IRTC Topic for January 2007: Dance

General discussion about JPatch

Postby dcuny » Sun Jan 14, 2007 7:58 pm

Bother! :?

When I got up around 10:30, it had only gotten to frame 642. I had started it on frame 200, so it's much slower rendering. I suspect it's the addition of the new elements. There's not much to be done about that, but it's still a bad thing.

I noticed a lot more grain in the noise. I think the problem has to do with the changing the anti-aliasing setting to be less picky. So there's a high-frequency salt and pepper that wasn't there before. It also may have been because I messed with the texture settings without saving them.

Problematically, Wine has suddenly decided to stop working. I've got plenty of CDs, so I can offload the files onto a CD and burn it under Windows, but it's a pain I hadn't expected. Do you know how to create MPEG files under Linux? It had been posted at one point on the forum, but I can't find it. :?

I'll post something as soon as I can, but I might not have anything today... I'm in damage control at the moment. :( I've reloaded the machine (in case Eclipse was hogging memory) and I'm reloading Wine. I expect to restart rendering Real Soon Now. (I should have just compiled the frames last night, but I didn't want to wait half an hour for the file).

I still expect to have the animation done in time, just not as quickly as I'd hoped.
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Postby dcuny » Sun Jan 14, 2007 9:32 pm

Restarting JPatch brought the rendering speed back to 30 seconds/frame.

apt-get refuses to unload wine... It just stalls. :(

It looks like the noise is coming from the code I had removed from the anti-aliasing routine. Since frame renders go up to 50 seconds with it in, I'll just have to hope the compression takes care of that.

I tried rendering at half size, but I don't think the subtitles would come out readable, so that's not really an option.

Another change I think I had made to the textures was to reduce the depth from 9 to 7. I suspect that some of the "noise" I'm seeing might be due to that, and possibly because of moving the position of the lights.

On an unrelated note, the girls are currently watching Barbie: The Princess and the Pauper. The first two songs are very derivative of The Little Mermaid; the animation is floaty; the faces lack expression...

More to the point, there are lots of shortcuts that were taken. For example, characters rarely cast shadows, the materials are mostly phong and have a metallic sheen...

So I'm not the only one who's making compromises in order to get the animation finished on time. ;)

500 frames to go... That's a mere 4 more hours.

(My wife just pointed out the Travel section of the paper has a large picture of a Moai on it! ) 8)
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Postby dcuny » Mon Jan 15, 2007 3:00 am

Here's the animation, fresh off the press. I'll put together a version with subtitles later.

MoaiTest6.mpg

As usual, ignore the first 10 seconds, since that's just filler where the title is going to go.

I rebooted the machine again, and Wine came back to life. Maybe Java had hogged all the memory, I don't know. I'm just happy it's working again.

I haven't had a chance to review the animation, but I can see some bugs at the end with frown morph that needs to be fixed. I can just render that set of frames. There's another point where the animation of one of the characters jumps, and I'd like to smooth that out. Again, I'll probably just re-render that portion.

I didn't get a chance to work on the mouths, so I don't think that's going to happen. Next time, I'll be more careful about what I use as the default mouth shapes.

The camera movement is sloppy at points, but I think that would require quite a lot of re-rendering to correct, so I don't think I'll be able to work on that.

The volume seems loud, so I'll have to adjust that as well.

Any other thoughts? I've still got to work on the beginning and end titles. I don't have a good name for it yet, so suggestions are appreciated! :D
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Postby dcuny » Mon Jan 15, 2007 10:40 am

I've had a closer look at the lipsync, and corrected some obvious problems. I've also looked at all the keys in graph mode, and fixed some "floating" keys I had missed.

I've removed most of the keys from the camera movement. There's a lot less movement, and it's a lot smoother.

I've also gone through the motion curves for both characters, and either decreased or removed a number of keys where the motion was particularly jerky.

For the part where the round moai "bounces", I translated him along the y axis. The movement is much more convincing.

