Thursday, October 27, 2005

A great lecture given by Tim McColum - ILM Creature Artist

I took these notes at SIGGRAPH '05 held in LA.Hope it helps all you guys planning to make your way into creature development or who just like drawing and comming up with ideas for fantasy creatures.This would be a nice place to start. Happy drawing :-)

Creature development

Questions you should ask yourself before you start with the project :

  • What does it look like?
  • What is it supposed to do?


  • What is the Design Style of the creature i.e. is he cartoon like or Photo-real?
  • What is the body type of the creature?
  • What is the surface type or skin type of the creature?


  • How are we going to integrate it into our work? i.e. Bluescreen or Digital?
  • What are the interactions of the creature going to be like?
  • What is the creature’s relationship with the camera going to be like?
  • What’s the scope of the creature’s use?

*Ask the client what has to be done and what is not needed.

Software Package:

  • What can the software do and more importantly what can I do with the software?
  • Find out the problem in the early stages of the process and come up with a solution early on.

Motion of the Creature:

  • Discuss with the team about what is required of the creature and not about what could be done.


  • A digital creature is a set of articulated surfaces, constructed, animated and renderd by a computer.
  • Use the artwork done and the reference material for this.

Concept Art:

  • What is the conceptual tone of the creature?
  • Decide the Pose and the environment your going to put him in at this stage.
  • Search for visual cues related to the creature you are drawing.
  • What is the form and the material of the creature?

When constructing the creature:

  • Give it an Extreme Pose
  • Extreme Form
  • Musculature (according to requirement) buts ok to exaggerate.
  • Keep him anatomically believable.
  • Give character to the creature through foreshortening.
  • Remember that the Concept art defines what is expected from the creature. i.e. its capabilities.

*Start storyboarding from the camera’s point-of-view.

Design Style:

  • Tone of the creature – is it Dark or Bright?
  • Identify the key elements within the creature – the invariant Perceptual Cues. i.e. The way something moves.
  • Define the Levels of importance of the various elements.

Primitive Style: e.g. Frosty / Casper

  • Does the creature have a cartoon esthetic?
  • If so give it simplified forms.

Abstract Style:

  • Keep the creature physically plausible at every stage no matter how hybrid you make the creature.

Naturalistic Style:

  • This style is probably the hardest to do as it is modeled from real-life.
  • It has to, “HAS TO” be Proportionally and Physically accurate.

Production Design:

  • What is the requirement of the concept of the artwork?
  • What is the level of Physical realism?

Body Style:

    1. Symmetry
    2. Body Type

Symmetry: The Technical Considerations.

The body type of creatures can be classified into three different types :

Viz. Radial, Bilateral, Segmented.

  • The difference above can have a large impact on the efficiency of the creature.
  • Symmetry should not be assumed. Asymmetry is a KEY FEATURE of organic realism.
  • Robots on the other hand would be a good example of bilateral symmetry.

Body Type:

    1. Bipedal
    2. Quadruped
    3. Winged
    4. Serpentine
    5. Special Designs
  • Legs have Limited range of motion and the shoulders have a large range of motion.

  • The primary motion of such animals is driven by their forward legs.
  • An artist would most likely face the most problems in dealing with the Head and Neck motion of these animals.

  • The motion of such animal is complex to deal with on ground.
  • Folding wings also give a lot of rigging and deformation challenges.
  • The artist could also run into articulation and deformation problems.

  • This creature may or may not have legs.
  • The primary motion of this animal is driven by its head.
  • Deformation issues range from the simple to the extreme.

Special Designs:
  • These would include monopods and tripods i.e. Creatures with more than four legs.
  • This catagory would also include transforming creatures.
  • The sequential artwork is highly importaint in this type of creature.

Example. The ape like walk for the tripod creatures in War of the Worlds.
Scorpian King , Mummy 2.

The transformation problems that an artist faces here are the volume and proportion changes i.e. form changes.

Lets now talk a little bit about the Skin Type:
  1. Rigid
  2. Flesh
  3. Clothing
  4. Hair,Fur.

  • In this case the deformation is non-existent.
  • The motion is primarily defined by rigging.

  • Since flesh has an Elastic property to it, it can strech, compress, wrinkle and fold.
  • The anatomy of the animal in this case would lie below the skin itself.
  • The range of motion of such type of creatures factor heavily into the difficulty of the problem.
  • Its not only a surface with texture but also "DETAIL".
  • Create the wrinkles.


Clothing can be of the following types:
  1. Loose Flowing
  2. Tight Fitti9ng
  3. Layerd
  4. Tattered

Cloth Dynamics:
  • Key factors in dealing with cloth dynamics are:
  • Dealing with the collision geometry.
  • What is the material quality?
  • Property similarity between multiple garments.

