In a land where weeks last minutes...

I didn't manage an update last weekend so here's one a little later. Team Kernel are now working in the studio every weekday, almost everyone putting in their 9 til 5's, and its great to see people working harder than ever. Because my time is so scattered between people in the studio I find it very hard to remember what specific things I have personally accomplished each week as its so mixed up with providing feedback for and tweaking other's work. I have spent a lot of time finalising shaders for props in the shed, and more recently both the tree and the glass in the greenhouse.
Brain Greenhouse Exterior
Its taken quite a while getting the greenhouse looking how I wanted (vaguely) and a number of different cheats and techniques. In order the create a much more interesting refraction of things through the glass and better specular highlight I want to create the effect that the glass was bulging up between the pipes, almost like the hexagonal bubbles that make up the biomes at the Eden Project. To save this being modeled in an intensely awkward and slow manner, I opted to bring the pipes and glass into Mudbox and use its ambient occlusion map extraction to create a bump map for the glass. By using the pipes to create dark occlusion on the glass mesh I could create a bump map that dipped in around the pipes and bulged out in the space between. It wasn't a perfect solution and there are still some weird aliasing problems on the specular when the bump is turned up to 1, but its very cunning and creates a decent effect.
Brain Greenhouse Interior
I also had some weird problems where the pipes where glitchily reflecting inside the glass in these ugly triangle shapes, after a lot of fiddling I managed to get rid of it by extruding the glass so it physically had depth, then telling it to be solid glass, but with backface culling. This is basically the same as telling the shader the geometry only has front faces (like when it started) but for some reason it no longer generated ugly refractions: magic! If you're wondering what the photographic background is I was using to test the refractions its the Team Kernel photo we took last week to put in a frame on Leonard's desk as a little secret to hide in the film. Everyone present that day got a place in the photo and texture king Nigel nimbly photoshopped it together with Big Len.
Team Kernel
The other shader thats been giving me hell was the tree which I've been trying to plug both bump and normal maps into, as per the wonderful (but unpredictable) mia_material shader allows.
Finally after lots of trial and error I have it working and translucent, alive looking leaves too. All I originally planned on doing was giving the leaves slightly different hues like I did with the books in the shed but ended up going a lot more in depth and not getting that done at all. Maybe tomorrow?
Cathexis Tree
My lighting workflow has really started to solidify. I create a lambert override so there are no textures, just the colours of the lights. Then I start with the ambient lighting in the room: coming from windows or the sky.
Then a key light or sun light that is the most obvious and prominent light, hopefully with some striking shadows. This usually needs some bounce lights which in this example is the underneath of the wooden oxygen case.
Key Light
The scene was looking very dark at this point so I created more ambiant light and added the flashing light on the oxygen tank itself.
Prop Light
After rendering and a quick comp with bokeh depth of field, some horizontal glow and lens smut, it turned out like this:
Charlie has done a fancy version with motion blur but that still needs some dynamics added to it in the form of oxygen escaping from the broken rivet that pops out of the pipe after the tank hits it.
Shed Lights 2.0
As a result of that shot I had updated a lot of the existing shed lights which I use as a base to start from in each shot in the shed. Here's what its looking like at the moment. Almost all the textures are done too which is wonderful.

This last couple of days have been really tough. I keep swinging between moments of 'I'll finish this if it kills me' and 'why would anyone willingly make this their career?'. Right now, as long as I imagine how good it'll feel to finish this, I'm leaning towards the death by animation option.

Pixel Propaganda

Limbo was awesome, therefore by default so is this interesting article with its creators about running a tiny company and retaining creative integrity.

I recently found that ILM have their own youtube channel and among some of the amazing things on there was this video breaking down some of the shots in Rango, amazing seeing what they get away with, it makes stuff seem possible.

Then there was this Transformers one which is just an amazing insight into the effects, terrible film aside.

Someone was writing on the appeal of Far Cry 2 and why its sequel looks to ruin the great leaps it made for games. I can't help but agree and wince every time I see for of Far Cry 3.

I recently played Dear Esther which is both interesting and exceedingly pretty. Here's a take on where it draws its influences from.

Jesper Juul, a brilliant game theorist, did a talk on games as a medium for tragedy, something believed to be impossible, and made a good argument in opposition to that belief.

On a similar topic theorist Janet Murray, author of one of my favourite game theory books Hamlet on the Holodeck just wrote her first book since then. Here's an interview that shows just how fundamental her thinking is to the development of the 'digital medium'.

A cool plugin for maya which opens up all the best bits of the mental ray renderer that are hidden away. My trial expires in 23 days unfortunately, hopefully I'll get to try it out properly first.