Monday, August 25, 2008

Adding to Antics

It's was quite entertaining showing off the sketchup import in Antics. "Pick a location" I ask (like a guy saying pick a card, any card), "the Eiffel Tower" was the response, in a few minutes I'd found a model and had girl walking around the base. How cool is that. In the same session we got serious and took the current script to task. In about 10mins I had placed a car on a turntable, positioned a huge megascreen behind it and set the whole lot up in the middle of a birdnest style stadium. Once I'd put a couple of cameras in the scene we started to get a real sense of how the concept was going to work. Everyone agreed the process was very quick and produced useful results straight away. There were a couple of things that would have made it even better. When I'm working one on one, on my laptop, I like to one viewport open and I like it as big as possible. I also prefer to use the master cam for this as I find the ability to orbit around a selection the quickest. At one point the director and I spent a good deal of time setting up the ideal framing, the difficulty then came when he wanted to have a object in the background moved into this frame. In this case it was the light towers, and the issue was that the axis controls where no longer in the frame. My thought here is, wouldn't it be good if I could move the item from where I select it. Or, better still, an axis for an item could be repositioned to a new point by clicking there, (similiar to the 'edit pivot' option on an imported prop).

Another feature which I desperately needed was the ability to quickly tell what lense we were on. I know you can set a freecam to get this detail but director's want to see this stuff displayed in the viewport. Also it's almost becoming a regular question from the 3d guys and compositors "can you export the camera?". It really makes sense, until you can get in on this part of the workflow, you aren't offering a full solution.

I'm talking cam export to maya/max, AE and the autodesk compositing products. Just on that, it works back the other way also. Part of Storyviz's appeal to me was the ability to import a camera move. They had a cool demo where a once a shot was 3d camera tracked, the cam data could be imported into the app and then assets could be placed into 3d space relative to the shot. Like characters running along the surface of a kitchen bench shot by a hand held camera.
While I'm on the camera side of things. The curve editor in Antics really needs a good going over. For starters the ability to cut and paste keyframes is needed. Also needed are linear and curved options on individual keyframes. I'd like to see users able to invoke a series of hand held or camera shakes easily, and when are we going to get the ability to do a dutch tilt easily!! Try it with the master cam let me know how you go.

On a side note, I was very fortunate to talk with some fellows from the computer science faculty at the local uni here and thought you might like to see what the've been working on here.

It's really innovative work.
Some of the tips I've been posting involve ways to get assets to animate in ways that don't involve poses or preset animations. On reflection, the use of cameras to perform these tasks is really a workaround. The better concept is to have Animatable Dummy Axis. They would come with many features that currently exist in the cameras and billboards, things like target, link, pin and the ability to always face camera etc, but also have other features, like the option to keyframe position and rotation values on the timeline or the option to set rotation limits, or to be constrained by the room's floor. The ability to easily cycle a motion curve would be another animation aid.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.