View Full Version : FXWars! "Dracula's Castle"!: Trey Harrell, EXTERIOR

10 October 2005, 02:34 AM
Welp, I'm in.

I'm going for an exterior, then if time allows, I'll continue the establishing shot inward for a hybrid.

Best of luck to all. This should be fun! (CRAZY deadline...)


10 October 2005, 03:43 AM
I'm intending to deliver a composited establishing sequence, possibly as far as revealing an interior reverse shot of the Count watching his prey approach from a parapet. I'm going for a heavy feeling of impending doom and an extremely dark mood.

I expect my color palette to be extremely muted blue/gray, with symbolic touches of reds.

The comp will be created using Maya, Photoshop and After Effects. I think I'm going to go for a 16:9 presentation, rendered for DVD anamorphic widescreen, then downsampled to 640x360 for upload.

I'm not one for storyboards much over geometric shapes: my hand drawing skills are pretty weak, so here's my written shot sequence per instruction:


I. XCU - SPIDER WEB / heavy depth of field

Spider slowly approaches a trapped, struggling insect caught in her web. She toys with her dinner a little and prepares to sink her fangs in...

II. DOLLY OUT / just as the spider finishes the kill

The web is within the branches of a dead tree on a desolate landscape. The camera pans across the landscape at night, with a storm approaching, revealing DRACULA'S CASTLE. Rack focus on the grotesque fortress upon a mountaintop. It resembles an expressionist painting and is about two miles in the distance. A poor excuse for a road winds up the mountain.

III. CRANE UP / slowly

A rickety carriage is revealed, moving toward the castle. We can make out two silhouettes. One is a old, stooped DRIVER. The other is a GENTLEMAN in a victorian era hat who is being jostled about more than he likes. We see (perhaps) bats flutter by in the distance, then a wolf howls. The victorian GENTLEMAN starts and looks about trying to place the sound. He's not at ease.

Time to get started on some modelling!

10 October 2005, 05:48 AM
I spent last night and this evening boxmodeling and quick texturing my hero spider.

I didn't spend too much time finessing her shaders (besides the speculars), as she'll be visible mostly in silhouette. I wanted her to be extremely angular, slightly stylized, and furry enough for bits of hair and texture to read okay at video resolution.

The first image is a shader and lighting test (straight Maya 7/Mental Ray render), the second is a different angle quick composited on temped in web and blurred palette background images for reference.

I think she's looking ok for this early in the game, so I'm going to move on to the landscape next as it'll be the most render-intensive portion of this project and I'd like to get the background plate out of the way early.

10 October 2005, 07:19 AM
Nice! You're working fast!

(you're stressing me! ;) )

- Jonas

10 October 2005, 02:14 PM

I'm stressing you??? I've seen your stuff. I'll be lucky if I finish on time. Thanks for the kind words, though ;-)


I roughed in my base terrain and camera move last night and I should have them encoded for preview this evening. Then the fun begins: grass, rocks, trees, camera dressing, etc.

I'll be rendering my fog pass and terrain plates early so I can concentrate the last two weeks on the castle itself, my sky and the carriage without having to borrow all my friends machines to make a render deadline.


10 October 2005, 09:29 PM
Really nice spider! Looks very photorealistic.
How did you do the spiderweb... it seems so real too...

Great work. Keep it up!

10 October 2005, 10:02 PM
The web is just a temporary image mask stolen from :D

I'll be creating a web in Maya, using that as the basis though... I want dew drops on it, and I want the web to react to the spider walking on it and fly twitching. Hopefully time will allow!


10 October 2005, 06:39 AM
Here's my first stab at blocking my difficult camera move (the dolly+crane sequence) and unrefined foreground plate for my environment.

The landscape and plants are really rough right now, but I felt I should get the camera move out of the way for this shot before I worry about refining anything. I can dress the set for the camera that way instead of making an entire world!

Next up is rough blocking of my carriage's motion and the castle mountain.

