Archive for September, 2005

Version control in the studio

  / by Toni

Orange is not a huge studio, but of course we still need proper technical setup for fluent workflow. By putting the six workstations and a fileserver in place, connected via a gigabit ethernet, the basic infrastructure was built during the first weeks. Pre-production began using a plain shared filesystem, but now as we entered production phase in the sense that scenes are put together for the animatic, we decided to use a versioning system instead.

A major reason is ensuring that no-one ever destroys work by others, which can happen easily with filesystems by simply saving an older version over a newer one made by someone else in the meantime. But our tech-savvy animation director Bassam figured that even advanced features like branching, i.e. making an alternative version of the movie-in-the-making, might be useful later for e.g. testing changes in the main characters.

We chose Subversion (svn), a popular CVS replacement, as it is friendly for basic operations such as renaming files. It will be interesting to see how well it works for blend files and other animation source data, such as large textures,and whether it fits in the way artists work individually and in collaboration.

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Hairy Issues // updated!

  / by Andy

hey there!

hair render test with curves

okay i have to admit it. this decision was quite hard to make: our characters will have hair – and not cartoony hair, but believable realistic hair!
so for me that meant, dive into blender, research and hope that i’d find a solution. admittedly, to this day there were only few convincing hair renders done in blender.
– dupliverted curves are ok for fur, have a nice appearance, but tend to look too repetitive and produce jaggyies in render
– particles are good for overall control of the hair system and material appearance but look crappy when rendered
– the fiber script has the ability to style hair in a good way, but produces heavy heavy heavy meshes
– the beast script looks ok and renders fast, but still has that card based look to it which is not acceptable for long flowing hair.

sooo… this was kinda tricky. duh!

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  / by Basse

robodockHello! Yes, yes, I am here also, believe it or not.. I just have been slacking on these blog entry writings. Not exactly my cup of coffee, but hopefully I get more into it later on. Maybe not, ok. but. had to write something, so here it comes: THE ROBODOCK REPORT!

There is a annual festival in Amsterdam called Robodock. It’s a mixture of circus, music, art, movies, robotics and everything that goes BOOOM!.. it looks and feels like straight from Mad Max. Naturally, we had to be there.

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Now its feeling like a movie!

  / by Lee

First day of Animatics, nothing more fun then making things without care of detail! I can’t help but smile.

Just a quick update on Pre-Production progress =)

After a lot of great outcomes in the concept stage, we have now reached the infamous ‘Animatic’ stage.

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  / by Matt

We’ve had a bit of a problem to solve over the last weeks, to do with texture painting on the Macs here. GIMP is one of the few open source image editors available on Mac OS X, and it works pretty well, but with one major issue – it doesn’t support tablet pressure sensitivity, which is vital for texture painting. GIMP is based on the GTK+ toolkit, which has not yet been ported to run on Mac OS X natively, so GIMP uses Apple’s open source implementation of X11, which does not pass tablet events through to applications.

We got in touch with some GIMP developers, who were quite helpful, giving us ideas of how to proceed, with a developer contact at Wacom sharing some hints as well. Unfortunately all the options (hacking GIMP, or X11, or paying a developer to work on a proper Mac OS X version of GTK+) were not very nice, leaving us without much luck. I then remembered a post on drunkenblog mentioning a little open source Mac application called Seashore.

Seashore screenshot

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Title and Script News

  / by Bassam

Yesterday we had a meeting with Pepijn, the script-writer (He’s the guy standing up in the lunch photo below.) We discussed the script and the characters, and made a few changes. The script looks quite good, and gives many opportunities for interesting scenes and animations. He also suggested a new title that fits the story better: Elephants Dream. The next revision of the script will be the final one or very close to it. I’m itching to spill the beans about a few fun details, jokes and surprises in the new story, but the rest of the team is telling me to save something for the viewers of the movie. I myself usually avoid knowing too much about a movie before I watch it. What do you think?

what are we eating?
(Lunch after the meating…. guess what Matt had for lunch!)

Media gallery update

  / by Lee

Well things are quite in motion and going strong. We made some time this morning to gather up some photos of pre-production through September and get them up on the Media Gallery. You can find the new and improved Studio Orange, the team buying much needed Amsterdam Bikes and the previous ‘weeklies’!

