WarLord's WarBlog

Are You Ready for Commercial Success?

by on Aug.31, 2012, under Uncategorized

OK… as stated that is a LOADED question because of one word… commercial. If you are a machinimist that is strictly in it for the artform/storytelling and so forth then this won’t be of interest to you. If however you would like to monetize your machinima experience then what are you willing to do to make that happen when the opportunity arrives?

When your project becomes “financed” are you prepared for the limitations that may come with financing? Even though you’ve already decided commercializing your work might not necessarily be the ultimate evil or betrayal of your creative soul are you willing to accept the fundamental concepts of commercialization? Making a profit so you can keep doing it?  Playing to the largest audience possible and so on? Again… if you think compromising aspects of your project is selling out then you might want to move along as there is nothing that will interest you here.  This entire post is based around the idea that commercialization of your work can actually be… GASP… a good thing!

Not all projects require that everything be compromised or dictated (dictated is a word you might want to become familiar with if you want to stay busy in the industry) but there will be compromises when you are not given total control. When someone else is paying the bill then they usually retain a significant amount of control both administrative and creative.

Where does that loss of control come from? As most of you have already guessed by now its the contracts you sign to finance and administer the project.  Something tells me that machinimist will be a bit shell shocked after seeing their first contract offer and that doesn’t count the fact that machinima as the platform for their project (excuse me… what used to be their project) is dead in the water.  You will no longer have control of every aspect of every scene. In fact… you will not be animating it or shooting it live as that will be for others to do and they most certainly won’t do everything like you envision it.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in a wave of changes that could overwhelm the machinimist that finally gets a break unless they somehow maintain control which is a rarity.

So… hence the question… are you ready for commercial success?

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What is the purpose of a critique?

by on Jul.25, 2012, under Uncategorized

Better yet… what is the purpose of your critique concerning other people’s work?

I had the recent displeasure of having to listen to a very creative person give every reason in the book for tossing out a good project based on the criticism they received from their peers. This involved a private machinima project not a commercial job and I was really blown away by the fact that this person had let a group STOP them from telling their story.

I mean really… is this what criticism is for?

That certainly is a loaded question and relative to the situation at hand but stop and think about it. What is criticism for? Is it to improve, to move forward, to stop, to discourage? I’m sure we’ll all pick the more positive points but how many times do we actually do the negative and what is the effect on the creativity of the team or individual being critiqued? What did the critique accomplish?

I realize that I am simplifying the concept in the extreme because criticism is universal to every human being but there is a world of difference in the critiques I receive based on my professional work versus most critiques I see in the machinima crowd.

While there are great critiques being given most miss the fact that it is the machinimist story to tell… not theirs.  Instead of critiquing in a manner that improves and moves the story forward they pick apart the story based not on inconsistencies, technique, continuity or artistic talent but rather how THEY think the story should be told.

I’m walking a fine line with this reasoning as critiques are relative to lot of different factors and viewpoints but POINT OF VIEW makes a huge difference.  I also realize that my opinion on critiques is not the end all of the discussion… just another opinion in a sea of them.

My basic question concerns how we give a critique. Do we do so based on how we would do the project or do we try to get on board with their vision instead of our own? Help them improve their project based on their goals and not ours? If you work in production the answer is simple. You get on board with their vision relying on your skills and techniques to help improve it. If you don’t get on the same page you will not be a part of that project much longer so freelancers learn this immediately and that might give some of us a different perspective from the average machinimist.

