Friday, December 28, 2007

IF Soar

Here is my entry to this week's Illustration Friday "Soar" challenge. It is loosely based on the Quebec Folk legend La Chasse-Galerie, that according to some takes place on New Year's Eve -- so with that Happy New Year (but don't go making any deals with the Devil or go flying off in a Bewitched Canoe)!

Friday, December 21, 2007

IF Horizon

Horizon submission for Illustration Friday -- this is an edited version of the horizon I painted for this year's annual greeting card:

Friday, December 14, 2007

critters on mountain

I was out snapping reference photos of the snow today on the mountain and found myself next to this little guy. I like his "pose".

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

DVD compilation is on Amazon!

The SmokingMoose DVD compilation is now available online via

The product information on Amazon is still a bit vague (I'm hoping to get it updated soon). In the meantime I've copied the description from the CreateSpace Store below. Or you can click on the thumbnail image to see the DVD jacket cover.

Here's what's on the DVD:

my smoking moose film, 8 minutes, 3D computer animation. A moose, a newspaper and a pack of smokes. 2007.

get a grip, 45 seconds, 2D drawings on paper. An exciting new personal sports product. 1994.

to bear oneself, 6 minutes, 2D plasticine drawings on cel. A bear wants to be human. 1992.

TOO MUCH! 2 minutes. Time lapse and still photographs. A tour through New York City in 2 minutes flat. 1991.

License to Kill, Part MCMXC, 3 minutes, 2D pencil drawings on paper. A bear goes hunting. 1990.

Bonus material: previews, other animated clips, Director's commentary, still images and comics.

technical specs:
NTSC DVD-R video - All Regions Enabled.

4:3 - letterboxed where appropriate.

English language - my smoking moose film also in French or with French subtitles.

Running Time 20 minutes - not including bonus material.

Some content may not be suitable for young children.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Ecard on HD Greetings

I created an ecard for the HighDef HD Greeting Holiday Contest. You can take a look at it here.

The card is available in English on the site, but if you'd like to send it with a different tag photo I've made a few different language versions. Right click on any of these images to save them to your computer and then when you are at the "personalize" menu when sending the card, choose to add a photo, and choose the alternate language photo you saved.

Friday, December 07, 2007

DVD is available

It's true! This is the link to the DVD store on Create Space. It will take about 2 weeks to appear on

Here is a promotional clip I made for the DVD:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

DVD is coming soon! really!

I've sent the master DVD and artwork to CreateSpace and am waiting for the "proof" to approve. I'm quite happy with the way the DVD turned out, although I wouldn't be me if I didn't have some second thoughts about which films I put on it and which ones I left off -- but all in all, I think it has lots of good stuff on it and the people who have seen it have liked it. I will post the link when it is online and ready for sale!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Raccoon and Moose in Smoking Hearts

Here's what I've been up to for the past week! A new short clip for AnimWatch challenge 005 :

I entered rather late in the process so I didn't get any feedback, but that's ok. I like the way it turned out, even if it is a little bittersweet.

Update: My friend Jean Theberge gave me a bit of feedback on the camera positions, so I've made a few revisions on the character closeup shots and have updated the video on YouTube. Thanks to Jean for the feedback.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Solargraphy image has been processed

Wow. What a pleasant surprise to see the image that is the result of a 3 month exposure from a pinhole camera that had been taped to my balcony (between June 21st and September 23rd). Here is the image that Tarja sent:

For more information about Solargraphy, visit Tarja's website

For reference, here is the image from my digital camera of what I thought the camera would capture:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

DVD compilation testing

I've started getting help testing the DVD compilation master. My good friend Rick is testing it and hasn't found any technical issues. I was having one on my DVD set top player -- that the French subtitles were appearing by default, despite not having set them to appear for the disc. Simulation mode didn't have this problem, nor did playing the DVD on computers. I've since found a way around it by moving the French subtitles to track 2 and setting the disc subtitle to the empty track 1. I'm so happy when issues can be easily fixed. I've burned a new master and am waiting for the next tester I've asked to accept the challenge!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

DVD compilation ready for testing

whoo hooo. The DVD master is ready for testing. If you're in Montreal and want to test it for me please email tiger at smokingmoose dot com. There's about 30 minutes of material on it (not including the different language options). After it passes the testing phase I'll be sending it to -- but it will still take a few weeks for it to appear for sale on that site as well as on Amazon.

