Jul01
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationGeneral

Track reading is an art unto itself. The waveforms displayed in a digital track-reading program represent more sonic events than need be represented visually. Phrases like “Olive Juice” and “I love you” produce similar waveforms unless one places the em fah sis on a different sill ah bull. Animators learn to identify the important stress points and determine what mouth positions are needed to convey the dialogue visually. Track readers map the dialogue on exposure sheets like the one shown below. They scrub the audio files and listen for these stress points, marking specific frames where lip sync needs to hit. At the most basic level, consonants like M, P, and B are represented with a closed mouth position. Vowels are animated with an open mouth position. Traditional animators use exposure sheets or applications like Flipbook to mark specific frames for mouth positions.

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In 3D animation, the animator imports the dialogue audio files into the animation software, key framing the timeline at points where lip sync needs to hit. Many animators begin lip sync by animating body gestures and facial expressions that help the audience read the dialogue. They view these gestures and facial expressions as an integral part of the dialogue. When effectively executed, this approach leads the audience to perceive tight sync regardless of the literal placement.

Excerpt from Designing Sound for Animation, 2nd Edition by Robin Beauchamp © 2013 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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Jun24
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: AnimationGeneral

From a legal perspective, creating a comic book by yourself is the easiest route . . . if you don’t consider the countless hours of writing, drawing, inking, coloring, lettering, proofreading, and coffee-fueled soul-searching.

But once all of the hard work is done, all you really have to do is register the copyright to your work, and try to get it published. Couldn’t be simpler, right?

Almost.

Believe it or not, the toughest legal aspect to creating a comic book solo may be ensuring that you really did, in fact, create all of the work that went into your book. Because the minute you work with another illustrator, base a part of your work on somebody else’s story, include somebody else’s trademark, or even develop your comic book plot and characters in the context of a writing support group, well then you may have legal issues.

Let me be clear: it doesn’t mean that any of the above is impermissible, in fact there are fairly straightforward contractual methods for dealing with all of the above scenarios. Furthermore, some of those situations—like developing your concept in a writer support group—may not even require any contract drafting all.

What it does mean, however, is that as you’re developing your solo opus you must periodically analyze how you’re creating your work to ensure that your final creation will not be derailed by unexpected third parties demanding a seat at the bargaining table with your publisher. In other words, even if you are working alone, you have to take time to think of the impact of your creative relationships as well as the sources of all of your material.


Excerpt from The Pocket Lawyer for Comic Book Creators by Thomas Crowell © 2014 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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Jun18
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

Not all character models are created equal. A model that looks great in a still rendering is not necessarily going to animate well. This is why, when you’re modeling a character, you need to pay attention to how you construct it in addition to how it looks when rendered.

Characters that animate well have these attributes in common:

The model consists of three-sided and four-sided polygons only. These types of polygons are necessary for smooth edge flow, but that’s not all. Many game engines work only with three-sided or four-sided polys, and the TurboSmooth modifier itself behaves correctly only with these types of polygons.

Polygons are evenly sized and spaced. Long, thin triangles are bad news in a character model. Remember that when a character’s arm or leg bends, the polygons themselves don’t bend. You need enough evenly-spaced detail to make smooth bends at the character’s joints.

Edges follow natural bend and crease lines. When you sit, there’s a natural V-shaped crease where your thighs meet your hips. When you bend your elbow, there’s a natural crease where the wide part of your lower arm meets the upper arm. Make edges on your character to follow these natural creases.

Both visible and hidden edges flow smoothly. The Editable Poly is the form of choice for many character modelers because of its toolset, as compared with Editable Mesh. The catch is that a four-sided poly has a hidden edge that, if turned in the wrong direction, can wreck the smooth flow of faces.

Subdivision is used intelligently. If the model has three-sided and four-sided polygons and uses creasing where needed, you can create it with a low number of polygons, skin the model with ease with the Skin modifier, then put the TurboSmooth modifier above the Skin modifier on the stack. The result will be a model that animates easily and accurately, updates quickly on screen, and renders beautifully.

Excerpt from How to Cheat in 3ds Max 2015 by Michael McCarthy © 2014 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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Jun11
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: AnimationGeneral

What if you’re not working solo? Perhaps you’re working with a buddy—you’re writing the script and she’s illustrating the book. Maybe you’re both writing and illustrating the book with several other artists. Either way, you are creating the comic with collaborators before you bring it to a publishing company (or publish it yourself).

