Saturday, October 29, 2011

Catching Up/3 Random Tests

Wow, it's been a WHILE hasn't it?  Well, what have I been up to?  Lots!  I got a new laptop as a late graduation present, and I've been doing a lot of fluid and particle tests with Maya.  I've focused on character effects for so long, and I want to jump into something new and exciting.  It's been fantastic struggling with particles and fluids.  They have the potential to produce phenomenal effects, but you have to know how to manipulate the 4903583095804802 attributes in order to create them. (Well, maybe not, but you should at least know what 20% of them do, and I don't lol).  Remember that nuke I said I wanted to make?  I started re-familiarizing myself with making nukes so, hopefully, it's only a matter of time before I can recreate that one.  We'll see.

Also, I DID finish that one of the nCloth tutorials I wanted to make.  It's on my old laptop (oops).  So I need to get it, export the video and upload it.  I need to create the painting attributes one.  I also want to talk about keying attributes.  I have no idea when I'll get around to that one.

As always, I'm here to learn, not just share and talk to myself.  If you have any constructive feedback on anything I say/do, I would absolutely love to hear it.  I'm always willing to share my test files if you want to help me, or learn from them.


I'm trying to get familiar with rendering particles with mental ray.  I've learned a little, but I still have a LOT to learn.  If anyone has tips or suggestions, I'd LOVE to hear them!

100k particles

2 minutes a frame

1 point light with Ray Trace shadows enabled

Pretty new to nukes, thought I'd give them a try.  I've got a very basic set up.

Container 20 40 20
Resolution 140 180 140
High Detail Solve on all grid except Velocity

1 lonely surface emitter

I think it's pretty cool for a second attempt, but I don't know why it looks "chunky" or pixelated or whatever.  It's like you can see the grid in the fluid or something.  Tear it apart, I'd love some critiques/suggestions.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Yay! I'm a graduate!

So I walked in December. Officially graduated in May. I'm just now getting my diploma. Why am I getting this so late?  Well, it turns out that I forgot to take my exit interview for one of my student loans.


Well, I did it and now I have my diploma! Yay! I wish it had the name of my major and minor on it but whatever.

^_^ Yay!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spell check

I noticed three typos on my resume that must have been there for a year. I'm so embarrassed. I typed my resume in Adobe Illustrator but even then, I converted my PDF a Word document and ran spell check. I know I did. How in the world did I let three typos slip?



Thursday, July 21, 2011

Painting Cloth Attributes - especially Damp

If you've worked with nCloth longer than 10 minutes, you'll notice that your cloth can get, for lack of a better term, bouncy. It's sloshes all around and keeps bouncing and moving, even when the character has stopped. A few things can prevent this, but the main one is Damp.

What is Damp?

Damp diminishes the movement of the cloth by dissipating it's energy. Higher damp = less energy. Be careful with this though. If your Damp value is too high, your cloth can look gummy.

In previous versions of Maya, you could paint certain attributes like Thickness, Friction, Bounce etc. So if your cloth had a Friction value of 1, and you painted a third of it black, a third of it 50% gray, and a third of it black, the black section of the cloth wouldn't have friction at all, the gray section would have a friction value of .5 and white section would have a friction value of 1.

Now, in Maya 2012, you can paint more attributes, like Damp. I've been waiting for them to do this FOREVER! I'm so excited! Yay!

Painting attributes on cloth can be a huge help in getting it to behave properly. When one part needs to behave a little differently than the rest of the garment, painting the attributes could be just the trick to getting this to behave properly.

I'm creating a tutorial on it, so look out for it.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Simulation is like awesome icing

It's a hard line to walk.

You kind of want no one to notice hair/cloth/fur work in an animated movie. Unlike great animation, great simulations should go by unnoticed. It's supposed to add to an animated figure, not detract from it.

Meanwhile, you kind of want people to notice it. I saw Shrek 2 when I was 17 or so and I was amazed when Charming took off his helmet and did his hair flip. It was so beautiful to me. Or the hair work in Advent Children. Phenomenal. Even people who don't know a thing about animation or simulation comment on how well Tifa and Sephiroth's hair looks and moves in that movie.

I guess character simulation is a lot like icing on a cake. Plain cake is good. Cake with icing is awesome. When you eat cake with icing though, people usually don't comment on how great the icing is, just how good the cake is. If the icing is bad, people say the cake is bad.

It might be a little strange, but when a group of people watches a shot I've worked on, and no one comments on the hair or cloth at all, I take it as a compliment.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Cloth Cheat #2

It's been a while since I've talked about nCloth, so let's do that now.

I hope you all know about face normals.


Well, a normal tells you what direction a face is facing. You can see them by going to Display > Polygons > Face Normals. See those green things on one side? They're normals, telling you which direction the face is facing. (Hide them by going to the same place you went to make them appear).

The direction of your normals is really important when it comes to cloth simulation. Normals should always face out, for collision objects and cloth objects.