10 October 2005, 10:34 PM
It is looking good so far!

There is mutch to do if you want realistic gras and trees on
your Landscape... By the way... your trees are looking pretty good!
Its always very difficult if you have to build half an World to
make the shot work.

I am looking forward seeing more of your work!

10 October 2005, 05:53 PM
Yes, tharrell ur entry is really looking good! I especially like the's so realistic!:) Keep it up!

10 October 2005, 11:11 AM
He, thanks to you to, Tharrell. :)

I'll be unsubscribing now, I don't want to catch un-intentional inspiration and steal your ideas! See you on the other side,
- Jonas

10 October 2005, 06:11 PM
Thanks for all the comments guys!

It's been an insane week at work, so I'm running a little behind on updates. I've spent the last week rotoscoping gate dust out of a ton of commercial footage and I've been too fried to do much of anything for the challenge.

I should have a more refined foreground plate rendered out in the next day or so, provided I can get maya's batch render and my Shave grass to cooperate. They're bombing at the end of frame 1 currently and it's driving me crazy.

I need to get started on the castle mountain and background plate ASAP though, if I'm going to make deadline.


10 October 2005, 07:55 AM
Big update this time. I've modeled a small carriage, rigged up a stock horse and polished my camera move quite a bit. There's wind, blowing grass, blowing trees.

There's a ton more 'stuff' on the landscape since my last post, and I should have a couple test renders of the foreground plate for this shot in the morning.

Haven't decided if I'm going to use lowpoly CG characters in the carriage, or if I'll matchmove greenscreen footage of some friends dressed up. Probably take the same amount of time either way, although a matchmove might add a little realism to the plate.

Nuff rambling... here's the update:

Hoping to add the characters & a couple of bats tomorrow then get that puppy rendering!


10 October 2005, 10:45 AM
Wow Trey! :eek: That looks really véry awesome! :scream: You'll make something very interesting out of this, I'm sure! With some nice compositing and so, you'll get a really great mood!

Have fun & Find (tons of ;) ) luck! I'll be watching you! :buttrock:

10 October 2005, 11:32 AM
Hot shit Tharrel! Love the image composition with the dead tree to the right, and the dolly left with the trees in the foreground.

The grass wind animation looks a bit jaggy though, but maybe that's still WIP?

- Jonas

10 October 2005, 07:32 PM

Thanks guys for the encouragement... it's helping me keep hammering away at the details. Getting really frustrated with each level of polish I add as I'm walking the line of render times being too long to manage right now. It's getting a lot closer to the pictures in my head, but I'm going to have to stop polish on this plate SOON if I'm going to make the deadline.

I promised a couple of test renders, and I've finally got my foreground down to under 4 minutes a frame, so I think this is the level of detail to expect.

The sky is just comped in from a stock photo, and I *really* need to work on the pine needles. Finally got some decent looking tests though :D

10 October 2005, 06:46 AM
Waiting for some of my plates to render tonight for motion testing, I threw together a plate build and treatment progression to use as a formula for the final piece.

The grass is flickery as all hell and the sky's still temporary, but I'm getting really happy with the final mood. :bounce:

Since last time, I've added a couple of bats, made much nicer looking trees and seriously treated the footage.

Check it out:

10 October 2005, 07:11 AM
Here's a still of the foreground layer comp referenced above.


10 October 2005, 10:20 AM
Wow man... It's getting better and better! :scream: The mood is really áwesome! :thumbsup:

It's good to see you render it out effectively (instead of tweaking all the mood in 3dsmax, doing some postproduction to get a better mood ;) )! That last MOV was really insightfull!

Is this gonna be your 'only' shot, or are there more to be following? :rolleyes: :applause:

You'll make it to the best... cause this just looks sooo cool! :D

Have fun!

10 October 2005, 12:04 PM
Yeah great mood in your last shot, but dont you think the scene is a little to dark when you keep in mind that the sky emmits light too? Well, who cares... Good job!