Scales, Hair and Fur:
  • Length
  • Density
  • Variation.

Long fur - BIG PROBLEMS!
  • The Props should preferebly be rigged seperately from the creature.
  • The props often move locally in relation to the creature eg.Ear ring
  • Make sure the props move with the creature and relative to him.
Review of the above:

Ask yourself what does the creature do ?
The answer to this question can be found in the script, Storboard and Animatics.

How "Hero" will the creature be? (how close to the camera)
How many shots will the creature be in?

Is the creature a hero or pawn?
What is the relationship of the creature with the camera and the size on screen?
This will answer the question of what will be the level of detail of the creature.

For a "Hero" :
Medium-built for which there is usage but does not intend to hold up any kind of scrutiny.
Low-simple anatomical form i.e. no deformation.
For a "Pawn" :
A block form.
No articulation - way in the background.

Rule of thumb:
The size of the hero is 1/3rd size on screen.
1/5th if lowres.

Length of time on screen:
Remember who the audiance will be.
The screen size has an inverse relationship to the fedility requirement of the creature.

Interaction and Intigration:

Other digital Creatures.
Live actors.

Environment interaction:
Factors at work :
Shadow casting
Dust from Footfalls.
Creature moving through foliage.

Live actors:
Similarity of material between actor and the digital creature. - Lighting has a lot to to with this aspect.
Capacity to inigrate with live actors is related to the creatures design style.

Creating creatures with sucess:
  • Ask the right questions before you start!
  • The artwork should define the technique.
  • Catagorize the answer between looks and behaviour.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Just a reminder to all my fellow students ...

Siggraph 2006 is just around the corner and is accepting applications for Student Volunteers. I was there (bumped up the waiting list at the last minute - i was not too thrilled about that at the time) for SIGGRAPH 2005 and i had a great time! I highly recommend it for all the students planning to apply for the first time, pls do! Its a great experience and you will meet a lot of people from your own field, not only students but also industry proffessionals.Its a great place to make good contacts and get some insights on whats happening in our industry. Not to mention all the great lectures you can attend while volunteering. :-)

A nice basic modeling tutorial

I just ran into this link on 3DTotal and i think its a great place for people just getting into charecter modeling to begin as it runs you through the entire process of modeling from the basic shapes, to skinning and then putting on the accessories. A must see for beginers! 3DTotal Charecter Modeling

I'd like to say... Oh my God!!!! Now i'v seen it all....

Hey guys,
I was really surprised when i came across this article and i think all you guys should have a look at it.Its kinda cool in a very strange way and I mean it! Well, for starters Ballistic Publishing has released yet another eye popping image book and this time guess what its about, well, the ' Hottest chicks in the CG world' . wow! call me a geek but i checked the images out.... WOW! :-)

CgTalk Article : Ballistic Publications

Monday, October 24, 2005

Wow! This was a long break...

Hey you guys,
Appologies to all of you guys who have been keeping up with my blog that i have not been able to post anything for a couple of months now.Anyway, i'v decided to make it up to you guys and post a lot of good stuff in the comming weeks.... wait for it :)
Sneek peeks:
  • Brief Discription of the Lecture on Creature Creation from Tim McColm - Lead Creature Artist from ILM.
  • A Little about the talk that Peter De Seve gave in the Academy - Lead Character Artist for Ice Age.
and a lot more..... :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


hey u guys, I ran into brad bird today! (remember, the guy who directed this little movie called The Incredibles!) yep! I just got the news that he's in
virgin records (SF) while i was in one of my classes n sure enough, i left class half way through to get his autograph :) and i did. I complemented him on his movie and that he'd done an amaizing job with it, and i'm sure all you guys would agree.'neways, it was a great experience for the day, heck who am i kidding, for the whole month! :)

peace out guys!
appologies : I really did not know 'brad bird' was in virgin records before time, or i would have posted it for sure! :)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Robots :The Movie!

