CGI coffee


Revelations of a computer graphics apprentice

New Unity 2019 2D sprite rigging and lighting tools

With the latest 2019.1 update Unity team have seriously upgraded the 2D tool-set of the editor:

Seems like a lot of those tools were inspired by the Rayman Legends engine. Something I was drooling over 5 years ago, hoping one day Unity would implement some of those. And they finally did!

It really makes me all warm and fuzzy inside, remembering how most of those automated 2D tools and thingies were not available when I was working on Run and Rock-it Kristie in the freeware version of Unity 4 (which back then lacked even the Sprite packaging functionality!) and had to be either developed from scratch or achieved with some cool Asset Store stuff you would need to purchase and integrate into your product.

memories

Oh, the tools... The tools...

IK and rigging with bone weighting? Check:

Manual sprite atlasing and set-up? Check (atlasing is vital for mesh batching and draw call reduction):

manual-atlasing

Sprite assembly and animation? Check:

Dynamic level-building tools? Check (via modded version of the Ferr2D asset):

Dynamic lighting? Check! — With up to 4 live vertex lights and camera-distance based light culling to make sure the game would run at stable 60 fps on iPhone 4 (heavily reliant on the amazing but now deprecated Core Framework asset by echoLogin):

It was... Fun!

You know what I also remember? I remember almost every day working on the game I felt excited and driven. It was FUN. Even when it was challenging to solve some technical issues (there were a lot of those, especially for a beginner) or work around Unity limitations or bugs, it felt truly rewarding and would give such a powerful motivation boost that I would continue working until the end.

Until the release.

manual-atlasing

But the "serious" CG movie stuff I'm doing now?.. Honestly? Meh. It's so slow and clunky compared to my previous game development experience. Everything needs to be either cached, or rendered... I'm also having some grave issues with hair simulation which I wasn't able to overcome for the last 6+ months, many operations in the "classic" world of 3D editors are still either single-threaded, unstable, or require some very specific knowledge or particular and elaborate set-up... It's almost no fun! No fun means much, much less motivation to continue.

It's a problem.

manual-atlasing

Therefore this July I will instead be checking out the latest Unity Engine and see whether most of what I'm doing right now could be ported into Unity. Starting with simulation and scene assembly and hopefully — ending up animating, rendering and applying post effects right within the Unity Editor where everything is real-time and fun! I miss the real-time aspect! Oh boy, do I miss the ability to tweak materials and see the more or less finalized render of the scene even during assembly. The ability to import assets and build "smart" prefabs (like Softimage Models, but with interactivity and intrinsic scene-aware scripting via MonoBehavior) e.t.c...

I miss you, Unity!

The Paper Samurai

Concept rejected by a client? Pfft... Still good enough for the blog!

Can you tell the story by looking at the scene?

Epson Paper Samurai

Softimage. It's time to move on. Slowly. Gradually

softimage xsi splash screen

I found out about Softimage XSI 8 years ago by accident. While trying to create a simple curved satellite dish mesh in a trial of Maya 2011 I was getting constant crashes, weird mesh behaviors and overall was in shock "how hard it was to 3D". I then turned to the internet in search of answers and... found out, everyone was having problems with Maya. Regardless of what you were doing, it was (and still is) a goddamn mess of a 3D DCC package. Particularly for a hobbyist. And especially after it going subscription-only a couple years ago.

well shit

I then started looking for alternatives. Tried Blender... Remember 2011 Blender? Yeah... Let me just say it didn't "click" and the UI as well as the overall flow of production in Blender seemed like something from a parallel Universe. Not the one I wanted to be a part of.

There was Modo and 3ds Max. Modo was kind of weird with its layer-based material creation workflow and was actually not that intuitive to model in (at least for me as a complete noob back then). Max was kind of cool. I remember doing stuff in 3ds Max in college computer class back in the day always finding its interface a bit archaic. I played with it for a while and almost settled, before accidentally discovering a post somewhere on the web talking about about some "XSI" app. There was a screenshot and the author was praising this "XSI" for intuitive UI, ease of modeling and animation as well as a powerful tool-set and even some cool procedural capabilities.