Some things I have learned over the years from some extremely talented people:

  1. Identify CAVE people – Critics Against Virtually Everything – as they really don’t add much to the conversation but shouldn’t be ignored as any input is important… the input just needs to be identified and classified for what it is.
  2. Do not take critiques personally! Not even when aimed at you as a personal attack which is not a critique anyway so ignore it. Those type of critics only have the power over you that you grant them so let it roll off your back and move on.
  3. Identify critics that are constructive and learn from them while… as stated earlier… still listening to the destructive critics on the chance they will say something that will actually IMPROVE your project.
  4. Keep in mind when giving a critique it’s not your vision but theirs and help them improve and achieve it instead of rewriting it.
  5. Find a core group of peers from all skill levels that will be honest and on board with you when critiquing your work.
  6. Cheerlead when necessary. Most of my comments are not critiques as I’m not comfortable doing that. I’m a cheerleader as you can tell. I look for the positive or don’t say much at all. Anyone’s work can be picked apart anytime and positive comments are easily identified for what they are… encouraging the artist. Cheerleading is not evil.
  7. Don’t rag on them… write! Be concise with advice that can be followed instead of some pie in the sky abstract concept.
  8. Hold a very critical eye to your own work. Use the same standard or higher when judging your work. Some of the best machinimist and animators I know do not like their own work so this not unusual.
  9. Listen to all input but classify that input in terms of what it is and deal with it in that manner. If you react properly to the critiques you will soon find you are being more pro-active as time goes on and thereby eliminating recurring criticisms along the way.
  10. One more time.Help them tell THEIR story and use criticism that helps you tell your story and forwards your vision. It can’t be said enough. Your machinima project is just that… yours! Run with it not from it because some people may not like this or that.

With this in mind when I do give a critique I don’t try to stifle or stop, don’t critique for the sake of just pointing out flaws. I try to help move the project forward and help the machinimist complete their vision in the most professional manner possible.

My soapbox is getting rather tall at the moment so I’d better sign off and find a ladder so I can climb down from here and get back to work.  All this preaching has worn me out.

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Post Magazine: iClone in the Pipeline

by on Jul.23, 2012, under Uncategorized

Recently I was very fortunate to author a short pipeline article and video tutorial for  industry publication Post Magazine.  This production pipeline involves using Studio Max (with Vue and CityEngine assets) along with iClone and After Effects. The tutorial starts after the city image is rendered from Studio Max then into the pipeline for animation and final production.

The project involves:

1.) Using a render from Studio Max

2.) Bring render into iClone to animate all objects that require motion. Render that output to go into After Effects.

3.) Use After Effects for post work to tighten up the final render,

  • Create the masking for iClone animated objects to appear to pass behind or between buildings in the 2D Studio Max render.
  • Use a 2D render of the Studio Max city to fill in the holes created by the subtraction masks.
  • Use an adjustment layer to mimic fog to dull out the much sharper iClone animated objects (remove the sharp edges) and animate the fog.

This is a very basic and simple usage of iClone in a professional pipeline environment in which After Effects is used to mask and blend the differing renders into a production quality render. This magazine targets an audience to which editing and composite work are second nature so it was kept simple to demonstrate the concept.

The tutorial is located here:
http://www.postmagazine.com/Publications/Post-Magazine/2012/July-1-2012/Tutorial-Reallusions-iClone-animation-pipeline.aspx

PostMagazine homepage is here:
http://www.postmagazine.com/

iClone has matured to a point where it has a place in the animator’s toolbox well beyond it’s machinima roots as demonstrated in the pipeline tutorial.

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I See Dead People… errr… Peeps

by on Jun.27, 2012, under Uncategorized

A friend and cohort of mine, Anima Technica, mentioned a need for dead people… so being a redneck Texan with enough guns to invade a large country I immediately grasped the situation and got to work on making dead bodies.

Relax… the guns are still locked up and people are safe but the peeps aren’t. In fact… a lot of peeps have tragically given up their life for folks like Anima. They could be strolling on sidewalks, walking the square or even marching with the zombies but instead they are forced to die for someone’s creative whims…  isn’t that how these things work anyway?

Low Poly Peeps in Action… so to speak.

