Entries Filed Under "3D"

September 13, 2010

SIGGRAPH 2010: Pixar Walking Teapot

Filed under 3D, Animation, SIGGRAPH

Pixar Walking Teapot

Pixar’s walking teapot is always the best swag of SIGGRAPH. Every year it is a different theme. This year is Mr. Potato Head in honor of Toy Story 3.

Why a teapot? Because it has become the standard model for showing off computer rendering techniques.

The line to get the teapots was ridiculous this year. They give out a batch each of the 3 exhibit days. I stood in line on the first day and they ran out by the time I got close.

The next day, I got in line over an hour early, and I was still several blocks from the start of the line. I did get one, though.

Based on the certificate of authenticity, they give out 1,500/day.

Here is a nice video clip showing how long the line was.

December 31, 2009

3D in Theaters

Filed under 3D, Gadgets, Movies

RealD Home Page Sample_BL_2008-10-06

Dolby_3D_logo logo

There are multiple ways to do 3D in movie theaters. My favorite is RealD because of the image quality and the potential of getting normal sunglasses that work in a theater. I saw Avatar in both RealD and Dolby 3D and could not tell a difference…both looked great.

Here’s a table to help keep it straight:


Company Technology # of Theaters Cost of Glasses Can tilt head Notes
RealD Circular Polarization (passive) 5,000 $0.65 Yes
  • Polarized light reduce image brightness
  • Requires special silver screen to maintain polarized light and reflect more light to make up for brightness loss during polarization
  • Projector must be brighter than normal to address light loss during polarization
  • Silver screen has more narrow viewing angle and issues with over-saturation in the center of the screen (NOTE: 2D movies may not look as good in 3D equipped theaters)
  • Can get prescription glasses and sun glasses with circular polarization so you can wear your own glasses during movie/outside of theater
  • Theater locator
Dolby 3D Color Filter (passive) 2,200 $28 Yes
  • Works with normal screen,  normal brightness
  • Glasses can’t be used outside of theater
  • Theater locator
XpanD LCD Shutter (active) 2,000 $50 Yes
  • If something blocks the sensor on the glasses, the shutter stops
  • I notice the flicker of the shutter glasses and get eye fatigue
  • Glasses use batteries
  • Glasses can’t be used outside of theater
  • Theater locator

IMAX 3D uses either linear polarization (which means you *cannot* tilt your head), or LCD shutter glasses, depending on theater.

My biggest issues are…

  1. Letting you tilt your head during a movie
  2. Headaches from LCD shutter glasses

For now, I’m avoiding XpandD and IMAX 3D for 3D movies.

Much of this info is from this article.

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October 11, 2009

3D Cities

Filed under 3D, Computers, Software


This is impressive. C3 Technologies creates 3D cities. To do Stockholm took less than 3 days!

Check out the intro video on the home page.

Here is a demo of Las Vegas.

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September 13, 2009

Star Tours II

Filed under 3D, Movies, Work

Coming to a Disney theme park near you in 2011, the sequel to Star Tours.

Video is here.

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September 7, 2009

SIGGRAPH Attendance

Filed under 3D, SIGGRAPH

I like to use SIGGRAPH as a gauge for how business is in the 3D industry.

The conclusion: things aren’t good.

There were approximately 12,000 attendees…less than half of last year in LA and the smallest turnout since 1980 in Seattle.

My first SIGGRAPH was in ‘97, which was also the best attended at nearly 50,000.

Jon Peddie Research has a nice chart with the attendance numbers…


Full article is here.

August 19, 2009

3D Movie List

Filed under 3D, Movies


I spent some time searching for a list of the “new generation” 3D movies (movies made for RealD or Dolby 3D). I never found a comprehensive list, so I made my own.

If you have any additions or corrections…please post in the comments and I will update this list.


  1. Chicken Little
  2. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D


  1. The Ant Bully
  2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (reissued annually)
  3. Monster House


  1. Meet the Robinsons
  2. Beowulf


  1. U2 3D
  2. Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert
  3. Journey to the Center of the Earth
  4. Bolt
  5. Fly Me to the Moon


  1. Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience
  2. My Bloody Valentine 3-D
  3. G-Force
  4. Up
  5. Coraline
  6. Final Destination 4
  7. Monsters vs. Aliens
  8. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  9. Avatar
  10. A Christmas Carol
  11. Toy Story
  12. Toy Story 2
  13. Michael Jackson: This Is It
  14. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
  15. X Games 3D: The Movie


  1. How to Train Your Dragon
  2. Alice in Wonderland
  3. Shrek Forever After
  4. Oobermind
  5. Toy Story 3
  6. Beauty and the Beast
  7. Tron Legacy
  8. Rapunzel
  9. The Gate
  10. Resident Evil: Afterlife
  11. The Hole
  12. Piranha 3D
  13. Humpty Dumpty


