CGI coffee


Revelations of a computer graphics apprentice

The Rise of the NEW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

The new TMNT makes me so happy, yay! Splinter is my favorite. Who's yours?

New 2018 ninja Turtles

Unity and Unreal Engine: Real-time Rendering VS Traditional 3DCG Rendering Approach

Preamble

Before reading any further, please find the time to watch these. I promise, you won't regret it:

Now let's analyze what we just saw and make some important decisions. Let's begin with how all of this could be achieved with a "traditional" 3D CG approach and why it might not be the best path to follow in the year 2018 and up.

Linear pipeline and the One Man Crew problem

I touched upon this topic in one of my previous posts.

The "traditional" 3D CG-animated movie production pipeline is quite complicated. Not taking pre-production and animation/modeling/shading stages into consideration, it's a well-known fact that an A-grade animated film treats every camera angle as a "shot" and these shots differ a lot in requirements. Most of the time character and environment maps and even rigs would need to be tailored specifically for each one of those.

tintin-shot-to-shot-differencesShot-to-shot character shading differences in the same scene in The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

For example if a shot features a close-up of a character's face there is no need to subdivide the character's body each frame and feed it to the renderer, but it also means the facial rig needs to have more controls as well as the face probably requires an additional triangle or two and a couple of extra animation controls/blendshapes as well as displacement/normal maps for wrinkles and such.

But the worst thing is that the traditional pipeline is inherently linear.

Digital Production Pipeline

Thus you will only see pretty production-quality level images very late in the production process. Especially if you are relying on path-tracing rendering engines and lack computing power to be able to massively render out hundreds of frames. I mean, we are talking about an animated feature that runs at 24 frames per second. For a short 8-plus-minute film this translates into over 12 thousand still frames. And those aren't your straight-out-of-the-renderer beauty pictures. Each final frame is a composite of several separate render passes as well as special effects and other elements sprinkled on top.

Now imagine that at a later stage of the production you or the director decides to make adjustments. Well, shit. All of those comps you rendered out and polished in AE or Nuke? Worthless. Update your scenes, re-bake your simulations and render, render, render those passes all over again. Then comp. Then post.

Sounds fun, no?

You can imagine how much time it would take one illiterate amateur to plan and carry out all of the shots in such a manner. It would be just silly to attempt such a feat.

Therefore, the bar of what I consider acceptable given the resources available at my disposal keeps getting...

Lower.

There! I finally said it! It's called reality check, okay? It's a good thing. Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards a solution, right?

Right!?..

welcome-to-aaOups, wrong picture

All is not lost and it's certainly not the time to give up.

Am I still going to make use of Blend Shapes to improve facial animation? Absolutely, since animation is the most important aspect of any animated film.

But am I going to do realistic fluid simulation for large bodies of water (ocean and ocean shore in my case)? No. Not any more. I'll settle for procedural Tessendorf Waves. Like in this RND I did some time ago:

Will I go over-the-top with cloth simulation for characters in all scenes? Nope. It's surprising how often you can get away with skinned or bone-rigged clothes instead of actually simulating those or even make use of real-time solvers on mid-poly meshes without even caching the results... But now I'm getting a bit ahead of myself...

Luckily, there is a way to introduce the "fun" factor back into the process!

And the contemporary off-the-shelf game engines may provide a solution.

game-engines

Navie Effex Dynamics And Simulation Framework For Cinema4D Now Free

While the year 2018 may have started with a large meltdown for the rest of the world, we, the 3D folk are still getting some great news following my previous blog post. This time it's Effex by Navie (formerly DPit Nature Spirit) - a fast and robust Particles & Fluid Simulation framework for C4D which went free recently. Effex comes with lots of goodies including an excellent FLIP solver I think I'm in love with.

It can do lots of stuff. See for yourselves:

Anyway, just grab a copy from GitHub.

Although the fact that such great products go free makes me uneasy for some reason. Can't stop thinking about the developers. Hopefully they are ok and not doing this due to problems selling the product...

Mootzoid Plugins for Softimage, C4D, Maya and Modo Now Available For Free!

What an amazing NY2017 present from Mootzoid for all of Softimage/XSI zealots out there (and for Maya/C4D/Modo guys to some extent as well)!

Quoting Eric: "For the upcoming holidays I wanted to let you know that as of today all my plugins are available for free on my website www.mootzoid.com. Just download any plugin and you're ready to go without any license hassle and without making your wallet unhappy :)"

Mootzoid plugins

Plugins are available at Eric's website, as usual.

Can't wait to get my hands on the full versions of emFluid and emPolygonizer!

BTW, you know what makes Eric's plugins so special? Just a couple examples:

  • They add complete OpenVDB support (read/write) inside Softimage! You can simulate fire and smoke whilst exporting frames to .VDB whilst having Redshift for example picking those frames to render. It's fast and it's reliable.
  • emPolygonizer provides a powerful multithreaded mesher to use with any object, be it particles or just a bunch of meshes. I used a while ago to mesh hundreds of thousands of particles in my FleX Fluid Simulation studies and was thoroughly impressed. It is so, so much more powerful than XSI's native polygonizer.

Thank you, Eric!

Just a quick sculpt...