While making dead bodies isn’t difficult it can be tedious like a lot of filler props because it requires different poses and so forth. Since there is no animation involved these peeps were exported in groups of ten instead of individually. This facilitates the ability to change colors quicker as changes made to one peep are reflected in the other nine peeps except for the face which has its own image.  There are three 10 peep groups of bodies laying in various poses face up, down and on the side. Again these are not mapped for great texturing so much as color changes. Texture maps slow down the engine and limit the number of peeps used in a scene which defeats the purpose of peeps altogether.

Even though the shirt and pants are the same color they are two distinct maps making them available for different colors.

Only one version of the prop will be available since it consists of three – ten person groups. The prop is not merged so the three groups can be moved into different positions. You can actually save each group out as an individual prop for smaller groups.

The blood on the peeps is a simple Blend channel blood map of one of the blood overlays available in the freebies section at the main iClone Revolution site. This channel map can be rotated, edited, deleted or changed out. If you wish to remove the blood then use the eyedropper tools to select it and delete the map from the Blend channel. Once changes are made it is recommended that you save the modified version for future use.

Massive amounts of dead bodies can be placed on scene in a manner of seconds. Edit your colors first then duplicate the prop as needed.

I will be placing this in the marketplace sometime this week if I can make time to do so.

So Anima… you wanted dead bodies… you got it. Now get to work!

 

UPDATE:  Since posting this I have decided to add a fourth grouping to the prop at no extra charge. This is a smaller grouping of one of the originals and was going to be left out but they got a last minute reprieve since there is no use in them just sitting on my harddrive. The prop will be 40 peeps in 4 groups less than 39K in overhead.

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The Peeps have Landed

by on Jun.13, 2012, under Uncategorized

The first wave of Peeps have hit the Prop Masters store. I concentrated on three fairly easy crowds for this first bunch so it wouldn’t take so long to get them to market. They are also very generalized crowds as more specific crowds will follow. As usual my focus was on providing what I use in higher end 3D applications to iClone users with little or no interaction on the part of the user. If all you know how to do is load an asset or drag and drop them into the work space then you can work with these props.

Walkabout Crowd – thirty animated peeps that wander around in a circular area.

Click here for the Advanced Walkabout Crowd in the Marketplace

Click here for the Simplified Concert Crowd in the Marketplace

Concert Crowd – a low key standing crowd of thirty peeps with motion.

Click here for the Advanced Concert Crowd in the Marketplace

Click here for the Simplified Concert Crowd in the Marketplace

Sidewalk Crowd – a single file, very long row of characters that can be used as sidewalk, walking down an aisle and other similar uses.

Click here for the Advanced Sidewalk Crowd in the Marketplace

Click here for the Simplified Concert Crowd in the Marketplace

 

The props do break down into the Simplified and Advanced category as the Simplified merged prop was created to save money and still provide a good prop. The Advanced version is not merged and open to the crowd dummy and peep level.  I priced the Simplified version slightly higher than I originally planned due to more work being required on it than I realized during the development of this prop.

The advanced version of the prop also gives access to the motion dummies that drive the characters in direction and movement. You can remove the Peeps from these dummies and attach your own animated props or perhaps link an actual character to them but the poly count will limit how many you can use. You can also substitute a peep or two that may end up close to the camera with a higher poly prop or possibly a character.

While it is true that these Peeps are low poly (averaging around a 1000k each) they will eventually slow down your system if you load too many. When I was working with 300 Peeps it was in the 64bit version of iClone and the preview was choppy but easy to work with as the slider moved easily along the timeline. If load becomes a problem then attach them all to one object and save them out. Remove them from the scene and do your work then load them back into the scene.

I had rather set them to wireframe instead of normal as that way they are still on the screen and the load on the computer is decreased.  I have had a 1 GIG… thats right 1 GIG test file that loaded (took awhile) and I was able to work with it. This scene held hundreds of different Peeps as I was pushing the limits to see where it hit the wall. For my system 300 was a good number to work with.

