Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The One Man Monster Squad

I've been sitting here watching Samurai Jack: Season 4 for most the day while I've been creating various pieces for another project, I've mentioned it before: Mr. Toesley and The Love Powered Space Machine. It's kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum of The Monkey Rodeo, but it's all CG. And I've been working away on some of The Monkey Rodeo demons off and on as well.

I don't know if I'm on a roll, having a streak of good luck or just what the hell is going on, but I managed to come up with another pretty decent demon design - The Librarian character. I spent a little more time fiddling around with it and I've managed to make some more improvements in my realistic character creation (don't know if I could do a human, but demons are pretty easy it seems).
There's still more work to do obviously - he needs a body, which will be a robe, the only other visible flesh on him will be his hands. I'll be creating a very low-res body to interaction with the robe - which will be done as a cloth simulation. So his robes will flop and flap about fairly realistically.

The upside of demons is they don't need to fit any pre-defined parameters. Like a human needs to look and move a certain way obviously to be believable as a realistic looking human if it was done as a CG character. So it makes their design and final creation a little more fun. The downside, however, is that they will never look truly realistic.

The only time I've ever even kind of gotten lost in the fact that what I was watching was not a real actor, but a CG actor was in the case of Davey Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean. That was without a doubt some the best CG I think you'll see for some time, in part because his performance was an exact duplicate of Bill Nighy's performance in motion capture. And if you're familiar with the actor, you can really see all his little quirks in the CG version of him. And the fact that Davey Jones' eyes look exactly like Nighy's really help.

I don't have the luxury of motion capture or Bill Nighy unfortunately. That's not to say I think my characters will be lacking - I am comparing my work to some of the best work ever in the CG industry, it's not a fair comparison - nor do I think that I'll be blowing people's mind with my most excellent special effects. But really I think for the first time I've been doing this, I'm actually creating some really decent visuals.

Now there are definitely some elements to the movie that might be lacking, I would never be so arrogant to believe otherwise in fact. I am, however, pretty damned confident that some of the newly created CG characters will be rather outstanding and really help the movie overall. I never really thought I'd get to the point with computer animation that I'd actually impress myself, but I sort of have. Now I just have to hope my animation skills are up to it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Pyre and other things

Things are shaping up really well for the remainder of the shoot. I've got a new location that's damned near perfect. Thanks to Kim Bradford, Jarril the Shaman now has a home - it's really an antique shop in an old church.

This is of course bright daylight and not dressed for the movie - but it gives you an idea. The table you see in the first picture will be the main area and will be lit only by candles and perhaps a few little glowing ornaments, and will be shot at night. So you'll only get a sense of the clutter in the background. Should be cool.

In Pyre news, there's been some pretty good leaps and bounding type progress made. A small setback was fixed, sort of. First off the actress playing main wife character has moved away, leaving a sad gap in Pyre's harem. Luckily it was filled very quickly - although this fill caused another gap I'm trying to fill. Originally the actress lined up the play the "ugly wife" has some makeup/skin issues - and since she's not really ugly at all she is now moved into the "has to be pretty" role. Did that make sense? I should really draw little pictures to explain some of this stuff.

Three of the four wives has been cast and costumes completely, are enough to make any other harem owning demons jealous. The main wife character, the 88th daughter of Jarrill/Vanya has been filled by Jordan Berzins. She'll have bright yellow eyes and funny demon ears like her mother, as well as some minor facial tattoos. Kim Johnston is the 2nd wife, she'll be sporting some funky little horns and have some spots here and there. And finally as the token Vampire wife, we have Nikkie Gallant.

Sadly enough the 4th "ugly wife", the kind of gag character, is still wide open. I can do without her if I really have no other choice and it won't affect anything, but it would be fun to have her in there.

Still waiting on the location for this, I hope to be able to secure it soon. I'll be emailing my contact at the Delta and see if they've come to a decision of any sort.

And of course finally we have Pyre himself. After all my ranting about issues with designing characters, changing them and blah, blah blah - I finally got it without any doubts. I had a few designs in my head, none fleshed out in anyway - just some vague images. I sat down and try to solid the ideas up a bit and it just came out. And it was perfect. I immediately set to transferring these ideas into the 3D world and it just got better.

