Big Lazy Robot Creates AI Terror With Keloid

Keloid_07Anyone with a taste for sci-fi will find Big Lazy Robot’s (BLR) spec film, Kaloid, a tantalising treat, and all the more so if AIs and mechanized armour are your sort of thing. The film is effectively a high impact trailer for a film that doesn’t exist. The plot, as typically presented by a trailer, is not fully apparent but there are allusions to humanity having installed AIs to keep the world’s population in order, perhaps under the thumb. It seems something has gone wrong, or significant elements of the human population have grown tired of their tyrannical custodians and have decided to revolt.

Keloid from BLR_VFX on Vimeo.

The film spent two years in the making for a completed film of just 3 gripping minutes. The production values are nothing short of AAA, and has purportedly attracted attention for a possible full production. The first thing I thought when I saw the robotics designs was that it looked like some of the design talent  from District 9 was somehow involved. This turns out to be true. The guy, as I know now, is Aaron Beck, who is based out of Wellington, New Zealand. In addition to his work on District 9, Beck has also worked on Avatar and Elysium. Beck’s Blogger currently has a modest following and is home to some very inspiring works of cyborgs, androids, and other sci-fi goodies.

However it pans out for Kaloid, BLR, the small Spanish based firm, has made its splash with their production work to date. Just check out their worked on the rather stylish Absolute Vodka ad. Or perhaps more interesting to us 3D enthusiasts, why not check out the fantastic advert they worked on for German electronics retailer, Saturn. For this they made and rigged the models and animated the some of the sequences.

Saturn – Evolution from BLR_VFX on Vimeo.


Poser Pro Used In Popular Web Media Red VS Blue and RWBY

Rooster Teeth Productions' anime RWBY character, Blake

It is often part of the marketing pitch that we hear programs like Poser and DAZ Studio are used in professional applications. Most of the apparent professional usage of these programs is well hidden, so we are usually left to take the word of testimonials with a slice of scepticism. The Poser page on Wikipedia offers us some insight into some uses, though they are largely unreferenced and don’t make for hugely inspiring reading if you’re looking for solid professional and creative examples.

Enter Rooster Teeth Productions

At least one addition that can be made to the list here is the extensive use Rooster Teeth Productions (RT) has made of Poser over a number of years for their popular Red VS Blue (RVB) series, and now the hugely popular RWBY (Ruby) anime styled series. While Red VS Blue began its life as a short collection of Machinima Halo parodies made with the Halo game engines, it has since moved to using Smith Micro’s Poser.

Nailing down exactly when RT moved RVB to Poser is tricky if you aren’t a constant fan (which I’m not), but it would likely be at least since Monty Oum joined the production company in 2010, bringing his serious animation and Poser skills with him.

This hilarious fight scene clearly shows that by season 8 (2010) RVB had moved out of the Halo game engine. Is this Poser? [Confirmed via correspondence with RT that RVB season 8 was Poser powered]

Oum The Mighty Poser Champion at RT?

Oum obviously bought a lot to Rooster Teeth, because in 2012 he was given the chance to give his own concept life, as creator and lead animator. Perhaps bringing more than talent, Oum bought fans. His deviantART profile has over 30000 watchers and his Hailoid (Halo fan animation) and Dead Fantasy videos have grossed millions of views at YouTube and Game Trailers.com.

Whatever the reason, the first RWBY episode has already accumulated 62K Facebook likes recorded on Rooster Teeth’s website and 1.3 million views on YouTube since upload on 25 July (2013). This makes RWBY many more times popular than Red Vs Blue Season 11.

So, what’s RWBY all about?

RWBY has an obvious anime, and JRPG inspiration to its visual style, characters and plot.The cast is composed primarily of female warrior students embarking on a new stage of their life, Studying at the prestigious warrior school, Beacon Academy. The world these characters inhabit is a dangers post mass monster invasion world where only a handful of powerful cities offer a relatively secure life. Undoubtedly this will lead through to self sacrifice and world saving heroics thrust upon a band of warriors still in the grasp of puberty.

I admit that when I first watched the initial episodes I was fairly indifferent. The show has a decidedly cutesy air about it, something I tend to steer clear of in my own content consumption (anime or otherwise), but I found the show growing on me and it’s comic style and characters endearing. Also as a 3D enthusiast and user of Poser and DAZ Studio there is a certain amount of technical curiosity. So, for all it’s stock-standard plot devices and clichéd characters, there is something about this cute, fluffy show that will appeal to many, if given half a chance.

Rooster Teeth RWBY anime Weiss (white) character

How Much Poser?