You will find out your limit if you keep trying as iClone will slow way down or simply disappear when too many Peep props are loaded. In some instances of mega-load testing the props just wouldn’t load after a certain point but the scene remained intact.

Texturing is another area that needs to be mentioned again because there is no mapped texturing. Too much overhead for each character. You can change the colors on clothing and skin to mix things up a bit.

These Peeps are the not the answer to everything but they fill a need for myself and I’m hoping for others. I was so tired of empty scenes… of street scenes with little or no movement and out of need the Peeps were born. I also had a lot of encouragement during the development of these initial props and the volume of questions and well wishes was a bit staggering but I appreciate everyone that took time out of their day to give me feedback or encouragement as these are very tedious items to develop. Your enthusiasm kept me at it instead of heading off with Shepard to save the universe in ME3.

There are many crowds and ideas on the list for development as mentioned in my previous post about Peeps. Rock concert crowds holding up lighters and cellphones or moving to the beat, war scenes and if I can pull it off… combat scenes with Peeps flying in the area and being blown apart. To be honest I have no idea if I can do this but I have been able to bring all aspects of such a prop into iClone in various forms. If I can get all that into one prop then its a done deal.

Thanks go out to Kinte, PsylentKnight, Ben Tuttle and others that gave me such great ideas for crowds in a skype convo last week.  It’s always great to get the feedback of a group that is that talented and respected in the machinima community.

I especially want to thank Alley for her words of encourgement during this process and again… thanks to all involved!

 

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Dead Eyes… Do You Notice them?

by on May.30, 2012, under Uncategorized

Being a fan of the Mass Effect games I was hoping that this latest version would fix what to me is a terrible problem that takes away from the story, the gameplay and the game engine itself. By this I meant the “Dead Eyes” of the characters.

The game engine does a marvelous job of rendering the characters with nice detail… even the eyes look nice but they are… for all practical purposes… dead…  in that they do not ever focus on a particular object or character even during the cut scenes that make up a lot of the game.

When (SPOILDER ALERT) the boy gets toasted in one of the cut scenes, which by the way was very dramatic and well staged, the lack of eye focus left the scene empty for me to some degree. Even though the Shepard character was supposed to be looking at nothing in particular as he angrily pondered what just happened… it… well… it  just didn’t work.  His eyes looked like they always do… lifeless and thoughtless. The bodily actions spoke well of the anger and grief but the “Dead Eyes” killed the end of the scene for me.

The “Dead Eyes” syndrome has always been in the back of my mind since ME2 (didn’t play ME1 so don’t know about it) and it really takes away from the drama the cut scenes are trying to establish. This led me to consider how we handle our characters eyes in animation. Even with the “Look At” feature I don’t always have a focus for my characters eyes as I don’t always think to use this unless it is in a dialog segment or the character is actually looking at something in particular.

On the other hand… even without paying close attention to the character’s eyes when working in iClone I have not noticed the “Dead Eye” effect as I do in ME2. The eyes in ME2 are rendered to a much higher degree of realism than iClone… is this the problem? Since they look so real do they need to focus on something more often to sell the character to the viewer? Is it because iClone eyes are much simpler in execution and render that this is not a problem in most iClone animations?

Just another thing added to my checklist of items to review during production. The problem is… that checklist is already huge and getting hard to manage but lifeless eyes are being moved to the top of the list. I’m sure not everyone noticed it… maybe even few have noticed it… but in my opinion lifeless eyes can kill any scene, wipe out any emotional contact already achieved with the viewer which is a huge leap backwards in terms of gathering in the audience.

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Instant Crowds and Low Poly Peeps Update

by on May.23, 2012, under Uncategorized

The instant drop in and go crowds I’ve been developing with very low poly characters and props have garnered a lot of attention and email wanting more info on the project other than what was in the initial demo I posted in the Reallusion forum. I’m very happy to say the development is coming along smoothly and quickly since the initial prototypes were tested. It is my intention to release a simple version of a 30 peep crowd prop (concert or event crowd) within a couple of weeks (or sooner if possible) of this posting baring any development problems. These props are not that complicated… just time consuming as they are being created individually, animated and grouped by type of movement and crowd.

