Character Update. – Quidam 3 – skeleton to biped.

Well I’ve been busy with tests and R&D for characters for Antics and I thought I’d write an update. A little while back I touched on the idea of using bones to drive facial expressions. The concept is cover in this Bones for facial expression Tut.

My experiements with Max went o.k but there was a major hiccup. Whenever the character moves the skeleton would return to a default bone setup. This means if you create a look for your face, then you would lose the look once the character moved. I have considered creating a face model which is driven by a biped skeleton, which would then attach to a host body. But this would need further investigation. The idea comes from stopframe animation, where a range of expressions are created out of clay. Then the faces are swapped out as needed. My adaptation is to have a face, with a little skeleton inside it. Antics will drive a mesh as long as it thinks it’s a full character. Of course it may be possible to have a bones setup in a “prop” but I’ve haven’t gone down that road yet.

My other news is regarding Quidam 3. I contacted them to gain permission to build an Antics library of characters which I’d market to users. Unfortunately they are only interested in the selling of characters in the .Qui format. Any other format is not allowed. I thought the indie Prime product would cover this, it does not. Still, I’ll be getting Quidam 3 for my own use, and I’ve been wading through the issue of converting the Quidam skeleton to a biped so that Max can export it! Currently the skeleton looks a little like the skeleton structure you get when you bring poser models in (pCharacter or .DAE via Daz)
My main quest is to keep the body weights which Quidam creates. Sometimes I think it might just be easier to stay and animate in Max! I’ve done some tests with the Q3 characters as a prop and the models look really good, as did the textures. I did find I had to add the texture from within Antics though, but it all lined up ok.
My two sons have completed thier assignments for school using Antics. Micheal got an ‘A’ grade and Alex has entered his forensic clip into a comp for the museum in Sydney.
Once I crack the Quidam – Antics pipeline I’ll post the solution for you guys. (happy to hear from other pioneers). Quidam looks like being a very valuable tool for us. The customisation of characters may now become a reality!.

92 years or 3 days? MachStudio Pro

Toy Story took 800,000 render hours to complete what is still a fantastic example of 3d animation. This week

I’m very excited about Studio GPU and MachStudio Pro.
“StudioGPU’s MachStudio Pro reinvents the visualization workflow by putting the power of real-time graphics processing at your fingertips and real-time rendering on your desktop.
This isn’t just an incremental shift, but a bold change in the way 3D CGI is created!
MachStudio Pro lets you truly Work at the Speed of Thought!”

Judging by the look of the finished renders, a film like Toy Story could be rendered in less time than it took to render the original credits!

Running on Microsoft Windows with off-the-shelf computers and high-end graphics cards, the software features a nonlinear animation timeline providing for multiple layers of animation channels, unlimited camera setups which can be animated via splines or key frames, intuitive lighting set-up for designing both simple and complex light rigs, an interactive materials editor, and particle generator. All these features and more are available through an intuitive GUI, which allows for real-time manipulation of scenes. Check out the site.
This is great news for our Antics community. Although this product is aimed at a studio market, it shows that the future of realtime animation is alive and well.

antics v4 download

Here’s thanks to Robotguy4 for this link, looks like a legal way to get hold of v4. This page asks you to submit an email address and then allows you to download the 157Mb file.
“You have successfully registered. We have sent you a reference email with your username and password.” I guess once you have that info you could then get v5 via the Antics website. I suspect it’s a leftover from the old site so I wouldn’t expect it to exist for very long.

Here’s my disclaimer. I haven’t tried it out as I wouldn’t want to upset my existing licences/registrations. Use your own judgement.

Using the SAY command to invoke blendshapes

Hi guys, hope you had a good Easter. Mine was pretty cool, as usual trying to do family stuff and my own Antics stuff. There’s not enough hours in the day, even when you get 4 days off! Anyway, I discovered something today you might be interested in. Recently I posted about having bones drive the facial expression of characters. The theory is good and it’s been used to great effect within Max by some clever fellows. In case you missed it, the expression of a character is achieved by having the mesh deformed in certain ways, just like our skin. When we smile the corners of the mouth are raised, so if you raise the mesh in that region you get a smile from your character. Now, if your’e in a 3d app that gives you control over the mesh (the vertex’s) then all is as easy as pie. However within Antics we have no such tools. So the other way is to prebuild the smile and the no-smile meshs and then have the character “blend” from one to another. This is most certainly how the EMOTIONS feature is being implemented. So, today I took another look at the 3ds max example as supplied and realised that the example is showing us the way they have achieved a moving mouth effect. For those who don’t have Max, the example consists of a “rest” mesh and then a bunch of identical mesh’s where the mouth is slightly adjusted to look like it would if it said a range of (phoneme) sounds. When the character is commanded to “say” an audio clip, then the blend shapes are used. Sooooooooooooo I thought, rather than adjust the mouth, what if the geometry was adjusted in other ways. (like a smile). Then instead of a moving mouth we’d get some other stuff…..The result was quite good. The character would blend to the new shapes even whilst walking, looking and playing animations!. On the downside, the character will return to the rest pose once the event is complete. Still it means you can use a sound file to drive a specific set of poses, in any version. I’ll keep you posted. It would be great to see if a continuous tone keeps the pose steady. So then we could run say 400hz for sad and 1khz for happy, etc.