10 October 2005, 06:38 PM
Yeah, it's a little dark depending on your monitor's gamma setting -- on one of my machines that's corrected for print work, it's too light! I'll probably lighten the midtones up just a touch. Very hard to target gamma for anything other than a TV, but then it washes a little on most peoples monitors.

That last bunch of processing was meant to give the impression of a bleach bypass treatment on film -- incredibly crushed blacks, washing out of the colors and a little blue tint. Looking back on that stuff last night that last little treatment makes all the difference for the mood.

Thanks for the comments, guys. I've got to get that foreground plate finalized today -- people in the carriage included, so off I go! :wip:


10 October 2005, 01:05 AM
Well, I've rigged and modeled bats, spiders and horses for this one and I just didn't have it in me to model and get convincing movement out of the driver and passenger if I was to get that plate final and rendering tonight.

Decided to call a couple of friends over and we used a blast of the sequence to do a sort of reverse matchmove over a screen.

I didn't have a dolly around, so instead of moving the camera, I pivoted each the actors on a pushcart in time with the previz camera move. After that, I keyed the footage and stuck it on 2D cards in the carriage, rotating with the camera move.

I got an awful key out of the horrible DV footage and lighting... not to mention the red wall (!!!) I used, however the subjects are going to be so small in frame that it will work out just fine.

Probably saved myself 2 days by doing it this way, even if the characters would have been low poly.

Note that the passenger and horse now react to the bat that's flying right in front of their faces -- substituted for the wolf cry in the original script.

Quicktime test done earlier this evening below (before I made the horse's reins actually move properly).

Got the foreground plate done and rendering now! :eek:

10 October 2005, 05:04 AM
great stuff, my compliments.

good luck.

10 October 2005, 07:22 AM
Very cool, Trey!

Keep it up...can't wait to see the finished piece.


10 October 2005, 05:34 PM
Woooow Trey! That's really veeery (even more than 3 days ago ;) ) awesome & amazing! :scream: Really cool to see you using that 'alternative motion-controlled-camera method' that I've been thinking about for about a year, but that I never used in production (I mean: filming stuff and matchmoving the stuff in the 3D scene, by moving the plain in the right direction...! :) ). Can you tell about your experiences? Do you have anything to say about how to shoot such things to be able to intergrate the nicely into you 3D shot?

And about the matchmoving of that '2D plates': did you do that by hand, or did you try to do that automatically? As it seems Max can't track/matchmove an object, while it cán do that to a scene/camera.... And that's really weird, as you need the very same information to get that done... :sad:

By the way: that method will also be handy in your compositing environment...! :) In this same way you could later composit those people into your shot, as long as you have the tracking data from your 3D cam... :) It opens up new worlds! :twisted:

Have lots of fun! It's really, really cool to follow your process! :bounce:

10 October 2005, 06:11 PM

I've done a little bit of matchmoving before -- actually filming in a green soundstage with markers and moving the motion data over. This was a no-budget compromise ;)

If the characters were to be visible in anything other than pure silhouette, I couldn't have gotten away with the methods I used this time -- particularly the red wall I shot on. The key and lighting were positively disgusting, but the characters were so small that it turned out alright at the 852x480 resolution I'm working at.

In terms of technique, I'd *never* try to pull a foreground or hero key on a real (ie paying) production from DV footage... that whole time=money thing. I'd probably shoot in HD/HDV on a soundstage with markers and actually track them because a day's rate for a camera, lighter and stage will save a ton of headache in the long run.

For this piece, the dolly/crane move was so smooth in the previz that we rehearsed a few times while watching the previz loop on my laptop screen and did three takes of each of the actors (my friend Jeff, and myself as the driver).

Once the keys were pulled in After Effects, I exported them as RGB and Alpha TIFF sequences and created a surface shader node in maya that I attached everything up to -- including a brightness/contrast slider node so I could ride the brightness and black point depending on distance from camera. Maya Surface shaders don't react to scene lighting, but they can cast shadows (which is all I was really interested in anyhow).

