Poser 7 for $50

Poser 7, is available from the owners for a mere $50. Complete with over 1,000 content assets. You’re probably going to be buying this just for the content — the free DAZ Studio can tap into and load from Poser‘s assets folder, and with the DAZ Game Kit you can then get Poser’s content into iClone in low-poly form with a little work. Although mainly a tool for making superb still images, if you can stand hours of rendering to get a few seconds of green-screen video for iClone then Poser could also be useful for that. It can also be useful for file-conversion purposes, and there have been times when it’s been the only application that’s worked properly at making a conversion for me. Poser has been resting on its laurels and subsequent releases haven’t really added a lot for non-professionals, so version 7 is a fine version to have. Unfortunately it’s a digital download version, so there’s no printed manual.

The class sketch

A newly-posted Muvizu short, explaining the British class system. The soundtrack is from 1968, and I guess these days they’d have to add a 4th “underclass” character.

Eight more free animals

Eight more free animals for DAZ/Poser! Convert for iClone using the DAZ Game Kit and 3DXchange 4 Pro. Including a finely textured sea-turtle and a good basic crow — both of which should be fairly easy to animate (as long as you don’t want the crow to flap its wings). The toon mouse is not the best model ever, and is probably difficult to animate fully, but it could be made useful for a head & shoulders shot in a “nightmare scene” with a few tweaks in iClone.

Of course, you can always green-screen them in the free DAZ Studio and then bring them into iClone via the popVideo Converter.

Blender gets dirty

Got Steampunk or valvepunk goodness that could be featured in the free blender.art magazine? The dirtier and oilier the better, as the next issue (#29) will be themed “Industrial Revolution” and the editors want…

Steampunk.
Industrial machines: big and small.
Factories and industrial landscapes.
Pipes, gears & gadgets.
Grungy materials suitable for industrial environments and objects.

Deadline: 5th of August 2010.

Fabricio Moraes, for the CG Society 2009 Steampunk challenge.

New Muvizu beta – now with fembot chests, fat girls, and furry costumes.

The new beta of Muvizu is out now, and available as a 478Mb download. For those who somehow haven’t heard of it, it’s a fab free 3D animation package built on the Unreal 3 game-engine. It needs a good gaming PC to run it.

The list of new features and fixes is here And yes, chaps — it now includes those all-important

“fembot accessories – chest objects” 🙂

However, these might not be quite as exiting (or as bouncy) as in your fevered imaginations…

…and I couldn’t possibly suggest how you might combine them with the new fat girls and furry animal costumes.

There’s no mention of this beta being time-bombed or crippled and — since I blocked the net on install and first launch — I’d say it doesn’t even need to “phone home” when installing or launching. The 1280 x 720px movie export is still in there.

This is a most generous gift to the indie 3D animation community, and the Muvizu team are to be congratulated not only for the great product that Muvizu is shaping up to be — but also for not tying the beta up in things like closed registrations, DRM, time-bombing, claiming royalties rights on a creator’s film, and similar corporate foolishness. The only slight limitation is the small Muvizu logo in the bottom-left of the screen, and the limited range of video compression codecs (which hasn’t been expanded by the new beta).

The new pre-built “Jungle” set, showing the new spotlight feature…

It doesn’t look like there’s any “new beta features” tutorial videos online yet, and there’s still no PDF manual for any of the betas (I’ll write one, if they want to pay me) — but they do have one new set-building speedrun video on YouTube today, made with the new beta. It shows off some of the new lighting capabilities and the new sports car…

Lord Good’s Large Teutonic Fortress

I’ve converted Lord Good’s “Large Teutonic Fortress” for iClone, bringing it down to only 86,000 faces. I’ve retextured for a little more grunge too: grunged down the wall texture a little to try to take some of the “nearly new” shine off it; used a variety of open source Ryzom textures on it including the walkways; given it an attached ground plane. If the ground plane forgets its tiling setting for some reason, then set its tiling to 15.0 / 15.0. The main stone wall texture looks great when the camera is near, but it “moires” badly in distant views.