Bust out!

A nice thread in the community forum is going on about “Audience Reactions” to seeing Antics clips. Everyone has a slightly different use for Antics but ultimately the results of our efforts will be presented to an audience. Whether you are a storyteller creating Anymation clips, or an industry guy building Boards, the technology under the bonnet of Antics is going to serve you well at least for the next few years. So it’s an important issue to discuss, what do people think about the look of the animation in antics?
Do they see it as a viable medium for communicating ideas or are they quite happy with pencil and paper?
Now that I’ve played around with the pipeline for creating characters. My question is, what style of characters will assist us in presenting ideas the best. If I was planning a Transformers or Bond fight sequence, I’d already know the look of the talent, so an avatar would work. It works because the viewer has an established point of reference for the actor/character. The ability of the viewer to fill in the missing details of the character is a given, and that sets the tone for the physical performance as well, they adjust to the production value.
The creation of avatar style characters is now possible and they will expand our choices over and above the original library.
But what of the characters for Boards. Do avatar style (real world textures), characters set up the viewers for a in-game or cut-scene style presentation. Does that work for us or against us?
Do we need simplier representations of people in our presentations to industry audiences?
Or is it that the style is fine, it is just the low poly count that people have trouble with?

Facial expression – All versions

Been working through the theory of using bones to move features on a face. The good news is it turns out a few guys have used this technique for animating facial expressions within Max and have produced some really cool (and wonderfully intricate rigs). I started with a test using the ponytail bone to drive the chin of a character. It was a good feeling being able to push that chin around within Antics. It is encouraging me to continue the tests. One problem was that the pose was lost once the character was directed to do something else, like walk. So I’ll need to sort this.
At the very least facial expressions for static poses are looking good at this point…..

New Character project- Facial poses

Making good progress with the New Characters tests. There are a number of stages in the pipeline. Essentially what seems to be working is the skinning of mesh to a biped bone system within Max. The biped system is what the 3d exporter is most happiest with. It should be possible to create the mesh/bone structure in any app so long as the naming conventions and the joints, match what Max does. (very important!) BTW There is documentation from Antics on this, so if someone wants to rig up a character following those guidelines I could put it through Max for you.

So here are some images from Antics, I am learning heaps with this project, take the grey ponytail girl, when you create a biped bone system within max you can set extra bones, for example a ponytail. This is of interest to me, not only because it means one could adjust the ponytail, but I am thinking one could rig up a character so the bones affect the facial mesh. Sort of a cheat way to get some posable facial expressions. If successfull then these characters would be compatible with all versions of antics.

These other pics show a much denser poly count. Antics will allow a mesh up to 64,000 approx, which is much higher than what is in the existing characters. (except the emotive ones). I would like to develop a character whose hands and feet and face are a much higher polycount. The comic face compares low/high poly counts.
A higher poly count means more curves which makes the edges smoother.

I am yet to solve the hair, eyelash and eyeball elements. Another consideration for the facial expressions is to construct a face plate with various expressions and have the ability to swap out the entire head. (using a link to the original head joint!). It may be possible to build it just like a skull where the eyes and hair remain on the original character, so the join is disguised.
Consideration is also being given to the texture maps for these characters.
Cheers Ammo

Crime scene update

Here’s an update on the school project, Alex(14) has finished adding the furniture to the house where the crime is committed. As you can see there are two victims and they don’t look healthy. (Either that or there’s been a party!) The assignment is a forensic examination, I’m told shots were fired shot I expect we’ll see blood splats and such. I’ll let keep you in the loop.

My oldest son Michael(17) did a 30sec spot with antics this weekend for his school project for media, so we had a bit of an antics weekend!

Want to be a previz artist?

Here’s a great tip list from Brian Pohl, CEO Persistence Of Vision
“If you want to become a previs artist focus on:
1. Camera Animation and cinematic language.
2. Camera Angles, Composition, and Continuity.
3. Low Rez Poly modeling and digital sets.
4. Low Rez Poly characters and rigging.
5. Understanding storytelling.
6. Editing and timing.
7. Non Linear Animation.
8. Tricks and cheats for improving speed and setup.
9. Animation vs VFX pipeline structures.
10. Integration for technical previs.
11. A solid understanding of various camera lens, camera backs, and aspect ratios.

A previs artist is: A Director, a Director of Photography, an Animator, a Modeler, a Rigger, an Editor, a Storyteller, an FX artist, a MoCap engineer, and so on. If anything, to become a previs artist, you must be ready to don any of these hats at anytime. However…ultimately, you’ll have to decide if you wish to focus on conceptual previs or technical previs. Each focuses on different parts of the preproduction pipeline.”

if you want to read more about previz, try my other previz blog Brian is also running a previz course at Gnomon

NEW HALO character in antics3d

Master Chief anyone? I finally worked out the pipeline for new characters into Antics. I was able to sort out the mesh, skeleton and vertex linking so that the MC can walk around quite happily in the Antics world. The buggy is straight from sketchup (took 3mins to download, gotta love that!) The process is a little fiddley but worth it in the end. The biped in Max is the native skeleton structure for the 3d exporter to create an Antics file. The mesh came from linefour
Update March 10.
Current Aim: to create new female character with better poly resolution. Researching texturing and hair solutions. If you have a character you need for a project pls let me know.
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