If I had more time, I'd get rid of the "And we're still inanimate objects" line - I think it doesn't really add anything to the animation. But I'm leery of messing with it too much, and I'd have to rework the audio as well. It's just too close to the deadline to mess with stuff like that.

The IRTC page says I still have 19 hours left. I figure it's probably going to take 12 hours to re-render the animation. I'll have to do it from scratch, because of all the changes to the camera movement. I've still got the other version, if I run out of time.

Hrm... TMPEnc is slowing down again... I've just deleted a zillion frames from my desktop, but there's probably a lot of memory eaten up somewhere. I'll reboot this, and see if I can encode it faster... Then I'll post the new previz version, and then start rendering again.

Edit: Rebooting fixed the problem, but there are still a couple places where the lipsync needs to be corrected, so I'll work on that before posting anything.

Any hints on how to achieve suitable compression using TMPEnc?
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Postby sascha » Mon Jan 15, 2007 11:21 am

I've removed most of the keys from the camera movement. There's a lot less movement, and it's a lot smoother.

Good. The camera movement looked a bit awkward.
In general I wouldn't move the camera if there's no cogent reason for it. Especially I wouldn't "cut" from closeup to a full shut with a camera move or zoom!

The animation itself is very nice, but the camera movement in MoaiTest6.mpg almost ruins it. If you don't want to add cuts, I'd constrain the camera to perform only a subtle, slow move (e.g. just two or at most three keyes during the entire shot).

Any hints on how to achieve suitable compression using TMPEnc?

I haven't used it for quite a while, but I remeber setting it to some kind of high-quality VBR encoding with a specified target file size (10MB). There's also a switch somewhere that you can set to "CG/Animation", but I don't know if it has much influence (I don't even know what it does exactly). I've always left the audio settings unchanged (I think it uses MPEG-1 layer 2 with the default bandwidth). You might want to choose mono-recording (if it's possible) to save some bandwidth though.

IRTC Website wrote:18 hours, 42 minutes, and 53

Stressful, eh? :wink:
I feel a bit guilty because I didn't state earlier that I don't have enough time this round.
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Postby dcuny » Mon Jan 15, 2007 11:33 am

All right, here's the final (I hope) previz:

MoaiTest7.mpg (10Meg)

I think I've caught all the major mistakes in the lipsync. There's still that rapid camera pull out at the beginning, but I wanted to emphasize the effect that he had just discovered something. But I agree - less is more, and I probably shouldn't have introduced any camera movement at all. It only really serves to "show off", and doesn't add much.

Hrm... I've looked at it again, and it's still too abrupt for an introduction. So I think I'll go back and take out the zoom. I won't bother posting another previz - I need to jump right into rendering.

Don't worry about feeling guilty - it's about time I started using the software. I'd have put it off until the last minute, anyway - deadlines have a way of helping to trim away ideas to their essence. ;)
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Postby dcuny » Mon Jan 15, 2007 11:38 am

Yeah, it looks better without the initial camera movement. Time to start rendering! :D
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Postby sascha » Mon Jan 15, 2007 12:51 pm

MoaiTest7 looks much better!
Camera movement still seems a bit motiveless, but that's a matter of taste.

The lips are well synced to the audio - some mouth shapes are still changing to rapidly, but that's really a minor issue.

All in all I like it a lot, and I'm waiting eagerly to see the final version.

About a title: I don't know. "Dancing Moai"? Perhaps some parody on "Dances With Wolves"? But then it has nothing to do with the movie except for "dance" in the title.
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Postby dcuny » Mon Jan 15, 2007 1:17 pm

sascha wrote:MoaiTest7 looks much better!
Thanks, I'm really hoping I can get this done on time. I think the final product looks a lot better than I anticipated. The texture has a lot to do with it, but it's also very cool seeing these animated guys coming to life. 8) It's just frustrating that it takes so long to see the final result, and to fix problems with the animation!

