MM :: Halloween

I’m back. Finally. This past week has been really productive and I really don’t mind, though I do feel guilty because you readers sort of get shafted while I’m in ‘less talk, more rock’ mode. But, closed off a couple big projects today and it feels really good. Learned lots, made mistakes, got messy and in the end, the spraypaint on my hand will probably come off eventually.

Efterklang – Natural Tune

The album is pretty diverse and bounces back and forth from happy spring tunes to more somber autumn beats. Some fantastic piano hooks can be found and they get stuck in your mind so easily.

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The Octopus Project – Upmann

If you want diverse, this is the band to look to. Half of it is synthpop with some random noise and punk thrown in every so often. I have mixed feelings, but some really shine as songs to listen to as the snow flies.

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Plastic Operator – Folder

This song holds a special place in my heart because of the memories it’s associated to, but in the end I think it rounds out the synthpoppy fall tunes nicely.

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And as a tribute to spooky times, an excerpt from a conversation we had the other day:

“…but think about it, man, if there were ghosts, there would be like, a lot of them because people would keep dying and then not going anywhere. The area would fill up, you know? And not just people, think about the buffalo and deer and cats and dogs and ants. Imagine all the ghost ants you’re sitting in right now. Woah. I just freaked myself out a bit there.”

I’m pretty sure I just rolled my eyes in response to this. I can’t remember. We laughed. He raises a good point, though, why would there only be one ghost per hotel to be seen fleeting around corridor corners? Really, if you could see ghosts it would just be opaque with the sheer density of all the things that have lived and died right where you are now.

Now go eat some candy!

‘In Time’ Cars

I saw In Time last night and quite liked it. It was reminiscent of Equilibrium and Surrogates in the best ways possible. Justin didn’t even do half bad playing a more serious role, which I was afraid of.

The movie itself is a really interesting concept and I could talk a long time of the ramifications brought to light in their world, but I’d prefer to talk about their world first.

There doesn’t seem to be any real defining mark of the time period. It’s more alternate reality, slightly stylized. The cars are late 60’s-70’s but debadged and really minimal. There aren’t any door handles and they seem to open by remote with a faint hiss. The police cars are matte black with heavy metal louvres and fat tires with solid black rims. They all seem like a modified 1971 Dodge Challenger RT and make up most of the force, complimented by a heavy truck like a 2nd Gen Ford Bronco or something.

The rich have boat-length taxis, looking like  modified 1964 Lincoln Continentals with the same really clean minimalism and a heavy layer of gloss. The car they steal is from this lineup but slightly different, and as a reader pointed out, look to be the ’65 generation of the same line.

I wish I could find more photos, proper photos, but they seem pretty obscure since the movie just came out. The above was captured from the trailer which is less than ideal.

Anyway, I really appreciated that they didn’t go for a super futurism as much as a realistic portrayal of an alternate reality. It has it’s own, unique style that doesn’t try to be anything it’s not.

EDIT: 14/12/11 a reader who chose to be anonymous pointed out more specific models than I originally guessed – the names and dates above have been changed accordingly. Big thanks to our readers out there!

Reckless Success

I had a really good conversation the other day and I wanted to summarize what we figured out with the hopes that it might teach or inspire.

It seems to us that there are three types of personality when it comes to risk. There are risk-adverse people who will avoid it at all cost for fear of some consequence in failure, there are risky people in that they will take risks often for the sake of the risk itself – that ‘living on the edge’ mentality, and there are calculated risk takers, who carefully weigh things even if they don’t appear to be.

The interesting part of all three is that they could all be seen as reckless.

The risk adverse people, we would argue, are behaving just as rashly as the risky people but in the opposite direction, which becomes it’s own pitfall. We do need to take risks in order to accomplish things. You could say that getting dressed in the morning is a risk because there is some chance we get entangled in our clothes and trip and fall and die. The odds of that happening are next to nil, but there is some chance of it happening. It’s a risk we take because we have better things to do with our day than lay in our beds paralyzed by fear. Which brings up the pitfall: laying in bed all day has it’s own risks and dangers. There is no way to avoid all danger all the time, so we learn to live with this calculated balance.

The risky people can easily be called reckless, which is where we get the more mainstream definition of recklessness. These are people who take risks without thinking too hard about the outcomes and often derive the enjoyment because of that very fact. It’s sort of a natural selection thing with luck; the ones who survive carry on to continue and the ones who don’t, well, don’t. That’s the gamble. It’s more a random chance thing.

