3D Production Pipeline – Part Four

For my fourth and final part of my 3D Pipeline series, I have decided to inform the world of what and who has inspired me to continue my studies in animation.

Since the release of the immersive and beautifully designed world of Mass Effect (2007), it has continued to leave it’s audience in awe, keeping them captivated and entranced as they continue to explore the galaxy. Even after completing the game countless amount of times during the eight years since it’s debut. The amount of choices in designing my very own Commander Shepard is overwhelming and I’m more often than not spending most of the time creating my desired look, rather than making most of the choices that are provided throughout the game. The third installation, Mass Effect 3, continued to captivate me, especially with the improved and updated animation that was lead by Scott Mitchell. He has really impacted the 3D animation of the modern gaming world.

By all rights, role-playing games such as ME have been around for far longer than the originals release in 2007. However, the depth in the story as well as the concepts and design of the world has lead it to be one of the most outstanding series’ in modern gaming. The characters alone are enough to keep drawing me back for more.

One of the main animators of Mass Effect 3 was Scott Mitchell is one of the reasons why I wish to pursue a career in Animation. I have tried exploring his techniques for drawing and creating characters, so I can further advance my own skill. He’s also responsible for working on 2014’s Far Cry 4, also for the expansions that followed Mass Effect 3, such as From Ashes and The Citadel Expansion just to name a few.

Embedded below is one of my favourite cutscenes from Mass Effect 3, which further provides proof of the immersive and characters that are in the story.

REFERENCES

Gamefront. (2012) Mass Effect 3 Bromance – I’m Garrus Vakarian and This is My Favorite Spot on Citadel. Retrieved 13 March 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YatcGMYg5Eg

Griffin, B (2015) Top 100: Mass Effect 2 Proves It’s Good to Talk. Retrieved 13 March 2015, from http://www.gamesradar.com/top-100-mass-effect-2-proves-its-good-talk/

Ocampo, J. (2008). Mass Effect Review. Retrieved 13 March 2015, from http://au.ign.com/articles/2008/05/27/mass-effect-review

Rhodes, M. (2011). Concept Art: Reaper Attack. Retrieved 13 March 2015, from Mass Effect – Bioware, http://lvlt.bioware.cdn.ea.com/bioware/u/f/eagames/bioware/masseffect3/resources/assets/media/concepts/concept-016-reaper_attack-o.jpg

Swanson, R. (2014) Reaper Marauder. Retrieved 13 March 2015, from Rion-Art, http://www.rion-art.com/b7d24iicegr3w8mzkchwhd16bkdl57

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3D Production Pipeline – Part Three

Lighting

For the 3D scenes to really take effect, digital lights must be placed into the said scenes. It illuminates the models, exactly as lighting rigs would work on a movie set, bringing out the actors and actresses. This is probably one of the most technical phase of the pipeline production (after rendering). There is a strong amount of artistry involved in this step.

– Proper lighting – it is important that the lighting is realistic enough that it’s believable to the audience, but dramatic enough to bring out the director’s vision.

– mood matters – the lighting to each scene will help the desired mood that the director intended, it gives control over the textures painters when it comes to the important details of colour scheme, mood and the atmosphere.

-Back and Forth – the texture and lighting artists work very closely together as communication between them is important. If something doesn’t work right then it will send off the wrong mood or feel to the 3D animation.

Lighting allows to you to control everything in the scene, from where the sun will be placed to the light glow of a night light in a child’s bedroom. In the lighting step of the 3D pipeline production you control most if not all light elements in the scenes and shots of the production. The skill of lighting in a 3D modelling would become easier the more the skill is practiced as it can portray the exact feel you want to give your audience.

Rendering

Rendering and lighting are very similar as rendering can actually texture some parts of the 3D model. In rendering your scene is taken (or what your camera sees) and crop files for a variety of uses (e.g. final shot, the animation, etc.). Rendering varies in time limits, it all depends on: the quality of the render, the complexity of your scenes and how strong the computer that is being used.

The steps in rendering are:

– set up an environment
– tweak the render settings to add shadows
– adjust the quality until you get your desired end result.

Rendering refers to the process of building output files from computer animations. When rendering an animation, the program used to make it, takes the components, variables and actions in the said animated scene. It then builds a viewable result for an audience. Rendering can start from a single image to multiple images/frames saved singularly and how strong the computer that is being used is.

Compositing

Compositing uses multiple sources to integrate images into a single and flawless whole. Most of these techniques are used on still images, we will mostly be focusing on the tools and methods used which are helpful and reasonable for large amounts of images.

Some of composting layers involve, both live-action footage or photographs and virtual computer-generated images which are then put together and composited into a single image/scene. This type of compositing creates still images that have different components into a single image. This can sometimes be used in post-productions of film and or television programs to composite different layers into the video sequence. 3D compositing is can be different to 2D compositing in a way where the layers can interact to give a more realistic effect on each other.

