Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Houston, we have droids

Well it has been about a month since Pat sent me his robot and I finally figured out a way to open it up on my ancient version of Maya. I ended up opening it in a trial version of Rhino that I have at work and saving it out as an .iges file. For what ever reason, when I opened it up and saved it out R2's head shifted about 3 feet to the right (thats becoming a common problem with robot models), his right arm disappeared and there are no shaders. I duplicated and mirrored his left arm and I am re-creating the shaders to the original specs as best I can. I cant wait to finish rebuilding Pat's model so I can rip it back apart again. Let the games begin.

Siggraph Trailer

Check out the trailer for this years animation festival at Siggraph. For those who don't know, Siggraph is the most important conference there is for graphics professionals. For CG geeks like me, going to Siggraph is akin making the pilgrimage to Mecca. I have yet to make this right of passage but there is a good chance I will be attending next year. Several of the clips from the trailer come from Shane Ackers animated short "9" which ended up taking best in show.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

HDRI3D Update

I had a very interesting phone conversation today with Charles Edgin, Editorial Director of HDRI3D. He was very enthusiastic about the new directions that the magazine is taking and I look forward to reviewing the latest issues. One change that has already been implemented is the addition of a reader review section on their website. This allows readers to rate articles in past issues giving them say in what content will appear in the future. While I am no expert in running a magazine, I would say that the extra level of attention the folks at HDRI3D give to their readers should serve their publication well.

Pat pointed out to me today that he has added a site meter to Mayaloge (thanks Pat). It will be interesting to see what kind of traffic we get. It would be great if we could increase our traffic and other people learning 3D were able to make use of the links on Mayaloge.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Small World

I had always assumed very few people read the Mayaloge but it turns out that I under estimated the power of the blog. A couple weekends ago I recieved a nice email from Matt Estela, founder of the Mayawiki complimenting us on the site. He also offered to give me help with any questions I might have about Maya. There sure are a lot of nice folks in the 3D commmunity.

Just today I recieved an email from Dariush Derakhshani, the new editor in chief of HDRI3d magazine. He read my review of the article on transferring CAD files and while he did not agree that the article was fluff, he was very pleasent. Here is an excerpt from his letter "I wanted to let you know you're feedback is very valuable to us.  My name is Dariush Derakhshani, I am the new editor in chief of HDRI3d, and I wanted to let you know that we are renewing our focus at the magazine, trying to stay away from fluff pieces, and tutorials that just tout the commercial viability of a software.  I'm not saying this is the case with Jason's article, but I do care very deeply that our articles are solid, well put together, and interesting and resourceful to read.". He also offered to send me the latest issue of HDRI3d before it hit the stores. That kind of customer service is pretty rare so I will gladly take Dariush up on his offer.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Strength in numbers

Seeing that promo photo of R2 with his peeps has inspired the Rambis-Toast-Bot to get his own army of mercenaries.

The force is strong with this one!

I just got back from watching Episode 3 and I must say I have under-estimated R2. I had no idea he could shoot ink at people. This could mean a complete redesign for Rust-Bot. At least Rust-Bot's self ejecting head will save him from getting an inky face. I may have to study up on the dark side of the force to get the R2 model into Maya version 4.5.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Tuesday, May 17, 2005


bot click to enlarge

Jay! Why does your robot's head shoot off to into the void whenever I move the whole body around?! It's downright wacky!

I'm stripping the robot down piece by piece trying to learn it's secrets.

Oh, but don't you doubt it, this Robot Challenge is still most definatly on.

Monday, May 16, 2005

New FX Challenge

The folks at CG Talk have anounced that the latest FX Challenge will be a car crash simulation. I totally wish I had the time to build something for this one. Unfortunately I have a million half-finished projects and zero time, ah well. I will watch closely as this is pretty much what I do for a living and I am sure to learn a thing or two.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Article Updates

I recently bought the latest issues of 3D world and HDRI to read on my flight to Kentucky. I did not end up having much time to read through them, but I made sure to read the article on transferring
CAD models to DCC applications
. Frankly, I was disappointed. While I have no doubt that the author (Jason Clark) is probably very experienced at bringing files back and forth between programs, I felt the article fell flat. As I have posted
before, I spend a lot of time dealing with CAD files of various kinds not opening correctly in Maya, so I was hoping this article would contain the magic bullet to stop my woes. Really the article is little more than an advertisement for Okino Polytrans, an expensive piece of software that essentially transfers the files for you. While using Okino Polytrans may be a fine solution to bringing models between various programs, its cost is prohibitive for many folks, and there has to be an alternate way to transfer files. An appropriate analogy would be an article on character modeling with polygons that reads "Buy Maya." The worst part is he doesn't really discuss how to use Poltrans either. The bulk of the article is spent assessing the problems involved and offers few solutions.

