Technical Art for Animation and VFX

Rigging Dojo Opens!

February 1st, 2010

It’s official… Rigging Dojo went live today!

I’ve learned a lot from Brad and Chad over the years. When RD was ready to go into Beta, I immediately signed up. After seeing firsthand how they operate … I gotta’ say that I’m very excited about the approach they’ve taken. All the RD guys know their stuff across a wide array of software and are used to ramping teams of artists up for production. You can learn most of what you need to on your own, but there’s a lot of time involved researching, testing and working through some painfully difficult issues. I swear it’s always that last 10% that seems to take the longest. If you’re like me, you really don’t have a lot of time for that kind of thing. In the long run, I’ve often found it’s worth the cost to go to someone with the experience, knowledge and ability to get you up and running quickly. So far, that’s exactly what I’ve found at the community Rigging Dojo is fostering.

They put up a nice lil’ FAQ on their site so you can get all the details. If you have questions, just email them. They’re usually really quick about getting back to people.

Digital Acting Blog

January 15th, 2010

Found a relatively new mocap blog on the interwebs… The person that runs it happens to be a VFX TD. If you’re a fellow mocap nerd, you’ll find his professional site is even more interesting…

New fxPodcast: Avatar – Weta Digital

January 11th, 2010

Good stuff…

Avatar: Weta Digital

Joe Letteri, senior vfx supervisor for Weta Digital, details their mocap/facial capture tech and other aspects of their work on Avatar.

Lookslikematt 2010!

January 11th, 2010

Happy New Year! Hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

You might have noticed that my posts have been fairly sparse over 2009. I had a lot of opportunities that I jumped headfirst into and sadly, had to neglect the website. I know… excuses, excuses. Right?

Here’s what was keeping me busy:

  • The Produced By Conference… to see the talks by the MCS panel, VES previs panel, the Stereoscopic 3D panel, James Cameron, Pixar producers and the PGA/ASC Camera Assestment Series.
  • CG CON…  checked out many of the animation classes from the Animation Mentor guys.
  • FXPHD… took classes for crowd work in Massive, scripting with Python, Maya and match-moving in PFtrack.
  • Beta Testing… software and what looks to be an excellent online school for rigging.
  • Some much needed traveling… trips to Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Wellington and Sydney.
  • and of course LOTS of mocap time with the great crew at ImageMovers Digital. 😀

I’ve been very blessed to meet and work with some incredibly talented people over the last year. I hope you all had a chance to see Up, A Christmas Carol, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Avatar (all in 3D of course). Many of the people I met have put forth amazing effort to polishing those films and have been part of an incredible push on technology and artistry to make them a reality. 2009 really was an incredible year and I’m very proud of everything that was accomplished within the medium.

As far as animation goes, the plan for my 2010 is a few more classes with FXPHD, lots more python scripting and a welcome return to rigging and animating – for me it’s still all about the performance. I’ve had a lot of requests to update the The Mocaptionator’s Handbook to include some more detailed thoughts on facial mocap, props and tools. I’m not promising anything on that front this year, but we’ll see how it goes. 😉

Here’s to another great year!

– Matthew

SIGGRAPH 2009 Papers: Motion Editing

August 30th, 2009

A friend sent me this video to point out something he saw at SIGGRAPH regarding hand capture. However, I think the more interesting papers are those dealing with ground contacts and motion editing (about 1:28 into the video).

I remember reading in a couple different places about the directions the film industry is headed in and how realtime simulations are likely to play into that. The ability to edit those simulations quickly and easily becomes very important to be able to make simulated motion work for the specifics of a shot. That’s just as true for captured or procedurally generated motion. Especially as the hardware and processiong tech gets improves for motion capture.

In addition to the papers mentioned in that video, be on the look out for tools that allow artists to run simulations on top of existing motion data. For instance, adding more or less gravity to a character’s animation or retargeting motion to a character of a different weight or body type. I’ve heard of work being done in these areas in various universities.

