Unity Engine Evaluation

After completing the work for the AAS demo of the NYWF project we crawled back to our cave and started questioning whether it’s a good idea to continue working with the Ogre 3D engine.

We built small tiger teams to evaluate 3 – 4 engines. Unreal, CryEngine, Trinigy and Unity.

I took on Unity and rebuilt parts of the fair from the content we have from the AAAS demo.

Unity is a very modern game engine. It supports all the new devices and platforms. It’s very convenient since authoring one game means you’ll be able to deliver on several platforms.

The downside of Unity is the lack of support for industry standards like LOD switching as well as an integrated node based shader editor. For things like that the users of Unity have to rely on the community. While there are tons of such micro solutions out there, there’s no way any game studio would rely on third parties to continuously support such tools on their own. “You get what you pay for” comes to my mind. And “OpenSource is freeware”…

We decided to keep going with Ogre3D mainly because of licensing issues. While all engines provide an EDU licensing scheme, that scheme is meant to be for educational purposes only. As long as you distribute your game for free, you might use the engine for free. But since our final deliverable is going to go into museums where people pay admission, we had to drop almost all of the engines immediately.

Here’s a few more images from my exercise

Proxy buildings using LOD’s in place

Here are some shots of the New York World’s Fair proxy simulation I built. The idea behind this was to get an estimate on how many polygons the Ogre engine can take and also it should be used as a playground to implement gameplay mechanisms.

The 3 LOD’s range from 50’000 (low level, pink) over 1.8 million (medium level, green) to 15 million polygons (highest level, turquoise). If all of either LODs is loaded at once that is.

In most cases only the very close buildings are seen in the highest level of detail.

While visually not very attractive this was a good footprint of the complete product and a great test-bed.

Different LODs showing
Detail Shot
Detail Shot
Detail Shot

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Win a X2R2 on LinkedIn

This is just a reminder that you can win a X2R2 system from Motion4U. The contest is held on the “Professional Maya Users” group on LinkedIn.

If you are using linkedIn, join the “Professional Maya Users” group and then go to the discussion with the title: “Website Feedback Request and Contest New 3D Animation Software Release for Maya
Continue reading Win a X2R2 on LinkedIn

LEGO Research Showreel 1995 – 1998

This is where it all started…

This video is from the time at LEGO (1995 to 1998) and shows work Dan and I were involved in during this time. It documents what was happening in respect to human interaction in 3D space at LEGO and goes all the way to real time movie making with digital LEGO. It visualizes the vision we carry when we create a product like Xaelander for Motion4U.

The very first bit of the video shows an early prototype that was realized in collaboration with David Small which was at MIT at this point. As soon as the gentlemen in the yellow suit pops up you’re looking at Scott from Multigen that uses SmartScene. In the second part of the video there is footage from the castle demo of the WIZard group at SPU Darwin (actual name of the demo was “Batlord’s Castle”). In there you will also see Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen the owner of the LEGO Group (gentleman in the blue-shirt with tie and the VR headset).

So if you’re in for the short read, watch the vid, follow the links above and check out what you can get out of this today. If you care about background, history and tech-babble … keep on reading 🙂

LEGO - RealTime Movie Making

Continue reading LEGO Research Showreel 1995 – 1998

Xaelander – Previz in Maya

I just completed recording a small animation in Maya using the new Xaelander X2R2 hardware testing the upcoming Xaelander software release.

I think it documents nicely what the Xaelander software suite is capable off. It demonstrates animating a walk cycle on the primary character and animating the secondary character. The powerful two point 3D camera tracking and animating a special effect by capturing motion onto a locator.

I look at the short video and think “Even if I captured every part ten times, I created that animation in about 20 minutes. An experienced storyboard artist could probably come close nailing that shot in 20 minutes. But a previz animator should never ever have to just float his characters around anymore – they should make them walk around.”

Xaelander - Maya Previz

Ogre3D DCC Wiki

I am involved in project that is rebuilding the New York World’s Fair from 1964/65 in 3D. Read more here…

We are using the Ogre3D engine to render the ‘game’. Producing into a OpenSource engine is not always easy because sometime the tools to export models from 3D modeling applications and many other aspects of a content creation pipeline that is available through the community are outdated or simply don’t work. Ogre3D is a well spread engine by now, but most studios that work with it keep their tools and solutions close to their chest.

Wiki on Ogre3D and more…

In the spirit of the NYWF (New York World’s Fair) project which is funded by the NSF (National Science Foundation) I’m going to provide the solutions we come up on a Wiki for everyone to follow, use or even extend.

Motion4U @ Siggraph 2009

We had our own small booth @ Siggraph 2009 in New Orleans. And yeah the gorgeous woman in the gold suit belonged to us 🙂 I am amazed how underrated the “booth babe” concept is these days.

