Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Video Killed the CGI Star

Time to brush the dust off my keyboard. And my tongue. My poet's tongue. Time to brush the dust off my keyboard and my poet's tongue. Or, perhaps more succinctly, time for a new director journal entry. After an absolute dearth of updates, I guess it's probably time to climb back into the saddle.

For a start, the more observant among you may notice that you're reading the director journal... On a different website. It was my thought that a blog would be a little friendlier to the casual internet-goer, and writing anything at length on a Yuku message board makes one crave the icy embrace of death. Just so that the pain might end.

I left you all on a bit of an environmental cliffhanger last time, awaiting to hear Drew's thoughts on my environment mesh. Well, I heard them. Weeks ago, in fact. It was his quite sensible suggestion that I differentiate the type of mud found on the bottom of the riverbed from that found everywhere else. And so that's what I did. Took me a few goes before I was satisfied, but I ended up with this:

After that was done, I suggested to Drew that I might do some simple rocks which could be peppered about. He thought that was a good idea, and I then complicated it. I figured if I modeled ten rocks and created ten interchangeable textures, it would give us options for up to 100 totally unique rocks. Which is honestly probably more than we need, but whatever. Overkill is underrated. A cigar to whoever can place that quote...

It was actually quite difficult to model these rocks. Not from the standpoint of skill. No indeed, this kind of modeling is ridiculously easy. But where we were doing the interchangeable textures thing, not one of the rocks could have too recognizable a shape. Otherwise it'd be obvious that we were duplicating geometry, even though the textures had changed. So they couldn't be too radically different from one another, nor could they be too similar. Or there was no point in modeling ten of them. Here's the result of my thought experiment:

Not the most exciting of progress, but progress nevertheless. On top of that, Drew and myself have been doing a lot of work on the various trees necessary for the sequence. Which has presented the opportunity for us to streamline our workflow, and optimize efficiency, all that sort of management speak. Which I know you hate, David. But I'm going to save all that for another entry, and instead talk about what ate up the biggest chunk of my week.

As some of you will know, we're currently campaigning for funds on the website IndieGoGo. With very little success, at the moment. In an attempt to rectify that problem, I thought I might make a little video for the page. Something sort of like a teaser, but that showcased a different side of the film than our actual teaser. But at the same time, I couldn't spend the same amount of time on this that we spent on the teaser (many months). It needed to get done in a few days, which severely limited the amount of CGI I could render out for it, and forced me to rely on existing elements.


The video opens with a shot of a flag. This was a simple cloth simulation acted on by a virtual fan. Sean designed the flag and created the texture in Photoshop for me.

This was then modified slightly and rendered from a different angle, to be composited over this image of Mont Saint-Michel

Which I turned into this image of the Emerald City:

Oz in his inner sanctum was simply an animated camera over the existing throne room geometry, the creation of which I documented in an earlier journal entry.

Similarly, the Scarecrow footage is slightly modified footage from an old VFX test I'd done last fall. You can see the original in this behind the scenes video.

All the forest background plates were shot in the forest across the street from my house. For the first Woodman shot, I just threw the oil can on a log and dragged an axe on the ground... The only thing I did to it in the computer was a color grade and a reframe. Here's a comparison pic:

The next Woodman shot was intended to have the feel of a snorricam shot, as though the camera were affixed to the Woodman's chest. So I shot the background plate by simply walking backwards with the spiderbrace. Then, using the already rigged concept scene Tin Woodman, I did a little bit of "walking in close-up" animation, and slapped a wide-angle camera on him. Which gives some cool distortion when compared to a standard perspective camera:

The Lion shots are total cheats. Two spiderbrace forest shots into which I hand-tracked two Sean Gates created Cowardly Lion images. The second one I animated a little blink in Photoshop to try and breathe a small amount of life into the character. But the camera work is trying its hardest to distract your mind from the staticness of the character.

 The Yellow Brick Road is the image Sean created for the few Yellow Brick Road flash forwards in the original teaser trailer. I just stitched one to itself again, and ran over it with a slower virtual camera. Then I composited in the only piece of actual film footage in the whole promo. That being the very first shot we have of Dorothy walking the Yellow Brick Road in her new shoes, which will follow a quite similar sweep of the road.