Here's a frame of the "stretching" bit - you can see it looks a lot better than the initial take:

Image

I would have loved to get some cartoony clouds in the sky, but no time for that this round.

As for the title, I had suggested "Dancing with Moai" (sort of a "Dances with Wolves" joke), but my younger son pointed out that the topic was "Dance", not "Dancing".

I still might use that, although the working title is "Dance of the Moai".

Interestingly, both of the Moai end up dancing in the animation, although one much more briefly than the other. So the judges shouldn't be able to ding me on that bit. :)

The final camera movement is supposed to sync with an iris out effect. We'll see how that works tomorrow. I also removed the camera movement in the front part, so the movement shouldn't be jarring. I also corrected a number of framing issues, where one character was more the focal point than the other.

It's currently on frame 386 of 1440. I started off from frame 192, and I'll probably end the animation earlier thatn 1440 as well. It's taking about 25 seconds/frame at this point.

Time for some sleep! Hopefully the machine won't slow down to a crawl in the meantime. :?
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Postby dcuny » Tue Jan 16, 2007 6:29 am

Aaaaaaaargh! :x

I can't get the encoder to produce a small enough file. When I tried setting it to custom, it complained that my license had expired. :cry:

Creating it without sound didn't help, either. So I went ahead and submitted the files to the IRTC, but I'm really bummed about this.

Anyway, here's the file that I submitted: moai_dance.mpg (10Meg).

You can see the frames are squished - it should be 240x400, but it resized it to some default aspect ratio. And, of course, it's already 30 minutes past the end of the competition.

Ironically, the Moai mention that they won't get disqualified this round. Unfortunately, that won't be the case. :?
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Postby dcuny » Tue Jan 16, 2007 6:48 am

All right, with some fiddling with the Wine registry, I managed to produce a 10 Meg file. I hadn't realized that there were any expiring features in the program, so it really caught me off-guard.

I wasn't able to resubmit the file under the same name, so I resubmitted it as moai_FIXED_FILESIZE.mpg. Hopefully it'll be accepted by the judges. :?

I'd like to post a version with the correct aspect ratio, if someone could tell me how to encode the file. There's a small error in the subtitles that needs to be corrected; that would just take a couple minutes to re-run the compositor script.
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Postby sascha » Tue Jan 16, 2007 8:02 am

It turned out great, congratulations! The problem with the aspect isn't noticable, don't worry.

Submitting too late or a too large files of course could be a problem. :?
I'd write an email to the admins right away, asking them to bend the rules. If they insist on a disqualification, you could still ask them to keep it online noncompetitively - the main reason for entering is to get some comments and feedback, and to showcase your work, so that's better than nothing.

I really hope that they keep it online. Did you submit it via http or via ftp? The webserver normally performs a few tests (at least with pictures), so it would tell if the files were too large (or time was up). Perhaps they've added some safety margin. Perhaps there's even some safety margin within the deadline, so I wouldn't worry too much.

Camera movement is subtle enough now, and the character animation is still great. I really like the different pupil shapes. Lip syncing is quite good, but has room for improvements. I like the "bone" animation, it really makes the characters much more lifelike (just compare it to my Moai animation).

There still is a problem with flashing shadows on the left Moai. Could you try to re-render it with the normal map disabled? It would help a lot to track down the source of the problem. Rendering it with POV-Ray would also help to see if it's specific to the Inyo export or if it's a general problem.

I'd like to put in into the animation gallery, and on the JPatch frontpage - with your permission. Perhaps after the IRTC entries are publically viewable.
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Postby sascha » Tue Jan 16, 2007 10:02 am

I forgot to mention that I really like the soundtrack. Did you play the guitar track?
And kudos to the voice actors! The dialog is funny to listen and easy to understand even for non-English ears.
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Postby sascha » Tue Jan 16, 2007 10:40 am

John VanSickle on the IRTC newsgroup wrote:Well, every round is unofficially extended until a human tells the server to stop accepting submissions. That's how I entered the last round.

