This had been finished for a year, but I went back just like everything else and redid the wings and recomped, etc. Not sure this is the "official" poster - I'll probably end up doing others just because why not.
I know this is a long time between updates, but a movie is coming very soon.


The latest hilariously unhelpful AE error message:

The extra work I had to do on the comps is basically finished, so I'm in a weird place of what the heck do I do with all this spare time. It's bizarre having near total responsibility on a project and then coming to grips with letting others be responsible for this thing you've put your life into.
I needed some way of channel this energy, so I'm putting together a breakdown of shots and other fun stuff to release with the movie. I love when kids take the time to put these together and release them along with their short. So while the music and sound are finishing up I'll give it a shot.
It's truly close to the end, for real this time.


This is the VFX shot list for the whole movie. Red means cancelled, orange is done:

Yup. So I'm done. WHAT. DONE. Well sorta done. Everything is at least "soft" final'd. But, there are a bunch of random shots that need some attention. And while Igor finishes the sound/music, I'll keep tweaking comps and cleaning stuff up. I spent most of the weekend converting the prologue to linear gamma, which means a ton of adjusting color correction, flares and 2D FX stuff. I incorporated all the new GI renders I did to replace all the plain C4D stuff. They look a million times better. I also rerendered all the shots of Mars with a crazy high res UV map I got for only 8 bucks. The middle alley scene needs some tweaks, but fortunately by the time I got to the final battle, I pretty much knew what I was doing so no real fixes needed on any of those shots. I think another month sound design/music will be done and we'll be able to go to mix and wrap this thing up. Wow.


We need reinforcements. Gordon, there is no one else- WWWWAAAAAAHHHHHNNNNNN. Previewing anything in AE has become an absolute chore with the complexity of the comps I'm working with, so a RAM upgrade was inevitable. I'm now totally maxed out at 32gigs. I was going to save the money and put it towards a Macpro back when I thought that was a solution, but it's very clear that doesn't pass the cost/benefit test. I have heard new iMacs will be announced next week, maybe I'll look into that in the future, but I think I'm good to finish the movie out.
Still hammering away at the last scene with 2 shots left to track/animate. After a couple days of losing my mind trying to track one plate in particular, I gave up completely on boujou and took the time to learn PfTrack. I'm really mad at myself for wasting so much time because PfTrack has a much more sensible workflow and gets great results.
I've probably mentioned this before, but a huge problem with spending this much time on a movie is my tastes and skills have changed a lot over the 2 years. I've seen a ton of really, really great work and it's constantly making me rethink the look of the movie. Ergo, there's a strong possibility I'll be going back AGAIN to the prologue scene and switching up the look. I made a big step forward when I rerendered with the new r15 GI, but I think the backgrounds are what now needs my attention.


I was cleaning out my hard drive to free up some space and found this thing:

Pretty sure this is a vray shadow pass test. I thought it looked pretty cool and made the model look probably more detailed than I actually put in.
I'm in various stages of progress on 4 different shots at the moment, trying to squeeze out as much time as possible from my schedule. I was originally going to go back to the school location of the last fight and shoot more plates but I don't think I'll need to do that anymore. I found some random portions of footage where the camera was just rolling that I think will work just fine for a few of the quicker shots I need. I've got pretty clear schedule for the next month, so this is really the final push to finish the movie. For real this time. Not like August 2012 when I said gimme until Christmas. For perspective, even if I needed to ADR dialogue at this point, I couldn't because Elliot, who played James, is turning 14 this summer. This makes me happy because they had a similar problem on T2 and had to loop most of Edward Furlong's lines. Ipso facto, my movie is as good as Terminator 2.


Title sneak peak:

I wanted to save this thing for the very end of all the vfx, but I'm trying to get the main chunk of the movie locked and ready to send to my buddy Igor. That way he can do his awesome work and have the sound ready for most of the movie while I polish off the last few shots.
As you can see in that render time window, this is a brutal scene. I think it's the illumination levels on those green and blue pieces that's really slowing everything down. I'm hoping this speeds up a little because I could really use my computer back. I might have to switch over to Molly's iMac for the weekend just so this thing has time to render.
Bottom line: it's really exciting that I'm even in a place where I have to get the main title done. I wanted to leave it to the end because it was one of the few things I actually knew how to do already. I thought about the day I'd get to work on the title and it didn't seem real. Two frigging years.