Motion4U booth @ Siggraph 2009 "Booth-Babe" @ Siggrpah

Here’s Vizworlds photo gallery covering a lot of the show. You’ll also find this picture in case you did not remember her eye color 😛

Microsoft Natal

Just a short note on this “new” technology.

Microsoft has started to attack the Wii from Nintendo with the project Natal. Read More…

I remember seeing a video that showed someone sword fighting with his finger and of course I saw Bill Gates Talking at the D5 conference in 2007 about his “last” vision for Microsoft is in Vision Programming.

quote: “So 3D is a way of organizing things, particularly as we’re getting much more media information on the computer, a lot more choices, a lot more navigation than we’ve ever had before. And we can take that into this communications world where the PC is playing a much more central role, kind of taking over what was the PBX, sort of one of the last mainframes in the business environment. That will be a big change that will come to it. And as we get natural input, that will cause a change. … Software is doing vision and so, you know, imagine a game machine where you’re just going to pick up the bat and swing it or the tennis racket and swing it.”

Natal is the first device that will actually release that does marker less tracking in an affordable price range. Of course there was the Z-Cam from 3DV, but now that Natal has surfaced it’s clear why Microsoft has bought them up.

I hope that their developers come up with more creative ways to use the motion interaction as some developers do for the Wii.

Google released open-source 3D API for the web

Could this be the one that changes the game? Google has released a 3D API, Quote by Google: “O3D is an open-source web API for creating rich, interactive 3D applications in the browser. This API is shared at an early stage as part of a conversation with the broader developer community about establishing an open web standard for 3D graphics.”

Read more here…

We’ve seen many formats and efforts of bringing 3D to the web in the past. At the begining there was vrml 1.0. I was very excited and built a lot of things in Power Animator and exported it to vrml inclusive authoring. Vrml 2.0 had animation, multi textures on one node and many more features like proximity sensors and 3D sound. I was especially impressed by “Floops” (unfortunately I found no usable links on Floops – anyone – comment?) created by Brad de Graaf for SGI (Silicon Graphics).

Later on vrml was replaced by X3D. X3D is an xml based file format and was supposed to widely spread and the plans were to create exporters for many applications in the animation and cad sector.

I’ve played with X3D and the Flux Player. Flux Player now merged into Vivaty but is still available to download here. I will put my experiment online soon… Stay tuned.

I am really hoping that this will finally kick of some serious business for 3D on the web. It’s about time I think. The bandwith, the gfx power on peoples machines and the technology is here. Now that Google has picked it up it has a real chance to succeed. What do you think?

Motion4U – What is BurstMode?

Here’s a little flash anim posted for historical reasons and sharing.

It’s explaining different operations that can be done in BurstMode.

Left Mouse Button = Object Manipulation
Middle Mouse Button = Camera Manipulation
Right Mouse Button = Burst Fly Mode

Check out the Flash below. Beware it loads for a while…

FlightCabin_03

LEGO – squash and stretch to the ugly…

I wrote up an article one day because I am constantly getting annoyed by the ignorance of producers and animators towards the legacy of Godtfred Kirk Christiansen the son of the founder of the LEGO Group. To me the LEGO figure is molded with rigid plastic. Bringing those figures to live by deforming them destroys the look and feel. Read it here…

Now this Intro page to the upcoming LEGO 3D Digital Universe is probably the worst I have ever seen. Watch the mini figure in red dancing and bowing, errrmm… hitting his head to the floor. And mind the broken geometry on the arm when he’s waving…

Here’s a screencapture (1.8 MB QuickTime movie) of  the LEGO Universe Intro (In case it changed…)

Here’s a more elaborate 3rd party article on the LEGO Universe followed by a very good comment written by a fellow co-worker at SPU Darwin and a dear friend of mine Christian Greuel. (NOTE: This is coming from the web archive website. Please be patient, it will load for a while.)

P.S. This text, nor any text on this web site are related, recognized or endorsed by/to the Company “LEGO® Group”. LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies.

Porsche Design – Worldtimer

Two of the biggest challenges in creating watch animations are that most likely if you get to animate a watch it means it doesn’t exist yet. So you got to cobble together the look of the real material in that particular shape and finish. The other challenge is the that most watches are only visible because they reflect their environment. Now to do that for still shots is somewhat easier than animations because, even in real life, reflections on such a small object can become erratic and you end up animating the environment which can make the 3D scene somewhat complex.