The background for the other two shots is quite literally my backyard. Like actually. If you rotated the camera one hundred and eighty degrees, the lens would be filled with the wall of my house, about ten feet away. Dorothy is extra safety footage I took of Mare on her last day (last day save pick-ups) from the same pink bonnet batch as the teaser trailer footage. As Drew did in the teaser, I added a little animated shadow on her to provide some contrast and help her sit in a bit better.

And that's how that was put together. In excruciating, minute detail. Hope SOMEBODY enjoyed it. To see the finished video, please click through to our IndieGoGo page, or you can find it on our Youtube channel.

What Is This Thing Called Blog?

The director journal used to be something exclusive to our forum. But our forum was a pretty failed attempt at building a community, and as such the material wasn't seen by many. I think the idea of a forum is somewhat frightening for the casual computer user, moreso than a blog in the least, and those people were unable to view this content, even if it may have held some interest for them. Towards that end, we have this blog, which is the new home of the director journal. If you scroll down a bit, you'll see that all the old journal entries, dating back to the beginning of April 2011, have been archived here.

Leaves Me Alone

Mini-journal entry tonight, not a lot going on. I corrected the geometry and did a first pass at texturing the environment mesh I shared with you last night. Drew has been working on a leaf particle simulation kind of thing that will interact with our character's feet:

So the ground model itself really just needs a basic moist forest dirt texture. Then we'll cover it over with our leaves, maybe add some grasses and whatnot, and then obviously the trees, stumps, and ol' Nick himself. Since I hate texturing and am unsure of the degree to which the work will be covered, I did a very basic job on it for a start, and I'm now awaiting word from Drew to hear if it's adequate for our needs. If not, then I'll have a bit of polishing up to do. Here it is in its current state:

Talk to you next time, or something...

Here it is, Guy!!!

If somebody were to ask me what I do, I'd say, "Who's ASKING, chump!?!?" If it were somebody I KNEW, I'd tell them that I freeload. While I'm the director of this film, I don't really FEEL like a director. Because everything about the way we've been making this has been so unorthodox, and I'm not getting paid for it. So to me "director" feels like the sort of label one applies because the truth is too wordy to fit on a tiny sticker.

There are times I DO feel like a director. And those are my favorite parts of this project. Not because director is my desired profession (though that's part of it), but because these moments always make me a little giddy. I'm referring to the occasions when somebody puts something for the film in front of me, and whatever this thing is, a prop, a visual effects element, it's completed, or nearly there. And I didn't have to do a damn thing on it. I just told somebody else what I wanted, and some time later it appears before me. Most of the time, on this film, that's not how it goes (more on that later). But today it was.

Towards the end of the story, our intrepid gang make the journey to Glinda's palace. And being a palace, she's got guards. And it's kind of a progressive aspect of the book, because the guards are also pretty ladies. But it's also quite... not... progressive... because they're wearing glorified Girl Scout's uniforms, and their weapons are... feathers.

So Sean and I knew we wanted something different than what Denslow had drawn, and since Sean is way more into costume designing and ancient warfare than I am, and he had a vision, I let him tackle the design work. And he came up with something that's got quite a Greek flavor, little bit of the Spartan, little bit of the Athenian. But with ladies instead of dudes. And more clothing. Damn you, Puritans.

Apparently that's like a thing with him... Ladies in Greek armor. Seriously. I know, it's weird.

We didn't want to buy the pieces of the costume off the shelf, both because we couldn't find something that was exactly what we wanted, and because it was prohibitively expensive. We wanted something made specifically for our production. Sean didn't know anybody, so I turned to one of my oldest friends, who I've known for almost fifteen years. He's a LARPer, or Live Action Role Player, if you don't speak nerd. It's basically real life Dungeons and Dragons. His family started one of the main LARP communities in the state of Maine many years back, so he's sort of been ensconced in that world since childhood. As such, he has a great love for history, particularly the medieval, and a lot of skill building weapons and armor for these LARP events.