I have been waiting for this movie like forever, and u know how u think at times, its not really gonna be that good....IT SO WAS! u guys have got to see this movie, i would not say, its gonna be the best movie of the year since we have yet to see cars and madagascar, so i think that would be unfair on my part, but its pretty damn good!!!
blue sky studios

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Had a good time at the GDC?

hey y'all,
the last couple of days have been just awsome...hmmm, hope i'm not understating that! For all of u people who could not make it to the GDC, too bad, hope u can make it next year.GDC 2005 just rocked! I'm mean for whatever lil bit i saw, which was quite a BIT.Let me start off talking about the EXPO,well since i had the EXPO Pass (FYI, i was not too thrilled about that) i attended just 5 tutorials and the IGDA/GDC and the IGF award shows.The EXPO had most of the 'who's who' in the game industry and u could c all of them booth crawl.BLIZZARD, SONY Online.,HIGH MOON Studios,UBI-Soft and many others had set up their booths at the EXPO, excepting resumes,talking to students,reviewing demo reels, u know how it works rite.Anyway, Once that was over, i mean how long r u gonna crawl around in an expo! I was there for a while though, then had lunch (accident) lolz.The next day i realised it was not for the EXPO guys...well,boho, as u can see i'm flushed with shame! :0) anyway,comming back to the point of this topic, yes, the CLASSES :

Use of openMP in Games : well, dunno where to start for this one, was in there for an hr. and understood just 15 min. of it, yep being a programmer myself! the gist of this talk was how openMP (which is kind of a plugin -if u may for c program users) a 'library' that includes all the functions that apparently speed up your processing speed during multithreding by 70% (thats a lot)Unless your not gonna be using multithreding this should not make that much of a difference to your script during compilation.well, thats that!

Bonus or Bogus : Dealing with Hollywood Production Companies : This talk explaind how the game industry is a lot similar to the film industry (or atleast is getting there).Rosanna Sun who's credits include , casting the crew of matrix reloded and matrix revolutions, titanic and producing the game 'Enter the Matrix' was hosting the talk for the evening.She ran us through the whole process of production rite from piching an idea to a potential investor upto why exactly the production companies pay tank loads of money 'invest' into a perticular idea.How profitable is an idea? who decides that? Why did projects like polar express, 'enter the matrix' and mercury rising, bomb at the box office?

Quest : Why do you think did polar express bomb at the box office?
Ans: The problem with polar express was just that they made what should have been a 20 min. short into a full length feature, its that simple!

Quest : Why hire actors like tom hanks to do the mo-cap and voice over as it increases the budget of the movie substantically?why not just hire a good actor who does not charge as much and spend more on the movie, and in the case of a game , the actual game play?
Ans : The production companies when dealing with such huge projects dont really look at the cost anymore, well, atleast not as much as they normally would. They wanna make the movie as true to life, or authentic if u may, as possible, hence the above is done.

all in all it was a good talk and quite informative.

Attack of the Design Directors : This was probably one of the best talks i got to attend, which as u can c were not many :),'neways, getting straight to the point, this talk was about again, the pitching of an idea (but from a design directors) point of view, the disagreement that goes into ideas between various departments and the final product which includes the crunch times, and how every company likes to clame that their crunch time is not as bad, or as frequent, as the company next to them.Its the same evrywhere and the key here is organisingyour time and what he discribed as having a point system where insted of calculating the hours that some one has worked, u allot certain number of points to evry sub project and evrytime a department completes a certain task they earn some points, and they need to earn a certain number of points per week, wierd! i know, but wht the heck, he said it works!!! another importaint thing to note while designing or pitching ideas is "ALWAYS ALWAYS, HAVE A PLAN B" .

The game load (working 40 hours per week) : This talk was given by David Howie, MD of blue fang studios.A cool guy and really witty! He was talking all about the crunch time in the game industry and again to elaborate on the points i mentiond above, its in the organisational skills.He told us this one incedent about how he had his crew work for 27 straight days ,CRUNH TIME! Its the same every where people, just to pin down a perticular company (y'all know which one i'm talking abt rite...sure u do! ) is unfair i think.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

For all you geeks out there! :o)

I just got back from the ESC conference a couple of hours back.For all of you wondering what the hell does that mean, its a conference held for technical artists and people in the field of designing applications for companies.Yes, thank god i moved out of that phase of my life real early, to tell you the truth, its not all that boring to listen to 5 geeks...oops sorry ;o) i mean 5 people talk about 1 frikin' microprocesser and the way it analysis data but what can beat having a job creating a level of halflife or halo rite?! so, yeah, the conference on the whole was not a total disaster for me.They had an expo showcasing the current autonomus robots available in the market and also the real time processing of the ATI Graphic Card. Anyway, all in all it was not that bad a conference to go to.
Too bad i could not make it to the EE Awardshow tonite. but hey, who's complaining rite! :o)

Monday, March 07, 2005

download MEL scripts for rigging

i was just told by one of my instructors that jason schleifer whome some would consider the 'father of rigging' has his own homepage from where we could d'load some cool scripts to rig our models.we all know what a pain in the butt...oh, excuse my language there ... pain in the neck! :o)rigging can be at times. so for all you guys having troubles with rigging your models ....... here it is!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

