Monday, February 12, 2007


I think I hate designing things, I’m much better at actually modelling or drawing them. I’m too picky I think. At first when I’m done, I look at it and think “That’s the most awesome thing ever!” then 30 minutes later, “Wow, does that suck.”

However, after throwing out design after design I finally settled on something I think works for the set of The Library. I had this thing in mind originally that looked very much like a real library, just really freaking huge and slightly ornate looking - while I was cool with it, my computer really hated it.

So my next idea was that whatever it was, it needed to be something fairly simple, but still funky and unique looking with some amount of detail. And of course it needed to be set up in such a way that would allow for the chase sequence between The Black Book of the Skull and the Jim-Jim (if that sounded odd, you haven’t been paying attention).

So I did a few different things, had a few of them halfway modelled then scrapped them because the more detailed it got, the lamer they began to look. I even began researching a few different styles of architecture I could steal ideas from and mix and match...ultimately...lame.

To digress for a second (this’ll make sense in a bit), I frequent a few computer graphic websites, usually for inspiration or ideas, or whatever. I stumbled across this tutorial ages ago and thought it looked cool, tried it, didn’t work (didn’t have the right plugins for the software to make it look as cool as it did in the tutorials) so I passed it by. The tutorial was for making this ice-like material, a sort of shard of ice or something like that. I thought “that’d be cool to put in somewhere”. I thought about adding it to a character, didn’t seem to make sense though after a fashion.

I tried it again, got annoyed and moved on again and this time I finally gave up on it. Then I had this idea - after spending 2 days modelling a really elaborate set and then scraping it too - to make these book stacks that just kind of floated in the empty space of The Library. Since the scene is supposed to be set in a sort of other-worldly supernatural library, I figured why not. Can’t hurt. 1st problem solved.

And this way each stack is sort of a separate piece, so when I’m rendering the chase sequence, and stacks fairly far from the camera won’t need as much detail as the ones closer. 2nd problem solved.

The last problem was making something that would feel like there was a force keeping the stacks up, making them float. So I went back to the ice shard/crystal thing. And while I didn’t have the right software to do what the tutorial was getting at, I improvised and I’ll be damned if I didn’t come up with a really cool looking crystal shard looking thing.

This is the second render of the shards, bit of a glow added to it - not too shabby, I’ll probably do more work for the final shots, but even this looks pretty good. So after that little bit of fun I went to work on the shelves themselves, which are going to be very simple.

I thought, why bother with these really freaking detailed and elaborate stacks. If I was some crazy wizard dude and needed to store my books, just a regular old set of wooden shelves would do it, oh, and I’d have to stick these giant glowing blue crystals on the underside of it to make it float. Because you have to have floating bookstacks.

A rough version of the nearly, almost - but definitely going to use them - bookstacks.

The texture mapping is a bit sloppy and there's no books in the shelves, and...well, there's a million miles to go on this, so don't look and this and go "Ah, this movie will suck because this model is so lame."

And so finally, I settled. Now it’s going to be some time before I properly finish these badboys all up. Each one is going to be exactly the same. Just some wooden looking shelves, but painted on certain parts will be some glowing symbols and whatnot (because again, if I was a crazy wizard, I’d do the glowing symbols thing). Each one will have a different model of the crystal shard on the bottom of them, as well as different books - doing all the books is going to be a big pile of fun.

As well, I’ve been playing around with some...well, the best way to describe this is, really simplistic AI. Not AI in any true sense, but that’s the best way to describe it without going into tech-talk mode. I need to have the air around the stacks filled with floating books, some huddling around each other, some wandering aimlessly - various floating books behaviour. So I went to work a couple days ago learning how to do that stuff.

All I have to do it model a couple different books, fairly generic, then I can make flocks of them and they will float in and about the bookstacks. I don’t have to animate anything, it’s all done by the software. Each set of books will have a “behavior” assigned to it, they’ll know where they can and can’t go (so they don’t pass through the stacks or each other) and then when it looks varied enough - we have an entire weird-assed looking library.

Here’s a rough version (very rough) of a single bookstack, along with several books floating around it. This is as far from the final version as possible. The books are facing the wrong direction and their movement is a little wonky, the textures are messed up, but I thought it’d be cool to see - since this is the first video ever for this blog.

Half of the original footage has been fixed up already, most of the easier shots, now I’m working on some of the more painful shots where I have to mask out chunks of Heather’s hair. Now I have to finish The Librarian (very close to being done, but you won’t ever see it here for the sake of the final version), as well as all the extra stuff here and there. Just to give you a bit of an idea of what going on in this scene, I did a couple 360 turnarounds of The Black Book of the Skull and the Jim-Jim.

So that's about it for now.

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