When I say individually I don’t mean 30 unique peeps in a 30 person grouping as they are presently based on 10 peep groups that are then assembled into 30 peep groups and so on.

WarLord's Low Poly Peeps

Peeps Already Developed With More on the Way

One of the ideas on the table is two versions of some of the crowds as has been suggested in times past. One simple to use, cheaper priced merged crowd that would be one prop you could drag into the scene as many times as necessary. The other, more expensive version being openly attached in groups down to the individual peep which can have it colors and motion timing changed on a one by one basis. This would allow total control over the grouping of the prop and give access to the individual dummy blocks that drive crowds. Even the number in the initial group could be changed then duplicated and attached to a central control dummy thus giving the user the ability to create their own crowd grouping. Individual peeps could also have their motions adjusted for speed or editing.

As you can see these peeps are not made for closeups… they are scene filler and should always be treated as such. Time was not wasted on smoothing the characters shoulders or joint areas but rather time was devoted more to motions and crowd make-up based on the type of crowd being created.

As you can also see you can pack a lot of them into a scene.  iClone handles this grouping with ease. These peeps range from 900k to 1200k each depending on the peep. Each peep has a pre-animated motion that moves the peep to some degree so they won’t be just standing there.  You only have to load it into the scene as many times as you need and place or group them. Press play and instant movement will fill your shot.

Peeps in Times Square

Peeps in Times Square

To answer a few general questions:

What is the general purpose of Peeps versus characters?

Scene filler and motion plus very low poly count for a large number of peeps in a scene. Characters cannot be attached whereas Peeps can. Characters cannot be duplicated whereas Peeps can.  Custom groupings can be saved for future use.

Can you change textures?

You can change the colors but not textures as these are not mapped for that type of texturing. These are “Peeps” not people so attention was focused on allowing the diversification of colors for customization with little to no resource hogging.

Is there a mouth that lip syncs?

No.  These are not built for that purpose. Even the full character versions of the Peeps have no bone structure or significant features in the face. The face is image mapped. If you are that close… then you are probably too close to be using peeps for the shot.

Why full character versions?

The drag’n drop crowds are props but there will be peep characters available that are compatible with the Motion Puppet, MixMoves and the iClone motion library for use in creating small groupings or individual characters that break up repeating patterns of crowd props when creating crowds into the hundreds either by drag’ndrop or multi-duplicate.

Are they pre-animated?

Yes. You only have to drag them into the scene and press the play button to preview the scene. If you group and attach them properly you can save different versions of them fully animated when dropped into a scene or using multi-duplicate. NEVER remove the animation from the prop. If you do then drag another one into the scene to replace that one.

Will you have tutorials?

Yes. There will be tutorials on using the non-merged, open version of the props. If the simplified and lower priced versions are released they will need no instruction as they are simply drag n drop or place and play props requiring nothing more than placement in a scene.

What techniques or tools work with Peeps?

Atmosphere, fog, depth of field and camera placement along with keeping a small group of actual characters between the focus of the shot and the peeps when possible. Distance is another easy method by placing the crowd far away from the camera as possible.

Why two more weeks or more before release as we’ve already seen working props?

The early prototypes used rough motions and animations strictly to test the concept and number of peeps crammed into a scene. It is now necessary to develop more individual peeps with their own motions plus use and test the crowd props before release. The props also have to be properly grouped, tutorials made and the peeps have to be tested… tested… tested.

Why type of pricing will be available?

That has not been decided as more development is needed but depending on the complexity of the prop I hope to market these starting at 499 points for a simple, merged  crowd prop. The open, un-attached crowds will be higher as they are more like kits but as with all my products these will be priced as low as possible while keeping it practical to continue development.

