Sunday, November 28, 2010

Stock Rig

In the midst of waiting to hear back from my advisor regarding my thesis document, and while searching for employment, I've decided to stay busy.  I don't want to get rusty, and want to keep pushing my abilities. Lately I've really been in the mood to do some animation acting work. I was tempted to pull out one of the many stock rigs floating around the internet, but was reluctant to do so. I've become jaded of seeing the same rigs in countless work online, so I decided to also push my rigging chops and build a stock rig of my own.

The idea is to have a simple character that I can use to practice animation. With this exercise, I also want to push my modeling and rigging techniques to the extreme, by adding a lot of functionality (especially extreme squash and stretch abilities).

I am also pushing my limits by trying to make this character as close to my cartoony drawing style as possible. I'll periodically update my progress on here, and if I deem the final result worthy enough, I'll even make the rig available for free download.

So far I've built the head, and have been undergoing RnD on more efficient ways to set up the functionality of the dorsal-ventrally elongated eyes that are commonly found in my characters.

-Evan B.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Canis lupus familiaris

this one's self explanatory...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Note on Paleoart Compositing

This is something that has bugged me for a long time now, and only realized what the problem was in the last few here we go. 

Over the past decade and a half there has been a major surge in paleo-themed educational programming on networks such as the Discovery Channel. Despite all of the advancements in the technology behind these sorts of programs, there is one aspect of them that never seemed to catch up... despite it being a simple fix that any trained compositor should know how to do.

Many of these programs like to simplify the production process, as well as enhance the believability of the images by filming background plates, and compositing the animated extinct beasties into the shots. This is a great technique, which provides photo-real environments (since, well, they are real) without requiring digital artists to recreate entire paleo-environments from scratch.

Putting aside any problems and inaccuracies in modeling, shading, or animation of the creatures, these programs almost never seem to be well composited into the environments. Sure lighting is taken into account, secondary effects like footprints, splashes, or rustling of plants are added, and everything is done correctly when rendering the images out of whatever package they may be using. But what needs to be realized, is that simply rendering the thing out and slapping it on a background isn't all it takes to sell these things. It is only the first step.

The images need to be tweaked and tweaked and tweaked, then watched, and re-tweaked until they are as integrated as they can be for the given production timeline and budget. Most of the time, the images are very close to being final, but there is always one part that the people working on these programs somehow always miss.

Film has artifacts. There is film grain, motion blur, depth of field, lens flares, noise, lens distortions and film scratches that happen as a result of shooting live plates. When images are rendered out of CG software, they have a tendency to look too clean. These clean, sharply high resolution images layered on top of filmed footage (with plenty of grime and artifacts) simply look wrong. It takes the viewer out of it. The fix to this is to dirty up the rendered frames in the composite. It is way easier to dirty up clean, sharp, unnaturally perfect renders than it is to clean up dirty film. I understand that a lot of time is put into the textures and shading of the animals, and one might not want to dirty up his or her images because of all that time put into making everything beautiful, but these renders are only one element of the final image. If the composites aren't convincing, the viewer will have a hard time believing they are looking into the  past, no matter how good everything else is.

It is a very simple fix that not enough people seem to take the time to do. Adding and adjusting grain, noise, and defocus nodes to a comp, as well as simply grading them properly, is a relatively simple final step to making these things feel fully integrated. 

Here's an example to help illustrate this from a personal school project of mine (click image for larger view):

This post was inspired by the fact that I just finished watching David Attenborough's  "First Life" on discovery channel in full HD. It was gorgeous, and the animation, and shading in particular, of the critters was truly top notch...possibly even the best I've seen on the Discovery Channel to date (the rendering of Opabinia was particularly inspiring). 

This being said, the final step in compositing mentioned above wasn't taken into account as much as it should have been. It was way better than a lot of these types of programs, but some things still seemed just too sharp. It took me out of the informative narrative and encouraged me to write this post. 

