This is my personal blog.
My main website, where most of my work is held, can be found at 'www.geraintthomas.co.uk'.
Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Motion Capture



So I've been playing around with Motion Capture, using two Xbox Kinects and a piece of software called IPISoft. Originally I thought this would have been quite restrictive, but after using it for a few days it's quite easy to see the potential.

You don't need two Kinects - the one would do. The only problem with this is that while it can recognise the depth and assign the bones to your structure, it can't see limbs that are hidden. That's where two cameras come into play.

There's a load of YouTube videos on this bit of software, and the results are staggering. The software supports Maya, Max, even Lightwave. If you have access to an Xbox Kinect, it's definitely worth a try.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Earth Renders

Yes, even more. Mainly because I've almost finalised the look and feel of it. My last few posts were describing how I managed to accomplish the actual 3D build itself, but this is mostly aimed at the post production side.



This is the same model as the previous posts, but with added post. It's only a quick attempt, but if these stills come out good enough I'll consider a motion project. Possibly some sort of Sci-fi title sequence for a film that doesn't exist - or one that does.

It was created in a hugely basic way. A dust overlay layer, a prime flare layer on an 'add' blending mode, and just some de-saturation for the earth. Looking at it now, I can't help but to think 'Star Trek' every time I look at movie prime flares...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mac OS X Leopard on a PC Laptop

FINALLY! I've been trying to do this for months. After updating the hardware on my desktop PC, I've never been able to get OS X to work on it since, so I've had to resort to installing it to my HP laptop. After many months and some long tedious late hours of geeky-ness and gallons of tea, I've done it. Mac OS X running on a HP laptop.



Yeah, it may only be 10.5.8 for now but it's stable as a rock and all of the laptops' features work. What's the point, you may be asking? Pretty simple - a Macbook Pro costs more than £1,800, whereas the exact equivalent performing Windows laptop costs just £800. I understand that the build quality of all Macbooks are gorgeous, which would in turn raise the price, but I refuse to believe that it's worth £1,000 more. The second reason is that I can use a lot more programs for my work. The Final Cut Studio package, for example. I use this at work but I've never been able to use it at home, until now.

So that's about it, just a quick post to justify the ridiculous hours I've put into making this work. Apple; as much as I love you, you're prices are ridiculous. This will do just nicely.

Friday, February 24, 2012

After Effects 2.5D Test

While I had some spare time, I tried to think of a way to create realistic looking 3D within After Effects. I know the program has some great 2.5D techniques, but I wanted to see if I could squeeze a little more out of it.

The test I created was simple, but the project file was quite complex. I've just about finished it though, and I've made it as generic as possible so that it's easily customisable.








The project file features a composition in which you create your 2.5D object (in this case the cube), then it gets passed onto a 'stage' where the lighting is applied, and also an expression-driven shadow is created. The shadow reacts to the objects shape, and changes dynamically with its position, size and height. This gets passed onto a light wrap comp where it takes the background and wraps it around the edges of the object slightly, to give it that 'burn' feel - and also makes the object feel more situated and planted. The final comp is post-processing, where there are some lighting changes (levels) and colour corrections that can be applied.

The animation was by hand - no physics were included. The 'squash' effect in the beginning was literally a 'bulge' effect applied over the object. Sneaky, but it works. The parts where it's trying to burst out of the cube (whatever 'it' is) was created with CC Smear. The final explosion was simply the shape expanding, and some lighting effects composited over the top.

All in all I'm happy with the way it came out - it was VERY quick to animate, and very quick to customise and move around. The only lengthy part was creating the project, but now it can be used as a template. Hopefully this will come in good use in the future!

Here's the finished result in motion:

Monday, December 05, 2011

Solar System Re-visited - Maya

A couple of years ago I started playing around with Maya after learning a few tips and tricks in University. Wanted to learn more about texturing and the interface itself, so I decided to model planets in the Solar System. Simple spheric shapes with complex textures (well for me, anyway). I started with the Earth but wasn't very impressed. It was literally a textured ball with a glowing atmosphere. After deciding to re-visit the whole project, I thought I'd look into it a lot more.

This new Earth has 16,000 x 8,000 texture maps, bump mapping, separate cloud layer (with bump mapping), specular maps for the sea, night maps (for the edge of darkness), atmosphere on the edge of the earth, and an Ozone layer. It's a way to practice Maya's functionality as well, so have a look below at the original (two years ago) and the new model:

Old
New

Agreed the Ozone layer is huge at the moment, I'm still working on that. This took about a day to create, which included researching into ramp shaders to create the atmosphere. I'm quite happy with it so far! I'm planning to create a Solar System in Maya (to scale.. not) where the different planets are vastly spaced. I did this before and quite liked the concept of it. For example, I placed the camera on Earth's surface and looked out towards where Mercury was, and once I rendered the shot it looked great - Mercury was literally a small red star.

My girlfriend and I are now living in a fantastic house-share with a man named Justin Beaver, a sci-fi novel writer. He's keen on working with us to help visualise his novels so I'm quite exited to get this 3D solar system finished, so that I can create his 'universe' of planets. Anyway, I plan to carry on creating more planets as I go. I'm working on the Sun at the moment, it's probably the hardest one to do!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cross-processing Photography

I've always been interested in that sun-burnt vintage feel when it comes to photography - catching those beautiful mistakes on film, the light artefacts that make the image feel more natural. As I've bought a film camera, I'm seeing more and more of these pop up in my shots which, in my view, is a great thing.

Of course, with a digital camera you could sit there for hours trying to achieve the perfect shot. If it isn't what you wanted, you bin it there and then and take another. With film, you take the shot and that'll be that. When you develop the shot you seem to treasure it a lot more because it's the only copy. Makes it more unique.

I've been looking into applying these techniques to photographs that were taken on my digital camera. It's nice to see a glimpse of how the shot may well have looked with film. The two shots I have here are of my dog Margo, and was taken with a 7.1 MP camera. Not great at all, but the Fujifilm camera has a surprisingly good lens for its age and model, as it's not a DSLR. The shot beside it is the same shot but with my own cross processing applied to it. Subtle film grain, cross-processed colours, sun artefacts, etc. Give that almost summer-ish feel.

I'm not one for going over every photograph and overhauling them with this technique, but it's nice to know that if I'm in a situation without my film camera, I could take a photograph and picture it in my head how I'd want it to look if it were film.

Plus, it's always good to practice!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Inspiration: Harald Belker - 3D Work

The front of December 2011's issue of 3D World magazine features work created by Harald Belker. I've been wanting to get into 3D for a while now, but this has made me want to even more so.

As a bit fan of the Wipeout series, it's not hard to see why I'd like this design. The bright punchy colours, racing references, futuristic sci-fi feel, glossy renders, all eye candy to me. I've also noticed he has a book released named 'Pulse' - I may have to invest in this!

Thanks to a colleague at my workplace I'm starting to pick up 3D a lot easier, using Lightwave 10. Seems hard at first but you kind of get into it. Anyway, just a small post to show you some inspiration I've come across recently.

Monday, September 12, 2011

AE Practice: 3D text entirely in After Effects

A few projects at my workplace required 3D tracked text in a scene. 3D text generally takes time to re-render, especially if you want it looking simplistic. I've been finding ways of making a realistic looking 3D effect for text and / or any other objects, using no plug-ins or software outside of After Effects.

The images you see here are created entirely in After Effects. Created by compositing a editable text layer so it layers itself up to 20 times (this is visible on the letter 'e' in the second image). Each layer has a gradient dynamically coloured from the front layer, and the front layer has a slight bevel on the edges. The reflection was a flip, and the shadow was a simple fast blurred layer.

Rendering time is quite slow for what it is, but compared to 3D rendering it's a lot easier to work with, and a lot faster to render than 3D modelling software.


Techniques such as these will definitely come in use in future projects. I'm starting to build a library of techniques and tips that I've created myself, such as the previous post on this blog. Always good to keep track!

Friday, September 02, 2011

AE Practice: Simulating a monitor surface

I've been practising some techniques in After Effects lately, what with learning new plug-ins and the like. After seeing an advertisement for the new Google+ social network, it made me want to try something new. The advertisement shows screen shots of the website as if it was filmed by a camera looking at the monitor. If you were to look at a monitor up close, you'd see the pixel grid on the surface of the monitor, the chromatic aberration of the colours ar
ound objects, etc.

These are my attempts at achieving this! Added chromatic aberration, depth of field and a pixel grid so far:

(click to enlarge)













The Gmail one has a grid that can only be shown on anything darker than white. The Dropbox one has a grid that can be seen constantly. I think the dropbox one works substantially better, but it does drop in lightness due to a constantly visible grid.

You can view the advert which made me want to practice this HERE.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Iconicles!


Well here it is - Iconicles! A production that I've been working on within my previous work place 'Dinamo Productions' has now been aired, and can now be seen every week day at 3:45pm on CBeebies.

I worked on this for around nine months and it's nice to say that the work has definitely paid off! This was the first production company I worked in after I graduated University in September 2010, and as I'm sure the rest of my colleagues were, I'm very proud to see this finally on television.

My work within this TV series consisted of the 'Iconiscreen'. I helped design and create the look, feel and function of the Iconiscreen as 'Nat' navigates his way through strange and wonderful worlds to meet new characters. I was involved in creating the 'Home screen' where Nat chooses the lands he wants to view, the 'Games sequence', and the 'Fly Through' sequences where by Nat zooms the camera over hills and mountains, to finally reach the desired characters within their worlds.

It's been a fantastic experience working on this series - I'll surely miss working with the team.

So sit back, tune in and enjoy!