Dr. of Machinima

A blog By Dr. Nemesis following the progress of Binary Picture Show's work, as well as other Machinima.

Mar 7, 2008 at 3/07/2008 09:55:00 AM | 4 Comments
So anyone who read yesterdays post (maybe about 10 people, then I imagine two of you returned) may have left wondering:

"DAZ3D models in Machinima? Too polygon rich, this fool's finally lost it."

Or

"You fool, you think that's original but it's already been done! FOOOL!!"

Well both schools of thought are correct. Take the very popular Daz 3D model, Victoria 3 for example. She's somewhere in the region of 75,000 polygons if memory serves, with the reduced resolution version somewhere between 32-45,000 polygons and that's without clothes and hair. Way too high to have just for one Machinima character, no matter how hot she's supposed to be.

Then again, it can't be that bad, because my main man Tom Jantol regularly uses Daz3d models in his films, and he seems to get along fine. Well, yes he does use them, and my goodness they look great! Oh those beautiful curves and not a straight line in sight! But as many people will know, more polygons in the scene require more power. This can be one contributing factor to why Tom doesn't have many of these characters on screen at once. What's more if you notice, the characters aren't clothed. They're naked as the day they were born, and have a stone/marble sort of texture on them.

Then it can get even worse if you want to easily implement facial animation. with Mimic you can get your lip syncing done easier but getting your characters to actually emote still isn't as easy as using the CT/MB technique

The reason all this is so important is that both Tom and I are Motionbuilder users. We are part of a very small crowed that uses the tool to actually capture the end result. For me it's the only real-time environment that gives many of the freedoms I had back when I used Quake 2.
Ever since leaving game engines behind (and even before that really) it's been a problem finding where the next model for each film is going to come from. If you use a game all that stuff comes pre-packaged. Break it open and your good to go, but when you leave that it becomes more important to provide for yourself. Daz and poser have huge amounts of content available relatively cheaply so if you wanted you could even sell the resulting film, but how would I get around the problems I mentioned earlier? I want more people in my films, and I want to use the same technique for facial animation as I used in BEAST.

Well, with the help of Tom, I've been theorising loads on a possible solution (sometimes I think that's all I do). It involves reducing the number of polygons in the models down to a point were they are much more manageable, but still retain their quality. Anyone with some experience in this will know that this is a messy job. Usually when you do it the models get real ugly real damn fast and things become unrecognisable.
My research led me to understand that it can indeed be done less destructively. I can't explain the technicals, but DAMN it makes one hell of a difference!

With it, I have been able to reduce a 10,000 polygon head to 3000 polygons and keep most of the juicy goodness. Now that's still a hi count for a face, but hey, it could be worse. Then I have to simplify the eyes and mouth areas so that they will accept the Crazy Talk technique better (I really should give it a name). I found out that the Iclone G2 characters are around 10-14,000 polygons each so I've set that as my quota here. The next challenge is to do the whole body, but because of the detail on heads and the time we spend looking at them, they are much harder, so I believe the difficult part is mostly done.

So here for you today is the head of Victoria 2, at around 3000 polys. Just so she'd look a lot less like an alien I gave her hair for the Sims 2 (2000 polys), from the great site, xmsims.com. I deleted an ear and some of the scalp so in total it came to just around 5000 polygons. There are still many improvements that can be made, through UV manipulation and texture baking but for a test vid, I think the result has been great!

video

So the hope is that by reducing the polycounts and tinkering here and there I can populate a whole film using this technique, and it's what I hope to do for our next big one.
But that's all for today! On Monday we'll look even closer at the idea of creating these abominations. I've only touched very lightly on the idea of mixing resources from different games into one engine. Obviously this can be taken much further, so stick around and we'll learn more + I didn't even get round to talking about Iclone 3. For now have a fun weekend!

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posted by Dr. Nemesis
Sep 20, 2007 at 9/20/2007 07:23:00 AM | 0 Comments
Well, Beast is finally out and from the response it received at its premiere all its aims where met. For those who haven't yet seen it, here's the youtube upload.

The time spent working on the story was worth it, and it has indeed turned out to be an emotional film. As such the facial animation played a key role and as someone who's watched it without, it makes a big difference. Of course the time spent trying to get it done in time for the Europe Machinima fest wasn't worth it, as it didn't get nominated but I'm hoping this flic is of a level that will see a Binary Picture Show film doing alright at other festivals. Thanks a lot to the guys at Machiniplex.com for organising the release event, and you can see a high quality stream of it over there, or at Stage6. Stay tuned cause I should soon be posting some notes on the film's production for those interested in how the creation process went.

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posted by Dr. Nemesis