Why? Well, when you apply nCloth, and you want to adjust an attribute like Thickness, nCloth assumes that the normals are facing out and so, the thickness grows outward, in the direction the normal is facing. If your normals are facing the wrong way, your collisions will either fail or won't be nearly as accurate as they should.

Why? Let's continue to use Thickness as an example. Say you have a body and an article of clothing, a dress. Oops, the body's normals are facing inward. That means, the top of the body has no thickness. The dress will sink through until it reaches the thick part of the body, which is inside!

Indecent exposure. Pretty sure that's a no-no for any animated shot. (or maybe it isn't, in which case, I kinda want to see what you're working on...)

And this is just one attribute. Many other attributes depend on the direction of a face.

So what's the cheat?

Say you forgot to check your normals before you made your garment nCloth (shame!). You can't change them after the fact unless you remove nCloth, change the normals then reapply nCloth. What do you do now?


Let's continue to use Thickness as an example.

Instead of making the Thickness value 0.5, make it -0.5.

The thickness will grow from the bottom of the face rather than the top. It's a great cheat, especially if you're only working with one article of clothing.

I'll let you in on a little secret. If you look at the longest shot on my demo reel, the shot with the Nobleman and the Scribe walking away, I had to use this cheat on the Scribe's sleeves.



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Depressing in a funny sort of way

I've gotten decent feedback on my demo reel. I've been given amazing tips on how to improve it, but I've also been told that the work that's in it is good. That makes me happy. What's a little depressing is that I get comments like, "Wow, if I'd seen this a year ago, I could have hired you. It's a shame that we don't have the money to bla bla bla". I've graduated, I have a decent demo reel, the job market sucks.

Then, you get industry people who get mad at people in my position when we want to offer our services for free, or for a reduced rate. It's not like I can go barging into ILM and demand 95k a year with no experience.

I think that's what's bothering me. I'm at the point where I just want to start doing what I love to do with other people who love doing what they're doing. I want experience in my field. I want to work, and getting paid would be nice too.

Ok, before you look at me like I'm insane, please note that I know people don't go skipping into work every day and hum a little tune as they work 10 hours straight. I don't have any illusions that work will be any different from school, where you slave over something until you beat it into submission. That's fine. But at the end of the day, I put my blood into learning a skill (that I love), so I could do what I love and share that passion with other people.

I shouldn't whine. I'm not one of those people that's been out of a job for 3 years and has a family to support. I'm a recent graduate who's only been seriously looking for work for about 6 months. That's normal, right? I should just be patient, keep getting better at what I do, and at some point something will happen.



Grad Schools and Job Hunting

Yep. I'm doing both at the same time because I am a glutton for punishment.

My family and I drove to Savannah, Georgia which is where SCAD university is. It's about a 2 hour drive from where I live to where my family is, then another 8 to Savannah.

I updated the resume section of this blog, finally, then I went on a two hour tour of SCAD in Savannah, Georgia. It's an amazing, intimidating place, at least it was for me. I come from a school where there aren't 50 animation majors, and of those >50, only 3 or 4 were interested in Effects Animation. There are hundreds at SCAD! Instead of one floor, shared with several different majors, SCAD has an entire building dedicated to animation and visual effects! Their campus stretches across the entire city of Savannah, and they claim 10,000 students spanning across three or four different countries!

It was phenomenal to be surrounded by all of that, knowing that everyone there was attempting to get a degree in a creative field. Could I be one of them? I also want to look at Texas A&M's visualization department, which I hear is amazing.

I think I'll end up driving over there sometime in September or October (when it isn't dead hot outside). I'll have the time off, since I've decided not to start grad school until January.

I also won't be going to SIGGRAPH this year. :( It's an issue of money, and me not having any. Well, what can you do? I can take this time to lose some weight, get some good stuff on my demo reel and work at a Taco Bell or something, so I can save up money for my trip to Texas.

I'm also still looking for work. I'm sending out my demo reel, still learning Python, still working with Maya Fluids (ugh, shoot me now. It's so hard! lol). I applied to ILM, so wish me luck.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Think Outside the Knot

I don't know how many people are familiar with the story of Alexander the Great and the Gordian Knot.

An oracle told the people of Phrygia that fighting would end in their region when their new king arrived, riding on an oxcart.

Well Gordius, his wife and son (Midas!) arrived in the town by, surprise surprise, oxcart! The people trusted the Oracles word and made Gordius king. In gratitude, Gordius dedicated his cart to Zeus and tied it to a pole with an intricate knot. This was the Gordian knot.

The Oracle said that who ever could untie it would rule all of Asia. Many people came, but none of them could do it. Years later, in 333 BC, Alexander the Great came to Phrygia, now named Gordium, and tried to undo the knot. However, he couldn't find the ends of the knot to untie it. He became impatient and, in a fit of boldness, he took his sword and cut the knot in half.

For all of you people who slept through history class, Alexander the Great went on to conquer most of the known world, including Asia.

What in the world does that have to do with anything? Usually when someone uses the phrase "to cut the Gordian knot" they say it to mean act decisively and with boldness.

