Tag Archives: 3D animation

Autodesk launches Maya 2019 for animation, rendering, more

Autodesk has released the latest version of Maya, its 3D animation, modeling, simulation and rendering software. Maya 2019 features significant updates for speed and interactivity and addresses some challenges artists face throughout production, providing faster animation playback to reduce the need for playblasts, higher quality 3D previews with Autodesk Arnold updates in viewport 2.0, improved pipeline integration with more flexible development environment support, and performance improvements that most Maya artists will notice in their daily work.

Key new Maya 2019 features include:
• Faster Animation: New cached playback increases animation playback speeds in viewport 2.0, giving animators a more interactive and responsive animating environment to produce better quality animations. It helps reduce the need to produce time-consuming playblasts to evaluate animation work, so animators can work faster.

• Higher Quality Previews Closer to Final Renders: Arnold upgrades improve realtime previews in viewport 2.0, allowing artists to preview higher quality results that are closer to the final Arnold render for better creativity and less wasted time.
• Faster Maya: New performance and stability upgrades help improve daily productivity in a range of areas that most artists will notice in their daily work.
• Refining Animation Data: New filters within the graph editor make it easier to work with motion capture data, including the Butterworth filter and the key reducer to help refine animation curves.
• Rigging Improvements: New updates help make the work of riggers and character TDs easier, including the ability to hide sets from the outliner to streamline scenes, improvements to the bake deformer tool and new methods for saving deformer weights to more easily script rig creation.
• Pipeline Integration Improvements: Development environment updates make it easier for pipeline and tool developers to create, customize and integrate into production pipelines.
• Help for Animators in Training: Sample rigged and animated characters, as well as motion capture samples, make it easier for students to learn and quickly get started animating.

Maya 2019 is available now as a standalone subscription or with a collection of end-to-end creative tools within the Autodesk Media & Entertainment Collection.

Nice Shoes Creative Studio animates limited-edition Twizzlers packages

Twizzlers and agency Anomaly recently selected 16 artists to design a fun series of limited edition packages for the classic candy. Each depicts various ways people enjoy Twizzlers. New York’s Nice Shoes Creative Studio, led by creative director Matt Greenwood, came on board to introduce these packages with an animated 15-second spot.

Three of the limited edition packages are featured in the fast-paced spot, bringing to life the scenarios of car DJing, “ugly crying” at the movies, and studying in the library, before ending on a shot that incorporates all of the 16 packages. Each pack has its own style, characters, and color scheme, unique to the original artists, and Nice Shoes was careful to work to preserve this as they crafted the spot.

“We were really inspired by the illustrations,” explains Greenwood. “We stayed close to the original style and brought them into a 3D space. There’s only a few seconds to register each package, so the challenge was to bring all the different styles and colors together within this time span. Select characters and objects carry over from one scene into the next, acting as transitional elements. The Twizzlers logo stays on-screen throughout, acting as a constant amongst the choreographed craziness.”

The Nice Shoes team used a balance of 3D and 2D animation, creating a CG pack while executing the characters on the packs with hand-drawn animation. Greenwood proposed taking advantage of the rich backgrounds that the artists had drawn, animating tiny background elements in addition to the main characters in order to “make each pack feel more alive.”

The main Twizzlers pack was modeled, lit, animated and rendered in Autodesk Maya which was composited in Adobe After Effects together with the supporting elements. These consisted of 2D hand-drawn animations created in Photoshop and 3D animated elements made with Mason Cinema 4D.

“Once we had the timing, size and placement of the main pack locked, I looked at which shapes would make sense to bring into a 3D space,” says Greenwood. “For example, the pink ribbons and cars from the ‘DJ’ illustration worked well as 3D objects, and we had time to add touches of detail within these elements.”

The characters on the packs themselves were animated with After Effects and applied as textures within the pack artwork. “The flying books and bookcases were rendered with Sketch and Toon in Cinema 4D, and I like to take advantage of that software’s dynamics simulation system when I want a natural feel to objects falling onto surfaces. The shapes in the end mnemonic are also rendered with Sketch and Toon and they provide a ‘wipe’ to get us to the end lock-up,” says Greenwood.

The final step during the production was to add a few frame-by-frame 2D animations (the splashes or car exhaust trail, for example) but Nice Shoes Creative Studio waited until everything was signed off before they added these final details.

“The nature of the illustrations allowed me to try a few different approaches and as long as everything was rendered flat or had minimal shading, I could combine different 2D and 3D techniques,” he concludes.

Review: Video CoPilot’s Element 3D v2.2

Improved UI, shadows, reflections and more

By Brady Betzel

If you’ve read my past reviews, you likely know how much I love Video CoPilot’s Element 3D. I can’t stop talking about it, in my reviews, at work, on social media, or even at home with my four-year-old son, who typically responds with, “Can it make Thomas the Train?” Luckily, I am able to respond, “Yes, as long as daddy has a Thomas 3D model.”