Watching an episode of RWBY is an interesting experience for Poser users, many of which would never have dreamed such a production was possible. The question soon arises, how much of RWBY is actually Poser? According to Steve “Think” Cooper and Shane Newville (artist working on RWBY) in this thread at RDNA, quite a bit. As in almost all. Steve Cooper (who apparently had a detailed outline of the workflow) says:

“RWBY, it turns out, uses very little outside Poser to generate the final video. They are modeling their characters in an OBJ friendly tool [Blender and Maya I think – Jim], then rigging, animating, and rendering inside Poser. All the sword trails, the explosions, the fabric and hair movement, even the final line work of the characters is being handled in PP 2012. They have engineered some really clever methods, with minimal material nodes and combined some tricks from one of Poser’s old timers for the trails and particle sprites.”

But what about the animation? Surely that’s all motion capture? Shane Newville says: “Maybe 1/3rd of it is mocap. For a lot of the scenes we did start with mocap, but there was so much cleanup, retiming and editing it might as well be handkeyed. There were also a lot of scenes where we just didn’t feeling like suiting up and started going to town on it. But one of the coolest parts was getting to make good use of Poser’s pose library. A lot of our older animations have been added to the pose library to be repurposed later.”

Roost Teeth RWBY anime Yang character (yellow)

RWBY Tech Panel at RTX 2013

Here are a few extra details I picked up from watching a recording of a RWBY technical panel at the RTX convention (which was sadly less detailed than one might hope).

  • Working with Poser and Blender was much quicker than a pure Blender workflow.
  • The production used lots of “cards”. 2D images with trans maps for many props like trees and “flip book” card animations for particle effects – made with particleIllusions.
  • Some physics simulation but hair etc but mostly hand animated for sake of control
  • Focus on art and getting the job done instead of focusing on incorporating the latest tools and gizmos.

Niche Audiences and Indie Budgets No Issue in Social Media Age

While Roost Teeth may have grown a lot since its humble Machinima origins, RT and RWBY are still very much niche names, but a fantastic example of how a small content house can utilise media channels like YouTube, and inexpensive software, like Poser Pro 2014 to create and disseminate appealing content and carve out an impressive claim. Perhaps it is a measure of RT’s success that it now releases all its content on its own site and simulcast on Crunchyroll, before releasing to YouTube a week later.

Whatever you think of the RWBY or Red VS Blue, you have to admit that these are impressive uses of Poser, and demonstrates a level of mastery that is inspiring. In the age of social media, and viable niches it is programs like Poser that can bring the creative dreams of individual artists and small studios to life and hopefully find fame and fortune in that niche without having to play a find the publisher game.

Limited time special on Poser 9

If you have yet to give Poser a whirl you can pick up a copy of Poser 9 for a mere 30 bucks (offer ends 30/09/2013). Considering Poser 10 is currently $299, that’s a pretty damn fantastic score. If you like the software you can then upgrade to Poser 10 or Poser Pro 2014, and make a nice saving.

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Expose 11: The Finest Digital Art in the Known Universe

Expose 11 - Digital Art annual cover artOpening a new decade of digital excellence with Expose 11

Expose is one of those annual art publications that just about every digital practitioner, 2D and 3D, beginner and elite fantasies about having their work accepted into. With Expose 11, the book has just wrapped up its first decade of publication, and bound to be a fine addition to coffee tables and bookshelves in the homes of digital art lovers everywhere.

Giving some idea of just what sort of quality you can expect from Expose 11 you only need to take a peek at some of the names on the judging panel – names like: Syd Mead (‘Blade Runner’, ‘Tron’, ‘Aliens’, and ‘2010’), Chris Perna (Epic Games Art Director), Chris Sloan (award-winning Art Director from National Geographic), Alex Morris (arch vis guru), and joining the team this year is Don Seegmiller (trad/digital painter with many books and gallery appearances under his belt).

Together the panel of judges painstakingly whittled the submission stack, some 8000 images deep, down to just 587 images from 405 artists. One can only imagine the slowly ramping up level of difficulty and pressure when it came to picking the best from the best at this level. Surely a holiday would be in order after such a task!

Many readers will undoubtedly find familiar works in the pages of Expose 11 (and any other volume of the publication). The artists in the pages of Expose are not mythical beings passing their works on to the masses through favoured servants. Many of these artists frequent art hotspots like CGSociety, CGHub, deviantART, and are responsible for high-profile works that are instantly recognisable by many. Their works adorn countless movies, novels, pen-and-paper and video games. Some of these guys will be on your friends lists and even more will be on your watch lists, and if they aren’t then they sure will be after you recollect the fragments of blown mind. To me, this familiarity is definitely part of what attracts me to these books.

