Friday, 8 July 2011

The Green Pipeline, continued...

So my last entry was concerning what can be done to make the animation pipeline more ecologically friendly, and then I kind of went through the processes that are common to all (2d,3d stop motion stuff with linear scripts; well you know what I mean) animation. Ok so there are some types which would not stick to this, flick book, sand animation to name a couple, but most of it (the sucsessful stuff) is pretty regimented, and calls for planning.
Then I looked at the processes for stopframe scenery and flagged the use of materials that can not be re-used. as a solution to this I suggested back-lit/projected sets with some kind of adjustable frame. Thats all cool, so what about the 3d stuff like fully made in a package like Maya? There have been several advances in cloud storage recently; and with the advent of usb3 and fibre optics plus the compression tools available there is a real case for that. Also; instead of just keeping the data in one place all the time the data 'chases the moon' ie it goes where it is coolest (not like a trendy bar, eejit!!) to save energy on the cooling.
There are also people out there who offer number crunching services;ie render farms, they actually his I know would have several people I know freeking (Pete) but it is out there and I am sure the machines they have are a lot more energy efficient than the machines most of us have access to. And unlike us when the render is finished no just sitting there for the rest of the night; its on with the next job.
Other less obvious ways of helping the environment could be to limit the ammount of sub-divisions to the things that are closest to the camera, and graduate them away from the camera. This will save render time as we know and also energy when rendering. Also the simple things like turning monitors off when rendering and studio lights. enough from me, im sure you can think of loads more processes that can be altered to benefit the environment.
Its little things we can do like this that can make our industry greener and our planet a more pleasant place to live.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Taking the green foundation back into the animation process

As a responsible animator I have to now take my experiences down at Eden and look at how I can make the animation pipeline greener. Using 'Digital Animation' for this namely the animation skills I have gathered over the last 36 months and also applying it to a business model that I am putting in placeis the trick. So what can be done? lets look at a process from start to finish.
ok the Script writer could be working digitally, so thats ok; as long as he/she is using a power efficient machine and remembers to switch the light off.. :)
Then sending the script about, again if it is kept in digital format then there is not a lot of problem in transporting it about and getting it approved for the next stage, visualisation.
To make some kind of 'mood board' or character design a lot of 2-d artists will insist on a pencil and paper. Ok; but make sure it is from a sustainable source and try to use every page!
One good friend of mine (Kat) done some visualisation work on the last project I done and she was all digital; the way she paints light in this manner is second to none; and this also saves paper.
Storage facilities- think about cloud storage for all docs at this stage with maybe personal back-ups on pen drive and another communal prject back-up on a large harddrive in the studio. This may be duplicated once a week;
but just think of all the energy used for processing...
Now i am going to go a little out of my comfort zone and look at set creation.This is traditionally done with whatever you can get your hands on, as scale is at about 10% so a cotton real looks like a bucket and so forth. This is one of the areas that I believe I could help with. Using nylon like material and wire I believe back projecting onto this could make some fairly convincing backdrops; it may have some issues when it comes to removing armatures (maybe even positive ones-discuss) but this would make the scenery re-usable. obviously if you were making a series a 'hard set' would be preferable, but even when making this think of where it is going to end up and where its sourced.
So we got as far as the very tactile world of stop motion, and came up with a product there. The next thig would be to get some way of producing a working model.
I will leave it at that for now.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Eden Green Foundation.

Looking into running a sustainable business in the 21st century can only lead you to look at one thing. Your carbon production.In respect of this I have enrolled on a course at the Eden Project to structure the way my business operates; and start with a carbon reduced pipeline. I already try and source things locally and at the moment i am doing without a printer, so it is only the paper that comes through the letterbox that I have to take care of.
The first day consisted of introductions, coffee, an introduction to the bigger picture of sustainability; the setting of some ground rules and a great talk from a guy called Paul and the course leader Tom. A lot was crammed into the day.
There was, however time for some networking and hopefully some of these contacts will turn into business relationships and friendships. The people on the course are generally people who are aware of the climate change problem and are going the extra mile to sort it out. I respect you for that, and see you tomorrow.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Final renders and film...

