Archive for category work

the mortal instruments: city of bones

I’m excited to say that The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is now in theatres! I worked on the wolves, designing an autorig for their bodies as well as a new type of animal leg rig. The faces and finaling were done by the talented Farrukh “King” Khan.

As an aside, I saw the movie last week with my family and it turned out wonderful, especially when compared to the Twilight series. Here’s hoping it does well!

resident evil: retribution

As some of you may know, I’ve been working on RE:5 for a while now. I’ve done rigging, character finaling, and even character effects; some of the shots include things I’ve worked on directly. You’ll be able to see the rest of my contributions when the movie comes out in September.

It’s my first film, so I don’t mind saying that I’m really excited to see my name in the credits. ^_^

batch wrangling – FBX

At work we’re moving from a MotionBuilder pipeline to Maya, which I’m responsible for creating. One of the tasks on the list I was handed was to move animated takes out of MB and into Maya so that all exported files can be run through the same export steps, and also so that moving forwards animators would have the same tools for working on older animations as they will on files using my new rig.

I have Maya Creation Suite 2012 on my work machine, which is touted as being able to seamlessly transfer data between the included apps– Maya, MotionBuilder, and Mudbox. I haven’t had need to open Mudbox yet, but in my limited testing so far the Human IK rigs never come through properly from MB to Maya and on the Maya side the HIK characterization gets broken. This means that to do any animation fixes or retargeting inside Maya, the characterization needs to be deleted and rebuilt. Also funny: the automatic naming templates in Maya don’t always work, making recharacterization a tedious manual process. Keyed transforms (joints, etc.) and meshes come through just fine, however, with all skinning and materials in tact. Updating previously-sent objects did not.

Apart from all that, the first file I’ve been working on has 50 animations in it. I didn’t relish the idea of converting all of them by hand, so I set about seeing what’s possible on the scripting side.

The FBX import/export plugin comes with a number of commands for massaging how files are read in. A full list of the commands is on Autodesk’s site. Note that the Python versions of these functions fail; I think they’re being generated improperly at plugin load. Could be that I’m just not calling them properly; I didn’t bug-hunt because I found doing the HIK post-import steps didn’t work in Python, either.

I’ve written more MEL in the last two days than I have in the last four years, not that it’s a lot of code!

The important commands for what I needed are:

FBXRead -f [filename] — Doesn’t do any loading. Instead, it sets the specified file as the source for all queries.

FBXGetTakeCount — Self-explanatory; on the file I was editing it returned 50.

FBXGetTakeName [index]: returns the name of the take for a specified index. The indices are 1-based. I saved all of these in a string array.

FBXImportSetMayaFrameRate -v [true|false] — Important in my case because the animation was all at 30 frames per second, while Maya is usually set to 24.

FBXImportFillTimeline -v [true|false] — Makes sure the timeline length matches the length of the imported animation (although see below for a gotcha)

FBXImport -file "c:/myfile.fbx" -t [take index] — Does the actual loading of the scene. By specifying a take index, you can be sure to get only the animation you want.

With this information, I was able to loop through the animations in the FBX and, after a bit of post-import processing, spit out a series of .ma files.

There were few gotchas. One problem was that while the script was running, sometimes the setting for having the FBX file’s time length override the same in Maya would get truncated– the animation length got set but the [bar that shortens the animation] would get set to half the length. I couldn’t replicate the issue running the MEL script in small chunks. A call to playbackOptions in my loop fixed this, but it’s still weird.

Part two of this discussion will be about man-handling Maya’s Human IK in a batch process.

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I had to make a difficult decision today: Looks like I’ll be returning my New Core i7 MacBook Pro.

I bought the in-store antiglare model because the antiglare screen was the only thing not on the standard build that I wanted, and I thought it was amazing to finally be able to pick it up in-store after the one month wait on my last laptop. But the current generation of laptops only offer the antiglare option on the higher-resolution screen.

At first I thought it wouldn’t be an issue, that I’d appreciate the extra screen real estate. But a week of using the machine has led me to the conclusion that the higher resolution screen at 15″ is too much of a strain on the eyes. At least, on my eyes.

I watched video tutorials all day today and it got to the point where I couldn’t focus on the windows on-screen. Three years on my previous laptop and I never had that problem; one week with the new one and I’m punch-drunk.

I argue all the time with people about why I get Mac laptops. I honestly do believe they’re of a higher calibre than their equivalently-priced PC counterparts, but between this issue, a bevy of issues I’ve had since iPhone OS update 3.1, and the fact that Apple still hasn’t gotten their shit together with regards to OpenGL standards on the Mac and I’m seriously considering a Windows laptop for my next work machine.

I wiped this one and I’m taking it back. I’ll replace it with a glossy-screen copy, and hopefully that helps my headaches. But I can’t help thinking that this could have been avoided had Apple offerred the antiglare option on the regular resolution screens, an option I’d have gotten had I bought a Dell.

Funnily enough I have a copy of Windows 7 Professional arriving in the mail in a week or two, so I’ll have plenty of time to get re-acclimated with that side of things if I do decide to make the switch back (after my 2001 switch to Mac). Really going to miss Quicksilver, though.

press releases!

There have been a number of nice press releases lately about my company, March Entertainment. You can’t tell as much from the main website, but March is into both show production and video games. Here are a few of the stories:

Dex Hamilton Gets Movie Prequel

March Entertainment Co-Produces Full 3D Interactive movies for Playmobil

M4E Greenlights Hybrid Toon (This is about Yoko, Mo, and Me)

What’s more, the first Playmobil DVD, The Secret of Pirate Island, just received a nice review at Give all the above links a read!