Download here (13Mb, .zip file)

Click the picture for a larger version.

Mattes

Don’t have the artistic skills to “matte paint” the backgrounds for your film? Do it the easy way and composite Creative Commons pictures and your own renders (or game screenshots, if you’re not bothering about the “royalty free” thing). Animator Cathy yesterday showed an excellent Evil Castle example made from just three pictures…

A couple of Photoshop tips for compositing:

* Choose images that are photographed “head-on” and have similar contrast. Or try to select pictures with much the same angles. As you can see above, both the castle and rock are seen from about the same angle. Combining shots taken from different angles usually ends up as a mess.

* The images will likely have different color-casts or tones. Auto color-matching of images rarely produces satisfactory results. Keep the parts of the picture on separate layers, and tweak the colors and brightness/contrast by eye.

* When you’re ready to “cut it out” from the original image, a right-click on the selection you’ve made (i.e.: inside “the marching ants”) is your friend. Select “Refine Selection” first, and shrink the selection in just a little — three or four pixels perhaps, sometimes more. Then after that, “Feather” the selection by one or two pixels depending on your image size. You’ll get a less harsh-edged blend between elements that way, and there will be less unwanted fringing.

* Colour grade the whole image once you’re finished. Unless you’re a Photoshop expert, don’t expect to get a “natural look” in all the colours in all the elements you used.

And don’t forget that an iClone render of your main object (one of Lord Good’s excellent free castles, for instance), can first be lit and rotated against your other main element (the rock, for instance – seen above) and then a white background can be dropped in once you’re satisfied. The resulting render will make the extraction of the castle in Photoshop very simple, since there’ll be no fiddly background to have to cut it out from.

Or you could just hand-paint it all 🙂 Head on over to Animation Backgrounds if you want to see how the hand-painting pros do it. Actually, I’m wondering when the first color animation background-mattes will fall into the public domain? Not for another 20 years or so, I’d suspect. And in Disney’s case, probably never, since they’ll have the lawyers tangle them up somehow.

The Pandorica

[Doctor Who mild spoiler alert!]  Calamity Si has kindly made a nice 3D replica of the Pandorica, the device which appeared in the concluding two episodes of the current season of Doctor Who. It looks great if you apply the standard iClone glow map “glow10” in the Glow channel. It’s a mere 728 faces, so you could have an entire turbine hall of these stretching into the distance. Here it is in iClone with the glow map applied…

Muvizu’s next beta launches tomorrow

A few more snippets of news about the imminent release of the next Muvizu beta. It’s still on track for release tomorrow…

“we’re ready to release an updated version of the Muvizu application on Monday 28th June [that’s 2010, future readers]. We’re in final testing phases at the moment and it looks really, really good”

New functionality that hasn’t already been mentioned on myClone…

* camera features (including black and white, old movies, sepia, negative, shaking camera, CCTV, underwater and more!)

* a nifty little functionality that allows users to connect a camera to a spotlight which you can then use to project images/moving picture effects onto anything (think drive-in movies, the “Bat Signal” etc)

* … we’ve tidied up some morph targets on the mouth, so lipsynching is nicer

* we’ve done some big memory fixes too so the application should load in 30 seconds now (rather than the sometimes over 60 seconds it currently takes).

The loading issue may be system or O/S specific — it’s always seemed to load fairly quickly for me on Windows 7.


Martyn Gutteridge’s “Moon Morons”, released this week and made with Muvizu.

Depth Analysis

The most impressive thing I saw at E3

“Unlike every other motion capture thing you’ve ever seen, this is a full performance capture system. It doesn’t just track movement, or grab animation data from actor’s faces as they speak their lines, it captures everything about an actor’s performance, and generates a fully-textured 3D model based on what it sees and hears.”

“It uses 32 high definition cameras (divided into 16 stereoscopic pairs) to capture every angle of an actor’s performance at 30 frames per second. From this data it generates a fully-textured 3D model (at the moment it’s just their heads, but later it will be full body) that incorporates every nuance, mannerism, and emotional detail from the performance.”