The final renders are going to be projected on a scale image of the building. This will be filmed and in this way a fair representation of the effects I was after will be attained. Got 4 hours to do the filming and last edit. crack on sonny jim :)

Monday, 16 May 2011

Gathering the images. And a brief review of my file management system.

As we have been going along we have been using ong computer mainly for the main back-up. This in turn has been backed up by a portable hard drive, and also if anyone got allocated a scene then they were responsable to go to the main computer and paste there work in the appropriate folder; accompanied by their name.
So in theory all I have to do is go to the file that is relevant to the scene and grab the most recent render. This is working ok so far; as long as i keep the aspect ratio the same as the reference image everything should be ok.Must get on with stuff. Will let you know the outcome; but the deadline is looming....

Thursday, 12 May 2011


They are out there. If you look. And have some faith. Had a breakthrough on the 'having somewhere to show it' side of things and maybe the funding side also. I am not going to say anything else atm but they are out there. I have made contact.

The sound.

I have been out recording a few sounds with a hand held recorder. I have been in the house and got a few recordings in there which speak of the environment whernce they were taken. I have a recording of some people talking in another room and the resulting reverb. I also have some great recordings of the sea and the ambience of the beach. These noises have been stripped down into sound bytes and put into some kind of order to form bars in the same timeframe that my abstract animation section is in. The result is something quite obscure. Good.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Event co-ordination.

Seems the best we can hope for atm is a silent show; and also we do not have any cash for the projector. But we do have a fundraiser in the pipeline which should enable us to get some sort of projector. This offers an oppertunity to sync the sound after the thing has been shown, which seems a bit crazy. Looking back I tried to get the events management course on-board, but not even a reply to my emails. If you are reading this-thanks a bunch. Now is the time you guys would have really come into your own; and took a lot of pressure off me. as for the production, its going ok and today ironically i am working on the sound. Sorry to moan.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011


Hi there sorry about the lack of posts. Tell the truth the only reason you are getting this post is the fact i am scanning my other hard drive and seemed a perfect time for a blog, so here goes. As the title suggests I am going to give you an overview on my innovations project.

Well, one of the scenes I have been working on led me to look at how fish team together; but still have a degree of autonomy, and how I could replicate this within Maya. Firstly I started looking at animated instanced fish plotted along a motion path-too wooden. Then I tried a flow path; again with the fish animated. Again this was too regimented and the way the fish turned alng the curve still looked although they were turning as one (the inside fish moved a lot less than the outer ones). Even with the help of a wave lattice deformer to give the fish a bit more 'swim this did not work).This has led me to look at particle systems and per particle behaviors.
I found a lesson online which looked at the way butterflies flapped their wings and how to animate a group of them. I ended up taking the animation snapshot part of this lesson and taking that back to the animating an object along a curve to get some direction. This also staggers the animation of the fish and makes them look more natural.
Here we can see an animation snapshot; over two hundred frames.
This is the frames spread along a cv curve.
This is the frames relpacing the particles with the toll on the normal settings;
and this is the particles drawn in the rough shape of a 'bait ball'. The direction of the particles is preserved as per velocity (as long as the onigonal geometry was aligned with the x axis. the depth of the bait ball can be altered with the particles /transform. More to come; but must dash atm, got some sound files to find....

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Flocking continued....

With the research I have done into the onboard tools I have at my disposal within the Maya program, I have found that it has influenced the way I have been tackling other problems in other scenes.I have been forced to take some compromises in the form of sacrificing the plant growth in scene 2; which to tell the truth I was not too impressed with anyway; and after being let down for a second time on the animation of the trumpets in the same scene a fresh approach was called for. I opted to keep the trumpets, albeit only 4 of them and embelish on the musical notes with a particle system. I have used per particle events just to get some practical use out of the research I have conducted; and as you can see in the still I have overcooked the amount of particles and collision event particles in the scene. I should have time to refine this and use the 'less is more' theory.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Particles. Continued.