How to Network - Especially at GDC

hey fellow students!
a great site telling you the do's and dont's at the GDC while you are networking.I perticularly liked the advice, "if you cant say anything nice, dont say anything at all!!" please read

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Freedom -of for Modelers

for all you modelers out there this is a must have bookmark site for the day.Good anatomical references, ecorche, and dvd's available online on how to model a realistic human figure. the model is done by tareq mirza, an instructor here at the academy.for all you guys studying modeling at the academy tareq needs no introduction.he's one of the best modeling instructors we'v got here at the academy :o) hopefully sometime in the near future i'll feature him in my blog section where he can leave some useful tips for all the modelers out there. :) i said hopefully, so u best be keeping your fingers crossed for this one.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

BLUR Studios setting new standards!

rockfish, directed by Blur co-founder Tim Miller, was recently optioned by One Race Productions, actor Vin Diesel’s production company, for development as a feature film and video game and now once again blur studios makes it big with Gopher Broke.It is one of two new computer-animated shorts from Blur Studio that has been nominated for an Academy Award as Best Animated Short Film. The film is directed by Jeff Fowler and Tim Miller served as Executive Producer. All you guys that have not seen 'rockfish' yet had betta' check it out.
this is one short u dont wanna miss! :o)

UnrealEd Tutorials for all u game developers

hey people!:)
all u guys who'v just stepped into game developing might enjoy going through this site.It has some easy to understand tutorials on the Unreal 2 Editor.the nice bit about these tutorials is that it assumes no prior knowledge of the editor, so this one's for all you rookies!!! :)

Monday, February 28, 2005

Havok prepares to unveil next generation of middleware at GDC

all you guys intrested in knowing more about the physics middleware, Physics middleware specialist Havok are set to reveal its latest suite of products at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next month, with the firm launching an animation solution to tie in with its popular physics system.The entire suite is optimised to work on existing platforms, but according to Havok, it "has been designed to meet the needs of game developers working on next generation game platforms."
The company is planning to hold an event during GDC 2005, which takes place at the Moscone West Convention Centre in San Francisco from March 7 to 11, to premiere the functionality of the suite.
click here to read the article.

hope to see all you guys at the GDC!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Mixed Traditional/Digital Painting Tutorial

another great tutorial site for digital painting.The artist has taken a step-by-step approch n its real easy 2 follow.well, i did...hope, so do u guys :o) have fun!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Good Illustrations

all you guys looking for some great illustrations and environment art, i ran into an awsome website by a very talented artist called maciej kuciara.For all of you who would like to read more about his work, he's fetured in this months article section on cgtalk where he explains his technique

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Lead Level Designer from BLIZZARD!

hey guyz,
i just ran into the lead level designer from blizzard, Phil Co! got some really useful tips as far as designing a game level is concerned. He was a guest lecturer in one of our game design classes .It was great to have our work critiqued from him. He gave me some good tips on how i can improve on the rough draft of my game level and hope it helps all of you going into level designing as well.

He spoke of the game level design being divided into 7 parts:

1] know your design tools or the game play mechanics : running, jumping, climbing.
2] order the design tools according to difficulty
3] brainstorm puzzles : make sure the puzzles have a clear objective , simple start, add combinations of 2 or more puzzles, adding variety, have a quality curve ( something he stressed on the most) , which means that start and end the puzzle on high notes and save the better ideas for the later levels.
4] diagram : compact and dense, visualize the spaces, follow the chart viz. the design tool chart, puzzle chart, enemy chart.
5] rough draft (the template or block mesh) : size and length (relative to the rest of the game) , 10 second rule ----- if the player can walk without anything popping out in the game for more than 10 sec. go ahead AND CHANGE THAT! and lastly, technology check.
6] watch without speaking : little kids are the best testers for your game levels, wide audience.
7] revise : keeping consistent ---- graphics reveals gameplay, editing puzzles --- removing complexity, balancing difficulty --- puzzles, monsters, secrets.

besides this he gave us a rough draft of one of the game levels he designed from Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets -- the skruge challenge.
hope this little bit of info would have helped all of u intrested in level design!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Another of 'em flash deals

Hey guys,
i ran into this cool site today i thought u guys would enjoy.Its another of 'em flash cartoon sites.
the fat guy is really funny!
Have fun! :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Just a "Hi note"!

Hey Dudes...n Dudettes!! :)
Keep yourself logged in from time to time.I'll keep updating this page as often as i can.
I hope to share a lot of useful n 'cool' info in this section viz. games, modeling, animation, n cool sites !!!My apologies if i'm not able to do so at times, thats just cause i'm most likely flooded with homework...wohoo, what a surprise that is!!

oh, cool site for the day (its got some good flash animation and its pretty darn funny)