Friday, October 05, 2007

DVD is almost ready to release

I'm so close to closing the DVD compilation of my shorts. I'm really happy with the way it's turning out. I'm only doing NTSC for now. I'll have to see about PAL and what the easiest way to do it would be. I created all the artwork at 720x540, so it shouldn't be too big a deal.

I've been recording the Commentary, which I mistakenly thought would be easy. HA! I've got lots of stories to tell about each film, so it's not the content that's the problem, it's making it sound intelligent... recording it at the same time as watching the film is really hard. In fact, there were so many "uhms" and "ahhhs" the first time I recorded it, I laughed out loud. Maybe I should put 2 Commentary tracks -- the "improved" version and the funnier first take. Hmmm I don't think so.

If I have your email address, I will send a mooseletter soon to announce the availability of the DVD. And yes, to those of you in Montreal, I will have a screening soon. If you don't think I have your email and if you want to know about the DVD release or be invited to a screening in Montreal, send me an email (tiger at smokingmoose dot com).

Saturday, September 22, 2007

QuickTime Download - Prepare for Internet "Fast Start"

This is the second (if not third) time I've had trouble with getting QuickTime movies to "fast start" on download (and it pains me to say because I love QuickTime ;o) -- but I need to post something here, so I'll remember next time what I need to do to get it to work! Even though I save the movies in QuickTime pro, with the Fast Start flag toggled on, when I test downloading them, the Fast Start feature does not kick in; meaning that visitors get the big blue Q while waiting for the download, and unless they notice the "transferring" message in the status bar, they may think the download is not working.

I finally got it to work and am close to knowing why this is happening -- normally I compress the video and then use QuickTime Pro to enter the Movie info (copyright, description, keywords, etc) and use "save" -- it is possible that this is removing the Fast Start. The other possibility is that I really need to use "Fast Start - Compressed Header" via Compressor. The version that is working for me now, was created in Compressor with "Fast Start - Compressed Header" and I did not open it to re-save it in QuickTimePro with the additional Movie Info. I need to figure out how to add that via Compressor.

On to the DVD.

Strange New Preview Teaser for My Smoking Moose Film

At the time I thought of it, it seemed like a good idea. Now when I look at the final result I find it a bit odd for a teaser for the film. I used XSI's Shape Manager for the pizza dough and for the first time it worked without errors. Another first was that I took advantage of Animation Layers in XSI 6.02 - this too worked -- I had one case of a crash, but once I knew what was causing it, I could work around it, and I can say that Animation Layers saved me a bunch of time ;o)

Anyway, here is the new teaser.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

This just in -- "Hysterical!!!"

I received an email from Jonny Lewis early this morning telling me he was at the screening in L.A. last night and that he thought my smoking moose film was "hysterical!!!" (3 exclamation marks according to Jonny). It was really nice of him to write and it makes me quite happy that someone who doesn't know me found it funny.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tonight's the night!

I haven't been getting too excited about it, but tonight is the night my smoking moose film will make it's big premiere at the L.A. Shorts Festival. If you're in L.A. skip on over to the AMC Burbank theatre tonight at 9 pm to see it. AND if you do, please post some feedback.

Thanks to Floyd Bishop for giving it a shout out on

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

LA Shorts Screening: Wednesday September 12, 2007 9 pm

The date has been confirmed, my smoking moose film, will premiere at the LA Shorts Film Festival on Wednesday September 12th, 2007 at 9:00 pm.

If you happen to be in L.A. and want to go, it will be playing at the:
AMC Burbank Town Center 6
770 N. First St.
Burbank, CA 91502

A new preview for my smoking moose film!

