Monday, March 24, 2008

Massive woes

I've been unable to import mocap data into Massive without crashing. After some more debugging, I think that the problem comes down to the fact that I am using Maya 2008, whereas Massive only appears to work with Maya 8.5. This incompatibility is probably also what caused all my camera headaches a couple of weeks ago.

For example, when I save an animated camera using Maya 8.5, the end of the file has the following snippet:

connectAttr "persp1_visibility.o" "persp1.v";
connectAttr "persp1_translateX.o" "persp1.tx";
connectAttr "persp1_translateY.o" "persp1.ty";
connectAttr "persp1_translateZ.o" "";
connectAttr "persp1_rotateX.o" "persp1.rx";
connectAttr "persp1_rotateY.o" "persp1.ry";
connectAttr "persp1_rotateZ.o" "persp1.rz";
connectAttr "persp1_scaleX.o" "";
connectAttr "persp1_scaleY.o" "";
connectAttr "persp1_scaleZ.o" "";

On the other hand, in Maya 2008 the same section looks like this:

connectAttr "persp1_visibility.output" "persp1.visibility";
connectAttr "persp1_translateX.output" "persp1.translateX";
connectAttr "persp1_translateY.output" "persp1.translateY";
connectAttr "persp1_translateZ.output" "persp1.translateZ";
connectAttr "persp1_rotateX.output" "persp1.rotateX";
connectAttr "persp1_rotateY.output" "persp1.rotateY";
connectAttr "persp1_rotateZ.output" "persp1.rotateZ";
connectAttr "persp1_scaleX.output" "persp1.scaleX";
connectAttr "persp1_scaleY.output" "persp1.scaleY";
connectAttr "persp1_scaleZ.output" "persp1.scaleZ";

Even a non-programmer can tell that these two code blocks are semantically identical, Maya 2008 is just more verbose than Maya 8.5. Still, that's all it took - when I copy-paste the same code block from my Maya 8.5 file to the Maya 2008 file, everything works like a charm.


Even though it might seem that all I do for my thesis is collect references, I have been known to animate on occasion. I have a nice long segment done, there are bugs in it but I think it's mostly there.

(As for the titlecards, I've never really liked them and I am playing around with the idea of replacing them with some narration from the boy - same information, but instead of saying "1 million people" maybe the boy can say "lots of people". This will move the intro more towards the boy's POV. The problem is that I already have some dialogue in the film where the mom tells the boy that India has been partitioned. So the boy's narration in the beginning shouldn't make this dialogue redundant since I've already animated it).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

More crowd stuff - Salaam Bombay

Salaam Bombay is one of my favorite Indian films (everyone should watch it), and there's a good crowd scene at the end. In fact, it's not too hard to find a couple of shots from this clip in my film :)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mocap shoot 2

Speaking of mocap, I just got my latest shoot approved by the head of physical production. I have two actors, Lester Reynolds and John Michael Herndon, coming in on Thursday and I'm going to capture some fight sequences and some falls. Since the actors are going to be scuffling, technically I am conducting a hazardous shoot, which meant going through some paperwork and the production division in order to make sure everyone was insured. So I'm all clear and now I've got some planning to do to make sure things go smoothly. I don't have any experience choreographing a fight, but I need to make sure I get what I need. Previz, previz, previz.

I'm planning to buy some foam props and mesh clothing to simulate swords, lathis (staffs) and kurtas. I was inspired by a class visit to the set of the new Zemeckis film ("A Christmas Carol") last week; these little tactile touches do a lot to help an actor get into character.

Huge update

It pains me to leave this scene looking so crude, but I'm shelving it for now. I'll be back, with better models, more foreground characters and some custom mocap walks. At least I know that I can pump shots through this pipeline, and for the sake of my sanity, I need a break.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


After a week of hacking on Massive, I was finally able to get something out of it.

A couple of highlights:
1. Gave up on RenderMan Pro Server - I haven't been able to get a hold of this software for months now, and I decided to just render with Massive's native hardware renderer and make the most of it. Also, the integration between the Windows version of Massive and RenderMan might present additional problems.

2. Camera moves - you're supposed to be able to import a Maya camera straight into Massive, which is really nice if you want to choreograph the crowd to an existing camera move. But I couldn't get this feature doesn't work, and after two and a half days of segmentation faults and crashes, I gave up. So now I am manually copying the camera keyframes from Maya to Massive, one channel at a time. This process is not as simple as it sounds because Maya and Massive deal with camera aperture in completely different ways. As a result, I had to figure out the conversion between Maya's aperture/film aspect values and Massive's film back to make sure that the camera angles matched. Totally fun.

The first video is what I got when I aligned the camera position but the aperture/filmback didn't match.

The second is a much more accurate alignment after I figured out how to convert between the cameras (the color correction is just something I threw on in Premiere).

So now I have to get the dudes to stop walking back into the train. This is harder than it sounds because I am working with a library agent that Massive provides which is tricky to customize. Still, at this point I'm not averse to manually painting them out if I have to.

Also, I'll work on replacing the models with my own, or at least switch their clothing. I also need to integrate my own motion capture shoot data into this scene. I may just do that as a separate pass at this point.

I'm still not entirely convinced that trying to render in Massive is better than my earlier hacked Maya workflow in which I exported the animation curves out of Massive and then attached them to characters I had created in Maya. The advantage to using Massive is that it's very efficient at rendering (so far) and it's easy to move the agents around, change their outfits, etc. The disadvantages are that the Windows version of Massive isn't very stable, and that I need industry-grade RenderMan Pro Server (to match the rest of my elements that are rendered with RenderMan for Maya) which is not available at my school.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Monster House reference

I don't know why I didn't think of this before, but Monster House has some pretty scary and suspenseful scenes involving a boy and an old man, and I really like the cinematography in Zemeckis films as well. So I'm going to refer to sections such as the one below for either when Bir encounters Maqbool the second time, or when Bir is being chased by the goons. I especially like the couple of shots with the kid peeking around the ambulance - I've been wanting to have Bir interact more with the set in a similar fashion.

Hmm...Scary faces coming out of the fog/dust? Could be good.