With a few little technical issues over and done with, I've finally gotten my first really solid demon design done for the movie. There's still a lot of work to do on him, mainly in the texturing and the body itself. Otherwise I thought I'd post a quick image of how the big guy looks so far.

So far so good. I'm beyond thrilled with the progress on him so far. It's a pretty good omen I think for the rest of the CG characters for the movie. What you're looking at right here is the base model combined with what's called a displacement map and a starting texture. The displacement map is what's giving all the little extra folds and wrinkles in the skin - that would be impossible to model. I'll be working on the texture over the next little while, that'll give him more definition, discoloration here and there, maybe a little tattoo or something, a scar or whatever.

Still left of the CG character front are The Titan (although a good reworking is in progress), the Librarian and finally of course Mal'Vash himself. Mal'Vash I have a basic concept in mind I'm pretty happy with, it's just the details I'm sorting out. The Librarian I'm waffling on. I have some vague ideas, but nothing solid. I really want him to have as much character as Pyre currently does.

Vocally and dialog-wise Pyre and the Librarian are definite characters, it'll be up to the actual 3D model and animation to really sell them as if they were right there onset with the actors. So of course I'm being picky, so far it's paid off.

That's it for now. I've a lot more to work out. some minor rewrites of the scenes. Some props still hung up in manufacturer limbo. A single location still up in the air. A few costumes needed. It's not a lot, but when you're dealing with it all at once it's gets a touch frustrating at times.

Friday, August 24, 2007

First of the extra footage

Like with any production, or so I'm assuming, there's always the chance of needing some new footage after you think you're pretty much done. This is the first time I've really encountered that, and perhaps it's because it's the first time I can do it.

Tonight we shot some new Bile Demon footage, nothing that will completely change the already finished scene, it'll just add some extra Bile Demony goodness to it. Since things are usually rushed feeling, and the original shoot was no exception - it was a 7 hour + shoot - in our haste to get it over and done with, we didn't have the mindset of getting more footage of the demons themselves.

I set up the lights, a black screen and Draper came over, we redid the makeup (the prosthetic was still in near perfect condition) and we just ad-libbed some stuff, some stuff I had ideas of how it would work with the existing footage. So we got probably 20 or so new shots, maybe 5 will be used.

My main reason, as I mentioned before being in a hurry, I kinda wished after seeing the final edit that I had more cutaways and closeups of the demons - so that's what we did. The lighting was a little more setup, the shots we spent more time on - getting certain looks, reactions and all that. I just wanted to really show off the makeup and the contacts, I spent the money, I'd like to see it onscreen really for all it's worth.

I got a couple screenshots here to post, not all will be in the final piece, but they're cool looking.

Of course, if you're wondering right now, "Hey, it's pretty obvious he's just standing in front of some black curtain" then you haven't been paying very close attention. I have enough footage and enough brilliant digital manipulation savvy to insert new backgrounds to match the original on set shots.

So there you go, now you have a slight idea of just how much effort I'm putting into this...god, I hope it doesn't suck.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Cthulhu Jr.

As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve been working with some new software and trying out some new techniques to make the movie’s CG characters looks a little more realistic and whatnot. The first one to be worked on has been a character I’m calling Cthulhu Jr – an H.P. Lovecraft reference for those of you not entirely sure.

He’s not in the movie for very long, only a couple shots in the Council of the Brotherhood scene as one of the Council Elders. The setup for him will be a live actor in a costume with a large hood, the actor’s face will be removed and replaced with a computer generated head – and all the usual post work will be done to finalize him. This is actually the first time I’ve tried combining a live actor and CG to make a single character.

So I thought in the meantime I’d post an image of the CG head as it stands right now. There will more then likely be a little more done to sort of some details and whatnot, but I’m pretty happy with the way he’s progressing so far.

The eyes are just temporary for now, although they will look pretty much like this in the final version, just a little more real hopefully.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Finally got the movie poster printed

As the title of the post suggests I've finally had the movie poster printed up - and it looks awesome. I went with the white version, there's a picture of it somewhere around here if you look around.

I had it done with an online company I'd discovered, called They have a pile of stuff, mostly celebrity pictures they offer - but they also allow you to upload your own pictures that they will print. the only down side is there's a border around the edge, I got around that by having the poster more or less white so you can't see it.