Finally! It seems like I've been working on this one forever ;o)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ottawa Festival says no, LA Shorts Festival says YES!

I found out a few days ago that the Ottawa Animation Festival had not selected my smoking moose film. They received more than 2,000 entries and select only 130 or so. I was a little disappointed for a few moments, but then remembered good things have come to my films through the Ottawa Festival despite not having been selected, so I will remain positive!

And on a positive note, the LA Shorts Festival has selected my smoking moose film for a special showcase screening. I'll post the time and date of the screening when I know it ;o)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Jubeela photos

I was backing up and cleaning my systems the other day and I found a few photos I had prepared for Aniboom last winter. I don't think they ever posted them, so here they are:

Sunday, July 22, 2007

AnimWatch and Demo Reel

I'm working on my demo reel. I didn't have any lip sync on it and wanted to add some. Serendipitously I fell upon which has a animation contest that requires lip sync. Here is the QuickTime movie (starring Raccoon and Moose, of course ;o) but check it out -- they're not smoking !!!!)

You can see the other entries here.

For the demo reel, this only half cuts it for me ... it would be better to have an example of secondary shape animation for lip sync and so that is what I am working on now. I'm not totally convinced that I'll be able to achieve this with the current raccoon and moose geometry .. I'm working on it. Also, in animating this clip I had a lot of difficulty with rotations on the arm bones -- I don't remember having the problems when I was making the film (I was using XSI 4.2 and now I'm using XSI 6.01) -- I don't know if it's a bug in the software or if a setting has changed somewhere, but I'm going to have to figure out what is going on, 'cause it's really frustrating.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Official Date of Completion: June 28th, 2007

Whooo hoooo. It's official. The film was recorded onto HDCam 23.98 ndf videotape last night making the date of completion officially June 28th, 2007.

I'm going to the Jazz Festival tonight to celebrate!

On a side note, I've updated the products in the smoking moose store with new and improved images of the characters from the film.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Long Lost My Bridge Videotape

I've wanted to do this for a while. I hope to do more, funnier ones. Here is the new XSI 6.01 rigged, enveloped and character key set animated smoking moose:

He looks like he's been drinking as well as smoking. I don't know when that happened ;o)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mirroring envelope points

Here are some things to remember about using symmetry maps and mirror weights for envelopes in XSI:

* must have one envelope (afaik the tools in XSI only allow you to mirror weights on the same envelope/geometry);
* create a symmetry map and template -- the map is found under the envelope weights and the template is found under the model -- the map contains information on how to apply the weights and the template contains information on what to apply the weights to;
* select the points that you want to mirror the weights of and choose Animate>Deform>Envelope>Mirror Weights;
* if you change the weighting of the points the change will not automatically be transferred to the symmetrical points -- you will need to select the weights and mirror the weights again.

You can also use symmetry maps while painting weights -- look up symmetry maps in the online help and click on for weight maps to display the help for Activating Symmetrical Painting.

Friday, June 22, 2007

XSI 6 - Character Key Sets / Sub-Key Sets

A note about using Character Sub-Key Sets -- in order to create or edit a sub-key set you need to set the current Key Set or Sub Key Set first -- this is the last item of the Character Key menu -- if you don't do this and try creating character sub-key sets (after "selecting" the set that you want to add it under) either nothing will happen or you will get an error message that says Type was nothing -- if you open the script editor log you'll see this (which is a clue that the character set is missing from the command, and that "selecting" it, isn't what you need to do):
' INFO : Must receive Character Set as first parameter
' INFO : Type was Nothing

Here is a screengrab :

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pinhole camera and Solargraphy

This has nothing to do with the smoking moose, but might be of interest to anyone reading this blog. My friend Loren Williams, a wonderful photographer, gave me a pinhole camera (made out of/in a 35mm black plastic film canister) to attach to my balcony to take part in Tarja Trygg´s Solargraphy project. Loren received a few pinhole cameras from Finland and has distributed them across Canada. I taped the camera to my balcony this morning (June 21st, Summer Solstice) and uncovered the lens at 10h30 a.m. (Eastern Daylight Time)

