Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lost in Space...

Beep Boop

Greetings fellow robots! Unit Zer07 Here with an update on some very exciting activity. I've been given permission to show you all the work I've been doing on an up and coming internet series called "L5". "L5" is a 'hard science fiction' show about a crew of astronauts whose failed mission to find a livable home for humans is met with mystery when they return to earth to discover that they are 200 years late and all traces of humanity are gone. This post will introduce you to the process I went through to develop a digital double of a real actor for the film.

Being that the creator of L5 is a close friend of mine, I was charged with creating the digital doubles for two astronauts that will appear in the show's pilot episode. The point of a digital double is to do things that you normally can't easily do while filming in live action. For example, space exterior shots would be fairly impossible to film considering we definitely don't have the budget to send our actors and film crews up into space. So we create a digital double and film them in the computer instead.

It all started with the design for the characters space suit: (designed by Stanley Von Medvey)

From there the casting process begins. When we finally have actors cast to play their respective roles pictures are taken for reference.

These pictures usually include front, side and three quarter views. Usually the characters are also photographed displaying a wide variety of emotions and facial attitudes so that the artist can better replicate the actor.

At this point in the process I put all my effort into making the model look as much like the actor as possible. This is where that reference mentioned above really came in handy:

In this image you can see that most of the features are there. However there is just something off about the face. This is because right now the head is completely symmetrical.

After introducing some asymmetry to more closely match the actors form, we're ready to bring this model into a program called Zbrush. Simply put Zbrush allows an artist to add really fine detail like skin wrinkles:

It was around this time that I received the reference for the completed space suit. Once again I was given a model sheet with detailed photos of every possible area on the suit. This was a tremendous help in creating the space suit model:

From here I now have everything I need to finish this model. I started by blocking in really rough shapes and forms to get the character's silhouette working properly:

From here, I work on specific areas of detail.

Once the model is completed, it is ready for texture maps.

Texture maps are basically images painted on the surface of a model.

Now that this character has been modeled, it's time to build a rig and animate the character. The end result will hopefully be a seamless blend between cg and real life. If you are interested in "L5" please check out their production blog here:

L5 production blog

Don't forget to check out the teaser trailer linked below and for anyone interested in the construction process of the physical space suit just head over to The monsters musings for developer diaries and work in progress images of the space suit construction and general production of the short film.

L5 Teaser Trailer - HQ from Stanley Von Medvey on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Flip book time!!

Shiro Ninja sanjou! It's time to flip some pages! Below is a shot I just finished animating in which the boy is doing a spinning back kick!! (Please disregard the scribbles on the sides... This is still a rough pass, and I try to reuse paper as much as possible for our tree friends...) Animating the traditional way means constantly flipping pages to see if the motion is working. This scene will be a lot faster when it's edited in real time, but at least we get an idea of whether or not the action is working.

Spinning back kick!! from Shiro Ninja on Vimeo.

Until next time...
Nin nin!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The joy of painting happy little trees

Ossu! Shiro Ninja desu! (^o^)/

Lately I've been trying to learn how to paint backgrounds in Photoshop. I was kind of intimidated at first because, a) I've never painted that much before (what can I say... I'm an animator... I like drawing people!) and, b) computers freak me out! But I figured if we're going to make animations with a skeleton crew, then I'd better start figuring out how to paint trees and clouds and stuff.

When I tried to paint things from my own imagination, the colors didn't seem to work, and the paintings just looked weird. I decided to try something out. My homework assignment to myself is to take a bunch of screen captures from anime and try my best to replicate the backgrounds. So here's homework assignment #1: a scene from "Full Metal Alchemist-Brotherhood."

This is the original shot:
I started by painting the sky:
Next, I painted the trees:
Then, I added the hedges.
The base of the fountain came next:

I'm about to start on the final step, which is the water. I'll post the final painting when it's done. It's been an interesting and surprisingly fun process trying to get familiar with painting and with Photoshop. I discovered that there are a bunch of different types of brushes you can use in the program, and all are customizable... for me, it's still a matter of figuring out the right kind of brush to achieve the look I'm going for.
There are lots of Photoshop tutorials for painting, but I find that a lot of them assume that you've already mastered Photoshop and its millions of tools. So for a total beginner like me, these online tutorials were really helpful:

And of course, I watched some good old Bob Ross videos! Because "there are no such things as mistakes... just happy accidents."

Nin, nin!

-Shiro Ninja-

Update:  for the completed version of this painting click here

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Greetings fellow internauts! Unitzer07 here with a long overdue update. With the holiday season now past and my robo-virus finally under control, I can make a post with some work updates on our computer animated short film "Cowboys and Dinosaurs". This is a shot where a dinosaur is charging at a fence trying to break through. Right now there are still no textures(skin) and no lighting(shadows) in the scene, so this does not represent the final look. See for yourself and let us know what you think!

Cowboys and Dinosaurs shot 38 animation from zero seven on Vimeo.