Here are some fun screen grabs from a bunch of different parts of the movie I've been working on the last few weeks:

This is the rig I managed to slap onto the model of the action figure. This is the first time I had the patience to attempt a proper weight map and it paid off. As you can see, the model geometry is a total mess, but with the UV maps straight from Strata 3D and the photos it uses to build the model, it does a passable job of looking real. I still can't believe I was going to attempt a stop motion solution for this part.

This is the absolute mess I usually deal with anytime I'm comping a new shot. Those are locator paths for the various 2D effects and animations I'm sticking onto the armor. There was probably a faster way to do this had I realized what I wanted to do in the beginning, but with only a few shots left, I only have to look at something like this a few more times.

This was a test for the tractor beam effect that comes into play in the last part of the movie. I have a dynamic spline constrained to the James and alien rigs and this was an attempt at using hair to render the effect. I ended up using a simple sweep nurb with a cell render instead. I thought this looked really cool as a still and of course I got all excited and then it looked terrible in animation. I'm still not positive about what I ended up with so maybe I'll revisit this.
Anyways, I've got about 4 shots left depending on how the edit plays out and the hardest stuff is far, far out of the way.


I managed to get my hands on C4D r15 and watched these tutorials from Greyscale Gorilla and Hello Lux on the new global illumination renderer. Tons of new stuff in there so thought I'd test it out on a shot from the prologue. The frames below compare the new GI with a straight up C4D render. I don't know what I was thinking before because there's no comparison:

The shadows make way more sense now and the texture in the material comes out way more. I'm trying to be much more conscious of keeping detail in highlights and shadows. I think the coolest part is assigning the luminance channel as a GI area light. It really makes the luminance materials pop - it's apparent on the blue light on the right side of his back. This was the only part of the movie not rendered vray because I started all these shots before I knew what I was doing. Obviously now I'm going to go back AGAIN and rerender the prologue stuff all with GI. This is it though. I think. It better be.



Edit courtesy of my buddy,

So close to finishing the "360" shot which I've embarrassingly mislabeled because it's definitely only a 270. Shawn White would be so pissed. Maybe I'll post a vine sneak peak later.
The movie must be getting close to finished because I'm basically anxious all day and feel like any time I'm not working on it I am screwing up. Let me rephrase, this movie BETTER be close to finished because I'd like to go to bed without feeling nervous. Also I'd like to see the Sun before the end of the universe. Also also do yourself a favor and watch Cosmos because it's incredible. This is a very tense and demanding post for no reason whatever and for that I apologize.


Here's a fun dynamics test and a render

These are both part of the big 360 shot that's nearing completion. The biggest hold up has just been rendering and working with the scene because it's so big with so many pieces to put together. I keep going back and forth on whether or not to put up for the new Macpro. Even if I ordered today I'd get it in April and this shot would probably already be done. Also I priced out what I'd want and it's around 7,500, soooo that's not a small amount of cash. Although, I could go back and tweak any of the random parts I want to fix that I simply don't have time to render at this point. We'll see here. After actually doing research instead of relying on what I think in a vacuum, looks like MacPro is not worth it for C4D.
In other news, if for some reason you actually read the previous posts, I mentioned this crazy short Myosis. A huge part of why it's so frigging cool is the awesome, awesome music and sound. I became slightly obsessed with finding the kid who did it, Igor. Well turns out I FOUND him and met with him and he's an awesome dude and somehow he agreed to work with me to do the music, sound and mix! I'm pretty happy with how the visuals are turning out, but with Igor working on the movie now, it's going to bring the quality to a new level of professionalism. Chance for Kyle of Santa Monica, to show his quality. Can't wait to get this thing in front of your eyes AND ears.