I went to him with the request, and after we talked over the logistics he agreed to help me out by creating all the armored pieces of the costume. I sent him the measurements of Ms. Madeline Lovegrove, the primary lady who will be wearing the armor, and left him to it. Last weekend I asked him if he was in need of any supplies, and he said not yet, as he was only in the planning stages.

So I was quite surprised to receive a call from my friend this afternoon, telling me that he was on his way to my house, and he had the helmet. As you can see by comparing it with the design, it's not quite finished yet, but it's getting there. And looking Wonderful. We're hoping for Marvelous too... smiley: wink

But, as I alluded to earlier, it's not always this delightful. The fellow helping us out with our environments for the concept scene had to remove himself from the project due to personal reasons I won't delve into here. He was our second helper in that department, after we had to let another lovely gentleman go simply due to software incompatibility issues. Drew and myself were quite keen to have aid in that department, as neither of us felt particularly comfortable in the realm of terrain, but after this second setback, we both decided it would be best for us to proceed ourselves. I know I've personally grown as an effects artist while working on this project, last year I wouldn't have been at all capable of the stuff I've completed most recently. I hope it's the same for Drew. That's part of the fun. Anyway, we figure we're up to the challenge of at least attempting it. If we're wrong, nothing happens, we go to jail peacefully, QUIETLY, we'll ENJOY it. But if we're RIGHT...

Ever since this all went down last weekend, we've had a rather rapid back and forth with regards to this environmental work. It was decided that I would model and texture the terrain and Drew would handle the trees. So Monday I got started. First, I went back to a quick diagram of the location I'd whipped up in Paint to help me edit this scene without the aid of the scenes that bracket it, and to help me sort out what the environment needed to be when I did the animatic. Dorothy and Scarecrow are taking a shortcut to the Yellow Brick Road from a little stream when they accidentally stumble upon our favorite rusty robot. Okay, I know he's not really a robot, but I like to be alliterative sometimes.

Based on that, I did a quick mock-up of a terrain mesh. The key here is two hills. I figured the rest of the terrain ought to be fairly flat, to match our greenscreen stage. So I threw together a mesh to test out shape, scale, and to make sure that the kind of geometry I was planning to provide Drew with would work for him. Here are those unspectacular results:

Drew, as always, had a lot of helpful suggestions on how to improve the overall aesthetic value of the terrain. He showed me some (quite bizarre) video reference of a dried stream-bed, and suggested that be the path Dorothy and Scarecrow are taking through the woods. Something that branches off the main stream Dorothy's just had a drink from, and which would ITSELF be a stream in wetter weather. I liked this suggestion, and did up a new MS Paint scribble, just to make sure he and I were truly on the same page:

The most important bit in that sketch is the varying shades of grey, the darker the deeper, the lighter the higher. So we have our level ground, the two hills, the stream, and the Yellow Brick Road, all there in relation to the frozen Woodman and his cabin on the hill. Drew was agreeable, and so tonight I modeled up this new terrain, this time with the intent of creating something that was actually worthy of being in the film. Here is the much improved result:

And here it is over top of the Paint diagram, to help you place it into the bigger picture:

I was fairly satisfied, so I sent it off to Drew. Shortly after I did, I realized that the stream-bed was much too deep for the scale. Drew's rapid response confirmed my suspicions. So tomorrow I'll be adjusting the mesh accordingly and beginning my texturing.

So that's where the project is, and that's what the "director" is up to. It's not ideal, but then what IS?

Getting Throne Around

The title is a pun. A BAD pun. We're off to a rocking start TONIGHT, folks. So, this one's going to be a little shorter, but they can't all be the Magna Carta, can they? At the moment I'm juggling two separate tasks. Separate but equal. Like my eyebrows. One of these tasks is continuing work on the throne room scene that I discussed in a previous entry. What you hopefully could not see in the images contained therein was that the textures were quickly applied, and there were plenty of errors to be had. So I had to more carefully retexture the model, doing actual UV-mapping and the like to eliminate texture stretching and reduce the obviousness of the tiling. Then I put it into an XSI file, and have been working to set up a scene file that's the same duration as the throne room scene, and that has all my cameras placed where they need to be around the model. Plus the Oz head animation. But it all looks basically the same as what you've seen, just slightly better.

