Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The League of CG StuntMen

I started working tonight on one of the (many) computer generated stuntmen for the movie. I’m kind of writing this while I’m working on it, so if it seems disjointed or perhaps annoyed by times, it could be because it’s not working terribly well.

First off, I started with some front and side posed images of the actor who the stuntman will be based off of. In this case it’s Steve Gillespie. The stuntman will only be used for a couple shots, but they’re very necessary shots – for instance when Malice slams a hand into his chest and sends him flying nearly 30 feet through the air into a wall.

The pictures were taken, when we were filming the other night, by Moe. They’ll be used for textures and reference. Normally the textures are a huge deal, in this case, because I so cleverly had Steve wearing all black it’s not such a big deal other then the hands and face.

Leaving all the technical parts aside, which are rather tedious and boring in this case, I started literally from the ground up, shoes, pants and finally torso and arms for the basic suit (and technically untextured parts).

Here's a hi-res wireframe.
(still pretty low-res by average standards)

Just what's called a "clay render".
No texture, just a greyish neutral colour.
And with a rough basic texture.

Now this is being modeled for distance shots, so it’s a little angular and exaggerated and fairly simple. If it was for something more closeup, like some of the other computer animated characters, it’d have more much detail and whatnot. I normally would’ve added the pocket flaps and buttons and whatnot, but it really isn’t visible from the distances I’ll be using – so why bother?

*At this point I’ve been working on the model for about 2, maybe 3 hours, or about 3 episodes of X-Files. That’s how I’m measuring all this, by the way, per X-Files episode, Season 2 specifically.

And now for the hands. I’m actually debating at this point as I look at the “textured” version of the model, I might actually do a rough texture to add the buttons and pockets, and even something to the shoes.

The hands will be fairly simple, again because of the size they’ll be onscreen.

The most important part – the head. This is going to be the hard part. I think I just past the 4 episode mark.

Luckily Steve has a pretty symmetrical face, and very distinct, so if it’s even slightly off it’ll be pretty obvious…Actually, that’s not really a “luckily” sort of thing, it’s a pain in the ass, but it makes it easier to decide when I’m done.. This is the part where texturing the model become really important, because it’s the only part that really sells the model when you see it onscreen. That’s also what makes it the hardest. If there’s something not right looking about the face, it just doesn’t work. And of course from there it’s the quality of the animation too.

Not terribly impressive is it? It never is at this point.

So there it is. It does look a little funny, but remember it’s just a simple model. However, I still may do some work with it, add some detail to the hair, which seems to be the weakest part. So I added a few little sticky out parts here and there, it’s a little too symmetrical for now, I’ll work on that later I think, just wanting to see if it works for now.

Overall, this isn’t too bad for only a few hours work, for a model that will really only be seen in 3 or 4 shots. Yes, it does look a little weird, but that shouldn’t be noticeable.

What will really help sell this is of course, as I mentioned earlier, the animation. Rigging it will take some time, and I do have other things on the go for tomorrow – and prepping for the Bile Demon scene, hopefully I’ll get a chance to work on it again pretty soon.

I did a quick scene render, just to get a scene oh how the model will look once it gets into some of the final footage. You can see it's actually pretty good - the only real giveaway is that I don't recall Steve standing around in this pose too often.

The final version will have much more work done to it to make it match as well. Anyway, there you go - an almost finished CG Stuntman.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bile Demony Goodness

I've set the date for this scene finally and am awaiting word back. It'll be Heather's last scene for the movie - aside from perhaps a few closeups I might need to fill in a few blanks (sorry you had to hear about here, Heather) - but they'll be tight closeups, shot against a dark background so I can then manipulate then to put them into the appropriate shots. There'll be three or four shots at best.

In the meantime I'm working out the details of the Bile Demon scene. The location is hopefully the same, I have yet to get word back or confirmation either way. I started a little while ago working on some of the props and armor the demons would need. Most of it has been long since taken care of, but with the addition of the Uber-Bile Demon, I need to create some cheap, cruddy looking armor - which is nearly done.

And as well, I thought it would be a good idea to create from more foamcore weapons duplicated. The swords the Bile Demons use are replicas of the the Uruk-Hai swords from Lord of the Rings.In case you're wondering: yes they are (1) very heavy, (2), sort of sharp and (3) 32 inches long. Because they're so heavy I was concerned about the actors swinging them about. Now they won't be swinging them over their heads like a dead cat in every shot, but there are certain shots were I'd like it look as though they were swings these HEAVY swords as though they were nothing - and of course there's that safety issue as well. So, more formcore weapons it is.