The behavior of my fish has been a bit of a journey; but now I am convinced I have found a way of animating the fish without them looking wooden and with each one keeping a degree of individualism. Using the Dynamics/forces within Maya and the particle system you can balance out the negative/positive attraction and whether the force is attracting the whole of the particles to a particular place or repelling the other particles away from its particular 'personal space'. This result is some resarch into how to get the herding behaviour i was after with the imported script I tried at an earlier stage. The problem I was having is that the 'fish' were reacting to world space; and this was a tough one to crack seeing i lost my td. With this method it is possible to animate the attract force along a path and in theory the fish should follow.
The scene (5) will be dressed only after the particles have been cached. This should speed up the process.

Friday, 1 April 2011


Been looking into particles and ways of steering them. Tried using a lattice; but this was too unpredictable; so now am using a curve to direct the particles. The fish have been animated on a cycle of about 200 frames to give a swimming action and then this is being instanced to the particles.
This is an experiment using the lattice. Must admit it just turned out more for the sake of 'looking pretty' rather than the particle effectivness at guideing objects.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

A note on form....

I was just watching the tv on a Sunday arvo; like you do, and one advert really jumped out at me through its lack of convention. Yes it was trying to sell, but the way the shots were strung together harked back to the times before the shackles of disney and aspects of realism that they brought. It is almost as if the building stuff of the animation itself is being reused and morphed into other objects like the older animations. This could come along with the way digital animation has altered content in some ways (Pixar and Disney) and free up the way we now can make animation.

Very pretty bit of animation; don't you think?

Sunday, 20 March 2011

New phaze.

Production is going to be stoaked up this week; and the final timeline edit is going to be struck. The fact I have my production crew 'back' is a bonus; and I am hoping that they take this week as seriously as I am going to. The first thing is to get the water scene rendering; I am giving that to Ryan; and emphisising the time management aspect of this scenes production.
Been doing a few experiments at home with different programs and have had some success; namely Flash, where the pen tool is a lot faster to work with rather than the beam tool in After Effects for instance. Also been doing some tilt-shift cheat type renders on the projection animations to see the effect on the mapped architecture.
I am also loking for either someone to gather my foley for me or some time to do it myself! Ha only joking; but it has to be done soonish :)

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Hi Ya.

Getting some advice about the sound was cool today. We ran through a few ways of editing the sound and even looked at ways of negating the lack of a mix track.
Been experimenting with some vector based programs and looking at their possible uses for mapping. I mapped the roof outside my flat and the chimney stack; and then projected the animation back onto the surface. It looked cool; but the camera i have to record the imagery is not all that so tonight i am going to be recording the results with a P2. Get in there. Omni projections could be an answer to my showreel issues atm; and that kind of thing only happens at night. Gorrilla stylee...

Thursday, 10 March 2011

As Promised a test shot.

Keep having ideas. Good or bad?

Was thinking about the uses of projection and trying to go away from the linear method of projecting onto a flat surface; and I have started to work with right angles; mainly the corners of rooms. Using the method which i told you about a couple of weeks ago i feel it would be possible to make a fairly convincing installation. Simple but effective. Tests to follow.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Process of the wheel of progress.

From one word to the next there is only one letter different. But to get both of these things to happen in the desired ways at the same time is ; to put it briefly; some trick. After some really good news at the end of last week considering funding for the project i have just come out of a meeting with one of the uni's estates people. He is fully behind our project and has a funding idea to do with a construction trade partner, who he feels could fund our project. Now we wait. As for the production, all is good. New music for a sci fi moody bit at the end and some contact with Nathan. Also the trumpets are being animated eventually.