This evening I focused on trying out a new shot. Mariellen's mother read back the Oz dialogue to her to give her something to react to, and at the time I didn't realize how slowly I wanted Oz to talk. For that reason, the timing was off on Mare's responses, and I've had to cut around that, which gives the whole scene a somewhat choppy feel. I don't want that, and I want to open up the environment as well, so I'm experimenting with some different kinds of shots. This is a slow crane shot that I'd like to tuck into the scene. The timing is not exact, and I did it with the old model and unanimated head. It's merely to get Drew's input on the feasibility of the shot, taking into account compositing difficulties, render times, etc:

After I finished that, I returned to my work on the rough edit of the film. I've got to get all of Dorothy's material edited together so when we film this summer I know exactly how to frame my other actors, and I can give them something to act against. I'm trying to maximize the use I get out of these edits by also making them suitable for Drew's needs when the time comes to work on the effects in each scene. For the concept scene animatic, I'd taken the time and done a rough composite of every shot in the scene with animatic geometry.

But that took weeks, and I can't spent weeks editing every two minutes of film. It would never get done. So after talking it out a great deal, Drew and I devised a system. I would simply edit the shots as though everything were there, and on every shot I would place the scene number, shot number, and file number for the piece of footage.

For any necessary cutaways of things that had not yet been shot, I would mock them up with the animatic geometry. The same would be done if I had a shot that was very specifically envisioned, especially in terms of motion.

You can see there I put the type of camera move (or not move) in the right corner instead of the file number, as one does not exist yet. The final step is to create a top-down diagram of the environment, with the camera placement of each shot clearly indicated. I provide Drew with all this, as well as the basic 3D model of the scene, and he has everything he'll need.

And that's all for now. I've lost all sense of spatial awareness and can no longer finghs thne keybofgrda...

Promotional Consideration Furnished By... Ourselves...

Hello once more, dear friends. It is again that time. You may or may not have noticed that our site received a bit of a mini update, complete with some new images. The other night I sat down with our web designer and his team of graphic artists and outlined exactly what I wanted these new images to be, and how I wanted the site to look. They gave me their input, wanting to put their own little artistic stamp on a few things, which I was totally fine with. So we ended the meeting on good terms and I headed home. And then I woke the heck up, and realized what a waste of time that dream had been. Because, if I'm being honest, any dream that doesn't feature myself, Yvonne Strahovski, and... no other people... is a waste of a night's sleep.

So yeah. There is no team of artists putting content on the site. There is Sean, the web designer and Duke of Url, and myself, who contributes whatever images and Photoshop may be necessary. Though Sean's no slouch in THAT department, either. He used to do it for a living. And it crushed his soul. Anyway... We're aware that there isn't really a lot on the site. The reason for that is because when Sean and I have time for that kind of stuff, we generally... y'know... spend it working on the ACTUAL movie. Because why promote something that will never exist? But with Drew away this week, and me trying to avoid editing all this footage that is, quite frankly, very bizarre and abstract now that I've forgotten what all those shots are even supposed to BE... Sean and I decided it was time to do a little site maintenance.

First step was the promo photography gallery, which we did a couple nights ago. Most of the images already existed, on the site even, but Sean corralled them all together and uploaded the full-size versions, and I created that Woodman promo shot to sort of help "launch" the gallery. Think of it as the Super Mario 64 to our gallery's N64. Or, if you don't know what that means... DON'T think about it. You'll only confuse yourself.