First post of the new year and it is an EXCITING one:

This is the fabled shot 360 I've talked about starting in at least 3 prior posts. After a bunch of failed attempts at tracking it myself, my friend Sam Winkler stepped in and cranked out a total lock in basically a day. I'm really excited for this shot. Ian absolutely crushed this camera move and it's so awesome to see something we improvised on set coming to life almost exactly as we wanted. I was going to try a total 4k finish for this one but I just don't have the firepower on this machine. 15 hours into this 2K render and I'm less than a quarter of the way there AND I have to render the alien side of this fight. Just look at those feeble 8 core buckets. Still I can't believe this shot is animated and in a couple months there could be a real life movie to watch. Wow. More posts and progress as soon as my machine is freed up.


I didn't feel like starting a new shot with the few days I had before break, so what do you know I put some effort into a lovely holiday poster because I am obsessed with posters and not movies.

I wish I were talented enough to be a concept artist because not having to worry about stuff actually working in animation is absolutely fantastic.
This was supposed to be the year I finished all this stuff, but movies are ever elusive and cagey. I will say though everything is exceeding my expectations so far and I hope this will carry over for the last 10 or so shots I have left. I can't wait to show everyone! Horray misbehaving alien cyborg humanoids!


I had about 10 minutes to kill letting a render go and I noticed a random angle in the view port on one the shots, so I made this fun poster out of it

I realized I did all this stupid work to make the back of the alien look cool and I don't think it's ever even going to be in the movie. So here you go. I got two other shots mostly done that I'll finish up this week before I head back east/mid west for the family Christmas tour. 2 weeks off and then the home stretch.
In other news, I finally sat down with Sean to put in the some of the vfx shots and tweak the edit. We cut out a ton of stuff that I can't believe we had in the first cut and got the whole thing down to around 10 minutes. I want to keep it at no more than that long and hopefully shorter. Even without sound or music, I think it flows pretty well now and actually makes sense. It could in fact become a good movie when it's all done. Unbelievable.


Here's a TEASER for the final poster I've been working on lately:

I'd post the whole thing but it gives away a detail at the end of the movie I'm trying to keep a surprise. Then again, I suppose that makes almost no sense since the whole point of a poster is to promote the movie BEFORE seeing. I'm only working on this now as a Christmas present for my nephew, which will hopefully inception him to love the movie and tweet it to his followers even though he's 2.
It was fun working on it though and it helped me hone some useful compositing skills and one final design for a piece of the armor I hadn't worked out. I'd like to print a bunch and give them away but it's actually really expensive to print stuff. Maybe I can set up a store thing where people can buy them cheaply. In the meantime, enjoy this close up of feet and colors.


So I'm now SIX shots into the last scene and pretty much final on all of those, so rather than start on the monster, gigantic, goodbye to the tiny remainder of a social life I struggle to maintain shot, I figured I'd cut myself some slack and do another fun holiday image because this time I wrote "gobble, gobble" on it.

I've got a week off back in Vermont to recharge then the final push is on to get this frigging thing done. I'm actually in a place now where I have to worry about who's going to do the music/sound design. That is both awesome and terrifying. I have some targets in mind after scouring vimeo the past year or so, I just hope they're even a little interested in working on this. All this work won't mean crap if people watch the movie and don't think the sound is perfect. Good thing I know almost nothing about how to achieve that other than make it sound like Terminator 2.


Quick ridiculous AE error of the day:

There's nothing quite so helpful as subjective ideas from a math machine in error message form.


Five shots deeps into the last scene, not sure really how many left to go. Seems like for every 3 shots I get done, I add at least 1 more. After these 5, there's one more quick coverage shot and then onto the biggest, longest shot of the movie.
In the frame below, I had just finished modeling some new upgraded weapons for James' arsenal and I thought the angle I was on looked cool. So rather than render out a still of shot comped, I did this more mysterious look at the new toys, to keep it more of a surprise. I was determined to rig these for real because I haven't really used any cool tricks on any of the 3D stuff. But, that got boring real quick, so like basically everything else in the movie I just key frame animated them.
Also, the total VFX shots I have listed thus far is 63. That is about 20 more shots than I had CUTS in the last movie I made and 62 more visual effects shots. Great.


