Update to Cineware for Adobe After Effects CC

FRIEDRICHSDORF, GERMANYMAXON has announced the release of additional features for Cineware (3.1) for Adobe After Effects CC demonstrating its ongoing efforts to increase functionality and improve workflow. Animated text and shape layers can now be saved directly into the .c4d file format using the MAXON Cinema 4D Exporter command. Artists can customize exported elements in Cinema 4D (Cinema 4D Lite is included with After Effects CC), save the changes, and see them update live in After Effects CC via CINEWARE.

“It’s exciting to see Adobe and Maxon continue to simplify the creative process so artists can create cutting edge visuals more easily,” commented Thanassis Pozantzis, creative director and owner of Noseman Productions. “These types of improvements to workflow have a tremendous impact on my ability to meet client expectations and deadlines.”

After Effects users who do not own a commercial license of Cinema 4D but are interested in exploring 3D content creation as a part of their workflow still have access to Cinema 4D Lite, a light yet feature-rich version of the Cinema 4D toolset that launches directly from within After Effects CC.

The Foundry launches MODO 10 Series

The Foundry launches MODO 10 Series

MODO 10 Series is built on a next-generation 3D modeling, texturing and rendering platform that enables creatives to iterate freely in order to realize the full potential of their ideas.

LONDON — Creative software developer, The Foundry, has announced the launch of the MODO 10 Series. Built on a next-generation 3D modeling, texturing and rendering platform that enables creatives to iterate freely in order to realize the full potential of their ideas, MODO 10 Series is poised to deliver valuable new feature sets in a series of three installments for a single price.The MODO 10 Series delivers powerful toolsets that enable artists and designers to create high-quality content for games, virtual reality, product design, creative media, and film and video projects. Starting with the launch of the MODO 10.0v1 installment, the series addresses the challenges users are face in fast-paced production environments, and prepares them to face the changing requirements of the future.

“At The Foundry we listen closely to artists and designers to understand what they need in order to be more productive, more creative and more effective. With MODO 10 Series we’re introducing artist-friendly tools that streamline and automate complex tasks, leaving artists and designers free to explore their creativity,” commented Andy Whitmore, chief product officer at The Foundry. “We’re talking about a toolset that paves the way for maximum creativity in the content creation process, enabling the development of addictive real-time experiences, innovative product designs, compelling images for advertising, and engaging film and video content.”

MODO 10.0v1 opens new doors for creating real-time content for games or for other immersive experiences like virtual reality. Among the highlights, artists can author in MODO and be confident that their assets will look virtually the same in Unity or Unreal Engine; get realistic detail into their real-time assets more easily through a streamlined, repeatable texture baking workflow; and enjoy new ways to export to popular engines featuring simple, automated steps that minimize the need to recreate work, saving time and reducing the potential for errors.

MODO 10.0v1 will be available in the second quarter of 2016 and will be followed by the releases of MODO 10.1 and MODO 10.2.

Source: The Foundry

Call for entries

Call for entries for the 7th International Animation Film Festival – Golden Kuker in Sofia, Bulgaria, held from May 9 – 15 May, 2016.

Creating an alternate world: The Man in the High Castle

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Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle is an alternative history story in which the Axis powers were victorious in WWII, with the U.S. now being split into Japanese and Nazi states. In order to realize the look of this alternate world in 1962, a number of environmental augmentations and enhancements were required to represent new streetscapes, development and even vehicles. These effects were delivered by Zoic Studios.

The show faced various issues, from the normal range of period dramas being filmed in the modern age, to imagining the design decisions that would have happened if the US had no post-war boom, and a mix of German and Japanese technology dominated everything from car design to urban planning. A small example is the classic ‘tail-fins’ on 1950/1960s American cars. The tailfin era of automobile styling would just never have happened. Yet this was a huge industrial design influence and statement of jet age optimism that spread worldwide, as foreign car makers picked up styling trends from the US automobile industry. Neither could the 3D cars that were created be just Eastern Block cars of say East German. These are Soviet influenced and don’t reflect a victorious Third Reich.

Still adding to the demands on the visual effect team was that this version of America is divided and also under Japanese influence. Especially early in the series there is a lot of action that takes place in a Japanese San Francisco. From set extensions to traditional green screen effects work, the effects designers at Zoic in LA and Canada produced a chilling view of an alternative and confronting view of what might have happened had the defeated German command actually perfected an Atomic bomb mid WWII, and bombed Washington.