Here are reference photographs from my digital camera:

Photo of the pinhole camera taped to my balcony :

plus close up (just in case you don't notice the "camera":

Here is a chopped together wide angle of what the camera might be recording:

The camera will stay in place for 3 months (as long as the condo association doesn't ask me to remove it). The pinhole will then be covered and I'll give the camera back to Loren, who will send it to Finland for processing. Hopefully a nice image of the pattern of the sun will be created.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Decisions, decisions, decisions

The crazy thing about submitting films to festivals is not only trying to choose a festival that is appropriate for your specific film but also making sure that you can meet the requirements of the festival you submit to. I've recently decided not to submit to the Festival du Nouveau Cinema, partly because I'm not so sure it is a good fit for my film, but mostly because I would need to make a 2nd digiBeta master for the subtitled version (or have professional subtitles done) and I just don't have the cash (or the energy to own more master video tapes). There are 2 other events in Montreal around the same time that I will submit the film to. Of course I will keep the subtitled version that I've done for the DVD.

Tomorrow I'm going to drop of my disk drive at Vision Globale so that they can make me a digiBeta master videotape. That will mean the date of completion is near (might be tomorrow or Wednesday!). I need to decide how many digiBeta copies to make and how many BetaSP copies to make.

By the way, the new web site is live and I really like it ;o) It's kind of crazy -- it is basically one html page -- with the exception of one or two pop ups and a few pdfs that will also pop up (depending on your browser pdf setting).

I've also installed the new version of Softimage XSI (6.01) and am re-rigging the moose. Using the Rig from Biped Guide makes the rigging so much easier and creates such a better rig than I could create drawing skeletons (mostly for the feet but also for the hips and upper body). The tediuous part though is still the enveloping and although it's looking pretty good I think I need to spend a few more hours on it. Next will be to set up character key sets (new in 6.?) and then animate a teaser (the reason to re-rig the moose -- although getting up to speed in xsi 6 won't hurt me a bit!).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Preparing to transfer to video

The sound is done. Thanks to Serge at Net Post Production, who designed better sound effects than I had, recorded foley and mixed a much better mix of all the tracks. Thanks Serge!

Next up is the transfer to video. Today I'm backing all the video and sound stuff up and then I'll export the final picture to take to Vision Globale to transfer.

In the meantime I've also been submitting to festivals, and working on a new web site which is about to go live. I'll need to update this blog to make it match the new site.

I've also installed XSI 6.01 so I can start working with the characters again for promo shots.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

my smoking moose film screenshots

Here are a few screen shots of my smoking moose film:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

h264 rocks

Wow. Today I was preparing files to take to a sound engineer who has agreed to critique my sound mix. He recommended that I bring the film as a QuickTime H264 movie and the final mix on a data CD. When I first exported the H264 movie using the default settings, the file size was huge, so I reduced the bit rate in half, thinking there would be a reduction in quality. and being a bit apprehensive because of the amount of time it takes to export the movie. Well I was wrong about the quality and it was certainly worth the 2 hour export time. I now have a 1280x720 QuickTime H264 that weighs in at 265 mb, that looks beautiful (and the mix sounds pretty good too -- but that is really for my sound engineer to judge ;o).

I've also been preparing the documentation and promo stuff for festivals and looking at the various festivals in which to enter the film. It feels like an uphill battle because it will be rejected from most -- in fact this is the statistic -- most films only make it into 25% of festivals they are submitted to. Knowing that it was rejected 5 times from funding agencies isn't helping my motivation right now. Reading all the rules and figuring out the deadlines and whether I can afford the projection format requirement they want and the publicity materials ... ughh it's a bit overwhelming. I'm hoping that once I get a complete package done, it will only be a matter of duplicating it. Next up is to create media screeners and a poster.

