New IRTC animation topic (Jan 2006): Inventions

General discussion about JPatch

Postby pollywoggles » Fri Dec 30, 2005 4:25 am

squirrelhavoc wrote:You guys have some funny ideas going, but you have so little time. Do you think you can pull it off in time?
Wow. Those story ideas have been amazing. Some of the situations are simply genius.

It does seem like an incredible amount of work for such a short period of time, looking at the story, it seems like the fastest it could be told is with 14 -30 feet of character animation (10 - 20 seconds) -- doing that in less than two weeks that seems blazingly fast to me.
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Postby dcuny » Fri Dec 30, 2005 9:17 am

To answer an earlier question about how quickly people can crank out animation, I'll refer to a tutorial by Keith Lango
Keith Lango wrote:The clip is about 8.4 seconds long. That projects out to nearly 17 seconds of halfway decent quality animation per week.

And that's one of my main areas of focus. The adage is true, The best animation you do is the one you finish.
At work we have a production quota of 18.5 seconds of approved animation each week. For comparison our good friends
working on feature films often have quotas ranging from 4-9 seconds per week.
That's finished footage from a professional animator. :?

However, to my untrained eyes, I don't see a lot of difference between the various passes. As he says: The best animation you do is the one you finish. ;)
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Postby sascha » Fri Dec 30, 2005 10:25 am

That's finished footage from a professional animator.


Well, it depends on how high you set the bar. Let's take a look at "The Impostor" - it's of course not comparable to anything professional, it can't even compete with the animations at Pocketmovies, so it's also clear that you cant apply the feet per animator per week numbers of professional productions.
The Impostor was done in spare-time within one month. Most of the time I was fighting with premature features of JPatch - so I am confident that making such an animation will be possible within 2 weeks once JPatch is finished.

It would be interesting to hear some opinions from expirenced Animation:Master users. How long would it take to create such an animation with A:M (modeling, rigging, creating the shaders and rendering)?

The most difficult part was lip-syncing - other shots were set up with just a few mouse-clicks (the robot driving to the desk is made of two key-frames, it can be set-up in no time and yet covers several seconds of animation. The robot rising out of the floor was equally easy - the most tricky part was setting up the morph targets, but that's a matter of less than one hour).

So, creating a competitive IRTC animation can be done in a matter of weeks or even days (I am talking about spare-time! - even if it involves some nights without sleep ;-) ) - this is not meant to talk the IRTC down! It is run for amateurs who create their movies in spare time, most of them without access to professional tools.

My current problem is that JPatch still isn't ready, but I am confident that it will be ready in time and that I can create some sort of animation for this round. It might not be competitive, but that's not the point - the main reason for creating it is to find and fix bugs and to spot shortcomings in JPatch's "workflow".
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Postby pollywoggles » Fri Dec 30, 2005 12:20 pm

It would be freakin awesome, even too awesome to ask (but I'm asking anyway!) -- if there was any way you could take screen-recordings or screen shots or keep a blog (or journal... or ... something almost like a tutorial, but perhaps less polished) of what you do as you complete this project. -- I'd learn so much about the application (and workflow within the application) by watching the master at work.
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Postby sascha » Fri Dec 30, 2005 1:33 pm

I was thinking about a kind of "tutorial recorder" - where JPatch itself would record a session and save it in a native format that could be played back later again. It's not that simple to implement though, so this has to wait until the more important features have been done.

In the meantime, Wink might be an alternative. I'll try to capture some screenshots during modeling. As far as animations are concerned, there is no real workflow yet as I am about to integrate the animator module back into the modeler, which isn't finished yet.

