Archive for the ‘Digital Art’ Category

Cogswell Presents: Nye Warburton

Thursday, November 6th, 2014
Cogswell College Presents: Nye Warburton
Cogswell Presents: Nye Warburton
Tuesday, November 11th
12:45 – 1:30
Dragon’s Den

Students!
Do you find yourself starting projects that never get finished, or find yourself swimming in awesome ideas and never do anything with them? Come see Nye on Tuesday to learn how to…

Finish it! How to take your creative ideas and finish the project.
Tips from the industry. How to go from idea to final film, or final game, or whatever you are building. A little bit of project management, a little bit of creative advice and a little bit about the business and how to get your work out there.

About Nye:
Nye Warburton is an animator, cartoonist, game designer and artist. His graduate thesis film, Magnetism, landed him in the Los Angeles animation industry in 2004. He spent a decade at studios like Electronic Arts, Sony Imageworks, Fox, Blur, Proof, Digital Domain and  The Third Floor. He has worked on 30+ high budget films including Monster House, Thor, Battleship, Men in Black III and Oblivion. He has had development deals with Fox Animation and Comedy Central, as well working on several independently funded animation and game projects.

Nye currently works as a creative director for start ups, out of his office space in downtown Los Angeles. Visit him online at http://nyewarburton.com

Concept Art Process for Award-Winning Short Animated Films

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Kong Vang, Cogswell alumni and Art Director of two short animated films

Kong Vang, Cogswell alumni and Art Director of the two short animated films “Driven” and “Worlds Apart” – both created in Cogswell College’s Project X class – shares his process of creating character concept designs and more.

While working on the films created in the Project X class, I learned that it takes a very dedicated team to make a short film in four semesters or less. Many of the students on this team are attending classes full-time in addition to contributing their talents towards making an awesome film.

Here’s an overview of what happens during the production process of a short animated film: First the script and storyboards are completed and approved, within the first semester. Meanwhile, the concept team begins creating concepts for characters and environments.  Approved concepts are sent into the modeling pipeline as soon as they are approved where our artists create 3d models. As each model is approved by the Director, they are sent into the texturing and rigging pipeline. Technical artists create animation rigs for each model and prepare them for animation testing.  Animation is a long process so it is important to get the rigged 3D models to the animators as soon as possible. Animation takes almost a year to get all of the shots approved.  After the animation is polished, the first test of the film timing is created, approved, and sent off to the sound effects and music score team.  Also during the process of animation, approved shots are sent to the lighting team for light set and test render. When the finalized lit shots are rendered out, they are sent to the compositing team for the final clean up. After the composite shots are cleaned up and finalized, they are sent off to the film editor who creates the final cut of the film and music score.

On the latest film ‘Driven’, each member of the team wore different hats depending on which stage of the production pipeline the film was in.  For instance, initially I started out in the concept design pipeline, then moved to the animation pipeline and finally to matte painting for the final stage of the film.

One of my jobs as a concept designer was to collect the approved designs from the other artists and finalize them. Because most approved designs are from different artists, each with their own distinct style, the finalization process ensures a consistent look and feel. After finalizing the look and stylization of the characters, I would render each character in 2D using Adobe Photoshop so that it would represent its 3d counterpart.  This allows the Director to easily visualize how each character will look before it gets passed along to the modeling team.

Digital media is the fastest way to work and Photoshop offers the perfect tools and work flow for this demanding field. With infinite tool presets, custom brushes, and limitless iterations, it allows me to work more quickly and easily compared to traditional mediums like paint or ink.

To block out the initial character’s silhouette, I like to use a standard round brush, which I adjust into an ellipse shape, then angle it 45 degrees. This style of brush setup creates a line weight that flows much more nicely than the standard round brushes. Once the silhouettes and internal shapes look good, I create a new layer in Photoshop and start to block out the forms with one color value. At this early stage, I prefer to work in black and white.  It makes it easier to focus just on values and form rather than getting caught up about the colors. My preference in digital painting is to work from dark to light values, or shadows to highlights. It has been my experience to get results much faster using this method than trying to paint from light to dark.  I push and pull (lighten and darken) the values until the character forms are clear.  During this process, I maintain a wide range of values to create depth and realism.

Once the characters have been sketched out, it’s time to experiment with color palettes. I like give a slight color tint to the values before painting on top of the black and white image. The tint layer acts as a color wash so none of the black and gray value show through later. I create a new layer and set the Layer Mode to “Color”. I start by painting over the character with the color palette that the team agrees on. By using multiple layers, I don’t lose my original black and white image – and I can test out different color schemes.  Once I’ve added general color blocks to the characters, I use a new layer to start painting in details. For the final detail stage, I use textures and custom brushes to polish the look of the characters.