Working with somebody is a wonderful way to reduce the workload, get a fresh perspective on creative issues, and open up new artistic vistas by combining divergent talents.

It can also be a recipe for disaster if the relationship is not carefully outlined in a written Collaboration Agreement or a Services Agreement before the work starts. Without the right agreements in place, you could be on the hook for debts your fellow artist incurred while making the comic book, or liable for any copyright infringement committed by your partner in the course of making the book. You could even lose control over the exclusive copyright to your comic book.

• If you plan to work with other artists, it is critical that you have a written, signed agreement in place with all collaborators before they start working with you.

• Is the idea or concept to your comic valuable in and of itself? If so, before you decide on working with another artist or writer, you may want to have them sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), in which they agree that the idea is your property.

• If you want a partner who shares in the profits and losses of the comic book project, someone who is willing to put in “sweat equity” (in other words, work for free and get paid only if the comic sells), then you should have a Collaboration Agreement of some kind.

• If instead of a partner, you’re looking to engage an artist to perform specific services, like penciling, inking, lettering, etc. in exchange for money, while you keep the copyright, you will need them to sign an Artist Services Agreement.

Collaborating with a Partner

(more…)

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Jun04
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

MAXScript is 3ds Max’s scripting language, which is very powerful and pretty simple to use. With MAXScript you can automate tasks, create new tools, and extend 3ds Max’s functionality greatly.

There are also a large amount of free and commercial scripts out there in the community if you are not a scripter yourself. At Scriptspot.com, you can search and download a huge amount of useful scripts. In this chapter we will look at a few scripts that I find useful in many of the projects I work on.

It’s hard to imagine the world of 3ds Max without the ScriptSpot website. A vast community of MAXScripters contribute to and utilize this website on a daily basis.

What’s even more amazing is that they do it all for free! That’s right, just about all the MAXScripts listed at ScriptSpot can be downloaded free of charge. This might seem too good to be true, but MAXScripters seem to enjoy sharing and exchanging the scripts they’ve written for themselves. There’s even free training on the site for learning how to write MAXScripts.

Before you get into a downloading frenzy, you need to know that MAXScripts come in a few different forms. The ScriptSpot website has a great article that explains how the different types work as well as how to install them:

http://www.scriptspot.com/3ds-max/tutorials/script-installation-in-3ds-max

Here is a brief summary of the file types and how to install and run them. There are a few different types of MAXScripts that you will run into when you download scripts from Scriptspot or other places. The most common file types are .MS and .MCR, and you will also sometimes encounter .MSE and .MZP files.

-The .MS file is the original type of maxscript and should be run by using the Run Script command under the MAXScript menu.

-The .MCR is a newer style of maxscript called a Macroscript. Macroscripts are run by loading them as you do with .MS files, but then you must assign them as an action in the Customize UI dialog.    You can assign them to a toolbar or quad menu, or as a standard menu item.

-An MSE file is an encrypted maxscript. These files are encrypted for security to protect the author’s code. Usually, these are commercial scripts (meaning, they cost money).

-Finally, the .MZP extension is a Zip format that allows you to more easily install the script. With these files you can install them by dragging them into the 3ds Max viewport or by using the Run Script command.

An important note on MAXScripts is that they aren’t the same as plugins. While some plugins started out as MAXScripts, plugins generally come with an .EXE file for installation, and you can’t see the code. With a MAXScript file in .MS or .MCR file, the code is stored as plain text. You can look inside and see how it was written, and even customize it for your own needs.

Use any text editor such as Notepad to edit MAXScript files. You can also download the free Notepad++ program, which numbers the lines of code for easier editing.

Never done any programming? Afraid to try? To get familiar with MAXScript commands, open the MAXScript Listener from the MAXScript menu, choose Macrorecorder > Enable, and watch the commands pop up as you execute them in the user interface. This is a great way to learn the MAXScript equivalents of 3ds Max tools you use every day.

Excerpt from How to Cheat in 3ds Max 2015 by Michael McCarthy © 2014 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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May28
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: Animation

Intellectual Property may be the heart of your work, but a contract is the engine that drives the deal. Without a contract to define the duties and obligations of each party, a collaboration can quickly spiral out of control, ending up in a thicket of thorny legal problems. And like an engine, unless you understand how one works, you’re not going to be able to build or fix one when a working relationship starts to sputter and seize up.

