OM3D – 3D Manipulation of 2D Photos

November 14th, 2014

When it comes to editing photographs, Photoshop reigns supreme. But what if there was a better approach to editing a photograph? What if you could take an element within a picture and have full manipulation control over everything about it? Better yet, what if you could do it for free? Researchers over at Carnegie Mellon and the University of California found a way to do just that – through the announcement of a new, free, suite of 3D manipulation software. Their software, titled OM3D, allows a user to take an object within a 2D photograph and turn it into a 3D model. That model can then be manipulated and moved around the photo however the user desires. It also allows the users to adjust the lighting and texture of an object in order to blend in with its surroundings. The software achieves this by utilizing vast libraries of stock photographs and 3D models, and compares them to the two dimensional object the user wishes to shape. It then merges the attributes from the library of stock photos with that of the 2D object to create a 3D model that is viewable from every angle. Once the model is created, the photograph can be freely edited.


Demonstration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipTyCJi0t1Y
Download: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~om3d/code/OM3D_1_0_0_source.zip

The Book Of Life, New Knowledge

November 13th, 2014

Recently I had the pleasure of watching The Book of Life with my family. I’ll be perfectly honest, I didn’t know about the movie until a few days before Halloween. An animator who wasn’t aware of such an original movie? My word! But I saw it, and I’m glad I did. The Book of Life is brought to us by Mexican Director Jorge R. Gutierrez, co-creator of the cartoon series “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera”. After spending years trying to get somebody to believe in the project, Guillermo Del Toro signed on as producer.

Presented in a beautiful and original style, the main characters in The Book of Life are animated wooden sculptures bursting with life and emotion. There’s no shortage of appealing facial expressions and great character animation, each character moves and behaves in her or her own unique way. Color is a main focus of the art direction as well, each scene practically glows, with set pieces so intricate and detailed you swear you could reach out and touch them. The story is wholesome as well, having a little bit of everything. Family, friendship, love, growing up and more. I definitely recommend the movie if you haven’t already seen it.

Watching the movie reminded me of my current classes at Cogswell College and what is being taught in them. Most recently, I’ve been learning about the importance of lighting when it comes to character definition and scene composition. Both elements are used quite successfully in the movie. In the past, I had trouble establishing multiple layers of depth in a scene using contrast, or value; my art would look flat. What I’ve learned in my classes is that by using a simple gray scale, you can compose a scene or render a character in black and white and then make a value scale with colors, if you wish to color it all. I never knew! Perhaps someday when my skills are up to par, or better than industry standards, you will see my name in the long list of movie credits or posters around your hometown. Until then, I’m learning, getting better, hopeful and excited for what the future may bring.

Thanks for reading.

Juan Rubio, Digital Art & Animation Student

IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Meeting

November 12th, 2014

Cogswell Presents: IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Meeting
Wednesday, November 12th
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Dragon’s Den

The Silicon Valley chapter of the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) will be meeting on-campus at Cogswell on 11/12 in the Dragon’s Den at 7 pm. PlayPhone will demo integration of the Android SDK into a game and discuss why PlayPhone’s carrier gaming network is the essential addition to traditional publishing channels to maximize discovery, engagement and revenue.

More on PlayPhone:

PlayPhone is the world’s premier mobile social gaming network. Our social gaming platform enables mobile carriers to easily offer their customers a leading edge, personalized gaming experience with the most advanced social gaming features available today. PlayPhone reaches more than a billion mobile subscribers worldwide via game stores live on Verizon, Sprint, SingTel, Telkomsel, Vivo, Claro, TIM, Virgin Mobile, Mobily and Boost Mobile ­ with more carriers coming soon. In addition, PlayPhone lets game developers launch games globally and access carrier billing for all game stores plus a complete toolbox of social and monetization features using a single integration SDK. PlayPhone’s Android, Unity and HTML5 SDK is less than 100KB and takes about an hour to integrate into games.

Additional sponsors: Five Leaf Clover, Mary-Margaret Network.
http://www.playphone.com/

Day of the Devs

November 10th, 2014

Day of the Devs - Double Fine convention - in San Francisco, California

It was a video game enthusiast’s paradise. Screens and consoles decked every wall of (nearly) every room of the two story Old Mint building in San Francisco, all displaying demos of games to be released within the next year. There was a crowd gathered around each display, each person eager to get a chance at playing the game. I was attending with a few other friends from Cogswell, whose brains I could audibly hear exploding as they took in scenery and games around them.