I then attached the cards to the center pivot points in the carriage file (it's a run-in place file that's referenced in to my master scene), animated the horse rearing in time with the actor and brought that in to my master scene.

From there I constrained the Y-axis on the cards to point at the camera at first, baked the rotation into keys (as a starting point) and deleted almost all of them so I could hand tune the actor's apparent mass based on what the camera was actually seeing.

I had thought about matchmoving the cards in Shake or After Effects but I wanted them to throw decent shadows ... so it had to be in 3D.

You might check into a piece of software called Boujou if you're interested in doing tracking in a Max workflow -- Boujou's (in my opinion) the best tracking software out there and it works with Max, Maya and others.

If you have any other questions, let me know!


10 October 2005, 05:06 AM
Quick comp of the final lighting & shading on the spider and the web, with a focus fake on my background plates.

I think I'm going to be losing a lot of time fixing a flicker on my grass that I haven't been able to get rid of -- tonight was my drop dead point for rendering that portion. Hopefully I'll be able to ride the levels and motion blur it so it's not too bad :(

To compound the problem, Shave for Maya seems absolutely intent on mangling all sorts of nodes in my files -- sometimes to the point I can't open them anymore, render them or save them. I've resorted to saving everything in .ma format so I can do surgery in a text editor for disaster recovery if the need arises.

I seriously need to study up on my TD skills to fix this sort of thing...


10 October 2005, 07:18 AM
That's awesome, Trey. Great idea about the pivoting of the actors.

- Jonas

10 October 2005, 07:22 AM
Supersampling the alpha map may be the solution to the flickering problem?

- Jonas

10 October 2005, 03:32 PM
I wish -- the flicker happens on both the color and alpha channels though -- it happens because of a combination of the grass (hairs) catching speculars only from specific angles, and also because of their level of transparency when they overlap at certain points. I'm sure if I upped my supersampling to 8 or 9 passes (from the 4 I'm using now) that it'd fix the problem, but I'd never get the thing rendered in time.

In the end, I'm going to cheat it. I reduced the opacity of the grass and I'm going to double up the grass plate with a 1-frame offset and motion blur. Should get rid of most of it. If it doesn't, I'll explore some flickery horror movie treatments to the final piece and just work with what I've got.

In other news, I'm braindead at my day job today, so I started composing a little set of musical cues for the piece in Soundtrack/Garageband. It's got this strange Danny Elfman/Bauhaus thing going on, which was purely accidental but pretty cool :)

I'm going to hold off on posting the music until I start assembling the piece this weekend, though. Gotta hold a few surprises back...


10 October 2005, 08:59 PM
Quiet couple of days on the forum... guess everyone is stuck in rendering/compositing hell like me! :wip: :wip: :wip:

Anyhow, I'm re-rendering almost all of my plates currently with a ton of polish based on a first draft of the piece, but here's a mostly finished snippet -- the spider opener. The background is old, and you can see the castle matte painting from the concept art forum -- that's been modeled and will be rendered out in the final piece.

Since this piece, I've changed the foreground trees to be less dense, added fog, changed the sky completely, made the carriage a bit bumpier... basically added a layer of polish to all the plates based on the 'live' offline edit I've been working with.

Thanks to everyone for viewing and commentary!


10 October 2005, 01:00 AM
yea ... you are so right ... render, render, comp .. that seems to be the rythm these days.

your stuff looks really awsome, can't wait to see the complete piece.

good luck,

10 October 2005, 07:56 AM
(Cross posted from the challenge thread)

Abandoned, not finished :)

Well, there's a ton of stuff left that I'd give another couple polish passes to (stiff creature animation and motion blur glitches on the bats in particular), given unlimited time and lack of a day job, but I'm pretty pleased with the end result (although I reserve the right to do some touchups before midnight tonight):

852x480 Sorenson 3 Quicktime (

640x360 Sorenson 3 Quicktime (

This is the first (but not the last!) FXWars Challenge that I've entered. I learned a *ton* and really had a chance to work on my direction, timing and camerawork skills.