My goal is to give you the tools to help you navigate your agreements, so you can understand your contractual obligations well enough to steer clear of those scary areas that would put you in breach of contract. Hopefully, you’ll find that the better able to read a contract you are, the less boring they will appear. I don’t want to oversell it—you’re not going to find reading a license agreement as adrenaline-spiking as the latest Marvel/DC/Archie crossover, but you will find that when you know what each clause in your agreement means and how it functions, you’ll be able to see how exactly it applies to you. It will become personal . . . and that will make it interesting.

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What is a contract?

A contract is a legally enforceable agreement that determines the rights and obligations of each contracting party.

• In order to be a valid contract you need:

– An offer that is accepted.

– Terms that are definite and specific, not vague or ambiguous (although sometimes these terms can be implied).

– Consideration—something that each party gives or gets for entering into the contract. – Legal capacity—each party must be competent to enter into a contract.

– Legal purpose—a contract to do something illegal is no contract at all.

• An express contract is one where all of the terms are stated, as are the contract formation steps of offer, acceptance, and consideration.

• An implied contract is one that is formed through the behavior of the parties, or assumed by the circumstances. When certain key terms are not discussed in an implied contract, a court may fill them in with “reasonable” terms. For the most part, you want to be very careful to avoid creating implied contracts, since by definition, their terms are uncertain. However, if you’re pitching an idea to a publishing company, you may want there to be at least an implied contract for its protection.

Breach of Contract: When one party does not perform their duties or fulfill their obligations under a contract, they are in default or have breached the contract.

Excerpt from The Pocket Lawyer for Comic Book Creators by Thomas Crowell © 2014 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group

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May21
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

Modeling Characters is one of the most appealing uses for 3ds Max. We’ve all seen great animation and stills featuring characters seemingly sculpted from nothing into living, breathing people. Your main tool for character modeling is persistence. Character modeling takes skills that you might not have coming into the field of computer graphics, but you can develop these skills with practice.

When learning these techniques, a rule of thumb is that your first character will take a week to create and will look absolutely terrible; the second will take half the time and look twice as good; and successive attempts will continue to take exponentially less time and look even better. If you keep at it using the techniques described in this chapter, you’ll eventually get where you want to be.

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Before you start modeling, you’ll need good reference images to work with. At the very least, you’ll need one image for the front of the model, and another for the side. The images don’t have to be highly detailed, but they do need to provide enough information to create the basic shape of the model. If you don’t have the skills to photograph or draw the images, get an artistic friend or colleague to help.

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For highly detailed areas, such as the face or an intricate piece of jewelry or clothing, you can create a separate set of images and use them after you’ve completed the bulk of the model. Even with good reference images, after modeling the character you’ll need to complete the finishing touches by visually checking the model itself against your vision of what it should be.

Starting with useful reference material is key to creating appealing characters. Time spent up front to make or get these images will pay off many times over in the time you’ll save while modeling.

1. Reference images can be drawings or photos, or combinations of the two. Making the outlines of the character’s body clear is more important than color. The front reference image should show the character standing straight with its arms away from its sides, and its legs slightly apart. Facial reference should show a neutral facial expression, or at least the same expression in both pictures.

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2. Using Photoshop, resize the front and side images so the character is the same height in both images, and major areas of the body or face line up. It can be helpful to put both reference images into the same image and use guides to line up the images.

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3. Map the reference images onto two perpendicular planes in 3ds Max, leaving enough room to create the model where the two images intersect.

Excerpt from How to Cheat in 3ds Max 2015 by Michael McCarthy © 2014 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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May14
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

Mockup scenes are an incredibly effective way of visualizing items such as furniture, products and partial scenes of a design in a simple and fast way.

I usually use these scenes for commercial furniture mockups. If you pick up a magazine such as Harper’s Bazaar, Wallpaper* or World of Interiors for example, you will see many adverts for furniture.

These photographs have been shot in a preconfigured studio lighting environment. Most of these shoots involve artificial light and some perhaps a small percentage of natural light.

