Dr. Of Machinima

A blog By Dr. Nemesis following the progress of Binary Picture Show's work, as well as other Machinima.

Character Animation: Machinima’s Final Hurdle?

July27

It's come a long way...

…. Not creatively but technically.

Machinima is a technique of economy. Among it’s greatest strengths has been the fact that someone unversed in the art of animation, or 3D modelling (or any of the other disciplines involved in CG filmmaking) can make a film none the less.

Programs like Sketchup 3D make it fairly easy for someone (like myself) who’s crap at set building to quickly and easily put a room together to suit a specific need.  Machinima is all about the shortcuts. But there’s never quite been an equivalent for character animation. There’s been no simple solution to the fact that good animation, suitable for your specific project is difficult to come by.

By now I have little doubt that everyone’s aware of what the Microsft Kinect can do when used in conjunction with specific software, and although I’m not nearly as active in the Machinima community I’m really excited by this.

Now it’s feasible to have exactly the kind of animation you want (within reason) rather than making do with pre existing collections and I’m not ashamed to say I was skeptical that this would happen so soon. Because of companies like ipisoft, I did believe that markerless motion capture software (that analyses video) was the way forward but before the Kinect this was still not really cheap or easy enough for home use. Even easier now, Iclone 5 was recently announced and that from what I’ve seen, that can capture a Kinect performance directly into your scene!!

 

So finally the important questions.

Now that the Kinect can make use of  software like these and Brekel, is there really any technical hurdle that prevents the average Machinima artist from transcending the Machinima classification?? Now that we have this vast amount of control and can more effectively convey emotion, can artists stop relying on the viewers lower level of expectation?

Essentially is this the final piece we needed to appeal to the wider world while not over complicating the technical process?

I believe the answer is yes. Where’s the limit? We don’t yet know. A few years from now will we also be using this technique to capture facial animation?

The disappointing part is that I’m not sure I’m seeing many widespread benefits of this new ability within the community quite yet. Then again I’m not very up to speed and I suppose it’s still early days. For all I know several Machinima films have already made great use of this technology.

I know if I ever release another film I’ll strive to make great use of this. But I’d rather see the community explore this to a much greater extent than it has been so far.

Easy Iclone sets with Sketchup

August27

The last post on this blog was an age ago, but once again I’m back and as usual I jumped into Iclone to grab a new skill.

Taking what I learned last time, I knew I could furnish a set with some cool objects from the Sims 2 community but objects and furniture are just one part. I knew no simple way of making a set itself.  I needed a way to make walls ceiling and floor, etc that balanced fun and quality. Those of you who aren’t as late to the game as myself would know that Sketchup is that way. Honestly I avoided the tool for a while because I often saw screenshots for models of… questionable quality. But a closer look showed me that for a simple Machinima guy like myself the tool is perfect for a great many things.

What I also needed was to take advantage of Iclone’s materials features. It’s 2010 boys and girls. We can’t just slap a texture into the diffuse slot, turn on a really bright white light and call it a day. The lighting and material capabilities currently present in Iclone means no one has to settle for flat lighting and textures. I found a very simple and very cheap tool called ShaderMap Pro. This allows you to take any of the textures you have and make normal, specular, and ambient occlusion maps among others. Simply put, adding these textures will make stuff look better.

So while this isn’t a tutorial, heres how I used both of these tools to make the very simple set of a living room (which keeps showing up in these screenshots).

First, get Sketchup 7 if you haven’t already.

Secondly, Sketchup 7 doesn’t come with the cool components (models) needed to really make Sketchup easy. For example when I searched the warehouse components section for a window or door I could never find one that dynamically cut a hole in the wall. If I have to cut my own window and door spaces this is already taking too long and isn’t very flexible.  So get the component packs. For some reason they only have them for version 6 so when you run the installers point them to the sketchuhp 7 directory instead. This also gives you easy access to models you can use as stand-ins to give yourself an idea where your furniture and other objects will fit once your done.

Sketchup also has some very easy to follow youtube tutorials that will get you building in no time.

I put together a video showing the steps I took to make the simple living room.

Speaking of balancing fun and quality, the Martin Brothers recently released Steven Slater’s Day Off. To be honest I don’t watch as much Machinima these days, but this is a fun short and they also made a blog post giving an overview of how they put the film together which is always awesome.