Anyhow, I have lovely DVD covers and labels waiting to be affixed to the DVDs. Here is a postcard that I'm working on:


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

testing the DVD

I made a first test DVD last night and made fixes to the DVD menus today. I've tested the sound mix on a few different systems in house, but still need to go to a sound studio and have a professional check my levels. Then I can go to the video house and have the digiBeta and betaSP tapes made. I'm only going to make NTSC tapes for now (unless the Video house convinces me that it would be more cost effective to do PAL at the same time -- we'll see).

The Festival de Nouveau Cinema requires subtitles in French and I'm not sure what the best way is to do that. I started to add them in Final Cut Pro, but I stopped myself and got back on my priorities (the FNC deadline is June 15th so I have time to decide what to do). An option other than subtitles in FCP might be to record a French dialogue track and have the Video house make a digiBeta with the French sound track, of course then they might want English subtitles. I'll need to check the rules again. In the meantime, I can always translate the dialogue into French.

I had wanted to animate the end credits, but I've left them with still images. I think it'll be ok. I've just gotta get this thing out the door.

Here are a few screen shots to wet your appetite:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

every day I get a bit closer

The cough is done and is better. I have a test version of the sound mix that I'm burning to CD to double check on my stereo -- I'll still need to double check the final on "real" studio monitors, but this should tell me how close I am. I encountered a software crash in SoundTrack Pro exporting the "real" mix. I can work around it by not using the mixer but just animating (they call it "automating") the levels in the individual tracks rather than through busses -- it'll be a bit more finicky work but that's ok -- hopefully only one more day of "mixing".

So tonight I'm encoding a test MPEG 2/AC-3 to see what it will look and sound like on DVD.

To top it off, I noticed a color pop on the window -- I couldn't believe it -- I was sure I had fixed all the window issues. Anyhow, not to worry, I've rendered a few more window "frames" ;o) to fix it and am re-compositing the 400 frames now ... I had considered just ignoring it, but I spent so much time trying to get it right, I would have been sad. I hope it's really fixed this time.

I'm also working on the DVD menu (background image) and it's looking pretty good -- I just need to get the buttons done.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sound and more sound

I've re-recorded the dialogue and am hoping that it is a bit funnier. I've added a bit at the end, that I don't want to be too specific about (I don't want to give it away), but I'm having difficultly deciding which take to use -- there are 2 that could be funny to different people. I may need to get a second opinion on it.

The only other sound track that I'm really not satisfied with yet is the moose's cough. So I've just ruined my voice by recording the cough and am now about to splice it up and slip it in and see if it works better. In order to get a good cough I did the number one thing singers are not supposed to do -- I ate dairy products. I'm amazed but it really worked. I suppose I could have taken up smoking ... hmm, if these takes don't work, maybe I'll go buy a pack of smokes.

On another note, Rick May has finished his short animated film. I can't wait to see it. He has gone through pretty much everything I have -- he even has a recent post about aspect ratios ;o) He did the smart thing and used a render farm service.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

moosic is done, well ...

Ok, the music has been finalized, recorded and sent over to SoundTrackPro. It all fits nicely with the picture. I'm not 100% satisfied with one instrument on one track, but I don't have any bright ideas right now of what would make it better. It is possible that in the mix it won't bother me so much. If it does, I can play with different instruments later, as long as the timing doesn't change (and it won't)!

Now I'm finalizing the sound edit and getting ready for the mix.

It still feels strange not to be rendering.

I've also started to prepare the DVD assets. I had forgotten how much fun making DVDs is. I'm being a bit sarcastic here -- Although I love making the menus and buttons, especially making unique/fun buttons -- what I don't like is standard definition video and non-square pixels and aspect ratios stuff. I have only seen HD listed as a possible DVD submission type in the requirements of one film festival .. all the rest are NTSC or PAL, so I'm stuck with dealing with that. I can only burn SD DVDs here anyway.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Sound edit and music

Currently (still) working on the sound edit and music. I've been using SoundTrack Pro for the edit, but I am seriously considering switching to ProTools. The limitation of SoundTrack Pro that is driving me nuts is that I can't edit all the tracks simulataneously, so if I make a tweak to the picture edit,I need to adjust all the tracks individually, rather than being able to select them all and insert or cut out time. This is one of those times where I think "I can't believe the software doesn't do this". Of course I'd have the same problem if I were editing magnetic tape on a Steenbeck, but this is computer software for goodness sake.

