Tag Archives: Blender

Layout and Technical Challenges

First, as a side note, before I get into this, I’ve been having a hard time finding time to write posts, keep up all the social media pages, forums and get work done on the short. Naturally the actual production work takes priority. But also, I hadn’t really found a good breaking point the past couple weeks as I’ve been going back and forth between different technical challenges with the rigging, hair dynamics, cloth simulation, asset management, etc. So I hope things will level out a bit from here on.

I finished the layout pass for the first scene:

The point here is mainly to get the timing, framing, and staging down. Everything is just block-in and the animation will be done from scratch, with models, lighting, etc. to be added at the rendering stage. So ignore the animation quality and weighting issues.

I explained what’s going on this scene in my previous post where I talked about the storyboarding process but I’ll go over it again and explain a few things in particular about this layout itself:

In this scene she’s just woken up and found herself in this room with people sleeping all over the floor and empty bottles and things and is sneaking away towards the door when a glint from the dresser catches her eye and she goes over to check out this shiny ring (I indicated the glint effect with some scaling and rotation, but that’ll be replaced with the actual lighting effects in the final version. The first shot will have a lens flare too that’s not there presently).

While examining the ring she sees a shadow behind her from the corner of her eye and quickly spins around drawing her pistol (not present in the layout yet -it’s just her hand) but it’s just someone rolling over in their sleep and knocking a bottle around. Then a knock at the door draws her attention and knocks a bottle off the dresser which crashes and causes her to turn to the man in the bed, where we’ll see him waking up in the mirror behind her. Then she pockets the ring and bolts before the door opens and the room stirs to life. And we end the scene panning on the open window to suggest that that’s where she made her escape.

I should point out here, that the movie is going to be silent (Music only. No dialog. No sound effects) -because I wanted to avoid actors and lip syncing so the focus would be completely on the animation. This created a filmmaking challenge. Instead of hearing a a knock at the door, I have to visually represent through animation that there’s noise from the door. I think this will be fairly apparent from her head spinning to look at it and the bottle crashing, but I might also add some animation of the door shaking or other objects if it doesn’t read as well.

I also noticed another change I need to make just uploading this. When she first pulls her gun and we cut to the bottle rolling I think it should actually cut to the person who’s just rolled over so we know they’re still asleep. Let me know if anything else doesn’t read as well for you too. Getting new eyes on this will be incredibly helpful.

If you’d like to read the script I’ve included the first page that corresponds to this scene here for reference: Nemusidian Cruise Ship Page 1 I might share more of the script as the production progresses going forward if there’s interest.

Here’s a WIP render of Nemusidian and the BlenderArtists thread I started for her character: http://blenderartists.org/forum/show…for-Short-Film
Nemu Full Body 1

I also began a thread on BA for the movie as a whole: http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?312222-Nemusidian-in-Cruise-Ship-Catastrophe

—–Technical Challenges:—–

1. Cloth Settings for Linked Objects
-In addition to getting this layout done I’ve been spending time working out a lot of the technical issues that have to be dealt with such as the workflow for hair and cloth. Currently there is no way to access simulation settings on linked objects in Blender. This is a problem if you want to, for instance, have a character file with all the object data and armature, and then link it into each scene. Under current functionality you can only make a proxy (local-ish version) of the armature for that character, which is fine for most things, but for cloth simulation and other physics simulations like hair, these will undoubtedly have to be tweaked on a per shot basis. So getting access to those settings for linked objects would be a lot of help.

I’ve been in contact with one of the lead Blender developers, Brecht van Lommel, and Bassam Kurdali, director of the first open movie, Elephants Dream. Brecht has been very generous and shared a snippet of some code that might be a start to a workaround, and Bassam said he would post his methodology for this that he’s using on his Tube project. On Sintel/ Project Durian they had a hard-coded script for this that was production specific. Unfortunately, I am not a coder, and my focus is on getting this movie made.

Production can still go on, by simply appending the cloth objects separately into each shot, and they’ll follow the linked armature, but it’s not ideal because any changes made to the original objects will have to be manually applied to every shot.