I wanted to establish the mood, environment and character relationships very quickly, so I started the piece with a rather heavy-handed metaphor (the spider). The piece moves literally from a bug's-eye to bird's eye view and the single continuous shot (with about 27 separate element plates) was terrifying to pull off in this time frame. Got me in the mood for the holiday, though!

The piece was created in Maya (mentalray & software renderers depending on speed), After Effects, Photoshop and Garageband for the score. The characters in the carriage are live action cards, and the castle and portions of the hill are a matte painting -- everything else is 3D.

I had a nasty flicker on my grass plate that I wasn't able to completely get rid of (ran out of rendering time), so I decided to drive the gamma of the entire piece with its flicker and call it stylized :D

In the end, I decided that David Oro's excellent concept art had a ton more personality than my modeled version, so I used his original art to make a 2.5d matte painting with a couple of modifications.

Many thanks to everyone for the encouragement during the challenge, and best of luck getting to the finish line.

Thanks for looking at my work.


google monkey
10 October 2005, 10:34 AM
just downloaded the final version, very well done i like the pace and atmosphere of it.:)

10 October 2005, 02:02 PM
That's great, Trey! I love how the castle is hanging over the edge! :thumbsup:

- Jonas

10 October 2005, 04:01 PM
Yeah, great entry man!, you did a good job, i like the atmosphere... To bad you couldnt solve the flickering problem but it looks great the way it is :thumbsup:

10 October 2005, 11:04 PM
Great yust great... the spider at the beginning... wow the movement of
the spider and the horse...
nice kamera also... really awesome work!

11 November 2005, 08:02 AM
POST YOUR ENTRY! FXWARS !Dracula's Castle Challenge:8 ( -R

11 November 2005, 04:11 PM
Ok, I want to say something... This short piece of animation is way TOO short ! It starts beautifully, full of mood, music's good, the visuals are excellent... We see the castle, far away... and... That's all ? No way ! :cry:

Make it a full-length feature ! ;)

Congrats to you anyway...

Bye !

11 November 2005, 05:14 PM
Thanks for the compliments. I had a lot of fun doing it... :)

It's a trap when I do this sort of thing... I started with the story and metaphor and expanded on them as the basis for my shots, the problem is that I've got the tendency to get a little too ambitious to actually complete things for challenge deadlines!

Start with a 3 paragraph script treatment, end with 30 plates, 6 rigged creatures, crazy cloud and grass simulations, etc.

In particular on this one, every single plate & element contributed to the final composition so I wasn't really able to cheat or lose much of anything -- the bats lead your eyes to where they're supposed to be focused, the musical cues echo the predator/prey relationship established with the spider at the beginning, and the camera move really can't be broken into smaller shots as it would jump cut.

I'd love to flesh it out into a more polished short -- that's really how I visualized it. For the benefit of my marriage and day job, I may wait until next Halloween, though :)

Thanks again for the kind words,


11 November 2005, 06:53 PM
You combined all the elements very nicely. Nice atmosphere and mood.

I think this is my favorite one, good job!

11 November 2005, 09:31 PM
Lol, I thought i recognised that music! Garage band is quite fun!:buttrock:- I had the oppurtunity to try it out in my video production class:).
As for your piece, i think it's definitely going to win for something: great job!

11 November 2005, 11:57 PM
Could you tell us a bit more about the rigging of your characters?


11 November 2005, 05:07 AM
A little more about the character rigging in my piece:

According to my short script treatment, originally it called for a spider, a fly, a horse drawn carriage and potentially bats.

From the time I joined the contest until delivery, I had three weeks to deliver everything, and I really wanted to concentrate on a single, difficult camera move.

Slight confession at this point: before this project, I'd never animated anything with more than two legs, or with wings.

Because of this, I knew that I was going to have to refine my level of animation and model detail based on what the camera was seeing, and because I was dealing with a mostly static plate, I wanted to have as much motion on my creatures as possible.

