Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Quantum Powers!

The developer and programmer Ole Lemming over at IoSim along with Ian Clemmer has been hard at work (or having fun as he told me) over the past year developing what is shaping up to be a 'do cool shit' daemon for Realflow. Quantum Force looks like a sort of uber modifier that combines all the best bits of all the Daemons...and some new ones.
Il be adding it to my toolset soon no doubt and its already giving me alot of creative ideas and opening up lots of new doors regarding the control of fluid behaviors.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Japan Part Two

Editing this stuff suddenly turned into alot of fun. Maybe it was because the MP4 files handle much better than the old system I had 3 years ago.

Part 2 features some exploring, recieving an award at the National Arts Centre, Tokyo - finding a weird pet shop where animals are on display as if they were toys, toys of naked 5 year old Hentai girls and other weird and wonderful stuff from the other side of the world.

Click here - or watch below

Monday, 5 December 2011


Its taken me near three years to get around to it, but Part One is complete and online.

In Febuary 2009, Fabio Zaveti and myself traveled out to Tokyo to attend the Media Arts Festival and we filmed everything and anything every hour for the duration.

Part 2 is coming soon. I think there will be 4 parts in total.

Click HERE - or watch below.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Mercury part 2

The Nike Lunar commercial 'Ungrounded Obsession' was recently released.
Here it is on youtube.
It was a brief vfx shot that turns up at the 40 second mark - but looks slick cut in with the rest of the stylish, near monochrome visuals.
I created 300fps fluid droplet sims individually, utilising the great Viscous Drop plugin from WETWORK, and arranged them around the Lunar.
Nike supplied the actual shoe used in the shoot to us and I used Photofly to extract an accurate build of the shoe - projecting the RED cam plate back onto the geometry.
This enabled the droplets to reflect accurately and sit more realistically within the scene.

Monday, 28 November 2011


Heres a recent piece of work we did the 3D and FX for at Analog Pixel.
Director Roman Ruetten sat in house with us to get the shots he wanted and I kinda enjoyed developing the subtle paper shaders to work in the classic all white-void environment.

All 3D with a sprinkling of particles and i used my old paper crumple technique (tutorial here) on the wrapping and animated objects.

Monday, 14 November 2011


Just finished a nice, short VFX piece for a new Nike Lunar commercial.
Nike approached the studio and asked us to add some blobby heavy metal droplets/mercury impacting the shoe and surface at 300fps...in reverse.

I photoscanned the Lunar shoe and projected a frame from the RED shot source footage back onto the model so the droplets would reflect shoe surface.

Heres a still from the shot.

Saturday, 29 October 2011


The guys at ThinkBox Software have all sorts of cool shit in development. Im still waiting for their ocean suite 'Bermuda' since being on beta for almost a year...but in the mean time...this new piece of kit looks pretty cool.

Xmesh is looking like a super charged pointcache solution for pretty much anything, doing anything..including embedded data channels. Caching and baking stuff is an essential process for stability, predictability and avoiding weird scene problems.
This one looks like the ultimate option so far.


Monday, 24 October 2011

Hair farm to Softimage

Lee P Smith has posted some interesting details about exporting hair setups from hairfarm over into Softimage. At first glance, this sounds a completly crazy idea - but its to be rendered with Arnold....so its not such a crazy idea after all.
Having used Softimage for over 6 years in VFX production, I feel qualified to say that its a pile of shit when it comes to rendering and 'getting stuff out'. Remember - the client doesnt care how cool your ICE tree is - if it looks like shit coming out the render/you have difficulty rendering all your data....thats what the client cares about!

Arnold is STILL in beta and covered with NDA and I lost interest in it about a year ago when i found out miltiple UV sets were not yet supported. I heard Platige is coding a port to 3Dsmax - and Maya support is coming along too.

Arnold and perhaps 3Delight are the only options when it comes to getting decent and reliable renderdata out of Softimage - though it will always depend on your personal tastes and skill set on what renderer you wish to use.
The only advantage to getting the Hair data into Arnold would be that Arnold can handle it...and render it with GI. OK - thats technically interesting, but hair has been renderer via scattering and domelights for years now at a completly photorealistic quality - so it seems to be just another step in a pipeline for now. The results are cool so far though. Good stuff Lee.


