Kinect SDK announced by Microsoft

Possibly of interest, given rumours that iClone 5 may have some sort of Kinect interface / motion-capture translator to make iMotion files from Kinect captures… the Microsofties are saying today that “they will release a Kinect for Windows SDK [Software Development Kit] this spring”. The SDK will be open to… “academics, enthusiasts”, and an “an official Windows version” of the Kinect driver hacks are on their way. Good move, Microsoft.

In a slightly less positive move, Microsoft has re-invented CrazyTalk/iClone. Yes, indeed. 3D talking head, powered by TTS. They don’t actually have their demo hooked to a Kinect, whatever lazy journalists are saying . It’s running from the basic Microsoft TTS text-to-speech system. From the video…

“there’s no reason we couldn’t connect this to a Kinect sensor… it’ll come, but this is obviously still research work”.

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Perspective

Interesting industry-insider comment from the editorial of the free Perspective magazine (Dec 2011), on the role of the pre-vis artists in the animation industry…

“The major studios are at war with the [ Art Directors ] Guild right now over their right to create pre-visualizations of scenes and sets — work traditionally done by Guild members — using outside [ and usually third-world ] companies who work their employees long hours without overtime pay and give them substandard health and pension plans.”

The same issue has a fascinating long article on building a (physical) jungle temple set for Lost, which has some lessons for virtual set builders too: i) have ‘sacred’ buildings reflect in water; ii) re-use bits of old sets in new ways…

“Researching ideas in several books, I had noticed that many temples were built so that their aspect was beautifully reflected in a body of water.”

“It seemed that the huge columns and lintels from the [ soon to be scrapped ] bomb chamber [ stage set ] might actually fit into our temple with a few minor tweaks. […] By simply turning the lintels inside out, and using all the columns, we had enough to create the back and side walls of the temple […] we could use the existing pieces from previous sets to look entirely new, with very little additional work.”

Beards

Beards. Not something iClone does especially well, although that may change with iClone 5. If you’re designing a beardy character, the handy Beard Chart is useful for selecting the right type of beard shape to suit your character…

Doktor A

The works of pop surrealist ‘Doktor A’ are coming to Bath, in the UK, in April 2011. Although these steampunk bots look CG, apparently they’re actually real objects/dolls, set in front of Joseph Cornell-style cabinets. An interesting result of the increasingly spaghetti-like feedback loops running between illustrations, 3D CG, the 3D-printer revolution, and the craft of doll-making/puppetry…

Hello Hollywood

How changes in technology are causing Hollywood execs to be a little more adventurous, if only in the talent they hire to helm their pictures…

“During the past five years technology has enabled rookie directors to hone their skills via FinalCut Pro, digital-video cameras and other state-of-the-art effects tools from a young age, prompting budget-cautious studios to salivate over what they can put on screen for a price. Gareth Edwards, for instance, made his indie sci-fi film Monsters for a few hundred thousand dollars, even though it looked much more expensive.”

“You’re looking at people like Fede Alvarez, who made a short film (Panic Attack!) for $300, put it on YouTube, and it looks like it was made for $20 million.”

Bron 2 (basic Tron)

A basic iClone Tron character for iClone, which can be animated using standard animations. It’s based on body elements in the Tron model by Last Shadow 117 on Google 3D Warehouse. This character is only half done, in terms of precise positioning of the elements (his stomach tends to stick out of the armour in action animations — possibly that could be hacked by opacity-mapping everything except the hands of the underlying body?) and texturing (the very basics are roughly right in terms of their ambient colour, but there’s a lot more to do). There’s no gloss on him yet apart from the helmet. Feel free to fix him up further, as I’m not sure I’m going to do more work on him…

Download here (6Mb, .zip file)

“It never rains but it pours”

Mitch Gould of General Picture (the Walt Whitman film) has very kindly offered his new “stylised rain” iClone project to MyClone readers, for a limited time (since he intends to sell it as stock). It’s intended to be suitable for producing a video clip that can then be loaded into an alpha channel.

For those who just want a quick scene, I’ve also remixed three variants of my own, toning down the glow and mixing it with iClone’s stock rain in order to give more of a sense of depth to the standard rain.

Original

Remix 1

Remix 2

Remix 3

How to get it? It’s available from me by email until Sunday midnight (that’s British time, or about Sunday teatime in the USA). Leave a comment on this post, with an email address — and I’ll email you the pack as an 800kb .zip file.

Norman for Blender

The famous Norman rig, now freely available for Blender.

Predictably, Blender’s .fbx export of the character is refused by 3DXchange, 3DS Max reduced the model to a tiny scrunched dot, and Maya blows it up like a set of fireworks. However, it might be possible to get this out of Blender in body-part bits, and then make an assembled CloneBone version in iClone?

Skyrim trailer

A very polished bit of machinima, in the form of the new trailer for the biggest single-player PC game release of 2011, Skyrim

Bethesda’s games (Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout) are of course completely hackable, moddable, and come with a free and fully-fledged Construction Kit. This is how PC gamers should be treated, rather than the poisonous mix of console-itis and contempt they get from many other big developers.

Tron: Evolution for machinima

The Windows PC videogame Tron: Evolution has some potential for machinima, since it lets you take all the HUD elements off the screen for a clear view of the world. Also, if you get yourself into a corner and configure the camera / camera/angle right, you slip into first-person view. Maximum screen size is 1680px, since it’s a (grrr!) console port. Getting around the world is also a pain, judging from the tutorials. Getting around involves jumping off walls using complex strings of button-mashing. There is a “trainer” (cheat program) that allows you to float, and thus would seem to open the game up quite a bit for machinima makers, but the only full copy is locked away behind the $29.95 Cheat.com paywall.

And there’s no offline multiplayer in the game (i.e.: there’s no way to play the multiplayer maps offline, against bots).