I have not yet had a chance to read the 3D World Magazine, but I was interested to see that the cover story involves Real Flow. Some of you may remember my brief attempt at using Real Flow for a Fluid Dynamics project at work. Ultimately I decided it was over-priced and poorly supported and opted for another solution. I am curious to see if such a highly publicized tutorial (Front cover/Major magazine) can guide [the user] past the broken English in the instruction manual.

I don't want to be all negative, so I will point out that Eric Keller had a sweet article in the last issue of HDRI on retro-futuristic computer displays using Maya's Paint Effects. He seems like an interesting guy in general; his background is in medical animations. He has a brief version of the tutorial from the magazine on his website. Also be sure to check out his Tron-style animations.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Back from Kentucky

Hi all, I am back from Kentucky but there is crapload of work on my desk so my Robot Battle animation will be delayed even more :( That's right; emoticons are totally called for in a situation like this. Pat, I hear ya on the long waits for rendering. I do have some suggestions. Try and figure out what parts of your animation are the most expensive in terms of causing long render times. One mistake a lot of people make is to turn on raytraced shadows for everything in the scene when they could get away with using just a few selected shadows. I would also try to keep your lights simple as more lights equals longer renders. This doesn't mean your lighting has to be boring, just try to maximize the efficiency. Another time saver is to preview your animation before you render it in full quality. I sometimes make play blasts of my scenes to preview them before I commit to a long-term render. The most important factor in long render times is your computer. If your scenes are built efficiently and your render times are still mega-slow it may be time to upgrade your hardware. But in the end it is best to remember our fore fathers who would spend days to render out a static sphere on a checkered background. Now that’s dedication.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Waiting is the hardest part

Waiting for these freeking images to render is a pain. You take ten minutes to adjust the camera, move some polygons around, click "batch render" and wait overnight for like 80 frames of animation. I guess this is how its done. Jay is there a better way?

Right now I'm exporting individual .jpg frames, and then popping them in as a sequence in After Effects. Seems like the way to go.

What's the method to your madness?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Update: Robot Wars

I've got my set fully constructed now, and have discovered the larger = slower. Layers are a godsend, allowing me to keep things organized. Lighting has also been a learning experience... you think everthing will work a particular way, and when you render the frame, it looks like crap.

I've rendered my first test scene, and 120 frames took all night to render! Insane!

I've layed out my story board, and it looks like I'll have 10-15 small scenes altogether, so I'll be leaving my desktop on for the next week or so.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Too Cool For School

I decided I am going to wait until fall/winter to take any more classes. Work is crazy and my wedding is fast approaching and I already spend too much time at the computer. I am thinking about getting a couple of books and some back issues of magazines on 3D. I have been looking specifically for books on Mel programming. I remember seeing "Complete Maya programming" at Barnes and Knoble and it appeared to be very extensive. I am a little leary about learning programming from a book but I figure I can at least become a little more familiar with the vocabulary and the more basic concepts. The cheapest price I have have found is $31.00 at Amazon.

About a month ago I picked up the 2nd issue of HDRI 3D magazine. Over all it looks kind of amateurish but it had some interesting articles. Apparently it is the replacement for the Highend 3D magazine that used to be offered by the same publisher. I checked the table of contents in all of the back issues and found articles on topics I am especially interested in. I find Magazines are good at covering more obscure topics in greater detail. For example the latest issue of HDRI 3D has an article on using CAD models in Maya. I wrestle with that crap all the time at work and have found no good documentation on the topic. Another article of interest is "working with Macromolecular Data in Maya" in issue 4 of Highend 3D. Who knows maybe the articles are not all that great, but they seem worth checking out.

I also found the Maya help files to Maya 4.5 on the Parsons College website. The images appear to be broken and most of this material is available for download in PDF format already but there is some new stuff here and it is easy to access.