Monday, October 20, 2014

Divergent: CG Dog & Houdini Feather System

While I was organizing my latest reel I thought it would be fun to make some gifs of my work in the past few years. The first one and my favorite project so far at Method is Divergent. For the film I lookdev'd a cg dog and some cg ravens. Conveniently someone already made a gif of the dog that I did for the mirror room sequence.

The Dog
The dog was a pretty straight forward fur groom. Of course I used Houdini's fur grooming tools, not quite out of the box but customized for better control. The challenging part of this groom was the length of the fur and the fact that I had to match a live dog exactly. Long fur tends to have S shaped bends where the fur bends back on itself a couple times. To get this effect I combo'd direction, curl, and frizz attributes. It wasn't always a perfect S curve but it got close enough. The on set crew filmed a live dog but due to the complexity of the sequence and the infinite mirror reflection the environment, we had to supplement the further back reflections with a cg dog. This combined with the fact that I also had to do a jaw replacement for the dog in a few shots, half his face real half cg, and a few full cg hero dogs, the dog had to match perfectly. This just meant a lot of time with a line up camera going back and forth between the live dog and the cg one. I learned a couple of things on this groom. First was that its sometimes easier to to get precise coloring with painting color attributes in Houdini rather than relying on a texture artist. Since most texture artists don't have much experience with fur, they tend to just paint color patches where they see them. This is problematic with long fur though. Since the fur gets it's color from the root point attribute in Houdini, you have to paint the patches a little offset from where it's supposed to go. I found the feedback loop was much faster to handle this in Houdini rather than back and forth with a texture painter. When I say that I painted color attributes, I mean I painted masks on the geo and drove all of the color in the shader. I believe I had about 15 different mask attributes to drive patterning in this groom, from root and tip color to fades and solids. In addition to handling the shot lighting, the lighters also had to run the fur sims for the dog. Once I dialed in the sim settings, I created a system for the lighters to paint in areas of fur floppiness and a dial to easily control how much floppiness the fur needed in what area. In the end, I'm proud of how the dog turned out, I even got a full cg dog shot, the one in the gif above.

The Ravens
The ravens were a bit more technically challenging than the dog. I ended up using two fur systems and a feather instancing system for various areas of the bird. The easiest feathers were the ones on the head. Those are the finer feathers that look almost like fur. For that I used a straight ahead Houdini fur procedural. The body feathers were slightly trickier. They needed to look like actual feathers and the VFX Supe wanted them to be ruffled up as well. This meant that a displacement map wouldn't work as well as actual geometry. I ended up modeling about six feathers of varying sizes from curves in Houdini. I then made my own grooming system for instancing these feathers. I could paint direction and size and even had the control to animate the feathers raising and lowering on the back of the bird. From these attributes I used Houdini's fast point instancing to put these feathers on the birds at render time. It was a pretty efficient way of getting a really nice textural feel for the body of the ravens. For the wing feathers I modified the fur system to generate fur to look like flat wing feathers. This was a little tricky to do and I built off the work of some of my coworkers earlier feather jobs. In the past at Method, our earlier birds were modeled with curves and I was the first to use the fur procedural for them. Part of the system required grooming every feather to the right shape. Since then, I've modified my feather system on later jobs to use modeled outlines of feathers to derive the shape. The system worked pretty well and the render times were fairly reasonable, though when we got up to 15-40 birds in the frame at a time, some of them full frame, renders started taking a little longer.

Monday, October 13, 2014

24HCD 2014: Ragnor & the Treasure of Golub

Two weekends ago, it was 24 hour comic day at the Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach.This was the 4th year for me. I came into it with no idea what I was going to draw. My go to character for 90 Minute Comics has been Ragnor lately so it was pretty easy for me to think of a silly story for him. I finished inking all 24 pages around 4 am and then went back to shade with my grey marker. About halfway through my grey marker ran out of juice so I stretched it as far as I could. This year I went home the earliest yet, around 5 am. Every year I go home a little earlier, I'm getting old maybe?

Ragnor is busting outta jail.

Click the thumb to read more.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Magical Monster People: the fox and the faun

when i say 'fox and the faun' out loud it sounds as if i'm daffy duck

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014

Windmill test

I made this animation a while ago at Drexel as I was experimenting with different looks for cg animation. I found this when i was backing up some old data and thought it might make a cool gif.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Magical Monster People: forest people

Owl dude at the drawing horse

Forest people lounging outside of the tree house

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Scott McCloud at LAAFA

This past weekend I attended Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics Workshop held at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Arts. Scott McCloud worked for Marvel briefly in the 80s but has since then been writing his own graphic novels and webcomics. He’s won an Eisner for his webcomic Zot! but is best known for his non-fiction books Understanding Comics and Making Comics. When I wrote my master’s thesis at Drexel on digital comics I referenced his work pretty heavily so I was excited to hear him talk.

It was a two day workshop that focused on making comics, not really the drawing part, not how to draw but what to draw. How do we present our ideas in a clear and readable fashion? I’m not going to go into detail on the actual content of the course, I’m sure McCloud wouldn’t be too happy if I’m giving away for free the content he makes part of his livelihood from. I will say this, his enthusiasm for the subject was bursting at the seams. He was down to talk comics at any point, on breaks, at lunch (most of the class went out together at a nearby diner), before and after class. He even offered to buy anyone lunch that couldn’t afford to go out. It was nice to be in a class full of people that were stoked about comics and storytelling, I could recommend some of the most obscure comics to people and chances are that they already knew about it.

Scott McCloud critiquing a student's comic.

At the end of the weekend we did an exercise that I am pretty familiar with, one that I happen to do every week. My results:

My word was 'fish.'

The venue for the workshop was interesting, I have heard of Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Arts (LAAFA) for a while now and had this picture of it as a fancy old building. I guess its just the vibe I got from their website. In real life, however, it looks like a strip mall combo of a dentist office and tailor’s store. Its the most unremarkable building from the outside in a rather unremarkable (a little run down) area of Van Nuys. On the inside, however, its actually very atmospheric with high ceilings and (contemporary) master paintings covering the walls.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this workshop to anyone interested in comics or visual storytelling in general.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

90MC: answer & cupcake

some of my bros and I get together and make comics in 90 minutes. last night’s random words were: answer & cupcake

90 Minute Comics

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Monday, June 23, 2014

Perspective Drawing Class: Two Point Perspective

I did this perspective study for my perspective class a couple of months ago:

Monday, March 24, 2014

More Magical Monster People

Some Magical Monster People from recent figure drawing sessions in Santa Monica.

I've been posting them more frequently to their own tumbr:

Friday, February 28, 2014

Perspective Drawing Class Week 1 - 3

I've been trying to work on my drawing weaknesses lately. One of my biggest one is drawing environments and architectural elements in perspective. I rush through my drawings too quick and don't have the patience to slow it down and get things right. Perspective is one fundamental that I feel I never got enough instruction. To address this, I am taking a perspective drawing class at the Concept Design Academy in Pasadena taught by concept artist, Polina Hristova. I'm forcing myself to take it slow and do all of the beginner exercises.

One of the fun things I learned was that the horizon line crosses a figure at the exact same height on the figure's body no matter where they are located in depth.

Also I learned how to transfer lines:

aaaand how to make repeating shapes with two different sized boxes:

I've begun a one-point perspective drawing of an interior of a 1910s era bar. Its in the initial block in phase right now. I'll continue adding details and interest as it goes on.