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Nuke inside 3DSmax

This plugin/script is looking interesting. No idea on any release date - but il surely be using it to good use rather than flicking back and forth. Shame 3Dsmax is STILL not out on Linux though. So looks like this is only a Windows thing.


Friday, 7 October 2011

Visual effects magic and ILM

Theres a fear inside of me that the origins of visual effects and what they mean/how they work will one day be forgotten. CGI revolutionised visual effects and opened a whole new corridor of doors to open and discover, but near 30 year old techniques still hold up, fascinate and inspire you with the imagery that was created. 75 layers of film that gets layered up photochemically to create a composite puts into perspective just how easy we digital guys have it these days.
I vow to not complain as much about my failed render passes....

ILM & VFX part 1

ILM & VFX part 2

ILM & VFX part 3

ILM & VFX part 4

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Making of O2 commercial

I put together a brief making of/breakdown video of the O2 commercial completed at my studio Analog-Pixel after a few requests and interest since broadcast.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

VRAY public beta for Softimage

Yes - Vray is lurking around the Softimage platform and the last time I looked at it, it was around Siggraph 2008 at the Chaos Group stand in secretive whispers.

So a public beta has just been announced and im taking it more serioulsy than usual - as Vray is already a very well established renderer, plus it means you might be able to get a decent render out of Softimage. It always took 10 times as long to get something good out of Softimage in my working experience, having worked with it for 5 years at a previous employer.

Fellow 3D artist Simon Reeves has already embraced the implementation and done some encouraging imagery - so when i can find a spare few minutes, i think i'll join in the public beta and see what comes out the other end....

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Cross Polorisation

This quite common and frequently used technique to photograph subjects with and without specular/reflectivity turned up on a couple websites recently, with discussion seemingly focused on how new, useful and technically challenging it could be. Its not complicated or hard at all and so i thought id do a brief blog posting rather than confront the boastful, misguided egos that populate forums!
The technique of cross polorisation has been around for probably longer than 20 years or so - used alot by wildlife photographers/general photographers to minimise the reflectivity elements in scenes caused by flash photography or just highly relfective surfaces in general...such as wet or shiny things. Its also a common technique to analyse surface defects and so on in more scientific based cases.
I first used it about 15 years ago when doing photography (old skool chemicals style) at college to do closeup portraits whilst minimising the greasyness of the skin (particularly cos we were all teenagers at the time).
People generally think it just makes things look weird. Well yes - it can do with general photography - as it can remove the specular highlights and visual cues you expect to see in pictures and how you see things in the real world.
It has a great use in CGI however and is used by pretty much every VFX house going - particularly for digital-double work. I recall reading about it in one of Paul Debevecs papers about the reflectivity of the human face from 2000 and have used it ever since to do texture photography (when possible). A progression of this work from 2000 was released in 2007 and demonstrates further relatively simple ways of abstracted data from arrayed/controlled photographs.

On page 7 of the paper - some images and figures briefly describe how to seperate the diffuse and specular components of the skin.
Cross polorisation means there is both a poloriser filter on both the camera and the light sources. If you take a picture of the face with the filter on the camera perpedicular to that of the light sources - you will recover a diffuse only element. A second picture with all filters parralell will yield a picture with reduced diffuse and no include specular components.

A simple photoshop operation of difference between the two will recover the specular component - which is a great start to having a detailed reflection/specular map. These two maps alone will get you more than half way - the flat diffuse and reflectivity.

But wait a sec....so how do we take these pics?! Thats the part people neglect to mention like its some secrest knowledge or something. Well - you will need a polorisation filter for your camera...available in any camera shop anywhere pretty much...or online of course.
You will also need some polorisation film - which can be bought in various sizes/gages from optical companies pretty cheaply. You just cut a piece off and tape it over your camera flashes (with the correct/matching orientation) and your all set. Uh oh - i may of intentionally upset some people now by mentioning how simple it is.....nevermind - do a quick google for cross polorisation and you will find some other pages/blogs talking about it from about 5 years ago. Plus its mentioned in numerous Cinefex issues throughout the past decade.