So there I am sitting at my desk for the last year and a half, minding my own business then reality tells me to start pulling plates for the last scene. Literally every shot except ONE from the Alley scene is DONE. I spent the last month going back through the prologue redoing a bunch of stuff and adding in like 10 shots to bring the total up to 14 in the scene. It FINALLY feels complete and helps the movie make way more sense.
The shot below is the first CG shot from the last scene. It was originally going to be a head track of our antagonist Nate but, once again, it was easier to use a clean plate and reference his motion and animate it by hand. I've got a few shots to deal with before the crazy action starts and I spend probably a good month or so on one really long shot where almost all the action in the scene will take place.
This is about the first time where I felt finishing the movie was something that will actually happen. I think I'll reward myself with a new awesome MacPro then flog myself for spending the 5500 bucks it's gonna cost then pat myself on the back for investing in my future.
Aside thing here, but I think I'm going to migrate this whole page to a tumbler or something; mainly because the page is getting ridiculously long and doesn't have the fun auto-load-scroll-down-I-don't-know-the-code-name-for-it. Also I just realized that's the first time I've ever said "code-name" in a literal sense and not meant in a secret fun name I used for playing "guys" in the backyard sense.


Two more shots from the prologue fresh for some posting. The part of my brain that wanted more shots won and the total shot count is now at 12 and just about 40 seconds of screen time. I think eventually i'll just throw out all the footage and make a 2 hour animated movie that'll take the rest of my life to finish. That seems like a fantastic idea.

In other news, I finally got this program Strata Foto 3D to behave and I used it to make a 3D model out of photos of the action figure:

That geometry is terrifying, but hopefully I can do some cheats to get him to be convincing for the few shots where he's needed. The other option was using some sort of stop motion method and that scared the crap out of me. I still have to finish one more shot for the alley scene and then FINALLY on to the final fight. Still aiming for end of January to finish all the shots.


Quick post with a new shot I just added to the opening scene. A scene that originally was just two shots is now going to be ten or so. Making a straight up animated movie seems like it would be liberating and infuriating at the same time. It feels like it could go on forever but it's great that it can always be improved.


Well I got almost all of the fabled scene 10 done. Just one shot left where the majority of the action takes place, but the strategy and tactics are all planned out. I took a short break to go back to the opening space prologue and added some new shots and fixed up the old ones. The still below is one of the fun new shots:

Like the other space stuff, this is rendered straight up C4D render, no physical, no GI, just one infinite light and a small kick to keep his shadowed half out of total darkness. I'm still not sure why space stuff seems to look better without the GI; maybe because there's almost always only one light source for any given object in space? I should email degrasse Tyson. I'm also fighting the other part of my brain that keeps telling me to make more shots and add in more stuff just because it's possible. I already want the movie to be shorter so what will probably happen is I'll get completely lost in this space part and cut out the rest of the live action and release a 3 minute animated movie. I blame fristchluft for the damn DOF plug-in that makes everything look so frigging awesome AND this short for absolutely crushing it.


Here's a new shot I just finished up last week:

This was originally supposed to be an object track of Elliot's forearm with a shin guard covered in tracking markers. Turns out it was way easier to reference his action, take a still from the empty plate and do the whole thing animated. I realized too that I wasn't even sure how to bind an existing rig to an object track anyways. The only other 3D object track in the movie is the blaster shot, but that was easier because it was just parenting the model to the null. This shot is a great example of linear workflow's advantages in dealing with the heavy depth of field and motion blur. The focus falloff is much more realistic, without any of the shadowy-ghosting edges I was getting on nonlinear shots.
As I'm typing this I'm rendering another shot from this same sequence that will leave me with 2 shots left in the scene. That'll put me over the halfway point of shots and actually likely to meet my "end of summer" deadline. But, this is also coming from the kid who wanted all this crap done for LAST Christmas. As Bane would say: Impossible.... Keep her close. He'll come for her... 2 of the previous 3 sentences do not reference my situation.


