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.