And the coolest part is that they also print on canvas. Their normal paper is actually a really heavy photograph stock that comes from Kodak (so I assume that can't be cheap), but I've seen what their canvas prints look like and I'm pretty impressed.

Anyway, that's it. Nothing really huge to report - it's just kinda cool to see a big movie poster for this thing finally done. There should be some more stuff really soon since I just started working with some new software that'll aid in making the CG models look 10 times more realistic and allow me to do a lot of really fine details within the model itself - so there will be a post regarding that, with some images, coming up soon.

Monday, August 06, 2007

New scene for movie...

Man, I've so got to finish this movie soon before it become longer then Lord of the Rings.

I've been doing some rewriting on the last few scenes, tightening up the dialog so it makes a little more sense, doesn't meander and all that. I have most everything done, cut out a few things here and there, but one scene in particular was causing a bit of trouble as I looked it over this morning.

As I've mentioned before, these scenes are the explanation scenes - without them you won't know what's going on, who the bad guys are and why they're doing whatever it is they're doing. So they're pretty important and need to really explain what's going on very concisely.

This scene involves on 2 characters, so it's an easy rewrite as far as that goes, it explains the origins of not only The Brotherhood, but the main villain as well, or at least his motivation. I ended up turning it into more of a narrative from one of the characters, explaining this one point in history that this all stems from. And as I wrote it I realized it might be better served with a visual.

It was at this point I realized I might be going overboard and really need to finish before I start doing way too much. The scene being narrated involves the few minutes before a potential all out war between a handful of humans and a massive demon army. Well, I'm going to shoot it.

I've got to get some period costumes, find about 5 - 6 actors, take them out into a field and have them banish an entire demon army. Simple enough.

It'll be done as kind of a flashback while the story is being narrated. It's actually a very important part of the movie, since it's actually where everything begins hundred of years ago. The humans are actually a group of demon hunters who become the Brotherhood, and the demon army is lead by Mal'Vash, the big bad of the movie. So I figure the extra effort is worth it. I could pass it off as just a story being told, but why not show it as well. I could be wrong, but in seeing it in my head it'll add just that much more to the overall movie.

So befire anyone freaks out and thinks, "But I thought I was finished filming." You are. This is a single scene within itself, it has no ties other then historical to the rest of the movie. There are no reoccurring characters in this scene.

That's it, nothing earth shattering. Although it's something, I think at least, that should be a really cool visual. I'm going to try to hide the actual look of the demons, so they'll be more implied, or seen from a huge distance. But trust me, it'll be an army of them.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Final Movie Poster

It's finally done, and being printed as I write this. I should get it on about 2 weeks time assuming there's no problems with the image quality or anything.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

That was rather sketchy

I just had a very sketchy experience with one of the companies I've been dealing with for getting stuff for the movie - specifically contact lenses. I've dealt with them before and up until now they've been rather good to deal with, anything over $100 they ship FedEx, 1 day for free - shipping tends to add up when you're buying as much as I have over the last 2 years.

So I ordered some contacts for an upcoming shoot, everything went fine, and then I get an email with the subject "FW: AUTHORIZATION" from the "credit risk" department of the company. Okay, no big, so perhaps something went wrong with the card, I've had a few problems with it not processing right away.

The email just simply said they needed to verify it was indeed my card - despite the fact this is my 3rd or 4th order from them and they have me on their mailing list. Still, doesn't seem like a big deal. Then I read the form they want me to fill and and fax back to them. They wanted me to fill out the entire order over again pretty much, all my card info, how much the order was for and some personal info as well. This seemed a little odd - I still don't see how that proves anything really.

And then I noticed they also wanted me to fax them an image of my driver's license...That seemed a tad sketchy. So I emailed the company, not the person who sent this email and mentioned how sketchy it seemed and if it was genuine. The response was simply "You'll have to fill out the form and supply the necessary information."

That didn't sit very well, and even moreso when I read what the "necessary information" was again - they actually wanted me to fax them an image of BOTH SIDES OF MY CREDIT CARD??? Yeah, that seems totally legit.

Obviously I never bothered with them again after that. Out of curiosity though I asked my bank if this was even anything close to above board - and not surprisingly the response was a rather horrified, "No."