1 year ago I was supposed to be 6 months removed from finishing this movie and swimming in offers to direct movies. Good call me. Nope. So to celebrate 1 year of relentless attempts to expunge my ignorance of VFX and life in general, here's a fun new shot to chew on:

This was a quick guy that took a couple days; track and roto courtesy of Jack. The music and sound in there I pulled from this AWESOME thing and approximate what I hope we'll be hearing around this moment in the movie. Glad to get this guy out of the way before a trip back in space time to shoot an awesome movie with my friend Ian. Basically the rest of the year will be this.


Still working on the shot below and in the process realized the scene is an awful, terrifying keyframe curve monster. In a way, I think this is gonna be the hardest shot in the movie (I say this every time). It's not hard on rendering, but the amount of elements that need to line up just right so it doesn't look terrible is starting to get to me. I move one little element of the armor and that causes problems with another part. Main problem is this just wasn't shot right to have this effect. I THINK though I finally, finally go it 99% ready to render for real after 3 previous failed attempts. Trying hard to get this done before a couple weeks of a trip here and another trip there with shooting a movie with Ian in the middle. Now I'm gonna order my cheeseburger I've been waiting all week to eat.


Well obviously I didn't finish the shot I posted, but I got it pretty much there. Below is an unfinished comp of what it will more or less look like. This is the first shot I've posted using a totally linear workflow and I think that's part of why it's the most photo real-ish. As a point of comparison, here's the same plate and my attempt at matching it last November with C4D Physical Render. Granted, I knew way less back then, the model is incomplete and the texturing is different but seeing this made me sooo glad I tried to learn Vray instead of sticking to what was comfortable. High-five for learning!
Hardest part of this shot is I somehow totally blanked shooting and didn't get a clean plate, so there's a bunch of annoying painting out I've got to clean up. Jack took care of all the markers, but I gotta patch up all the instances where Elliot's hair and clothes bleed out from the edges of the armor. I fixed up the animation as posted below, so it's pretty much stuck on Elliot while he's running. The trick was timing the animating off of all the pieces of armor so they didn't intersect the rest of the geometry or look weird with the way the rig is animating. I've gotta render the whole shot out one more time to extend that subtle kick on the right side of the frame down the length of alley. I made it too short because I wasn't using my brain. Shots are moving along quickly now. I may just make my self-imposed deadline of finishing this scene by end of the summer.


MANY thanks to my buddy Jack for the awesome, awesome job he did tracking shots for the ALLEY scene and the insanely useful projection map/paint technique he whipped up for the comp. Below is a work in progress animation I'm gonna try and render out this weekend:

This is pretty tricky, mainly because Elliot's actions are all over the place and I've never really animated anything this complicated before. The rig is as much to scale as it can be I think, but it never really lines up perfectly. But I've cheated and built in an out to any animation like this by having UI animations or some kind of effects to cover up the more clunky moments.
I had originally planned to have the armor separate from Elliot with a glitch kind of effect without really following his motions, but I think this will just be cooler. There's some other stuff I want to try, but I could possibly have this shot close to done by Monday.
I also tweaked a bunch of stuff on all the space shots and made those look cooler. I also, also soft-finaled another shot of our old friend GREG. I'll post a still of that guy later. That shot was my first confrontation with linear workflow. I think I pretty much get why it's important to work that way now and it definitely looks way better than nonlinear. nlinear.
This process is a never ending cycle of learning new stuff then going back to previous stuff, fixing it, going to bed thinking I did a good job, realizing I screwed something up before I fall asleep, making a note of it on my phone, reading my notes in the morning, thinking about it all day at work, eating my new favorite dinner of a big ass salad including grapes, homemade dressing and 6 hard boiled, pasture raised eggs then working until bed on new crap. I've also somehow watched Avengers maybe 10 times(?) since it's been on netflix. I don't even like that movie particularly, but something about it makes it so goddamn easy to watch/ignore while I'm working. Also when did the internet decide to completely ignore NYC getting completely destroyed in that movie, then make that their entire argument why man of steel is a bad movie? What?


