Monday, March 28, 2011

Big Catch

So nearly six months from the start of production, my Advanced CG/Crowd Simulation animation for Drexel is done. Actual production only happened between late September through very early January. The past couple of months have just been waiting on the audio. If you have seen my reel you've already seen like a third of the animation. So in this case done means I am not going to work on it any more. Its actually really hard for me to watch. Very nearly every scene has issues I wish I could have addressed. Ultimately though, its time to move on. I learned quite a bit throughout the production of this piece.

I have been making animations in Maya for about a year now and I've pretty much stuck to that software (with help from Nuke for some basic compositing). This animation I decided to take on two new major software packages. I had to use Massive (for crowd simulation) to fulfill the requirements of my Crowds class. I also jumped into Houdini for the smoke simulations. I owe a lot to Dan Bodenstein for getting me started with that. I wouldn't have finished the smoke without his help. To get started in learning Houdini, I used a lot of Peter Quint's videos on Vimeo.

The audio and score was made by John Avarese. John teaches a lot of audio classes in the Film Department here at Drexel. He does really good work, including feature work. I was really excited to have him on the project. Definitely check him out: John Avarese.

Anywho, give my animation a look and let me know what you think!

(Click on the picture and watch it in HD)

Monday, March 21, 2011


A fun side effect of being a new CG and VFX student is coming to the realization that NOTHING ON TV OR IN MOVIES IS REAL. I used to share an opinion with many people that digital vfx were making movies less good. I guess I was thinking of the Phantom Menace or something. Little did I know that very little on tv is not digitally altered in some way. Think you can always spot digital vfx? Watch this: Ugly Betty VFX Breakdown Now its not perfect but if someone hadn't mentioned that this was all digitally recreated then I probably would never have known. Another great vfx breakdown, this time for Black Swan

So that is compositing. I just finished my first (and last, I guess) class in the subject. The class was entitled: Matte Painting. Unfortunately there was no actual matte painting going on in the class, not really. It was really an advanced compositing class. This term the professor added an extra element to the project. We had to do the project in stereo. (thats 3D for the general public, you know, like the movies where you wear the glasses, for example Step Up 3D).

We had to shoot our own footage for the project. Having never touched a video or film camera before this was quite a challenge for me. On top of that was the stereo requirement, so I had to shoot the footage out of two cameras at once. I really screwed up the footage part, which caused major problems down the line that never really got resolved. Basically the stereo portion of the project is unwatchable. (even if you happen to have a 3d monitor, projector, or tv. or more likely but still probably not, have anaglyph glasses sitting next to your computer like me)

I learned a lot in the process so the project wasn't a failure. You can watch the mono version of the project on vimeo. Click the image to be sent to the video page:

I'm going to do a quick breakdown of the plate eventually.


This March marked my second to last quarter here at Drexel. I'll be graduating in mid June with my master's degree in Digital Media. When I applied to Drexel waaay back in 2009, I was in the Everglades spraying plants by day and working on various art projects by night. At the time I was getting interested in creating art on the computer a la digital painting. Could there be art that is only digital and has no physical correlation.

Also I was interested in how digital media and the internet could affect how we looked at art. To me, an art gallery is a weird way of looking at art. For some installation art it is the only way. Place has a huge effect on how we view artwork. If we were to go into Starbucks and get a drink and on the wall there happened to be an original Van Gogh, something one may go to a museum to see, I would say that most people would walk right past. When I go to a gallery or a group of galleries, I end up getting over saturated with art and not really seeing anything. Or I am not comfortable in the gallery so it distracts from the overall viewing experience. Sometimes it seems that the whole gallery system is set up to arbitrarily award value to work. I think art is best viewed when it is something you seek out. And what about work that can't or shouldn't be viewed in a gallery. So much digital art is better viewed on the internet.

These were some of the things I was thinking about when I was applying to Drexel's certificate program. I was hoping to learn more about web design and vector art, ironically the only kind of classes I never got to take. I remember finishing up my Drexel application and moving on to an application to PAFA, I was reapplying to a program that I had got into two years previous. On the application PAFA, it asked how you fit into contemporary art. After thinking about this for a long time, I realized I didn't fit very well at all. Most of the things that inspired me at that point were animators, illustrators, directors and writers. Not very many traditional visual artists. I never completed that application (the second time). Even though I only came to Drexel to get a certificate for web stuff, I have really enjoyed the past year and a half working with computer graphics and animation and I am looking forward to wherever that takes me!

Friday, March 4, 2011

More Rake Viz Dev

I took the day to finish off a couple of more pieces for my visual development portfolio. Check it out over at The character is from the Decemberist's album, The Hazards of Love. It is one of my favorite albums; a concept album, it tells the story of Margaret and a faun that she falls in love with. The faun's mother is jealous and does what she can to stop their trysts. At some point the rake comes in and kidnaps Margaret. The rake is an evil dude, his song is about his past. He gets married has kids but his wife dies in childbirth. Left with 3 or 4 children he goes about killing each one. After the deed is done he feels no remorse and goes about his evil deeds. I like drawing villains and I really like the Decemberists so I thought I'd give the character design a go. Once I finished the line up below, I wanted to do some action drawings. I quickly realised (I guess I hadn't thought about it too much before?) that this dude only does really bad stuff. I had to pick scenes of him doing bad stuff but infanticide might have crossed the line into questionable content for a portfolio.

Anywho, I had a good time drawing this guy, maybe I'll continue with the series once I have a bit more free time. (June?)