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Journals

August 2018, come on down!

Welcome welcome! August will probably be remembered best in Australia for when yet another prime minister got knifed by wreckers in his own party, more notably this time because said wreckers had two goes in a single week and didn’t even get their guy in. My country is evidently being run by evil clowns.

Fun with animation

I handed in another animation exercise on the CG Cookie course, this time the splined and polished version of the robot jump. Here’s a fully rendered version which I probably shouldn’t have rendered because there’s a ton of stuff I ought to fix. Ah, here it is anyway. (Animation is mine; Rivet character supplied by CG Cookie.)

Later on in the month I came down with a cold. I tried to power through the fatigue and snot to make a start on the next animation exercise, but.. well..

Stomp, what the hell are you doing?

Definitely going back to the drawing board to give that another try.

Fun with beeps

Speaking of robots, some more beepy things arrived this month. Here’s a trancey techno jam.

I also finally replaced a dud trimpot in my trapezoid through-zero quadrature VCO and got it working properly! Here is some filthy modular techno to celebrate.

Fun with Twitter

Right at the end of the month, I RTed this tweet from Oscar-winning animation director Brad Bird who was complaining about same-day cinema and streaming releases:

Fair call, but I RTed him anyway with this:

To my shock, I got RTed by none other than Oscar-winning animation director Brad Bird!

Not exactly what I said but let’s assume he was being a bit sarcastic. 🙂

I then received many direct and indirect responses to the effect of “you’re wrong”, the famous video where David Lynch gives his opinion about watching movies on phones, “David Lynch would straight up kill you for saying this” (which turned into a thread about how David Lynch would make his move and who would try to kill me in the sequel), and a news story about Darren Aronofsky mixing his sound so it plays OK on iPhones and how Quentin Tarantino found this depressing.

I used a smartphone as an example because it’s small and unflattering, but the smartphone thing seems to upset the cinephile set who see smartphones as the Devil, the Anti-Christ of cinema! David Lynch didn’t complain about back-of-airplane-seat screens – he complained about smartphones, damnit!

So what would possess me to opine something so sacreligious to the idea of cinema? Well, here it is: if a movie still connects with the viewer powerfully on the display equivalent of Auratones, if it manages to cut through on an unforgivingly small screen with crappy headphones without the grand sensory experience of a cinema screen and sound system for support, it’s probably a pretty good movie! That’s all I meant.

(That and if studios sell movies on VOD, I shouldn’t struggle to read any narratively important information off diegetic screens. Looking at you, Blade Runner 2097…)

Brad Bird is a top-flight filmmaker and I’m sure his movies would pass a “smartphone” test whether he made explicitly sure they did or otherwise. I’m more baffled that he chose to RT me. Snarking on the quaint opinion of one lowly random to 132K followers isn’t really a fair fight. Thankfully there’s been no threats of death or rape yet so apparently Brad Bird’s fans are relatively level-headed, but I’ll keep everyone posted if it turns out there’s some cinephile psycho killer whose favourite movie was The Iron Giant.

See you in September, assuming David Lynch doesn’t come and deal with me first.

Categories
Journals Music & Synthesisers

A quick July 2018 recap

July 2018 was the month of the Wild Boars soccer team getting rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand. Blender got a fur shader based on the one from Zootopia and its shiny new 2D animation system was merged into the 2.8 branch. Hurrah!

Just like last month, my day job bit hard into my time and energy, including one monster of a fourteen hour day (close to sixteen hours with breaks included) which started around 9:30am and finally wound up around half past one in the morning. Outside of work, I logged less than thirty hours of either training or making stuff. Forty hours in a month used to be low, now it’s normal.

Music

I released an album this month called Music for open plan offices. It’s a collection of noisy but calming ambient designed for knowledge workers in noisy offices in need of a relaxing sonic bubble. If you’re not sure what to make of that description, here’s track 2, “0716 (a leveraged synergy)”:

It’s selling for a cheap and cheerful $5 over at Bandcamp. You can preview the whole album before buying it.