It is strange not to be rendering or compositing. For the first time in more than a year, I actually turned my PC off for a while. It's nice to work on my laptop, partly because I can take it downstairs where it is not so hot and I don't have to run the air conditioning.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


"On the 29th April Moscow was washed clean by a thunderstorm. The air was delightful: it mellowed the heart and made one want to start living again."
-- Mikhail Bulgakov, Black Snow. Translated by Michael Glenny.

Black Snow is a wonderful novel about the process of writing a play and having a theatre produce it. I've just re-read it and have enjoyed it more this time as I can relate the main character's thoughts about writing a play to the process of making and releasing an animated film ;o)

The smoking moose film is now composited. There are a few small compositing glitches, but I've gone ahead and created the uncompressed QuickTime movies and have started the "final" edit in Final Cut. I've also made a backup of the "final" scene files and rendered pictures, which is a relief because I was worried about losing months of rendered files if the disk had crashed.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

so close and yet so far and where's Batty?

There are only a few more frames rendering and a few more to composite ... in the meantime the soundtrack is coming along. The moose's cough is better (using Sound Track Pro's EQ channel editor gives a much better result that trying to match pitch using the pitch editor) and I've added a bunch more subtle sound effects that add to the general atmosphere. I'll need to make a few adjustments for synchronization purposes to the music but I need to wait until after I've finished compositing because the compositor takes over the PC's CPU.

In anticipation of finishing the film, I've downloaded XSI 6.01! But I'm not installing it until I've finished the renders and composites. In theory you can run previous versions with the latest version on the same system, but I'm not taking any chances. I'm excited about using some of the new animation features to animate a few teasers for the film.

The title/credit design is still worrying me. Right now it is very basic and in the past I've always created much more creative titles. Hopefully I'll come up with something by the time I'm finished with everything else.

On another note, I went to the Red Bird Studio tonight where Stickey Hickee was showing off their artwork - they are a wonderful bunch of artists who draw comics. Really, really nice, heartwarming, art, even if Batty wasn't there.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

ah zoot alors

My test composites missed some errors and there was a transform problem on the fire in scene 3 -- I'm making the corrections now and will need to relaunch the composites. One of the errors (which I've encountered before as well) is caused by having different maximum sampling values on different passes -- I'm guessing that I didn't remember to boost the max sampling back up to 2 (luckily not all frames are affected, so I'm only re-rendering the frames that are affected).

Still the end is near ;o)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Rendering is DONE! Compositing NOW!

Whoo hoo. my smoking moose film is now compositing! Meanwhile I'm working on the soundtrack and credits.

I'm only wishing the animals I liked weren't so big. Here's a girl who turned a stuffed beaver into a computer ... hmm maybe I should say she re-stuffed a stuffed beaver with a computer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


ok "stupid" window is more like it. I lost the highlight for the second part of scene 3 -- if I get it to work, I lose the highlight on the canary OR the matte that's cutting out the sofa on the window highlight comes back. I'm not sure how I've done it, but I think I've gotten around it... although I had to add another canary highlight to make it work and I had to adjust the tiger highlight.

The other thing I fixed today was the Raccoon's cigarette smoke (exhale and rising) which looked strange in some frames when it appeared on top of the pizza box. At first I tried to use a painted vector shape to matte it out, and although I proudly got this working correctly (animated shapes and all), for some reason it messed up the smoke when it did appear outside the pizzabox -- it messed it up in a strange way -- it was darker and had black streaks in it. So I went back to my regular method of rendering a matte pass -- it didn't take too long and it's done.

I think this is it!