About the script. I don't think that the robots serves any purpose - and we don't have a connection to Invention. I've simplified David's suggestion a bit, what do you think:

shot01: Night, we see a fence with a sign reading "Mining site - danger - keep out!" and some floodlight lit area with containers behind (out of focus).
shot02: Our man walks to the foreman. We see an insert (like in the silent films), the foreman says something like "Hi Joe, you'll work on the new machine tonight, the latest ACME invention. Be careful, it's a lot faster than the old one..."
shot03: Man opens machine door and jumps in.
shot04: Inside cockpit: Man pulls some levelers, lights go on or start flashing, camera starts to shake. Man pulls another leveler.
shot05: Machine from outside, starts drilling into the earth. We see a toon like side-view of the mine with the soil cut and the tunnels and the machine visible. The machine starts to dig its way down.
shot06: "Time passes..." transition effect. Man falls asleep. The earth's core glowing red becomes visible outside.
shot07: another "Time passes..." transition. Machine halts abruptly. View is upside down. We can see a sign with a kangaroo and maybe Ayers Rock in the background. Man jumps off and falls down into the sky. Camera rotates 180°, man crashes into ground a few seconds later.
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Postby dcuny » Fri Dec 30, 2005 5:55 pm

I like the changes, especially the ending where the camera rights itself and the guy falls back down. I think it's makes a much stronger story, with a real stopping point. :D

But I think that there's a lot of talking going on in the story - it's always better if you can show something, instead of having to explain it. I understand that you're using the dialog to establish that it's an "invention", but it feels like exposition, which is that last thing you want dialog to sound like. How about:
  • Man pulls lever, but it's stuck.
  • Close up of gauge as indicator moves suddently moves into the red zone. If you want, you can label it with something like "Danger! Too Fast!"
  • Cut back to medium shot of the man as the machine starts to shake wildly.. He raises his hand, and sees that he's holding the broken end of the lever he's been pulling. Panic fills his face.
I also think using a fade transition to show the passage of time is more effective than using a title card, expecially if you hold the darkness between the transitions for a moment, and also fade the sound effects.

On the other hand, I think putting up the "Mining site..." sign is a very effective way of setting the initial scene.

Being able to use "old timey" effects, such as film scratches and pixilated motion, might be nice, but most of that would have to be done in post processing, which would probably deduct points from the animation. Besides, there's nothing in the story that really benefits from setting the story in the past.

Are you going to be able to use Renderman this time around?
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Postby sascha » Fri Dec 30, 2005 6:57 pm

But I think that there's a lot of talking going on in the story

Well, the only spoken sentence would be the one from the foreman. I'll think about it. I was also thinking about a b/w retro look - that would explain the text insert, and the machine could have a kind of Jules-Verne look (The Journey to the Centre of the Earth comes to mind ;-) ).

The instruments could be difficult to model and animate, so given the short time-frame I'd like to omit them. But the levers should be easy.
I also like the idea of him falling asleep (partly because it's easier to animate).

I've reworked the script, here's it, broken down in actual shots:

Shot01: Fence with sign, blurred matte painting in the background.
Shot02: Medium shot of forman talking to our here
Shot03: Text insert
Shot04: Medium shot of man opening machine door and jumping in
Shot05: Medium shot of machine cockpit, seen from behind and above the man. He presses some buttons and pulls some levers.
Shot06: Medium/close shot of man in cockpit, machine/camera starts shaking
Shot07: Full shot of machine (front view) - machine starts to descend, camera follows.
Shot08: Time passes transition effect, medium/close shot of man, he's fallen asleep. The soil outside (seen through the windows) starts glowing.
Shot09: Another time passes transition effect - same camera setup as Shot08 - soil has become black again, suddenly the blue skies appears at the bottom of the window and the machine halts abruptly. Man wakes up.
Shot10: Full shot of machine (camera is upside down), sky is visible in the lower 2/3 of the screen.
Shot11: Close up of machine door, opening
Shot12: Full shot of machine (like Shot 10), man jumps out and falls "down"
Shot13: Medium shot of man "flying" - after a while he grabs the "camera" and turns it 180 degrees. He blinks with his eyes, looks down and suddenly vanishes downwards.
Shot14: Classical "falling down" shot - camera looks down, man gets smaller and smaller - dust cloud on the ground.
Shot15: Full shot of man (who has crashed into the ground). Kangaroo hops by.
Shot16: Close up of kangaroo, shaking its head.

I think the whole sequence will be between 40 and 60 seconds long, so that's perfect.
For the "time passes" transition effect I had a kind of "clock" or "pie" crossover in mind. I don't know if they have a name, but I think they are quite common.

