“A painter paints pictures on canvas. But muscians paint their pictures on silence ~Leopold Stokowski

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beware of the Shadows

Published by Amy at 1:28 PM

Team: Laura Murphy, Cameron Coker

Laura: VVVV, Shadow Creature Rig, Compositing
Cameron: Man Model, Man Rig, Animation, Compositing
Amy: Shadow Creature Model, Texturing, Animation

Laura's Blog
Cameron's Post

Our project idea sprouted from our first projection mapping exercise several weeks ago.  Laura liked incorporating shadows, so we continued to work with them for our second project.  We initially had issues finding our "space" to project onto, but thankfully Hwaryoung suggested an interesting place on Building A of the Architecture school.  She suggested at first that we project from our studio down onto the space.  Unfortunately, the glass created too much reflection.  We re-arranged ourselves on the breezeway.  The space is the second story on Langford A, above Azimuth.  The space works well because there is not any interior lighting that interferes with the projection.  It is also visually interesting at the angled perspective.  

Laura and Cameron originally played with the idea of positioning doors on each of the panels/slats of the building.  We continued with the idea for our project, but provided two interesting characters: the man and the shadow creature.  The three of us decided it would be interesting to make the project interactive with movement (webcam) even though it was not required.  Through quick discussion, we decided on our final concept:

A silhouette of a man walks through a series of doors.  From the shadowed areas, a shadow creature stalks the man though reveals itself gradually.  If there is no movement in the area of the web cam, the man will get eaten by the shadow creature.  If there is movement, the shadow creature spooks and darts back into the shadows.  

Technical Background
We used the program VVVV for the projection mapping.  Laura created the transformations for the walls using a function that takes the desired output corners.  VVVV has easy functionality for displaying videos.  Unfortunately, it only reads certain file types with certain codecs.  Laura created functionality to randomly generate the action queues for the characters. For more details on how Laura created the program, see her blog:

Laura's Blog

Since I decided to use ZBrush for modeling and 3D Coat for retopologizing (two programs I was unfamiliar with), I had to do some research.  I looked up several tutorials that gave me guidance on each of the programs.  Thankfully, Jarrod Simpson is rather familiar with ZBrush.  He was also able to help me immensely and lead me in the right direction. 

Laura, Cameron, and I did additional research on the movement of our shadow creature.  Randall from Monster, Inc. was used as a reference for the movement of the creature.  Laura found many, many videos of lizards.  She has a post dedicated to her reference videos:

Shadow Creature

For look development, one of references was Limbo.  Cameron felt the silhouette of the man needed eyes so that the audience could connect with the character.  My design for the shadow creature was influenced by Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppets.  

Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppets

Cameron, Laura, and I worked in a partial non-linear path.  Cameron and I were responsible for the models and animation while Laura created the program for our interactive projection mapping.  Cameron and I followed the general pipeline by starting with modeling, rigging, and animation.  Cameron modeled, rigged, and animated the man.  He also did the eat animations.  We have four different types of animations for the shadow creature, with additional variations of those four types.  There are peaks, advances, eats, and spooks.  These are videos that are randomly generated through Laura's program.  By the time Cameron and I were animating, Laura had already completed majority of the program.    We just needed to implement our rendered videos into VVVV.  Laura also did the rig for the shadow creature after she created the program.  She made dual offset SINE Modifiers for the rig so the shadow creature could move like my original concept drawing.  She alternated working between the rig and the program a couple of times.  After we finished majority of the program, we had to render and composite the animations in Adobe AfterEffects.  Laura created a calibration image so we could properly align and measure the panels when we composited.  The calibration image was originally created to make sure they were sized correctly on each panel.  

Image used for compositing arrangement

The three of us ran into several issues, each individual and different.  I ran into several issues since I decided to use ZBrush to model.  As of two weeks ago, I had no experience working with the software.  It was a bold move on my part to attempt to use ZBrush for a two week project.  It was challenging, but I partially now know an additional program I could potentially use in the future.  I found 3D coat's auto-retopology function the most difficult challenge for me.  I was even more unfamiliar with the software and re-topologizing a mesh.  The function was able to partially retopologize the mesh, but it wasn't exactly acceptable for animation purposes.  Laura and I combined two separate meshes for the final model.  The low resolution base mesh from ZBrush was used for the body, and the next highest resolution head was used.  Laura skinned the separate meshes together.  

Emergent Narrative
The narrative becomes important when the audience recognizes their role in the interactive project.  Their role is first not evident until they recognize that their movement has an impact on the animation.  If they stand still, the man will get eaten.  If they create movement, they will spook the shadow creature and save the man from death.  At this point, the audience becomes part of the narrative - they determine the man's fate.  Interesting enough, we found that the audience desired to see the man get eaten by the shadow creature.  

Future Improvement
In the future, we would like to improve several characteristics.  I would definitely like to do additional peak, advance, eat, and spook animations.  We have on average about three different animations for each currently.  We would also like to improve the interaction between the audience.  We would need additional lighting so the web cam could recognize movement better.  A more fluid spook system would enhance our project.  Though it is interactive, we all agreed that audio or sound effects would make the project increase suspension of disbelief.  The audience also did not immediately understand their role in the narrative.  My team and I would need to create a more obvious role for interaction.

I wish we could have had more time on the project, but I still found it exciting and different.  This was the first time for me (and majority of us), to do projection mapping.  This project has broadened our knowledge and portfolio/demo reel.  I am very happy I partially know ZBrush now.  I plan on doing some personal work in the near future with ZBrush.  



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