The works are collected over 23 categories, including: Comic/Manga; Portrait (Painted & Rendered); Fantasy; Fantasy Femmes; Architecture (Exterior & Interior); Concept Art; Environment;  Matte Painting; Science Fiction; Robotic/Cyborg; Warriors & Conflict; Whimsical; Surreal; and Transport. Discounting the Arch Vis guys, of the remaining 13 artists specifically mentioned just two have a 3D heavy portfolio, Daniel Bystedt (new favourite of mine as of now) and Yong Soo Choi. Doubtlessly there are many more 3D artists of rather large calibre within those 288 pages, and I look forward to finding out just who is in there.

Where do I buy?

Expose 11 is currently in pre-order from Booksamillion with a release date of August 6 (paperback), and October 15th (hardcover). Strangely both versions, paper and hard, are priced very similarly, at least that’s the case at Booksamillion. Similar prices are also available at Amazon. Expose 11 is also available direct from Ballistic Publishing, though not at the discounts of amazon and Booksamillion.

Exotique 7 - Ballistic PublishingWhile you’re waiting for the release of Expose 11 why not check out some of the back catalogue (assuming you don’t already own each and every volume): Expose 10 Expose 9, 8, 7, 6, 5,

Or check out the Exotique series. Viewing by the editor, Daniel Wade, reveals many of the Exotique and other Ballistic Publishing books.

Expect a full review sometime after the pre-orders go out, and before the end of the decade.

HiveWire3D Store Launch

Dawn is coming but you can join the countdown

Dawn might still be a few weeks away (August 9th), but you can now finally visit HiveWire3D’s store and forums. There is already a good variety of content available from some well-established content creators. The roster currently includes: Lisa’s Botanicals, Songbird ReMix (Ken Gillard), Ryverthron Creations, CWRW, and Nerd 3D – so at the moment there is a very natural environment/wildlife theme to the store. This seem very fitting, but somewhat perplexing to a dystopian urban cyberzombie – where am I meant to recharge?. Undoubtedly more vendors will appear in the lead-up to Dawn’s release and the following frenzy of activity that will undoubtedly ensue with the first waves of her associated content.

So, the first thing you’ll notice about the store is that it isn’t particularly pretty. A little bit of green, black and a lot of white, but everything seems to work very well, and super quick. There are a lot of great features that will make using the site very easy when compared to some of the other similar sites out there that have many clunky and/or …err broken elements. The search feature works wonderfully, but with just over 180 items it is too early to give it a thorough testing and a DigiSprawl stamp of approval. I look forward to a store searching experience that doesn’t involve a trip to Google’s advanced search.

Some other cool store features include:

  • Customisable bundles – pick and choose which items you want)
  • Multiple customisable wishlists – ever feel the need to organise that huge wishlist into themed categories?
  • Never buy the same product twice – handy message on item thumbnail lets you know straight away if you have previously purchased the item from HiveWire3D
    10% rebate on purchases in the form of reward points
  • Products pages come with sections for user comments and images

Reward Points

While HiveWire will be utilising coupons, gift certificates, store credit and other stock standard ecommerce currency, they also have a nifty points reward points system (similar to Content Paradise?). Every time you make a purchase in the store you receive the equivalence of 10% back in these points, which can be used in subsequent purchases. One potential bone of contention is that a maximum of 30% of the total value of a cart can be funded with reward points. Of course, 30% off is still 30% off. The points also seem to work fine in conjunction with other specials, coupons etc.

To clarify 100 points = $1

How do you earn points?

I wouldn’t suggest buying things just to accumulate points (unless you want to get rid of that disposable cash as fast as possible), but there are several ways to earn points. The first is by signing up for store membership (1000), and the second by getting on the mailing list (500). The next thing you need to do is have a birthday (preferably as soon as possible) – 1000, win a competition – varies, have an image accepted into the monthly gallery – 500, and refer a friend using your unique referral code (after their first purchase) – 500.

So, $15 bucks worth of points for signing up doesn’t sound bad does it?

HiveWire3D: software inclusive

Given that Dawn comes in both Poser (9+) and DAZ Studio (4.6+) native, and all the talk of unity and such, HiveWire are attempting to include both parties equally. Potentially this could result in cross platform cooperation, learning, and influence unmatched even at the height of the Generation 4 figures, namely the polymorphic digital goddess, Victoria 4. Given the buzz around Dawn right now it is not unforeseeable that Victoria may soon have to come to a power sharing arrangement. The forums have already come to life with a friendly buzz of activity, so why not drop in and say hi.

How the inevitable DS Vs Poser skirmishes are handled remains to be seen, but let’s hope that stays to a minimum.

For content creators

The Hive is looking very attractive for content creators. Other than being a store with a potentially massive market appeal HiveWire3D also offer a very competitive 60/40 split (you/them), with the potential to push this up to 70/30 for higher volume sales. There is no exclusivity, so CCCs can sell here there and everywhere – even the same product (thought that affects the base royalty rate). Obviously given this detail, all rights are reserved by the creators. More info can be found here.