Every time I look at the most recent post, it's crazy how much time has gone by. I feel like I just posted. I managed to final the shot below:

I cleaned up the animation, threw in some 2D widget stuff and did a bunch of different passes for lighting effects and stuff like that to try and really make the transformation a moment. You can see the armor is much cleaner than the one below cause I didn't really think it made sense for it to be so dirty when he hasn't used it yet. I still kept some grunginess in there since it makes it look more real, but I'll dirty it up a lot more as the movie goes along. Render time was not a problem, about 17 hours for 150 frames on just the vray rbga pass. Set it to go before bed and came home from work and it was done. Granted it took I think 3 different attempts, but totally manageable. The goal now is finish up this whole alley scene by the end of the summer. Other shots should be easier since it doesn't involve going from live action actors to CG. It'll be fun to go all out with some character animation.
Total side note: if the process of making this movie is at all interesting to you, I really recommend watching Indie Game: The Movie. It's streaming on Netflix. I don't really play video games anymore since all my free time is put into this movie, but I thought the movie was really relatable to this process. It inspired me to keep working as hard as I can so I can achieve something. Good job those guys. It's also inspired my terrible idea of the week of buying an xbox one to occupy time "while rendering." TERRIBLE idea.


Here's the first live-action shot for the armor. After spending a few days watching some tuts and doing tests, I got a pretty good result with vray. I did not realize how much faster vray is compared to physical renderer for comparable results. I noticed physical renders have a way of rounding edges or softening them or something. I'm sure that's because I don't understand everything about it, but using vray has made me appreciate how much crap I did not know about rendering. There's obviously some paint work to do masking around the edges of Elliot, who plays James, out of the shot.
In the shot, the armor will actually animate and I'll post a wireframe of that later today. I did some experiments using mograph and a failed attempt at some expresso solutions, but the best method I came up with for the animation was just keyframing every little piece individually. It seems like straight up keyframe animation is always the solution staring you in the face. It was a solid week of sliding curves around but it's worth it. It's the same philosophy applied to all the UI stuff - animate every little piece, give the curves some attention, offset each piece and bang, the animation looks cool and unique. I'm gonna do a bunch of other 2D effects for the animating on moment, energy and light stuff, to match the look I have on UI and blaster animation.
Biggest worry right now is render times and the possibility of having to use a farm and the nightmares that could potentially result from that. Hopefully the fabled new mac pro will be announced in a few weeks and that will somehow solve my problems.

(UPDATE) as promised, here's a clip of the armor animating:


Here's a fun still from the opening sequence. This has been done for a little while but I wanted to throw it up cause why not.
I passed some shots over to my friend Jack to track for me, so the next sequence should be coming together quickly. This will be a quick but hopefully intense middle of the movie battle that'll hint towards what I want the end sequence to be. It's the first sequence we shot for the movie, so I did not prep it all properly and I was running around worried about too many things. Lucky for me, Jack is awesome at tracking and said even the shots I screwed up he'd be able to handle. It's awesome having friends who know way more about crap than I do.


So about 1/4 all the shots are now done and everything's moving a lot faster now. I'm taking a break from character animation for some simple AE UI stuff for a series of shots, one of which you see below.

These little widgets are scattered throughout the movie to help James out in his adventures. This shot was not originally supposed to have any VFX in it but it seems so obvious now that it definitely should. I've got a couple more of these fun little guys to do then it's almost all straight up VFX/character animated shots. I'm trying to go in order of the shots in the movie simply because shots get more and more complicated as the story progresses. The more practice I have leading up to the really crazy stuff at the end, the better they'll be. At least that's the theory.
I've rendered out some test cuts of the opening to show friends like Ian and Jack and they've been full of really useful suggestions. Lesson number 902902390 I've taken away from this project, know when you're wrong and be willing to change stuff up.
Total aside here, but I'm super unpumped about movies in general lately because I think they're completely failing the audience. Movies should elevate audience expectations, not simply meet them and It's made me really want to finish this and try as hard as I can to get a feature. I don't think movies are in a good place right now for this and a lot of other reasons I don't really understand, but I want to be a part of making them better. I have no idea if I can make it to that point or even if I did help in any way, but I'm going to try.


This shot better be worth it. Finally have use of my computer again. More updates with actual shots soon.


