Animations (Part 1)

In the recent weeks, I’ve been focusing on George’s movements and spending a lot of time with the curve editor in 3dsMax.

Although I can’t show anything of George at the moment because he’s still a work progress, I can show you the different subtle animations I will be applying, more specifically in the plants around the house.

Because I have two different types of wind (subtle breeze & strong wind), I isolated the plants into their own files so I could animate them freely and import them back into the appropriate scenes.

The plants were all animated with various Stretch and Twist modifiers on the X, Y, Z axis.

You can check out some of the plant animations below:

Plant Animation Gif (1), rrgonzalez.com
Plant Animation Gif (1), rrgonzalez.com
Plant Animation Gif (2), rrgonzalez.com
Plant Animation Gif (2), rrgonzalez.com
Plant Animation Gif (3), rrgonzalez.com
Plant Animation Gif (3), rrgonzalez.com
Plant Animation Gif (4), rrgonzalez.com
Plant Animation Gif (4), rrgonzalez.com
plant_05
Plant Animation Gif (5), rrgonzalez.com

On a side note, I am working with the mental ray renderer in 3dsMax. I wrote wrote down the settings and last minute adjustments for future reference:

  • BEFORE RENDERING!
    • Set Motion Blur!
    • Set Advanced Lighting Effects
    • Set 1280 x 720 Resolution
    • New Folder + Render Name
    • Mental Ray Values:
      • Image Precision: 1.0
      • Soft Shadows: Default
      • Glossy Reflections: Default
      • Glossy Refractions: Default
      • Final Gather: Medium
      • Trace Bounce Limits:
      • Reflections: 4
      • Refractions: 6
      • FG Bounces: 0

A few of these values were slightly adjusted for render time. For example, a few scenes do not have any geometry that have glossy reflections or refractions, so I turn them off.

In the next update, I’ll be going through each scene and sharing each experience with animating, editing, trial, and errors. Keep in mind that a few renders will not be complete, but I’ll be willing to share what I have.

 

The 3D Animated Rough Draft

It’s been awhile since my last update on A Day with George.

I built all the 3D assets I needed to complete, and began placing cameras. I didn’t quite get around to designing the title’s animated logo or the promotional poster design, but I did complete the 3D animated rough draft!

In the 3D animated rough draft, I animated specific keyframes for each scene, rendered in 3dsMax, and adjusted frame timing with Adobe After Effects. A few tweaks are needed, but that’s all in due time. I plan to render the final animation at 30fps at 720p, but for now a low resolution render at 30fps at 640p will do.

And here it is (no sound):

I didn’t run into many technological problems in the past month that caused me to pull my hair out in frustration. I just found the timed animation adjustments a bit time consuming in itself. A few times 3dsMax crashed itself due to some weird material rendering and glitching modifiers.

A Day with George Rough Animation (1/3)
A Day with George Rough Animation (1/3)

I’ve mentioned how important it was to keep my animated storyboard as a reference, but to be honest, I changed about 30%-40% of the camera shots, and added a bit more subtle animation. Because originally, when I followed the storyboard, my shots were too long, they weren’t visually pleasing, and a lack of a better word: boring. So I tried to keep a continuous video beat and changed camera shots when I could.

A Day with George Rough Animation (2/3)
A Day with George Rough Animation (2/3)

Overall, I am pretty satisfied on how the animated rough turned out. After viewing the rendered 3D rough draft, there are a few adjustments that need to be made (i.e. plants moving in the wind, George’s tongue flopping around, the secondary characters on the shaky canoe, etc.). And of course the addition of sound!

A Day with George Rough Animation (3/3)
A Day with George Rough Animation (3/3)

Side note: I am extremely happy how organized I have been in production pipeline since I started this animation, it honestly saved my life a couple times when I needed to find the right .max file to import animations. I would of thrown my computer out of the window if something went terribly wrong.

I don’t plan to lose the momentum of this animation anytime soon, there’s a lot to be done! So until the next update!

Thanks for viewing!

Camera Set Up & Screen Shots (Part 2)

In continuation from a previous blog update, I placed more cameras for various scenes in the environment. Please keep in mind the following screen shots are test renders at a low resolution.

A Day with George Camera_06 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_06 Test, rrgonzalez.com

Here we have the Canoe Man and his dog walking along the sidewalk of George’s home. (I left them in their default poses just for placement purposes.) You can see little George gazing out the window in the distance.

A Day with George Camera_08 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_08 Test, rrgonzalez.com

In this screen shot, we have George in mid-air; jumping for his leash on the hook rack. Because this scene is not animated yet, it seems very posed due to the lack of motion blur. Once I do start key frame animating, motion blur will definitely be a plus!

A Day with George Camera_09 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_09 Test, rrgonzalez.com

After George grabs his leash, he patiently sits in front of his owner so they can go for a walk outside.

A Day with George Camera_10 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_10 Test, rrgonzalez.com

In this screen shot, we see George’s reaction to the sudden change in weather outside. The Owner wasn’t originally in the shot, but due to the placement, I thought it worked well. I can animate her legs as if she’s shocked as well.

A Day with George Camera_11 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_11 Test, rrgonzalez.com

The camera suddenly zooms out to the view of the house surrounded by water. We also have the secondary characters (in default poses for placement once again) on the canoe. Rowing down the “road.” (I will be adding rain when keyframe animating begins for this scene.)

A Day with George Camera_16 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_16 Test, rrgonzalez.com

George happily walks outside! But..

A Day with George Camera_17 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_17 Test, rrgonzalez.com

…he’s actually on a treadmill.

These are the main cameras that I needed to place. The other cameras tests (i.e. 12-15) are the same camera placements but with different animations. There are a few things I have to do, such as the animation logo design, promotional poster design, and render, and of course the test animations. So please expect those elements in later updates!

Thanks for viewing!

Water Textures & Rigs

The first time I worked with water in 3D was with 3dsMax with the Glu3D plug-in a few years back. The particle system not only crashed my computer multiple times, but also really stressed me out. Like rigging, particle systems is not one of my strong points. So to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to working with water.

This past year, I worked with water and particles in Houdini. The user interface was a bit more user friendly than the water systems I previously used. You can check out my low resolution water test in Houdini below:

But luckily, in the “A Day with George” animated short, there are no intense splashing like in the Houdini Water Test. So I only really needed to focus on the steady waves, reflectivity, and light in the environment. I ended up adjusting a default mental ray material in 3dsMax to create the body of water around the elevated land.

Water Test Render, rrgonzalez.com
Water Test Render, rrgonzalez.com

I was having a bit of trouble getting the water to appear darker as the water got deeper. I played with different adjustments, and couldn’t achieve what I visually wanted. Then I came up with a simple solution: I copied and pasted different planes with a darker blue and higher opacity beneath the original water plane. Like so:

Water Texture Layers, rrgonzalez.com
Water Texture Layers, rrgonzalez.com

Therefore, my water looked much more believable! You can check out the layer comparisons here.

Rendered Water, rrgonzalez.com
Rendered Water, rrgonzalez.com

So the water looks pretty good, but I have a canoe on top of the water. I would like some sort of water movement when the canoe is floating and moving. Luckily I found this really helpful website that shows you how to rig and apply a Flex Modifier on a plane with a plug-in to generate water-like ripples.

The website provides a step by step tutorial to create buoyancy with a reactor in 3dsMax. I had to set up the 3D space myself since their link to download the .max file wasn’t working, but I didn’t run into any problems.

Water Ripple Test, rrgonzalez.com
Water Ripple Test, rrgonzalez.com

Shawn Lewis from Script Spot, released a MaxScript called Follow Surface which allows objects float on the water with very little work. I ran this script and was surprised how well it worked. It did slow my computer down while I was trying to see the outcome in my viewport, but once I started working with the cache, everything went pretty smooth. Here’s the water rig test:

Follow Surface Script Test, rrgonzalez.com
Follow Surface Script Test, rrgonzalez.com

Although the teapot seems a bit sporadic on top of the water, a few values in the flex modifier just need to be slightly adjusted in the actual environment.

Canoe w/ Follow Surface Script, rrgonzalez.com
Canoe w/ Follow Surface Script, rrgonzalez.com

In the screenshot above, you can see a slight flex when the canoe touches the water. I feel this still needs to be adjusted, but I’m really glad everything went a lot smoother than anticipated. I was worried I would be spending hours upon hours trying to get water to behave the way I want it to.