Here's the criteria I used to decide how to animate the creature rigs:

- I really wanted to use the bats to guide the viewer's eye through the scene and give a sense of chaos and depth to the scene -- however they move so quickly I didn't really need to refine them very much because of motion blur (which I abused pretty heavily close to deadline and ran out of time to fix the results).

- I knew the horse was going to be moving at a fairly constant speed, but I wasn't sure how I was going to integrate the characters at first, so I decided to animate the horse and carriage on an infinite curve loop in place, then manually bump it around to get a little more organic motion once it was referenced in to my master scene.

- I knew the spider was going to be extremely close in frame, and I wanted very subtle interaction with the web, so I spent a lot of time rigging her for maximum performance potential.

- I tried a fly originally, but it just wasn't big enough to work with the scale of my web. After a little thinking, a moth worked better as a metaphor being drawn to the light (the castle with its red glow). It also read a lot better at the scale I was working and had a much nicer silhouette. I was extremely close to rendering deadline for this plate, so the moth marks my first experiment with procedural animation. I used a 2D noise function to drive the rotation on each of the wings and the rotate/trans on the antennae. On top of that, I rigged some FK bones into the critter's legs because I wanted to show a half-hearted attempt at a struggle in the web. Let's face it, he knows what's coming -- his wings are just reflex.

More detail about the rigs with a few pics shortly...

11 November 2005, 05:36 AM
The horse & carriage (which I'm treating as one creature):

Because I'd never animated a horse before, I started with a google images search for a Muybridge photo progression of a horse's walk cycle. I compared this with a couple of clips of horses trotting in the Lord of the Rings series to give myself a feel for weight and speed.

From here, I built a very, very simple horse skeleton and animated the legs, back and root node for a 20 frame cycle in place, which I cycled to infinity in Maya's graph editor (the dotted lines on the rather confusing capture attached). Everything was animated FK on the horse.

I wanted the horse to be able to react to the bats flying by, so I was careful to leave a few of the bones in the horse's neck unanimated so I'd be able to work with them outside of the infinite oscillation.

I wanted the carriage to be able to trail the horse on the landscape, but react more severely to bumps, so I added a axlepivot locator (giant locator in the capture) that I parented the entire carriage under so I could counteranimate some nice bumps and wobbles.

Because the carriage was going to not always be on the same plane as the horse's feet, I also added a locator in front of the horse's nose to aim constraint the carriage supports to to allow them to continue to point and be oriented in the right direction, no matter how bumpy I might animate the carriage.

From here, I added a quick expression to the wheels to have them rotate throughout the piece:


...basically, have the wheels rotate three degrees per frame, and then add a 16 degree offset to the left wheel to make them a little offset from eachother and asymmetrical. I arrived at the final multiplication based on eyeballing the speed once the file was brought in to my main scene and pushed across the landscape.

Yeah, I know the horse is slipping and popping a little :) add it to the list of stuff I ran out of time to fix.

I've already covered the attachment of the live action cards to the carriage rig, so here are a couple pics of the horse setup before I move on to the bats...

11 November 2005, 05:48 AM
The bat was by far the easiest creature for me to rig in the whole piece.

Simple poly/subd boxmodeling -- I knew I was really only interested in silhouette and a little specular off the bats so I probably blew through this in an hour.

The bat skeleton is placed in a group under the main trainsform locator I created, then I added two channels to the locator and set them up to drive four poses with set driven key -- flap (two extremes) and contract (two extremes).

From here, I was able to reference in my bat file to my main scene three times, and only animate the locator for each one, animating my flap/contract and rotate where I wanted the bats to be in frame. It had the added benefit of being able to scale the locator and affect the entire rig.

In retrospect, my hero bats ended up extremely stiff and I probably should have done a polish pass to the bones and weighting. A little counteranimation and polishing my weights to preserve mass a little better would have made me a lot happier. Again, time constraint.

A quick capture of the setup is attached.

11 November 2005, 06:35 AM
Now on to the fun stuff.

The spider

I set up the spider to have a rather full range of motion, and gave her a rather full featured rig as I knew I was going to spend a couple of days getting a good performance out of her.