I have absolutely no idea where March went. The earth is rotating way too fast. Firstly, huge thank you to Jen Stefanski for putting a rig together for the James armor. She did a wonderful job and freed me up from torturing myself pretending to understand weight mapping.
I managed to squeeze in some UVmapping knowhow using UVLayout. Every tutorial I watched and forum post I read about BodyPaint in C4D told me to stay away from BodyPaint in C4D. UVLayout is quirky and ugly but relatively easy to get the hang of.

This shot has been a huge pain in the butt requiring multiple camera changes after 17 hour renders and tons of AE crashes that only stopped after simply versioning up my project *crossing fingers* completely rebuilding the comp in a new project. There's like 50 trillion blur instances on this shot from a bunch of Frischluft adjustment layers, an overall focus rack with a depth pass and reelsmart moblur too. On top of huge resolution star maps and other craziness, just getting it so I could see what it looked like was tiresome. I think I figured out a system for these space shots now though and it'll be a really fun sequence considering I had no thought of doing it until after shooting and cutting a rough version of the movie. I now totally get the allure of being able to change things and add things constantly in post where that used to turn me off. Probably because I just didn't know what I was doing. I've already added on around 10 new VFX shots to what was already too many for the movie. Consequently I won't be making my artificial deadline of May, though I think the movie will be way cooler. Tons of other PLATES SPINNING so more updates soon.


Looking again at the star field thingy, I noticed how muddy a lot of the edges were in the brushes. So I went back in and tried to bring out some more detail then I figured I should just do a test comp for one of the actual shots I'm going to do. I tried out some new textures I made for the optical flares, which I had never done before. I always wondered how Kramer made the Star Trek stuff look so detailed; now I think I have an idea. Also I found this awesome Mars UV map someone had thrown online that worked great. It's funny getting into phases working freelance and then putting whatever you're doing at work into personal projects and vice versa.


I've been going back on most of the previous shots I thought I had finished and tweaked a bunch of stuff so that's the reason for the lack of wonderful updates. I took a trip with my friend Ian to Joshua Tree National Park to shoot some skies for background plates. Most of the stuff we got was great but I really wanted the milky way in there. Apparently, though, late May through July is the best time to see it. I'll probably try shooting more then, but for now I'm gonna use something like this. Not sure if it really makes a difference, but I'm glad this includes some actual photos I took instead of using only photoshop brushes. You might recognize a pretty famous nebula I tried to emulate. SPACE.


Greg wants to play. I was worried about this shot cause originally I definitely wanted a bad guy visible out the window. Then when we were shooting I really hadn't thought it out as much as I should have so I just had our friend Jordan stand in and make a shadow. Then in the cut I realized that wasn't cool enough so I tried some stuff and managed to pull a matte from the screen. I'm not sure this is the final look, but I want it to be as scary as possible. Also I realize now I am not going to put flares in his eyes because that's kinda lame and lazy.


I made a bunch of progress some of the early shots, including this one. I really had no idea how to do object tracking outside of mocha planer tracking but any time you need information about computers, you can count on a 10-year-old somewhere in the world making tutorials to remind you of how stupid it was to be born before the internet.

This is actually tracked in but the roto isn't quite there in the animation. However, the practical gun I fashioned to track somehow worked. This has an updated blaster model from the very early post on 08.21, retextured and vray-ified.


Here's a retextured comp test of our friend Greg. I don't think I'm going to keep the textures this way mainly because the reflection takes forever to render and I'm not convinced the metal is the right look to match up with James' armor. I think it looks cool though. This is vray - the other Greg (Alien) images have all been physical. I'm playing with the idea of the aliens constantly generating black smoke wherever they go, but that means learning how to use turbulence and tons and tons of more render time. Might be a combination of that and some comp trickery. Rigged character shots coming soon!


Haven't cranked out a Christmas poster since my BTN days. I really should figure out a name for this guy. I will call him Greg. Fear GREG. I thought this would be easier than James' armor since I had the hang of the technique but this was definitely harder. I wanted to make sure GREG fit in the same world but it kept looking like another movie. Finally got it in the right direction after finding a bunch of new references. I'll definitely end up updating this a bunch with more details but this is the general look. Once that's done then I have to track 2382893 shots. Yuck.