Thanks to our media partners at WIRED, here’s an exclusive look behind the scenes of Zoic’s visual effects for High Castle.

Ex Machina: the making of Ava

Alex Garland’s Ex Machina tells the story of a computer programmer, Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson), who spends a week with tech CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). At Nathan’s house, Caleb encounters Ava (Alicia Vikander), an artificially intelligent android. Ava is imagined in the film as a cyborg with a striking humanistic appearance but also obvious translucent robotic parts – elements brought to life under the supervision of Double Negative’s Andrew Whitehurst. In this article, we find out from Whitehurst how the visual effects team set out to meticulously track live action photography featuring Vikander and other characters and then seamlessly composite Ava’s CG rendered body parts into the shots.

Designing Ava

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Alicia Vikander as Ava.

Ava’s final look came from art department concepts and DNeg art, including depicting where real skin would end and where the CG would begin. “I was conscious that I didn’t want to push for super realistic concept paintings,” says Whitehurst. “We had to stop and then go and build it – it’s a sculpting and engineering problem – and then we did turntables. At the start of the shoot we had concepts that featured just clean metal and no textures, and then during the shoot our team would be painting up textures.”

“We made the decision to try and keep the shoulders and armpits in plate for the simple reason that rigging shoulder blades is not that much fun,” notes Whitehurst. “Similarly, we wanted to keep the hands and feet and face because that was the main method of interacting with the environment and the main method of expression. The arms and legs are full CG because we see through them, and the same with the back of the head and neck.”

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Watch behind the scenes of the shoot.

Ava is clearly intended to be a robot of some kind, but Whitehurst was adamant that she not feel robotic in terms of her CG materials. “The one rule I made from the outset,” he says, “was that no-one was allowed to look at robots. You were allowed, though, to look at things like Formula One suspension or high-end bicycles. We also looked at human anatomy, of course. Ultimately she’s a machine who is supposed to move and behave exactly as a human would. All of the muscles we have in there are simplified versions of human ones, for instance.”

“Initially the back of Ava’s head and neck were not metal,” adds Whitehurst, “but that decision was made to have the character weirder to look at. One of the topics or ideas in the film is that we wanted her to look robotic. When you are presented with that visually, do I read her as a character or do I read her as a machine?”

In fact, every single muscle and bone shape in Ava was based on human reference. “They have a mechanical quality but are derived from human equivalent,” states Whitehurst. “When we designed it, they got 3D prints of it made for a scene in a lab where another version of her is being constructed – the guys making it said it was great – mechanically it all fit together and just worked!”

Shooting Ava

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Director Alex Garland and Alicia Vikander.

Much of Ex Machina takes place inside Nathan’s house – an isolated building in the mountains filled with glass-lined walls. “The set was really like an enclosed glass box,” describes Whitehurst. “That meant the camera was either inside or outside, and there’s nowhere to hide really, because it meant later on we had to body track things three or four times because the reflections are all different from lens and mirror distortion.”

That location challenge was exacerbated by the style of the film – Ex Machina is not intended to be an action adventure, but a more cerebral and intimate piece. “Because the whole film is about human consciousness and what it means to be human and what it means to be conscious,” outlines Whitehurst, “it’s very conversation-driven, almost exclusively. In order to get that relationship, you have to have an actor talking to another actor – they have to feed off each other.”

Chaos Group Boosts Speed with V-Ray 3.3 for Maya

‘Sci Fi Alleyway’ by Devon Fay rendered using V-Ray 3.3 for Maya.

SOFIA, BULGARIA — Chaos Group announced the release of V-Ray 3.3 for Maya, a free update to the fastest version of V-Ray yet. Since its debut there have been over 200 improvements, including speed boosts of 20-50% on most scenes and better performance for geometry, textures, shading, and volume rendering.V-Ray 3.3 for Maya features a new Variance-based Adaptive Sampler (VBAS) with better noise detection for cleaner images. It is now possible to evaluate lights and materials automatically, cutting user set-up time and the adjustments needed for professional design, advertising, television and feature film work.

A major update to V-Ray RT enables final frame production rendering on the GPU. Optimized texture memory, faster resizing and loading of textures, and improved shading have also been added. When coupled with GPU support for hair, subsurface scattering, displacements, tiled textures, and light cache GI, this update becomes a powerful asset for high-level production work.