I've always taken the phrase to mean "think outside of the box".

It's hard to do that, especially with deadlines looming and grades at stake, but sometimes that's the only way to get something to work. Sometimes, it can actually save a lot of time and work out better for everyone in the end.

There's a story floating around the production of Pixar's The Incredibles. They needed to make the giant wave near the end of the movie. Brad Bird said he didn't care how it got done. If they needed to, they could make a giant wave in a swimming pool and comp it into the movie. Obviously they didn't do that, but it proved that he was open to doing something different to achieve a result.

When presented with a problem, try to think outside of the box. Cheat! Fake it! Everything we do is fake, so a fake fake isn't going to hurt anything if it looks good in the end.

Think of how much more we could learn if we were willing to look for alternative solutions.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Pixar's Brave - Teaser Trailer

I'm ridiculously excited for Pixar's next feature length film, "Brave". Not only does it look stunning, but it's the first Pixar movie to star a lead female protagonist. It's set to come out Summer 2012 and there's already a beautiful teaser trailer for it. Watch it in full screen and full HD!


Monday, June 20, 2011

FakeDYN - amazing script

So, Remi Cauzid is my idol for the moment.  He's created a tool that 'fakes' dynamics in real time.  He's explained what it does himself, so I'll just quote him:

A script I have developed for my rig in Maya.
Super fast, the dynamic result can be seen in real time in the view port.

I am using a simple expression making a delay in position on a locator. Then I am using different locator to drive the chain of joints.

One chain of joints is used as an input animation, and the other one is the result plus dynamic on it.

There is possibility to change the damping, the springiness, add some force to simulate a gravity or wind, and add some random noise to the movement for a more organic result.

I am mainly using this in my rig for animal ears, tails, little pieces of fabric, but there is many possibilities as it is shown with the carriage.

I'm dying to figure out how he did it, but one thing at a time.  I'm still working on my hair creation tool.  Anyway, watch his video demonstration here, and be sure to comment under his video on Vimeo.

Script for maya, simulating dynamic. from Remi Cauzid on Vimeo.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Updated this theme

People who know me from school know that I change my desktop background one or two times a week.  I don't like looking at the same thing for a long period of time.  That's true of blog themes as well.  It was time for this one to change again, so I made it look like my Tumblr account (which you're free to see at

I figured out the rounded edges and the transparent post background, but now I need to make it white instead of black, and I need to add the border.  Whatever.  I'll do it later.  Maybe.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blue Sky Studio

They're hiring!

If you're into Character Simulation (like me!), then they have a position open.  They're also hiring FX TD's and animators.

I sent in my information, you should too.

Still working on that Python script, but more on that later.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Maya hair and Python

So Maya Hair can be a real witch with a capital B.

I've never, ever worked with Python.

Given those two facts, it makes perfect sense for me to make a hair creation tool in Python.

I am having a BLAST learning Python.  It makes so much more sense than MEL (which I'm still struggling with BTW).  For one thing, I don't feel like Yoda when working with Python.  Granted, I've only been playing with MEL for about 7 months or so, but it still seems backward to me.  Python feels very straight forward.

It's a little weird having to do the whole "import maya.cmds as (whatever)" though.

My first impression of Python is you run the risk of killing a fly with an axe.  It seems like Python is better used when doing something complex but if you're doing something simple, you may as well stick with MEL.  We'll see if that impression is correct.

By the by, what's going on with that nuke project I was talking about a while ago?  Glad you asked.

I'm still working on it.  (Not being in school is awesome.  There's much more time to do things).  Unfortunatley, my laptop is older than Adam's dirt so things are slow.  So very slow.  I need a computer, y'all.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On to Plan B

Just had an amazing 40 minute conversation with Jim Conrads of Dreamworks animation.  Nothing has been set in stone, there's still one more position that they're looking to fill for the CFX Challange but it looks like I'm probably not going to get it.  Eh, what are you gonna do.  I'm not gonna lie, after three months of hoping it's a little disappointing to hear "probably not", but that just means I gotta keep going on.

He went on to talk to me about graduate school work.  I've always been set on going to graduate school and getting my MFA but he really sort of cemented that course of action in my mind.  I think I'm going to go look at Savannah in July, maybe go to Texas A & M sometime in later, maybe early Fall.  I need to see when you can tour the campus.

I guess that means I'll be going to SIGGRAPH this year.  Sweet.  I'll keep you posted on that bit of news.

Well, I guess my final thought of the post is this:

I've tried not to get too religious on this blog, but I've just gotta say something.  I feel like it's appropriate.  My entire life, I've been a church going person who's gone through church schooling.  It's a huge part of me that I'm very proud of.  I believe in a big God who specializes in the impossible.  Heck, my situation isn't even impossible!  I may have gotten a kind no, but I'm just as hopeful as I was yesterday because I believe the talent and passion that's been placed inside me wasn't put there to go to waste.  When you look at it that way, you have to keep going, other wise you're doing something that just wasn't meant to be done -- we all know what happens when you bury a talent ^^;

I'm working on some hair related stuff.  I'll post my progress as I make it.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, May 5, 2011

It's official

No, not the Dreamworks thing.  I still haven't heard from them.  But I just got my grades and, yes, I am now a college graduate!  I'm the first in my school to graduate with a B.S. in Effects Animation!  Woot!  It's been a long (long, long, long, LONG) road, but it's over... until I go for my M.F.A.  I'm so excited!  The only thing that would make this week any better would be getting that Dreamworks position.