The development stages from concept to finished product vary from character to character; it all depends on what the Director is looking for. For example, secondary characters may be approved before main characters. Main characters are often challenging as they have to be visually pleasing and have the right visual attitude. On the other hand secondary characters have far less restrictions, allowing flexibility for designers to explore their creativity.

The concept team spent almost an entire semester designing characters. After four months and multiple iterations, all nine characters were finally approved. Once approved, I took the concepts and started finalizing each character’s look. It took me roughly four or five hours to render out the first pass of each character to show the Director.  One character in particular – the adult Biff cop – took almost ten hours to design.  After multiple small changes, the final designs were approved.

One of the most surprising and challenging characters to design was the Jet Bike that the main character rides.  Its importance in the film is equal to the character that rides it. Although there were many great concept designs shown to the Director, none of them were approved. That’s when I was given the tough task of designing the bike. After fifty designs, we started to narrow down the concept. Once the main silhouette was chosen, I mixed elements from the best three designs together to get the final jet bike concept. The process for this single ‘character’ took three or four weeks, from start to finish, working with traditional mediums like graphite and paper.

This is just the front-end of the production pipeline for a short animated film. It takes a strong team and lots of man hours to complete the film. In the end many people had come and gone, and lots of talented people contributed to the film. We were all so glad that the film was finally finished. It took the PX team about four semesters and two summers of hard work to accomplish the short film, Driven. The Project X class has given me the best hands-on experience possible. It has definitely changed my future and life for the better. Thanks Project X!

Kong Vang

Thoughts from Inside the Star Thief Studio Project Class

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Star Thief Studio Logo - Animated Short Film Project

For two semesters, I was part of Star Thief Studio (formerly Studio E) – a project-based class that creates an animated short in an on-campus environment that mirrors an industry studio production pipeline. When I first started out, I had a very general idea of what I’d be doing, but in truth I was heading into the project pretty much blind, and hoping that I’d be able to perform on the same level as the other artists. During the first week, we were separated into different groups: pre-visualization (pre-vis), production, and post-production. The pre-vis group had duties including concept art, color keys, layout, and animation blocking— mostly preliminary planning and design. Members of the production group started on animation, character modeling and painting backgrounds. The post-production group was tasked with polishing, texturing, lighting, and general effects that would make the project visually appealing.

As a general painter and designer, I helped out in several different areas. My first group did design and layout, followed by texturing and painting.  I moved onto several other areas as well, helping out wherever needed, as phases of the production cycle started and ended.

Star Thief Studio Character Model

Star Thief Studio Character Model

Our studio’s pipeline used a structure where we tackled one shot at a time. First the storyboards were completed and handed off to a layout artist, who created a 3D scene in Autodesk Maya, based off of the storyboard. In addition, rough color keys were created to determine an artistic direction for the background elements. Preliminary animations were blocked out, based on initial layouts, and later replaced by polished animations with the finalized characters and completed backgrounds. The process concluded with a combination of polishing, re-assembling, and finalizing texturing and lighting. Because of our unique process, each group within the studio was constantly involved.

My day-to-day process started with talking with the team to find out what was needed and then picking up tasks to help complete a scene. Often, I took 3D models that our artists created, imported them into Mudbox or Photoshop and painted them.  I would then re-import everything back into Maya. The models were then placed into a scene to create the background.

Star Thief Studio - Oak Tree Model with Animated Leaves

Star Thief Studio - Oak Tree Model with Animated Leaves

By the end of my time at Star Thief Studio, I had experienced modeling, rigging, and background animation in addition to the painting that I was already doing. Working within the studio has shown me that you get a broader experience when working on a large-scale project.  I found myself juggling tasks I didn’t expect, and it was an interesting experience. It pushed me to grow my skills in certain areas which have helped me to become a more roundly-developed artist.

Whether or not I will actively use the skills I’ve gained on this project once I start my career, I do not know.  But, as a once very traditionally-based artist, I’ve definitely become more technically nerdy. What I do know is that by doing a little bit of everything, I understand more about the roles that comprise a studio.  This will help me in the future to understand the needs of everyone within a studio and allow the pipeline to run more smoothly.

I hope that everyone will enjoy our film when it is released, and perhaps will have an opportunity to understand and appreciate the multi-layered process of creating an animated short. This team has truly created something extraordinary.

Sierra Gaston

Cogswell Student’s Artwork Featured On Kotaku!

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
Matt Bard

Dungeonesque Walls

One of our students, Matt “Bardler” Bard, had his polycount rock formation featured on Kotaku as, “A rather magnificent-looking, somewhat dungeonesque wall from Bardler”

Clicker here for the article!