What types of crowds are you actively developing or considering developing?

  • Crowds milling about
  • Sidewalk crowds
  • Military formations
  • Event/concert crowds
  • Seated crowds
  • Waiting in Line groups
  • Dispersal crowds
  • Walkabout crowds
  • Exit crowds
  • Mobs
  • and… of course… ZOMBIES!!!!!!!!

Thanks to each and everyone of you that has commented or contacted me about the peeps.  I apologize for some of the delays in answering as I had a lot to answer with only a limited time to do so each day. The peeps are my priority right now in terms of iClone asset development and getting them to market.
Peep Placement for Times Square Scene

Two Characters and Lots of Peeps

 

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3DXchange 5 – More Power Under the Hood

by on Apr.24, 2012, under Uncategorized

For the past couple of years anyone that stumbed upon the 3DXchange 4 page on the Reallusion website saw my picture with a quote about how that version needed to be in every serious iCloners toolbox. That hasn’t changed… in fact it is even more true than before.

Reallusion’s recently released 3DXchange 5 is another game changer from a company that simply “gets it” when it comes to delivering what their users want. While not everyone that uses Reallusion products realizes the power these products place into the hands of the user, those of us that come from the 3D industry know all too well how simple somethings can be done in iClone versus other products. Don’t get me wrong… iClone does not evenly compare with powerful programs like Studio Max and Maya but it carries a fraction of the price tag. A price that is affordable or within the reach of many users including aspiring filmmakers, machinimist and hobby animators.

You don’t have to plunk down several thousand dollars to find out that you still need a big budget and lots of experience to actually produce a feature or short as you do with the high end tools. It is sometimes forgotten that these tools are, for the most part in commercial production, used by teams of animators whereas iClone allows a single user to complete a project without breaking the bank or relying on years of experience in animation. The end results will not compare either as we are not comparing apples to apples but the final render of iClone has improved dramatically with the addition of HDR and IBL lighting along with ambient occlusion in the latest release.

To be successful as a product iClone requires content and 3DXchange 5 further opens that door to more content. The previous 4.0 version was a powerful upgrade itself but this latest version with FBX import and charter bone mapping really ups the bar for moving high end content into your current iClone productions.

In terms of actual conversions I can say that I am very pleased with the older, non-Genesis, Daz characters I have run through 3DXchange. The method was simple enough:

Load character, no accessories, with clothing into DAZ Studio Pro workspace.
Export the character in FBX format with the following attributes checked:

  • Figures
  • Morphs
  • Embed Textures
  • Merge Clothing into Figure Skeleton
  • Allow Degraded Skinning
  • Allow Degraded Scaling

Import/Load the character into 3DXchange 5 for the conversion process.
Converting is an almost painless experience compared to creation or modification of a character. Its also great to be able to re-purpose our Daz assets as many of us have decent libraries of Daz content.

Commercial iClone productions have been released so the product is certainly gaining in reputation, ability and usability as the product matures and the same can be said of 3DXchange with its latest 5.0 version.

Earlier when I said Reallusion “gets it” I mean they understand their market, their users and they put animation tools into their hands that allow them to do very complex tasks with little interaction. Even manual key framing is simple although tedious, as in any 3D application,  to achieve. To be able to place a product in the hands of the average user that can read and convert the bone structure of other characters and to so in such a manner as clicking on bones to match skeletons is quite an accomplishment in itself.

A lot of iClone users are not well versed in high end 3D applications so character creation or manipulation was out of the bounds of their skillset. While there are many talented character developers in the iClone community it never hurts to open up software to more possibilities by increasing the interaction of 3D applications. By giving users the FBX format, 3DXchange 5 opens entire new catalogs of characters to the world of iClone. In fact it opens new worlds when it comes to the possibilites.  Importing low poly game figures for use in crowds and background filler is just one thing that comes to mind.

