One of the things I’m trying to do with my CGI work is develop a cinematic style. Some of the digital art I see around the internet looks like it’s trying to imitate traditional illustration, other pieces look more like comic book or manga style, a lot looks like computer games. This is all fine but I want my work to look like it came from a motion picture. I want it to look like The Godfather, High and Low, Barry Lyndon, Days of Heaven, or Night of the Hunter. I want these early test images to look like a still frame ripped from a longer dramatic story.
I actually thought this image would be more of a challenge than it actually was. Lighting chrome in the real world is difficult. I was ready to abandon it if it looked terrible. I imagined I would have to light the entire set around the character but I tried lighting it directly first and it looked OK. There are only four lights working here, a cool bluish key and two reddish fills on the character, and a light on the background. I’d really like to see this character moving with all those reflections but that’s a little advanced for me right now. I’ll have to come back to this one later when I start experimenting with animation.
I went back to my first setup to try a long lens closeup. I’m not really happy with the hair. It’s a bit unrealistically kinky. The shadow makes it worse, but that’s not what this shot is about. The super exciting major point of this shot is the column in the background! I actually set a light and adjusted it myself so you could see something back there! Now I know how to set both cameras and lights! Onward…
Make sure you click on the image to see it in the original 4K size. The detail of these inexpensive models is stunning!
Another test in DAZ Studio. This time in an exterior location. (click to embiggen)
I think at this point I’ve mastered how to set a camera and control the depth of field, which has been my main focus up to now.
I’m still having trouble getting the feet on the ground correctly. The back foot just doesn’t seem to be on the ground. I think this has more to do with the shadow than anything else. I’m still using light presets that come with the environment so I’ll play around with this more when I set some custom lights.
I color corrected this a bit in Lightroom to give it a bit more punch. It makes a big difference. The two images in my previous post were right out of DAZ Studio and I see now that I should have done the extra work and color corrected them too.
That’s right. This former model builder and stop motion animator is embracing the evil, evil world of CGI.
Way back in the before time when I was a kid, my first step into narrative film-making was stop motion animation. I was a model builder and it was a natural step. It was also the only way for me to create the SciFi worlds I saw in my young head. Since then as technology advanced I always wanted to try computer animation. In fact, when I bought my first non-linear editing system, it was a toss up between that and a Kinetix 3Dmax system. I went the editing route and I have the heavy iron D/Vision workstation holding my door open to prove it! Cut to today:
Right now I’m experimenting with DAZ studio which is free software for the new CGI/Illustration market. (Go check out anything traditionally illustrated with paintings like romance novel covers and chances are you will see a CGI image created with DAZ models.) DAZ also has a marketplace where you can buy reasonably priced CGI characters, clothes, environments, and yes, spaceships! Right now I’m at the basic learning stage. I have goals like: “Can I make a character stand in a room, set a camera, and render it properly?” Well, what do you think? (click to embiggen)
Check out this video of the original Space: 1999 Eagle One 44 inch special effects model as it appears today! See the inner workings including the crude pilots in the cockpit and how the rocket engines shoot out compressed air! Fabulous!
…The Original 44 inch Eagle One special effects model, from the 1970s Gerry Anderson television series Space: 1999. The only large model available at the start of filming (it was later joined by two other similar models at that size) it featured heavily in most episodes – and was crashed many times. Now 35 years old, it has been damaged and painted several times over the years but was given a major refurbishment in 2002 to return it to it’s studio appearance and more importantly to prevent it falling apart. It should now easily last for another 35+!
We saw Steam Powered Giraffe at the Steampunk World’s Fair last weekend. Well sort of… It was really crowded in the tent where they were performing and we were stuck outside, but we stayed for a few songs. We saw a couple of good musical groups (and a few not so good) but these guys were the most “steampunky.”
We weren’t sure what this act was until we saw them. I thought maybe it was a big robot giraffe. There WAS a big robot there but it wasn’t a giraffe. Actually it wasn’t even a robot, just a statue of a robot, but it was cool. Most of the fair was like that, wandering around wondering what was going on.
I posted this video to Google+ and Facebook yesterday. It’s a really great promotional video for the upcoming film Prometheus. Today it looks like it was taken off YouTube by Comcast because of copyright. What a stupid thing to do, I thought. You want your promotional videos to be copied and posted to YouTube right? That’s the whole point of promotion. You want people to see it.
Then I realized, wait… Prometheus is a 20th Century Fox film and Comcast owns Universal. Not the same company. Is Comcast fraudulently using YouTube’s copyright protection technology against a competitor? Looks like it to me…
These kinds of shenanigans really piss me off especially since huge companies like Comcast are trying to force all kinds of new copyright restrictions on everyone. You can’t have it both ways Comcast. Copyright law is intended to protect your own content. It’s not a weapon to go after your competition.
Here’s the video on another YouTube channel. Check it out before Comcast tries to take it down!
Brian Johnson is a well known special effects genius who worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Space: 1999, and The Empire Strikes Back. He is not a good TV host. In spite of his dry delivery this documentary ends up being a treasure anyway. It’s a behind the scenes look at how they created the Eagle model shots in Space: 1999. All the composting was done in camera – no blue screen, no optical printers. The SPFX shots were one strip of film directly from the camera.
Below is a full page Log Entry from Starlog magazine, issue number six. My dad picked it up for me at the airport as he was coming home from a business trip. As I flipped through the pages I slowly realized that I enjoyed almost all the articles. Up to that point I knew I liked Star Trek re-runs on TV but I liked a lot of other unrelated things too. I didn’t understand the concept of a genre until I saw all these wonderful articles grouped together in one magazine. I decided I liked Science Fiction. It was a revelation that shaped the direction of my life.
The Star Wars preview from page nine was my first glimpse of the SciFi explosion that was to come in just a few short weeks. The blurb itself was forgettable (and as it turns out, highly inaccurate.) What dominated the page were two paintings. The scenes were so far out that they really didn’t register with me at first. Surely these were just paintings and the movie won’t look like this… right?
Younglings reading this won’t understand but before Star Wars, nothing like it existed. It was so far beyond what anyone had seen before. The commercials on TV left you stunned. The movie played in the theater for 25 weeks even in the small town I grew up in. That’s half a year. Some people went to the theater to see it 20 and 30 times.
Star Wars not only changed the course of cinema, it changed my life. It solidified my love of Science Fiction and eventually convinced me that I wanted to dedicate my life to making movies. I’ve been doing it ever since. And it all started with this one page in a magazine dominated by these two magnificent paintings.
James Spione, a friend of mine from back in film school, has snagged an Academy Award nomination for Documentary Short Subject. Congratulations to him and to Ethan McCord the subject of the film. It took an awful lot of courage from both of them to speak out on this subject and as an American I am glad I was able to see this story. The film has won several awards already and I predict it will win the Oscar too. Hopefully all the recognition will lead to wider distribution so everyone will have a chance to see it.