I have just launched what I hope is the last test composite of scene 3, the mega multi frame multi passes craziness. The window caused me the most problems. Interestly enough, the window was was inspired by the Polish 1982 Oscar winning short film called Tango by Zbigniew Rybczynski, where everything happened in one room and started with a ball coming through the window, followed by a boy. The film continued to show multiple layers and stories in that one room. Much like the moose film and yet so different too. I doubt anyone will see the inspiration. Anyhow I think I've got compositing of the window and the characters who go out of it working. There are still rendering and compositing "mistakes" but I am leaving them, I don't think there is anything drastic that will kill the film.

For the compositing tests, I am rendering every 24th frame at 1/4 of the resolution, so I suppose there could be a surprise when I render every frame at full resolution, but hopefully those surprises can be corrected in photoshop or fixed with a second composite.

In the meantime, I've also made good progress on a redesign of the smokingmoose website, it will go live when the film is finished and available on DVD. I will release a DVD containing only the moose film as soon as possible, but the idea has always been to release a DVD of a compilation of most of my animated films (I'll leave the bad ones off ;o). The compilation will take a little longer to produce, as I need to get the previous films digitized to uncompressed QuickTime movies.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Fxtree: Composite node: Output Size Mode

After transforming effects to use through a composite node (over or math), you can easily crop to the background by setting the Output size node to Use Default Image on the Output tab.

I had been using the psd blend addon but have stopped using it as the "Place Output Image at Origin" is not working consistently and my attempts to use the Output Size Node parameter don't work with the psd blend node. This is unfortunate since the psd blend addon has more compositing options than the math composite (or perhaps they are just easier for me to use as I am used to photoshop).

As promised here is snapshot of the current state of scene 3's fxtree. It is crazy, but it is almost working! I'm having trouble matting some things, I've been attempting to reuse passes into the matte connection of composite nodes and while this is working in most cases, its not working for the fire. I'll need to render a matte for the tiger and canary for the frames when they are in front of the fire.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

promo image of the moose

Ok, so the film isn't available on DVD yet, but it will be soooooo soooooon ;o)

recentering audio to 0 in SoundTrackPro

Sometimes an audio recording is not centered at 0. To fix this in SoundTrack Pro, switch from Actions to Analysis, expand Analysis type, check DC_Offset and click Analyse. Then select the item on the list below and press Fix.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Smoke and Fire

Everything is rendered and composited and unless there are some hidden compositing issues I am almost ready to press the final composite button ;o) The last thing that I'm tweaking is the smoke and fire on the sofa. The start of it is great, but it's not working when the emitter on the sofa is scaled. I've just switched from having 1 emitter on the sofa to having 3 and it looks good in the render region. I also removed the collision that I had set up to the sofa geometry, I'm hoping that this is what was causing the fire to take so long to render.

Anyway, here goes to launching the smoke and fire renders and hoping that will be it!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fire crashing

hmm this is the second time I've had trouble rendering a fire particle pass (using sprites). Rendering from the command line would render 2 or 3 frames and then the window would close. Rendering interactively would crash XSI. The first time this happened a few months ago I changed the sprite (just by duplicating it and changing its name). Today changing the sprite didn't solve the issue. Today's solution was to duplicate the entire PType (I have 2 emitters that were using the same Ptype). I saved the PType preset and applied it to the second emitter. The color animation on the Ptype didn't get saved :o( so I copied the animation from the original ptype to the duplicate. The pass is now rendering more than 2 frames again from the command line.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

rendering and compositing

Yes the smoking moose film is still in progress. I'm still rendering and compositing however I have started to finalize the sound track because I believe the picture is locked. I needed to add a few highlights and shadows -- these are rendering now. Next I need to render a few tweaks to the fire and smoke (but these are quite close to final). I'm not 100% happy with the water so that is next on my list of fixes.