We’ll be updating periodically as we go along so expect some more soon, we all love a bit of photography here :D


Concept design week!

  / by Matt

We’ve now finished our first ‘real’ week in pre-production, working on concept design. Everyone’s been either working on either tests or sketching, leaving us with a big heap of drawings, which will become an even bigger heap as pre-production continues.

concept sketches concept sketches

The main challenge has been to narrow down and concentrate our visions of what our characters and the machine can be. Everyone’s got a lot of great ideas, but it’s a difficult process to go through these and figure out what will work in context. The characters need to be distinctive and visually communicate aspects of their personality, but they also need some stylistic consistency between them and the machine to make a coherent visual result. Especially while the script is still in development, it’s been tricky trying to bring together how each of us pictures the characters in our mind, let alone in a sketch or eventually 3D model.

We’ve had some interesting group sessions sitting around the table, going through our sketches and ideas, talking over repeated cups of coffee and the good news is that we’ve now narrowed down to a general consensus for what we want, with some final candidate designs that we’re going with to develop further. Since what we’ve done so far has been a real collaborative effort, there’s a small gotcha in that while we’re really happy with what we have so far, the designs have perhaps lost some of their charm after everyone has had their input. Now that we have these revision 1 sketches that give us a good direction to proceed in, we’ve separated the tasks out so that a some of us have a character each to work on and take responsibility for. This will give us an opportunity to really push things further and inject more of an individual personality in to these guys!

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Generating Shapes with Animatable Curves

  / by Toni

After seeing promising animation tests by Lee (video, blend) with curves in Blender last week, I started experimenting with them in BPython. The challenge is to create large amounts of them in a controlled manner, and have them well manipulable and animatable after creation, too. Now I have a first version put together for all you to see and comment, and hopefully start developing further too! It is not really useful yet, and the current visual output is nowhere near Orange standards, but the code proves the basic concept and brought up issues that had to be fixed (in the API code).

Initial phase.
Many curves generated. Some curves deleted.

Here’s how it works: when started, a so-called ‘guiding curve’ must be assigned first. It should be a Bezier curve, and its shape is then used as the base for the newly created curves. After assigning a selected curve to be the guiding curve with the GUI button, a slider can be used to set the amount of generated curves around the ‘guide’. In this first test the generation is fixed to proceed along the z-axis (which is up/down in the front view), but the idea is to use another shape (called ‘target’) to define the area to be filled / shape to be generated. That’s the first major todo point for version 0.2, animation features coming as second.

The cool thing is that the generated curves can not only be generated, by also deleted by the script. And not only during the run, but also after restarts. This is different from otherwise similar scripts, like the L-System generator and Beast (I must still look more into makehuman, which probably handles this well too). Also, the generated curves can be e.g. deleted in the normal Blender UI, and the script/manipulator notes it. This is a central challenge: to allow both automated and manual editing of the same things, so that things keep in sync and tools can be as powerful as ever. I’m currently using parenting to get the info in the script about which curves are to be manipulated, so if a modeller wants to make sure that some generated and perhaps afterwards modified, curve can’t be deleted by this tool, that can be ensured by clearing parenting. But then the script can’t control that curve for animation anymore.. so there sure are interesting challenged down this road still!

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The Alternative Cloth Method

  / by Lee

Thats right, none of this ‘do it all for you’ Soft Body (though its quite good to use in the right situation…..and maybe even WITH this method ;) ). This is a method I used some years back on a character for hair and clothing like a cape/robe. It would include ~4 bone chains of about ~4 bones, and then one had to parent an empty at ALL of the bone tips and then track each one to the empty above it, THEN parent every empty to the one above, and set and offset to each one of 2-4 frames; “OUCH”, especially with so many bones. But back then it did the trick, and after all the hard work it was pretty easy to animate, also due to the fact you could animate any of the other empties in the chains to give the illusion of contacting with objects.

So, that was all a bit more confusing back then (maybe you found it hard to follow too? =P), but now with softbody most things can be done with ease, deflection can be done with a push of a button..

But sometimes, you need more control, and now with the semi-new feature ‘Hooks’ you can do all of that mess in the first paragraph with ease!!

Good for maybe… Jellyfish? Socks blowing in the wind?

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