Nov29
2012

By: John Gaudiosi                Categories: AnimationGamesGeneralInspirationInterviews

Simon Unger has spent the past 11 years animating big game franchises from Electronic Arts and Square Enix. He currently serves as IO Interactive’s Animation Director for Hitman: Absolution, the latest installment in the bestselling action game franchise. With the game about to launch, Unger took some time to explain how technology is pushing the game business even closer to Hollywood in this exclusive interview.

Can you talk about what drives you creatively at your job?

It may sound crazy, but so much of the creativity in games is a direct result of the constraints we’re given. Whether it’s the limitations of the tools, the specific style and art direction of the project, the gameplay elements, or the words in the script, having those lines to color between is what has fueled most of the creative innovation in game development. We’re always trying to push a little more each time to see what’s possible within those confines, but without them I think we would be a little lost.

For me also, it’s really important to look outside of games for inspiration. Too many times dev teams look only at their competition and end up missing opportunities to do something original. I draw from as much as I can; Music, movies, books, artists, random people on the street.

Above all, the biggest thing that drives me is myself. I set unbelievably high expectations that I don’t think I’ll ever live up to, but it’s been fun trying.

What’s a typical day like in your life as a game developer?

That’s the great thing about game development, and animation in general, there is no “typical day”. The only constant for me is the morning ritual of grabbing a coffee, checking emails, and planning the day as best I can. After that, depending on the stage of production, it can include meetings (many, many meetings), design discussions, solving issues, storyboarding, voice over sessions, mocap, animation reviews, and so much more. Every day is different and that’s what makes this role so interesting. I have had so many jobs in the past where you watched the clock and counted down the minutes until you got to take a break or go home. I’ve been animating for almost 12 years and haven’t watched the clock yet, even on the most stressful projects.

Can you talk about how advances in technology and the tools you use have influenced what you’ve been able to accomplish with this new game?

On the animation side, the most important thing the tech is solving is iteration time. The fundamental process of computer animation is a repeated layering from rough blocking to final polish. This is how a lot of game content is created as well. Rough assets and code are put together to prototype an idea and see if it’s good enough to continue working on. If the time between creating an animation and seeing it in game is too great, then extra layers of polish just won’t happen. This is a major reason why we’re seeing higher quality movement in games now, we can see our work in seconds and iterate on it a lot more.

The Glacier 2 (G2) engine was developed with a lot of the artists and designers needs in mind. Live editing, lighting tools, a sequence editor were all under constant development to provide the easiest and fastest process possible. It has allowed the Hitman: Absolution team to get an amazing amount of content into the game as well as allowing time to tweak what’s in there to achieve the look and feel we were after. Of course, this is only the first game to be shipped on the new G2 tech and it can only get better from here on out.

How did you work together with your team to overcome challenges during the game development process?

Making games is a team sport and communication and collaboration is so important to making a great product. The most important thing is to foster meaningful communication between the various disciplines. Programmers and animators have a tendency to circle their wagons and only speak when spoken to. Getting them up and away from their desks on a daily basis, mixing up the seating arrangements, and giving people complete ownership over a part of the game creates much more of a group mentality. No studio has this process completely dialed, but we keep trying to hone the ideas every project to find what works best. Putting a bunch of people with different personalities and skill sets together and just expecting them to create awesome stuff rarely works. It takes constant nurturing and sometimes a bit of shoving.

What are you most proud of when it comes to the animation in your new game?

If I had to pick one overall thing I am most proud of it would be the strength of the characters in the game. The animators put so much work into creating unique and immersive experiences where all of the characters feel authentic and believable, even in unbelievable situations. Everyone from a trucker sitting alone at a table to a super complex cinematic sequence with multiple characters interacting with each other, everyone put so much into making the performances as fantastic as possible.

What advice would you give to aspiring animators interested in getting into the videogame business?

DON’T!! It’s a highly competitive, unstable industry where almost none of the content you create on a daily basis can be used on a demo reel to get work in the future, which requires you to animate in whatever spare time you have left. Which won’t be much because, like it or not, there will be overtime. Also, your mom will never truly understand what it is that you do for a living.