I started a thread focused on this issue on BA as well: http://blenderartists.org/forum/show…ation-Settings

2. Rigging the Shoulder Bag
-A second problem I’m working to solve right now is rigging her shoulder pack. It’s going to be around her shoulder most of the movie, but as you can see in the layout she does need to be able to take it off. That’s actually the easy part though, and can be done fairly simply with animated copy transform constraints. I’m trying to find a solution that will automate the animation for it bouncing about against her hip as much as possible, perhaps using cloth or rigid bodies in combination with an armature. But that’s a challenge I’m still trying to solve so if you have any ideas that’d be a help.
Nemu Rig
That’s where things are at the moment. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this layout. Please let me know what you think. And don’t worry about pointing out problems. Things are very easy to change at this stage. That’s the whole point of layout!
Finally, if you’re on Facebook or Google+, and you like what you see, it would really mean a lot if you could please give it a Like or a Follow:

You can also follow me directly on Twitter if you’d like, where I tweet updates regularly: http://twitter.com/mikhailpschalk

Links mentioned in this post:
Why I Don’t Believe in Storyboards
Nemusidian Character Blender Artists Thread
Nemusidian Animation Blender Artists’ Thread
Elephant’s Dream
Tube Project
Library Linking Cloth Simulation Settings Blender Artists Thread

Focus on the Face Part 2

I’ve had the New Post window open for the past few days waiting for an opportunity. I’m moving very quickly though with this short, and whenever I sat down it was a choice between either writing a blog post or making progress on the movie. But I’m taking a a bit of a break today to catch up on some Blender tutorials.

So last week I was working on the concept design for the main character, Nemu. As I said in my first post, getting her character working, and more specifically, the face is the biggest hurdle for the movie. Without her there’s no movie.nemu studies 5 instaed

I settled on a design I liked and on Monday I jumped into Blender. I hadn’t used it in a few months so I was a little rusty. The first day didn’t go so well, but I’m quickly getting back up to speed. I posted a work in progress photo up on Twitter, and on the Facebook Pagewhich you’ll have seen if you follow me on either one. Here are the results from the full week:Nemu Head 1 Perspective

I spent most of my time this week pushing vertices around the old fashioned way, trying to get the anatomy and topology right. The corners of the mouth and eyes gave me the most trouble. In future it probably makes more sense to focus on one or the other at a time (anatomy or topology) and then retopologize or reshape the mesh afterwards.

Nemu Head 1 RendersNemu Head 1 Wires

Still to-do are: checking the eye articulation (make sure they can open/ close properly) and the inside of the mouth.

At this point, unless there’s any showstoppers, I need to move on to the rest of the character and start working on expressions for the face rig. From there I can start blocking the first scene and the rest of the movie.

I could definitely continue improving and refining, but this is a quick and dirty production. I’ve already spent more time than I wanted to on just this one element. Besides when you stare at one thing for too long I think you start picking out all the imperfections and little details that probably don’t really matter that much in the bigger picture. I’ve been in a constant flux of “This looks terrible” and “That doesn’t look bad” all week… So it’s time to stop and show the world to figure out the real verdict.

I’ll start posting my WIP on Nemu on a few forums, to get a good gauge. I might take on one or two changes to the head, based on the direction of feedback I get. If you do see anything that really looks off or out of place, please let me know in the comments. And I’d love to hear what you think of her in general so far too.

The most important thing is to make sure her character reads. Stylistically I wasn’t sure how realistic to go with the look. I went slightly more towards the realistic side in order to get a good level of detail to the facial animation, but depending how things go once I get into it I may scale it back (or add if necessary) to get the animation looking good.

Lighting, textures (if any -I don’t really care for an overly textured look), and the animation itself will also play a part in how she looks on screen so the sooner I introduce those elements the better.

The make-up around the eyes is something I’m trying to work out. That’s an area that’s obviously crucial to nail down. How much eye-liner, eye shadow will she have on etc. because that can drastically change the look of the face. Getting the eyes right is probably the biggest priority.

Aside from that, I’m still trying to push the character and play around where I can, but the schedule looms large and I need to get something working. The benefit of spending most of the first half of the year learning anatomy is paid off now when I need to move fast and make quick decisions, because it’s important that this time is spent trying to capture and push her character, and as little time wasted fumbling around with the anatomy, or the software.

This is meant to be a quick and dirty production. I’m just trying to put as much character into the design as I can before it’s pencils down.

An aside to those who know me well: Can’t stress enough the importance of meeting deadlines.

If you want more frequent updates on the movie go like the Facebook page or Follow me on Twitter. I also added a mailing list signup on the right if you like to follow along that way. And please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear what you think.