Second... Obviously you can't have a Woodman promo image and not have one of Scarecrow. So Sean agreed to do some Scarecrow photography if I agreed to do the Photoshop work. Why would an ex-professional Photoshop artist ask a very UNprofessional Photoshop artist to do Photoshop work for him? Laziness. I'll explain. See, Sean doesn't have the green-screen or professional lighting equipment. That's all with me. So while he did a terrific job posing the Scarecrow puppet in a very Denslow fashion... THIS is the image he ended up with:

Nobody's going to key out that background. No indeed. Scarecrow needs to basically be traced all the way 'round by hand (by hand in the computer... is that POSSIBLE!?!?) to be cut out of that sucker. That includes cutting around that damned WHEAT. There's Denslow again, pissing me off. With that wheat. The Devil's friggin' wheat. We gave our Scarecrow that wheat. And it kept falling out. Getting little grains of wheat on the green-screen. Little grains of wheat that wouldn't sweep off. Stuff is like VELCRO. And even when the puppet IS on green-screen, they don't key out well. Especially in anything wider than a close-up. Again I say; "Poor Drew More." When we yanked Scarecrow to simulate the Lion's mighty swipe, his wheat broke off. Sean suggested just replacing it, as it's a fantasy film, the wheat can survive if we want it to. But I did NOT want it to. I wanted to save hours of roto later down the line. So we EXORCISED them demons.

But for promotional purposes, the wheat should be there. And it was. So I had to cut around it. And I did.

And then I did it AGAIN. Because Sean and I also wanted to do a new wallpaper, and we wanted it to be our version of this iconic Denslow image:

So Sean put the Scarecrow puppet in that pose and took a picture. And he matched it up pretty nicely. But this is the image I got:

Same background as before. So more of my time spent tracing hay. And then I needed to do up a face for him, something to match the Denslow drawing a little better than our painted on Neutral face.

You may also notice some slight alterations on the boots on both images. They were the closest match we could find in his size, but they have these nasty zippers and laces down the back. Which will have to be dealt with every time we see the backs of his boots. So don't expect much of THAT in the film you... rear ankle fetishists, you... Anyway with Scarecrow taken care of, Woodman was up next. I ranted last time about how Woodman can't bend the way Denslow draws him bending. And that is still true. Still really, very, remarkably true. So I spent a lot of time posing Woodman in ways that were physically possible. And it wasn't good enough. So I had to break the rules. As you can see in this close up... that's NOT how ANYBODY'S hip is supposed to be... Ever...

Also... For the kids playing at home, making a CGI character interact with a real one... isn't fun. Do drugs instead. But MY drug of choice is pain, so I went for the CGI thing... So I spent quite a bit of time getting them to hold hands (commence the slash-fic), faking shadows cast on Woodman by Scarecrow, positioning fingers, that kind of thing. And then I was ready to do their chair. Denslow drew them sitting on a square, so I had them sitting on a cube. Makes sense to me.

But Sean didn't like it. He said is was too 2D. I told him that a cube is 3D by DEFAULT, but he wasn't having any of it. He wanted a crate. So I compromised and built a yellow crate:

And redid all my shadows and junk. Worth it?

Hey, speaking of the Lion... I did, earlier? Remember? I'm not lying, but you can check back if you like. Working on these promo images, Sean and I were reminded of the fact that the lion has almost zero presence on our website. And we felt bad. We felt even WORSE when we realized we didn't even have a finalized design for the fella. Sean had done this piece of concept art years ago, after he wrote the script, before we even met:

And it's a nice image. But it's not exactly what I want the Cowardly Lion to look like. So I did my own mock-up with the sort of proportions I envisioned. I won't show it here, because it's fairly awful. Just imagine a real lion, but that looked worse and had a big head. There's your mock-up. That's the mock-up. So this sparked a lot of somewhat heated conversation that slowly cooled down. Well, the conversation was never really heated because of the Lion. It was heated because Sean and I couldn't agree on a hat, and some angry words were exchanged. Seriously, that's a true story. We even fought about a belt once... The only time we ever argue is about something miniscule. The smaller the detail, the bigger the fight. I might film us whenever we get around to discussing the background props in the China Country.

But anyway, Sean and I discussed the Lion in quite a civil manner, there was a thoughtful exchange of ideas, a bit of compromise, and Sean agreed to whip up something in Photoshop. I say "whip up," but I didn't get to see it until the next day. And he spent hours on it. He took this image of a real life lion we found online:

And turned it into this:

Which we were both in love with. While the real Lion will be CGI, and this is a Photoshopped image, it is EXACTLY what we want our Lion to look like. And it's EXACTLY what our Lion WILL look like. Seriously, if we can't find somebody to recreate precisely this for us in CGI, well then... I dunno... Movie canceled, I guess. Or maybe we'll dub in new dialogue and have the third companion be the Rowdy Welshman or something. We like the look, is what I'm saying. And thought maybe it was time for the Lion to have a presence on our site. Which meant a new banner, as the old one was getting a little stale.