More screenshots:

posted under 3D, Machinima | 4 Comments »

Importing Sims 2 models into iClone Tutorial

December7

Ever since I moved away from game  based Machinima I always knew I’d have some serious issues. The biggest has always been content. Games provide more 3D models, textures, sounds, etc, than any one person can ever make (or even collect), and what’s more, they’re designed to work together, look like they are all part of the same universe.

Of all the gaming communities I’ve never envied any more than The Sims 2,  so this tutorial will show how to import Sims 2 models into Reallusion’s Iclone.

But first…
The people who make these models often put a lot of time and effort into them. Please respect their work and follow their rules. Most places ask that you not re-distribute the models/textures and that you give them credit. If in doubt it never hurts to send an email and ask (some sites even ask for a donation. I’ll leave that entirely up to you). On to business.

Tools

Iclone
3DXchange (the tutorial assumes you already have a basic working knowledge of this and Iclone )
SimPE (to export Sims content to something 3dexchange can read. Also, the program requires Microsoft .NET Framework Version 2.0 and Dirext X9c to work. Links are on the Simpe download page).

Once you have All these installed you’ll ofcourse need a Sims 2 object to import.
The nice folks at Parsimonious kinldy gave  permission for us to use one of their models for this tutorial. They are a collection of many artists so there are quite a few objects we could use. For the tutorial we’ll go for something practical like the loveseat seen here.

k8-Surf_Point

Download the k8-Surf_Point-Loveseat.zip file and make a folder to unzip the contents to it.  In the zip there should be a package file, “k8-surfpointloveseat-071309.package”. This contains the 3D mesh and it’s texture. Right now the file is meant to be read by The Sims 2.

Open up SimPE and we’ll extract the mesh and texture.
Go to the File Menu and then Open. Navigate to the location of the “k8-surfpointloveseat-071309.package” and click open.

The top left box shows the Resource Tree and this should now be filled with lots of branches. Thankfully we will only need to concern ourselves with two of them for this tutorial.

screen1

Click on the Geometric Data Container. As you might have guessed this has the mesh. To the right of the Geometric Data Container is the Resource List window which will  show what is in the branch you select. In this case the package only has one model so only one entry.
Select “k8-surfpointloveseat-071309_gmdc” from the resource list..  Underneath the resource list should be the Plugin View. This is important because this is were you can preview the model and more importantly, where you will export it from.

In the plugin view, the Content -> cGeometryDataContainer tab should already be selected and it will contain a list of the meshes that make up the object.  In this case the model is only made of one piece and it’s box should already be ticked. Now hit the Preview button to see exactly what you will be exporting. If the texture is located in the same package (which it is) you will get a textured preview like this:

screen2

Click Export and the save it as an “obj” file. For simplicity it’s best to save it in the same folder you extracted the package to. Now we’ll export the texture.

In the Resource Tree select the Texture Image branch at the bottom. Again the resource list will only show one object (because this mesh only has one texture). Select that and the plugin view will show the TXTR Editor. Here you will see a list of textures. They are all the same, just different sizes. You will always want the biggest one so in this case select the 256×512 image. Right click on the texture preview, select export and save it.

screen3

It will save as a png by default, which is fine, iClone accepts that but if you do change the format to something like jpg you’ll need to change the extension in the file name yourself. Otherwise it will remain “png”. That’s the export process complete. It can be more complicated depending on the model but with a little practice it really takes no time at all. Now it’s time to move on to iClone 3D Exchange.

In 3D Exchange open the obj that we exported. The program will give you a warning that the model is too small and that it will be resized. Go ahead and click OK as this isn’t a problem. Click the Align to GND button to get the seat positioned nicely on the floor. The reference figure should be on and you will notice that the seat is way too small in comparison. In the scene transform section make sure the Lock XYZ box is checked and scale the seat up to 8500. This number works pretty well when importing any Sims 2 objects although you may often need to tweak the scale again once in Iclone, depending on the object.

screen5

In the Scene Tree select “Fabric” (make sure it’s box is ticked) and then in the Node Attribute section, set the autosmooth value to 45 (the value needed will vary from model to model. Feel free to try others). Hitting the Auto Smooth button will get the corners nice and smoothed out. Now export this as a prop and set the max texture size to 512×512.