So I tried this "XSI" which turned out to be Autodesk XSI Softimage 2011 and... was instantly hooked! Yes, it didn't have VRAY integration back then, yes, Mental Ray was a pain to work with, but over time other renderers became available: Arnold, Redshift, nowadays there's even "Sycles" - Blender Cycles integraton for Softimage, believe it or not. As well as lots of plug-ins, ICE compounds, built-in dynamics and so on...

I was set.

happy House MD

Run and Rock-it Kristie on the App Store: last chance

Last chance: grab your free full copy of action-packed Run and Rock-it Kristie on the App Store since the game will be leaving the store in two weeks.

Run and Rock-it Kristie app icon

Developing the game was a blast, watching people and journalists play and discuss it on the internet — priceless and the fact that Apple actually featured it on the EU App Store main page for two weeks was simply unbelievable.

Run and Rock-it Kristie screenshots

Thank you all for playing!

The genius of Sonic the Hedgehog live-action movie viral marketing campaign — popularity by bad publicity

There's no such thing as bad PR

First and foremost: I'm not a big Sonic fan. All I know about Sonic is that there were "two and a half" incarnations on the character in the games:

  • 2D. For example in my all-time favorites on Genesis: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and 3.

    sonic in 2D
  • "Classsic" 3D Sonic.

    Classic 2D Sonic in 3D
  • "Rad" 3D Sonic. One they've been using for the last... 5+ years, I believe.

    rad 3D Sonic

Compare the three of the well-known designs:

three Sonic the Hedgehog designs

I'm sure this is not news to you. Just like the fact that we now have this one from the April's Sonic the Hedgehog movie trailer:

Sonic the Movie original design

...you can imagine how the internet reacted to this.

Not. Well.

For the past week the web has been boiling with hate, discussions and alternate design propositions coming from every which way. People obviously care about the "Genuine" Sonic the Hedgehog character enough to get enraged over Hollywood butchering the design.

alternate sonic design

But... Did they really intend to release this?

You see, Sonic the Hedgehog may be a popular franchise, but it is nothing compared to Pokémon or Mario for example. SEGA's mascot was a hit back when SEGA was: in the 90's and mid 2000's. Nowadays not many people (myself included) actually care about new games starring the familiar cast.

Movie-making is business. You make a movie to cash in. Throughout the history game-related films never really made any large splashes in the box office, so you need the whole internet to find out about your movie. How can you do that?

By deliberately pissing off the fans and publicly announcing to change the design!

Sonic advice

How can you tell? Simple. Just take a look at the trailer which has been viewed over 22 million times already:

It's obvious not much work went into the "bad" Sonic's appearance in the movie: animation is wonky, in several areas he looks as if lazily "photoshopped" in:

bad sonic shop

At the same time one can tell they tried to hit as many bases as they could to contrast the design with the original as obviously and blatantly as possible:

  • hands instead of gloves
  • "Nike"-looking shoes instead of signature boots
  • blue-haired arms instead of flesh/white-colored ones
  • small, non-bridged eyes instead of well-recognized ones
  • human teeth (oh my...)
  • human-like proportions hitting every checkmark in the "uncanny valley" book.

...and so on. You can't make something like this by accident and have it survive though all stages of expensive pre- and post-production!

So, naturally, people started a real shit-storm on the web and no one really believed that Paramount would listen.

But what's this, Jeff Fowler?

Sonic director replies

Wow! The Director of the movie replied AND listened to us! He's cool! The movie is now cool! I can't wait to tell my friends about this!

The tweet immediately got some serious traction as you can see from the screenshot (taken on May 3rd).

This, coupled with the fact that hundreds of thousands of people who never cared or even knew about the movie are now well aware of its existence, makes for some kick-ass viral marketing campaign.

Now, certainly I'm not alone thinking that everything that happened was a calculated move.

Still. This is one risky, but effective and efficient PR move. Paramount Marketing team, I tip my fedora to you. Great job! sonic fedora tipping

A familiar face

I had so much fun working on this I don't even care it ended up not looking like me at all =P

my head sculpt

Yet another random sculpt

It may not be perfect by any means, but a mere year ago I wouldn't even dare to dream about ending up with something like this starting with a sphere without using any reference in just a couple hours. Feels Good Man.

Woman head sculpt April 22, 2019