Ever since banner 2.0, the banner has become my department, since Sean does all the other work for the website. So I decided the basic layout would be Dorothy and Lion on the right, from the shoulders up, and then Scarecrow and Woodman lagging behind, goofing off. Sean had taken care of Lion for me, so I just had to create the rest of the image and composite him into it. First up, I needed some pictures of Dorothy and Scarecrow. So I dug through the raw footage, and found some appropriate shots. The shot of Dorothy is actually from the only scene in the movie that I wrote, and takes place shortly after they meet the Lion. So I thought it appropriate:

Then I grabbed an image of the Scarecrow from our puppet photography a couple of months ago:

As you can see, there are tracking markers on his face. So I had to give him a new one. Which I wanted to do anyway, as it bothered me how unexpressive he is in the current banner. So I Photoshopped up a suitable expression, which I was quite pleased with, and comped it onto his face.

Then I just had to remove his Cool Lime Steven Lowry backpack, and he was ready to go. Dorothy was quite a clean key. Woodman was a fairly simple alteration of the chopping pose I created for the concept scene. Well, simple when compared to sitting him on a box and making him hold Scarecrow's hand. Then I dropped them over a proof-of-concept still provided by our environmental artist. I had to adjust the grading a few times before Sean and I were both happy with it, but we ended up with a decent little banner, which you can see at the top of this page. I provided him with a mask so that he could put the characters on top of his logo. So we're, like... bringing the magazine rack to your COMPUTER!

And that's the saga... This stuff doesn't make itself. Which is why we have so little of it. This journal entry has all been a trick. Hopefully now you feel so sorry for my wheat-tracing cramped hand that you will never expect there to be new content again...

Who's Lame!?!?

It's me. I'M lame. Remember a while back when I said I wanted these updates to be daily? What I DIDN'T mention was that that's pretty much contingent on there... y'know... BEING stuff for me to journal about. And lately there hasn't been. Things always slow down around holidays, and we've had some difficulty getting in touch with a crucial volunteer, so we're all wearing wet pants at this point. And not in the cool way.

That's not to say there's been NO progress. We move along in some way every day. But it's not always in an, "OOOH, check out this EXCITINGLY MASSIVE step forward!!!" way. For example, Drew's been working on tracking my scarecrow facial animation to some shots of the puppet. Some shots of the puppet that I foolishly didn't put markers on his face for. Poor Drew. smiley: ohwell

As for me, well, I've been up to a bit. So coming your way is a journal entry stuffed with imagery. I'm trying to apologize for the prolonged silence, and win back your favor. I promise it will never happen again. Please love me. I'm needy. My emotional growth is stunted.

So... What HAVE I been doing? For a start, as I had a bit of down time on the CGI side of things, I decided to put a little time in on pencil and paper. My traditional art skills are not at all what they should be, and I've been attempting to rectify that. So I took the time to sit down with a pencil and paper. And also Photoshop. First up is a little Quadling action:

You'll notice that the hammerhead has seen a significant redesign, courtesy of yours truly. All the adventures on the way to Glinda's palace are sort of my baby, I had to fight Sean a bit to get all of them in there, and he's been kind enough to step back and let me go all-out friggin' crazy with this stuff. We've said before that we want to stay true to Denslow, wherever possible, and we really do. But sometimes that just isn't feasible (more on THAT later...). The hammerheads were always one of his weaker efforts anyway, and when translated into reality end up looking... well... INCREDIBLY phallic, if I'm being frank, here. Which is why I won't show any of the earlier designs. This isn't a porno site. Though it'd probably get more hits that way...