If that didn’t scare you off, then you might have what it takes to experience something truly awesome. You will work with some of the best and most passionate people anywhere and create something that potentially millions of people will spend every free minute enjoying over and over. There is nothing more gratifying that shipping a game that gets reviewed well and is loved by the public.

As far as advice on how to get into the business as an animator, your personality and demo reel are everything. There are a lot of other factors like experience, network, resume and cover letter and so on, but it always comes down to two things; Are you good at what you do and can you work well with others. Work on your craft and be a positive person to be around. Get your stuff out in front of as many people as possible and seek out feedback constantly.

Shameless plug: An article I wrote that expands on this in more detail

What are you most proud of that the animation department has achieved with Hitman: Absolution?

I’m so incredibly proud of what the entire animation team has delivered on Hitman: Absolution it would be impossible to single out any one thing. The in-game moments, with the astounding amount of unique character performances that have been created. The cinematic sequences that were done to such a high degree of creativity and quality. The gameplay animations that needed to support so many different variables in design. The AI animations, the sheer amount of them created to support all of the different character types and behavior states. I could go on forever.

If I was going to pick one thing, and I know it sounds cheesy but it’s true, it would be the heart and passion that was put into each animation that gets played on screen. The animation team went above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen to make the experiences work and there’s a piece of each of them in the game. It was humbling to be a part of it.

John Gaudiosi head shot
John Gaudiosi
has spent the past 20 years covering the $75 billion videogame industry for top international print, online and television outlets like The Washington Post, Wired, Playboy, AOL, Yahoo!, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today Weekend, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters, Forbes, NBC, CBS and Geek Magazine. He specializes in the converge of games and Hollywood. He currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife and dogs and can be reached at JGaudiosi@aol.com.

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Nov22
2012

By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGamesGeneral

Chris Georgenes has shared a series of videos from a webinar he hosted on animating in Adobe Flash. Chris recently published How to Cheat in Adobe Flash CS6. The latest installment in this popular series will provide practical solutions and step by step tutorials for anyone working on creative projects in Adobe Flash CS6 – whether mobile applications, games, animated shorts, or full length features. Today we are sharing part 2 of 4 – keyframes and walk cycle.  Check out the previous installment here.

Chris Georgenes

Chris Georgenes spent a very long time as a freelance designer & animator specializing in Adobe Flash. Before that he worked for a small software company producing animated television shows for networks such as ABC and Cartoon Network. A few years ago Chris started designing games for Acclaim, Playdom and for a very brief stint, Disney Interactive. Today Chris is enjoying a creative director position for the highly successful mobile app GSN Casino, the Game Show Network’s latest digital offering. Chris still writes books, makes select public appearances, drinks coffee and continues a 35+ year career behind a set of drums.

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Nov20
2012

By: admin                Categories: 3D Animation

This is an excerpt from Rafiq Elmansy’s Illustrator Foundations. Rafiq walks you through a step-by-step tutorial of 3D perspective grid in Adobe Illustrator, giving you the opportunity to create your own 3D objects.

Before jumping to the 3D effects, we will start with the 3D perspective grid. This feature was added to Adobe Illustrator starting with CS5. It provides a middle ground between the manual method to create 3D content and 3D effects because it does not create the 3D objects for you. Instead, it gives you guides and a 3D grid that allow you to create accurate 3D objects.

The perspective grid helps you to create objects in perspective or in the third dimension. You can create the object directly on the grid, span the object to any of the grid sides, and transform the object applied to each of the grid sizes, as we will see in the practice example.

Before starting the example, let us understand the perspective grid and how to control it. To display the perspective grid, either select the Perspective tool in the Tools panel, or go to View > Perspective Grid > Show/Hide Grid. When you activate the perspective grid, it displays on the stage to allow you to draw an object on one of the three planes that are marked with three different colors: blue for the left planes, orange for the right planes, and green for the bottom planes. These colors are the default colors, which you can change from the View menu by choosing Perspective Grid > Define Grid Setup.

