Quick update: Still busy with clients, and it’s great! 2015 has proven to be the best year of my career by a huge magnitude through my global freelancing business XD&A, with no signs of slowing down! If things keep up like this I should definitely top it once again in 2016.
I’m also working on training myself up on more skills, particularly 3D CG, and new software like Modo and Mari, doing fake UI for film with Cinema 4D, new techniques for realizing and viably expressing cinematic storytelling on an indie scale. Working and leveling up, non stop.
I wish I could talk about the stuff I’m working on, but alas, various NDAs. This is basically why I was radio silent here for almost all of 2015 after posting daily updates at the beginning. Just know some really awesome stuff will be unveiled in 2016!
Since mums the word on most of it right now, I’ll switch gears on this blog to post generalized stuff I’m learning about, interested in, and focusing on a lot now, such as game and film UI / UX, tutorials, filmmaking, virtual filmmaking, CG modeling and software, etc… So that should be fun!
My girlfriend Liz loves to crochet and asked for project ideas so she could make a blanket for me. My mind of course went straight to sprite art of video games. I first thought a Mario blanket would be fantastic and the NES sprite fidelity would be manageable enough. But Liz knows how much I love Chrono Trigger and suggested this! Not only just Crono but Crono, Marle, Lucca, Robo, Ayla, and Magus! I thought it would be quite the task! But she was up for it!
Liz has charted out each character on graph paper and translated the pixel colors into crocheted squares that she will then sew together to form the character. She has just finished all of the pixels for Crono and has begun assembling him tonight!
We thought it’d be fun to post the progress of this as we go! The Great Chrono Trigger Blanket begins!
Hey just a quick update that I’ve been busy with client work lately (which is great– some really amazing things in the works!), so the VFM02 project has been on hold for a bit. Things are going well and hope to start posting again soon! Also, if you’re hiring freelancers, don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) and let’s discuss!
Seems I’m not alone in my assessment that game engines are now viable rendering engines for CG filmmaking. I’ve been seeing this discussion pop up a lot lately. While working at triple-A games studios during the advent of the eighth console gen, I routinely heard rumblings then that this was the big objective, to achieve ‘hollywood level CG in realtime’. With a focus on game engines at this year’s GDC, it seems it’s been truly brought into the forefront of people’s minds.
I particularly liked the stat that a single frame from Pixar’s Monsters University took them 29 hours to render using “what’s considered one of the fastest supercomputer rigs in the world: 2,000 computers with 24,000 processing cores”. In my analysis from my own testing, a 4K frame was taking me about 4 hours in Maya Mentalray, but it wasn’t as complex as a frame set up by Pixar. Meanwhile, to capture a 4K frame out of Unity, it takes only 0.91 seconds, on my five-year-old iMac. So 29 hours or 104,400 seconds on a state-of-the-art super-computer versus 0.91 seconds on a half-decade-old prosumer desktop. As this provides literally millions of dollars in cost-savings and time-savings value to individual creators, it’s not even a question of which route an indie should take for CG filmmaking.
And check out the recently released Kite Demo from Unreal Engine 4 and the Nvidia Titan X to see yet another impressive example of where this is all going:
I haven’t tested Unreal Engine 4 yet myself, as it barely runs smoothly on my five-year-old iMac. I’m going to need to get a new computer anyway (it’s time), and I’m aiming for the 5K iMac as my primary machine with Windows on Bootcamp. If that’s not enough, then I’m also considering getting a super-beefy Windows box with the Nvidia Titan X as basically my render machine only.
But the new computer(s) will be a bit down the road. I’m content to finish the virtual set for VFM02 first in Unity 5 for now while I train myself up on CG modeling and texturing. I’ve also just finished figuring out cinematic cameras, lighting and rendering modes, and the full capture pipeline from Unity, and am thrilled to have got all of that working. I’m actually not that limited with my old iMac, primarily because uRecord can get animation out of Unity at any res in perfect lossless frame-by-frame PNGs without runtime even being a factor. Then there’s having to decide between Unity’s royalty free offering and Unreal Engine’s 5% cut. Unity’s results aren’t bad at all, but Unreal Engine’s seem pretty obviously amazing– for a price.
Going through VFM02, I’m already beginning to appreciate the value in a stylized approach on an indie-scale. It really comes down to how easy it is to implement these features in the engine editor, and whether that scales throughout an entire production. Meanwhile, you can actually see low-fidelity texturing on background assets of Star Wars: Rebels produced and aired by Disney (high res example 1, example 2), so there’s a level of efficiency possible through stylization that works. People tend to focus on the characters in the frame, especially the eyes, anyway. It really just depends on your production parameters and goals, so there’s huge value in custom-tailoring a style to fit those. The Kite demo certainly wasn’t made by one person in spare time, but it nevertheless does demonstrate an enormous leap forward in efficiency at smaller production scales.
Either way, it does seem that using game engines now for filmmaking is a trending idea. Go experiment and create something awesome! There’s never been a better time.
Set UVs and established textures for the lower half of the scene– next will spend some time really dressing those textures up. The holotable needs a bit more polish to the diffuse map as well.
Looking into getting Quixel Suite, but they don’t have a Mac version (it’d be the only thing in this entire pipeline between Maya, Mudbox, Zbrush, Unity, and the full Adobe CC Suite that I’d have to Bootcamp into Windows for).
I also realized as I was adding new assets to the Maya scene, Unity was not automatically setting those elements to static, so lightmapping was skipping over them. Fixed that last night. There’s still some weirdness going on with some assets’ lightmapping though, such as the pipes.
There’s still a long way to go on this stuff, my first attempt at environment art like this. Overall, making progress!