Summer 2016 Interns

This summer’s interns have been selected, so I would like to give a short introduction for each of them to familiarize everyone with our new team members. Shown below each one is an example of their work as well! Lamont Robinson, 17, currently lives in Philadelphia, PA and is interested in studying 3D animation. Having […]

This summer’s interns have been selected, so I would like to give a short introduction for each of them to familiarize everyone with our new team members. Shown below each one is an example of their work as well!

Lamont Robinson, 17, currently lives in Philadelphia, PA and is interested in studying 3D animation. Having watched a lot of 2D cartoons, he was heavily inspired to pursue 3D once he saw what it could do. Lamont especially enjoys sculpting people, and objects like vehicles and robots. He found out about the Tube project through BlenderNation, and is excited to learn more about the process of rigging, materials, and character animation.

Lyndon Daniels lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa, where he has participated in many different projects and taught at the University of Cape Town. Having worked in 3D animation for several years, Lyndon has created a wide range of work, including models, applications, and animated shorts. He was inspired by the open movie Elephants Dream, and became interested in the world of open source software and animation. This interest eventually led him to find out about Tube.

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Alice Langois lives in Belchertown, MA and just finished her freshman year at the Rhode Island School of Design. She has worked in a wide variety of media, but hopes to pursue 2D and 3D animation. She has also gained increasing interest in stop motion, and creating models from found materials. She discovered Tube through BitFilms after seeing the short Caldera. Interested in the free culture behind Tube and Elephants Dream, she hopes to learn more about the use of open source software and the community behind it.

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Congratulations, and thank you for your help!

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Tube Production News

Friends! Supporters! Please pardon the radio silence while we’ve been cranking frenetically to get the movie made. Conducting such an ambitious project with a tiny budget means that we all work on Tube with one hand while also keeping the lights on with the other. Our lovely crew is pushing hard to ready the trailer […]

Friends! Supporters! Please pardon the radio silence while we’ve been cranking frenetically to get the movie made. Conducting such an ambitious project with a tiny budget means that we all work on Tube with one hand while also keeping the lights on with the other. Our lovely crew is pushing hard to ready the trailer for release in time for the Siggraph conference next week, which five of Tube’s artists (Bassam, Pablo, Hanny, Francesco, and Bing-Run) will take a few days out to attend. We look forward to seeing some of you there!

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To whet the appetite, here are a few render tests from the work that’s been in-progress, as well as a fast look at some of what’s been happening:

Between inescapable bouts of his trademark rigging, Bassam’s screens are full with a mix of directing, project management, shading tasks, time-lapse animation, pipeline coding, and more. As scenes develop and renders come off the farm, Bassam and Fateh, Tube’s writer/producer, are also making the late day shot and edit decisions that bring all the pieces together. In the process, we’re excited to be planning for things like sound design and distribution.

Art director Pablo Vazquez has rejoined us in Massachusetts for the northern summer, and is busy running the lighting and shading pipelines, compositing, and making gorgeous render tests that are extremely distracting to anyone trying to work while sitting next to him *cough*. By nights and weekends, he and Francesco turn the dining-and-laptopping room into a hotbed of furious industry as they’ve been developing and promoting Blender Network, refactoring blender.org, converting Caminandes to 4K, and building still another new project soon to make public.

Francesco Siddi, who many will remember from Tears of Steel, Caminandes, and this cool thing also joins our local crew this summer as awesome all around generalist/TD/project manager. He’s been finishing up the last missing layouts, poking Bassam to make some helpful automations, and valiantly cleaning up the hairy library files that nobody else wants to touch. He’s put Tube on the Attract management software in development since Mango/ToS, and in fact added some features Bassam requested to better track Tube’s epic production.

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A great group of super-talented artists and interns have joined our local crew both visiting from abroad and online.

We’re very happy for the addition of lead environment artist Nicolò Zubbini (Tears of Steel), who is a real pleasure to work with, and has been cleverly applying his experience in architectural shading and Cycles rendering to the special challenge of designing animated textures suitable for time-lapse. He is producing materials for entire sets that have a single slider to control their ‘aging’, and he’s published some thoughts on his approach to shading since Mango in this video.