There are 3D compositing software which has input from warious sources. Usually involves multiple input files (Still images, video files, etc) that are assembled and layered during the process. An example of this is the assembly of an image characterizing a boat floating on water, in front of a cliff. It can be as detailed as having other cliffs, clouds and other background images as desired. The final image would have everything together in a single, flawless image (though each part would have it’s own source).

Referencing

Boudon, G. (2013). How Does a 3D Production Pipeline Work. Digital-Tutors Blog. Retrieved 12 March 2015, from http://blog.digitaltutors.com/understanding-a-3d-production-pipeline-learning-the-basics/

Brinkmann, R. (1996). Digital Compositing. Retrieved 13 March 2015, from http://www.mlab.uiah.fi/touch/DCN/DC.html

Sanders, A. (2015). In Computer Animation, What is Rendering?. Retrieved 13 March 2015, from http://animation.about.com/od/faqs/f/In-Computer-Animation-What-Is-Rendering.htm

Slick, J. (2015). An Introduction to the 6 Phases of 3D Production.About.com Tech. Retrieved 12 March 2015, from http://3d.about.com/od/3d-101-The-Basics/tp/Introducing-The-Computer-Graphics-Pipeline.htm

Weisen, G. (2015). What is 3D Compositing. Retrieved 13 March, 2015, from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-3d-compositing.htm

3D Production Pipeline – Part Two

UV Mapping

Before applying any form of texture to a model, it’s important that the created 3D object is first flattened into a two-dimensional representation of the meshing on the surface of the object. This process is known as UV mapping or unwrapping. For any animator, UV mapping is an important skill as it requires utmost accuracy in order to apply realistic textures on polygonal surfaces.

Texturing and Shaders

The models (or assets) are at the next step called texturing and shaders. In this step colours and textures take over the ‘grey-look’,  commonly known as the default shader. A texture artist’s job is to work with what is referred to as ‘shading material’. When applied to a 3D model the texture artist is then able to control elements such as colour, reflectivity, shininess and much more along those lines. This then gives the 3D model a more realistic look with the colours and materials applied.

In the link provided, is a video in 3ds max on creating realistic snow using textures and shaders.

Rigging

Rigging is one of the very important steps in 3D animation. The technical director prepares the freshly made 3D character for bone structure and linking control points. With the bone structure, the technical director places the underlying skeleton ( bone structure) for the model that helps connect the linking points. Once the bone structure is put in place the control points are connected and the animators can then control the movement and form of the character’s legs, arms and any other movable part of it’s form.

Animation

Up into the final stages of 3D animation. The rigged assests are animated and controlled to bring out the desired shot. There are many steps that go into creating flawless animations, but during the final stages of the animation you start to see the final pieces fall into place. With using a timeline, the animator’s job is to set the character’s movements in frames that can be caused in a flowing animation.

Animation varies in it’s deliveries such as two gears meshing together to creating a complex character performance that can be viewed in today’s 3D animated films. 3D animation was inspired by the original 2D animation and uses the same approach as the flipbook animation. The only difference instead of fashioning a new pose on separate sheet of paper, the 3D animators produce different poses on a series of fixed images (which are referred to as frames). Animators can create the illusion of movement by designing alternate poses which are then played continuously in a certain amount of frames. The animators of a 3D animation have the most important job in the entire setup of a 3D production, as they make the audience believe that the characters, objects and world are a believable reality.

The link provided below is a complete short animated film called ‘Pigeons’ which will assist in demonstrating the final result of a functional animation.

References

Boudon, G. (2013). How Does a 3D Production Pipeline Work. Digital-Tutors Blog. Retrieved 12 March 2015, from http://blog.digitaltutors.com/understanding-a-3d-production-pipeline-learning-the-basics/

Slick, J. (2015)Surfacing 101 – Creating a UV Layout. Retrieved 12 March 2015, from http://3d.about.com/od/3d-101-The-Basics/a/Surfacing-101-Creating-A-UV-Layout.htm

Slick, J,. (2015) Rigging. Retrieved 12 March 2015, from http://3d.about.com/od/Glossary-R/g/Rigging.htm

Slick, J,. (2015) What is Rigging?. Retrieved 12 March, 2015, from http://3d.about.com/od/Creating-3D-The-CG-Pipeline/a/What-Is-Rigging.htm

tunahan avsalli, (2014)  making  realistic snow in 3ds max, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAWw1wx2pwg

cartoon channel (2014), [pixar- 2014] Pigeons- from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mwme29CHdk

3D Production Pipeline – Part One

Today I will be discussing the production of a three-dimensional pipeline and the various stages it requires to create 3D graphics. These stages have clearly been outlined in the SAE course material. However, doing my own research on the subjects, I’ve discovered that these terms are universal for producing any object using 3D technologies and programs.

Pre-Production

Before getting started in any 3D component of a project, it’s important to formulate the concepts the 3D Artist wishes to create. During this pre-stage, designers must accumulate various ideas for characters and environments, including the look, style and flow of these animated worlds. By creating a large variety of concepts, it offers a wider scope of choices for the management team of the project to choose the final product from.

