Life Updates

Howdy all! It’s time for a long-in-coming update on what I’ve been up to for the past half-year.

A lot has happened since last I posted progression videos of Rare Model and Spider. For one thing I had my MFA defense, my MFA show featuring all the work I’ve done for Spider, and graduated with an MFA in Visualization in December 2016!

I accepted a full-time position at Triseum, a game studio in Bryan Texas that specializes in Learning games for higher education. I now work there as an Associate Producer working to produce the next generation of tools for college students and instructors!

As the Sprint 2017 Semester started up myself and the rest of the former Chillennium executive team ceded the reigns to a new generation of student leaders. While we may check in from time to time, it’s high time we step out of the spot light and let someone else handle the monumental task of making the world’s largest student-run, student-participant game jam bigger and better! Who knows, I might come back as a judge or a mentor in the Fall. Follow the action at Chillennium.com!

Adam Rothstein and the rest of the Rare Model team are hard at work doing post-processing on the film. Keep an eye out for the finished product (and for Adam’s graduation in the Summer)!

On the home front, I’ve gotten into gardening and D&D and I’ve started writing speeches for Supercult West, the California-based sister organization to the original Supercult Show that was started at Texas A&M VIZ Lab. Most of the regulars at Supercult West are former A&M Students who now work at Dreamworks, Disney, and Pixar, and I hope they enjoy my special brand of hyptacular speeches. Nothing says a great time with friends quite like drinking every time there’s a dutch-angle in the classic film Battlefield Earth! Keep up to date with the best of the worst cinema has to offer at supercult.wordpress.com!

I’m working on removing many of the progress videos of Spider from the internet in preparation for submitting it to festivals, so don’t be surprised if you find a missing link here or there. Feel free to point them out to me!

Thanks for listening, and as one of my old friends at the VIZ Lab is fond of saying, “VIZ Long and Phosphor!”

Spider Progression

It’s been a long LONG time building spider from a crazy idea into something that has even an ounce of emotional resonance. How long exactly? Well it’s hard to get the picture with dates and numbers…how about with a crazy 4×4 grid progress video?

It’s come a long way. Let me know what you think!

Rare Model Progression

What do you do with 16 animatics and some spare time? Make a ridiculous progress compilation, obviously.

From storyboard animatic through over 6 months of work to the final layout, I hope you enjoy the ride. I sure did.

Spider Rough Draft 5

Are you sick of rough drafts yet? Maybe I’ll call this one “Final Draft” that way we can start a string of animatics called things like “Final Draft 2”, “Final Final Draft”, “Final Draft For Real”, “Final Final Draft 3 For Real I Mean It This Time”. All my Technical Director and Pipeline friends would kill me for committing such naming convention sins.

Anyway, here is the latest draft. I think all the layout work is 95% done. The next step is really to move on entirely to the animation stage, or improve upon the lighting and texturing, but because this is a solo project it’s unlikely that I’ll make it that far in the near future.

For now, Spider will stay as a high quality layout animatic. Let me know what you think and if you can think of any improvements that could be made!

Spider: Rough Draft 4

Moving on to number 2 on the list, depth of field!

There are several ways of pulling off depth of field in 3D animation. One of the more popular ways is to do it all in post. Rather than calculating the depth of field during render time and cranking it all out in every rendered frame, you simply render another pass (a z-depth pass which measures distance from the camera and outputs it as a black and white image) and composite the resulting image with the regular beauty pass to get your depth of field. This method is usually quicker than rendering it all together (since you’re breaking the calculations into separate images, each of which take a lot less time than the combined DOF render) more flexible (you can change things like focal distance in post-production rather than being stuck with whatever got rendered out). That’s all well and good, but as someone interested in learning more about Maya and its depth of field settings, I set about doing things the slow and steady way.

It’s been tricky getting the proper settings to pull of a good shot. I’ve lived most of my educational life in the computer so I’m having to do a lot of research about the different factors that contribute to depth of field in physical cameras. The results can be disappointing, especially when keyframing focal distance, but things are slowly coming together.

Right now there are only about 20 shots that have depth of field in them. I’m focusing my efforts on the shots that require focus pulls or the shots that benefit from using dof to separate foreground and background. Eventually I hope to have the whole animation benefit from dof. Other things that have changed include combining shots 970 and 980 into a longer dolly-out shot that emphasizes the smallness of the spider, an extension of shot 150, and a couple of minor tweaks to shot times here and there.

Spider: Rough Draft 2

Changes include lighting updates, a rearranging and update of a few of the shots in the Day 2 falling sequence, and a few timing things throughout. The majority of these changes are in the space of “can I see what’s going on” and “do I understand what’s going on”. About 2/3 of the shots changed in some way.

“Hey Cameron!” you might say, “Why are all these animatics dated a few days prior to when you post them?”

Well that’s because they’re dated for when I render them. It takes a few days for me to watch the animatic, take notes, upload it to YouTube, and then post it. Somewhere in that process I may re-render the animatic to fix egregious errors or flat out broken videos.Things happen, ya know? And I often want to catch them before I put them up on the internet (or decide that I WANT to show off crazy broken WIP stuff).

Where can I go from here?

  • Well there are a few areas I’m looking at that could have better animation (layout animation, mind you, not full animation) to convey basic emotion of the spider.
  • Another is adding depth of field to every shot (which will take a long time to troubleshoot and render, but potentially ramp the quality up by an order of magnitude).
  • Another is Editing which includes:
    • Sound, which always helps with communication and conveyance of the story
    • Transitions, like making cuts into dissolves and adding some frames of black where appropriate
    • Burn-ins, like time codes and shot numbers, which make it easier to make later changes

Most of the editing changes will help communicate better but are also sort of a pain to go back and re-do if I decide that changes to shot length or shot order need to be made afterwards.

We’ll see…

Spider: Rough Draft 1

Here’s the latest animatic, this time with ALL 114 shots!

As I watched it for the first time I jotted down notes for what to change in each shot. There’s some issue with animation, lighting, composition, or timing in nearly every shot…but that’s okay! That’s what a rough draft is all about.

I think that animation is sort of like painting a fence. You do it in layers and coats. Most student projects are lucky to get to do 1 or 2 full layers of paint. Animations from major studios have so many layers that it’d take a giant drill, a scientist, an engineer, and a black man to sacrifice himself in case anything goes wrong in order to dig through them all.

Here’s the first layer. Let me know what you think!

Spider: First 79 Shots

Here’s another progress animatic. This animatic shows the first 79 shots, which make up the first 2 days (both day and night).

None of the issues from the previous animatic have been fixed yet. The plan is to do a first draft of every shot and then do another pass to fix issues afterwards.

Let me know if you have any suggestions or feedback!