Her legs were rigged for IK, I also rigged up her head, jaws and abdomen to control curves. I gave her a global transform (to move her around the scene and into initial position) and then a local root transform locator (for crouches and pounces).

With the rigging out of the way, I did a fair amount of research getting a feel for good spider walks -- Eight Legged Freaks, and an eighteen hour binge with my rogue killing spiders in Ashenvale in World of Warcraft. For research. Ahem.

Each type of spider I looked at had a rather different walk, and the style I settled on was one in which the front and rear pairs of legs on each side seemed to cascade after each other. This type of crawl looked rather menacing on angular spiders like the one I modeled, and imparted a little intelligence and deliberate pace... which I rather liked.

I then texture mapped my final 4k web texture to a base plane in the scene and did my initial walk pass.

From here, I turned the plane that I mapped my web onto into a soft body and rigged it to react to a low-amplitude turbulence node parented to the spider's location, and also a higher frequency one at the moth's location. This gave a slight movement to the web.

I then baked in the particle cache from my soft body simulation and manually tracked each foot to the web itself when her legs were still (turned up my texture resolution to 1k in the viewport) -- it gave a much better impression that the web was real and the spider was on it.

Nothing much more to add on the spider besides that the final pounce had some FK animation blended into my primarily IK legs for some anticipation and weight -- which I'm learning is pretty hard to achieve in pure IK without a lot of counteranimation and extraneous keys. I'd still like a little more weight and punch to her movements, but again, I had so many elements I was dealing with that I simply ran out of time during polish.

The moth

The moth was rigged as a fairly lowpoly object, with almost all its detail derived from texture maps. As mentioned somewhere previously, almost all of the moth's animation was created procedurally from a 2D noise routine driving the wing flapping and antennae movement.

I wanted a little bit of organic struggle to one of the legs, so I animated the rear legs manually.

The moth was super easy to setup -- I simply hit the insert key and placed the center pivots of each of the parts (just parented to each other) to be the place I wanted to rotate from and I added some simple expressions like the following:

moth_Rwing.rotateZ = noise(frame,frame) * 16 + 8

This basically uses the frame number to walk through an animated noise map giving a smooth transition between frames. Because this is inherently a value between black (0) and white (1), I've multiplied the value by 16, and then added 8 to the rotation (half of 16) to normalize between the up and down extremes created by the noise.

Pretty ugly hack, but it's my first time experimenting with this type of setup and it was pretty effective with three days remaining!

Similar expressions were added to various translate and rotates on the different moth parts, scaled to taste.

The web

I rendered the web as a separate pass so that I could cheat a slight shadow & glitter pass on it, and also massage the composite because I really wasn't happy with the alpha information passed via matte opacity in Maya.

This ended up extremely advantageous because in order to get a good look, I had to change the matte to a medium gray instead of black in After Effects -- otherwise the web was too thick or it had a black halo, or both. Good cautionary tale here -- when you're compositing wispy stuff like smoke, thread, whatever, you might try changing the background matte color to something brighter if your alpha key is coming out crappy.

Once I had the spider, moth and web assembled, I applied a very very low amplitude animated distortion to the entire plate in Final Cut Pro in order to give a little more feeling of wind.

Whew, that's pretty much all the details on the animated bits. Feel free to ask specific questions or make suggestions about the rigs. Up until very recently, almost all of my CG work has been stills and studio product photography fakes, so I'm extremely new to all of this rigging and expression business!


11 November 2005, 02:51 PM
Just a quick note for everyone:

I've used an absurd amount of bandwidth the last two weeks hosting videos, so I'm going back and adding a coral cache URL prefix on all of my image and movie links. I didn't even think that the traffic generated by the challenge would be in the hundreds of gigs transferred a day.

It's my intention to leave all of the videos, etc, up on the thread permanently, but I may need to look for some type of mirror if the caching doesn't soften the load.

I may miss one or two of the links, so let me know if you find anything in this thread that's broken.



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