Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wolfboy prototype

Prototype for the wolfboy project that I will one day finish.... sometime.

Shader Writing

As promised in my previous post, here are some of my images from my shader writing final project. For those who aren't familiar with computer graphics, when something is modeled in 3d it initially just looks like a flat gray object. Only when the artist assigns the model a shader and then textures it and finally renders it will it look like what you see in the movies. Shaders are what give the object certain visible properties and govern how the renderer's lights affect the object. For example you can make a glass shader that allows light to reflect and refract through an object. Even the most basic properties of a surface must be defined through some kind of code.

How a shader is rendered depend on the renderer. The renderer is what calculates all of the algorithms to display the graphics and there are many different techniques for even more different renderers. There are ray tracers, path tracers and micropolygon renderes among others.

There was a time when everything from the geometry to the shader had to be written out in code. Now a days, however, its pretty simple to use a 3d package like Maya to create geometry and use its built in shaders. For my grad class though we learned how to code shaders in Pixar's Renderman. PRman is a well known renderer, most notably used in Toy Story (and all the subsequent Pixar films). My shaders are just not as good as the built in ones that come with Maya (think Blinn or Lambert). So the surface shader work was an academic exercise that I learned a lot from. However I think some of my displacement shaders are pretty decent and I may use in future work. Displacement shaders don't affect the color of an object, rather they actually displace geometry in a scene. Bricks and peeling paint in my example.


Its done. My final animation 1 project. Roughly a month and a half of late nights, frantic learning of new software and concepts and I am finished. Yay... just in time to start the new quarter tomorrow. Where my other animations were more exercises than productions, this was very different. This was more of a full on solo production with the intent to create a short animation with a narrative. Looking back on the project, I learned a great deal.

I have a breakdown of the software used on the Vimeo page. It doesn't mean all that much to most people. The idea for the animation started from my shader writing class. I'll post the final for that project after this post but I had to model a scene and then write all of my shaders in code (Renderman Shader Language). I chose an alleyway. Later when the final animation was assigned I decided to save production time and reuse some of the assets between classes. All I knew was that my animation 1 final was going to take place in a alley. After seeing some of my classmate's work in their Advanced Animation class, Franz, I wanted to give the trails SOP in Houdini a try. The original idea was to have lights fly around the alley. Basically I started with an idea for a visual and went from there. In the future I think I'll try to start with a story and work towards carrying it out in animation.

When I watch the animation now I think I could probably cut the entire flying light sequence out and it wouldn't make much of a difference.

I didn't create this in a vacuum though, and I have a lot of people to thank for critiques and general technique advice. Dave Lally, Dan Bode, Jessie Amadio, Evan Boucher, Nick, Tom, Christian, Dave Mauriello, Simon and all my other Drexel classmates.

Moth from NATE on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

More Test Renders

Some more frames from my animation final. I render out these frames to check on lighting. When placing lights I can't see anything but flat shaded objects so creating a light set up requires a lot of placing objects and lights and tweaking settings then rendering to see what it looks like.