Shortcut

Use Ctrl+Shift+I (on Windows) or Cmd+Shift+I (on Mac) to show or hide the perspective grid.

FIG 13-1 The perspective grid in Illustrator document

At the top left of the workspace, you will find the Active Plane widget that allows you to activate any of the three grids. The perspective grid is surrounded with points that allow you to edit the object’s size and grids as follows. The far left and right circle points are the left and right vanishing points that allow you to change the right and left grid perspective. Each of these points moves independent of each other, which may lead to an inaccurate perspective.

Note You can link both perspective points by choosing View > Perspective Grid > Lock Station Points.

Next to the vanishing points, there is a small diamond point that controls the horizontal perspective line level. Changing this line up and down affects the vertical view angle. At the top of the perspective grid, there is the Vertical Grid Extend option, which allows you to increase the height of the grid. Under this point, there is the Grid Cell Resize point, which allows you to resize the grid cells. On the right and the left are the Extend Grid Point points that extend the grid over each side.

At the bottom of the perspective grid, there are three gray points, and each point controls the position of each plane. For example, you can change the position of the planes to become more suitable for internal room planes than external building planes. In the middle of these points is the origin point.

While you can control the perspective grid from the working space, you can perform the same modifications using the Define Perspective Grid dialog box in View > Perspective Grid.

FIG 13-2 The Define Perspective Grid dialog box

Furthermore, the dialog box includes more options to control the perspective grid, such as creating a custom perspective grid view and changing between one-, two-, and three-point perspectives, as discussed next.

The Define Perspective Grid dialog box allows you to choose from one of the three view presets available in the Presets drop-down list. Each preset has a different view, based on the number of perspective points:

• One-point perspective view displays the grid as one-sided perspective.

• Two-point perspective view shows the default perspective appearance.

• Three-point perspective view looks similar to the default perspective but flipped down.

You can create your own setting for the perspective look, and you can save these settings as custom presets using the Save icon next to the Presets list. From the Edit menu, you can choose the Perspective Grid Presets command to edit, import, and export grid presets and define them.

FIG 13-3 The different point perspective views, from top left: one-point perspective, two-point perspective, and three-point perspective

Next to the Preset section, the Perspective Grid Settings option allows you to change the perspective values as follows:

• Type lets you choose between the different three-point perspective values mentioned.

• Unites defines the measurement method, such as points, pixels, inches, and centimeters.

• Scale sets the scale aspect ratio between the artboard and the real-world measurements.

• Gridline lets you set the size of the grid cells.

• Viewing Angle allows you to set the horizontal view for the object and is related to the vanishing points. For example, a 45-degrees view means that both right and left vanishing points stand at an equal distance from each other.

• Viewing Distance shows the distance between the viewer and the object.

• Horizontal Height shows the distance between the horizontal line and ground line.

• Third Vanishing Point becomes active when you select the three-point perspective, and it then lets you set the position of the third point.

The third section in the Define Perspective Grid dialog box lets you set the colors of each plane’s grids and the opacity of the lines. In addition to the options in the Define Perspective Grid dialog box, the Perspective Grid menu allows you to show or hide the grid, show or hide rulers, enable Snap to Grid, lock the grid, and save custom perspective grids as presets.

In the example below we will learn how to use the perspective grid to create a building plan.

1. Open the fi le Perspective Perspective_grid_start.ai. In this document, you will find building architecture elements such as doors and windows. We will use these elements after we create the building walls in the next steps.

2. From the Active Plane widget, select the blue side to activate drawing on this side.

3. Use the Rectangle tool to create the first side of the building on the blue side. Notice that the created rectangle is attached and transformed according to the blue side.

4. Set this side’s color to a dark red as shown in the figure below.

FIG 13-4 The first side of the building

5. From the Active Plane widget, choose the orange side.

6. Using the Rectangle tool, draw the next side of the building and give it a darker red color.

7. Move to the green, bottom side by selecting it from the Active Plane widget.

8. Select the Rectangle tool and make the foreground color gray.

9. Click under the control points at the bottom center of the perspective grid, and drag to create the building ground. Also, try to extend it outside the building to form the sidewalk.