The third group could typically be called entrepreneurs. These people also walk the thin line of statistics and chance, but it’s much less random than the people around them think. They might be seen as the second group when in fact they have a lot more data and the actions they take are based on thought-out outcomes and plans, taking into account these chances and having backup plans for most (or all) possible outcomes. Are they reckless? They aren’t behaving as rashly as the other two – and by this I mean a sort of dogmatic predetermination to their choices for or against – but they are still working in a system that is fundamentally chance based.

The point, we feel, is that people should try to be in the third group. Does it mean you should exhibit traits of the other two? Quite the opposite, the third is very much both depending mostly on context. It’s a more free flowing attitude of taking each individual problem and analyzing it instead of having a bias that gets applied to all confrontations of choice.

Practice Sculpt Doodles

I’ve done a few really basic doodles with Blender’s sculpt tools before, but after touring around Studio Y the other day I think it’d be good to learn some more organic modelling methods.

This is my first try. No reference, no real plan or idea. Just playing with the tools and experimenting. A couple of lights and a minor bump map with subtle SSS (which I should play more with as well, if I’m going to be rendering skin and stuff)

I’ll probably keep playing all night; might post some updates.

Faux Letterpress

The above is an actual logo used by Kodak way back in the day.

It make sense, since they didn’t have digital printers like we do now so a lot of things were pressed with actual inks with actual stamped shapes.

But if you cruise around FFFFound of Designspiration there are literally endless amounts of these things coming from graphic artists who have probably never touched a letterpress machine in their lives.

Here’s one I made quickly.

I don’t really understand it. Sure, it’s a great aesthetic, I do quite like it and it does perfectly suit some brands and some studios. Awesome. What I don’t like is it getting indiscriminately slapped onto every single thing possible. Much like Apple’s leather apps, it makes very little sense to do if there isn’t some actual metaphor or correlation. You’re a software company? Great, I’ll make your logo look exactly like you’d find on a 50 year old wharf warehouse.

Be good. Following trends for the sake of being trendy is not good.

Voxel – Ubik

Voxel from Ubik on Vimeo.

This is one of the first videos I ever ‘liked’ on Vimeo, and is a main inspiration for all the studies I’ve done in Blender to merge real situations and virtual simulations. It’s really funny to look back on them, actually, and look at how little I knew just a few years ago. It seems like it’s been so long but in truth it’s just a fast learning curve when you love what you do and enjoy your time with it.

I’d be curious to find a place like that pool and film shots of it with intention for a video like this. It’s mostly stills and there doesn’t seem to be any real camera tracking. The video comes from the animation part, but the background plates can be plain old photos assuming the environment is naturally static.

Top Gear UK

This video is actually really special to me. Maybe it’s a personal thing, since I’ve watched all of these episodes and reminisce about all the misadventures; nostalgia. But I think it’s more than that. I think it’s a testament to friendship and experiences and learning and growing together. I think these are people who are actors but also humans and genuinely, actually personally attached to one another. I think I like it because it reminds me of those people in my life, and I wish I had a montage of all the times we’ve done these types of things.

I can be a pretty intense personality when it comes to drive and achievement and it’s things like this that remind me of the other side of life. The side that truly lives not for some end goal, not for some success but for the journey as it happens. It’s videos like this that give me that little kick of yearning to be more content in the little ridiculous things. Honestly, I am, don’t get me wrong, I’m a very content person. Some have described it as “ridiculous” and “impossible” to be as content as I am, but there is still an internal balance that needs to be resolved, and this reminds me to check that.

So, I mean, say what you want about Top Gear. It’s biased, sure. But it’s not about cars or reviews, really, it’s about three guys who have this thing, and about an audience who feels a bit of that when they watch clips like this and ultimately, isn’t that brilliant by itself?

On a personal level, it sort of comes down to legacy for me. With Steve’s passing recently it makes you think about these things. It would be a really different thing if Jeremy suddenly died – a different attitude, a different wake, a different legacy. But both have reached an audience and connected with them personally. It’s just interesting to look at the similarities and differences there in both the end result and how they achieved it.

