Short Scenes: Pygmalion Computer Graphics Project

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  08 August 2005
Short Scenes: Pygmalion Computer Graphics Project

I am directing a community theatre production of George Bernard Shawís Pygmalion in March 2006. Shaw marked some of the scenes as optional. He also wrote a preface and a sequel to make sure that people would not misunderstand his play. It didnít work. Nobody ever performs those pages so Broadway adapted his play into My Fair Lady and changed the ending.

My production will present a portion of the preface and three of the optional scenes by projecting computer graphics onto two screens to the left and right of the stage. The play will run two hours with four CG scenes totaling about 7 minutes maximum.

The scenes contain five major characters, 10 minor characters, 4 props and two static drawings. Two of the characters are automobiles. The other characters are humans but I did not go for photorealism. The humans are cartoons and caricatures. We have an established deadline so we are superimposing our characters over a video background to avoid making a cg world. (There is a test clip of shot #2 on the web site. Check out the cg Seagull)
What we have done so far:

We have a finished script and shot storyboards. (They are posted on the home page of the web site.) The scripts of the three optional scenes are written by Shaw and our license to perform forbids us from making changes. That is not true for the preface and we have taken advantage of that to make the story understandable to a modern audience.

The dialog for these scenes is scheduled to be recorded Aug 9th and 10th.

I have thirteen illustrators drawing conceptual art and model sheets. Right now between 40 and 50% of the art work is finished and posted on the web site. (Select Character Designs in the left hand panel.) The rest of the art work is assigned and promised to be turned in before September 6th.

I am making a modelerís guide that explains what each character must do to help with rigging. Part 1 is posted on the web site. (select Instruction Guides.)

There is an animatorís page with a shot list containing the running times of each of the 43 shots. That page will eventually contain the exposure sheets.

I have spent lots of my time recruiting for this project but I only have two Maya users, and one compositor signed up. I waited before posting in this forum to make sure that the art work was going to come in and it would be fun to animate.

I am hoping that this can be a different type of collaborative project. I am a drama director with years of experience presenting stage images for the public eye. (Iíll send you my resume on request.) I know the best way to work with volunteers is to be organized. (Give them what they need then stand back and let them work.) The pre-production work is posted. There are no executive decisions to make. Once the art is in, we start modeling. The work on one model (the taxi cab) is started. There is a guaranteed performance date. This show will open on March 10, 2006, no matter what. Iím not going to disappear or stop working on these scenes because my name is on the program and I told everyone there would be some computer graphics as part of the play.

Iím a great believer in a lot of people each doing a small amount of work rather than the reverse. Iím getting all of this great art work because I told artists they would only have to work on one character.

Because the first two people with experience in modeling I came across owned Maya, I first thought that everyone would have to use Maya so we could have different people modeling and animating. For example, some people might just want to do scene lighting. I think it would be hard to exchange models between Maya, 3D Studio and other programs. But there is another possibility. If a person wanted to be responsible for one shot, it would not matter what program was used, the shots all get combined after rendering. But these people would not be able to work with major characters that have lots of screen time. In order to spread the work we would need a model of the same character in each different program. Someone please speak up if that is incorrect.

I donít have any robots, itís not science fantasy and itís not a shoot-em up. But I told the illustrators to give the animators something to work with; something that could be exaggerated and made to look humorous.

Corvallis Community Theatre is a non-profit organization so everyone working on this project gets double my Directorís fee (zero) and all the prestige they can eat.

Even if you donít want to join up, your comments, criticisms and prayers are appreciated.

Last edited by maronson : 08 August 2005 at 06:05 AM.
  08 August 2005
In general exchanging simple models between different programs is not much of a problem using .obj file format. IF textures are applied using standard texture projection techniques then that should work as well.

The transfer of character rigging and animation data is more problematic, the .fbx file format is supposed to handle this but....
I used to hate liver, then I met a man who didn't have one.
  08 August 2005
Assignments by shot is possible

So almost anyone can contribute a model but we would have to separate rigging from model making to make sure the next person in the pipeline can work with it.

I can still assign groups of shots. For example, the Preface is actually four separate chunks. The classroom shot uses two characters that are never seen again. It seems to me that one person would do well with just doing that. It's just a little more work than I thought one person might want to do.

