MGLA Meeting Summary - June 5, 2001
Lineup: artist Ken Locsmandi & JAG / artist Lachlan Westfall & 3D VR / Alex Lindsay of dvGarage / Amorphium Pro
* pre-meeting banter *
With Summer in full swing we began our June meeting discussing the current state of the BDA (Broadcast Designers Association), and their upcoming meeting. MGLA co-host Lachlan Westfall next recounted his experience going out to Apple's new retail store in Glendale. He explained that the knowledge and interest of the sales people was pleasantly surprising and that Apple was doing a great job of showing just what their computers are all about.
Speaking of Apple, with Summer MacWorld right around the corner we, as usual tried to pin down Charles McConathy (whose company, ProMax has graciously sponsored MGLA for the year by paying our room fees at AFI - thank you!) on what we might see with respect to new Mac's. Of course, he was not divulging any secrets, but he did offer that the dual 533 G4 remains a good power-for-price purchase. He was also showing off the new iBook in the lobby; at least one of your co-hosts went out and bought one the next week...
Lastly, co-hosts Chris and Trish told us of a special price offered to MGLA members for the After Effects West conference to be held August 27-29 in Pasadena. The current discounted price is $595 compared to full list of $995; the current special for user groups like MGLA is $495. Check out their web site.
* Lachlan Westfall on 3D & QuickTime VR *
First up in our heavily Electric Image-focussed evening, MGLA co-host Lachlan Westfall showed a recent QuickTime VR project he and his partner Peter Lehrack recently completed for Roland Corporation. The were hired to create a virtual XV-5080 synthesizer for Roland's website which allowed viewers to spin the product around and take a closer look. They used Universe Modeler 3.0 to build the unit and Animator 3.0 to texture and render out the QTVR movie. The product has a tricky brushed copper front panel that looks very different in color depending on what angle you're viewing it from. To match this look Lachlan used the new Anistropic shader in Universe in combination with AG_Shaders from Triple-D Tools.
* Amorphium Pro *
Continuing in our EI theme, EI's Director of Marketing, Brad Parscale, came up next to show off Amorphium Pro 2.0. More than a new version, Brad explained that it's completely new program with over 2000 new features. It's now designed to be a great tool for web designers, 3D animators and others. It's easy to bring models in and export them out to a variety of programs. This makes it easy to take advantage of the many tools found only in Amorphium Pro. Brad then went through the many model manipulation tools. He used an editable brush to push and pull the polygons of a basic model. He also showed procedural methods of manipulating geometry and displacement via an imported tiff file. Next he showed us the "digital clay" feature where the model is spun like it's on a potter's wheel - very cool. There's also a wax tool for adding and subtracting geometry and metaballs for organic volumetric things. In addition to creating geometry in the fashion, you can also import models from Electric Image or LightWave and paint the polygons. In EI the colors of the polys can then be used to manipulate reactive procedural shaders to great effect.
Brad then showed us how to manipulate an alien head model. He used the powerful polygon addition and subtraction tools to make sure there was enough geometry in the high-detail areas, and remove geometry from low-detail areas. This is a very powerful tool that will allow you to achieve the right balance between detail and poly count - an important factor for models used in computer games.
You can also animate in Amorphium Pro via keyframes. And you can morph between objects, even if they have a different polygon count. One of the most powerful aspects of the program is the ability to render these animations out in Flash vector format - with vector shadows.
Amorphium Pro retails for $229.00 but Brad explained that typically sells for about $199.00 on the web. EI also graciously donated two copies of the program for our raffle. One of which was won by a lucky attendee. The other will be available at our July 3 meeting.
* Alex Lindsay & Camera Mapping *
Next up was 3D guru Alex Lindsay of dvGarage. Alex has been down to the last few meetings to share tips and tricks. This evening he explained the elusive but powerful Camera Mapping feature of Electric Image. Alex told us that the concept behind Camera Mapping was projecting an image from a camera and then having simple geometry distort that image. With aspects of the image being distorted as they're projected onto different shapes you can move the camera roughly 15-20 degrees right/left and do push/pulls and the image will have a degree of depth that sells the shot. This technique is particularly effected for complex outdoor city scenes where it's too much to actually build the entire city in CG. If the camera move is simple enough you can do a lot with a simple photo of a city - Alex showed us Bangkok - and then integrate other 3D elements as needed.
Another way Camera Mapping is used is to accomplish a large pull in/out shot, say moving from a shot of the Earth in space all the way in to a dime on the ground. With multiple camera maps you can transition between higher and higher detail as you move in. The opening shot for the Star Trek movie in which you start on Jean-Luc Picard's face and pull all the way out to reveal an entire Borg ship, was done with this technique. MGLA attendee and our next presenter Ken Locsmandi mentioned from the audience that he used this technique as well in The Matrix. Alex then took a number of questions from the audience:
Q: How do you choose which buildings are projected onto objects and which are not?
A: It's really just picking the key buildings or elements on which your eyes focus. And if something starts to fall apart, you can add geometry to handle that object.
Q: How do you match the photograph to the 3D environment?
A: EI is pretty accurate with respect to camera information. With an existing photo, you pretty much have to guess. You can place a cube in the scene and simply move the camera around until it looks like it's sitting in the scene. If you're shooting the scene yourself, be careful not to change the lens and make notes of what type of lens you're using, etc.
More information on Camera Mapping and many, many other things can be found at <http://www.dvgarage.com>.
* Ken Locsmandi & JAG FX shot *
As promised, our next presenter was visual effects artist Ken Locsmandi who came down to dissect a visual effects shot he did for the television series JAG. He was essentially asked to re-create ocean storm effects a la The Perfect Storm in about 1 day so the director could approve the shot. He began with a daylight shot of a helicopter and, for the test, used Northern Light's Psunami plug in for Electric Image to create the water. He did the day-for-night and compositing/keying in Adobe After Effects. For the final shot he used footage of real clouds and CG water created in 3DS Max (to match other shots that used that water). Ken explained that he keeps everything he's ever used as he never knows when he'll need it again. For this shot, some smoke/mist came in handy, and when this real shot was paired with some AE rain - it looked quite real.
* demo reels & door prizes *
Once again we had some time for demo reels; their contact information is at the end of this summary. Also, we had a great selection of door prizes, including a full conference pass to After Effects West, dvGarage's Surface Toolkit, a 3D Studio Max training manual, and a copy of Amorphium Pro. During our mid-meeting break, we showed the demo reel from a new stock backgrounds company called Edge Clips ; they also donated one of their libraries to be given away. And finally, thanks again to ProMax for paying for the room, so admission was free!
Here's contact information provided by those who showed their reel:
Darvin Poject, 2001
Mark Tammy - compositor.
Aron B. Trask
Vanishing point media