After looking at the older bad guy version in some plate tests, I decided it needed a lot more detail so I added a bunch of stuff and fun bad guy face animation. Still gotta build all the rest of the body but this gives me a good starting point. As a side note, I had somehow expected to be almost done by the end of the year with everything. In a related story, I know nothing about visual effects.


Took me a while to crack the design of this bad guy alien dude. I had a ton of good reference but I couldn't ever seem to get the shape right. It kept looking really weak and unthreatening. I think it came down to texturing it right and that seemed to bring out the scariness I wanted. We'll see how that holds up when he's in shots in daylight. Now I got to crack the rest the look. It should be simpler than James' armor. I think.


So I completely lied in my last post and after trying some physical render tests in plates, vray just looked better. The first is vray, the second physical. These are probably bad images to compare because one is totally in shadow and the other isn't and I just did a bad job on the physical comp. Still got to see the armor moving around in a shot but I'm leaning heavily towards vray, even though the workflow is a pain. Thank you to John Cranston and Dustin Bowser for constantly stealing my lunch and yelling at me errrr helping me with the vray settings.

Threw in the still for the heck of it. The whole shot kinda gives stuff away but there are some fun clues in here.


Couple days off from work = lots of progress on the movie. Here's the second UI scene chock full of fun clues to the story. Got some stuff I want to change but it's much easier to build up the interface now that I have tons of little pre-comped animations made. Another lesson learned on this project: precomp everything and then it's always possible to go back to very base of an animation and put in one little thing that'll get multiplied in the final comp and build in lots of detail.


I rendered out some stills of the fun new launcher to go along with my theme for this movie of adding work/shots whenever possible while simultaneously finaling nearly nothing.
I'm gonna have to center that attachment to the back even though I thought I did; it looks off in this render.
In case anyone cares, I've been rendering everything out in Cinema's physical renderer. I was initially using vray, but I couldn't get the control I needed because I'm just not good at vray. I saw a couple tuts of people getting photo-real-ish looking stuff with physical so I figured I could get away with using it for the movie because it technically shouldn't look "real" and have a more cartoon-ish/stylized look. At least that's what I keep telling myself. I gotta get this stuff in actual shots. then I'll know for sure.
Hopefully I'll get another shot posted this week of the UI animations barring someone deciding to book me despite my new addiction to Kit's organics fruit/nut bars.


Here's a fun new weapon to add to the arsenal. I won't tell you what it does in the movie but spaghettification's got something to do with it.


I give you the first official "teaser poster." Please ignore the slew of fan teaser posters that have undoubtedly pummeled you everyday on the internet. Lots of stuff on this thing actually animates, including some fun surprise animations that give away the end of the movie that I won't show you yet.


I'm gonna test this thing out in the backyard tomorrow on that possum who decided to roll around at 3am for a solid week in the leaves trapped on my patio. In a related story, I am the master of prepositional phrases.


I updated the UI with a bunch more STURF going on. Not quite final, I wanna fix the plate color correction, but it's very close...so close to achieving its goal...


My first real attempt at modeling that isn't horrible. Thank you loft-nurbs. I'm still really slow but I'm getting better. Now I have to somehow animate it. Yack.


Another secret function of orthotics:


Here's a fun snippet of the kinda stuff you'll see in the movie. Lots and lots work left to go, but it's moving along (REPLACED ABOVE)


James is a short movie I shot at the end of July with the help of many wonderful people and a bunch of generous donations from a few cool strangers and many friends and family. It's an ambitious project with a bunch of vfx most of which I've never done before. But, I've tractor beamed myself to my computer along with a jar of sunflower seed butter and a bucket of coconut date rolls to sustain me over the long haul of figuring it all out.

I'm gonna post updates on the movie here with fun tests and renders.
I hope you'll come along with me on the magical journey of making the movie and share with your friends and pets. Thank you everyone! More to come soon!

Also, like the movie on Facebook and get wonderful updates on all things James: