Monday, May 29, 2006

Da Virtual Vinci Code

The Vatican wouldn't let the Da Vinci Code filmcrew film inside one of Paris' most ancient churches, so to complete 'The Da Vinci Code', with the miracle of Computer Graphics, they made their own - inside Shepperton Studios.

The Real inside of Saint-Sulpice

Click to enlarge: The Virtual inside of Saint-Sulpice

Saint-Sulpice was an equally mighty fortress for The Da Vinci Code director Ron Howard who wanted to film a night scene there. The Catholic Church, which has denounced Brown’s Da Vinci Code book, refused to give the film crew permission to shoot inside the famous Parisian church.

Moreover, the church is not open at night. But audiences who attend the Sony Pictures film will still see the pivotal scene. Rainmaker Animation and Visual Effects solved the mystery of how to shoot the scene without filming inside. They used a greenscreen set and digital set extensions, of course, but the answer isn’t as simple as that.

Greenscreen, to allow space for computer generated backgrounds

The set, which was built inside a 40-foot, 360-degree greenscreen, had a tiled floor, some chairs, pillars, and candles – the lighting replicated a nighttime scene. Because a one-to-one scale wouldn’t fit on the largest stage at Shepperton, the set was 15% smaller than the real church. To extend the set, Rainmaker brought a wireframe model and a computer system that fed the CG model into the 35mm camera. “They could point the camera somewhere and within two minutes the camera operator could see the arches and the angles they would see in the real church,” says Breakspear.

Read more about it at CG Society.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Me in Dundee

The Game Development committee has briefed me about our accommodation whilst being in Dundee (North of Edinburgh, Scotland).

Each of our SPACEPORT team members is offered for free a room over a ten weeks' period at Victoria Chambers.

Victoria Chambers
12-14 Victoria Road

This city centre residence is a particularly attractive Victorian building which has been thoroughly renovated in association with the Nine Incorporated Trades of Dundee, one of Dundee's oldest and most respected organisations. The accommodation is a mix of large spacious rooms and attic rooms with views over the city, with communal kitchen and dining facilities.

Each room comes equipped with a bed, mattress, duvet, pillow, mattress cover, sheet, duvet cover and pillow case. Also a wardrobe, chest of drawers, desk, desk lamp, desk swivel chair, bookshelf, curtains and a sink with a mirror. Crockery and cutlery is also supplied. Within the kitchen there are fridge/freezers, cooker, microwave, toaster, kettle and an iron and iron board plus a vacuum cleaner. Washing machines and dryers are also available within the building plus a coin telephone box.

The building is 200 metres from the main University building and is within the city centre.

Unfortunately there is no internet or WIFI access from any of the University residences and only one or two rooms have telephone points.

All in all... I will have much more SPACE ;o)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Character Engineer

Becoming a character engineer

In the beginning everything you build is a cube.
- Tamás Varga (

Today I have started building characters in 3D for the SPACEPORT game competition this Summer.

I will share some advice as to where to begin... and where to end ;o)

For that I call on the knowledge and expertise of some great digital sculptors in 3D:

Bay Raitt, one of the best 3D modelers of the world. Visit his web presence at Spiraloid for examples like these:

Example of Raitt's modeling work for Lord of the Rings

"Considering 3D modeling as a process of sculpting suggests powerful techniques that can simplify difficult 3D tasks, especially the task of modeling characters for animation." Bay Raitt describes the workflow of 3D sculpting as volume, surface, detail.

Alex Alvarez, the author of 'Organic Modeling' (see

Dr Brett Stevens, instructor in the Computer Graphics and Virtual Reality (see at the University of Portsmouth.

And finally, the excellent tutorials and references of human anatomy by Peter Ratner (see, . He has written many human modeling tutorials for his books 3-D Human Modeling and Animation, 1 st and 2 nd Editions, Mastering 3D Animation, 1 st and 2 nd Editions and various magazine articles as well as online tutorials.