Sorry for the length...I really didn't mean for it to go this long. Moral of the story, we need better (or at least more attentive) compositors in the realm of paleoart programming. The end.

  -Evan B.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Halloween Fun

This is different from a lot of what's been on here lately. A good friend of mine asked me to draft up some designs of Jack-O-Lanterns for Halloween. I thought this was an excellent opportunity, considering I haven't carved a pumpkin in years. I ended up going into Photoshop and building a contact sheet full of sketches of unique ideas. I'm tired of the standard jack-o-lanterns and decided to put my own style into it. This only took me about an hour, and made me realize that this is a great way of picking out a face for anybody's next pumpkin. Always start on paper! :)

 I hope you enjoy them, and if anybody actually decides to attempt to carve any of these (i'm not sure how well they would work in the real world), please send me pictures at and I'll post them up here! Special thanks to Susan for inspiring this idea.

(click image for larger view)

Anyway, Happy Halloween All!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Some Recent Paleo Work

It's been a while since I've posted....and it's NOT because I haven't been drawing or creating. I've simply haven't had the chance to scan any of the plethora of sketches I've done since last post.

I have a couple things for you here. First off, is my completed Master's Thesis. I figured I'd share it on here for anyone who's yet to see it. The project was a heavily researched restoration of the extinct crocodylian, Thoracosaurus neocesariensis. The fossil source (NJSM NH 2005.2) was digitized in order to help the project stay authentic in its attempt at realism. For more about the process of the project, see here.

Also, just to keep me occupied I've been trying out my new Wacom Bamboo Fun tablet as well as playing with Autodesk Maya 2011. Here are some work-in-progress images of a Camarasaurus I've been modeling. This differs from the above project in that I skipped building the skeleton and muscles and went right for the skin. I did, however, use skeletal photographs as image planes to get the correct proportions and make intelligent decisions while modeling, so its not like the result is completely invented. I also did some light background reading on the discovery, features, and phylogeny of Camarasaurus to keep this exercise somewhat informed. 

There are still teeth and toes to be modeled, and overall cleanup. I'll post the final images once this guy is completed. I definitely would like to take the time to sculpt and texture him.  Depending on how much time I have I may even rig him up and do some experiments with animation.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Shovel Man

Concepts for a stereotypical fictitious murderer, Shovel Man. This is a character me and my brother barely made up in order to scare our cousins... I posted a really rough sketch a couple posts back from when we first made him up, but I felt compelled to flush him out a bit more...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Enchodus aka "Sabor-Toothed Herring"

Here are the renders of the fish I created for my Thesis. It's the genus Enchodus and it's from the same location and strata as the Thoracosaurus. This was a lot of fun. You can see the texture map at the bottom. Software: Modeled, Rigged, UV Layout: Autodesk Maya. Texture Painting and Sculpting: Pixologic ZBrush and Adobe Photoshop. Rendered with Renderman for Maya.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What happens while I wait for sims to complete...

I've been working on water simulation for my Thesis, and as we all know....simming takes a lot of sometimes I decide to sketch while I wait for stuff to calculate.

First some Amphibians:

Here's a devious Cane Toad (Bufo marinus). He looks so evil, because of the nature of the animal, being introduced as an invasive species and killing everything it can.

When I first read about this my mind was blown. This is the Ribbed Newt (Pleurodeles waltl). These guys are like the Wolverine of the amphibian world (Wolverine as in the X-Men Character, not Gulo gulo). When threatened, these guys actually push the pointed tips of their ribs through poison glands and then THROUGH THEIR SKIN, to stab/poison whatever it is that is attacking it. I'm not even kidding about this. you can look it up for yourself!

Now we have a Commando Manatee....or a Comanatee, whichever you prefer. I know he should probably be in the Navy, and not a paratrooper, but I have a special connection to paratroopers. I drew another version of this guy on a whiteboard with parachute and an 82nd Airborne Patch, but this one is simplified a bit for visual clarity.