Dimetrii Kalinin
heads up organic modelling and texturing, working in high poly for some extremely challenging models that require design, sculpting and modeling chops, extensive anatomical detail, and an artist’s eye. His work is incredibly impressive, and he somehow produces things in a weekend that would take anyone else ages to do.

Xiaohan “Hanny” Lu has been with us as an intern generalist since before her graduation from Hampshire College, where the Tube production is based. She has contributed a bit of rigging, modeling, and simulation but especially excels as a lighter, applying her technical skill and cinematic sensibility to several shots for the Tube project, which you can get a peek at in her demo reel.

We’ve had the benefit of amazing animators Gianmichele Mariani, Sarah Laufer, Beorn Leonard, Tal Hershkovich, Karen Webb, Jarred de Beer, Virgilio Vasconcelos, Nathan Vegdahl, Luciano Munoz, Matt Bugeja, and Chris Bishop — who also acts as our invaluable animation supervisor — about all of whom more should soon be said.

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Participating artists and interns Hassan Yola, Christine Stuckart, Davide Maimone, Aislynn Kilgore, Samah Majadla, Connie Hildreth, Ike Aloe, Arindam Mondal, Jeenhye Kim, Lukas Zeichmann, Rachel Creemers, Jake Wisdom, Tim Carroll, Nora Jenny, Pere Balsach, Davide Maimone, Milan Stankovic and others have all made great contributions that we’ll be talking about in future. This summer Jiang Bing-Run, a young animator visiting from Taiwan, is proving a great asset in tackling Tube’s crowd sequence.

In the upcoming weeks we have a number of exciting announcements and releases planned, so keep an eye out for more!

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Book Review: Blender 2.5 Character Animation Cookbook

I recently received a digital copy of Blender 2.5 Character Animation Cookbook from Packt publishing. This book is written by Virgilio Vasconcelos, a blender animator and rigger who is currently animating shot ‘a1s38’ on this project 🙂 The target of this book I feel is strong beginners or intermediate level artists/learners, who are either new […]

I recently received a digital copy of Blender 2.5 Character Animation Cookbook from Packt publishing. This book is written by Virgilio Vasconcelos, a blender animator and rigger who is currently animating shot ‘a1s38’ on this project 🙂
The target of this book I feel is strong beginners or intermediate level artists/learners, who are either new to rigging, animation, or to blender itself. Advanced users could benefit from it but more sporadically (ooh, I didn’t realize you could do that!, or as a reference, and students who are absolute beginners may get lost in some terms, or not yet know why you would want to do certain things.
Virgilio’s past experience both as a professional animator and as an animation professor is evident in this book. He writes in a clear, concise fashion, and has a knack of excluding super-complex detail while still taking things to a production level in a surprisingly simple seeming step by step way.
The first part of the book focuses on character rigging, and I really appreciate that he starts from the basics- setting good bone orientations, shapes etc., rather than leave these things as an uexplained step for later on. The rigging lessons build on each other, so after some basic lessons they quickly ramp up to a level where students must really be diligent and pay attention to learn. By the end of the section students should be confident rigging cartoony biped characters, and have enough experience that they can start experimenting with ‘invention’, creating new setups for new situations, or their own personalized ones for improving common ones. I really love that Virgilio shows some of the very strong production techniques in Blender, such as using sculpting for creating corrective shapes.

In the second part of the book, the focus is all on animation, starting with a simple ball exercise, and rapidly ramping up into character animation. The first chapter is mainly technical (like the rigging section) in it’s setup: that is, he starts with workflow, then with things like IK/FK switching, etc. This book introduces workflow and technique first, so the focus at start is learning animation in blender, not learning animation in general yet. This chapter is basically an introduction to blender for animators, and I think maya or even 2D animators picking up Blender will spend most of their time here.

After the technically-heavy blender intro, the rest of the animation chapters return to the basics a bit, with lessons in timing, spacing, anticipation, squash and stretch, etc… All those basic animation principles we know and love. The book is good at using blender features to enable animators to get what they need done efficiently, using Blender’s path-drawing features to adjust their arcs, or using the Open GL preview to better see their timing.  As in the rigging sections, the downloads for the book contain Blend files that make it easy for students to get right in with each chapter working on the exercises with no fuss.

The book ends with an appendix with some useful tips on planning, organisation, and terms.

 

Some criticisms: Even in a good book such as this, I can find some things to crit ;), but they are mainly small things. In the rigging section, Virgilio fails to warn his audience about the (current) fragility of one setup, when talking about the corrective shapes (an otherwise excellent segment). Luckily, a current summer of code project fixes this problem, so it’s likely that any such warning will be unneeded in the next release of Blender! Another tiny nitpick is that Virgilio uses the term spacing in two different ways, the first time unconventionally (referring to actual physical locations) the second more like the usual way for animators. I feel that he could have picked a better word for the first time. Finally, in the rigging section, I think that a tiny introduction to Python for creating interfaces would be quite good, and give riggers an alternative to the object/bone based sliders in the 3D view.

Conclusion: These are really tiny nitpicks. This book really is good, in fact, I’d say it’s the best animation and rigging reference for Blender yet, and even as a general reference for riggers and animators in 3D applications (since most techniques will be similar in different programs). While I read through linearly from beginning to end, the book also has ‘See also’ segments at the end of each section, that allow students focusing on a particular track, to follow a different path of learning in the book, something I thought was a good idea. I would put this on my ‘recommend’ list, as a book for intermediate/strong beginners, as a Blender reference for riggers/animators from other software,  or as a book for teachers to use as a textbook.

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A Blender Conference by any other name would be just as sweet

As always, the conference was awesome- an intense three days of talking, listening, meeting, blending, eating the traditional conference sandwiches, drinking coffee, beer and mojitos, not-enough-sleeping, more blending, etc. After a sleepless but uneventful flight to Amsterdam I walked into the Blender Institute the day before the conference, only to have Andy pressgang recruit Pablo […]

green shoes of awsomenessAs always, the conference was awesome- an intense three days of talking, listening, meeting, blending, eating the traditional conference sandwiches, drinking coffee, beer and mojitos, not-enough-sleeping, more blending, etc.
After a sleepless but uneventful flight to Amsterdam I walked into the Blender Institute the day before the conference, only to have Andy pressgang recruit Pablo and me into making the Suzanne festival and award interstitial animations with him. We had a (very sleepy) blast working till the wee hours, and more in the next morning, and I got to go up in the projection booth once again and play the festival off my laptop, thanks to the power of totem/gstreamer and python (for making the playlist). I apologize for the one or two glitches- a couple of the videos needed to be re-encoded for smooth playback, but we somehow missed that in the studio.

Jeroen Bakker showed me his awesome openCL nodes in the compositor on his laptop, running 20!zoom!! times faster than the CPU equivalent. When this stuff hits it’s going to make a mini-revolution for Blender. I’m no longer a sceptic about GPU computing I guess 🙂
Wolfgang Draxinger did a fantastic job making the stereoscopic version of Elephants Dream. Great choices, hard work and technical precision- I’m blown away both by the result, which rivals the best stereo work from major studios, and by the amount of work he put into it. He’s planning Big Buck Bunny next, but in the meantime, some snaps of us removing (the unfortunately crumpled) screen after the show:IMG_3906

I met with Josh, Henri, Francesco, Jason, Jonathan, Jean Sebastian, Heather, and recruited Dolf, Tal, and perhaps Luciano, Andy and Pablo for our project. We had a meeting the second day of the conference, which gave me a chance to finally pitch the story and current animatic to the team in person, talk about where we are at in the project and assign some short-term tasks. We also had a presentation on Sunday, mainly about technical issues: rigging, though I did not demo rigamarule- turns out auto-registration of operators had somewhat broken the UI while I wasn’t looking (it’s fixed in current tube SVN). Josh showed off his work on procedural animation, and Henri demoed building scene layouts from library models using our LODing system and the landmark-snapping system created by Pablo Lizardo.