  1. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
  2. Tintin 2
  3. Frankenweenie
  4. Battle Angel
  5. Cars 2
  6. The Bear and the Bow
  7. Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom
  8. The Guardians
  9. Happy Feet 2 in 3D
  10. Rio

2012 and Beyond

  1. Monsters, Inc. 2
  2. Truckers
  3. Super Secret Ghost Project
  4. Madagascar 3
  5. Crood Awakening
  6. Tintin 3
  7. Puss in Boots: The Story of an Ogre Killer
  8. Newt
  9. King of the Elves
  10. Star Wars
  11. Empire Strikes Back
  12. Return of the Jedi
  13. The Phantom Menace
  14. Attack of the Clones
  15. Revenge of the Sith
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August 16, 2009

SIGGRAPH: Stereoscopic 3D

Filed under 3D, Gadgets, HDTV, Movies, SIGGRAPH


Stereoscopic 3D (S-3D) was big at SIGGRAPH this year and left me thoroughly impressed. For me, it was the biggest news of SIGGRAPH 2009.

What is S-3D? S-3D creates the illusion of depth, like you would see with a View-Master. Instead of a single image, each eye has a unique perspective of the image.

Why is S-3D hot all the sudden?

Hollywood has taken notice of the increased revenue, and it shows. There is a surge in the number of 3D movies coming out.

There are many ways you can see S-3D. Two technologies that standout as the best:

RealD has most of the market currently. I don’t have any stats, but I believe I heard in the SIGGRAPH panel that over 1,000 theaters are RealD-capable now and they have more than 90% of the market for 3D cinema. To use RealD, theaters need a special silver screen to reflect more light and keep the light polarized. They also need a RealD filter device in front of the projector to polarize frames for the left eye and right eye. The glasses are cheap to produce and can be recycled or replaced.

Dolby 3D uses color filters instead of polarizing light. Each eye can only see certain colors, but amazingly appears as a full color image. Dolby 3D uses a standard white screen. A big advantage is there is no special screen to buy and thus 2D movies are not impacted by a theater’s move to 3D-capable. I’m not sure how a 2D movie looks on RealD’s silver screen, but I’ve been told it does look different than using a standard white screen. The Dolby 3D glasses are not cheap like the RealD glasses, and theaters must be careful not to lose the glasses.

I’ve seen both RealD and Dolby3D and I can’t pick a winner…both look really good.

Movies are obvious candidates for S-3D…but I saw other forms of entertainment that *really* shine in 3D. In the SIGGRAPH panel, I watched a demo reel from 3ality Digital that showed scenes from an NFL game, an NBA game, and a U2 concert. Seeing a live event in 3D is *very* compelling.

Two scenes stood out in my head:

  1. A running back trying to break through a wall of linemen and eventually forced out of bounds and into the 3D camera made the entire audience react as the running back kept getting closer to us. We had the same reaction as if we were standing there preparing to get hit.
  2. Watching the kicker kickoff. Seeing the ball from the opposite end zone is nearly impossible with the sea of people in the background…but in 3D, the ball popped out in front and was very clear, even though it was very small.

I can’t wait for movie theaters to start hosting NFL/NBA games in 3D…I’ll definitely shell out some cash to see that.

I’m a believer in 3D for movie theaters…I’ll definitely go see every movie in 3D that I can.

But what about in your home?

That is getting very interesting very quickly.

JVC had a 46 inch LCD on display at SIGGRAPH that uses the same technique as RealD…and it looked really good. The bad news: You lose half your resolution because each frame contains the left and right images instead of just a single image. That means you *cannot* do 1080p currently in 3D.

However, HDMI 1.4 fixes this with its “3D over HDMI” feature.

Panasonic should have a 3D-capable set by next year. Sony has not made a 3D  announcement yet, but was very active in the SIGGRAPH panel…so you can draw your own conclusions.

So you get a Blu-ray player and TV that supports HDMI 1.4…what about 3D content? There is *no* standard for 3D yet…so anything you buy now may be worthless when a standard is decided.

My advice for 3D in the home: wait. It is coming, but it looks like it is still a few years away.

As soon as 3D for the home is standardized…I’m jumping in…I’m hooked on this stuff.

The SIGGRAPH panel left some good websites to follow for information on this topic:

August 5, 2009

SIGGRAPH: Evening Theater

Filed under 3D, Animation, SIGGRAPH


The Evening Theater was amazing…we saw a lot of impressive work.

