Apr25
2013

By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGamesGeneral

In Elvin A. Hernandez’s new book Set The Action! Creating Backgrounds for Compelling Storytelling in Animation, Comics, and Games he discusses designing backgrounds that make character and story development more dynamic and realistic.

Elvin put together a series of videos that provide some great tips and techniques for background development. Today in part four, Elvin continues to develop his  fantasy city by adding details that anchor the environment in reality. In order to do so, he will discuss building dimensions, choosing buildings to “pop”, differentiating the buildings with details, and ensuring the environment is reminiscent of reality regardless of how fantastic the comic’s storyline is.

Part 1: Thumb Nails & Reference Material
Part 2: Using Two-Point Perspective
Part 3: Rules of Illusion
Part 5: Wrapping Up

We will share his fifth and final installment next week.

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Apr22
2013

By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationGamesGeneral

The following is an excerpt from Ted Boardman’s Getting Started in 3D with 3ds Max: Model, Texture, Rig, Animate, and Render in 3ds Max. Ted Boardman teaches you how to think about the holistic process of 3D design so that you can then apply the lessons to your own needs. In this tutorial, Ted shows you how to create shapes in 3Ds Max.

The process of creating 2D shapes is very similar to the process to create 3D objects (demonstrated in the book), but let’s have a look at the menu structure and some of the options.

Exercise 2-2-2 Creating Shapes

1. Let’s begin by creating a completely new scene that replaces the current scene of 3D objects. Click the Application button and choose Reset in the menu. If you hover your cursor over the command, a description of the command will appear and a tip on how to access the 3ds Max Help is included (see Figure 2-9 ).

Fig 2-9 The Reset command clears everything from the current scene and starts a new scene.

2. A dialog appears warning that this scene has been modified and asks if you want to save your changes. Click the No button (see Figure 2-10 ). This scene is only for testing the creation of objects and there’s no reason to save it.

Fig 2-10 The Reset command warns that you have unsaved changes in the current scene.

3. Another dialog appears asking whether you are sure you want to reset the scene (see Figure 2-11 ). Click the Yes button. The reset command discards everything in your current scene, so 3ds Max wants to make sure that you really want to reset. Once the scene has returned to its default state, right-click in each of the orthographic viewports (top, front, and left), then press the keyboard shortcut G in each viewport to disable the grid. This will make it easier to see the random shapes you will be creating.

Fig 2-11 The Reset command clears everything from the current scene and starts a new scene.

4. Right-click in the Top viewport to activate it. In the Create panel, click the Shapes category button (second row, second from left) to show the Object Type rollout containing the possible shapes that can be created (see Figure 2-12 ).

Fig 2-12 There are 12 2D shapes available in 3ds Max.

5. In the Object Type rollout, click the Rectangle button. In the Top viewport, somewhere near the center of the viewport, click and drag from upper left to lower right to define a rectangle much in the same way you created the Plane primitive in the previous exercise (see Figure 2-13 ). This is a 2D shape that has a name and a randomly chosen color, but has no surfaces, so it will not show up as a shaded object in the Perspective viewport or in a rendered image. It is a construction object that can be modified into a 3D object or used as an animation path.

6. Let’s create a simple straight line that requires just a click of the mouse at each endpoint of the line. At this point, do not click while dragging the mouse, because doing so will create curvature that will be explained later in this book. Click the Line button in the Object Type rollout, click in the Top viewport (quickly and release left mouse button), and then move the mouse to where you want the end of the line to be and click quickly again. Right-click to end the line creation sequence (see Figure 2-14 ). If you don’t succeed at first, try again until you can create a straight line with no curvature.

Fig 2-13 Create a Rectangle shape by clicking and dragging to define its diagonal corners

Fig 2-14 To create a straight line, you need to click and release with no dragging and then right-click to end the line command.

7. You should be comfortable enough with creating objects in 3ds Max now to try a few of the other types of shapes in the Top viewport. Concentrate on the sequences of clicking and dragging with the mouse until it begins to feel natural to you.

Note

The Text, Helix, and Section shapes are specialized types of shapes. You can try creating Text and Helix (like creating a 3D cone) in this exercise, but it would not be possible to create a Section shape at this point.

Excerpt from Getting Started in 3D with 3ds Max: Model, Texture, Rig, Animate, and Render in 3ds Max by Ted Boardman  © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Getting Started in 3D with 3ds Max: Model, Texture, Rig, Animate, and Render in 3ds Max can be purchased Amazon.com, BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

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Apr16
2013

By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneral

In Elvin A. Hernandez’s new book Set The Action! Creating Backgrounds for Compelling Storytelling in Animation, Comics, and Games he discusses designing backgrounds that make character and story development more dynamic and realistic.

Elvin put together a series of videos that provide some great tips and techniques for background development. Today in part three, Elvin takes the two-point perspective image he created in part two and pushes it further by demonstrating “rules of illusion” including diminishing distance, creating a horizon, adding drawing weight, vanishing points, and the importance of measuring grid lines.

Part 1: Thumb Nails & Reference Material
Part 2: Using Two-Point Perspective
Part 4: Implied Realism
Part 5: Wrapping Up

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Apr12
2013

By: admin                Categories: General

The following is an excerpt from Digital Art Masters: Volume 5. In this volume, you will meet some of the finest 2D and 3D artists working in the industry today and discover how they create some of the most innovative digital art in the world. Here Simon Dominic shows you step-by-step how he created Big Blue.

Introduction

Whilst I enjoy the challenge of tight specifications, it’s good every once in a while to let one’s mind go wandering. With this personal piece, Big Blue, I injected this very attitude into the image itself. I had an idea about two travelers – one human, one creature – taking a break from their long journey just to sit and ponder their futures, each lost in their own thoughts.

To better convey the mood of the piece, I tried to stay away from cliches, so partially-clothed babes, greased warriors and fire-breathing dragons were immediately ruled out. I designed the male character to be somewhat nondescript, with an unremarkable appearance, so as not to overpower the general mood. With this in mind, I referenced a photo of myself – although I must stress that I don’t own a red waistcoat. Honest (Fig.01).

I made the creature mysterious, its origin and purpose unknown and entirely dependent on the whim of the viewer. The wings give the impression of a mythical beast and the skull pattern on its head suggests a certain danger or hidden power. I contrasted this with its calm, contemplative stance to give the impression of intelligence behind that foreboding exterior.

Preparation

Sometimes I’ll create several thumbnail concepts before I start, and also collect numerous references to work from. In this instance, however, the composition and atmosphere of the piece were clear in my mind and therefore I decided to skip the concept stage and move straight to the initial sketch.

In terms of references, I only used a couple of photos of myself. The creature and the environment are entirely products of my peculiar mind.

The Initial Sketch

I started on a small canvas in ArtRage and created a sketch of the guy and the creature. In my initial sketch I wasn’t keen on the pose of the male character, so I referenced another photo and changed it. If something doesn’t seem right, change it as early as possible because the later you leave it the more difficult and time-consuming the corrections become.

Shading and Values

Next I shaded the characters to produce a value study. Basically this indicates how the light will behave in the finished piece and how the different areas of the image will contrast with each other (Fig.02).

Fig 2

Color Wash

Using a brush with plenty of thinners, I painted over the entire piece, ensuring that the sketch was still visible through the paint. I wasn’t too bothered about the landscape at this stage so I used a broad brush to apply earthy colors to the ground and brighter hues to the sky (Fig.03).

Fig 3

Rough Detail

I suspect “rough detail” is an oxymoron, but what I did here was to start applying a thick layer of paint over the entire piece. Some of the detail applied during these stages would be refined later, but some would make it through to the final image and for this reason I resized the canvas upwards to its final print size before I began.

I started out painting the creature’s body. Although I predominantly used shades of blue, I varied the color hues regularly. If I hadn’t done this then the blue color of the creature’s skin could have become overpowering. The paint values (how light or dark it is), however, remained consistent with the value study sketch-work (Fig.04).

Backlighting

Whilst painting the rocks and the male character, I had the idea that a strong backlight would make the characters stand out, or “pop”. Therefore, I imagined a light source situated in the lower left somewhere, shining onto the guy’s back, the jutting rock and also the back legs of the creature. Where does the light source come from? Nobody knows … (Fig.05).

Scruffy Feathers

I wanted the creature to have huge, powerful wings, so I was careful not to obscure its form with too many feathers. Therefore, I left the upper wing mostly free of feathers and ensured the others lay relatively flat against the wing arm. I ruffled the feathers too (so to speak), as imperfections can be used to enhance the realism of a piece.

At the same time, I painted some detail into the background landscape. Because I wasn’t working from a reference I could create exactly the look I wanted, which in this case was misty and unobtrusive yet still interesting to look at (Fig.06).

Fig 6

Finish the Landscape

I completed the landscape whilst still in ArtRage because, although the brush engine isn’t ideal for all types of small detail, it does an excellent job on organic detail such as rock, grass and wood.

I was careful not to put much background detail in the area around the creature’s head so as not to muddle the focus. Keeping the regions around the creature relatively free of detail helped the character to stand out more (Fig.07).

Fig 7

Final Blending

For the final stage I exported the image into Painter so as I could make use of Painter’s great blending brushes. I didn’t want to blend the entire final image by any means, but the character’s skin and especially the sky needed to be made much softer.

I used two brushes to do the blending. The first one blended at a low pen pressure only, and when more pressure was applied it acted like an acrylic brush, laying down paint. This is so that the small, fiddly areas can be blended and enhanced as required. The second brush was a pure blending brush with the resaturation set to zero so that it didn’t lay down any paint. I used this brush mostly for large areas – the sky and the main bulk of the creature.

When blending it’s often tempting to go too far and start blending everything. This should really be avoided. Boundaries and intentionally sharp value and hue transitions should be left unblended so that the image doesn’t become undefined and too “digitallooking.” This applies equally to the type of painting brush you use because excessive usage of soft-edged brushes tends to produce fuzzy results.

Fig 8

After finishing the blending I went over the entire image at a high zoom looking for any little bits I could tidy up. When that was done I saved the final file, went to bed and dreamed of blue feathers (Fig.08).

Excerpt from Digital Art Masters: Volume 5 by 3dtotal.Com © 2010 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Digital Art Masters can be purchased Amazon.com,BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

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Apr09
2013

By: admin                Categories: Interviews

In preparation for the book Ideas for the Animated Short: Finding and Building Stories, 2e, authors Karen Sullivan, Kate Alexander, Aubry Mintz, and Ellen Besen interviewed Andrew Jimenez of Pixar Animation Studios.  Andrew Jimenez went to San Diego State University. His first big break was on Iron Giant after which he moved to Sony Pictures to work on the first Spider-Man movie as a story reel editor and storyboard artist. That job led to a move to Pixar with Brad Bird to be a co-director of photography on The Incredibles. Most recently, Andrew worked on the animated short, One Man Band.

Q: How do you recognize a good idea for an animated short?

Andrew: Feature films and shorts are two completely different types of stories. When Mark Andrews and I were trying to come up with the idea for One Man Band, even when we were considering very un-fleshed-out ideas, it was clear that, OK, this idea belongs in a feature film and then this idea belongs in a short film.

It’s a strange analogy to make, but a good short film is like a good joke. It has a great setup, gets to the point, and pays off right away. And it doesn’t demand too much in terms of where the story has to go. It gets to the idea right away. You get it. Even if it takes you somewhere different than what you expected, it gets there right away too. It’s just very simple. And it’s about one idea. It can have multiple characters, but it has to be very clear, because in three or five minutes you don’t have time to really develop all these side stories and other plot lines.

To use the “joke” analogy again, if my timing isn’t perfect and I go on a little bit too long, I can ruin it. I also think it’s almost a little bit harder to tell a short film story because you don’t have the luxury to develop anything deeply, but yet it should be as meaningful.

It’s funny because so many short films aren’t short anymore. I think the biggest pitfall is that they are always the first act of a feature film, or they seem to be used as a vehicle for: “I’m just making this part of my bigger idea, but I’m using this to sell it.” I’m always disappointed when I find out a short film has done that, because it ignores what is so wonderful about making short films.

Q: When you’re building the story, how do you stay focused on one idea?

Andrew: One of the most important parts is the pitch. When your students or any new storyteller tells somebody else the idea, whoever is listening and/or the person pitching should really pay attention to how they are pitching.

I’ll use One Man Band as an example:

There’s a guy on a corner, and he’s playing music. He’s pretty good, but not really that good, and there is another musician that he is going to battle. That’s the story. That’s it. The second I start pitching and telling, or describing events to the story that sort of breaks out of that little quad that this movie takes place in, that’s the point where I start to get a little worried. The entire pitch should never break from that initial setup.

I think you should be able to pitch your idea in really 15 seconds. Even in One Man Band the film never really breaks out away from what’s presented in the first 15 seconds of the movie.

And it gets back to the joke analogy, which is a silly analogy, but I think it really makes the point well.

If I’m telling a joke, every beat of the story has to be right on the spot. In the feature film I can wander a little bit, lose you a little bit, I have time to get you back, but in the short film, if I lose you, there is no time to get you back. In the short film, if I go one beat too long, I can ruin it.

For example, if I start setting up giving too much background and explaining too much, then you, as an audience, start getting bored, and by the time I get to the punch line, it’s like, uh, OK, that wasn’t funny, because you gave me way too much information.

I keep using the analogy of telling a joke. That is not to say a good short film has to be funny. It’s just a way of illustrating how important timing is in the short film format.

Q: Is it hard to be funny?

Andrew: Yes, absolutely. I know if I’m trying to be funny, then I should stop right there. Stories are just like people. The funniest people never really try to be funny, they’re just really funny. And in story, the funniest stories come out of the situations.

The only thing with One Man Band that we started with before we created the story was that we knew we wanted to tell a story about music. There was a theme about what people do with talent and how people view other people that may have more talent than they do. Humor came out of story development but we never tried to do humor before we even knew what our characters were doing in the story. It is what the characters do—the acting—that makes it funny. Of course their designs played a big part of that too.

Everything comes out of story. Whether you try to be depressing or sad, or funny, humorous, or make a statement, I think the second you try to do that without arriving at that through your story, then it’s kind of like telling your punch line before your joke.

Q: What was the hardest part of making One Man Band?

Andrew: For One Man Band the hardest thing—it’s true for the features, too—was that after Mark and I got the green light just to come up with ideas (and we were so ecstatic about that) was to actually come up with the ideas.

There’s no science to coming up with a story. You can’t say, “All right, go—come up with a story.” So, Mark and I started having lunch every day. We started talking about things we had in common, things we liked, things we didn’t like in other movies.

I had this book I called “The Idea Book,” and I wrote down all the ideas we came up with, about 50. One of the common themes in all these little ideas was music—and competition. I have been an avid film score collector since I was a child and have always wanted to tell a story where music was our characters’ voices.

So we started developing and working around that theme. That time was the hardest part of the entire production of One Man Band—really getting that theme through the progression of the story. Because if you don’t have that locked down and perfect, no matter how good the CG is or the acting is, you’re never going to save it.

Don’t worry about your perfectly rendered sunset, and shading and modeling of the set. It’s the characters and their story. People will forgive so much if they really believe and love your characters and your story. When André and Wally B. was shown at SIGGRAPH for the first time many years ago, most people in the audience didn’t realize it wasn’t finished because they were so involved with the characters.

Q: What advice do you give to an animator making their first short?

Andrew: My advice would be: don’t over-complicate it. Just find one idea that you want to tell, stick with that and trust it. If it’s not working ask yourself why. Don’t think you have to pile a bunch of other stuff on top of it to make it work and make it longer. Students, especially, will pack so much stuff into the film to try to show what they can do and to make the amazing film. I know I learned so much more by making several shorter films in the span of a year instead of making only one gigantic opus.

I know at Pixar, when we look at other short films, the thing we respond to the most is a short simple idea that grabs us, that we get to react to, and then it lets us go.

Please enjoy One Man Band ©Pixar, written and directed by Andrew Jimenez and Mark Andrews.

Pixar – One Man Band from Alexandre Miotto on Vimeo.

Excerpt from Ideas for the Animated Short: Finding and Building Stories, 2e by Karen Sullivan, Kate Alexander, Aubry Mintz, and Ellen Besen © 2013 All Rights Reserved. Ideas for the Animated Short can be purchased on BN.com, Amazon.com, or your favorite online retailer.

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Apr05
2013

By: Elyse                Categories: BooksGamesGeneral

The following is an excerpt from 3ds Max Modeling for Games: Insider’s Guide to Game Character, Vehicle, and Environment Modeling: Volume 1, 2e by Andrew Gahan. This edition is packed with  tutorials that enhance your modeling skills and pump up your portfolio with high-quality work. Here, Gahan teaches you how to create hotkeys and scripts to save you some time!

Most modeling work involves a heavy amount of repetition, so it is more than worth your time to learn all the hotkeys for the major tools. If hotkeys are not assigned to your favorite tools by default, you can do it yourself using the Customize > Customize User Interface options. Sometimes, I write a script that performs a series of commands that I repeat again and again—it’s really not that hard to write basic scripts, so don’t be afraid to try it out yourself. Over the years, I have customized my workflow quite extensively to save me hours of repetition per day. Once you have made a couple of characters and want to save some time and energy, you should look at using scripting and hotkeys as a way of saving lots of time.

Figure 10.7

As I’ve been using 3ds Max for more than nine years, I’m very comfortable with the tools and my hotkeys for each modeling function that I use on a daily basis, so I don’t often use the icons. I usually run 3ds Max in Expert Mode (Views > Expert Mode), which keeps my interface free of clutter, giving me more room for looking at my character.If you are just starting out, you probably won’t want this, as it is good to explore the interface and each tool that is available, but it is a great option once you know exactly what you are doing.

As we are concerned with modeling, not animating, you can definitely turn off the track bar to save some room on your interface (Show UI ≥ Show Track Bar).

Figure 10.8

Viewport Preference Settings

By default, 3ds Max’s viewports display rather low-resolution textures by today’s standards. If you select Customize > Preferences > Viewports > Configure Driver, you can increase the maximum texture size. Select “1024” and check “Match Bitmap Size as Closely as Poss

ible” for both “Background Texture Size” and the “Download Texture Size.”

Excerpt from 3ds Max Modeling for Games: Insider’s Guide to Game Character, Vehicle, and Environment Modeling: Volume 1, 2e by Andrew Gahan © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Re

served. 3ds Max can be purchased Amazon.comBN.com, and wherever fine books can be found

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