Animation

Earlier in the year, I stalled on the last exercise of the lipsync course because using reference video just confused me with all that was going on. I doubled back and picked up the body mechanics course again. (Hooray for self-paced education!)

Why the switch? With body mechanics, the initial exercises are focussed on capturing a particular single action like a leap or a hop or a kick. A full acting shot has a lot of physical complexity to cover like weight shifts, eye direction, body movement and lipsync, all of which has to be motivated by the character. Jumping off a ledge? Not so much. There’s less to understand in a single action and analysing video reference is much more straightforward.

Not to mention, Instructor Wayne said to do body mechanics first. I understand why now. 🙂

Anyway, here is my blocking for a robot jumping off to ledge. Woohoo!

 

Somehow it still feels off, like there’s some indication of weight which is missing in the lift-off of the jump. Books like Animators Survival Kit can help when I get stuck, to some extent. There is really no substitute for an experienced animator’s notes and lots of practice though.

See you next month!

Categories
Journals

Was that June 2018 just now?

Summary: did another lip sync exercise, started an animation add-on, saw a quenda

It’s been June 2018! The Blender 2.8 Code Quest has just finished up and it’s been amazing to see all the progress. Also I saw a quenda (southern brown bandicoot) in the local park this month for the first time ever. Here it is!

You can see and share the video on YouTube at higher res here. (If I inline the YouTube video here, it’ll track you.)

I spent the long weekend at the beginning of June completing exercise 4 of CG Cookie’s Demystifying Lip Sync course – two versions of it! At first I wanted to try using pre-posed mouth shapes for speed’s sake. I got this. (The “Melvin” character is from CG Cookie.)

It’s OK but very over-enunciated, the mouth goes too open and seems to rise and fall on the face a lot, etc. I put it down to relying too much on hastily-created pose libraries.

On my next attempt, I did a pass keyframing the gape of the mouth every two frames. The next pass I keyed the width of the mouth on alternating frames to the mouth gape, then the roll/pout of the lips on the same lip keys on the next pass. I used the pose library to hit particularly fiddly shapes and polished problematic timing afterwards. This “poseless” lipsync workflow was nicely rapid and produced good results in much less time. See what you think!

Much better, I think!

Speaking of animation, this month I started coding a animation tools add-on for Blender at the prompting of Looch. So far it has a couple of handy functions and one pretty cool function.

This shows a tool for the graph editor which makes actions more exaggerated or subtle. (animBot users might know this tool as Push/Pull.)

I’m doing time-critical project work at the day job this month and next month. This has meant some long (14+ hour!) work days. I’m making a point of relaxing and taking it easy when I’m at home so I don’t burn out too badly, so that means less animation/coding in my spare time and more sleep.

Next month is looking a little bit less intense than this month though, so hopefully I won’t have to resort to cute animal videos to sweeten the July recap. 🙂

Categories
Blender Journals Stuff I made

There goes May 2018

Summary: I made an animation tools plug-in for Blender 2.8 and I’m still working through body mechanics and lip sync animation courses for now.

Hello from May 2018. This month, Blender Animation Studio packed up and moved to the new HQ in Amsterdam North and to my south Margaret River tragically became famous for something other than surfing. The Hawai’ian volcano Kilauea started tearing up its neighbours and there was some royal wedding that people made a fuss about. And oh that torrent of never-ending GDPR emails, many from companies we look forward to never hearing a peep out of again..

Personally I spent most of the month battling one illness or another as the cold started settling in here.

There was a little pear animation I made. It uses shape keys and the Laplacian Deform modifier. Here’s the .blend file if you want a closer look. It was made for Blender 2.79a but it’s munty in the current 2.8 preview.

Speaking of Blender 2.8, I set up a Windows build environment this month when Blender’s nightly builds stopped during their office move. If you’ve ever wanted to try out unbuilt branches (like greasepencil-object) or code changes as they get committed, this is not super difficult to do and absolutely worth it!