The turnout of indie game developers was amazing. Day of the Devs was hosted by Double Fine, so they had a room full of their own soon-to-be-released games such as Costume Quest 2 and even a remastered version of Grim Fandango, but the rest of the building was filled with small studio games like Night In The Woods and Knight Squad (my personal favorites), Classroom Aquatic, Push Me Pull You, Spy Party, Ikarus, and Please Don’t, Spacedog. A few of the games were played with an Oculus Rift headset. There was even a swag shop full of t-shirts and books related to the games. Outside in the courtyard was a bar and a stage where live DJ’s played music, and games were actively played on a large screen by their developers.

It was enough to make any self-declared nerd hyperventilate. Being as there were a thousand in attendance, the excitement in the air was palpable. Within the first ten minutes, I was thrown a controller and fighting in an arena with five or six other well-seasoned game players. My first thought was along the line of panic, as I was sure I was going to get my butt kicked by people who definitely played more often than I did, but by the first game I was hooked and throwing other players to their deaths.

In the game Classroom Aquatic, one player wore Oculus Rift headgear and was plunged into an underwater school for dolphins. The character they played was a student diver who hadn’t studied for a test. As a result, the player is forced to cheat off of the neighboring students in the room. The trick was to avoid being caught by the teacher. The game effectively gave the player knots in their stomach, and was especially nerve-wracking when players were caught and scolded by the teacher.

Day of the Devs was amazing for one huge reason; EVERYONE there was in love with games, whether they were fans or developers. As a result, there was a feeling of common purpose and enthusiasm. We were all there for the same thing, and it was exciting to be in a place where people from inside the industry and out of it mixed together in a gaming paradise.

During the course of the evening, we got to talk to Double Fine creators, several other indie game makers, and even managed some networking with other people in the game industry! It was absolutely a beneficial experience, and it made the prospect of graduation and getting to work in the industry more tangible. I’m looking forward to next year with Day of the Devs!

SIGGRAPH Selects Cogswell College Dean Jerome Solomon as 2017 Conference Chair

November 8th, 2014

Jerome Solomon selected=

ACM SIGGRAPH is pleased to announce the selection of Jerome Solomon, Dean of the College at Cogswell College, as the SIGGRAPH 2017 Conference Chair. Solomon has been previously involved within the ACM SIGGRAPH community and will undoubtedly bring his knowledge and experience to his new role. “His superb skills, grasp of the industry, and professionalism will tremendously benefit SIGGRAPH,” said Rebecca Strzelec, SIGGRAPH Conference Advisory Group Chair. “I am confident that Jerome will take SIGGRAPH 2017 to the next level.”

Jerome Solomon has 17 years of industry experience in Hollywood. He has worked at Industrial Light and Magic, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts and Rhythm & Hues Studios. During his career, he received film credits on “Avatar,” “Madagascar,” “Shrek 2,” “Babe,” “Ace Ventura II,” and “Batman & Robin.” In addition, he has shipped 3 AAA game titles: “Star Wars: Force Unleashed,” “Tiger Woods 07″ and “The Godfather Game.”

Solomon holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Engineering from UCLA and a Masters of Science Degree from Georgia Institute of Technology in Computer Animation. SIGGRAPH 2017 takes place from July 30 to August 3, 2017, in Los Angeles, California. Solomon will follow SIGGRAPH 2015 Conference Chair Marc Barr from Middle Tennessee State University and SIGGRAPH 2016 Conference Chair Mona Kasra from University of Texas at Dallas.

For further information on this announcement, please contact media@siggraph.org.

Watch Solomon’s interview with Steve Waskul here:
Jerome Solomon interview with Steve Waskul

About SIGGRAPH 2015

The annual SIGGRAPH conference is a five-day interdisciplinary educational experience in the latest computer graphics and interactive techniques, including a three-day commercial exhibition that attracts hundreds of exhibitors from around the world. The conference also hosts the international SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival, showcasing works from the world’s most innovative and accomplished digital film and video creators. Juried and curated content includes outstanding achievements in time-based art, scientific visualization, visual effects, real-time graphics, and narrative shorts. SIGGRAPH 2015 will take place from August 9-15, 2015, in Los Angeles, California. Visit the SIGGRAPH 2015 website or follow SIGGRAPH on Facebook and Twitter for more detailed information.