I’ve been using Element 3D, which is currently in v2.2, since v1. I have always found it comfortable and easy to use, especially as someone with a good sense of spatial 3D relationships, as well as a moderate level of After Effects knowledge. So there won’t be any surprise that the latest release has lived up to its previous incarnations. Furthermore it started and continues to evolve the pipeline between the 2.5D Adobe After Effects and true 3D applications like Maxon’s Cinema 4D and its Cineware offering.

What’s New?
The latest version of Element 3D has some great updates, including interface upgraders; group symmetry modes; matte shadows with alpha channels; general speed improvements; and many more awesome new stuff. Element 3D (E3D) v2.2 is a free update to owners of v2. If you are still running E3D from the v1 era, obviously it still works and works pretty well, but if you want the latest mind-blowing features for a sub-$200 plug-in, v2.2 is where you want to be — you even get a generous $100 discount if you are upgrading from a valid Element 3D v1 license. If you are feeling like you want to spend a little more money, purchase Pro Shaders 2 along with Element 3D — it even comes with a bundle discount that makes it just shy of $250. The Pro Shaders are a library of high-quality textures used inside of Element 3D and even Cinema 4D. I could go on all day about the products that Video CoPilot puts out, but instead I suggest you check out their website, and Andrew Kramer’s awesome tutorial and demo videos.

So let’s dive in and see why Element 3D v2.2 is worth the price of admission.

Digging In
I really love Element 3D for its particularly easy way of creating fantastic-looking 3D titles quickly. To create a quick and great-looking title in After Effects you can follow these steps: create a new text layer, type your text (usually works better with a thick and/or strong font), under the “Custom Layers” > “Custom Text and Masks” find your layer from the drop down and select it, launch the scene interface, click on extrude, and you are ready to apply a texture.

Once you are done coloring and texturing you can jump back into After Effects and create simple swooshing titles, or even titles that break apart and transform into another title, all within the Element 3D effect controls. You can even add cameras and lights, which will impact your creation. If you do any sort of fancy titling, Element 3D must be in your After Effects toolbox. If you are worried about how well your computer will handle it, I can tell you that you don’t need the behemoth Nvidia Quadro M6000 (although it would be nice). Element 3D just needs a graphics card with at least 512MB of RAM and, while Intel graphics are not supported, there have been some cases where they work. Typically, you will want an Nvidia or AMD card.

If you’ve used E3D before, you are probably past the point of building 3D text and are ready for me to move on to the v2.2 meat and potatoes of Element 3D. So without further ado…

Group Symmetry Mode
In short, group symmetry allows you to designate a reflection of your group within the E3D scene interface. In one of his demos, Kramer uses a futuristic door as an example, and it really makes a lot of sense when describing how Group Symmetry Mode works. If you have one side of a door created and want to simply reflect that side on the X, Y and/or Z-axis, you can enable Group Symmetry by clicking on your group and checking the Group Symmetry box. If you want to animate those individual elements you can jump inside of your group and designate each object to be assigned to an auxiliary animation.

For example, If you have glass in front of your door that is within the same group, you can assign the glass to auxiliary animation channel 1 and the door to channel 2, allowing the glass and door to be animated separately but still operating in the same group. Another benefit of group symmetry is the ability to texture the object and, because E3D processes the symmetry as instances any texture applied to one object gets replicated to each object within your group (with no slowdown). You can even save your group folder as an E3D file to use in another scene.

Matte Shadow With Alpha and 3D Noise
This feature is aimed at anyone doing 3D compositing over live action within After Effects. With Element 3D v2.2 you now have the ability to work with dynamic reflections and dynamic shadows. This leads into creating a shadow of a 3D object while using the alpha channel of a texture to create a more realistic roll-off into your live-action footage. Basically, it gets your composite to look more realistic faster and more easily.

Third on my list is deforming and 3D noise. In E3D v2 you have gained the ability to add primitives directly inside of the scene interface without importing objects, and this makes it extremely easy to come up with organic and often-times wild animations within seconds. Simply drop any primitive object (or anything like text or even an external .OBJ) into your scene, bump up the amount of segments in your 3D model, change your Surface Options > Normal to Dynamic (Deform), as well as check off Optimize Mesh to speed up the rendering, then texture your object however you would like and exit back into After Effects.

water models

Now, under the numbered group that houses your object find the Particle Look and locate the Deform settings. This is where the crazy magic happens. Mess around with the Noise setting a little and you will immediately be looking for some sound effects to complement the weird organic jello-like movement. Check out the MotionPulse Sound Design Toolkit.

Summing Up
I’ve really only touched on a few of the latest updates to Video CoPilot’s Element 3D v2.2. Andrew Kramer and his team have done a great job with Element 3D from the very beginning, and v2.2 is no exception thanks to the addition of sub-surface scattering; Matte Reflection mode; the ability to export .OBJ files for other 3D apps; automatic texture importing with your external 3D objects; dynamic reflection maps; the ability to designate a transfer mode like Add or Screen to your textures; and so much more.

The only knock I have with Element 3D — well, it’s not really a knock — is that once you dive in you just want to keep learning more. It’s an extremely exciting rabbit hole of motion graphics and VFX that’s hard to get out of.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim-Murray Productions. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.