Awesome job, Matt!

DreamWorksTV Hits YouTube With Shrek the Ogre ‘Vlogger’

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

DreamWorks Animation has launched its YouTube arm, DreamWorksTV, with a slew of “vloggers” that you’ve come to know on the big screen (including Shrek, Puss in Boots and Kung Fu Panda) — and quite a few original newcomers, too.

As of Monday morning, DWA is officially cashing in on the No. 1 reason it bought Awesomeness TV for $33 million plus incentives last year: so it could leverage its popular animated characters online and help launch a bunch of new ones.

DreamWorksTV “combines DreamWorks Animation’s expertise as a global family entertainment brand with the digital savvy of AwesomenessTV,” the company said in a statement. DWA also shared several video clips exclusively with Mashable that will appear on DreamWorksTV for its Monday launch and in the coming days, including Shrek dispensing dubious oral hygiene advice (above).

Besides vlog posts from its stable of time-tested ‘toons, DreamWorksTV is also featuring original live-action shorts, including family-friendly reality shows Prank My Parents and Record Setter Kids; original animated web series like Jimmy Blue Shorts and Report Card.

If there was any doubt that AwesomenessTV is a huge part of this new effort, look no further than its founder, Brian Robbins, who is overseeing it for DreamWorks Animation.

“We’re tapping into the invaluable knowledge that Brian has amassed from his success with AwesomenessTV to create a unique, short-form, laugh-out-loud mobile experience for families,” DWA’s CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said. “This is a huge opportunity for the DreamWorks brand.”

Additional series include kid-comedian sketch comedy show OMG; ensemble comedy Public Pool, which is actually about the goings-on at a public pool; Fifi: Cat Therapist, about a house cat who dispenses advice to neighborhood animals; best-of-web-shorts curation Watch This; and RetroToons, highlights from DreamWorks Animation’s classic media library.

Look for more original series on DreamWorksTV as summer rolls on, including Richie Rich, an original scripted series based on the comic book character.

Original post here.

CGI Far From Monkey-Business in Dawn of the Planet of The Apes

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

The latest installment of the Planet of the Apes franchise displays some of the most innovative CGI techniques to date. Weta Digital, the CGI mastermind behind such films as Ironman, Man of Steel and Avatar, has further evolved the digital animation process to achieve lifelike effects. Actors work side by side with the digital art and animation teams to achieve realistic facial expressions bringing the computer generated images to life.

In his article, “Is This the Most Remarkable CGI in a Film Ever?” Patrick Jong Tayor comments on the sequel’s amazing attention to detail. “To make it work, Weta Digital employed dozens of wireless 3D cameras to faithfully capture the actors playing the apes, who donned motion capture suits with active marker strands, measuring position, velocity and acceleration even if the markers were obscured from camera view, and witness cameras mounted to the suits to capture facial mocap information.”

Cogswell offers programs in Digital Art and Animation designed to prepare students for exciting careers throughout the entertainment, media and art industries. As seen with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, CGI techniques need to be ever-evolving in order to compete with the next big blockbuster.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has an interesting plotline, astounding CGI effects, and a smooth transition in the fictional 10-year time gap between films. Do you plan on seeing this summer blockbuster? Are you Team Human or Team Ape? Tell us in the comment section below.

Source: RedShark News

CGI Brings Fast and The Furious Back to Life

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

This past November actor Paul Walker and star of the popular “Fast & Furious” franchise passed away in a tragic car accident. His death came as a shock to his friends, family, and costars alike.
Walker’s death also put producers Vin Diesel and Neil H. Moritz in a bind of figuring out how to have Walker’s star character, Brian O’Conner, exit the franchise in the upcoming Fast and the Furious 7. Production was well underway for the film’s seventh installments, posing the question, how can this be done? CGI technology allows digital animation artists to bring Walker back to life.

The New York Daily News reports that, “They have hired four actors with bodies very similar to Paul’s physique and they will be used for movement and as a base,” one source close to production tells us. “Paul’s face and voice will be used on top using CGI”.

This CGI call has sparked controversy amongst fans and critics, half arguing that this could be creepy and distasteful, while the other half agree it’s the only way possible to witness Walker’s final performance.

In the past, films in similar situations rarely achieve box office success with attempts to reshoot, recast or simply omit characters that have untimely passed midway through production. However, with the highly successful Fast & Furious franchise (the latest installment Fast & Furious 6 bringing in a whopping $789 million) the pressure is on to successfully transition Walker’s character out in a strategic and respectful manner.

