New work shirt with my super awesome access card
This post was entitled semi-professional pixels. It is now entitled professional pixels, I got employed! I'm currently freelancing at Aardman for 2 weeks, after transitioning smoothly from my work experience there. I'm working on some pre-rendered assets for a game that the "Digital" department downstairs are working on. Its more than a little exciting and I'm really enjoying the miniaturisation effect of viewing my models from an almost orthographic camera. At that kind of distance modelling almost becomes like impressionism, the model looks pretty basic up close- blocks of simple geometry here and there (lots of polygon primtives), but zoom out and the collective components come together to give the impression of lavish detail. The camera distance does mean however, that things like the bump properties of the shader have to be pushed to 10 times what theyd usually need, in order to be visible. Also the advantage of being pre-rendered is that the assets can use very fancy shaders and lighting, so many materials look much better than they would if shown running in a realtime 3D game engine. The picture above is of my access card for the building which everyone I've excitedly shown it to has beem thoroughly underwhelmed by.

The view from the drive back from work
They have a crazy workflow at Aardman, its a hybrid between linux and windows involving two workstations each running a separate OS. This means I've had to learn how to set projects and launch programs from a "shell" by typing lines of code. Clearly, buttons are for amateurs. I've been using a lot of Vray, I made sure I knew the basics before going which has been a massive help but I've continued to learn a lot more, both about that renderer specifically and shading in general. Mostly from the talented and humble Ali Dixon. For example, everything has reflectivity, and with modern raytracing its actually possible to factor this into your shaders without killing render times. It means colours reflect better between objects and details can be emphasised by controlling things like the glossiness attribute. I really, really wish I could show renders. That was always the most enjoyable part of these posts for me. I textured an old wireless radio recently and tried to give the impression it had been tuned by the greasiest fingers imaginable. By having shiny plastic with more diffuse finger smudges in the glossiness I could realistically recreate this effect. Breaking up specular highlights in this way is an almost guaranteed route to more pleasing renders that avoid looking overly CG.
My monster pasty kindly supplied by the grandparents
 Another revelation has been my old friend fresnal, now while I knew everything was slightly reflective, I did not know that every reflection is fresnel, even if only a little. Fresnel reflections are what determine the angle at which an object is moat reflective for example water and glass are most reflective when viewed at an angle, for example the sun setting on the sea, but looking straight down into water and the reflection is weaker allowing you to see below the surface. Its rim lightings best friend basically, helping to outline objects with glancing angle reflections. When metals have fresnel, its just handled differently, usually controller by the shaders reflective index. Ratchet it up to 5 or 10 and it starts to act more like chrome. In this way you can create great reflective metals that act realistically driven by reflection alone. I've also had some fun with sub surface scattering and 2 sided shaders for wax and leaves respectively.

Rendering Shiny Things: Fresnel Reflection from yeoldebrian on Vimeo.

Also, there's a recording of Wallace's voice is in the lift. And there are stop motion sets in reception. Everyone is friendly.

Pixel Propaganda

Extra Credits recently did a couple of videos on meaning and mechanics, a favourite topic of mine as most of my dissertation centered around it. One game they wanted to address it in specifically was this one, entitled Loneliness. It takes 2 minutes to play is really worth the time, all it requires is the directional keys.

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