Well, now I have time to focus on personal projects.  Maybe.  I've been pulling 10 hour shifts so I can afford to go to California if I get the Dreamworks thing, or going to SIGGRAPH if I don't.

((aww, I can't see the dance unless I click on it.  Click on it!! o_o))

*dance* *dance*


Friday, April 29, 2011

Discouragement and Inspiration

So I'm still struggling through my final finals (yay), but I've hit a snag that I just can't seem to get out of.  It's very discouraging.  Essentially, I've worked on something for a month with no progress.  The problem even has a teacher stumped, yet and still this project is due Tuesday.  I know art can be like that sometimes, but you can't afford problems like this when you're degree, or job or whatever depends on it.

Whenever I start feeling like throwing the computer at the wall and becoming an accountant, I'm reminded of something I heard on the Frank and Ollie DVD (if you're in animation and you haven't seen this, SHAME!  Buy it now ^^)  These fantastic animators, pioneers in their field, felt the same way I did.  You'd think someone who was as amazing at something as they were would just show up to work, do something awesome and fly home like the superheros they were.  That wasn't the case.  They said, in essence, every day they loved their job and every day they hated it.

How crazy is that?  Is it weird that this is so inspiring to me?

If they felt like that, then it's not strange for me to feel like that.

I love what I do, make no mistake about that.  I love, love, love, love LOVE what I do.  I may not know as much as other people but it's so fun learning new things and putting my own spin on it.  However, what I do is frustrating, draining and at times soul robbing.  It makes me want to tear my hair out sometimes.  Still, at the end of the day (or, you know, 3 am) when I pack up to leave, I have the strongest desire to come back the following morning and pour my heart into it again.

Either I'm a glutton for punishment, or I'm too in love with what I do to care.



Thursday, April 21, 2011

And now we play the waiting game...

Well, my interviews were Monday between 7 and 9 pm (4 - 6pm their time).  I was nervous, but I tried to sound like I knew what I was talking about, heh.  But everyone was nice and by the third interview I was pretty relaxed.  The interviews were really informative and if I got the opportunity to work with them, I know I'd learn so much.  In fact, the whole process has inspired me to go ahead and start learning Python whether or not I get the position at Dreamworks.  It was hard to admit that I hadn't had experience with it.  And I was asked about Python in all three interviews.  Goodness gracious.  I guess that means I should hurry.  So that's one more thing I'll be doing this summer.

Anyway, wish me luck.  I think I'll know for sure in about 2 more weeks so *crosses fingers*


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dreamworks Interview

About a month and a half ago, I was contacted by Dreamworks and presented with the opportunity of taking part in their CFX Boot Camp.  If accepted, I get to work over there and learn the ropes for about 6 months and then... well, maybe I could stay.  I updated my reel and sent it to them, along with a tutorial I wrote.  I guess they liked it because I was approved to go to the next step of the reviewing process: interviews.

I have three of them tomorrow, back to back to back.  I'm not gonna lie, I'm a little terrified but I'm really REALLY excited too.  I'll get to ask the top guys about a typical work day and maybe find out some things about their hair/cloth/fur workflow that could help me out in the future.  This is a golden opportunity to learn some new and interesting things.  I hope things go well, cause working for them would be a dream come true.

Wish me luck!


Monday, April 11, 2011

40 Must See Cloth Sim Tips

This article has been around for a little while, but in case you haven't seen it, there it is.  40 tips for how to improve your cloth workflow.  I especially like tip #32 by Malcolm Thomas-Gustave.

32 Mix multiple set-ups

Sometimes, a character’s animation will definitely not result in the cloth movements you need. For a shot in which a dancing character’s scarf was supposed to wrap around her neck, I created four separate set-ups. The first was the loose scarf flapping around while she danced. The second was the scarf in its final pose, wrapped around her neck from frame one, also flapping away. For the third, I scrubbed the animation of the loose scarf until I reached the point where I wanted it to start wrapping around the character’s neck. Here, I created a duplicate, adding bones along the long loose part of the scarf, then skinned the scarf to the bones. Over the next few frames, I keyed a few poses of the scarf with the bones wrapping around the neck. The fourth was just a Blend Shape of all three previous set-ups. By simply keying the Blend Shape to morph from one to the next as the animation dictated meant I did not have to deal with a single overly complex set-up.

And since we're talking about him, you must check out his demo reel.  It's one of, if not THE most impressive Character FX/TD reels I've seen.

His site is

I feel like I should be talking about hair and fur more on this blog.  Oh well.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cloth Cheat #1 (tutorial?)