Mockup scenes significantly reduce the need for any auxiliary modeling for the environment that they are in, what you see is what you get and you can create very impressive results dependent on your subject.

HDRI lighting plays a vital role in the lighting as its simplified workflow makes it easy to create realistic renders in short amounts of time.

For this scene I modeled the timber paneling in SketchUp which took around five minutes. There is nothing truly complicated about this scene.

Here is a snapshot of the model so that you can see the amount of minimal geometry involved .

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Coming back to workflow, you will notice that there is no furniture in the SketchUp file. This is because the furniture I use has been acquired from the actual manufacturer. They normally make available 3D models in .3DS format or if you are lucky in .max on their websites.

Work smart not hard! Your scene then becomes a matter of suitable placement of furniture and artwork in order to make it look real.

I tend to find that the more interesting HDRI files you have of interior and exterior spaces, the more diversity you can offer utilizing just a single .max lighting rig. Here is the HDRI file I used for this scene .

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What I particularly like about these types of scenes is that with a few small changes to the materials and the HDRI file, you can have what looks like a total different scene, so the flexibility is immense.

If you use this workflow you should be able to create and render these scenes from scratch within 30 minutes.

Get the full workflow from V-Ray My Way!

Excerpt from V-Ray My Way by Lee Wylde © 2014 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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Jan27
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: Animation

Perspective helps us recreate the specific way we see. Whenever we look at a three-dimensional object, you can be sure the following three rules apply.

Rule One: Convergence

All parallel lines that move back in space will always seem to converge at a point on the horizon.

The key word is seem, and it’s an important one. Parallel lines never truly converge, but as they move away from us they look like they do. It’s essential that you understand this idea as it exists beyond the specific object you’re drawing. All receding parallel lines, anywhere on the page, from any object, will always seem to meet at the same place on the horizon line.

Rule Two: Diminution

Objects of equal size appear smaller as they move away from the viewer.

As things move away from us, they get smaller on the page yet still represent their particular size anywhere in your picture.

Rule Three: Foreshortening

When an object that’s perpendicular to the viewer’s line of sight changes angle, the shape of the object seems more condensed.

When a form leans back, the part of the object that has moved forward starts to obscure what’s now behind it. Foreshortening effectively compresses how an object is represented. The more it leans back, the more foreshortened and condensed it appears.

How Perspective Works

Whenever we draw something representationally, we’re drawing what something would look like from a particular location. It’s a lot like using a camera – whenever I take a picture, what I get is determined by where I am in relation to what I’m looking at. If I move or aim my camera at a different location, I get a different picture. Representational artists create with the same intention – our work is always a portrayal of what things looks like from a particular viewpoint. When you look at a photo, you are essentially placing yourself in the photographer’s shoes – seeing exactly what they saw when they took the picture. Drawing serves the same purpose – what we draw and how we draw it effectively places our audience at the scene. The sole purpose of perspective is to help you do this accurately. To start, we need to define the three things that help us position our viewer in space: how high our viewer’s eyes are off the ground, how far away they are from our subject matter, and the direction or angle that they are looking in. The vocabulary of perspective is devoted to explaining how our viewer specifically relates to what he’s looking at. Once you understand the following ideas, you’ll have a much easier time navigating what’s to come.

Excerpt from Simplifying Perspective by Robert Pastrana © 2015 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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Jan15
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationInspiration

Michael Hirsch reveals how he modelled, textured and lit the ultimate, luxury sports-car from Italy in 3ds Max, using the Madcar plug-in.

CONCEPT BACKGROUND

There was a fantastic, expensive car, built in Italy, called the Lamborghini Aventador that featured a V12 engine, capable of 0–100 km/h in 2.9 sec and with a top speed of 350 km/h. With futuristic styling for the carbon fibre body, I was really impressed by the car and decided my next CGI project in Maya would be to create one.

To start with, I had the idea of an old factory building in combination with a new piece of architecture which should symbolize the temporal change, and somewhere in the middle would be the Aventador.

It was time to think about the car paint colour. I knew it should be a bright colour, maybe metallic white. I love white cars and in my opinion, a white paintwork fi ts perfectly into a sunset situation. I used this creative decision as a starting point for my new project which was to be called, “Dream Factory”.

