takes off. There are some elements of the idea that I like, particularly the acceleration of rotation and the weight of the ufo as the legs are retracted, and others that I really dislike including the very quick take off.... it seemed like a good idea at the time but next time I think I'll try something a little more steady.

This really demonstrates the importance of testing concept.... an idea can seem great but when it is put into practice it might suck!

12 December 2012

Retro Saucer

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted the little alien guy here and I figured it was high time that I put something new up here, so here's something I made yesterday to help the little alien zip around the universe.......

It's a very simple model again, this time taking design notes from the 1956 classic "Earth Vs the Flying Saucers"..... view the trailer for the VFX spectacular HERE. The hydraulics in the legs and the feet are all independently poseable, the upper side can be rotated and the door on the underside can open and close.

There's still work to be done on the model before I can say it's complete including some kind of crazy death ray being fixed to the underside door and some detailing needs to be applied to the upper surface to demonstrate the rotation. It shouldn't take too long and I'll post up the finished model when it's done.

3 December 2012

Little Green Man

I made this little guy for my students to use in the VFX module that they are about to begin. He's a simple rigged character with a few blendshapes for expression and correction.... the basics are there for the students to expand from.

My students are already aware of and understand the rigging techniques required to create a simple character like this so hopefully, after a couple of sessions, the power of blendshapes will also become clear to them.

25 November 2012

Flying For The First time

I know, it's been a while since my last post but it's been busy times, Bradford Animation Festival and graduating students amongst other things have kept me away from personal projects but I managed to spend a couple of hours on the BumbleBus yesterday and have made a test render clip.....

In the clip I'm testing a couple of processes...

1: Using tracked video footage to control the virtual camera. While I have used camera tracking many times in the past I have always used it in order to create a composite shot with the original footage, in this case I wondered how effective it would be to just use the motion in a completely CG environment, the backplate is the HDR image that I have used to light the environment. I like the effect and will certainly pursue it further.

2: Depth of Field. I made a simple rig for the camera using the measure tool and the MR Physical DOF lens so that I can easily control the focal point of my camera. The focal distance in this clip is constant but I intend to experiment with a non fixed position in future.

3: Motion blur. various elements of the BumbleBus have been rendered on separate layers in order to apply motion blur to some and not to others. A black hole shader was used to create a mask for the wings.

As this is just a test I have used a simple motion path and, apart from the wings, I haven't yet applied any other animation to the model.

12 November 2012

Shadow & Light Re-Dub

This is a re-post, of sorts, of my Shadow & Light video but with a with a new audio track made by Vimeo user Oliver White.

I really like what Oliver has done, it's certainly less chaotic than my attempt at a soundscape..... I'll stick to the visuals in future!! 

8 November 2012

Shiny Shiny

I was having a play with the MentalRay DGS shader for the outer skin of my BumbleBus, remember it's inspired by the old Airstream caravans so chrome is the flavour we're looking for here.

I know, there's still modelling to do but hey, the outside's done so let's celebrate with a shiny render, it was also an opportunity to quickly demonstrate the physical DOF lens to one of my students.

I'm rather pleased with the way it's turned out, very much like how I originally imagined it to be....

Time to get on with the interior now I guess!

7 November 2012

You Spin Me Right Round....

I've been away for a few days so have had no opportunity to make progress on the BumbleBus until I sat down yesterday evening and hit a bit of a landmark in the construction of the model.....

The exterior modelling is complete..... I know right excellent news. People everywhere are talking about the US election results but that news pales in significance to the fact that I need not place another rivet on this models exterior!

Here's a turntable of the vehicle that illustrates the action of the doors and the steps.

I'm pretty pleased with how this has turned out, it's pretty faithful to my original sketch which is always good, and there's really only the cockpit left to model before I can move onto texturing it, exciting times.

28 October 2012

Riveting Stuff.....

So, here's an update on my BumbleBus.

As I mentioned in a previous post I've based some of the styling of the BumbleBus on an Airstream caravan, those classic chrome trailers you see in the movies, and I've spent a bit of time this weekend detailing the exterior of the BumbleBus to resemble the panels and rivets of the Airstream.

It's not quite done yet but I figured a blog post was overdue!!