“V-Ray 3.3 for Maya is our biggest update yet, the equivalent of two service packs in one,” remarked Vlado Koylazov, CTO of Chaos Group. “V-Ray for 3ds Max and Maya are now at the same level.”

New Features

  • Ray Traced Rounded Corners – Generate smooth edges between different objects at render time with no extra modeling
  • Blended Triplanar Mapping Texture – Quickly apply seamless textures without UVs
  • Stochastic Flakes Material – Create ultra-realistic materials with sparkle effects like snow, sand, and car paints
  • V-Ray Falloff Texture – Add falloff and Fresnel effects based on viewing direction
  • New Sky Model and Aerial Perspective – Simulate more natural looking skies with the new Hosek sky model, and add realistic atmospheric depth with the aerial perspective volume shader
  • V-Ray Clipper with Render-Time Booleans – Create sections and cutaways using any mesh object

Updated Features

Faster Volume Rendering

  • Faster volume rendering with probabilistic sampling
  • Supports OpenVDB caches from Houdini 15 and FumeFX
  • Preview volume grid objects in the Maya viewport

Improved Global Illumination

  • More robust reflective GI caustics for better light propagation, and more natural illumination of interior scenes
    • Now supports the latest version of OpenSubdiv
    • Up to 2X faster performance when calculating the subdivided meshes
    • Added support for color sets

    XGen

    • Cache XGen collections to V-Ray scene files for better performance
    • Added support for displacement, subdivision, and custom attributes through VRayUserColor texture
    • Added support for frame animation from archive

    User Interface

    • Optimized user interface and default render settings

Ottawa Int’l Animation Fest Issues Call for Entries for 40th Anniversary Edition

OIAF40 runs September 21-25, 2016; deadline for submissions of short films, features, TV series, music videos, PSAs and commercials made after May 29th, 2015 is Friday, May 13.

Celebrating the new, the groundbreaking, and the exceptional animated works that are out there, this year the Ottawa International Animation Festival turns 40.OIAF organizers have issued a call for entries of short films, features, TV series, music videos, PSAs and commercials made after May 29th, 2015. Submissions are free, and indie artists of selected films will be paid a small fee; in addition, all competition participants get a festival pass and a hotel room.

The deadline for entry forms is Friday, May 13, and the deadline for preview submission URLs is Friday, May 27. OIAF entry categories and competition rules and regulations can be found here.

OIAF40 runs September 21-25, 2016. Competition and showcase finalists will be announced in July.

StoryBoard Artist Version 7 Now Available

Essential previs filmmaking tool for professional animated storyboards expands 3D capabilities.

LOS GATOS, CA — PowerProduction Software, the leading developer of visualization solutions for film and video production, has announced the availability of StoryBoard Artist Version 7, the essential digital and animatic storyboard creation tool for filmmakers. The new version 7 release amps up 3D capabilities, adding an unlimited number of character poses, advanced motion graphics, and integration with StoryBoard mobile apps for previs creation across devices.

“StoryBoard Artist Version 7 gives you the simplicity and speed of working in 2D environments with all the flexibility you want when creating a 3D representation of your vision. It’s really the best of both worlds,” says PowerProduction creative director Paul Clatworthy. “Artist 7 eliminates the time and learning curve that comes with creating an entire 3D world. With all the assets at your fingertips, users can quickly and easily create the shot they want. They can tweak characters in 3D just as if they were directing actors. Artist 7 is our best upgrade ever, building on our rich history of innovation in media production software.”

StoryBoard Artist Version 7 Key Features:

  • Unlimited character posing with straightforward adjustment tools lets users get started quickly and tweak poses as needed.
  • New motion graphics capabilities let users define character movement within shots, providing an exact representation of the director’s vision for that scene.
  • Supports standard 3D formats as well as Autodesk .fbx and Google SketchUp.
  • Integration with StoryBoard mobile apps allows users to storyboard on any of their devices.
  • Expanded timeline editing and sound sweetening.
  • Imports native screenplay formats such as Final Draft, Screenwriter and more.
  • Floating licensing, no hardware key.
  • Streamlined interface.

StoryBoard Artist Version 7 is immediately available through the PowerProduction Software worldwide reseller channel and direct from the PowerProduction Software website at www.powerproduction.com for $499.99. StoryBoard Artist owners can upgrade to the new version 7.0 for $199.Source: PowerProduction Software

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Jennifer Wolfe(link sends e-mail) is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.

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