Sunday, November 28, 2010

Interlude: more game-engine films!

Currently a lot of time is being spent animating, troubleshooting, and writing my research paper. Not much fun stuff to share with you guys. So here's a nice distraction! More films, made with a game engine, that have come out in the months since my project started.

Unless you have a lot of spare time, you don't need to watch the whole things. But I do encourage you to load them up and skip around, and take a look at the quality of each:

"The Mastermind" an episode series made using the GTA. Visually pretty, though I'm not a fan of the pacing:

"Red Dead Redemption" a half hour short film that used the Red Dead Redemption engine, aired on the FOX TV network and was directed by accomplished director John Hillcoat.

"the Jackknife chronicles" a source-engine made short, shot in the first person, and featuring some kind of revenge tale.

"No Russian" - A wartime machinima film. The camera work and framing on this is very well done, but it might be considered a little too violent for some. Especially as it includes a terrorist raid on an civilian airport. But watching it evokes some pretty strong emotions, which to me signals that it's an effectively made film.

"A too much spare time cartoon" This is mostly flash driven, but it uses game engine scenery and it's very silly, so I'm adding it here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Start to Crate and the joy of moving

By this point I'm almost exactly 2/3 through my thesis project. It's fascinating to look back and see how much ground has been covered since I started last february. When making the schedule for this project, I added in a buffer in between each section to account for unforeseen delays. Most of that buffer was gobbled up when I grossly underestimated the time it would take to model the various props needed for the project. But I figured, hey, we're still on track!

So as per murphy's law, as soon as I said that other stuff started happening. Some of it was bad news, like getting surprise-shafted by one of the recently changed courses at my school's department. Or the abrupt announcement that 'hey, the dept you're in isn't taking any more students, so you better finish soon.' But on the other hand, some of it was good news, like one team member getting an awesome job offer that necessitates a move to a new state.

The most recent good news is that Sonja, my audio technician in this project (and beautifully talented girlfriend outside the project) has officially moved in. We spent the weekend carting stuff from her place to mine and unpacking said stuff. It decimated any chance I had at working on the thesis this past weekend, but some things are worth the delay. Progress is still being made, and it looks like I might have the first clip of in-Source footage to show you soon.

In the meanwhile, I can share with you a bit of trivia that the moving-crate image above reminds me of. There is somewhat of a video game rating system called "start-to-crate" that was established by two game critics on the website Old Man Murray. Because item crates are such a common trope in video games, the website chronicled how long it took in each game to find the first crate, and used that as a metric to measure the game's worthiness. This cliche worried the developers of halflife2 so much that they made a crate be the first thing you see when you start controlling the character.

In a fun turn of situational irony, the creators of Old Man Murray, Chet Faliszek and Erik Wolpaw, are now Valve employees and fairly visible ones with the community, at that.

In a nod to the crate trope, I'm trying to figure out where in my short I can hide a packing crate. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Animation test on the Thrall Character

Two posts in two days! This is madness.

I just finished compiling the office thrall character for the thesis project. He was the first asset I made for this project, and  like all first attempts he needed to be fixed up. I brought him into zbrush and re-sculpted his head to give it a little more volume, and what I think is a more appealing shape.

Also, when I first imported him, his face imploded. So that had to be fixed, too.

Then I re-rigged him (using the nifty script I showed earlier), and what you see above is me just mashing the different shapes together to see how they display in the game engine. And you can see, it worked! So now I can begin animating the scenes that I have set aside from myself, while the other current animator toils away on his part.

Many hands, light work, etc etc

The first Panel Defense, and other short stories

A couple news announcements for the thesis project. There hasn't been many announcements here in the past couple weeks, because stuff is busy gettin done. But if you're curious on the status:

  • The first 40 seconds of foley work is complete. I'll probably replace one or two sounds by the end, but everything is properly mixed and the scenes have been re-timed to match.
  • One of the animators on my team has, in a beautiful twist of irony, accepted a job at one of the companies mentioned on this blog. It's wonderful news, but it will take that animator out of the project until life settles down enough to allow free time for it.
  • There was a trial run for the thesis defense panel this past monday, where I had to take what I had so far and pitch it to two instructors who were acting as a panel. I pitched the project, they asked questions, and at the end of the session I can safely say I knocked it out of the park. I stumbled over my words a little, so when it comes time for my final thesis panel, I will be sure to practice speaking about it, out loud, repeatedly.
  • The thrall character has been re-rigged to match all the improvements that were added to the chef. Just as before, without doing the face shapes it took about 45 minutes. Face shapes should be finished tonight
  • I have created a personal brand to stamp on all my works, and have used it to update my resume and website:
As it's going, I'm not going to hit my target deadline of Christmas. Too many things are holding up the animation portion of this project. But I am scrambling like mad to finish the modeling, texturing, lighting, and rigging portions of the project so that I can step in and fill some gaps.