Each panel has been broken and overlapped along the lines of rivets (the white dots) which, even though they were created automatically along a path, have had to be moved individually into position.

Obviously I was able to duplicate from left to right but that's not the point... I've moved freakin' hundreds of rivets and believe, that over the course of the process, I may have lost a certain degree of my already tenuous sanity!!!!

Only kidding, I love rivets!

Ha.. haha.... hahahaha!!


22 October 2012

A Bit of Progress......

So I had a hideous morning at the dentist today and have spent the afternoon trying, through the pain, to relax into a bit of modelling and make some progress on my BumbleBus vehicle.

Since the other day there are now pistons on the doors and some steps to the cabin door, these have been automated and attached to controllers through set driven keys. I know it's a bit of a small imall image but hopefully you get the idea.

Here's a close up of the steps and the part of the storage door piston. I've tried to apply a touch of Art Deco to the steps in their styling but have kept the piston fairly utilitarian.

This shot is really to demonstrate the pistons on the cabin door, a bit of the interior is also visible.

A closer view from the exterior to the interior highlights some of the detail on the model. In keeping with the Deco styling the chair that I have built for the BumbleBus is a Kem Weber classic spring chair. I like the design and it's styling is reminiscent of the seating in older public transport with it's chrome tubes and leatherete cushions.

I have also made a luggage rack to further illustrate that this is a local transport type vehicle, the design is based on that of a railway luggage rack from the 1930s.

I'm making good progress with this model and hope to have it completed in the very near future.

19 October 2012

The BumbleBus

So, no posts for a couple of weeks.... it's been busy times at Polygon Soup towers.

What am I doing to aleviate this dorught of creative output then..... Well, I've started a new mini modelling project that I've christened "The BumbleBus"! I know, awesome name eh!

To put it as simply as possible, this is a transport vehicle, like a bus that flies, who's design is based upon... that's right, you guessed it.... A bumble bee, the good old Bombini Bombus.

My thinking took me along the lines of those silver Airstream caravans crossed with a Devon split VW camper, a sprinkling of steam punk and a dash of Art-Deco.

Here's what I haeve so far....

The external of the craft, barring some detail and the workings of the flapping engine, is pretty much complete and the inside compartments have been constructed but are yet to be populated.

I'm undecided as to whether the vehicle will have a pilot and passengers as this was just going to be a hard surface modelling exercise but I think that there is potential to create a really nice scene using this model..... I think I'll just play it by ear.

Anyway, that's what I'm up to at the moment and I'll do my ut-most to keep this project alive until it's completion.

3 October 2012

Shadow & Light

I made this short for Leeds Light Night 2012, my recent research and investigation into particle simulation using motion capture, Realflow and Maya were fully utilised in it's creation. The festival version of the clip was created to be played in a loop and had no title or audio.

23 September 2012


Just a quick addition to my previous post in which I have now meshed the particle simulation and rendered the sequence with a dielectric material in Mentalray.

Enjoy :)


Here's another development test, this time using a mo-cap file as the source of motion. My computer is a little long in the tooth and was having difficulty processing any more than about 30000 particles on this one so, to get the most out of my processer during simulation, I ran 3 passes and by making small adjustments to the particle and geometry interaction attributes managed to create something much more detailed than would have otherwise been possible.

Because each particle simulation is cached separately there is the issue that they don't interact with one another but this is a small price to pay to be able to run a few hundred thousand particles in a clip instead of a number in the tens of thousands.

12 September 2012

Melt City

This is a more refined melt created using the same method as the particle splat video but with a little more consideration over the melt control and a mesh rather than naked particles.

I'm still not 100% happy with the look of this but I'm learning more about the workflow between Maya and Realflow and am confident that I will be able to improve the effect with a little further experimentation.

9 September 2012

Particle Splat

A proof of concept, I made this to develop my understanding of the ways in which animated objects might be conrolled to collapse over time. in order to save time only 50000 particles were used in this simulation. The process is sound and in future I will up the count and mesh the particles or use instanced geometry in the render rather than blobby particles.

The clip demonstrates an exponential decrease in the stability of the particle object until complete structural failiure, carefully controlling the rate of failiure should provide various effects like melting or disintegration.