I even did a little coding myself. Now that armature-driven animation is possible in Blender 2.8 again, I wrote a little add-on to put back the old 2.7-series keyframing tools on the toolbar exactly how they were before.

And of course there’s the fun of loading up old files in the 2.8 preview to see how well they work. Here’s an abandoned animation test from A moment in the sun rendered in 2.8’s Eevee renderer (currently a work-in-progress). None of the materials have been tweaked to work in Eevee – it’s doing a pretty good job reproducing the Cycles materials, I reckon!

 

I kept going with the Animation Body Mechanics course. I submitted this polished jump for exercise 2. (Character rig is from CG Cookie.)

 

It only had to be a simple jump across a gap, but I got fancy – that’s how this four seconds of animation is the end result of nearly 26 hours of blocking, splining and polishing over an entire month.

I’ve been encouraged to stick closer to the assigned work in future without creating momentum-crippling challenges for myself. I think this is sound advice. 🙂

For something a little easier, I started the Demystifying Lip Sync Animation course too. My linguistics training helps me get good mouth shapes at speed. Here’s my submission for exercise 2 of the course. (Character and sound from CG Cookie.)

 

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great June. 🙂

Categories
Blender Journals

April 2018 retrospective

So that was April 2018. When a Toronto cop showed the world how it’s done. When the Koreas finally started talking about ending their war. When the Australian financial sector’s dodgy behaviour was finally exposed for all to see. When.. uh… something of significance happened in Perth probably, not sure what.

I got a couple of new synthesiser bits this month, including the venerable complex LFO TINRS Wobbler and a portable enclosure with a built-in power supply. The week that the enclosure began its journey over from Melbourne, my car decided once and for all that my modular synthesiser was getting far too much attention. There soon came an ominous and expensive rattling noise from the engine…

If my chances of making it to Blender Conference 2018 were slim before, my car’s repair bills have now nailed that particular coffin shut, set it ablaze and launched it into the sun. Foo.

Blendery things

The Blender Institute began their super duper code sprint up in Amsterdam and the daily builds of Blender 2.8 are getting super duper interesting as a result! I’ll hold off from making any remarks because it’s all very much a work in progress, but there’s some promising developments.. as well as a reignition of the old LMB/RMB select debate.. ah well, may as well take the good with the bad!

Animation Bootcamp

I finished up CG Cookie’s Animation Bootcamp this month. This was my first submission for Exercise 11, the first walk cycle of the course!

I got some feedback from Instructor Wayne on this submission and had another crack at it.

Not great, true, but not awful either. The second full-body walk cycle was a little better.

It needs some polish but my peers at CG Cookie decided it was good enough to pass as is. I’ll come back to both of these another day.

I went on to the next CG Cookie animation course, Animation Workflow and Body Mechanics, and now that I’ve got a better eye for when something looks off it’s taking much longer to get my exercises to the point where I’m happy to submit them. Knowing when something’s off is easy, knowing how it’s off and how to fix it efficiently is what I’ve yet to learn. Better stick with it!

A pig

Out of the blue one Friday, I decided to challenge myself to realise a character design because it’s been a while since I tried. I did up this orthographic reference in Krita.

A flat pig

Then I tried to sculpt it. It came out looking different but so much better:

Oh hi!

Here, Mr Pig is an unretopologised sculpture. The animation is done by shape-keying a deforming lattice (head and cheeks) and the sculpted mesh (eyebrows). The freckle texture is done with vertex painting. The animation is extremely limited – he can’t open his mouth or blink yet, for instance. Still, cute pig!

The miracle of lattices!

I’m retopologising the sculpture to a mesh so that I can use it to practice UV unwrapping and surfacing, specifically texture painting. And maybe a little bit of animation too. We’ll see!

That’s all for April. If you’ve got any comments or questions or just want to rap, you can reply to this post’s toots/tweets on Mastodon or Twitter.