10. To send the rectangle behind the current walls, right-click on it, and choose Arrange > Send to Back.

Note You can arrange objects in front of each other by right-clicking the object and choosing Arrange.

At this point we have created the building’s main walls. In the next steps we will add the windows and doors to the building.

11. From the Active Plane widget, select the blue plane.

12. Select the Perspective Selection tool (Shift+V), select the window, and drag it to the blue plane.

13. Select the first window and press Option (Alt in Windows) while dragging to duplicate the window.

14. Repeat the duplication step to have the windows repeated over the building side.

FIG 13-5 The 3D building in the Perspective Grid setting

15. Repeat the above steps to add the door in the blue plane as shown in the figure below.

16. Move to the orange plane and repeat the above steps with the other side of the building.

17. Also repeat the same steps with the wall brackets, and make sure they appear under the windows.

Note You can also click around the cube in the Active Plane widget to draw without any grid selected. In order to be able to select any side, you need to have the Perspective Grid tool selected.

Now that we have added the building details, we will learn about adding text into the perspective grid and editing it. You cannot directly write text in the 3D perspective, but you can write text outside the perspective sides and attach it to a specific side, as we will see from the steps below:

18. Make sure that the blue side is selected from the Active Plane widget.

19. Select the Rectangle tool and create a rectangle on the blue side. Make it in a dark color to be a background for the text that we will add.

20. Select the Text tool, click on the stage, and write the text “Building 404.”

FIG 13-6 Adding the text to the 3D plane

21. Select the 3D Perspective tool, select the text, and drag it to the blue plane. Notice that the text follows the perspective of the rest of the objects in the plane.

Note Notice that the text is converted into outline, as you can see the path points of the text letters. However, you can still edit the text by either double-clicking it to enter isolated mode or choosing Object > Perspective > Edit Text or by clicking the Edit Text button in the Control panel.

22. Double-click on the text to edit it.

23. Change the text to “Building 404.”

24. Double-click outside the object to exit editing mode. You can also return to the document stage by clicking the back arrow on the document path at the top left of the document window.

FIG 13-7 Editing the text in the 3D plane

As we have seen from the above examples, the difference between the Perspective Grid tool and the Perspective Selection tool is that the first allows you to create and edit the perspective grid, while the second lets you select the plane side and the objects in each active plane. Also, there are number of tools that allow you to draw directly on the perspective plan: the Line Segment tool and the Rectangle groups of tools (Round Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, and Star), except the Flare tool.

Through this example, we have learned how to work with the 3D perspective grid and how to use it to build perspective-view architecture. You can use the same steps to create more buildings, experience different views, and see the results of each perspective view.

Excerpt from Illustrator Foundations: The Art of Vector Graphics, Design, and Illustration in Illustrator by Rafiq Elmansy © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Illustrator Foundations can be purchased on Amazon.com, BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

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Nov16
2012

By: Elyse                Categories: Animation

The following is an excerpt from Set the Action!: Creating Backgrounds for Compelling Storytelling in Animation, Comics, and Games by Elvin Hernandez.  In Set the Action!, Elvin helps you understand the importance of background and setting  so that you can  focus your narrative and create an interesting storyline.

You are an individual, with specific tastes, morals, and ideology. Though one of many with similar problems, concerns, or personal triumphs to make you relatable to others, you are unique in that the way you deal with all those issues is specific to your needs. Because of this, you change depending on your environment as well as the situation you find yourself in.

Think about it: the way you would behave in school or at work changes depending on the situation. If you are meeting with your boss or your principal, you’d act a bit more seriously, and you’d definitely respond (ideally) with a bit more respect (or at least you’d be a bit more guarded about your dissidence). Whereas at break time or recess, when you are hanging out with your friends, you are a bit less guarded and allowed to be a bit more like “you.” Now say we remove you from work and place you in a bar or a club: your attitude changes completely, even if you are still with someone of authority. This is because the environment should invite relaxation and comfort; you are just hanging out, being casual (this is why so many business meetings tend to happen during lunches; it gives people the chance to speak a bit less formally and become less guarded . . . which can also work against them, if they’re not careful).

My point is that we adapt to our environments and that those environments become part of our personality.

Let’s take a character we might find in a comic or animated show:

Here we have a “Flash Gordon” type: a stoic, muscular hero, very much the kind of character you would find in a place like this:

Looking at this environment, we can make some assumptions not only about the character but also about the type of adventures we’ll be following as we continue the character’s narrative. However, take the same character and place him in the following environment:

Our hero would certainly stand out in this place—and he’d definitely have a problem fitting in with the background. That’s because the character is readily identifiable as an “action” character, so that placing him in an environment like this might be in contradiction to his nature. Yet there are stories you can tell here, and it still offers narrative opportunities for our character (we could have him establish a secret identity, or he could try to make misguided attempts to have a regular job while still being “super”—the sky’s the limit, really). We just have to let the character adapt (or try to adapt) to the environment and watch what happens next.

Excerpt from Set the Action!Creating Backgrounds for Compelling Storytelling in Animation, Comics, and Games by Elvin Hernandez © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Set the Action! can be purchased Amazon.com, BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

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Nov13
2012

By: Elyse                Categories: Animation

This is an excerpt from Bill Plympton’s Make Toons Without Selling Out. This living legend breaks down how to make a career outside of the world of corporate animation – and without compromise. Learn time-saving techniques, the secrets to good storytelling, and the business-side of short and feature-length animation films.

Dogma Point #1: Make Your Film Short

Whether it’s a short or a feature, it shouldn’t run too long. I judge a lot of film festivals, and if I see a short film with a running time of 20 minutes, already I hate that film. I don’t want to see that film. Why? Because if it’s a bad film, then I’m stuck watching 20 minutes of crap! But if it’s only 5 minutes of crap, that’s okay. I can let my mind wander for 5 minutes, then be ready for the next great film.

Also, it’s very difficult to sell a 20-minute film. Cinemas won’t want it (because it would take time away from showing a feature). DVD collections won’t want it. TV stations don’t want to buy and show a 20-minute film, and the Internet prefers films in the 2- to 5-minute range. Plus, it’s a lot cheaper to make a 5-minute film.

Dogma Point #2: Make Your Film Cheap !

I run an independent film studio. I have to pay my employees, overhead, and make a living, and like I said earlier, I don’t take grants, corporate, or Hollywood money. So it’s very important that my films are successful and make a profit. If I spent $50,000 or even $1 million (like some shorts cost these days), I’d have a very beautiful film, but I’d be out of business in a week. The cost of my films runs about $1,000 per minute. If I can keep my film budgets in that vicinity, I’ll always be able to show a profit. There are a number of ways to keep the budget low:

-Don’t use expensive voice-over talent.

-Don’t use expensive music by famous artists.

-Don’t use very slow, work-intensive computer programs, such as Maya.

-Don’t have a long production time.

-Don’t use a large number of people in the production.

Dogma Point #3: Make the Film Funny

I don’t know why this point is true, but it’s a lot easier to sell a funny film than a serious film. If you want to make a film about your inner turmoil, an abstract film, or a film about politics, go ahead, but no one is going to want to watch it, except for your parents. And no one will buy it. Everyone loves stories, from kids’ bedtime stories to thousand-page novels. I see so many films that are avant-garde and abstract; while watching them, I spend my time searching for any kind of plot or meaning. It’s simple; it’s human nature to look for reflections of oneself in life’s many experiences, and that goes for films, no matter how obtuse. And if you can also tell a story in a funny way, people like it even more.

To demonstrate the difference, I remember when

I was nominated for an Oscar in 2005; my film “Guard Dog” was up against a Canadian film called “Ryan,” a computer-animated film created by an artistic genius named Chris Landreth. His film broke all my Dogma rules. It was long—about 16 minutes. It was expensive— it probably cost around a million dollars. And it wasn’t particularly funny—it was the tragic story of a drug addicted alcoholic Canadian animator.

But you know what? “Ryan” won the Oscar—and it deserved to win. It was a much better film than mine. It’s a masterpiece, but it will never show a profit, because it was such an expensive film to produce. But that’s okay, because it was a Canadian film, and the Canadians prefer prizes over profits. They make films to glorify Canadian culture, and that’s great!

But I can’t do that—I need to make money. I need to pay for my staff and my studio. So when I make a film that wins awards but loses money, it’s a disaster. It’s interesting; I look at my Dogma points—short, cheap, and funny—and it describes all of my girlfriends (yes, that’s a bad joke).

Another wonderful example I like to talk about is a film called “Bambi Meets Godzilla,” by the great Marv Newland. It follows all of my Dogma points perfectly. It’s very short—about a minute and a half. It’s cheap—I heard he spent $500 making the film. There are only about 15 drawings in the whole film—and it’s terrifically funny.

That film has gone on to be a huge success. I heard that it’s made over $100,000 over the years.

It’s the Deep Throat of animation. God, I wish I could make a film as good as “Bambi Meets Godzilla.” That’s my career goal: to make a film that’s more successful than Marv Newland’s famous short. But I fear I never will: there’s only one Marv Newland.

Excerpt from Make Toons That Sell Without Selling Out © 2012. Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Make Toons That Sell can be purchased Amazon.comBN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

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Nov07
2012

By: Elyse                Categories: General

The following is an excerpt from Rowland B. Wilson’s Trade Secrets: Notes on Cartooning and Animation. Trade Secrets offers a never-before-published peek into the personal journals of Rowland B. Wilson (1930-2005), a legend in the world of cartooning, advertising, illustration and animation. Trade Secrets is a compendium of tips, tricks, philosophies and techniques garnered over a lifetime of professional animation and artistry.

Here Wilson provides some tips for color use in your illustrations.

“The Soup”

Some artists make a neutral watercolor wash of complements such as orange and blue and use it to unify colors. (“Stock” is more like it!) Instead of pre-mixing it, overlay it as in the method of a sky overlay of blue over orange. Color hatching sometimes works in shadow if tones are close for special effect. Color hatching for optical mix in a lit textured area is excellent!

Choice of Colors for a Mix

-Should be equal in intensity, or:

-Should be equal in value.

-Color choices should be made from the Color Triangle: hue, tint, tone or shade.

-For shadows consider three colors in shadow: a local hue, an incident light hue and a darkness hue. (For example: Darkness hue can be a color one or two steps down the color wheel so a yellow shadow would be orange with cool incident light such as lemon, resulting in a sienna hue. Blue shadow would be purple and a cool incident light mixed to a “navy” blue. A red shadow could include purple and magenta, equaling a plum color.)

-Merged shadows can vary in color and temperature in recognition of obscured local colors.

The techniques of broken color and mottling can aid this effect.

Some Color Mixtures for Painting the Sky

The following are used for the overlay method. The first mixture is painted on and allowed to dry. A second color wash is added using the strong blue.

-Wash of Yellow Ochre and Rose Madder, Cobalt Blue painted over it.

-Cadmium Yellow and Vermilion mix/Cobalt Blue.

-Aureolin and Viridian mixture/Cobalt Violet.

-Black and Burnt Sienna mixture/Ultramarine Blue.

-Light Red and Emerald Green/Cobalt Blue.

-Raw Sienna and Rose with overlay of Manganese Blue.

Useful Colors

Burnt Sienna or Venetian Red functions as a brownish red in shadowed areas.

Burnt Sienna plus White gives a good smoky brownish red.

Raw Sienna functions as gold in shadow.

A flat warm tone can be made from Vermilion and Lamp Black or Indian red.

Shadowed yellow can be mixed from Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna or from warm Sepia.

Some greens mixed from color:

Cadmium Yellow Deep, Phthalocyanine Blue, Winsor Violet (for leaf green).