So I guess everything should be ok with your resubmitted file (with the correct size).
Looks like there are ten entries this round, although one of them has a filesize of 30MB and is almost certainly to be disqualified :?
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Postby dcuny » Tue Jan 16, 2007 10:51 am

sascha wrote:It turned out great, congratulations! The problem with the aspect isn't noticable, don't worry.
I'm not worried about it. I'd just like to eventually post a version at the same aspect ratio is was rendered in.

There's a bug in Inyo that makes rendered frames 1 pixel too large in each direction. It's a hack to make (0,0) the true center of the screen. I need to fix it Some Day Soon.

Submitting too late or a too large files of course could be a problem. I'd write an email to the admins right away, asking them to bend the rules. If they insist on a disqualification, you could still ask them to keep it online noncompetitively - the main reason for entering is to get some comments and feedback, and to showcase your work, so that's better than nothing.
I've resubmitted a "corrected" version, but it pops up an error message when I run it from Linux, so I think there's a Wine-related bug. I also sent an email explaining what I did. I doubt they'll allow the first (because of the size issue) and they might disallow the second (because it was posted too late and is buggy). We'll see. At this point, it's water under the bridge, and I'm just happy it's finished (although there are a few minor bugs to fix).

I really hope that they keep it online. Did you submit it via http or via ftp?
I sent it via ftp. It arrived safely.

Camera movement is subtle enough now, and the character animation is still great. I really like the different pupil shapes. Lip syncing is quite good, but has room for improvements. I like the "bone" animation, it really makes the characters much more lifelike (just compare it to my Moai animation).
I'm amazed what you were able to pull off without any bones, especially with your second animation! The lipsync has issues, but because of how I set up the default morphs, it would be a pain to fix. Lessons learned.

There still is a problem with flashing shadows on the left Moai. Could you try to re-render it with the normal map disabled? It would help a lot to track down the source of the problem.
Yes, here are the files: moaiDataFiles.zip (53K).

You'll probably have to edit the models by hand and remove the rotoscope reference, since that's not included. (I posted a bug about not being able to remove it from within JPatch).

I'd like to put in into the animation gallery, and on the JPatch frontpage - with your permission. Perhaps after the IRTC entries are publically viewable.
That would be great! I'd like to fix a the subtitle error, and get the aspect ratio taken care of, if I can. If you want to use the IRTC submission, that's fine as well.

I forgot to mention that I really like the soundtrack. Did you play the guitar track?
Yeah, it was something that I threw together. The part that underplays the main animation is looped to match the length, since I don't currently have a way to listen without running back through the speakers.

I was going to go back and replace it with something more cohesive - more "slide-guitar-ish", with a little blues lick thrown in as he realizes they're still "inanimate objects" - but decided against it. Sometimes less is more.

And kudos to the voice actors! The dialog is funny to listen and easy to understand even for non-English ears.
Heh. :) I'll tell the kids. We went through the dialog one line at a time, practicing each sentance with different intonations, each kid independant of the other. It also helped that they were all excited to try out the new microphone.

I was going to pick and choose from the best of the performances, but then my youngest son suggested that the two boys perform it together. So they did it in one take. There were some mistakes, which I was able to edit out, and a dropped line, which I decided would save me some effort, so I left it out. And the new microphone sounds a lot better than the old, cheap one.

I am very, very tired at this point... It's been an exhausting week, and I've spent a lot of evenings up at 4:00 in the morning. I haven't done that in a while. :?

I should warn you, I have a lot more ideas of things that should be in JPatch! Most important is realtime playback of frames to preview animation, with sound. That's the most time consuming part there is. The quicker the turnaround there, the better the final animation is going to be.

And thanks again for all the support with JPatch, and writing it in the first place. I still think there's a niche for JPatch that isn't being met by other free software.
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