Dr. Of Machinima

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

Frankenstein Machinima (part 2)

March19

Last time we saw that a great way of populating films is to look at multiple sources. Sometimes a game has an adequate online community like in the case of The Sims 2, but of course there can be so much more. A long time ago now a site called Polycount, part of the Gamespy Network hosted custom models made for various FPS games (doesn’t quite offer that same diversity today).

Programs like Milkshape 3D make it possible to bring models from different games together in one environment. I believe the reason most Machinima artists never do such things is because of the sometimes very stringent rules that the models must adhere to. There can be bad limits on the number of polygons (especially in older games), there maybe be a specific skeletal structure and naming system, complicated texturing systems, tags for separate parts of the models and then you’d almost always need to animate the model again from scratch… in short, it can be a nightmare.

But what I’ve always found to be worse is when I need a model, and I know I wont get it cause I just can’t model. I’m no good at it, and it’s really no time for me to start learning. As any kind of artist there should always be a limit to how many hats you wear anyway. When people new to Machinima often ask “What game is best for Machinima?”, the answer is usually “depends on what kind of film you want to make”, which is a good answer as theres not much sense in making a film about interstellar travel full of futuristic technology in a game like World Of Warcraft. However the plain fact of the matter is that some games have more Machinima friendly features than others.

So imagine being able to mix as many of the communities together as you wanted. Not via limited techniques like chroma key, but actually combining 3D assets. Using Sims 2 furniture to lavishly decorate a house in Half Life 2, or some futuristic weapons from Quake 3 going into the hands of a Sim. On the large scale it would offer an almost limitless supply of resources, provided they could be exported in 3D form. For characters, the possibilities are more limited, but for props, weapons, furniture, textures it can often be done with much less effort. As I said in part one this can become even more valuable when you move outside of the game engine as you may still be able to use resources for other games (and as nicely pointed out by Gtoon in a comment, there are already pipelines geared towards a similar way of thinking, like Reallusions 3DXchange tool). Provided you obtain permission from authors and have no intention to sell your film, it really does open up the possibilities.

As a very limited example of this, I have a short film made using models from the Freedom Force community. Freedom Force would be a great game for Superhero Machinima but finer control of the models can be difficult. So (with permission of the models authors) I have a bunch of Freedom Force custom-made models in Motionbuilder, and have recreated a page from a Marvel Civil War comic. Maybe I could have placed them all in a Sims 2 house. Now THAT would have been interesting. It was just a little piece for fun so in great Leo Lucien-Bay style, the sound is F’d up but the film is watchable.

I hope that we can really benefit from a larger amount of remixing for future projects. We have done it to small extents, but never really taken it very far. Imagine the possibilities. Of course there is a question of opposing styles, but considering the large amount of content available It can definitely be made to work. Digital Memory (a sci-fi film we hope to begin work on soon) will most definitely be made from the arms and legs of different bodies. Lets hope it works.

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In tribute to a fellow artist

March12

Today I hoped to continue from my previous blog post but received the very sad news that Peter Rasmussen, most well known to us in the community for the films Stolen Life and The Killer Robot, has died. I was very shocked to hear this and truth be told I’m still hoping someone says theres been some miscommunication, but I fear that is not the case.
I had only spoken to Peter a few times, and while many of us never new him personally, I have no doubt that many others share the same respect I had for him, and will miss him and the further contributions he was to make to our art.

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Frankenstein Machinima (part 1)

March7

So anyone who read yesterdays post (maybe about 10 people, then I imagine two of you returned) may have left wondering:

DAZ3D models in Machinima? Too polygon rich, this fool’s finally lost it.”

Or

“You fool, you think that’s original but it’s already been done! FOOOL!!”

Well both schools of thought are correct. Take the very popular Daz 3D model, Victoria 3 for example. She’s somewhere in the region of 75,000 polygons if memory serves, with the reduced resolution version somewhere between 32-45,000 polygons and that’s without clothes and hair. Way too high to have just for one Machinima character, no matter how hot she’s supposed to be.

Then again, it can’t be that bad, because my main man Tom Jantol regularly uses Daz3d models in his films, and he seems to get along fine. Well, yes he does use them, and my goodness they look great! Oh those beautiful curves and not a straight line in sight! But as many people will know, more polygons in the scene require more power. This can be one contributing factor to why Tom doesn’t have many of these characters on screen at once. What’s more if you notice, the characters aren’t clothed. They’re naked as the day they were born, and have a stone/marble sort of texture on them.

Then it can get even worse if you want to easily implement facial animation. with Mimic you can get your lip syncing done easier but getting your characters to actually emote still isn’t as easy as using the CT/MB technique

The reason all this is so important is that both Tom and I are Motionbuilder users. We are part of a very small crowed that uses the tool to actually capture the end result. For me it’s the only real-time environment that gives many of the freedoms I had back when I used Quake 2.
Ever since leaving game engines behind (and even before that really) it’s been a problem finding where the next model for each film is going to come from. If you use a game all that stuff comes pre-packaged. Break it open and your good to go, but when you leave that it becomes more important to provide for yourself. Daz and poser have huge amounts of content available relatively cheaply so if you wanted you could even sell the resulting film, but how would I get around the problems I mentioned earlier? I want more people in my films, and I want to use the same technique for facial animation as I used in BEAST.

Well, with the help of Tom, I’ve been theorising loads on a possible solution (sometimes I think that’s all I do). It involves reducing the number of polygons in the models down to a point were they are much more manageable, but still retain their quality. Anyone with some experience in this will know that this is a messy job. Usually when you do it the models get real ugly real damn fast and things become unrecognisable.
My research led me to understand that it can indeed be done less destructively. I can’t explain the technicals, but DAMN it makes one hell of a difference!

With it, I have been able to reduce a 10,000 polygon head to 3000 polygons and keep most of the juicy goodness. Now that’s still a hi count for a face, but hey, it could be worse. Then I have to simplify the eyes and mouth areas so that they will accept the Crazy Talk technique better (I really should give it a name). I found out that the Iclone G2 characters are around 10-14,000 polygons each so I’ve set that as my quota here. The next challenge is to do the whole body, but because of the detail on heads and the time we spend looking at them, they are much harder, so I believe the difficult part is mostly done.

So here for you today is the head of Victoria 2, at around 3000 polys. Just so she’d look a lot less like an alien I gave her hair for the Sims 2 (2000 polys), from the great site, xmsims.com. I deleted an ear and some of the scalp so in total it came to just around 5000 polygons. There are still many improvements that can be made, through UV manipulation and texture baking but for a test vid, I think the result has been great!

So the hope is that by reducing the polycounts and tinkering here and there I can populate a whole film using this technique, and it’s what I hope to do for our next big one.
But that’s all for today! On Monday we’ll look even closer at the idea of creating these abominations. I’ve only touched very lightly on the idea of mixing resources from different games into one engine. Obviously this can be taken much further, so stick around and we’ll learn more + I didn’t even get round to talking about Iclone 3. For now have a fun weekend!

Back from the Front

March6

It’s been extremely hectic here at The Show over the last few months but finally things have cooled down and I can get back to updating this blog and working on our next big film.

Some of the work we’ve done recently, you will know about, whereas others have been kept fairly quiet. Shortly after finishing Roommate Wanted I started another commissioned project for Antics Technologies. Very much like RW, the aim was to make a film that showed some of the strengths of the tool and show how accessible it can be. For anyone who has used Antics (there’s a free version now, so you really have no excuse if not) it has some great benefits such as simple set construction and the great way the characters can interact with objects and scenery. Everytime I use it I end up thinking it’s very much like The Sims 2 without all the annoying things you have to do to get the characters to behave.

One thing that was very difficult to get around though, was the basic lip sync and lack of facial animation, and of course using one of my favorite Reallusion products to fix that was not a big option in this case. Regardless, I think it turned out quite nicely. It’s actually been out for a few weeks now, but because I’ve been so deep in another commission and recently moved house, I could only announce it now. It’s called Anonymous Coward and you can catch it in the Antics Cinema (where you will also notice a film by CJ Ambrosia). The guys at Antics seemed quite pleased with it, so hopefully you guys will enjoy it too.

The third project was a big one. Unlike the previous two which I was easily able to do alone, this project had a much bigger budget so really needed the team and as always, Dreaded Kane emerged from the bat cave and rolled up his sleeves (for any1 who doesn’t know, Kane is a long standing member of the Justice Lea – er.. Binary Picture Show). The film was called Peter’s Story, and was unlike anything I ever imagined us doing. This was a 6 minute information video and as the title suggests, it’s a narrative film and I worked very closely with Professor Paul Foley of De Montfort University (going to last years UK Machinima festival was very worth it).

It was great to do (first ‘useful’ thing we’ve done) and everyone loves money, but now that’s over I can get back to writing films with lots of swearing, angst, and possibly some nudity until the next such project comes along. For ages I’ve been meaning to fix up our website, so that’s a big priority too.

I’m resuming work on the project I started shortly after BEAST. It’s a Sci-Fi film in which I hope to use Daz 3D character models . Yes, they’re way too high in polycount, but tomorrow I hope to shed some light on it all (should be very interesting), along with the part the recently released Craytalk 5 will play in the film.
What’s more, I was given a sneak peak at Iclone 3 and it’s got me very excited!
But enough for today. check back later for more happenings at Binary Picture Show and my thoughts on IC3!