Do you think using CGI is distasteful or creepy for bringing the deceased back to life? Or do you think it’s a just technological solution to reprise his final role? Are you planning on seeing Fast & Furious 7? Tell us in the comments below!

Quote and Image Source:

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/confidential/fast-furious-7-double-time-walker-article-1.1728704

Godzilla vs. Smaug: Who Wins This Dragon Duel?

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Godzilla has fought many a monster — from giant moths to massive robots to smog incarnate to even King Kong — and he’s lived to roar about it.

But what would happen if the King of the Monsters faced down the dragon Smaug from J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic “The Hobbit”?  With a new “Godzilla” stomping to theaters next week, and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” recently out on home video and “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” on the way in December, we thought it would be fun to pit these two behemoths — one a Japanese kaiju, or “strange creature,” and an avatar of the Nuclear Age; the other a fire-drake from the North in Tolkien’s mythical Middle-earth — against each other.

To break down the matchup, Speakeasy enlisted two experts: In Godzilla’s corner, we have Chris Picard, owner and editor of the Godzilla-movies.com fansite, citing contributions from staffer Gregory Hudgens. Representing Smaug’s side is “Demosthenes,” the news editor of TheOneRing.net, a popular fansite dedicated to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works and the films based on them.

To see the argument category by category, visit the full article here.

The Sims 4: Unique Fusion of A.I. Technology and Emotion-Based Soundtrack offers Gamers New Ways to interact with their Sims

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Since 2000 The Sims has been a staple in the gaming world, setting the standard for real-life simulation.  However in recent years the various expansion packs and add-ons have confused consumers on the brand that original creator Will Wright began 14 years ago.

The Sims 4 offers new and exciting features that will remind gamers of the original game rooted in emotion. “SmartSim”, is a new feature that heightens emotions for the Sims. During gameplay, the Sims’ emotions are impacted in different ways, for example, hobbies, relationships, food, etc. Combined with new digital animation techniques and A.I. technology, the “Smart Sim” is a completely new breed of Sim.

In the past Sims never interacted with the gamer. However, by adding emotion, and a new soundtrack, the Sim can now react with the gamer through music. Soundtrack composer Ilan Eshkeri had to create scores that could take advantage of the SmartSim’s emotional capabilities and also hark back to earlier stages in the game.

“If something emotional happens… I’d try to relate all of those to a few notes or a riff or a chord sequence that appeared in one of the longer pieces of background music. For example, if character is doing something in the house or if something breaks in the house, I’d try to relate that to the music you heard when you were building the house,” Eshkeri said.

According to executive producer Rachel Franklin, the flow of the game comes together with the marriage of sound design and digital animation technology. “Ilan is known for these theatrical sweeping, wonderful compositions,” Franklin said. “It’s a way for the Sim to respond back to the player… You can really feel that in the audio. Combining that with animation technology and facial emotional overlays… things work together in a really cool way to make you feel more related to your Sim. Because ultimately you’re caring for them…the music brings your relationship really to a height.”

Cogswell College offers programs in Digital Art and Animation, Digital Audio Technology, and Game Design.  Titles like The Sims 4 wouldn’t be possible without the technological advancement of these disciplines.  – Learn more about the opportunities these programs can provide TODAY!

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/may/07/sims-4-composer-ilan-eshkeri

Low-Budget Projects Offer Promising ROI Thanks to Digital Technology Advances and Creative Marketing Strategy

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Low budget film and animation productions utilize every means possible to get the job done, all the while watching every penny.  Filmmakers often tell stories of their earlier work, from casting parents and friends, to shooting in their neighbor’s backyard.

However, within the last ten years we’ve seen a jump in the quality of low budget projects as well as higher profits. The 2009 box office hit Paranormal Activity was filmed on a budget of only $450K and brought in over $89 million in profits. That’s a 19,849% return on investment!  This is all thanks in part to smart viral marketing campaigns, as well as creative editing via digital technology.

Independent filmmakers and animators are able to create projects more cost effectively compared to the big name studios. Since their projects are low budget, an independent project can afford to fail, compared to a major motion picture company flop that could cost millions.

In the case of Paranormal Activity, we saw a highly creative viral marketing campaign based on sounds and reactions that fed off human curiosity. Online trailers showed clips of the audience’s reactions of sheer terror, paired with strategic sound design. Digital Audio was key in adding to the fear factor to the preview. This drove traffic into the theaters and proved to be another contributing factor to the project’s success.

Cogswell College offers programs in Digital Art and Animation designed to prepare students for careers throughout the entertainment industries. Cogswell also offers programs in Digital Audio Technology, which provides project-based instruction for a wide range of professional audio fields by developing skills in sound design for film and other areas. Both areas are key for independent low-budget projects to become box office hits.