Angel Tom's last test flight ...

Loaded 1 November 2011

Confirmation of Capability

After Tom's first flight, done in a hurry for JB's Birthday and necessitating new software, this flight is a consolidation and takes me into some new territory.

I thought I was well placed as I had been experimenting with a new and more rich character posing program for another project and this program had some great animation tools in it. So I set out to produce a "proof of capability" that would show myself it was possible for me to produce a fully animated sequence at adequate quality.

New Territory

The main new territory in this clip is the use of strand hair modelled in Carrara  rather than hair painted on using a texture map.

The old painted hair is still there and useful as it creates a non-skin tone base under the strand hair allowing me to skimp a little on the number of strands. This was an easy first hair foray as Tom's buzz cut is the easiest of all to model. Greater use of morphs for clothing movement has also improved the realism of the outcome. Morph use is still new territory for me.

Behind the scenes

A fair bit has happened behind the scenes too. Problems in the wing and gown skinning have been fixed, some of the texturing has been refined although Tom's skin does not quite have the glow I was after. If anything he looks a bit jaundiced. I might revert to the brighter glow of his test flight which is clearly a glow but which I thought looked over-the-top.

I've also nearly mastered the workflow across Animate, D|S and Carrara . This is important as there is a tendency for various operations to key frame every property at every frame at the slightest provocation. This is no problem if the animation is "finished" but if there is any tweaking to do it is a monster. For this test I was able to do multi-time multi-property adjustments at every stage of the process and still have a sensibly keyframed outcome in the end-program with which I can do final little adjustments. Woo-hoo.

And as for the parts you can see, I think its fair to say that the movement now, both of Tom's body and his wings is looking much more human-like. Not perfect but certainly much closer to the way we move. Very interesting breaking this down and realising how irregular much of our expressive movement can be.

What next?

Well, Tom is now ready to get going on shooting for the storyboards for scene 24. I've even developed a jaunty little jog for him and his mates to match the music I've sourced for this scene. Just need to get going - although there is a film competition I'm looking to enter that is going to put scene 24 back to priority #2 in all probability. Not much harm in that as I'll need to do more complex hair, Carrara terrains, vegetation and wind for the film, all of which are useful training for scene 24.

Technical snippets

I seem to be a bug magnet, and no less so with the new software. Had problems with over-sized files, pixelation of the clouds, cross-program animation transfer failure after new software releases and a few other little glitches; some solved and some worked-around.

The big technical news for me was that I bit the bullet and got that fantastic new six core processor I was lusting after. At full HD size, 10 second renders (needed to overcome a large file problem) were taking up to four hours - workable but painful. The new processor halves the render times. Six hyperthreaded   processors. Awesome! Crazy pickup in speed for a remarkably low price. Plus I still have the old machine because I elected to get a new motherboard. Now I can run both or render farm across the six-core and the two quads. The new machine also gave me an excuse to better allocate space on the HDD which had been causing minor grief on the old machine. All up a happy camper!

5x Cameras for the 85 second scene. Cam-1 full 85 seconds, Face-Cam 75 seconds, MS-Cam two blocks of 10 seconds and Distant-Cam + Extra-Distant-Cam 10 seconds each. Rendered at full HD (1920x1080) unlike Tom's earlier flight. Between 90 minutes and 120 minutes per 10 seconds rendered on the new six-core. Approximately 35 hours render time. [vs 70 hours on the good quad. About half the end product was rendered on the good quad.] Composit build just 5 minutes!