Expressing emotion

"When animating emotion, a reliance on only facial animation will have little substance if it is not combined with the relevant posture of the body. The attitude of the body should support the expression on the face." Peter Ratner


CHOOSING BETWEEN TWO POPULAR MODELING TECHNIQUES: patch modeling or subdivision surface modeling

Before starting to model I have a choice between two popular modeling techniques.


The first technique, patch modeling, creates an object in sections by connecting adjoining parts that share points with their neighbor(s).

Polygon/patch, NURBS, or Subdivision modeling

"One can compare patch modeling to a crazy quilt made up of many patches" - Peter Ratner

One of the drawbacks of polygon modeling is that each edge is a straight line, and hence curved surfaces have to be approximated by breaking them into smaller pieces. This adds computational load and does not always look very realistic.

NOTE: NURBS add even more computational load and therefore they are not feasible for use in time based modeling.

Polygons by themselves form a useful representation system. However, having to produce a polygon set for every object would be incredibly inconvenient. Thus a resource of standard objects, know as the geometric primitives (such as a box, cone, cylinder, plane, pyramid and sphere) are included in all polygon-modelling applications.

Geometric Primitives

Geometric primitives are familiar as objects in the real world such as beach balls, pipes, boxes, doughnuts, and ice cream cones. From these simple objects, very complex structures can be pieced together.


The second - and preferred - technique, subdivision (also known as S-Div) surface modeling, uses a smooth modifier on a blocky object, which converts it in to a much more rounded and sometimes “organic looking” object; hence the name organic modeling.

A 'cage' is created that surrounds the subdivision surface. Modifying the cage modifies the underlying surface.

Subdivision within a 'cage'

Surface Subdivision is all about saving you time. In the picture above you can see a very square angular looking shape on the left. This has been created quickly using a few primitive shapes and polygon sweeping. The picture on the right shows the exact same object but with a surface subdivision applied to it. You can see the change immediately - the object has been smoothed and the polygon count increased. [source]

TIP: Most modelers prefer to create subdivision surface objects as polygonal models first and then convert them to subdivision surfaces later.

Subdivision surfaces are used extensively in character animation because they can define almost any complex smooth surface without the need to stitch patches together.



As subdivision surface modeling has been chosen as the way to model for the characters in the Game, next we will create some volume.

Creating a human head

"A sculptor starts by rapidly defining the volume, then concentrates on refining the surface. In 3D, this method is known as volume modeling, the process of growing, extruding, and manipulating edges, faces and vertices of a polygonal primitive such as a cube. In contrast, when you work with a modeler that manipulates higher-order surfaces, including NURBS, patches, and metaballs, you start by defining an object's surface first, and then modifying its volume. To a traditional sculptor, this approach puts the cart before the horse." [Bay Raitt]

NOTE: A character designed for a game requires a low number of polygons to move well in a game environment. As the computer will have to redraw the scene, and everything in it, 24 to 30 times per second, the larger the number of polygons, the slower the game will play. A model designed to be part of a game may look somewhat boxy, but the application of realistic textures does make up for its geometric simplicity.

Volume modeling lets you focus on building an efficient low resolution form while taking advantage of the power of your software and hardware to generate higher resolution versions using derived surfaces.



After creating volume you can then extrude verts, faces or edges to start cutting in areas of your surface like nose and eye sockets.

.. using magnet moves to control areas of the model is a much easier way to work than pulling on single cvs or artisan's wanky influence areas.


As for the basics of sculpting, there are only two qualities that truly define your model. The silhouettes and the contour lines.



Edge loops

Think of edge loops as laying a series of rubber bands over an entire body, adding extra bands where you need more detail (e.g., around the mouth and eyes) and fewer where less detail is needed (e.g., the back of the head).

An edge loop closely mimics how real muscles work, and if built correctly, will give you control over contour and silhouette in any position.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Wheel in Your Sole



About the cooooooooolest thing I saw in the street today was this child walking ... and then rolling over the pavement.