Silverdraft launches supercomputing lab, upgrades Devil, Demon

At NAB, Silverdraft announced the creation of a new supercomputing lab in Hollywood. The Silverdraft Center for Content Creation (SC3) will enable freelance artists and content creators for gaming, virtual reality (VR), and immersive cinema to post produce and render their projects using Micron memory and storage technology.

Located at Jim Henson Studios (the former Charlie Chaplin Studios), SC3 will offer a 4K screening theater and multiple creative bays running professional systems for post production and rendering workflows for 3D animation, VFX, digital intermediates (DI) and finishing, and VR content creation. The new lab will give content creators experience with high-end workflow tools, while enhancing the quality and production value of their projects and decreasing turnaround times.

Said Ted Schilowitz, president of Silverdraft, “Independent content creators love our products because they need a never-ending supply of faster performance, but their budgets are always very constrained. The SC3 puts our technology to use and creates a blueprint for how supercomputing can change the way we design workflows. Our deeper understanding of the way artists work will help us to develop even better products in the future. We believe the SC3 will inspire and empower many up-and-coming content creators as they help to deliver the next generation of great stories.”

“Moving data quickly and reliably is at the core of all complex computing, and it’s especially critical in advanced motion graphics rendering,” said Steve Pawlowski, VP of advanced computing solutions at Micron. “We’re thrilled to see Silverdraft using our technology to build systems and services that will make a dramatic difference in how content is created.”

The Devil supercomputer

The Devil supercomputer

At the same time, Silverdraft released updated versions of its Devil supercomputers and Demon (our main image) workstations with a performance increase of 20 percent and multiple purchasing options for facilities of all sizes. The Devil supercomputers now include more than 400 Intel E5 v3 CPU cores in 12 nodes, connected via the InfiniBand backbone and integrated with the Micron DDR4 RAM and storage.

The Demon workstations also include Intel E5 v3 processors and Micron DDR4 RAM and provide single and multi-processor configurations in both a standard desktop model as well as a compact form factor. In addition, the Demon line now includes Demon Gamer Extreme (DGx), a new gaming configuration that lets users control over-clocking without going into the BIOS.

Nvidia GPU Technology Conference 2015: Part I

By Fred Ruckel

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the Nvidia GPU Technology Conference 2015 in San Jose, California, a.k.a. Silicon Valley. This was not a conference for the faint of heart; it was an in-depth look at where the development of GPU technology is heading and what strides it had made over the last year. In short, it was the biggest geek fest I have ever known, and I mean that as a compliment. The cast of The Big Bang Theory would have fit right in.

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King and Country shoots, posts Ford Transit spot for Team Detroit

To help promote the 2015 Ford Transit utility van, agency Team Detroit tapped King and Country (K&C) to produce a 30-second spot, 9 to 5’ers, which mixes 3D animation, design and live-action footage.

K&C’s concept was to illustrate how a variety of professionals can use the Transit models — from contractors to deliverymen to IT specialists, etc. The spot shows how different workers and companies can customize these vans to suit their needs. “You don’t drive to an office, your van is your office,” explains the voiceover.

“Combining live-action and CG allowed for the best coverage of the Transit, inside and out,” explains K&C partner/director Efrain Montanez. “The key to transitioning from scene to scene was keeping the tempo of the pod movements dynamic, which we achieved with a range of zooms and perspective shifts, and evenly proportioned so you seamlessly experience the singular flexibility of the model.”


According to Paul Kirner and Dan Weber, creative directors at Team Detroit, “For us, the key was collaboration. Our commercial was intricate, fast-paced and CG-intense. We needed a partner with the design chops to create something beautiful and real, and the communication skills to make sure every detail was nailed. King and Country worked in perfect sync with us, from early concept boards all the way through final post.”

“By varying the van colors and transforming the interiors in CG, as well as the graphic aesthetics, we were able to express the immense versatility of the Transit for the various occupations featured in the spot,” says Montanez.

The 2D graphics unfold on an orange, black and white palette. These two elements were layered with the flexibility to stand alone or integrate with the 3D world. The K&C team also designed fictional business logos for the different vans.

K&C shot the spot, using a Red Epic camera over two-days at a soundstage in LA, using both greenscreen and practical sets, including one where a cross-section of a man cave was flooded with 3,000 gallons of water.

Interior and exterior van details, props, and talent were captured in-camera and augmented in CG. Lighting was used to create the realistic look of the vehicles within the varied environments. Rather than studio lighting, K&C used warm natural light, which pops from the graphic background.

Tools used by K&C included Gazelle Motion Control, Autodesk Maya 3D software and Adobe After Effects for compositing.


Meet Clockwork VFX Co-Founder/CD Jason Tomlins

NAME: Jason Tomlins

TITLE: Co-Founder/Creative Director

COMPANY: Clockwork VFX  based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and New York. We are visual effects and CG animation company. For the past 8 years, our core business has been the creation of high-end CG visual effects and animation for the commercials market. Follow them on Twitter @ClockworkVFX 

Youthful idealism! That and the fact that business is in my blood, having worked in family businesses since I has old enough to reach the cash register.

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