So I'm a big advocate of cheating as much as you possibly can when you simulate hair and cloth.  Am I supposed to say that in public?  Oh well.

Here's a cheat I love to employ.  I don't 'think' it's a tutorial but, whatever.

Say you have a character who's running about a zillion miles an hour down a street.  You try to simulate the cloth but it keeps flying off/failing because the character is moving around so much.  What do you do?

Select the character.  Right click on all of the translations and freeze them.  The character is now moving in place.

Simulate the cloth.  Add wind if you want.  You can even key the direction the wind is coming from.  Do whatever you need to make the cloth look good.

Cache the cloth.

Do the same with the hair if you can.  Simulate it while the character is moving in place then parent it to the body.  This might not be possible considering your rig/character set up.

Now, parent the cloth to the body.  Unfreeze the translations on the character.  The cloth is moving with the character.  Nice, huh?


Monday, April 4, 2011

Looping nCloth simulations - Tutorial (external)

So I learned something really interesting today -- how to loop cloth simulations.  You do this by, surprise surprise, combining caches!  How interesting is that?  I wrote a small, bareboned tutorial for combining caches to make seamless transitions from one cache to another on one mesh.  I never thought of using it to do this.  It's really smart and really easy.

This is useful for things that repeat like run cycles or flags fluttering in the wind.  You can repeat 24 frames rather than render out 240.

Here's the video tutorial created by Gary Noden.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Learning new things -- how I work

I was reminded of a nuke explosion I was doing in Maya a few months ago so, realizing I haven't worked on it since November, I cracked open the old file and started working on it.  I got a little excited when I realized I had no idea what the heck I was doing.  Great, I get to learn something new.  No, that isn't sarcasm.

I've been doing one thing for four years: character effects, specifically hair, cloth and fur simulation.  I love it and I like to think I have a decent grasp of it.  But being an artist, I'm always looking for something else to do, something else to get good at.

When I'm trying to learn something new, I don't start small and work my way up.  I cannonball into a stormy sea of insanity and struggle to keep my head above water.  I struggle for eons and then, when I can weather that storm, swimming in a pond is a piece of cake.  It's a backwards way of thinking but having worked from small to big I think big to small just works for me.

When I was learning how to simulate cloth my teacher told me "Here's nCloth, this is how to create a collision object.  Now, finish a shot in a week."  And of course I couldn't.  My first real shot took me six weeks and, of course, it was one of the hardest shots in our entire short.  I asked for help from classmates, I looked online, I prayed (seriously, this was step 1).  By the time this bear of a shot was approved I knew what I was doing.  I blasted the shot that I was handed next in less than ten minutes.

That one difficult shot taught me about every attribute I could tweak and every ghetto fix I could use and abuse.  I found lots of learning resources and I learned how to troubleshoot and spot problems and their solutions by eye.

That's how I've been learning MEL.  Tackling an advanced script someone else wrote and writing an advanced script of my own.  I'm, by no means, an expert or anything but I'm learning so much.

It's time for me to do that with fluid effects.  I love them, but I have no idea what's going on and, like cloth, there's very little documentation.  So, I'm going to attack a nuke.  Not just any nuke.  This bad boy:

I won't have a lot of time to work on this until after April 27 (last day of school, yay!), but I'll post what I have when I have it.


Monday, March 28, 2011

I swear I'm not crazy, but...

Here we go. Everyone has little pet peeves when working with things, especially TD's. My #1 pet peeve is odd numbers. Not odd as in 7 or 11 (well, those bother me too, but that's another story). No, odd as in another TD just moved the slider and left it at this:

Seriously? It's not like it drives me insane or anything, it just grates on some inner nerve.  If I'm handed a scene where this happens, I won't even touch it unless it's a value that needs to be drasticly changed for the cloth/hair/fur/whatever to work.  But really.  Yeah.  I tend to work with values that end in 5's and 0's unless it's a really sensitive value like Input Mesh Attract.  It just makes things easier for me.



...ok, maybe I am just a little crazy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Introduction to Cloth Simulation Tutorial - by Me!

So I mentioned this tutorial way back in Bible times, but when I got that call from Dreamworks, they suggested I send in any tutorials I've written as well as my resume, demo reel, bla bla bla. That lit a fire under my foot to finish this up.

This is a written tutorial in .pdf form. This tutorial is for people who have never touched nCloth before, people who've only done the "drop cloth on a cube" exercise and/or anyone who's curious about nCloth and how they could use it in an animated shot.

Keeping that in mind, I kept this tutorial as simple as I possibly could.

It's about 23 pages long (I think), it's not very technical and it has a lot of pictures along the way to help keep things nice and clear. The only thing that I'm planning to do to this is add more images near the end of the tutorial, and maybe make this prettier... I dunno. If anyone has any questions/suggestions to make this better, I'll be sure to edit it and repost it as soon as I can. I'll make another blog entry when I've decided to no longer edit this tutorial, but that won't happen for a year or two at the least.

Until I get suggestions, enjoy Intro to nCloth v. 1.0

Password: ncloth
(all one word, all lowercase, no spaces)


Thursday, March 24, 2011


JURANNESSIC is one of the trailers shown during the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in June 2002. It has been directed by 5 students of the GOBELINS animation school: In-Ah RÖDIGER, Simon Pierre ANDRIVEAU, Yann AVENATI, Hervé BARBEREAU and Louis CLICHY.

Couldn't have said it better than the uploader. I watched this as a sophomore and was floored. I didn't know until just recently that this was a Gobelins product, but when I found out I just had to find it again. This was the first thing of Gobelins' that I ever saw and it seems fitting that it's the first [of many] Gobelin projects that I'll share.

It's only available in 240p, but I hope you'll enjoy it fullscreen.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Keeping up with the Jones'

When I was a Sophomore and Junior, I always felt bad about not knowing what was currently going on in the animation world. People would say, "Oh, have y'all seen the latest Gobelins short?" and everyone would be excited while I didn't even know what Gobelins was. My logical mind told me that it wasn't possible to have seen everything, but the artist in me just wanted to devour all there was to devour. You can't be expected to have seen everything, there's just too much out there, but there's nothing wrong with making an attempt is there? I don't think so.

I think I'll post shorts here every now and then, especially if I like the hair and cloth.

My first "pick" is Alarm, a short by the animation team MESAI.

This was directed by Moo-hyun Jang. I think this short is stunning. They went through great lengths to create a realistic environment only to throw a stylized character into it. It's almost eerie how well the two styles marry.

And, of course, I really like the cloth work. The hair, on the other hand, is a sticking point with me. I love to see polygonal hair move, but I think this hair is just a little too active. Eh, it might just be a personal preference. My teachers and fellow Hair/Cloth TD's tend to tell me my hair is too stiff. Anyway, watch Alarm. It's 8:50 long and well worth the time.

I hope you enjoy it in full screen and in HD!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Catching Up

The title of this post seems familiar. I think someone I'm following may have had the same one. Anyway, I got a call from a certain company

*cough cough*

and was told I could possibly, maybe, perhaps work over there for a few months and see what happens after that. After I stopped dancing on the ceiling, I updated my demo reel and finished that nCloth tutorial I was talking about almost a year ago. I sent it in, and now we play the waiting game. I'll keep the 1 person reading this blog current with that situation.

So, that means I can finally post an updated version of my demo reel and that Intro to nCloth tutorial. I want to add just a few more images to it to help clarify some things, but expect to see that stuff from me in the upcoming days.

I guess I should share with y'all the Kung-Fu Panda 2 trailer. Somehow it seems appropriate, I wonder why... With the close exception of How to Train Your Dragon, Kung-Fu Panda is my favorite Dreamworks movie. It's soooo good, and I'm really excited for the sequel.

I hope you watch it full screen!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two more tutorials (External)

If you haven't seen the short The Monk & The Monkey, by Brendan Carroll and Francesco Giroldini you should really take the time to watch it. It's only 4:27 long.

The Monk & The Monkey from Brendan Carroll on Vimeo.

Francesco Giroldini has created and posted two nCloth tutorials that I think anyone who's interested in cloth simulation should watch, even if they consider themselves to be a complete novice. They're both very easy to understand and you'll learn a lot.

The first is Joint Driven Cloth Simulation. This 29:32 length tutorial "shows you how to easily use joints, blendshapes or any other kind of deformer to control your cloth simulation". -145 MB .mov file

The second tutorial is his Intro to nCloth. At 47:42, it goes over a lot of topics that will gently ease people into cloth simulation using Maya's nCloth. - 212 MB .mov file

Go to the tutorial page:

Note: You will have to download the tutorials.

This guy seems pretty cool. You should look over his blog in general.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Demo reel on DVD - DON'T say no!

I have no idea how I ended up here this morning, but I ran across an interesting video on Vimeo entitled Say NO to DVD Demo Reels.

Say NO to DVD Demo Reels! from Nick Campbell on Vimeo.

Because I know 99% of you won't take the time to watch the 6:11 video, I'll paraphrase his argument. "Your DVD will end up in the trash because potential employers don't want to waste the time it takes to put your DVD in and watch it. Get a website, put it on your business card, and hand these out instead. Direct all of your traffic to your site."

While he makes two arguments that I agree with, I have to call foul on everything else.

1) I'll mirror my comment to his video here by saying I agree that you need a website, or at least a blog that showcases your thought processes, demo reel and other works. I'm sure a lot of larger studio's don't have the time to sit around and read someone's blog and their thoughts as to why they think Cubism is teh sexorz, but I think a lot of employers would like to get into the head of a potential hire.

2) I also agree that DVD's are a waste of money, time and resources. So is paper, but I don't see us getting rid of that any time soon.

When it boils down to it, the following is always true: Luck favors the prepared.

Case in point, I submitted soft copies of my demo reel, breakdowns, resume and cover letter to about a zillion studios. I found out later that one of those companies would also like a physical reel on DVD. Whoops. I didn't have one so I had to rush and make it (not that it takes that long, but still). There are a LOT of companies that still require a physical reel and just because there's a chance they'll throw it away without watching doesn't mean you shouldn't have one. Who cares what they do with it?! Your future is worth more than that $0.50 cent disc.

As a student, I think you should have an up-to-date reel online at all times. You should be working on something often enough so you're able to update and improve your reel once every three or four months. Put it on your blog, Vimeo, YouTube, pimp it out on CGTalk. It's all free and you open yourself up to great feedback. Don't be silly and make an obscene amount of DVD reels because whenever you update your reel, those remaining DVD's become useless. You should, however, have SOME copies of your reel on DVD (my modest range is 5-7) and hard copies of your resume, breakdowns, art work and what have you at the ready in case you are required to mail these things in, or you run into someone who wants them.

One thing I do promote having a good amount of are business cards, but be smart about it. Don't print off 10,000. Also, only put information on these cards that isn't likely to change in the near future.

Website/Blog link
E-mail address (, nothing crazy like HotMama69SweetCheeks)
Telephone number

Make sure the back of the business card is of a light color and unmatted so the other person can jot down other information if they need/want to.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Simulating Cloth in Sections - mini tutorial

A little while ago, I was handed a shot that another TD was having trouble with. In this shot, a character does an action, bends down, comes up incredibly fast then does another action. Rather than key a zillion attributes and force the cloth to work from beginning to end, I decided that I'd make the cloth work from -50 to 119 (where the character was totally out of frame), cache, then I'd sim from 120 - 195 (the end of the shot) and cache this section. After that, I'd combine the two caches.

When it comes to problem shots, simulating cloth in sections can save you a lot of time and hassle. In this post, I'll walk you through that process.

((This tutorial is meant for those who are somewhat familiar with cloth simulation.))

Prep Work

i. Create three folders where ever you like, for example your Desktop. Name them Cache 1, Cache 2 and Final Cache.

ii. Set up the cloth in your scene and save. Make a copy of this scene and rename the copy SceneName_Clean, or something to that effect to let you know that this is your fresh, untouched scene.


1. Simulate your cloth. Get it as good as you possibly can for as long as you can. Make a note of the frame where the simulation starts to fail. For my shot, the cloth started to break at frame 140.

2. Choose your nDynamics menuset and go to nCache > Create New Cache > click the option box. Here, set your Cache Directory to the Cache 1 folder you created.

3. Name this cache Cache 1. For the file distribution option, I like to choose the one file per frameoption. This way, should you ever need to replace certain frames, you can.

4. For Cache time range, select Start/End and set your start frame to your very first frame, mine was -50, and your end frame will be about 20 frames beyond where you really want to end. For example, I knew I wanted my first cache to end at frame 119, so to give myself a buffer and set this cache to end at 139. You'll see why in a moment.

5. SAVE!!

6. The fun part. You can do several things beside this, and I admit this is the most drastic route, but it's the cleanest. Delete all of the animation on your character up to where you wanted your first cache to end. It's a good idea to give yourself a 20 frame buffer. In other words, if you wanted your first cache to end at frame 119, then delete the animation up to frame 99. Note: Sometimes this isn't possible because the animation before that point is what causes your cloth to break.

7. Duplicate that key and set it 20 frames prior. In other words, frames 99 and 79 are identical for me.

8. Go 40 frames back and put your character in his/her "T" pose. Set a key. Go forward 20 frames, make sure your character is still in his/her "T" pose. Set a key.

9. Simulate the cloth for this half. Note: In your Nucleus, under Time Attributes, you can set your Start Frame to your first "T" pose frame for the time being.

10. Go to nCache > Create New Cache > click the option box. Here, set your Cache Directory to the Cache 2 folder you created.

11. Name this cache Cache 2. For Cache time range, select Start/End and set your start frame 20 frames before you want the second cache to start. I wanted my second cache to start at frame 120, so I gave myself a 20 frame buffer and started the cache at frame 100.

12. After your cloth has finished caching, close this file and open the SceneName_Clean file you made. In this file all of your animation is still in tact.

13. Select your cloth and go to the nDynamics menuset, nCache > Attach Existing Cache File... Navigate to your Cache 1 folder, select the .xlm file and press OK.

14. Repeat step 13, this time navigating to your Cache 2 folder.

15. With your cloth selected, go to Window > Animation Editors > Trax Editor. Hit the "f" key for frame everything in the window. You'll see your two caches in these blocks. As you can see, the extra frames you cached at the end of Cache 1 and the beginning of Cache 2 overlap. While they overlap, both caches are active and are blending together. In the case of this example, I dragged the top number (don't drag the bottom number!) forward until my 20 buffer frames overlapped.

Why would you want the caches to overlap here?

Sometimes you'll want this so the cloth doesn't make a visible snap when it transitions from one cache to the other. You can further finesse this by selecting your cloth, going to the attribute editor and clicking on the Cache Blend tab. You can key the first cache from 1 to 0 during the overlapped time, and the second cache from 0 to 1. This way the cloth is slowly segueing from the first to second cache.

In my case, I didn't really need the caches to overlap or blend because the switch was happening off camera, but it's not a bad habit to get into. However, if you want to snap from one cache to the next, all you need to do it drag the end of the Cache 1 track back 20 frames, and the beginning of the Cache 2 track forward 20 frames. (or whatever you set your buffer to be). Be sure you're clicking and dragging on the top number and not the bottom number!

Also, be sure not to have any gaps between your two trax, other wise your cloth will more than likely pop/break for those frames.

16. The two working cache halves will now drive your cloth object [more or less] seamlessly. The only thing left to do now is to combine these caches to make one working cache. Go to nCache > Merge Caches > click the option box.

17. Set the Cache Directory to the Final Cache folder you created.

18. Name this cache Final Cache. For the Cache time range, select Start/End and set your start frame to the very first frame in the shot, the final frame to the very last frame of your shot. Note: Make sure in your nucleus, your Start Frame is the very first frame in your scene. Technically you don't 'have' to do this, since your first cache is active from the first frame, but it's good to put the start frame back to where it initially was in case you have to do more cloth simulation.

19. That's it! You can go to nCache > Delete Cache > click the option box and delete the first two caches if you like (select keep the files just to be safe). You can also select your cloth object, go to the nClothShape tab in your Attribute editor and deselect Enable so the cloth isn't calculating in the background.

The nice thing about this is, you can combine more than two caches. My maximum so far has been 7 for a difficult :35 second shot and it works really well. You can also cache again and merge your combined cache with this new cache. I don't really advise going too insane with this, but the sky's the limit.

Generally, if you're having to combine caches a lot of times on a shot that isn't very complex, you should revisit your sim and try to make it behave better for a longer span of time.


This may sound like cheating but let me make one thing perfectly clear: it is. Don't feel bad, we're all cheating every second we choose to work with animation. These characters and effects and lights and worlds don't exist. We're all faking reality. You should try to make things work the 'right' way, whatever that is, but at the end of the day, you need to do what you have to do in order to get something to work.

I plan to make a video demo on this at some point in time, and type this up and make it available as a PDF, but in the meantime take this for what it's worth.

I hope it helps.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

A little break

So this has nothing to do with anything, but c'mon! How awesome is that?!



Monday, January 17, 2011

Video Tutorial - simming thick cloth

I guess this video that I made a few months ago is relevant.

On a project I'm working on called Rock in the Road, the characters were all modeled with REALLY thick cloth and many of them have many (many, many, many) layers of cloth. This cloth has some pretty intense texture too. Obviously, with all of this going on, we couldn't just select the modeled cloth, apply nCloth and have a nice day. So people ask how did we sim the cloth when it was so thick. Didn't that take forever? Well, it didn't take forever. In fact, the process is pretty quick.

Wow, I said cloth 6 times in the paragraph.

We used Wrap Deformers.

Our basic workflow.

1. Build a proxy mesh based on the modeled cloth object(s). To do this simply, you could duplicate the outer faces of the cloth object, simplify the topology by deleting extra edges until you have something reasonable then delete the history of this simplified mesh. This is your proxy mesh.

2. Make the proxy mesh nCloth and sim this.

3. CACHE for the love of Pete! (I'll get into that later, this step isn't in the video.)

4. Select the hi-res cloth object, select the proxy mesh and in your Animation menuset, go to Create Deformer > Wrap. You may need to adjust the Max Distance setting of the wrap deformer, but there you go. The hi res mesh (your thick cloth) now acts exactly like the proxy mesh (the thin, one sided cloth you made in step 1).

You may need to adjust your volume for this video. I hope you enjoy this full screen and in HD:


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Demo Reel Review

I went on and on a couple of months ago about demo reel creation I even got a nice response, which is a shock since I didn't (and still don't) think more than two people will ever read this blog. Anyway, before I graduated this December (yay!) I had to have a portfolio review with three of my teachers. Talk about nerve wracking! You start looking at your demo reel and you notice all of these things you never noticed before, and you go insane trying to tweak them.

I, for one, think that's awesome. I spent a lot of time taking things out, reworking things, I even redid a couple of the shots trying to get everything perfect.

Of course, nothing ever is perfect and my teachers had quite a few things to say about my reel. It needs more diversification, so far I only have one project in there, even though I've worked on more. There are some unnecessary shots, and some that either need to be cleaned up a lot or dumped. I also heard that I should include some of my scripting work/tools I've developed using MEL. Learn Python, etc.

It was great hearing what they had to say. While I'm proud of my work (I wouldn't have put it up if I weren't), I can see where I really need to do better. It's great to get a fresh pair of eyes to look over what you've done. Sometimes you've fallen in love with a piece that you seriously need to divorce. I've sent out my demo reel, because why not, but I really hope I can have some amazing new things in the next couple of months.