I've no idea what this all adds up to, other then even if it was a genuine request it's way beyond what any person with an ounce of intelligence should be expected to respond accordingly. Had the email response I received even mentioned just what this request was for, or even tried to explain the situation I might've believed it was a reasonable request - although I still wouldn't never supply the info they wanted.

Ah well, so I moved on. It's actually hard to get contact lenses now. A federal law in the US now dictates you supply you optometrists info or get them to supply the order and have a prescription and blah, blah, blah. I guess some of the more generic and cheaper lenses had become a bit of a fad amongst school kids who had no idea swapping contacts was a bad idea. Most of the generically produced ones are no longer being produced, everything is else nearly $80 plus per lens, which I suppose technically puts them out of the financial range of kids...supposedly.

I had to try and find a new supplier. Found one today. Spoke to my optometrist and they said they cold order them for me if it came to it, but it didn't. I was a little put out at first because I was kind of counting on having them for 2 characters left to shoot and thought I might have to do without. But I don't...and I actually got them cheaper in the US then I wouldn't if I'd gotten them in Canada.

So that's it. You can see I've added links to some of my suppliers on the right side of the blog, the folks I was talking about aren't on that list obviously.

Friday, August 03, 2007

At last count

I started thinking about just how much crap went into this movie, the numbers of it all basically, and here’s what I came up with.

Special effects shots: 300-400 at this point, that covers everything from masking out areas, digital backgrounds, touch ups and adding in CG actors.

Digital matte paintings: 8 (could be 9 or 10 depending on certain things in post production)

Locations: 15 (a few scenes were shot on the same location, as well as various smaller scenes were shot all about Charlottetown)

Weapons: 13 different ones, 15 in total featured in the movie.

Props: Somewhere over 50 different props throughout the entire movie. I never was good at keeping track of this sort of thing.

Actors: 32 main, supporting and extras (I could be wrong on this, I keep forgetting certain smaller roles)

Computer generated/digitally altered actors: 7

Human characters: 12

Non-human characters: 35

Individual roles in total: 47

(The numbers don’t exactly add up because a few folks play a few different characters)

Prosthetics: 18 pieces (various foreheads, ears, horns and foreheads, I could be under by 2 or 3 pieces)

Contact lenses: 7 pairs, 1 single lense

Wigs: 4 (more then I originally planned actually.)

Costumes: I can’t even begin to count this. There were some that were just “come as you are” other were planned out and purchased - I’ll have to check this.

Overall this adds up to a buttload of work I don’t think I was expecting to encounter. That’s not to say I’m annoyed at it by any means, it’s just a little overwhelming when you start too look at it like this.

In other news...

I'm finished work for the time being so I'm starting in on getting the rest of the shoot organized. I have to sort out The Boardroom and Pyre's Lair scenes, there's 14 different extras in those scenes I need to outfit and almost all of them will be turned into demons of some sort. I have to suss out what prosthetic will best go with what actor and then see if any additional costumes are needed. Fun indeed.

So far good. Most all the new makeup is in, should all be here by next week. Also, I just bought a new digital camera for myself - don't worry, this doesn't mean Moe is out of a job by any means, it just means more random, possibly pointless pictures.

Like this: a pile of prosthetics. The last folks I ordered from shipped everything in funky little boxes, normally they're just in sealed bags. There's about 8 more pieces on the way too. These are for The Council of The Botherhood, and a couple are for Pyre's Wives.
Funny, I never thought I'd ever end up doing something like collecting weapons, but this movie has sort of gotten me into it big time. When I first spoke to Graham about his part as Gortch, Pyre's hired muscle I asked him what kind of weapon would he like. And this is what he requested - I should point out I didn't get this JUST for this one small part in the movie, but that's how I justified it.

It's just a replica, the barrel is actually solid about 4 inches in and there's a screw sticking up into it if you can manage to peer into it. The action on it works though, so that's kind of cool. It's about a foot in length I think.

And to prove just how pointless and random my pictures for the duration of this blog will be now, I give you this:

There's a reason Doctor Who Season 1 costs so much, it not only is fun to watch, it doubles as an awesome cat pillow. I hope Season 2 is this good.