I still plan to use Renderman, but might fallback to POV if I run out of time :-)
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Postby sascha » Fri Dec 30, 2005 7:17 pm

Oh, I forgot something. In shot13 - when the man falls out of screen, the helmet stays there a bit longer (for some frames).
In shot15, the man tries to get up from the pit, looks at the kangaroo, but is eventually hit by the helmet and falls back into the pit... :)
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Postby dcuny » Fri Dec 30, 2005 10:49 pm

Part of my problem with cutting to a dialog card is that it's an obvious cheat - the viewer knows you didn't bother lipsyncing the scene. That you cut away to a card - instead of using subtitles when the character's mouth is moving - makes it even more blatant.

Going to a silent film style mostly solves that, but you really need to capture the rest of that style, which would by too much work at this point. And you still have a mis-match if there are sound effects (like the drill) but no voices.

Even without the dialog, I think it's important to show other characters in the animation, so that it looks "bigger". For example, in the setup shot, you could have the foreman guide the drill into position:
  • Foreman motions for something off-screen to come towards him. A moment later, the drill rolls onto the screen.
  • The worker, inside of drill, pulls levers.
  • The foreman who gives a "thumbs up" sign to the drill.
  • The worker pulls and pushed various levers. The camera starts shaking...
This would allow you to avoid having the worker climb into the drill (potentially a messy bit of animation) because he's already seated. If the foreman is already in position when he motions to the drill, then he doesn't have to walk, either.

I think the worker falling asleep at the wheel is a better (and simpler) solution than actually having him break anything. It would be nice if there were some setup where he misunderstood the directions, mistaking something like "100 feet" for "100 miles" But usually the gag works in the other direction, by having a fly mistaken for a decimal point. Having the worker simply fall asleep is good enough.

The transition effects are traditionally referred to as "wipes", so named because they would typically move from one side of the screen to the other, replacing one picture with another. My recollection was that they sort of fell out of favor for a while - they show up in Star Wars and Indiana Jones partly because they evoke the feeling of an old serial movie.

My thought on the panel was to shoot the worker from the front instead of the side or back, so you'd never really see any detail, just some levers sticking up. You can have him interacting with non-existant controls, as long as their below the frame line.

I'm having second throughts about the worker interacting with the camera. Part of the problem is that without a moving background, you're going to have trouble imparting a feeling of motion to the shot. I also think it's going to take a lot more effort the get the falling worker shot to work the way you want.

Since you're going to model a kangaroo, then you could end with something like:
  • Worker looks out of the door on drill. There's a ladder below him, leading down.
  • From the ground, kangaroo watches as (off screen) the worker climbs down. Worker steps into the frame and sees the kangaroo. He suddenly realizes where he is.
  • Medium shot of worker and kangaroo. The camera flips over, and the worker falls "down" into the sky, out of the frame.
  • Close up of kangaroo, shaking its head.
Actually, you can probably cut out the shot of the worker looking out of the door. Since the kangaroo's head is following the descent of the worker, that should be enough.

Here's a (very) rough storyboard:

Image
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Postby sascha » Sat Dec 31, 2005 10:28 am

Ah, a storyboard, very nice! I've made one with pencil and paper, but
it's just scribble, so it doesn't make sense to scan and post it...

Going to a silent film style mostly solves that, but you really need to capture the rest of that style, which would by too much work at this point. And you still have a mis-match if there are sound effects (like the drill) but no voices.

Yes, but I don't think that I'll add sound effects this time. I took more than a whole night to add the sound effects to The Impostor, and I don't have much time this round. I think imitating the silent film style shouldn't be that difficult. Black/White (with proper lighting for b/w - i.e. a higher key/fill ratio), perhaps boosting the contrast in post-processing a bit, and maybe creating the animation at 18 fps and playing it back at 25...
But on the other hand, you're right - the only purpose of the text insert is to intruduce the word "Invention" und thus create a vague connection to the topic. Perhaps it could be done just with a proper title (e.g. "The new drill").

For example, in the setup shot, you could have the foreman guide the drill into position:

That's an excellent idea!