Thanks for the response.
  08 August 2005
seems like a nice project.all the best

  08 August 2005
Thank you, Wojciech. I'm hoping that the classsical story, the fact that this is really four short scenes rather than a short and the variety of character styles will interest people in participating. Two characters are a pair of anime teenagers to separate them from the 1912 period of the story. The other styles are more appropriate to earlier times.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg TeenageGirlColor.jpg (30.4 KB, 339 views)
File Type: jpg Liza_Frontcopy.jpg (21.5 KB, 242 views)
File Type: jpg CoupleAngle.jpg (24.4 KB, 168 views)
  08 August 2005
Character Dialog is recorded

The dialog for Pygmalion is now preserved on DVD. Eight voice talents recorded the voices of the 12 speaking characters in two days. I've added two audio files to the Preface test clip page on the web site. So far twenty-one persons have contributed something to this project.

My generalized schedule has always been 1) Collect 2D art from June to September. (That seems like it is working) 2) concentrate on model building Sept 6 to Oct 18, 3) Animation until Nov 29th, 4) Lip Synch and scene editing until January 30th 4) Final rendering and compositing in February. Naturally pieces will slip and things will happen more in parallel but I am a veteran community theatre director and I am used to such chaos.

My thought is that people will be attracted to the short term involvement. Their work is passed on to the next artist in the pipeline. Is that true? Or would most people rather do it all themselves? It seems to me that a no pipeline project is the way for uncompleted models to find their final resting place on the hard drives of the world.

How about if I find a Maya animator for every Maya model submitted and a 3Dsmax animator for every 3Dsmax model turned in? Would that work? We could have three or more parallel pipelines going.

Here is some art work for the automobiles.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg BigMouth.jpg (30.0 KB, 93 views)
File Type: jpg Limo.front.jpg (36.2 KB, 74 views)
File Type: jpg Limo.side.jpg (42.7 KB, 79 views)
Pygmalion Animation Project
  08 August 2005
Hi maronson,

I think that you could have a variety of strategies in terms of who uses what program, but in general it'll be the best if all of your 3d elements stay in one package, unless you're very skilled in all the apps being used by the various artists. My general experience is that moving 3d assets between different apps can cause alot of complications, especially where texturing and rigging is concerned. People can make the models in any application, but once you start texturing (and especially rigging), you should be doing it in the application that you intend to animate in.


  08 August 2005
All brands of animation software are welcome

Thanks, Jason.
So it is agreed that model makers can use any software that works and my previous post about making assignments by shot is not necessary. Since what I am asking for is a lot of participation, confining the animation software to one product will limit the volunteer pool. The good news is this project has four independent scenes. Two of the characters have lots of screen time in Scene 2 and Scene 4. Those should be animated in Maya. All of the other characters have minor appearances. We could animate scene 1 in 3dsmax and scene 3 in something else. In fact, Scene 1 is actually 4 different chunks. We could use four different brands of animation software because there is no transfer of models from one chunk to another.
Here is a link to the scene 1 shot storyboard.

If I can import a submitted model into Maya I'll be able to look at it and make suggestions. Animations made on different software will be submitted in one of the movie file formats (.mov, .avi, etc.) so I can look at it and make suggestions. Everyone will be encouraged to use the WIP forums to get more ideas. To put the final composition together we need the rendered frames from each software package. Since we have no backgrounds to model, if everyone selects broadcast white as their background it should all go together easily.

I will remove the word "Maya" from the title page of my Modeler's Guide.
Pygmalion Animation Project
  08 August 2005
Model Decisions and some more Art work to look at

Q: What kind of modeling style are you looking for?

A: Since the people joining this project have a wide range of skills we need to simplify the minimum requirements of models. Models that are cartoon designed and shaded or models that are textured to look like wooden carved and painted objects will satisfy the minimum style requirement. This eliminates worries about the appearance of hair and cloth. The maximum style requirement is set by your ability, the project deadline, and my request that no one use photorealism. Many of the characters do not walk so modeling cloth folds on pants for those characters without rigging the folds would be an example of extending the minimum style requirements.

Q: But doesn't that mean the style of all the characters will be different?

A: Yes and no. All the characters that appear in the same shot should share the same style, but different shots can explore different territory. The show will be advertised by saying that many different modelers contributed their art to the project so the audience will not be disturbed by different styles. In the first scene, the Shaw character appears alone and six characters appear paired in three different shots. These characters don't appear again for the rest of the evening. We have lots of room to experiment with style.

Q: What about backgrounds?

A: The plan is to use video backgrounds. The paper cutout test shot on the web site shows that. But...the scene where Eliza arrives at the ball in a limousine has five opportunities for backgrounds to be designed by artists from this forum. They would look much more grand than the stuff I can find to photograph around here. So people who want to contribute backgrounds are welcome to participate.

Q: What kind of schedule are you looking for?