Rendered Canoe on Water, rrgonzalez.com
Rendered Canoe on Water, rrgonzalez.com

I will be updating my blog with more camera set ups and test renders like in my previous update.

Please look forward to them!

Texture Adjustments!

There were a few pieces of the environment that I pushed to the side while I was building the storage room and the secondary characters. They are minor, but important nonetheless.

I finally got around to texturing the sidewalk and road area where the secondary characters walk upon. I’ll show you what it looks like rendered in a later update when I set up cameras.

Sidewalk & Road Texture, rrgonzalez.com
Sidewalk & Road Texture, rrgonzalez.com

In addition to texturing, I also adjusted the sky dome around the whole environment. In the animated short, the weather changes from a sunny day to a gloomy rainy mess. So I applied two separate textures to portray this weather change.

Sunny Sky Dome, rrgonzalez.com
Sunny Sky Dome, rrgonzalez.com
Cloudy Sky Dome, rrgonzalez.com
Cloudy Sky Dome, rrgonzalez.com

I set these domes to exclude shadows and light and also applied a self-illumination on the geometry. You can see this in the Environment Flythrough.

I’ll be tackling water and all of it’s wonders in the next update. Wish me luck!

Until next time!

The Secondary Characters!

Here’s a small update for today.

It completely slipped my mind earlier in the production that there were two other characters that required 3D building and rigging. And because I am not the best at rigging, I kind of dreaded this fact. But overall, the process went a lot smoother than I thought because of the various trial and errors earlier with George and the Owner in the “A Day with George” animated short.

Canoe Man Model View, rrgonzalez.com
Canoe Man Model View, rrgonzalez.com
Canoe Man's Dog, rrgonzalez.com
Canoe Man’s Dog, rrgonzalez.com

These models may look familiar, because they are altered models from George and the Owner.

For the Canoe Man, I altered height and added a hat, overalls, and boots. I had to re-paint weights (a dreadful experience to be honest, my computer was not having it a few times), but the outcome was pleasant.

As for the Canoe Man’s Dog, I decided to take George’s model and alter colors. I also changed his bandana into a simple collar. I thought it would be cute to have a neighboring dog of the same breed.

Although I (kind of) find reusing characters a bad thing, I thought because their cameo was literally a few seconds (and not even a close up or medium shot to say the least) it wouldn’t hurt to reuse existing models. Plus, in the process of altering the characters, I thought of another story plot for George and the Canoe Man’s Dog. But that’s a whole other production later in the future. 🙂

3D Environment Process (Part 6)

For the past couple weeks or so, I’ve been building the extra 3D assets that I pushed aside since I had to focus on the exterior environment and the characters.

At the end of the short, we see George happily running on a treadmill to get the exercise he wanted despite not being able to go outside.

“A Day with George” Storyboard Panel #47, rrgonzalez.com

It took awhile to decide what color the storage room would be because I didn’t want it blue like the living room, but I didn’t want it to stand out too much with saturation or contrast in comparison to the assets. But after placing the items in the storage room, a light green/teal worked pretty well.

Living Room & Storage Room Layout, rrgonzalez.com
Living Room & Storage Room Layout, rrgonzalez.com

I also complied a small list of the assets I needed to build for that room:

  • Treadmill
  • Picture Frames
  • Moving Boxes
  • Water & Dog Food Dishes

Here are some of the 3D assets with textures:

Treadmill Model Views, rrgonzalez.com
Treadmill Model Views, rrgonzalez.com
Picture Frames Views, rrgonzalez.com
Picture Frames Views, rrgonzalez.com
Moving Boxes Views, rrgonzalez.com
Moving Boxes Views, rrgonzalez.com
Dog Dishes View, rrgonzalez.com
Dog Dishes View, rrgonzalez.com

Fun fact! A few of the paintings in the picture frames are actually edited images of a few of my digital paintings on my main website! You can check them out here.

And after placing everything together, here’s the finished Storage Room!

Storage Room, rrgonzalez.com
Storage Room, rrgonzalez.com

Although some of the assets are not in the storyboard, I expected there would be slight changes. For example, the picture frames will be a substitute behind George to portray the illusion he is walking outside instead of the wallpaper originally.