And here's a generic Rock Monster sketch I did as a quick concept for a friend of mine, who may be trying to build an army of them for a project.

And finally, we have another experiment of mine, continuing to test myself in creating completely original creatures that don't look like anything that currently exists. The idea behind this guy is that in its evolutionary history, it lost its limbs, and instead strengthened and lengthened millions of hairlike flagelli, that sweep under and around its body. There are a large number underneath the animal to support it, while there are also these tentacle-like things all over the body that constantly touch/sense/grab onto surrounding objects to inspect, as well as to propel forward. This thing is a little creepy, and I'm curious to see how it would look in motion.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sketches from Maine

So I'm back from my week long family reunion/anniversary party in Maine. I got a lot of quality time with my Mom, brothers, as well as various cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Everything went perfectly. One highlight was getting to see a bald eagle fly right past the house on lake Maranacook where we were staying. This was a first for me, and I was very excited about it. Also got tons of fresh seafood which is always a plus...anyway enough reminiscing about last week, here are the sketches I did while up there. I didn't really take the time to do any candid life sketching, but I enjoyed these little beasties I concocted:

This first guy, i started drawing some sort of dinosaur, then decided to make it more interesting by adding in human features in it....I then kept that for my theme and created this human-dino hybrid creature. It's a little eerie to look at, but it was fun to do.

Next we have this little guy. I have no idea what he is...I just thought he was cute :)

Next we have this canid. I really liked the pose I put him in, and thought the expression was too good to not add something for him to be reacting to.

Now we have a graphic approach to a barn owl (Tyto alba). I started with the outlined shape on the left side, and tried to finish the form without disrupting the simplicity of the outline. I tried to contain as much of the character as I could inside that shape.

And finally, I got bored while waiting for my dinner at the Chick-A-Dee restaurant in Turner, Maine with some couple dozens of family members.  I drew this creature trying to keep the idea in mind that I wanted to create a monster that didn't resemble any living animal. It's really tough to do, and it's something I'm always trying to practice here and there. I particularly liked the idea of having suction-cup like legs, and a pair that sprout from the tail.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Misc. Sketches

So I have some various sketches to post before I forget. The first couple are people I sketched in Maine when visiting family.

Here, on the left we have a man playing with his cell phone while waiting for someone in Freeport. The right is a character my brother and I created to scare our cousins, named Shovelman. They got too scared before we even had the chance to give him a backstory....drat. Well he posed very nicely for this sketch, anyway.

Next we have one of those cousins, sitting at a fire pit. What I learned from this? Apparently when I draw people outside at night with only the light of the fire to aid me, they end up looking older than they are. 

Now we have some fun little critters that I sketched while waiting for things to process. First, there's an alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), then we have a three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus), and then a koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). Notice how freakishly strange koala's front paws can't make that stuff up!

I'm going back to Maine for all of next week, and there should be plenty of down time for sketching! I even bought a new sketchbook for the occasion. I know I'm excited.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sketchbook Backlog

So I'm just about finished with my current sketchbook, and there are a lot of misc. things in there. This sketchbook spans the time from last fall until now. so here's a bunch of random things:

So where to start? There's another concept for my evolution animation idea, as well as some dino sketches, including an extremely inaccurate/unrealistic Edmontosaurus. We also have a pig demon riding a babirusa for some reason. Then a sweet imaginary bird-like thing, a stylized turtle, and mechanical Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens mechanicaliensis).

Here are a couple more strange critters. 

Here we have a crocodile, some sort of strange Parasaurolophus-humanoid alien thing, and a giant angry rodent.

This here is the result of misc. people-watching excursions around the city this year. When I'm waiting for a train or if I'm early to an event of some sort, I'll usually take the time to practice drawing and get ideas from the people around me. All of these are sketches of random people, or are characters inspired by real people that I spotted. They are all from various places in Philadelphia.