Also don’t forget the ability to convert to non-human character which allows us to maintain the bone structure of animated Daz props so we can manipulate them in iClone. The following image shows the bone system for an animated piece of chest armor. The bones animate the guns at three points. By converting in 3DXchange to non-human you can preserve this bone system to grab and manipulate the guns with the conventional non-human character bone interface in iClone.

Reallusion has tutorials available which I highly recommend you watch and I have posted a video tutorial on converting some non-Genesis characters to iClone via 3DXchange 5. You can find that tute at www.iclonerevolution.com.

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Work-arounds… How Do We Get Started?

by on Jan.11, 2012, under Uncategorized

We’ve probably all faced this scenario more than once:
We need to accomplish an animation task we’ve never done before. Then we find out there are no specific tools to accomplish this.

My question is when you are faced with this what do you do?

1. Do you put in a feature request to the software maker?
2. Complain the software does not do enough or have enough functionality?
3. Find a work-around to try to get the job done?

I guess being an old-timer I always look for the work-around immediately. One thing about working in 3D animation is the fact that we all do things on almost a daily basis that we’ve never done before. Being an old-timer that has worked through early versions of 3D tools I was just glad for what the software could do and never really gave a lot of thought to what it couldn’t do in terms of built in features.

It just seems natural to me to accept any limitations then try to move beyond them with unique or well known workarounds. On the other hand I seem to be running into more freelancers and 3D artists that think everything they need to do should be covered by a specific function or tool. Wolf of the Wolf & Dulci Hour calls it like it is. There is no easy button or at least not for every situation.

Somethings we just have to figure out and do for ourselves.

I understand that newer users have grown up in a different culture. Before the inter-connectivity of the internet we were forced to make things work to meet a deadline. There were a few bulletin boards way back when but they were expensive to connect to so you certainly had your questions ready before you logged on. No leisurely searching or surfing at that time.

I guess this leads to a different attitude when using software.  The old-timers like me had to do everything and we knew it going in. We knew there would be work-arounds and other requirements. Again… we were thankful for what the software did and never really gave much thought to what it didn’t do.  It was a mindset.

Flash forward to today. Someone that has never animated before may run across an affordable 3D solution like iClone. It looks good. They present it very well on the website and have plenty of great animations to show what can be done with the software. This may lead to a belief that the software has a button or function for everything you might possibly need to do. This is not an entirely mistaken assumption. In fact there are many tools, features and some “easy” buttons but not for every possible scenario under the sun.

Most of the 3D’ers I work with are all too familiar with work-arounds and they all go about it differently.  A question was posed.

How do you even get started on a workaround?

Well that’s certainly a loaded question. It would depend on what you are needing to do. For example we’ll take the shaky cam physics rig. I wanted to reproduce the shaking within iClone, first to see if it could be done and second to have a freely available option for iClone users without having to go into post work.

In this case I needed to reproduce a shake and the Reallusion forum mentioned using the Prop Puppet feature. It worked but not really what I wanted. Didn’t give the feel I was looking for. Physics then came to mind. Will the camera attach to the prop and work with the physics? It did. It attached and worked as hoped. I put a chain together with the physics blocks to impart motion. Then the motion was too wild… too uncontrolled at which point I placed the dampening props on the side. I then experimented with the top block of the chain changing from dynamic to kinematic. Finally found a solution.

When you look back at it… it was a natural chain of progression that started with the Prop Puppet and moved to what features within the software might actually be able to help. This doesn’t mean its the only way because I didn’t try anything else once I got the results I wanted.

When faced with this scenario the only advice I can really offer is to envision what you are putting on the screen and what tools come close to doing it for you… even if its just a little portion of the overall scenario it is a starting point.

Under no circumstances should you declare it can’t be done without trying. You won’t get far with that attitude. Instead think of how you are going to get this done with failure not being an option. Of course… its amazing how powerful a deadline with financial incentives or penalties can be for the “no failure” option but that’s how it is.