From this stage, concept artists are able to work alongside digital sculptors in order to construct preliminary imitations for the desired designs for characters, while the research and development team finalize the special challenges for finer character details for later stages.

3D Modelling

With the final character design chosen, the project is further passed on to the 3D modellers. At this stage, it’s the responsibility of the modeller to take the two-dimensional concepts and, by using programs such as 3DS Max, construct them into three-dimensional models that can be given to animators for further work.

There are two main techniques that modellers are able to use in a production pipeline today. Polygonal modelling is primarily used to translate more mechanical/architectural models like environments, while digital sculpting is best suited for creating organic models, such as characters.

The following video provides a quick look at the stages of modeling that was required for the Oscar nominated hit film of 2012, “Marvel’s The Avengers”. Not only does it demonstrate the character models, but also gives everyone an idea of the scope it required to create such a large environment.

References

Boudon, G. (2013). How Does a 3D Production Pipeline Work. Digital-Tutors Blog. Retrieved 12 March 2015, fromhttp://blog.digitaltutors.com/understanding-a-3d-production-pipeline-learning-the-basics/

ILMVisualFX,. (2013) Behind the magic: The Visual Effects of “The Avengers”. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnQLjZSX7xM

Slick, J. (2015). An Introduction to the 6 Phases of 3D Production.About.com Tech. Retrieved 12 March 2015, fromhttp://3d.about.com/od/3d-101-The-Basics/tp/Introducing-The-Computer-Graphics-Pipeline.htm

‘The Begun of Tigtone’, A Review of…

Dear Journal,

If you were looking for a family fun animated series, then you have come to the wrong place. ‘The Begun of Tigtone’, as you can tell from the convoluted title itself, is a skewered short pilot episode for the ‘Tigtone’ webseries that makes a dark parody out of the mainstream conventions of fantasy.

Created by Andrew Koehler and Benjamin Martin in 2009 to 2014, this five year long production follows our not-so respectable anti-hero Tigtone, who’s a daft, two-dimensional cliché who is set the task of… Well, to put it simply, [SPOILER] to take some beans to a blacksmith. Along the way, he’s challenged by trivial puzzles, absurdly clad Snake Goddesses, and a nonchalant Wood Elf who appeared to share a striking resemblance to the late Freddie Mercury. Throw in some cleverly placed pop culture references and convoluted language, and you have yourself the story. The End!

I would firstly like to commend the brilliant voice actors that took part in this series. Especially those of Nils Frykdahl who portrays Tigtone, as well as Bill Corbett, the man responsible for bringing ‘Ghost Wizard’ to life. Without their efforts to capture their characters as superbly as they did, this series would not have come to full fruition.

The opening sequence, in my opinion, was one of the many highlights of ‘The Begun of Tigtone’. It starts with Tigtone, filing away his thoughts into his journal, when suddenly you’re transported into his story. The effects and style of the animation (thanks to illustrator Zack Wallefang) are realistic, yet quirky and unique, due to their use of 2D mocap animation technology, which is able to warp the characters faces by using motion capture data. With the use of such technology, this sequence was powerful and awe-inspiring. That’s until Tigtone tears through the bowls on a beast with a backing track reminisce to an 80’s classic videogame soundtrack.

Enter stage right: Ghost Wizard.  Who I suspect was modelled after Christopher Lee’s Saruman (Lord of the Rings), the Ghost Wizard acts as an unwilling guide for Tigtone’s journey, setting him on his way to deliver a bag of that can be forged into a weapon. This didn’t seem to please Tigtone, and because of his yearning for excited and risk, he professes the following to the Ghost Wizard:

“Nothing… Nothing at stake? Well, then I, MYSELF will place the world at stake!” [2:37-2:45]

Let’s face it, there’s nothing more exciting than a lunatic waving around a sword whilst crying out the world is in his hands.

The ‘Captive Sun’, as well as the ‘All Hope is Null Village’ scenes tickled my ribs. Just as soon as we caught a glimpse of wisdom and leadership from our beloved anti-hero, it’s quickly snuffed out by those glamorous ‘magic marbles’. Please, don’t read into that. They’re literally magic marbles. Or so they believed until Tigtone distracts the crowd with them and sends an arrow flying between a child’s brows to feed a starving village. Ah, crude humour at its finest.

What came after, however, was too chaotic and, for the most part, confusing. For a series that was designed to be silly, I felt that they overdid it with this. I couldn’t help but wish those scenes would have ended sooner. Like the Snake Goddess and the Perhaps if Andrew Koehler and Benjamin Martin had left those out, or spent more time on refining them, it would’ve come together a lot more smoothly.

In the end, however, I still loved this pilot episode dearly. From the design, the voice acting, and to the crude pop culture references. It was utterly transfixing and had me sitting on the edge of my seat, wanting more Tigtone in my life. I’m not going to lie when I say I have recommended many of my friends to watch this. They have praised it for its creativity and left-of-center approach, and mentioned that it was well worth 14 minutes of their time.