Here we have an exaggerated, cartoony amphibian of some sort, along with a creature, combining influences from sauropods and fish.

Yet another creature concept

A sketch test for the header banner of this blog.

A strange alien thing that I drew the night I decided to start blogging. I haven't spent so much time on a single still image in a while, so this was refreshing. There are lots of different influences in this. I didn't give this guy any sort of back-story or name yet. This is just the result of me sitting down and letting my mind wander.

...and here's a quick sketch of the skull of a Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei). That's all for now, Now that this collection of images is up I can continue to just post things as I draw them, opposed to posting mass collections of stuff every couple months.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Animal Rotoscope Motion Studies

I did a number of rotoscope tests last year in order to help me better understand animal locomotion. I drew on top of footage found at of a number of different animals. I made sure to simplify the drawings down to simple stick-figures to really focus on pure movement. I find it interesting how much of the motion comes through with such simple drawings. This was done in Flash, and the 3D Rotos were done in Maya. The animals are in the following order: fish, secretary bird, crocodile, white rhinoceros, bald eagle, double-crested cormorant (not a rotoscope).

The Blumblour

This is the Blumblour...a creature first developed for a CG project years ago. Here is the rundown on these massive fictional creatures:

A full grown male blumblour can get up to 10 ft tall. They live in patriarchal herds, which travel long distances together on yearly migration routes. Blumblours sometimes develop symbiotic bonds with various types of vegetation, which grow directly on their bodies. The plants protect the blumblour from various pests and parasites, through various methods. Some carnivorous plants will eat these parasites, while other plants will secrete chemicals that repel them.

Blumblours are herbivorous and use their tentacle-like arms to stretch out and grab plant material - mostly mosses and lichens. The tentacles are also used in locomotion. They slowly pull themselves along the ground, while using their tails as rudders to help propel forward.

Creature Concepts

Last summer I came up with an idea of an animated piece revolving around evolution. That is all I'm at mercy to tell you I still plan on making it one day. I'm not sure what form it will ultimately take, but there are lots of plot elements that need ironing out. As of now it's only in a conceptual stage. I also don't know if I want to try to cram something of this complexity into a short, or do a series of episodes, or wait until I have the chance to try and turn it into a feature. I think there are so many possibilities with this idea... Anyway, here are some various creature concepts for this thing. I'm sure as time goes by you'll see some more concepts popping up similar to these guys, as I continue to mull things over in my head.


Misc. Reptile sketches:

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) concepts from last Fall:

A generic large theropod dinosaur:

...and of course a Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus). I sketched this before embarking the incredible journey that is my Master's Thesis.


I'm trying to get some miscellaneous stuff up here to fill it out a bit, before I start adding new content. This post is misc. bird sketches from last summer, when I created a cormorant to help me learn Houdini. The bird was modeled in Maya, textured in Photoshop, sculpted in Mudbox, and then the feather instancing was all done through SOPs in Houdini. It was also rendered in Mantra. On the left are various Double-Crested Cormorant Sketches (Phalacrocorax auritus). At the time I wasn't sure which bird I should create, so I was also thinking of the Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius).

After the deciding on, and modeling the cormorant, I rigged him and re-purposed him to act as the antagonist of my short First Step from last Fall.

Here's the full turntable:

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Hello World!

...sorry I couldn't resist.

So to kick this puppy off, I will elaborate a bit on the purpose of this blog. This is where I will continue to update various (primarily) character and creature design sketches. I hope to push my limits and test out different drawing styles as I go. I will also update the blog with posts of various video/animation work as it comes in.

It's an open pallet to keep the creativity going. So some weeks you may see lots of sketches, and others you may see various animation or rigging demos. To start, the first couple of posts will be of older things I've worked on, just because they fit the theme of this blog so very well.

So let's start with the Serpiiken (Serpenpullus brachioflagelli). This creature first appears as a mount in a museum in this matte painting compositing project from a class last winter...

Here is the original concept art for the Serpiiken: