Monday, 24 September 2012

The Art of Dressage with Mitt Romney

By posting this today I hope I’ll stop tinkering with it and move on to something better. As you’ll see, it’s hardly well directed satire and is really nothing more than a prolonged test bed for my first attempts at using dynamically generated cloth. Those experiments began with the reigns to the horse and then the form of a flag. The old man’s coat came last and was a nightmare to figure out. Word to the wise: pre-cache your dynamic materials and turn them off completely when animating. Needless to say, I’m probably doing everything wrong but these two rules seemed to work for me.

The ending isn't quite what I wanted but I haven't yet figured out how to make liquids create a reasonable spurt of blood. On reflection, it's probably best without it.

Parts of this were rendered in software, others on the graphics card. iRay (the renderer I’ve grown to love in the past due to it using my CUDA card) doesn't allow you to tile textures. Seems like one the dumbest features to leave out of a rendering engine but what do I know? The whole thing just doesn't work (or doesn't work for me). Hence, I had to render all the city scenes in software, making the whole job more laborious than it should really have been and making for a noticeable difference in the look of the two parts.

As for the film itself, it’s a rambling mess poking fun at a target which is now probably beyond satire. Saying that, he’ll probably win the Presidency and throw us into a new Ice Age where fundamentalist types force us all to wear nylon pantaloons and quote randomly from the Bible.

Next up, I’m thinking of spending some time improving the quality of my models and texturing by rendering a still image. I can only render low detail animations on my machine but might be able to do something of more quality if I restrict myself to a single image. I really want to figure out subsurface scattering and realistic human skin.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Mitt Romney Puppet

After my previous attempt at doing David Cameron's voice (see below), I wanted a break from the voice acting. Besides, this was just meant to be a simple test of some rigging techniques that I had hoped would speed up my workflow. The main problem I have is with rigging a puppet once it’s been modeled and painted. One of the shortcuts I’m trying is to reuse hands – always the trickiest part to rebuild. I’ve now created some hands with controls that I can easily manipulate to move individual fingers. I’ve used them on about three animations with increasing success. The only problem is that I had no idea how to connect them to the rest of the model when, in this instance, the character has his sleeves rolled up. I tried hand with attached forearms but that didn’t work despite numerous attempts over the weekend. In the end, I’ve created separate forearms and stuck the hands on the end of the arm, leaving an unsightly join. I think I’ll have to think of a better way – perhaps making the whole arm separate putting the join at the shoulder where it’s less noticeable.

I’m also getting to the point where I think I should try something a little more ambitious and make a proper short animation. The only problem is that I’m completely at a loss as to what I should try. My main interest is satire but anything I make with a satirical edge will probably be out of date by the time it’s made…

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Door to Door...

One 25 hour render later and the result is in. Fewer mistakes this time, though the voice acting still hasn’t improved. I also need to start spending more time on the script rather than recording the first words I scribble down. The main motivation for this cartoon was to see if I could get frosted glass to work in an animation. The rest sort of just followed on, using whatever models and textures I had lying around.

The next animation I intend to make about George Osbourne, though I haven’t done a jot of work towards that other than a rough caricature of the men and his nose in my notebook.

Monday, 10 September 2012

I Predict A Riot... A Pussy Riot

I have an hour before a render finishes so I thought I’d struggle to update this blog on a machine that’s crying out in agony as it tries to render keyframes and keep up with my keystrokes.

I’ve been quiet but busy. Perhaps too busy. Here is my latest effort from the teach-myself computer animation course I’ve been struggling with for the past few months. All I can say is that it doesn’t look like the product of three week’s work. There are still countless mistakes and problems with it – a hand passing through a microphone at one point, some spelling mistakes, the poor quality voice acting, the writing… However, this was another exercise in making mistakes and learning new tricks. Plus I got to mock Putin and his cronies for their criminal attitude towards dissent and their treatment of Pussy Riot.

I’ve nearly solved the problem I had with animated clothing layers. The simpler way might have been to actually use a simulated cloth but that’s far too advanced and I doubt if my computer could handle it. As it stands, Putin is wearing a very thick jacket and trousers and there are few problems with his body protruding through his clothes. I am however making improvements as I go along and I’m learning short cuts to make the whole process less elaborate. In fact, time permitting, my next effort might make it to this blog within the week.

It’s beginning to feel like many of the technical aspects of animating are solved. I know how to model a mesh, retopologise it, texture it, rig it, produce decent lip sync, and get it all rendered. My next task is to get to grips with the techniques of animating. I need to learn how to use f-curves to make movements feel more realistic, perhaps try some of the techniques outlined in animation manuals such as ‘squeeze and stretch’ method which is probably only half as less filthy as it sounds.