I will post a picture of scene 3's fxtree soon. It is completely insane and although I'm sure there would be a better way to composite it, I am just making it work to get the film done ;o)

creating QuickTime movies for Flash Video

The sync of the FLash Video of my Eyedoll video is much better. After struggling with the Raccoon animation I did for Strut your Reel (and blaming it on Flash video ;o) I did a bit more research on Flash Video encoding and found this article on the Adobe site which helped a lot. Although it recommends using a frame rate of 15 or 12 fps, I stuck with 30 fps (the original animation was at 24fps and I used the retime linear tool in the fxtree to retime the rendered pics). The big piece of the puzzle though is the data rate, which for some reason I had ignored when encoding the raccoon. Big mistake, I'm pretty certain that is what is causing the bad sync.

I might try 15 or 12 fps next time I do one of these things. Especially since that will mean fewer frames to render ;o)

Just a Little Bug

Here's something I did for the AniBOOM's Eyedoll contest. If you like it, head on over to AniBOOM to vote for it!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

happy new year of the golden pig

Another new year to celebrate!

There are no golden pigs in my smoking moose film, which is, still in-progress. It's moved into the compositing stage, although I still have FX passes to render for the huge scene 3, I'm trying to get the rendering and compositing of the room and characters done and then I'll add the Smoke, Fire and Water passes.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 10 second contest

Here's my entry to January's Strut your reel animation contest.

The animation was the easy part! The sync is a bit off on YouTube which I am blaming on the conversion process. The first version I uploaded was completely out-of-sync, I believe because I had animated it at 24 fps. I switched to 29.97 and then to 30 fps and it is better, but after uploading many different versions of 30 fps I realized that I could upload the same clip but the sync would be a bit different after the conversion. That said, the best results seemed to be with: 30fps source, converting the sound to mp3, exporting a .mp4 file using the MPEG-4 Codec (although uploading the same clip twice still resulted in slightly different audio synchronisation).

You can see all the entries at strutyourreel

Friday, January 12, 2007

fcurve madness

When fixing animation always remember to double check fcurves. Two things have recently driven me mad!

(a) on curves using spline interpolation if 2 keyframes are of the same value make sure that you use plateau slopes so that the value between the 2 keyframes does not exceed the 2 keyframes;

(b) if you retime animation make sure that there are no keyframes that are not on frames -- this can be achieved by selecting the keyframes and choosing "move keys to nearest frames". However, this may not work IF there is already a keyframe on the nearest frame and you may end up with a keyframe immediately before or after... if you're working in the dopesheet you won't see this stray keyframe

So the lesson of the day is, if you have movement where you don't expect there to be movement, double check the fcurves for the slope between frames and for extra keys between frames.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

RGBA Matte Pass - override ignored if color correction node exists in render tree

One of the comments I received regarding the film was that the carpet didn't have enough resolution. I was simply using a low res texture of a braided rug and had become used to it. Since I didn't have a high res texture I've been testing various methods of creating a higher resolution carpet and have tried a number of different ways (including modeling the braid and using skeletons to wrap it into a rug -- which was way too big of a model to actually use and didn't end up looking that good ;o). I also tried painting a photoshop image (with painted bump map) -- this method looked great in the small tests that I did but when I made the large final rug -- it didn't look so great. Finally I ended up using the fabric procedural shader and after lots of tweaking I have something that I think is acceptable, although I have to give up on the braided rag rug look and accept a rug look.

Now that I've got the rug geometry I thought I could just render it in a RGBA matte pass and composite it into the other renders. However, when I made the matte pass (using the preset) -- the characters appeared in the render in full RGB - while the rest of the objects were as expected rendered in black.

After a bit of searching I discovered that this was being caused by having extra nodes in the render trees -- on 2 of the characters I had a color correction and on another I had a intensity change. Removing these and recreating the pass gives me the pass as I would like it to be. However, this will cause a problem when/if I need to re-render any of the characters as they will no longer match the other frames.

For scenes 1 and 2, since I need to re-render the beauty pass anyway, I'll just add the new carpet to the beauty pass. Scene 3 will be a bit more of a problem.

I'm still using XSI 4.2 so this is possibly fixed in a more recent version.