This is an idea for the sci-fi bit of music. It should work ok; we will wait and see. I am waiting for a high definition reference image from the house before i finish this scene.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Check this...

Living Room from Mr.Beam on Vimeo.

The question is; how to do this realtime. I am more interested in the mapping software, and if it can be done with a low cost lazer scanner.

Progress report.

Hi all; been working on getting the lighting right for the feel of scene 4. Its been a play off between losing definition and or perspective with the overall feel of the scene. the problems i have had were picked up on when i done a test on a photo of the house i had made (A2 size; cost 9quid :( ).

The dark area on the left is the shadow from where the origonal photo was taken. This proved that the model we have built and the render pipeline is producing an image that is the same size. As you can see though; the content of the house is lost iin the projection. To remidy this i have brightened up the scene; especially the animated objects such as the engine houses; etc. I have also used the light linking feature on maya so the light ignores items such as the fluid effect (for the atmosphere) and the 'sky'.

We have also put together a presentation pack for any pitches we have to do to secure funding. It would be a shame if all this was dne with no final outcome; ie a show.

I have also been working on the second scene; the one with the plants/brass. This has been going ok; and i have found a great way of animating the trumpets using the flare extrude/vertex keyer. This enables me to animate along with the music even tho the program is dragging a bit when it is scrubbed. I have got the plants growing along flowpaths over time which looks cool and the contrast with the gold/brass of the instruments is quite cool.
In this shot the house image is going to be the 3d modelled one not the photo as in this shot. This will be shot as white light and the shadows papped onto the surface of the model; but the texture of the building will show through. In the mean time i have come to a decision on the water scene lighting pipeline; and Ryan is building the rest of the scenery for that scene. We are hitting that one tomorrow. Caustic shortcuts galore!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

On the subject of....

Well had to start the post somehow. Been in full production for about 4 weeks now; concentrating on transitions  between the scenes at first and for the last week on our money shots. I have dedicated this week to getting a testing method up and running; and have had a photo of the building blown up to project onto. Afterwards i realised that i should have took the photo at night; this would have resulted in truer feedback. The first shot i tried on it highlighted the problem with the doorway and projecting onto it. Including it  made the perspective effect easier to comprehend.
The size of the projection on the photo was good; so thats one less headache.
As you can see the experiment was done in the studio with the lights off; but i am sure in darker conditions with results will be better.
Another thing i learnt from this experiment was the need for high contrast on the images compared to the background; i have had to trim the environment fog and cut the light linking from my environment. The scene i feel is a little cluttered; but it is supposed to show industrial build up, so i will let that pass.
My main concern with the production is the quality of the content. As a lot of my crew are working remotely; i only have one chance a week to rectify any content mistakes. I have had one member leave the team already; and give his services to another team. this workload has been spread across myself and Ryan (because he has been great so far and the most trustworty i feel this is right).
Well i have loads more test stuff to  go up here but you will have to wait and also a website on the way; and if you want to email me about any of our work its
Till next time....

Monday, 7 February 2011

Sorry for the late post; been trying to keep it at least once a week, but this one is late. After the research into herding last week i have decided to use the flow path feature in Maya and distort the flow of the fish with two further Lattice deformers. (squash and bend). This gives a great distorted look to the path. I then re-routed the fish through the windows by animating the vertex on the flow motion path.

As for the Machinery (scene 4) i have come to the decision to make it a little more busy by having a lot more cogs; etc appearng so this suggests industrial build up. This is also true to the animatic/storyboard. The second cut has been sent back to the musician (Nathan) who is re doing the sound track with the new material attached to it.