- See more on the Siggraph website

Feature Spotlight: Modeling Toolkit

November 7th, 2014
Autodesk Maya 2014 Modeling Toolkit

Autodesk Maya 2014 Modeling Toolkit

Before Autodesk’s 2014 version of Maya, trying to find the mesh editing tools you needed within Maya was a bother. You had to go through a cluttered UI (user interface) just to find that one tool that always seemed important enough to have its own tab. You were also limited to having one component tool active at a time: face selection, vertex selection or edge selection. Often times I’ve wondered why Maya couldn’t have cleaner functionality like its counterpart, 3DSMax. After all, both programs are made by Autodesk and 3DSMax is far less technical and more forgiving.

Suddenly, from what seemed like out of nowhere, Autodesk introduced the Modeling Toolkit with their 2014 release of Maya. It is a 3D modelers dream! All of the most commonly used tools are now set up right in front of you, in one click of a button. Gone are the days of rummaging through the 3D modeling program, just to find one primary tool.

Need to have all component tools active at once? No problem, just click multi-component.

Need to work on two sides of a model at once? It’s as simple as selecting a center edge, and clicking symmetry.

Thank you Maya for making this modeler’s life easier!

Peter Gazallo

Cogswell Presents: Nye Warburton

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

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

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

Animation Show of Shows – The Student Perspective

October 6th, 2014

On Thursday evening, the 25th of September 2014, Cogswell College was given the privilege of once again being host to the Animation Show of Shows. A collection of the most intriguing (and at times perplexing) animated shorts of the year from all over the world, the 16th Annual Show of Shows demonstrated a diverse number of contributors, ranging from studios like Disney and Pixar to small indie production teams.
Prior to the show, the two shorts that were easily the most anticipated by students were titled LAVA and Feast, from the studios of Pixar and Disney respectively. Feast followed the technique of an earlier short by Disney called Paperman, using 3D animation with the appearance of a 2D medium. With Feast, more concentration was placed on the language of shape and color in contrast to each other.

Feast by Disney

The story follows a stray puppy that is saved from the streets and given a home. The puppy is very lucky indeed, because his new owner is the kind of person who enjoys cooking for their pet on a daily basis. Consequently,

the pup is showered with bacon, eggs, spaghetti and meatballs. (At this point, I was feeling rather envious and really wishing I was the dog instead of a college student who doesn’t have time to cook.) Suddenly things change for the dog when his owner finds himself a girlfriend! *Gasp* Much to the dog’s horror (and to mine, being raised in an especially carnivorous family where meat takes up the top three food groups), his meaty, greasy diet is replaced by sprigs of parsley and brussel sprouts due to the girlfriend’s health-conscious influence. I won’t detail out what happens next, as the ending should be saved, but the resolution was pretty satisfying and it was easily one of my favorite shorts in the whole collection.

Other shorts in the program were more figurative instead of having an obvious plot (at the end of one, a friend turned around to me and whispered “What the hell did we just watch?”) and some in particular were on the depressing side and made the audience question life in general. One distinctive short was titled We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, which was simultaneously humorous and heartbreaking as it followed the story of two astronauts who were as close as brothers.

The biggest impact of all was made by the short titled Hipopotamy which the show’s curator, Ron Diamond, saved for last because – in his words – we wouldn’t be able to concentrate on any other shorts after we’d seen it.
Hipopotamy, by Piotr Durnala, framed humans in a light as if we behaved like hippos—the reverse of the concept of anthropomorphism. What we didn’t expect was that every character in the short was pretty darn naked in the most blatant sense. It was also disturbing as we found out that the humans behaved with extremely animistic instincts—children were not spared from violence, and women were subjugated to open force. It was a raw outlook on perhaps how similar humans’ behavior really is comparable to that of animals like the hippopotamus, and could be interpreted as a statement about things that desperately need to be changed about society.

After going to the Show of Shows last year, I was hooked and eager to see the presentations again this year. I definitely was not disappointed—I walked away inspired and feeling just a little bit different. It’s a refreshing perspective to see things from someone else’s eyes, and Ron Diamond’s collection achieved that for me once again.

by Sierra Gaston, Digital Art & Animation Student

Photos:
Feast by Disney
Ron Diamond (left), curator of Animation Show of Shows with Cogswell College Dean (right), Jerome Solomon