Cerulean Blue and Cadmium Lemon.

Ultramarine Blue plus Cadmium Lemon or Cadmium Yellow Medium.

Phthalocyanine Blue plus Cadmium Lemon or Cadmium Yellow Medium (plus limited amount of Alizarin Crimson).

Any yellow other than Lemon goes olive in the mix.

In superimposing color, yellow over blue is brighter than blue over yellow.

Colored Neutrals—As both mixed primaries and mixed secondaries produce gray, any color mixed with black can produce a neutral.

The color of light takes precedence over all other color!

Excerpt from Rowland B. Wilson’s Trade Secrets: Notes on Cartooning and Animation by Rowland Wilson © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Trade Secrets can be purchased Amazon.com, BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

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Nov05
2012

By: John Gaudiosi                Categories: AnimationGamesGeneralInspirationInterviews

Disney Epic Mickey marked the return of Walt Disney’s very first creation, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The character was introduced to a huge audience of Wii gamers three years ago in Junction Point’s game, which starred Mickey Mouse. With Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, Oswald is getting a much bigger audience (the game releases on all platforms) and a starring role (he’s playable in co-op alongside Mickey).

John Ford, lead animator at Junction Point, has been working with studio head Warren Spector and the Disney archives to bring forgotten Disney characters and worlds (from film, television and theme parks) to life again in the virtual Wasteland, an alternate universe where Disney’s past still resides. Ford talks about the new game and explains what it’s like to animate Mickey and Oswald in the new game in this exclusive interview.

What drives you creatively at your job?

The variety of challenges in creating a great game. Animation by itself is challenging, and putting great animation into a video game really ups the ante. Video games have a lot of moving parts, and every day is different. If we do it right, the end results are very rewarding.

What’s a typical day like in your life as a game developer?

A typical day starts out with emails and morning meetings where we discuss the day’s work, and tackle any issues or questions that need to be addressed. Usually, there a couple of issues that cropped up from the day before that need to be tended to immediately before the morning goes by. Afterwards, I meet individually with each member of my team, go over any notes, and make sure they have what they need in order to continue to make progress for the day. I usually also check in with other departments to make sure things are going smoothly, and that they have what they need from my team. In the afternoon, I work on animations, schedules, and emails, and usually have a project meeting or two. Near the end of the day, I check back in with everyone and see where they are at before I watch videos of the day’s animation and make notes, if necessary, for the following day. Before I leave, I wrap up any loose ends, and get a plan together for the next day.

How did you work together with your team to overcome challenges during the game development process?

We’d try to chunk problems down into manageable bits and try to come up with solutions that were as flexible as possible, because games in production are always in a constant state of change. I spent a lot of time planning, but I tried to keep the plan open enough to give us options when changes occurred. The team was really loose, and made it easy for me to switch people around and go with the flow as the project evolved. We always tried to take our work just far enough to keep progress going, without investing so much that we’d lose a lot of time when changes occurred.

Can you talk about how advances in technology and the tools you use have influenced what you’ve been able to accomplish with this new game?

Using Maya, we did a lot of work with our Character and Rigging departments to create an animation pipeline that allowed our characters evolve while minimizing any animation loss. This was a very complex project, so we developed a system that gave ourselves the control we needed to animate Disney characters, while keeping everything flexible. There were many characters in the Epic Mickey universe, and each one had a unique skeletal systems and set of performance requirements. Each animator had a lot of parts to keep track of, and having a solid pipeline was key. We used Havok Behavior as our character control system, and leveraged it with our own tools, utilizing a lot of layered animation to bring as much variety and life as possible while staying within the performance budget. Lastly, our crack technology team created cut scene tools that the animators used to script and time all of the cut scene animation, sound and effects. We could not have finished our work in time without all these wonderful tools.

What are you most proud of when it comes to the animation in your new game?

Our animation carefully followed and respected Disney history while making the characters feel right in a video game setting. It was tough at times to balance those two requirements, but the team worked really hard, and I think we managed to pull it off.

What advice would you give to aspiring animators interested in getting into the videogame business?