As Fateh has blogged, Tube member Jarred De Beer won the Suzanne Animation award, congrats dude!

The presentation had an unexpected benefit; it introduced the project to new contributors- Thanks Tal 🙂

Sadly I missed some people- Malefico has too many conferences on his plate to make it to Blender conference this year, and I was too swamped to meet up with Stani, Python coder and artist extraordinaire.

Finally, I had the honor of working for a bit on Andy and Eva’s awesome stopmotion animation project- Omega– which has some CG elements. I spent a large part of Monday (the day after the conference) rigging an amazingly designed and detailed character Andy built for the movie.

Big thanks to Ton, Anja, Anna, Nathan and everyone who made the conference possible and enjoyable.

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Across the Pond

Hello Everyone, I’m Josh, one of new crew members for tube.  I travelled over to the US from England last week, and I’m here until mid September undertaking cultural studies, and working on the models for the film.  While I attempt to mediate transatlantic differences (such as introducing the rest of the team to Branston […]

Hello Everyone,

I’m Josh, one of new crew members for tube.  I travelled over to the US from England last week, and I’m here until mid September undertaking cultural studies, and working on the models for the film.  While I attempt to mediate transatlantic differences (such as introducing the rest of the team to Branston Pickle and Marmite, explaining the etymology of ‘bangers and mash’, and justifying why I need a knitted cosy for my teapot), my hosts are offering an American exchange programme complete with drive-in movies, fried dough, Independence Day Celebrations and Root Beer.  In my time away from the screen I’ve been out enjoying the fresh air, beautiful countryside and very un-British weather.  I’ve been running to and from work each day (8 ½ miles each way), and when I had a few hours to spare last weekend I biked up to the Sugarloaf Mountain.

Fresh out of finishing a long and traumatic Architecture degree at Cambridge University, I vowed never to work in the industry again.  My first task in the studio, however, was to design the station roof and columns, and to provide general advice to the rest of the team on all things architectural!  Being British, and naturally strongly resistant to change, I was slightly thrown when I realised the team was working with up to the minute svn builds of Blender.  Back home in my own work I’d been hanging on to the 2.49 vintage with its historical interface not unlike the quirky 400 year old tumbledown cottage I lived in at uni.  2.5 comes with its own breed of glossy newness, an impersonal homogeneity with other 3D apps akin to the monotony of the skyscrapers in downtown LA and a feature set which sprawls on and on like the city-edge of Phoenix, Arizona.

Bewildered at first, I was tempted away from the path of the righteous by the glowing red devil’s tail of Maya on one side and the swirling captivating vortex of 3DS on the other, but eventually I found my way through the valley of darkness.  I still miss many of the 2.49 features which haven’t yet been ported – skinning loops and multi-knife-cuts to name a few, and in my first few days I’ve spent a considerable amount of time filing bug reports, hopefully for the greater good.

There are still some very simple features I wish had been integrated into the new release.  As what Pirsig might call a ‘mechanic of the photographic mind school’, all of my previous organisation and labelling systems have been tainted with a certain amount of… dyslexic logic.  To make life easier for everyone else on the project I have to name every object, bone, group and file according to a strictly prescribed style, not least so our python automation knows what’s going on!  While I don’t mind accumulating road miles on my way to and from Amherst every day, I hate the unnecessary mouse miles blender’s UI demands.  I’ve illustrated one of the key issues (which could be solved by a simple hotkey and under-mouse-dialog) using an analogy that will be familiar even to non-blender users.

After breaking free from summers spent as a CAD-monkey in local architecture firms, I now find myself pining for the logical and consistent snapping and tracking systems I was so familiar with from hours spent in front of Rhino, Vectorworks, AutoCAD and the like.  At least the resulting ‘errors’ present in my incapable use of Blender’s snaps often results in a more derelict and aged look!  Here’s a work-in-progress snapshot of the interior of the train which I’ve been working on today, by virtually bashing it up:

That’s all for now,

Josh

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