And the fully-textured 3D model is apparently run on-the-fly, in real-time.

SIGGRAPH 2010 winners

SIGGRAPH 2010 announces the winners of its computer animation festival. Big dogs such as 2012, Assassin’s Creed 2, God of War III all feature.

But there’s a lot of indie animations in there too. Including “Upgrades” by Anya Belkina of Emerson College. Sadly it’s not online, but the description sounds great fun…

“Upgrades” is a hilarious and breakneck-paced animated parody chronicling major upgrades in computer graphics software. Set to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee.

Here’s “Making of Nuit Blanche” by Canadian Marc-Andre Gray, one of the very few indie prize-winners that have actually been let out in public…

Free clonebone character

Hurrah! I’ve learned how to do draggable selections in 3DXchange 4, and how to make a CloneBone figure with the resulting sections. I’ve CloneBone-d the 3D Warehouse “Robotic Diving Suit” from FiendCracker. I culled selected backfaces to bring the static model down from about 120,000 to a more manageable 70,000 faces, corrected some dodgy UV projections, and retextured several parts of it. I’ve also added standard iClone glow-map textures to all the glass areas. It has an interior, with a seat and buttons. Because it’s built on a clonebone base, the “Rustoid” should be able to take most stock iClone animations, but obviously some animations will look better than others. And yes, it does vaguely resemble the Big Daddy from BioShock — but it is sufficiently different.

Download here (17Mb, .zip file)

Creative Commons background photo by Jake von Slatt.

Sir Billi trailer, showing the animation

The first look at the animation for Scotland’s forthcoming first-ever indie animated feature-film Sir Billi, starring Sean Connery as the lead voice talent. Be warned that it looks like a videogame or sophisticated iClone machinima, rather than anything that’ll worry Pixar. But, assuming the story and voice/sound are both strong, it could still be fun to watch…

Nomadic peoples pack

Newly appeared, as a time-limited freebie on the DAZ website, the Cheyenne Accessories pack. Ends 29th June 2010. The props are all low-poly and the largest is 31,000 faces. As well as for Westerns or historical epics, they should also work with a fantasy-themed movie and the free Ryzom props for iClone (which include an Indian-style wigwam) and the Sintel/Durian props…

A 4Mb download for the PC/Poser version (the only one that seems to contain the .obj files — if you don’t have Poser just install it to the free DAZ Studio). The props also come as 3DXchange-friendly .obj files, and you get…

* Big Bag
* Medium Bag
* Small Bag
* Digging Stick
* Pole
* Hoop

After install you’ll find the textures in…

C:\Users\Your_Name_Here\Documents\DAZ 3D\Studio3\content\Runtime\textures\RD\CheyenneAcc

And (if you installed to DAZ Studio using the Poser installer) the .obj models are in…

C:\Users\Your_Name_Here\Documents\DAZ 3D\Studio3\content\Runtime\Geometries\RD\AccCheyenne

Two new business-friendly packs for iClone

Two major new packs from Reallusion, both of which are potentially useful for businesses:

Virtual Studio Vol. 2 ($60) offers pre-made “announcement” stages iClone. (Including the U.S. President’s Office, if you happened to be envious of Moviestorm’s version of the same).

Motion Montage Vol. 2 ($80) offers a variety of useful product-demo animation templates…

Video demo of both…

MyTV

myTV, a new product from Reallusion…

“Previously you could share your videos on YouTube but there was no way to … share your collections in an organized manner”

Great idea, and it is free — but unfortunately it’s dependent on users first installing the clunky Adobe integrated runtime libraries (aka Adobe AIR) and appears to be aimed at the desktop rather than embedding in web pages. A lot of people now have AIR by default, since the installation file for Adobe Reader 9.3 installs Adobe AIR without user permission. So you know who to blame when AIR proves to be a major security risk.

I can’t help thinking I’d rather have a configurable and skinnable YouTube playlist that’s just a simple snippet of copy-and-paste javascript which can be embedded anywhere, but WidgetCast skinning of the MyTV player is “coming in July”…