Friday, August 11, 2006

Can you imagine the Tenth Dimension?!...

Ok, this isn't really CG-related but appeals greatly to the "geek" inside every one of us... heheh

A new book is out called "Imagining the Tenth Dimension" by Rob Bryanton. To publicize the book, he put together a nice website with a series of Flash animations describing very plainly the concepts behind each dimension from 1 to 10
that helps to visualize them. Essentially it is like the difference between 2-dimensional "flatlanders", and our well-known 3 dimensions, which is something we fairly easily can visualize.

At Tenth Dimension, you find a quick tour of the possible 10 dimensions of a universe based on string theory.

Well, I don't know how scientific it is. Scientists who talk about 10 dimensions tend to bend over backwards to point out that they're not really the kind of dimensions that are useful for us to move in, but they're just sort of curled up in a very small place, of no practical significance to us, and only needed to make the equations add up. Which I tend to not believe, so I like it better this way.

So, we can imagine the same magic continuing in more dimensions. Seen from a lower dimension, somebody who moves in a higher dimension can do impossible things, like appear out of nowhere, or travel huge distances in an instant. Because higher dimensions fold lower dimensions. Just like you might find certain distances on a piece of paper (a 2D plane), but you can fold it in 3 dimensions, and bring any two of its points together, so you can get from one to the other, without traveling any 2D distance. It would be equally logical that you can do the same with time and 3D space, or with whole timelines, or universes of possibilities, once you use more dimensions.

And if we assumed that the real reality is the 10 dimensions, rather than the 3, 3 1/2 we're used to, it potentially can change our perspective greatly.
The dimensional concepts presented can have a strong metaphysical tone, allowing you to extrapolate to life and death, the afterlife, and God...

Truly an excercise of logic, ingenuity and imagination! Will give your brain stuff to chew on for a while! Hehehe

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The CG Treasure Chest

What is that Davy Jones?!!
After seeing "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Dead Man's Chest" for the second time, I still left the theater amazed...

ILM was showing off it's technical prowess during Siggraph 2006 at several events: Autodesk's AGUA, Pixar's RenderMan User Group Meeting, a few Siggraph technical sketches and at Lucasfilm's booth on the exhibition floor.

Though there's a huge amount of effects (digital and non-digital) throughout the movie, nothing strikes your eyes more than the über-villain Davy Jones. Most of ILM's presentations were focused of the hardships of making Jones come to life.

Davy Jones was played by the talented Bill Nighy. The captain of the "Flying Dutchman" is a half-man/half-sea monster being who haunts the oceans since the day he had his heart broken by an unsettled love affair.

Nighy was shot with a grey marker suit to give the CG team accurate light positioning and color temperature from the set. Though some make-up was added to his eyes and mouth for a "backup", Davy Jones is ENTIRELY CG throughout the movie.

ILM captured the actor's movements from his shot performance and
relied heavily on keyframe animation to exaggerate his acting and animate his face and tentacles.

For those, ILM technicians created a dynamic setup that could simulate the physics of each tentacle with gravity, collisions and basic curvature; on top of the simulations the animators could select which parts of each tentacle would receive hand-animated keyframes, and which parts would remain simulated. On top of that, there was a system that allowed the animators to paint areas of the tentacles that would be "sticky", and how much "stickyness" they could have, so the tentacles would adhere to each other and to Jones' clothes, and detach depending on their speed and/or based on the animator's cue.

Jones is the captain of the "Flying Dutchman", a frightful sight that seems to be as much a part of the ocean depths as its cursed captain.

The ship was built to full scale as a set.
A digital
replica was provided by ILM for several shots, which was extremelly accurate and provided its own rendering challenges.

The ship's crew was also created as CG characters. While some background crewmembers were shot with make-up, most of them - specially the main crewmembers - are entirely computer-generated throughout the movie using the same techniques as Davy Jones.

ILM used RenderMan to render all the CG elements in the movie.

One new RenderMan version 13 feature that was crucial for the production was its new ambient occlusion workflow that doesn't require expensive raytracing calculations.
During Pixar's RenderMan User Group Meeting, an ILM technical director was praising this new feature saying they would not have been able to render some of the most complex elements (such as the digital "Flying Dutchman") using current occlusion and global illumination techniques. ILM worked closely with Pixar on this issue, and RenderMan's "traceless" occlusion and color-bleeding features were polished for this current release (PRMan 13) as they were being used for the production of "The Dead Man's Chest".

Compositing for all the shots was split between Apple's Shake, Autodesk's Inferno and ILM's own Comptime and Sabre systems. ILM used its EXR format extensively throughout the production to maintain image depth and provide extended control to compositors through extra information added via RenderMan AOV render passes.
While the public waits for the next Pirates of the Caribbean (due 2007), Davy Jones and his crew set the new standards for believability and push the boundaries of CG art and technology for the next years.

Images are a courtesy of ILM and are ©Copyright Disney Enterprises Inc. and Jerry Bruckheimer Inc.

ZBrush 2.5 is comming...

Well, true. I have shown here some images of what I have been doing while testing Mudbox.
It is an amazing app even while still in beta.

However, I have not forsaken ZBrush. It is an incredibly powerful tool, and definitely THE standard that Mudbox aims to surpass.
While that still remains to be seen, Pixologic has impressed the community again by showing (at last) the upcoming ZBrush 2.5 during this last Siggraph.

I saw the demos at their booth, and my jaw remained dropped all along! Heheh
At times they were manipulating models with over 40 million polygons without flinching - painting and displacing the darn things like there was no tomorrow! HAHAH
Simply amazing!

Here are some links to quicktime videos showing some of the main new features.
ZBrush 2.5 should be shipping sometime around October/November 2006. It will be available for both Mac and Windows (32 and 64 bits). A Linux version is underway but has no release date confirmed anytime soon...

Sub Tools
Mesh Extraction
Enhanced 3D Sculpting
Mesh Painting
3D Layers