I bet you’re wondering where George’s food and water bowls are. Well, they didn’t quite fit in the room so decided to move them to the living room:

George's Water & Food Bowls, rrgonzalez.com
George’s Water & Food Bowls, rrgonzalez.com

Now with this fraction of the environment complete, I am going to jump back to the character aspect of things and build/rig the secondary characters of the animation. Until next time!

Camera Set Up & Screen Shots (Part 1)

After adjusting a few materials, I started to set up the first few cameras of the “A Day with George” animation. I still feel there needs to be some slight adjustment to camera angles, but I think it would be solved once I get George animated. But for now, I guess you can say I am creating a 3D storyboard animatic so I have a stronger reference than my 2D storyboard animatic.

I only provided three camera set ups because the others are still being adjusted as of now. Please keep in mind that the following screen shots are low resolution test renders.

A Day with George Camera_03 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_03 Test, rrgonzalez.com

This shot is one of the opening scenes to introduce our main protagonist, George. The scene pans along the garden windows with George sleeping on the couch.

A Day with George Camera_04 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_04 Test, rrgonzalez.com

In this shot, we see George peacefully sleeping as he leans his head on the couch pillows. I felt that if I utilized the items and environment around him, his world would seem more believable. Plus, everyone’s house isn’t neat and tidy.

A Day with George Camera_05 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_05 Test, rrgonzalez.com

After George wakes up, he jumps towards the living room window to see if he’s able to go outside for a walk. He becomes very excited due the clear skies and the pleasant weather.

Just a side note, while I was doing test renders of these camera shots, George was rendering very dark and was casting too much shadows on himself. I wasn’t sure how I should fix this, until I remembered a trick my instructor/mentor taught me a few years back. I applied an Omni light at a medium intensity in front of George and had that light (child) link to George’s master control (parent). I then applied all geometry except George’s geometry to be excluded from this light. Therefore, George lights up a bit more, and stands out from his environment. (Thanks Norm!)

I will continue to setting up cameras and provide test renders to share. I also have a few more assets to build and texture, so I’ll update about those as soon as I can.

Thanks for viewing!

George’s Body Positions!

Just a quick update!

I placed George in the first few main positions he would be in to test out his edited rig. So far everything is going smoothly; a few weird geometry and paint weights still need to be edited, but they are minor.

George Sitting, rrgonzalez.com
George Sitting, rrgonzalez.com
George Sleeping, rrgonzalez.com
George Sleeping, rrgonzalez.com
George Laying Down (sad), rrgonzalez.com
George Laying Down (sad), rrgonzalez.com
George Stretching, rrgonzalez.com
George Stretching/Yawning, rrgonzalez.com

I don’t really gush about my characters, but HE’S SO CUTE. 😀

Next update, I’ll go ahead and put these positions into the environment I built and adjust them accordingly. That way I can begin setting up cameras and adjust lighting if needed.

Please stay tuned!

George’s Facial Expressions!

After a lot of work into the environment, I decided to jump back into the main character, George. I had to tweak a bit of his rig because of inaccurate paint weights, and also I felt that his rig wasn’t the best.

After adjusting his weights for the first week of the semester, I wanted to jump right into facial expressions. George doesn’t speak, so building phonemes were not exactly needed, but that meant I had to strongly communicate George’s emotions through his face and his body movements. I referenced my storyboard animatic on what expressions I needed to build.

I am currently working with Autodesk 3dsMax, so I used the Morpher modifier and created various channels for each movement (blinking, eye brow movements, etc.). I applied separate morphs to George’s body, his snout, and his bandana.

George Morph Channels, rrgonzalez.com
George Morph Channels, rrgonzalez.com
George Facial Expression Interface, rrgonzalez.com
George Facial Expression Interface, rrgonzalez.com

The only downside I found is that I couldn’t find a way to save the attributes I applied to create a facial expression; that way I wouldn’t have to manually change George’s face when I needed to. I do have a document with the values of each morph channel, so I have to reference that. But unfortunately, that’s the way I’m probably going have to work for now.

But here are the facial expressions of George!

George Facial Expressions, rrgonzalez.com
George Facial Expressions, rrgonzalez.com

I personally love how they turned out! I tried to push the expressions to the point where his face would look broken; I felt that would help push the very animated expressions within frames (but that’s for trial and error at a later stage in this production).

Next update I am planning to put George in specific positions in correlation to the animatic, and have his facial expressions to go along with it.

Until next time!