Courtesy heelys

She literally floated over the sidewalk on her fancy sneakers (that is 'sportshoes').

Where did she found them and how does that work?

The answer is HEELYS:


Heeling = rolling on a heel on a wheel in each shoe

These roller shoes are an extremely popular, trendy, great looking trainer with an added twist. With one wheel that is hidden in each heel, you are suddenly able to skate and surprise every one.

Just push the button that is on the back of the heel, against your other foot, and the wheel pops out.

Simple. To retract the wheel, just push the button again and push down on the wheel.

The action, once mastered, is a simple gliding action. Great fun!

Release the wheels:
Release the wheel by kicking the lock button on the side of your other heel.

Or, click the lock button on the toe front of the opposite foot.

Hiding the wheels:
Press and hold the lock button against your other heel or toe and push down on your wheel.

The action is done by pushing off on one leg and balancing on your wheels with your toes raised and one leg directly in front of the other. Never have both feet side by side:

Starting out - Find your balance:
Find a railing or something to hang on to and click out your wheels.

Lift your toes up so you are balancing on your wheels.

Practice this until you feel comfortable balancing on the wheels.

Put your leading foot forward and put your weight on this foot.

Lean forward slightly and push off with your back foot.

Keep your weight on your leading wheel.

Bring your back foot directly behind the front one, keep your legs straight and glide on both wheels.


·To wheel faster, walk or run in to the wheeling motion.
· To balance better, lift the toes of your front foot higher.
· If you feel like you’re going to fall down, just put your toes down and walk out of the wheeling motion.
· When learning to wheel, be careful not to drag the back heel part of the shoe on rough ground as this will wear it out.
· Keep one foot directly infront of the other, not side by side as this will make you fall backwards.

Courtesy burtzshop

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Body Building

Ooops, no I am not starting a career in the sports school as a weight lifter.

This Blog's entry is about photography of the human body, and how the photographer decided to 'rebuilt' its appearance.

So, flesh and nude in a challenging pose. Questioning us again (see Humaterials) where the border is between the human being and animals / landscapes.

First, I'd like to introduce to you the recently buried photographer Bob Carlos Clarke.

About Carlos Clarke:

Within a few years Carlos Clarke was established as a first-call fashion, portrait and commercial photographer and as an auteur image-maker with a line in mysterious, imaginative and erotic monochrome photographs.

He has described sensual imagery in general as 'a delicate conspiracy between the imagination and the evidence'.

"Best tip in affordable contemporary erotic photography is Irish-born Bob Carlos Clarke. Both Maclean and Juliet Hacking, head of Christie's photography department, tip him as the new Helmut Newton (the German-Australian photographer... - The Observer, Sunday May 7, 2006.


Next, in line with Carlos is Paul Conroy. He has turned the human body into a landscape.

About Paul Conroy:

Emerging British photographer Paul Conroy's work can be seen as a crossover between traditional landscape photography and documentary photography. In a unique twist, the human form substitutes as the backdrop in the composition, creating a wholly original style. The result of this approach is sometimes sensual, often humorous and consistently intriguing.

Conroy has worked in film and television for most of his professional career.

Monday, May 22, 2006

How to Catch a Fly

In the process of completing my film on "What Sunday means to me" I have recorded the Kitchen scene today, with the kind assistance of Chris Brooks. He is my fellow committee member of the Edinburgh Movie Production Society (

Below you will hopefully be able to make sense out of the storyline that runs through these images taken from our recordings. [view left to right, top to bottom]

NOTE: As you probably already had discovered, the dead goldfish is made 100% out of plastics, and so are the flies; special effects department.

With the Beach scene and the Kitchen scene completed, all that is left is the Hallway scene. For that I needed a location with a front door with a mailbox opening. Luckily dear friend Helen has invited me over to shoot at her home at 9.00 am.

I have to bring my own Sunday paper ;o)