Since I'm in a taking-pictures-from-the-internet-to-show-you-what-we're-doing, sort of mood. I thought I'd show you the Bile Demon prosthetic that out actors will be wearing. On the left is the natural uncoloured version, this is what I have to work with. And on the right is what it couple potentially look like. All depends on how I feel. I'm thinking more green though, seems to suit something called a Bile Demon.
And then we have their funky contact lenses they'll be wearing. Sorry for the small image, it's all I could find.
And then we have these delightful gloves for them. The sad part about these gloves is how much of a pain it was to order them and then how cheap they are. They look good here, and actually do form this angle in reality, but there's no underside to them, just a cruddy little fabric glove for your hand and an equally cruddy little elastic for your forearm...What do you expect for $12 I guess.
From there we'll feature the Spike of Valania again, already pictured a few time throughout the blog. The only other weapon in this scene is an axe which gets swung at Malice's head...not really, it's a movie!

It took me forever to find a even this quality image of the axe, I guess it's not much of a big seller. It's not sharp or anything, it's dull as it could possibly be. But, what's really cool about this axe, is that it was actually very prominently feature on Angel, I believe it was Wes's Bavarian Battle Axe, or something like that. I thought it was cool anyway.
What else? There's very little CG in this scene - always a plus for me. But there will be some very funky visual effects for a couple shots. This is one of those scene with a lot of real props, which I think makes it a little more fun and easier for the actors. We'll even have some actual Bile Demon bile...I won't tell you what it really is.

There'll be a big funky Soul Lock on a wall. Don't worry if you're sitting there thinking "Uh, okay...he said Soul Lock as if I should know what he meant...I feel uncomfortable and awkward now." I made it up anyway, it's not real or anything. It's just a fairly elaborately strange looking symbol that will appear on a wall. It's an easy effect, but should look pretty cool.

How it works is this: a Soul Lock is attuned to one person's soul, usually the individual using the lock - therefore they should be the only one capable of opening it. However, like all locks they can be picked, and Malice just so happens to know how. It looks like nothing more then an occult-ish symbol drawn on the wall. What it is really is a small portal, a portal to a void that the user can place a smallish object in. In this case, a very important artifact has been hidden away behind this Soul Lock.

I think that's it for the most part as far as props and fun stuff. This will more then likely be my last update until I shoot next. I hope to have lots of stuff to post in the week following though - maybe even a little video or two.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Some photo-fantasticry

Okay, that's not a real word. Nor is it even a slightly good word, but it does describe this post quite well, whether you like it or not dammit.

I'm writing this while my laptop goes through the painful procedure of converting the 108 pictures taken during the shoot the other night. So far all I can see are all the images from the room itself, should be more then enough - and that will be a fun time in itself recreating that whole room in 3D.

So, while we're all waiting for the photo-fantasticry to happen (I have to add that word to my spell check now), I might as well mention some new minor developments in the movie. This won't require you to rethink you world views or anything, not that important or earth shattering. Just some thoughts I had after looking at the footage.

More and more I had issues with cleaning up every shot to make the overhead lights look off with any sort of realism - there's a bit of a glow from them in some shots that is impossible to remove. (I see some pictures of Draper being converted now...Calm down, you'll see them eventually - just keep reading) So I can up with the idea of adding more to the front end of the scene - don't worry Heather, doesn't involve you at all.

I decided to help set the scene better to have more of a lead up to the final showdown by following the security guard into the place and perhaps giving the viewer a little more of a sense of what this building is, why it's abandoned - and even make an excuse for the lights being on. We simple show the guard hitting a breaker, then a few cool scenes of lights flickering on. Hopefully it won't slow things down, or cause the movie to take too much of an abrupt turn.

So now I can stylize the lighting a little better, still a lot of work, but the whole scene will end up with a very odd feel to it. I'm going to very quickly remove my actors from the shots, recolour the background to be a little dimmer and blue, bring up the glow from any lights and blur it a bit while leaving the actors relatively untouched - a little colour correcting, but not too much. Should give it a bit of a peculiar, almost shot-against-a-green-screen sort of feel...I really have no idea if this will work - but I did get the idea from Heroes, so that makes it cool.

Well, onto the pictures. By the way, they're not in any order that I'm really aware of.

Blurry Draper has a ball!

This is why I bought doughnuts...
Don't eat dirty balls you found lying around.

Steve looks slightly concerned about something in this picture...
Perhaps it was finding out that Heather had to stab him in the gut
after slamming him into a brick wall.


Haha, look everyone! Will got drunk and fell down again.

And then Draper just had to add insult to injury.

Okay, so I'm waiting for more to convert now. So far so good. As you can probably see, those of you who weren't at the shoot - we had quite a few folks there. Draper as usual was there. Kim Johnston was helping out behind the scenes - just an extra set of hands and eyes, always good to have that around. Steve Gillespie in his first scene, although it's his last in the movie - he the big bad guy who's buggering everything up. And Will Beckett, who gets killed.

So of the others in the background you're seeing are Heather Panton - obviously. Her double, Jordan Berzins, in case you're wondering "Wow, is Heather that important she needs a double?" Well, sort of - but she is 5 (?) months pregnant so there's not much choice. Also there's Jason Birt - the guy responsible for Heather needing a double (I seriously don't mean that to sound bitter, I was going for a slightly more funny thing there).