Focus on animation first, before getting into the game stuff. Start with working on a solid foundation in the principles of animation. Keep your ideas simple. Identify the most important part of an animation and make it shine. Try different workflows until you find what works best for you. When the process of animation becomes second nature, start exploring the technical part that is required by video games.

What’s it like working with classic Disney animated characters like Mickey and Oswald in this game franchise?

For an animator, it’s like going back to school, because Disney is where it all began. The early Disney animators paved the trail for animation. They discovered how it worked, and wrote the rulebook. Our team studied every Disney cartoon and took note of how characters moved, how they acted, and how the animation evolved over the years. We worked and reworked on our animations until we found a way to move the characters in the video game space that felt right and looked appropriate for how Disney characters should move.

John Gaudiosi head shot
John Gaudiosi
has spent the past 20 years covering the $75 billion videogame industry for top international print, online and television outlets like The Washington Post, Wired, Playboy, AOL, Yahoo!, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today Weekend, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters, Forbes, NBC, CBS and Geek Magazine. He specializes in the converge of games and Hollywood. He currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife and dogs and can be reached at JGaudiosi@aol.com.

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Nov02
2012

By: Andrzej Kuziola                Categories: AnimationGamesGeneral

Today I am going to show you how to remesh the high poly Space Rabbit model created in my previous tutorial. I am going to use a new function in ZBrush – qRemesher. This automatized retopologiser allows users to avoid complex, tedious and technical task of creating new topology.

My goal is to create a clear topology with good polygon flow and edges following the shape of the model. qRemesher automatic settings create an optimized mesh composed mainly of quads. If you need more control over the process, mask the areas where more density is needed, it will create more polygons here. You can also use the QRemesher Guides brush to place curves across the mesh to direct a topological flow. If you need to create a very specific topology there are two more methods in ZBrush which provide more control but are much more time consuming and require technical knowledge: Topology brush and ZSpheres method. Let’s begin.

Step1

I use QRemesher Guides brush to place curves across the mesh. I draw the curves along the surface in the direction where I want the new topology flow. The draw size of the brush determines a curve resolution – more complex areas require higher resolution. To delete unwanted curves I draw across it with Alt button pressed. To create loops around the model I press Shift while painting curve and drag it outside the mesh. It is better to draw less but more precisely placed curves.

Step2

CStiffnes slider tells qRemesher how strictly it should follow curves created in the previous step. As I don’t need edges in very specific places I use a default setting 1 which will guide the remeshing algorithm rather than dictating it.

Step3

Target Polygons Count slider determines the density of the mesh with a new topology. I create a new retopologised mesh by pressing the qRemesher button. Unless you need a mesh with a specific poly count I recommend to start with lower density and increase it until the desired result is achieved. There are examples of meshes created with the slider set to 5 and default 15. I am going to use the 15000 polygons mesh to create UVs in the next part of the tutorial.

I will now use UV Master which you can find in the Zplugin menu, to create coordinates for a texture map.

Step4

UV Master allows control of where UV seams will be placed. I do it by activating Enable Control Painting button. First I use Attract From Ambient Occlusion function. This automatically attracts recessed, less visible areas for possible UV seams placement.

Step5

I use the polypaint created in the previous step as a starting point. Now by activating Protect, Attract or Erase buttons I start painting. I attract less visible areas and protect where I want to avoid UV seams. This way I will avoid issues in a texturing process in a future.

Step6

I press Unwrap button. Now by activating CheckSeams option I can see where the seams were created. I also press Flatten to see how my new UV map looks. To finish the process in the UV Map subpalette I set UV map to 2048 and save the model.

[To be continued]

Andrzej Kuziola
Andrzej Kuziola
is a self-taught digital artist who works as a freelance illustrator and 3D artist. Andrzej is proficient in ZBrush, Cinema 4D and Photoshop. He has been published in 3D Artist Magazine, CG+ Magazinem CGArena.com, 3D Attack magazine, and others. Please visit www.kuziola.com for more information on his portfolio, publications, and awards.

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