Heres a quick example of what you end up with. Now this isnt an ideal lighting setup ive used here - and there is some spill from a lightsouce elsewhere in the room that isnt polorised...but as you can see - its a great base for the colour/diffuse map and spec maps.

Saturday, 30 July 2011


Not since Machinarium have i seen or played a game with such rich visuals, playability and rich soundtrack (courtesy of Solar Fields). Im really enjoying the emergence of small games like these that explore what many would consider to be an older form of game play.
Games like this put the fun back into playing games....not the need for the latest hardware, lighting reflexes and an itchy trigger finger.

Capsized is a wonderful game. Now il get even less work done.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Realflow 2012

Damn it.
Im just getting to a somewhat expert level at using Realflow 5 and another damned update is released.

But its ok - its a worthy one.

RealFlow 2012 (no, Autodesk hasnt bought it) has just been released and its been further enhanced to make large scale fluid sims...well....larger! More control over particles per voxel rather than resolution dependency and even a direct to Krakatoa PRT exporter! Foam and splash has been further refined for even more detail and control.


O2 commercial

Another commercial recently completed at Analog Pixel Studio.
Pretty basic, standard visual effects for this one - involving full phone/handset replacement, shading, lighting and the objects coming out of the phones of course.

More time was spent painting out the terrible weather from the shoot and even stabilising the pizza topping (which was blowing around in the wind) than the 3D - and compositor Alex Webb dived fearlessly into one of the most challenging and ridiculous paint/repair jobs Ive come across to date.....wires, things hanging from the wires....the wires actually being pointless....all moving in and out of focus, with heavy motion blur, occluding objects and people walking in and out of frame.
Pizza is always a saviour in such scenarios.

Friday, 22 July 2011

The stuff of sci-fi films

An unrelated visual effects posting for once - the last ever Space Shuttle mission came to and end recently of course - and it was also the most heavily documented and observed.

As a result - some of the most stunning, breathtaking and tear generating footage i have ever seen was captured of its launch and flight into space....there was even a camera attached to one of the booster rockets, filming all the way down to its ocean splash down. 11.55 mins in - that shuttle seperation shot is awe-inspiring.

Amazing. Absoutely amazing.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

New tutorial - paper balls

Balls. Paper balls actually. Since posting this up online Ive gotten hundreds of emails and positive feedback so I figured it was worth mentioning here aswell.
Something as simple sounding as a paperball is actually quite a complex and challenging 3D model to create realistically and convincingly. So I made a tutorial.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Film work

A few months back I was approached by Pixomondo UK to work with them on developing some visual effects for 'Dark Tide'. I worked a number of evenings on some large under water blood simulations with FumeFX. Developing fluid sims that were almost full frame 2K cinema scope format was kinda fun - with the longer shots taking a maximum of 40 - 60 minutes after optimising and a little scripting. Some fx elements are here

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Sexy bunny suit

The hair groom for the bunny costume is going well....no, im not talking about anything exciting or sexually tantalising....a squirrel will be dressed up as a bunny for some random reason. Other than the nightmare of fur upon fur collisions - its going alright.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Ice shader

I worked up a reasonable ice shader/model for 3 secs of air time on the Nike Lunar project. Alot of the 3D details created for visual fx are only glimpsed for a few seconds or even frames in the end, but that detail still needs to be there to sell the illusion/effect. Here are some development stills i found on my desktop.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Nike spot stills

Heres a few stills from the first commercial from our new VFX studio for Nike. These are from the new in-house grade. We are toying with the idea of getting a Smoke in house to hire out too, so watch this space....

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Nike Lunar Complete

Three weeks of post, 46 shots and a couple all nighters - our first spot for Nike is complete and successfully delivered on schedule. Nike Lunar is being launched by Footlocker in Europe and we delivered 3 versions with alternate 3D language cards including French and Italian. It appears this commercial wont be broadcast in the UK for the time being for some reason. A few shots towards the end are completely CGI shots. Following a laughably bad grade done by a top VFX house in Soho (and i mean really bad) - the spot will be be retracted and graded by ourselves in house. Quite how Baselight operators get away with charging so much is still a mystery of the post industry to me....