Tuesday, October 30, 2007


that's not to say either traditional/2-d or 3-d is dragging the other down. they're just very different, and i don't think an interest in one necessitates an interest in the other.

in response to sepehr

it's not that i disagree that computers are more effective and practical for visual effects. it's more that i personally enjoy animation for the magic it demonstrates when you can see inanimate objects or drawings - things that you know don't move on their own - come to life. i'm always more mystified when i can see an artist's hand (figuratively) in the work. and on top of that, the story of traditional animation is always an important part of the work. when you throw a computer into the mix and start talking about programs that do this all for you (and of course they're more efficient and closer to technically perfect - they're machines!), the focus is ALL about the effects, and i cease to see anything that captured my interest in the first place. i do appreciate that you can make a computer program make believable water, but watching a few seconds of a computer program doing its thing doesn't really inspire me in any way.

this is all very reminiscent of an argument i'd make in high school, about being on the "swimming and diving" team. i was on the swimming part, but the diving half - in their completely separate practice - slacked off all the time and sort of sucked, so they'd always drag us down in meets. my argument was this: just because we both were in a pool, doesn't mean we're at all the same sport. i mean, volleyball and basketball both used the gym, but they didn't compete as the "volleyball and basketball" team.

Monday, October 29, 2007

August 21, 1996?

Okay, this link is old. But since VFX and science are both built on what came before, it's still very relevant.


It's a great page about much of the problem solving and process used to create the tornadoes in the film Twister. Weather is someone we are all familiar with and have a strong mental image of what real storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. look like. So to duplicate them well digitally requires a lot of painstaking research.

What seems interesting is it's the little extras that really make it believable. People didn't notice the tornadoes in Twister as much as the noticed the flotsam and jetsam that was thrown about by the tornadoes (everyone remembers the cows). This carries over to The Day After Tomorrow (TDAT), of all the LA-ravaging tornadoes in TDAT, the ones that really seems convincing are the ones ripping about objects like the Capitol Records building.

Cometition for Amazing visual effect creation


Cgsociety has just announce this new competition asking for the amazing creation pictures.
Only one render image is required and and due date is Jan 7th 2008.

I'd suggest that for those who feel interested might get great inspirations from scientific pictures--even though those cells and virus pictures, for example, are earthly, still they look very alien and breath-taking.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Computer is only one of the elements in visual effects (but it is getting to be the most dominant one)

Well, I don’t say that computer is running the whole thing of visual effects and even visualizing science (as we saw in the department seminar.) There are many movies that use puppets for their scenery, static modeling & etc. but not for animating those objects with deformation or stop motion animation anymore. For instance, in the Lord of the rings movie, most characters were first of all hand sculpted, then scanned in 3D and then that scan was used as a base for modeling a character in computer to be rigged and animated.
I don’t underestimate the power of sculpting. It is actually much more tangible than modeling in computer. I think if not all but most of the scenes that we could see in Kendra’s YouTube movie were Stop motion animation that is not used in visual effects anymore since computer can do a better job of it. But the richness of pictures real objects is kind of difficult to be depicted in computer shading so they actually take pictures of hand-made scenery to be used in the scene. Like for example the cities in the lord of the rings in long shots were all very small hand made sculptures and then very tiny cameras were used to take pictures of these so they look like to be huge. Like here the tower is made by hand then they have put some effects on it in computer to make it look very old…

for those of you who think a computer is a must for special effects...

ahem, sepehr

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Real Flow - leading in fluids

I must agree with Wyatt that, yes, Maya Fluid effects are Swiss army knife but the principle behind displacement is used in much more advanced fluid packages as well. I used ocean shader to show how displacement is used in action to come up with decent imagery with what we have on hand at USC. While Fluid effects can have real dynamics and interaction with other objects/characters within the scene, it is true that Maya Fluid is not the best tool available on the market. It is Next Limit Real Flow software that is the leading in this arena (Every kind of fluids but clouds) but unfortunately we don’t have access to it at USC. Here are samples done with Real Flow:

Here is the link to see the reel:
It is really interesting.

It is also interesting to note that although Real Flow was originally a Visual effects tool, a program called Xflow is derived from it which is for scientific and engineering visualizing.
Here is a link to Xflow:

Play-Doh Ad


Check the "Watch Our Play-Doh Ad, there's a commercial and also the making of.
It is amazing how they use replacement animation and pixelation to create a dream-like, surrealistic piece.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Scanline VFX Flowline

Who uses Maya for water?

Sepehr raises some good points about Maya's handling of it's ocean shader, but the fact is, Maya is a more of a swiss army knife instead of a surgeons scalpel. Water, weather and other natural phenomena are so complex and random that it's hard to create the effect convincingly, and many still really on practical effects to create these.

Enter Scanline VFX. A European VFX company that cut hits teeth on films like Revenge of the Teenage Zombies and Bibi Blocksberg and the Secret of the Blue Owls has become a forerunner in water VFX.

Their reel for Siggraph 2006 really drives home what they are capable of delivery entirely in CGI. The raging sea storm in 300? Scanline Flowline VFX.

Sepehr can dissect their ocean shader. This clip (and others) can also be seen on Scanline's site.


Thursday, October 11, 2007


Where do you draw the line between what is scientifically accurate and what is spectacle for entertainment purposes? Ultimately it is the director's vision.
Does scientific accuracy need to exist in blockbuster films?
When it comes to documentaries and educational films, are some of the 'educational' bits being suppressed in order to maintain the engagement of the audience?

Just questions to pose.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Displacement in Ocean Shader

It’s interesting to know that Maya ocean shaders also use Displacement but it is not kind of “True Displacement” as it can be done with PRman or recently Mental Ray. So basically surface is not going through smart Tessellation or “Micro Polygons” here. It is some kind of Uniform tessellation that is applied to whole surface.

Here is an example:

Example 2:

Here we can see that there is actually no smart micropolygon creatation by noticing that a uniform tesselation is applied to the whole "ocean object":

We hope that in future versions of Fluid effects they will use micropolygons to enhance rendering time and resources needed to come up with such effects.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

winners of 2007 International Science and Technology Visualization Challenge

The National Science Foundation announced the winners of 2007 International Science and Technology Visualization Challenge. The categories contain photography, illustration, informational graphics, interactive media, non-interactive media

"Some of science’s most powerful statements are not made in words. From the diagrams of DaVinci to Hooke’s microscopic bestiary, the beaks of Darwin’s finches, Rosalind Franklin’s x-rays or the latest photographic marvels retrieved from the remotest galactic outback, visualization of research has a long and literally illustrious history. To illustrate is, etymologically and actually, to enlighten," written in the web page.

This again demonstrates the importance of the combination of science and artistic visualization. It not only further the development of scientific study, but also make the difficult concept tangible to the crowd and serve for educational purposes.

Click for Link