Step 1: Modelling the Factory

First of all, I went on the web to search for some photo reference materials. By looking at the actual car from various angles you get a good idea of how it should look. The alternative is to get hold of blueprints of a vehicle, if you want to make a perfectly accurate version. For modelling the assets, I used the poly modelling technique. I just added details at the points of interest. The first stage was to build the factory itself.

Step 2: Adding Details

The key point was to have a roof overhead, but that the side would be wide open to let the light in. I added basic circular tubes as supports and created the fence and doors to the factory area.

Step 3: Unwrapping the UVs

For the UV setup I used standard mapping techniques like planar, cylindrical and automatic mapping. Furthermore I used a very nice tool called “ZenTools”. This tool makes unwrapping of complex geometries very easy. You just have to select the first and the last edge of an object and the tool does the rest – very clean and fast.

Step 4: Creating textures

For texturing the buildings and the floor, I used Photoshop and my DSLR camera. I shot all images in RAW format to achieve more flexibility and higher quality textures. For the floor I created three different high resolution displacement maps. For a better result and more flexibility, I split the ground plane in smaller pieces by the same proportions.

Step 5: Angle Hunting

Almost every time, when I start modelling an environment, I know pretty well how the scene should look before I am finished. It’s exciting for me in a still project to find a nice camera perspective. In this image, there were a lot of things I had to pay attention to. The first was the car’s position. The second was the final alignment of the buildings. The third was to find a good looking camera angle which is equally suited for architectural photography and also car photography. For the maximum amount of realism in architectural photography it’s best to keep vertical lines actually vertical. In this case the camera has to be at a 90 degree angle, horizontal to the floor. To get the result I wanted I took advantage of a technique called “lens shift” so that the car was standing in the position I wanted with the vertical lines of the architecture still in their vertical position.

Step 6: Shading and Lighting

After modelling the scene and creating the UVs and the textures, it was time for a render preview in an Ambient Occlusion look, to prove whether all the geometrical parts and the displacement textures were working.

Step 7: Lighting positions

For lighting the scene I used three different types of lighting. You can see in this screenshot all the various sources, designed to shine onto the car to make sure it was bright, even with the bright sunlight outside.

Step 8: Natural light

For the natural lighting I used a V-Ray Domelight with an integrated sunset HDR. Furthermore, some area lights for the building were used to simulate artificial light sources. The car itself interacts with all the light sources in the scene. For accentuating the car body form, I used specular lights in the form of area lights. The wheels got a brightener in the form of two spot lights. On the opposite side I used a rim light for the trunk to get the feeling of more depth.

Step 9: Paint shading

For the car paint I used a V-Ray blend material to control diffuse colour, specular highlights and reflection values separately. In realistic environments, the car paint consists of more paint layers. For example, the base colour layer, metallic effect layer and a clear coat layer.

Step 10: Rendering the scene

For rendering the whole scene I used V-Ray. I rendered the complete scene with render elements to get maintain flexibility in the post process later. I rendered eight different layers plus some RGB masks for the car and environment. These included diffuse lighting, normals, reflection, refraction, shadow, specular layer and Z-depth layer. For the linear workflow I used the method with a gamma correction node in all shaders and not the method over the linear workflow button in the Vray Render settings, because this button is for testing purposes only. For better handling in Photoshop I rendered the car and the environment separately. Step 8 Natural light For the natural lighting I used a V-Ray Domelight with an integrated sunset HDR. Furthermore, some area lights for the building were used to simulate artificial light sources. The car itself interacts with all the light sources in the scene. For accentuating the car body form, I used specular lights in the form of area lights. The wheels got a brightener in the form of two spot lights. On the opposite side I used a rim light for the trunk to get the feeling of more depth.

Step 11: Compositing and adding the final touches

The time had finally arrived to add the final touches in Photoshop, to bring more drama into play, with sun rays, haze effects, a little bit of photographic grain, depth-of-field and so on, but with as little manual retouching as possible.

Step 12: Reflection layers

I try to squeeze as much as possible out of the 3D part so that I have as little as possible to add in Photoshop other than final colour corrections and some reflection improvements. For the reflection improvements of the car I rendered four different reflection layers – one each for the side, the trunk, the front and the top part. This is nothing different to what a professional automobile photographer does when shooting on location to get the most out of the car.

Excerpt from Digital Mayhem 3D Machine Techniques edited by Duncan Evans © 2014 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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