Now it’s time to import to Iclone. Open Iclone and under Set -> Props either select the model from the Content Manager (if thats where you exported to), or use the Modify panel to import it from where you saved it to.
Again, under the Modify panel, scroll down to Material & Texture Settings. Double click on the Diffuse texture icon and select the texture you exported from SimPE.

screen4

There are a great many places online where Sims 2 custom content can be found. Enjoy and again, please do remember to behave.
Thanks once more to Parsimonious.org and to Reallusion for their help.

-Doc

posted under 3D, Machinima | 10 Comments »

Making Superheroes Better!

July7

Well, I’m quite happy with how the JLA/Avengers test vid looked, and of course I think the cast went great together (both the hero roster and the actors/ actresses) but Freedom Force (and it’s sequel) are relatively old games now. Truth be told, I’m a little bit of a sucker for the old blocky look of certain games, especially once the games themselves have found a place among my favorites. However that kinda bias can be one of the things that leads to people making crap Machinima… and loving it. For example a Halo fan seeing a shit Halo Machinima but thinking it’s God’s very own message simply because he’s so hopelessly besotted by the game itself.

So with that in mind I wanna make something that looks decent, but still has that oldish charm that I love from the game. So I went in to do some smoothing on the meshes.

The cape and shoulders

The cape and shoulders were the parts that needed it the most.

At first I intended to do their whole bodies except the heads.  I liked those remaining angular cause I always thought that gave the characters a Timmverse-esque appearance. Honestly once I smoothed the bodies I quite liked the look, but it caused problems that were too time intensive to fix. In the end I left them almost entirely as they were. I just identified problem areas in the models and worked specifically on those. In the end it kept the polycount down, and simplified things somewhat.

Spidey's biggest problem was his pointy shoulders. Terrible.

Spidey's biggest problem was his pointy shoulders. Visible from miles away .

It’s a tiny difference on each character, but hopefully adds up to a big benefit. I’m still nailing down story points (its really hard to tell the kinda story I want while keeping it simple enough to do in my spare hours) so it might take me a wee while longer, but I think it’s getting there.

-Doc

posted under 3D, Animation, Machinima | Comments Off on Making Superheroes Better!

JLA/Avengers Prelude

May30

Actually, that’s not 100% accurate, but I didn’t really know what else to call the test vid for the Marvel/DC short that I’m working on. Digital Memory is a lot of fun, but it’s very demanding and if I only ever work on that I’m not likely to make a release in the next 3 years, so I put out a casting call and found a crack team of voice actors for something I’ve always wanted to do. A Marvel/DC crossover.

Those who have seen the Marvel Civil War  short I did may know I’m a Freedom Force fan and have long been experimenting with mixing assets from different games to make Machinima. Freedom force is great for outdoor scenes but has few interiors. If I mix in some Sims 2 stuff, animate characters in Motionbuilder, and shot a bunch of stuff within Freedom Force I might just be able to pull off something interesting. Anyway, here’s the test vid, which I REALLY went overboard with. It’s very similar in style. to the Meet the Heavy test vid I did a while back,  I animated the characters more than I wanted to and even threw in music so it almost serves as a teaser now.

As always, none of the Binary Picture Show stuff would be what it is without the good help of Crazy Talk (and I really look forwward to version 6!) .  Anyway, enjoy. And check back for progress! Now that the cast is sorted it’s time to write this thing.

Always looking for a bargain!

April6

Well not me, cause I’m a long time user of CrazyTalk now, but I’ve come out of my hole to tell the remaining few who are still unaware, that theres still some time to catch the Crazytalk sale at Daz.com

In a field were facial animation can be so hard to come by, and so hard to do, (if even possible sometimes) I think I can say CrazyTalk has probably done the most for Machinima. How alive can a character really be without facial animation? For those of us who don’t have character after character wearing helmets, CT continues to be a great tool and although I haven’t released anything to show in a while, it’s probably the tool I play with the most.

The sale ends on April the 17th, so thats enough time to try the demo and see what it can do for you.

In other news I’ve recently took advantage of a few OTHER bargains myself and bought some character models from aXYZ Design for my Sci Fi film, Digital Memory. After a lot of thought I’ve limited the amount of Daz3dness that I’m using in the film, simply because of the amount of time it’s been taking to get the models prepared. Needless to say I have less time on my hands now than I used to, but every weekend I make a tiny bit more progress. Really I just want to make enough progress to be able to release some pictures, but progress is slow when theres this much technical experimentation going on.

posted under 3D, Machinima | Comments Off on Always looking for a bargain!
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