Anyway, more pictures.

Does this make you feel funny in the head looking at it?

Yet another really dangerous prop. I stabbed by thumb with this thing.

Another awesome makeup job!

That is what you call "Pissed Off Looking."

Just look at those expressions of awe and wonder
as they watch the magic of movie making!
Hey, now's a good a time as any to point out I started another blog - for those of you who look as excited right now as Jason and Jordan do while you're reading this. It's just for myself really, as an exercise in self-indulgence I thought I'd use it to keep track of some of my other projects. I think there's a link to it at the bottom of this page - don't look now though, you'll miss something exciting, better wait until I'm done here.

This scene was just to justify why I bought all those weapons.
I'm not making a movie by the way, I'm doing a documentary to prove
that under the guise of movie making, you can get people to do
completely ridiculous looking things...Including re-enacting scenes
फ्रॉम He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
So there you have it. Not really a whole lot to see really, mainly because the bulk of this scene is post work.

I'll also point out, not pictured in any of these picture, but very present on the scene, was Moe Chandler - it was her who took these, just in case you didn't realize what I was hinting at there.

Alright I guess that's it for now. I've been working out the details on Heather's last scene for the last couple days, hope to get that started pretty soon, then it'll be another vacation from the movie for me for about a month or so while I get everything ready for the last 5 or so scenes.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

One more down.

Well, last night actually wasn't too bad. It was a little hectic and stressful, but overall I think we got enough footage to end the movie.

Aside from some massive continuity issues, which I'm learning to live with, I don't really have too many complaints. Although I'm sure if I tried I could come up with many. I took a very brief look over all the footage - not going to bother posting anything right now since it needs a huge, world-sized amount of post done to it all.

Rather then light the room and deal with shuffling lights all night long, I decided to leave the overhead lights on and try to clean it all up afterwards and make it look a little darker in the room. Only reason for that was because of time. We probably would've been at this for 3 or 4 more hours if we had to contend with shifting lighting.

I keep going over in my head how much work this last scene is going to be, and if it's worth it. I hope so is all I can come up. Doesn't sound that confident, I think mainly because I broke my brain and it's hard to even remember how to spell most of the words I'm typing right now. (By the way, thank god for that auto-spell check thing or this would be a mess.)

I might post some stuff eventually with some rough visuals after a fashion, but for right now I'm pretty busy so I'm not sure when I'm really going to get around to working on this. I'll probably start processing the shots to find the right look, cleaning it all up and whatnot, see if there's much we missed, how much has to be made up out of CG to make it work - all that fun stuff.

That's pretty much it, thanks again to everyone who helped out - it probably would've been slightly hellish if even one of you hadn't shown up. I'd like to give you all more praise, but I'm too tired right now.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

No news is...good news? If you say so.

Well, nothing new to report. However, things are about to get hectic over the next 3 weeks. Maybe 4.

On May 16th, we're all set to shoot the finale of the movie. And there's a million and half little things I need to try and keep in mind on order to pull this all off. It's a fairly large shoot, for what it's worth. We're going in at 7:00 PM and not coming out until we're done, which might be roughly around 2:00 AM.

I'm hoping it all goes pretty smooth, I'm going to be doing some FX tests over the next week when I can get a chance - my paying job is taking up a massive amount of my time, but is going quite well. I have to finish a little FX test for a shot that was added to compensate for my lack of preparation from a previous shoot. Malice now has magical healing abilities, better then Wolverine it seems. So I'm adding in a quick little shot to show a cut on her face healing up. Should work, did some crappy little tests, but I want to do a decent one to really get a feel for it and I'll probably post it here.

As well there's a lot of other things to prepare for. For instance, there's a part where Malice throws an axe at a giant CG demon. Well I can't very well let Heather lob the real thing, it's pretty heavy and even if I keep everyone back, there's still a chance it could damage something. So I'm creating a couple "stunt" axes, made from lightweight wood and foamboard. They won't look awesome, but it's a quick shot just so we can see it's actually Heather, not Jordan, and that's she's really throwing it. And then it will be replaced with a CG axe from there...It's nothing if not overly complicated

And one other thing I'm preparing for is that I will need for the final fight to not only create the computer generated Mal'Vash creature, but a CG version of Heather and Steve as well. They won't be heavily relied upon and will only be seen in long shots or for a very quick cutaway. However, I'm also going to get some hi-res images of the entire room so I can then recreate it entirely on the computer, so if there's some horrible incident where I miss a couple shots, I can hopefully use the computer generated versions of my actors and set to fill in the gaps.

I'm hoping I won't have to rely on it, since it will by no means be perfect looking or fool anyone if I have to linger on it too long - at least I suspect that will be the case.

So here's hoping it all comes together