The transition effects are traditionally referred to as "wipes"

I thought about something that resembles a clock:
Image Image
White is shot-a, black is shot-b

My thought on the panel was to shoot the worker from the front

Agreed

I'm having second throughts about the worker interacting with the camera. Part of the problem is that without a moving background...

I was thinking about moving 2D cartoon clouds in the background (upside down!), perhaps in different layers:
Image

Once he turns the camera, the clouds would stop, the man would look down for a second and then vanish. The next shot would be filmed from above, camera pointing downwards:
Image

I also thought about using a simple moving 2D pattern for the digging shots. The camera would stay upside down (I see no reason why it should turn after the kangaroo comes by) when the drill hits the surface again:
Image Image
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Postby sascha » Sat Dec 31, 2005 10:39 am

Another idea: There's obviously no reason for the machine to get stuck or to stay on the ground, so I thought that maybe the whole machine would start falling down after it hits the opposite surface. The man would wake up and in shock jump out of the machine.
He'd turn the cam, crash into the ground and get knocked out by his helmet, which followed some seconds after him. The kangaroo would shake its head.

Credits roll.

A last shot - kangaroo is still looking baffled, but eventually is hit by the drilling machine :P
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Postby dcuny » Sat Dec 31, 2005 11:25 am

If the machine starts "falling" after it hits the surface, you'll want to have the kangaroo there to see it, or you won't have time to introduce it as a character later.

I'm still ambivalent about the guy "turning" the camera, but I'm sure when I see the animation, it'll turn out wonderful. :D

If you want to go for an antique look, there are a number of graphics programs available that can post process stills in batches to convert them to monochrome such as XnView, ImageMagick or even The Gimp.

I don't know any freeware that does wipes and transitions, although I suspect you could fairly easily write a Java script to do that. There's KinoDV and Jahshaka, but I haven't worked with either of them. Blender also has a nice video editor.

At some point, it would be nice to have a GUI tool for compositing the animation together, including effects like wipes, fades, layers and so on. Support for sound would be good, too. But I don't know that it needs to actually be part of JPatch.

You'll probably get points deducted for post processing your graphics, though. More importantly, I don't think it'll really add that much to the story.

Since JPatch hasn't got support for UV, I wasn't sure how you were going to handle images (like painted backgrounds and such).

Are you going to make the animation entirely silent, or have a music track for it as well? Given that there's no dialog and no sound effects, I don't see that having a soundtrack will really add much (although it wouldn't hurt).

I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with! :D
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Postby sascha » Sat Dec 31, 2005 1:30 pm

If the machine starts "falling" after it hits the surface, you'll want to have the kangaroo there to see it, or you won't have time to introduce it as a character later.

What I had in mind was something like:
* Man crashes into ground (viewed from above)
* Full shot of man, lying in pit - kangaroo comes by and looks.
* Man tries to stand up, looks at the kangaroo in wonder, is hit by his helmet and falls back into the pit.
* Credits
* Machine comes crashing down and hits the kangaroo.

I don't know any freeware that does wipes and transitions

I'll add that "clock-wipe" to Imp-Edit.

At some point, it would be nice to have a GUI tool for compositing the animation together, including effects like wipes, fades, layers and so on. Support for sound would be good, too. But I don't know that it needs to actually be part of JPatch.

Heh, I've had exactly the same thought :-)
For this round I think I'll add support for layers. Once the animator is integrated into the GUI, I can start to integrate IMP-Edit (perhaps with a simple sound mixer too).

Since JPatch hasn't got support for UV, I wasn't sure how you were going to handle images (like painted backgrounds and such).

The images won't "stick" wrap around the geometry without U/V mapping - but a simple planar projection is no problem at all.

Are you going to make the animation entirely silent

Given the time constraints and the fact that there are no extra points for a soundtrack I think I'll go without sound this round...

Here's a first version of a kangaroo :-)
Image
I don't know how it should blink - perhaps by just making the eyes smaller (or "flatter")...
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Postby squirrelhavoc » Sat Dec 31, 2005 3:43 pm

I think the legs should be longer, but stay bent.

Like from a side view:
Instead of this -
Image

Something like this -

Image
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Postby sascha » Sat Dec 31, 2005 3:46 pm

Ok, I'll try.
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