18 August 2012

Shatter & Transform

I had an idea to have an object shatter and then transform, this is the proof of that concept. Basically the DMM object is a goal for the nParticles which are then released at a suitable point after the shatter to make the effect aesthetically pleasing.

For an early test, I'm pretty pleased with the outcome and I plan to develop this further, substituting the particles with instanced animations.

13 August 2012

For Ducks Sake

I've been sorting out the animation module for the new students who are starting in September and thought that it would be a good idea to follow the brief myself before forcing it upon them when they start.

In creating this I've only used modelling, animation and rendering methods which I believe that an inexperienced student should be able to manage as they progress through the module. The whole project (idea generation, storyboard, animatic, modelling, texturing, rendering, post and audio) took approximately eleven hours for me to complete, hopefully nine weeks will be adequate for the students.

I think that I need to brush up on my audio editing skills.... someting to consider for the future!

3 August 2012

Getting into the Swing....

Recently, I've been focussing much of my attention on developing my understanding of various methods of simulation and as such it's been a good while since I did any actual animation.... I thought I'd spend this morning refreshing my skills.

I used the key poses from a Digital Tutors guide as a time saving device as this was a technical exercise  to ensure my understanding of process within Maya and of keyframe timing, not a test of my pre-production and observation skills.

I"m pretty pleased with the result considering the limited time that I gave myself to complete the exercise and I will certainly be making more stuff move in future as I had almost forgotten how enjoyable and rewarding the process can be.

31 July 2012

In the SOuP

After struggling for a while to understand how to use the new nodes offered in the SOuP plugin for Maya, developed by Peter Shipkov, I finally cracked it a couple of weeks ago..... it's simple when you know how!!
I wanted to use the PointCloudField, a field that is emitted through the vertices of any attached geometry, to affect the nParticle debris from a DMM demolition, sounds technical but really all of the work has been done by coders and all I needed to do was apply it.

The thing is, there's very little documentation to support many of the free third party plug-ins but the community for SOuP is very friendly and, I was pleased to discover, is happy to offer support to those who ask.

So, why did I want to  use the PCF? Simple really..... ordinarily Maya fields eminate from a single point in the scene and the force is set to specific directions dictated through the attribute editor but the PCF allows the field direction to be dictated by the normal direction of the emmiting object.... Very useful in demolition simulations where turbulence is created through the scattering of the debris.

This illustrates the difference between PCF and an regular radial field....

The radial field is to the left and the PCF is on the right. The blue debris scatter from the PCF is far more pleasing to the eye as the radial field has little to no effect. After the test I adjusted the magnitude value of the radial field to see whether I could obtain a result similar to that of the PCF and the result at 5 times the original magnitude yielded similar scatter but at a far more even and, as it's name would suggest, radial spread.

25 July 2012

200 Frames Per Second Torrential Outpour Blues

So, I wanted to make a slow motion (200fps) shatter effect and mix it with a fluid simulation.... ahoy, is that a steep learning curve that I see ahead?

Things I learned along the way....
1: It's not as straight forward as it would first appear to use DMM simulations in Realflow.
2: PCF doesn't seem to work so well at high speeds.
3: My computer is Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon (too old for this sh*t).

Originally I had three glasses all rendered nice, refractions, raytrace shadows, photon emission etc.. (see still image below) but I felt that 16 minutes per frame was a little excessive for a technical excercise so I reigned it in to my usual plasticine style render, that's another thing to add to the list of stuff I learned...

4: Don't bother making things all shiny if it's just a technical exercise!*

* unless the technical exercise is rendering shiny stuff!

11 July 2012

Balls to the Wall...

Further developing my understanding of the DMM plugin I built a cavity wall to destroy. The idea here was to work with multiple objects and different materials so I have two layers of brick, iron wall ties, wooden planks and a plaster render.

I've used nParticle instancing again and this time have two emitters, the front wall and the plaster layers. I need to spend a bit more time refining the particle motion and my understanding will likely develop the more I use it.
My workflow is definitely improving and I have found that I am able to "sculpt" a simulation rather than just apply the plugin and go with the default outcome. I feel that I need to spend more time working on the applied DMM materials and perhaps push my processor a bit harder to create smaller chunks.

Note to self: get some dust debris going and address the sinking blocks in future simulations.