A: A model should be ready to animate six weeks after assignment. Some models are very simple. For example, no one will take six weeks to model a taximeter. Some of the models are complicated and will take a lot of rigging time. Covent Garden Liza has a lot of screen time and she needs a more experienced modeler. Six weeks means one hour a night , four days a week for six weeks or some equivalent division of 24 hours work. Because we have an absolute deadline we don't want to spend any more time than that on our models. Actually that is one of the charms of this project. Nothing gets stale.

Q: Are modelers expected to texture also?

A: Yes, but if you don't want to do that finish your model in three weeks and we will pass it on to some one else to finish.

Q: I'm not a beginner. I have some modeling experience which model should I chose?

A: The next post I make will list all the characters, their abilities, suggested texturing, and colors.

Q: When can I pick a model?

A: Download the Modeler's Guide from the web site. Then reply to this post. In September I will put up a banner headed post in the sticky Help Wanted thread at the top of this forum listing open jobs.

The art work for Formal Eliza came in this week. Here is a front view.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg BallRoomElizaFront.jpg (12.6 KB, 130 views)
Pygmalion Animation Project
  08 August 2005
as a thought, my suggestion would be this:

pick a final render package - maya maybe

animators will have a much better work flow in motionbuilder, alias thought it was that good they bought it, and it is that good

your work flow would be:

get the model files from whatever, into the render package (maya)

rigg in this package(maya)

export as fbx format to animation team, animate in motionbuilder, which also has a voice/audio recognition lip sync feature that is good , but just requires some tweeking afterwards. (real time viewer to which is awesome)

save the animation as fbx

merge the animation data back to maya, this applies it to the models you started with


best of luck with your project
  08 August 2005
Character Attributes are on the web site

I now have a document on the web site that lists colors, textures, attributes, personalities, visibility, how much lip synch is required for each character with submitted conceptual art. Here is the link:

I just realized I left off the easiest model, the taximeter. I'll get that on the next iteration.

Look this stuff over and see if it helps to estimate the difficulty of a model.

jayreef - thanks for the post. Your thought is to make the work flow into a funnel, every one feeds into motion builder and maya instead of trying to manage three or more separate pipielines. I hope I have the opportuity to try that. I might have to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune depending on what software a volunteer has.

Rockmanex - thanks for the pm. I'll get that art work out to you Tuesday or Wednesday evening. My plate is full right now.
Pygmalion Animation Project
  08 August 2005
More 2D Art work - Preface Characters are all in

Yesterday I received two views of the Englishman at the pub and today a sideview of the Scotsman. That means all of the 2D art work for the Preface has been turned in.

I have updated the manuals on the web site and changed the paper cut video test clip. We tweeked the camera motion and added a sound track.

Status of the 2D art work: We now have all characters except Freddy, Henry Higgins, Col. Pickering and the props. So that means we have about 75% of the 2D art work done.

If you have ever made a model from reference art, I would appreciate it if you could look at the modeler's manual and see if there is anything that could cause trouble. It is always best to find mistakes early.

Here are some more art samples:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg EdwardianSnoot2.jpg (23.2 KB, 70 views)
File Type: jpg TeenageBoyColor.jpg (27.0 KB, 80 views)
File Type: jpg GBSFrontProfile.jpg (22.8 KB, 55 views)
Pygmalion Animation Project
  08 August 2005
Post More Art, Three More Modelers Sign On

Here is the weekend report. Rockmanex has agreed to model Covent Garden Liza but he can't start until Sept 11th. That is OK. It is within a week of my official Sept 6th modeling start date. Rockmanex - I forgot to ask you, "What software will you be using to model with?"

(I'm getting lots of private messages and e-mail and that's OK as long we start to get into the habit of posting questions and progress in this thread. Otherwise when I post summaries here it looks like I'm making it up. The major reason for posting is we can get help from people who read the thread. The second reason is other people can learn this process from what we do.)

Astro-Sanchez will start with Cell Phone Boy. He uses Lightwave.

Mouli uses 3D Studio MAX 7 but there is a problem with his first choice of models and I will clear that up as quickly as possible.

Another character has complete 2D work turned in. Col. Pickering is now on the web site and in both Modeler Manuals. All we have left to go now is Freddy, Henry Higgins and two props.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Col Pickering.ModelSheet.jpg (21.9 KB, 153 views)
Pygmalion Animation Project
  08 August 2005
yeah been off the comp for a bit, cellphone boy my kinda style
i'll post up some stuff for it soon gotta finish up a few things
  08 August 2005
Hi there! Thanks for email me regarding this interesting project. I got some problem with the modelerGuide.pdf; it is a stale link.

Is the selected 3D model needs to be completed around OCT?
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