Anyhow, I tried to approach the hammerheads, as Sean did with the winged monkeys, from a sort of pseudo-scientific, evolutionary stand-point. What would a creature with no arms and an extending neck who lived in the mountains REALLY be like? So for a start, I figured something sort of reptilian. The legs would have multiple joints to allow for optimum balance and maneuverability, because if they fall they're going to have a hard time getting up. I also thought they'd have beady-little eyes, which they would need to protect, so they have an exaggerated brow and cheekbones, and a crest based on that of the Parasaurolophus There are also a few more gruesome surprises that I'll save for the movie.

Next up, we have the pay-off of the Lion's arc, his battle with the great spider:

I have some quite specific imagery in mind for this scene, and I need the spider to have very long, spindly legs. For that reason Sean suggested that we base our design on the Wolf Spider, which I've done here, albeit in a stylized form, and which we'll continue to do when the time comes to bring the monster to life. For your reference:

Did it give you the creepy-crawlies? Always gives me the creepy-crawlies...

Then I worked on an image that's ALSO from that southward journey, a moment from the battle with the angry trees:

At some point in the scene, Woodman will chop a branch off and it will plop down to the ground, and then promptly scuttle after poor, startled Toto like Thing from The Addams Family. It's important to me that we make Toto a real character, who has his own little moments in the film, but it's hard when he's so much shorter than the rest of his companions.

For the next piece of concept "art" I moved away from the misadventures en route to Glinda's pad, and indeed away from Photoshop coloring as well. I decided to try out an actual painting, for the first time in a long time, and for the first time ever with acrylic paints. I opted to go with a scene from earlier in the film, featuring Scarecrow's feathery savior:

The results are unspectacular, but serviceable. About the only aspect I'm happy with is the way the Scarecrow is contorted. Expect to see that make its way into the film.

So. After my rash of concept "art" creation, Drew and I had a chat, and as is his wont, he had a fresh idea for Nick's eyes. He's been discussing with me these various ways to give them a bit more life, and to give the character of the Woodman more soul. They're all good, we'll be using most of them, but I'm only going into detail on one, because only one was my responsibility. The rest will be handled in the composite by my main man Mr. Morin.

What was this suggestion, you ask? Well shut up and I'll TELL you. Pushy... He thought, since the eyes are no longer tin, but crystal, that there's no need for them to be frozen in place, and that moving them around might give a little extra life to this frozen character. I agreed with him, and so it fell to me to handle that animation. We also figured that while I was at it I'd animate a couple of other bits of the Woodman for some interaction he has with the live-action characters later in the scene. So I created a scene file that was the same number of frames as the entire concept scene, and went to town.

Rigging the arms, left leg, and head for the interaction was the easy part. Knocked it out fairly quickly. The eyes took a little more time. Their direction was parented to a cube, which I then animated around in space, based on what Woodman might be looking at at any given moment in the scene, using the live-action footage as reference. Here you can see the eyes following the cube around in the XSI file:

Riveting. And yes, that IS Sara Bareilles playing in the background. Her heartfelt lyrics and powerful delivery appeal to me, okay? So what... Jeez. Let's just move on.

Tonight I didn't get up to much. I DID, however, pose and render Woodman for this gallery image:

Which wouldn't really warrant a mention in the journal entry, except I need to rant a little, here. We wanted to put him in a pose that was reminiscent of Denslow. I initially thought of, and attempted to match this classic pose:

As you can see, the image I ended up with was NOT that pose. Not at all. Why is that? Because the classic axe-leaning, leg-crossing pose IS PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE!!! DENSLOW YOU CHEAT, NO MACHINE WITH THE JOINTS AND PROPORTIONS THAT YOU'VE DESIGNED COULD EVER BEND THAT WAY!!! Nono I have the utmost respect for Denslow as an illustrator, but MAN does he break the laws of reality with Woodman. I've redesigned Woodman more than once to give him more mobility than the Denslow design, and he STILL could NEVER cross his legs like that. So I opted instead for THIS classic pose:

Which that knock-kneed stance STILL rendered physically impossible, so I mixed in the legs from THIS classic pose:

And ended up with something that hopefully still feels fairly Denslow.

Well... that's it for tonight... tell your friends...