9 July 2012

This is Cracking Me Up!

I've spent some of my free time over the past couple of weeks investigating, experimenting and getting o know the DMM plugin for Maya and I have to say, it's great!

The plugin is intuitive and, once a basic understanding is developed, easy to use. One thing that appears to be missing from DMM is the ability to create debris but this has been dealt with by Olivier over at Pixleux who has writen a handy Python script that will emit particles from the faces that are created by the fracture.... handy!

I found a really nice video by Sylvain Nouveaux on Vimeo ( Click To View ) that I thought would be a good piece to replicate in order to best develop my understanding of DMM. I feel that my attempt is pretty successful, there are areas that could be developed further but for an early learning exercise it's not too bad.
I still didn't get my head around the SOuP plugin and had to resort to using the standard radial field to affect the particles so this is something that I can further investigate another time.

23 June 2012

Having a Smashing Time

After finding those old Bullet tests I thought I would have a play with the DMM (Digital Molecular Matter) Cinematic plug-in that is included in Maya 2012 before I get my hands on Maya 2013 with it's integrated Bullet plug-in, in the least it will give me opportunity to compare and contrast the two engines that appear to be very similar.
There are a host of dynamic engines currently available in Maya including the original Maya dynamics, the Nucleus system, PhysX, DMM and Bullet and each one has it's own qualities that are beneficial to specific areas of games or visual effects, this can be confusing to say the least but I suppose that Autodesk, in having so many choices, have got a very flexible tool in Maya which can only be a good thing in industry.
Anyway, ramble over, here's my first test using the DMM Cinematic plug-in from Maya 2012. Hopefully I will have time this weekend to continue my investigation of it....

3 June 2012

A Bullet in the Head

I was cleaning out my computer (something which I should probably do more often!!) and in the process of freeing up 80GB of space I ran across a couple physics tests I made around 2009-2010 using Maya and a cobbled together Bullet plug-in.

Although the exercise was really interesting, I remember the hassle it was getting the plug in installed and working, so it is very nice to see that Autodesk have included Bullet along with some other shiny goodies in the latest version of Maya, check the Area page with info on all updates in 2013..... http://area.autodesk.com/maya2012

As soon as I get my hands on Maya 2013, I'll make some comparison.... hopefully it will be a little more user friendly now that it is fully integrated!

17 May 2012

Sounds of the City

Two posts in two days... I should probably slow down before I overtake myself!!

I've been playing with my camera again and have made this short as another exercise in understanding my camera, compositing and audio driven animation.

Mat :)

16 May 2012

Mega Bloks EQ

So, no posts since January 25th.... I must try harder to maintain this blog!!

Here's a clip to get things going again, I made this to test out my new camera, investigate another method of audio driven animation and brush up on some compositing techniques.

The music is Cavatina... you may recognise it as the Deer Hunter theme music.

Enjoy :)

25 January 2012

Hair Today

Yesterday I had a play with Maya's hair creation tool to make Wednesdays plaits, I think the results are rather successful for a first attempt. Once you understand the basic consruction of the hair system (follicle, curve and PFX) it is fairly easy to control and style as you wish.

23 January 2012

It's All In The Eyes

We're automatically drawn to the eyes when we see a face, windows to the soul and all that. I'm going for a mixture between realistic and stylized with my Wednesday Addams model so the eyes should look fairly convincing.

My model has blend shapes assigned to the pupil so that it can be constricted or dilated allowing for a more convincing and easy to read portrayal of emotion instead of the vacuous, shark like stare that unfortunately afflicts so many 3D portraits.

Making Faces

A couple of weeks ago it would have been Charles Addams 100th birthday if he were still alive so, being a fan of his work and needing a new personal project, I decided to make a bust of Wednesday Addams, the youngest member of his macabre comic strip family. Although it's a little difficult to tell at this stage I have used Christina Ricci as a model for this bust as she was used by Barry Sonnenfeld in his '90s adaptation of the comic strip.

I have just put together a control system for the face that uses curves and locators to control the underlying rig and blendshapes. Ordinarily I would make a GUI representation of the face located to one side of the model but have decided, this time, to place control locators on the mesh in the areas that they deform. It appears to be a pretty intuitive solution that works very well and I am likely to adopt this practice again in the future.