Maybe I’m thinking too deep. Maybe it’s just a video of people laughing which is in itself infectious. But maybe, just maybe there is something different and something special. Something nostalgic and close to me. Close to a lot of us, I think. And above all, it’s a fascinating thing to try and foster. It can be grown; cultivated. We can be those guys with our own highlight reel – even if that’s only in our own memories.

Console – minitutorial

I made this a while ago and it recently came up again, so I’m going to do the detailed discussion of it that I always meant to do.

For the record, this was made with Blender 1.5x but anything more recent will work. Even since making this I’m already onto 2.60 which was just released the other day.

Break it down:

So we’ve got two things going on here – the basic render and then the compositing over that done internally with the nodes. It depends on the look I’m going for but this second step can usually replace Photoshop for post-render colouring and touching up so take the time to learn it. I’m not sure why I ignored it for so long and in hindsight I think it could have really helped my renders back then.

Part 1 – the render:

So you can see how important that post/node work is – the pure render is really drab and lifeless.

The geometry is really simple, it’s just a text (Futura) with another text behind it at a 0.094 bevel and some extrude to give it that really thick pillow look. Remember to up the bevel resolution to make it a curved fillet instead of just a chamfer. The inside text is the glowing green and the pillow part is the reflective black part.

The ground is just a giant plane with the same piano black finish that the pillow text has.

There’s the two materials. Pretty self explanatory, I think. We’ve got the black with a bright, sharp specular and a nice reflection (which you’ll notice isn’t doing blurred samples – we’ll come back to that) and the green with is just a green with an emit value to it for that extra zest. The speculars and such don’t really matter there since it’s rendering pretty much shadeless and specs won’t show up at all there. There is one light but it’s pretty irrelevant since the green glows more or less by itself and the black just reflects it. There are slight speculars on the black, I guess. It’s up to you. (Note, you still need the light for the emit to work, it just multiplies the natural surface illumination by a ton)

Which should give you that first render there. It works but isn’t very exciting at this point. Let’s spice that up, shall we?

Part 2 – node work:

Here’s the end result (click for fullscreen as always):

It breaks down into nice chunks.

Starting on the left we have the render layer as normal which then branches into the glare node up top (the major render) and into the overlay node to it’s right. This overlay uses a little bit of the render and mixes it with a scanline texture I had laying around. Basically it’s just horizontal lines that can be easily Googled or made in PS. That texture is scaled to fit the render dimensions and all of that is sent through the RGB curves to really intensify the bright parts, giving it tons of contrast. If you were to render from the tail of that RGB curve, this is what it would look like:

Which is sent through the glare, which just brightens it further and gives those side to side streaks (note the “Streaks: 2” in there @ 0 angle offset). The color modifier is actually important here as it creates that sort of jittered spotty pattern to the streaks.

That whole things works basically as an overlay to the original render layer (and it’s glare node for the text’s neon look)) – those two run through the Lens Distortion which has a tiny bit of dispersion (the glitched out red/green/blue tinges on the far sides of the lettering) and a lens-barrel distortion for that fisheye curve the whole thing’s got.

The defocus does the ground blur and it’s actually a bit of a bug in the renderer itself. Since it’s not doing any real light physics, it’s not smart enough to know that reflected things exist in the same place as real objects and therefore should exhibit the same DoF as the physical object does (as real life would) so the blur is actually controlled by the bokeh as if it’s out of focus, although our knowledge dictates it isn’t. It’s usually annoying but it’s really handy here since it’s blur is far faster than doing actual sampled glossiness on the ground material itself. If we were making an animation that would have really nice time savings.

That should give us the completed image!

Which you can see again if you’d forgotten since the top. Click for full to appreciate those little details. I’m really quite fond with how that dispersion turned out and mixed with the scanlines.

Questions, comments, critique? Feel free to send a message my way!

The Carpenter

The Carpenter from Dimitris Ladopoulos on Vimeo.

Awesome camera tracking.

I did something similar for my toothbrush video, but I didn’t have the time to do proper tracking so it didn’t come out nearly as clean. I’d love to do a personal project with a similar technique and maybe throw in more of the HUD stats / infographic feel to go with, say, things around the city.

Interesting. I think I shall. Seems like a good challenge.

Via

Money Face

That last one is me, with the fantastic jowls of Sir Laurier of Monopoly-colourful Canadian fiver fame.

They are all hilarious, though. Check out the whole gallery.

Via


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