I swear, I only launched ZBrush to check and tweak my default start-up project scene.

...and accidentally picked up the stylus...

December 2nd quick zbrush sculpt

Seriously though, I think anatomy studies are starting to pay off.

Here's the "timelapse":

Making of Super Sonico School Swimsuit 3D Figure Set. Part 2: Choosing Sculpting Software

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had an idea for a practice sculpture project and needed to find some software to bring it to fruition.

If there is one thing I love doing, it's trying out different pieces of software. This time an app of my choice would need to be capable of providing a comfortable and intuitive sculpting workflow as well as being more or less affordable.

So let's check out the results of my quest to find the perfect sculpting app.

quest-for-sculpting-software

Making of Super Sonico School Swimsuit 3D Figure Set. Part 1: A New Project

super-sonico-3d-figure-set-teaser

In the upcoming blog post series I will share my experience of creating a CG rendition of the Super Sonico School Swimsuit anime figure (with an OC bathroom set) which I was preoccupied with in October.

super-sonico-3d-figure-set-mosaic-002

Back-story

In 2014 when I was working on a prototype of my first mobile game Run and Rock-it Kristie I initially decided to make the game 2.5D, which would mean assets would need to be produced as 3D geometry and not sprites.

In fact, here's the early rendered prototype:

In the video you can see the first iteration of 2D character development, but even before that I was going to have Kristie as a 3D CG character and decided to sculpt her myself.

I was young and naive back then and decided to recklessly dive deep into that amazing piece of software everyone was talking about. I'm of course talking about ZBrush.

So I tried Zbrush... and simply could not adapt to its navigation style. I was struggling for hours and finally installed a trial of a Maya-style navigation plugin called ZSwitcher. I was then actually able to get to sculpting. But due to the fact that the plugin changed many default hotkeys, it was very confusing to try and follow ZBrush docs and training videos. So in the end in terrible frustration I gave up and switched the game to use 2D sprites.

run-and-rock-it-kristie-2d

I then returned to Softimage|XSI and its old-school sub-d modeling workflows, thinking that sculpting simply wasn't for me.

hot-dog-stands

Present day

As I am slowly but surely working on my first animated CG film, I will at some point need to produce a bunch of realistic 3D assets for set dressing as well as develop the characters themselves.

As the animation-rich previz is in the process of making, I have to establish the sets, including placements of assets and overall presentation. I could simply place boxes and spheres around, but it's not fun and absolutely doesn't help to see what the movie would actually look like even if it's just a previz. So I've been creating assets in XSI with classic sub-d modeling workflow, when I remembered that there was another way.

The sculpting way.

Hence I had to get sculpting another chance, but this time – making an educated choice of the tool which would suit me the most.

Therefore I needed two things:

  1. Something interesting to sculpt.
  2. Some software to sculpt in.

Figures

Mass-produced quality figures (or "statues") never seized to amaze me. Not just because most of them are small pieces of art, but also of the sheer production quality of such mass-manufactured products.

sakaki-kaoru-dragon-figureGranblue Fantasy - Cagliostro by Sakaki Workshops

Even though I never cared for anime it never stopped me from admiring the enormous figure market and the variety of figures available.

A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a talented engineer. We mostly discussed 3D printing and that's when a question popped up: "how are figures produced"? I mean it's obvious that mass-production of PVC products is done with Plastic Injection Molding, but what about the prototypes? Are they still being created with classic sculpting techniques or did 3D finally come into the mix?

anime-sculpture-prototype Rin Tohsaka Archer Costume ver Fate/stay night Figure (prototype)

That's when I started digging up through the web to find the answer.

Culture Japan

While sifting though the Internets I stumbled upon a TV show called Culture Japan. It is a Japanese TV show developed by Danny Choo – a British-born pop culture blogger currently working in Japan. The first pilot episode of Culture Japan was broadcast on Animax Asia and in it Danny Choo visited the offices of the Good Smile Company – one of the Japanese manufacturers of hobby products such as scale action figures.

You can watch the episode on Youtube. The GSC-segment begins at 33:22:

So that's how it's done!

Welcome to the future, where an artist creates digital prototype sculptures with a force-feedback haptic device called Touch X, then sends them to an in-house 3D printer. What a great idea!

touchx-hand-device-3d-systems-geomagic

"You should totally sculpt this!"

Since I was already going to look for an amateur-friendly sculpting app, naturally, being a control freak, I decided to create a project out of it.

Some time ago out of curiosity I ordered an anime figure from the Super Sonico series by Nitroplus, a Japanese visual novel developer. Super Sonico character was originally created by Tsuji Santa and first appeared as a mascot for a Nitroplus-sponsored music festival in 2006.

The figure turned out to be a bootleg, but it was one of a decent quality (save for the missing signature Sonico metal headphones frame), so I didn't care to order the original version.

super-sonico-bootleg-on-the-table

When the figure arrived I showed it to a friend and he suggested I should sculpt it as a practice project.

It seemed like quite a challenge for someone without any artistic training, but I liked the idea and accepted the challenge.

So having something to sculpt already picked, I went on to look for an amateur-friendly sculpting app, and will share the results of my search in the next post.

Stay tuned!