I’m excited to see the effect these and other papers will have on the tools available to animators. I welcome any tech that gives the animator more time and ability to focus on a quality performance and less time on hacking tools just to get the work done. Pretty sure I’m not alone there.

Dealing with Bloated .PSDs

June 14th, 2009

One of my fellow IMD’ers passed along a short tutorial regarding file compression:

This was the most interesting part to me:

How is this possible ?

The preview is gone, so the composite information is empty, and the “cache” used by photoshop to know which pixel belongs to which layer as well.

If that trick was used along with the right settings for the .7z format from 7zip, I’m fairly certain that it would yield even better results.

This is yet another example of why I feel it is so important that graphic artists make time to become techincally saavy. Knowing what’s under the hood of your toolset frees you to become more creative and get what you want faster. In this case, it’s more about being able to get those files down to something that’s quick to email, so you are able to get your feedback cycles shortened.

The Moving Hold

June 11th, 2009

Another great article from Animation Mentor…

Techlifehacks – File Renamers

May 25th, 2009

I just posted an update over at the Techlifehacks blog

File Renamers – A Quick Update

In a previous post, 1,000’s of Files to Rename – 1 Easy Solution, I recommended the file renamer – Denis Kozlov’s ReNamer.

At first glance, there’s one feature that’s missing – the ability to rename folders.

Well, it IS there. You just have to dig a little to turn the option on. In the divider, between where you drag the rules and the files, you’ll see some drop down menus. Choose Filters and check on Add folders as files. You’ll notice that you can now drag folders into the files area and have ReNamer‘s rules apply their changes on the folders, too.

BOOYA! Done.

Additionally, there is another free renaming tool you can use if ReNamer doesn’t do it for ya’ – LupasRename. It’s a favorite at work and for good reason. Give it a try!

SIGGRAPH2009: Autodesk Master Classes posted

May 25th, 2009

This year’s list of character animation related classes:

Rigging for the Masses: Automated Large-Scale Production Rigging
TJ Galda, Electronic Arts Canada

Advanced Character Rigging and Facial Animation Pipelines
Sylvain Côté, Artificial Mind & Movement

PyMEL: Harnessing the Power of Python™ in Maya
Chad Dombrova, Luma Pictures

Mocap and Character Rigging Demystified
Marc-André Guindon, NeoReel Inc

Animating with Character Studio
Hugo Morales, BioWare

Produced By Conference 2009

May 25th, 2009

I signed up for this year’s Produced By Conference. There are a couple mo-cap related talks this year – one hosted by the Motion Capture Society.

Here’s a quick description from the PGA’s site:

Presented by the Producers Guild of America and hosted by Sony Pictures Studios, the Produced By Conference brings together the entire producing profession—from acclaimed Oscar and Emmy winners, to experienced team members, to the young storytellers who represent the next generation of creative entrepreneurs.

I primarily signed up for film oriented sessions that had topics relating to motion capture and VFX. I’m especially interested to see how Cameron views his experiences on Avatar.

A1 – Profile: James Cameron – Seeing The Future in 3D
B4 – The Collaborative Process of Visual Effects: From Previs To Post
C10 – Performance/Motion Capture Production Technology
A8 – Profile: Pixar Method of Producing
C6 – Made In The USA: Navigating Domestic Tax Incentives Sponsored by Entertainment Partners
D2 – Assembling A First-Rate Producing Team: How To Get Hired By The Best In The Biz
A3 – Profile: Gordon On Gordon, How To Be A Great Creative Producer Sponsored by American Airlines
A5 – Who Does What? The Role of The Creative Producer Sponsored By Plymouth Rock Studios
A7 – *World Premiere* PGA/ASC Camera Assessment Series
B9 – A New Dimension: 3D Stereoscopic Production Sponsored By Real D

Should be a great weekend with lots to talk about. I’ll toss up some notes once things calm down again.

Drop by the conference’s site for more info –