Remember… if you can’t do it… someone most likely can… with the same software! So what was the difference? Most likely an open mind, a work-around mentality and a get it done attitude.

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2011 In Review

by on Dec.29, 2011, under Uncategorized

What a year this has been. A roller coaster year of highs and lows like most people face. On the up side it was great year in terms of contract work. On the down side I met more deadlines than I ever have.  I also worked on a wide variety of projects from cover art for music to posters, sales brochures, tons of animated props and scenes (even some… ugh… character work too) along with a lot of video editing work… something I really hadn’t planned on but being a freelancer, at least for me, has meant a constant evolution of what I do day to day. I can look back over the past twenty plus years of work and see that I have always evolved in my work from C++ programming in the early days to the fringes of entertainment work today.

A beginners course on animation for Community and Junior colleges is under development with a green light to the next step. This course involves using iClone as the tool for the classroom with my part in it all being the laying out of the coursework and providing example and “build-out” videos. The class watches a short 10 to 15 minute built out video of a scene then they are assigned to build out that scene themselves during that and subsequent classes with instruction along the way. Will be very interesting to see what the different approaches to the same subject will look like from the students… particularly the work of the students that build out a scene better than I do!

On top of the regular contract work and the college course project I also published the iClone Beginners Guide with the help of Packt Publishing.  The publisher and I agreed to a contract after their initial contact with me and I was able to work at a pace that averaged three pages a day. Packt provided the format in a Word document and after a few chapters the writing was very quick and easy.  All of it on or ahead of schedule until the release of iClone 5 which then had me on a pace of writing basically the same number of pages in one third of the time to still meet a decent publishing deadline. The book grew from 250 to 508 pages covering both the previous 4.31 version and the new 5.0 release.

I am very pleased to say it received great reviews (four and five star at Amazon) and very positive feedback so far. It even peaked at number 35 on Amazon’s Top 100 Best Sellers list for multi-media titles. The book is also being translated into foreign languages with a Chinese version being distributed by a different publisher under agreement with Packt.  It is being considered as a textbook in several markets.  Many, many thanks to the iClone users community for their support as this would not have been possible without it! We are discussing updating the book to a full 5.0 version and doing a few more specialty books involving iClone.

The book contract and publishing  also opened a lot of doors including a new project for me… writing a science fiction novel with a different publisher that came to light during the writing of the Beginners Guide. Its amazing to me how things can fall into place but I’ll be the first to say its taken a lot of long hours and hard work to be ready when these doors open. The book will be mainly a sci-fi military affair with all the battles and trappings of that type of book. Pure testosterone but then what would you expect from a guy whose screen name is WarLord?

I’m the guy that thinks John Wayne was disrespected and still wonders why Chuck Norris hasn’t gotten an oscar! So what if he could barely speak audible english in The Octogon… he’s Chuck Norris… he’ll kick your ass and Oscar’s too if you don’t give ’em some respect!

Anyway… I digress.  Actually three outlines were created and all three were liked in some form or another so I’ve basically been given a choice and I think what comes easy to me will be my first attempt. You don’t get many shots at this so I’m going with my strong suite and jump on the military express.

Now… Outland… the forgotten series. No it’s not forgotten and was in fact well on its way to being in the can when version 5 came out and before that I got busy and then there was the trash to take out, the lawn needed mowing (which I don’t do but I still use it as an excuse) and let’s not forget the terrible Texas Drought. So with all that in mind… I will finish the thing! The voice acting is too good not too including a killer bit with Ricky Grove doing Joseph Goebbels “Big Lie” in three very convincing and very different takes! Which one do I use????

Anyway… there is a lot more going on but I can see your eyes are well glazed so I will end this year with a simple “Thank You” to all my friends… and a sincere wish that all my enemies have a better life in the coming year… maybe then they will get off my butt and live their own lives!

God Bless you in 2012 and coming years!

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