These are a couple of shots before the new machinery has been put in. The light has to be played with, well a lot needs playing with. But that's why we produced these lighting tests. Also it gives me some imagery to put on my blog ; )

The house is nearly built (thanks Ryan) and i have a producer who (i hope ) is making sure the second years are getting on with their work. When the finished soundtrack comes back I will cut it up into scenes and give the reference and the music to the artist who is working on it. With each scene i will have to produce a rough dope-sheet showing where any important sound effects are. This is the only issue i have with the music. Looking forward to this week; really taking shape now. Get in there

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


Today i am playing around with a herding script in Maya. I have had some success in the past with it and identified possible problems with introducing the script into an already busy scene. I have discovered that the herding animation works best when on a positive zxy space as the locator is world -centric in its make up. (when the fish-in this case- move across the axis they translate by 90 degrees.) I am looking at assigning the herd leader to a separate locator and dis-associating it from the world space. This should solve the problem.

Or not. After running the script for a couple of time i have found it unstable; so i am going to look for another.
This is a shot of the water which i have been experimenting with.


 This shot is with the finished fish model introduced; and the caustics boosted.. The waves at the top should be hidden by the 'screen'. I have also introduced some simple geometry along the z axis to give the illusion of perspective.

I am still going to have to render the fish out separatly; and may have to key the fish in a more traditional way instead of using herds. The position of the light has got to be moved up so it produces more light in more of the scene.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

So why not for the sake of art?

I was watching another one of these projection 'things' earlier and it occurred to me, why are there not any projections being performed just for the sake of being art? The answer i am becoming more aware of in a very realist way; through my pocket.
The majority of projections are either sponsored by some sort of big industry or council funded; the 'now' of projection mapping makes it a great eye-catching form of advertising and this is not going away. Like any medium, such as the good old printing press and the television, their exclusivity is most likely short lived. As the technology gets cheaper and the know-how becomes more widespread i am sure projection mapping will become a lot more widespread in our environment. And as the first public printed documents were for public use (such as Henry VIII's bible) privately sponsored more 'art driven' pieces will come into existence. The mixture of static geometry and digital light rendering is not marketable on the auction floor. But i am sure this is not far in the future.

For just now enjoy the start and end of this advert. The middle pays for it.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


Obeying image size is one thing . The pathway chucks up a few more problems along the way which i will attempt to highlight now. As an experiment; I have been mapping the passageway (as described below) and all went well until we hit the lens. The solution came by reversing the process, by projecting a grid on the architecture, taking a picture of it and the taking that back into the compositing software and laying the 3d model over the top. This left use only having to cope with the inherant lens distortion; as the camera lens is far from true.

Using the scan data i had to decide what part of the building was going to be my screen; where all the action was going to take place. I then took a polygon primitive (planar) and lined this up with the area. This gave me the size of the canvas needed for photoshop. After cropping my reference image down to the shot area; i was able to use the distort tool to correct the lens. This was then added as a texture in Maya and layered over the scan data to produce a correct modelling reference.
The pink colour is to differentiate between scan data and the modelled geometry. Awful ain't it!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Small task to test expected methods.

Atm i am working on modelling a bit of the uni that we can test certain methodologies out on. Ihave at first took a picture of the area and then measured the area.

As you can see it is a very angular section; but this is perfect for what we need. I am at the moment waiting for a projector and laptop to use for the process. And i will post the results...

Monday, 10 January 2011

A Few Thoughts on the' Stereo -Typical', and hopefully how we can avoid it...

I have been keeping an eye on Mapping projects and what content peoplle are using; and this has lead me to think that maybe a couple of tweeks could be made to ours without changing it too much. The shot i am worried about is the water shot, where the water pours out through the window. See it in sooo many. Im going to change it. But we will keep the water; and the fish; god how i love fish....   sorry bout that; now, the content of the water and how it is interpreted as water is the thing that we can get creative with. What im thinking is some really pretty dancing caustics; playing on  the underwater geometry; also highly visible in the water, on the kelp and the fish.
This is an example of what i am on about.

On the subject of being a bit  different i have been playing around with the idea of portable architecture; pre mapped which can be used as a portable exibit. Watch this space...

What do you want to see and hear more about?