Here’s the three 3D animation we made as freelancers for MDI Production in Neuchatel/Switzerland in collaboration with two freelancer animators from France, Geoffrey Dupuy (Storyboards, 3D animation) and Nicolas Parreira (3D animation, Expression setup, materials, rendering). The AfterEffects work was done by Mathias Schmid who was in his last weeks of his apprenticeship as a media designer at MDI.

I was supervised the project for Franco. COnverted and prepared all the models from CAD to Maya. My main focus was on animating, texturing, lighting the Porsche Design Worldtimer and i was responsible for rendering all the animations on the 30 CPU render farm. I basically slept next to 8 PC’s setting the alarm clock every 2 hours. Yes, it was hot and noisy.

Watch Animation – 2007 – Porsche Design "WorldTimer" from Alex Furer on Vimeo.

Watch Animation – 2007 – Eterna "Vaughan Big Date" from Alex Furer on Vimeo.

Watch Animation – 2007 – Eterna "Vision" from Alex Furer on Vimeo.

Lightwave Test

After doing the last watch animation in Lightwave I did a small test in Lightwave at home. I think Lightwave is a very good software. The main reson for me to get into Lightwave tho is that it has this very impressive plugin renderer that really blew my mind.

I tempted to underestimate anything else than Maya but I had to learn a lesson. Once you overcome the horrible interface you will meet a lot of stability, expandability and ease of use.

This is just a stupid test but the main thing for me was to do an outdoor scene using fPrime.

Cart Racer - Lightwave test
Lightwave Test

3D Internet – The future?

What if a website would be completly in 3D? I made the experiment and created this test using the X3D modeling package called Vizx3D. Media Machines (Tony Parisi) acquired Vizx3D and released later an application called Studio3D based on X3D.

You will need the newest installer to play this experiment. Get it here. Vivaty has taken over from Media Machines and has finally developed a plugin that also works in FireFox.

Update January 2016: Vivaty was bought up by Microsoft and their products and gallery were discontinued. More info also here. The player is now downloadable as part of this package.

Note: If you install the “SetupFluxPlayerStudio2-1.exe” from this package it will install the Flux Studio 2.1 and the Flux Player. Flux Studio is an interactive X3D authoring tool.

Warning: Although the Flux Player install will crash and report that FireFox is open and the plugin cannot be installed, the player will be installed. You can find it in the start menu under “Media Machines, Inc”. I can confirm that it runs on Windows 7.

If you run it you can then open the URL: http://fullframestudios.ch/AREA/X3D/files/index_04.x3d to see the demo I did 8 years ago.

Be aware, this is completely experimental and I don’t take responsibility if it crashes your computer.

 

My basic idea was to transport the regular experience of browsing a website into 3D space plus add a little more excitement.

X3D_Images_01

Continue reading 3D Internet – The future?

RoninWorks – Rattle – Promotional Video

Moving an object around in 3D space can be a tedious and annoying process and is definitely not something a baby could do with todays versions of tools like Maya, 3DS or alike. But with the immersive tools from RoninWorks even a baby could animate a shaking rattle more dynamically.

Watch what happens when a baby discovers full 6D motion interaction.

RoninWorks - Rattle - Promotional

(And yeah, after hearing this over and over again for 3 full days, exhibiting at Siggraph, we had a rather ballistic attitude towards crying babies…)

LEGO – RubberDuck (8299) CD-ROM

In 1995 we started drafting a production plan for the first LEGO box that would come out with a CD-ROM. The main concept was to do 3D animated building instructions of the two main models. There were many more 3D animated building instructions and a lot of basic to advanced explanatory LEGO Technic concepts and much more In the final product. I would like to mention Claude Aebersold, Bjarne Tveskov and Christopher Yavelow, Michael Lawson and Juray Highdway, without them the 3D content would still be rendering 🙂 .

The production was finished right before Siggraph that year. The CD-ROM won the “Danish Design Centre “ID98″ Prize” and the “Best Scandinavian CD-ROM” Awards.

Here’s a very small excerpt of the building instructions for the Main model: The “Little Sub”.

LEGO – Little Sub Buildinginstructions from Alex Furer on Vimeo.

Animagica – The LEGO Movie

The Lego movie is the result of the hard work of 4 – 5 partially Swiss individuals that was sold to LEGO for an undisclosed amount of money and started a $6 million feasibility phase made out of six people at the LEGO corporation which later enabled a department of 168 employees from 11 nations with nearly $50 million of budget to create the first generation of digital LEGO toys…

Logbook, The captain, “Monday, 4am, finally the last frame of the 41 layer composit rendered to QuickTime no compression on our 64 MB ram, 33 Mhz Macintosh Quadrd 950 PowerHorse. We never thought it would take an end AND we didn’t miss Frodo’s birthday either.”

LEGO – The Movie from Alex Furer on Vimeo.