New this year is a 30 minute real-time section. A presenter interacts with the work to show how it updates (and prove that it is not just a video).

Stand-outs in real-time:

  • Flower for the PS3. I’m going to pickup this game.
  • AMD’s Froblins. Everything is running on the graphics card, including the artificial intelligence…very impressive.
  • Fight Night Round 4. Mike Tyson versus…SIGGRAPH Keynote Speaker Will Wright?!?!? It was hilarious to see Will take down the champ.

Next up: Juried Reel, work selected by the Computer Animation Festival Jury
from hundreds of international submissions. Here’s what I liked best:

The last section was the Curated Reel, work invited by the Computer Animation Festival Chair. My favs:

  • ILM showed clips from Star Trek, Terminator Salvation, and Transformers. No link for this, but you can see it on Friday’s at noon if you come for a tour.
  • Pixar showed its short “Partly Cloudy” (shown before “Up”)

SIGGRAPH: My Cuz Made the E.T.!

Filed under 3D, Animation, Family, SIGGRAPH

I went to the SIGGRAPH E.T. tonight. E.T. once stood for “Electronic Theater,” but now stands for “Evening Theater.”

The E.T. shows the very best in computer graphics from the past year. It is a great honor to be selected.

I was thrilled to see my cousin’s (Anne Johnson) music video is part of this year’s E.T.! I had no idea it was going to be included.


It is a really funky video…must see material.

See Gnarls Barkley’s “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” here.

Congrats Cuz!

July 29, 2009


Filed under 3D, Animation, Celebrity, Computers, SIGGRAPH

It’s almost time! I’m heading to New Orleans on Friday for SIGGRAPH 2009. It will be my 13th in a row.

I plan on actively updating this blog (http://davidlenihan.com/ORIGINAL_davidlenihan.com) and my twitter account (http://twitter.com/davidlenihan) while I’m out there. Let me know if you will be doing the same and I’ll track you.

Here are some pics from SIGGRAPH 2008 that I never got around to posting…a few computer graphic celebrities.

Jos Stam (I told him I was collecting photos of the tallest people at SIGGRAPH and he won).


And Ken Perlin (I think he needs a new shirt…check out the link!)…



SIGGRAPH uploaded a few videos to whet your appetite for the New Orleans event.

SIGGRAPH overview…


Technical papers previews…

Animation festival preview…

A new category at SIGGRAPH, real-time rendering animation festival…

July 26, 2009

Pixar Visit

Filed under 3D, Animation, Travel

P1020619 P1020634

I’ve been trying to get a tour of Pixar for quite a while now.

And I finally did…thanks to my buds Rachel and Jason.

Visitor Badge

I met them for lunch on Thursday. We grabbed some Mexican pizza from Cafe Luxo and ate outside.



Front desk


Open area in center of building P1020627 
Pixar has an art exhibit featuring work from various stages of development of their last project. Up! was on display when I visited. There is a lot to see…I wish I could have spent more time looking at this.

Pixar is filled with the characters from their movies.

Luxo Jr.

P1020632 P1020633 CIMG0050


The Incredibles


Finding Nemo



Monster’s Inc.


Cars (on the right)


They have “hidden” rats drawn in various places…


My last stop was the company store.


I got a few new work shirts for me…


   …and some shirts for my nephew and niece.



Thanks again to Rachel and Jason! They were great hosts…now it’s my turn!

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December 16, 2008

OpenGL R.I.P.

Filed under 3D, Computers, DirectX, Programming, Software


I have been an OpenGL developer for more than 10 years. OpenGL was *the* 3D API for computer graphics since 1992…but not anymore. Direct3D has left OpenGL in the dust…and this is a big deal.

It has been clear for several years that OpenGL is struggling to keep up with Direct3D and every year the gap gets wider. This article does a great job detailing OpenGL’s problems.

If your OpenGL app competes with a Direct3D one…you need to be worried. It is not a fair fight. Direct3D is pushing the envelope for hardware features, which means a Direct3D app can run faster or look better than an OpenGL app on equivalent hardware.

Currently, managing shaders in OpenGL and Direct3D is painful. The next version of Direct3D (DirectX 11) dramatically improves how you combine small shaders into into larger, more complex shaders. This change alone will make OpenGL seem antiquated from a developer’s point of view.

OpenGL is the only cross-platform 3D API. As OpenGL falls further and further behind Direct3D, you’ll see less 3D apps on platforms that depend on OpenGL (like Linux and Apple Mac’s).

In the beginning, SGI was pushing OpenGL…until they got out of the graphics business. Then 3DLabs pushed OpenGL to create its shading language (GLSL)…until they got out of the graphics business.

Who is pushing OpenGL now? Nvidia? ATI? Both of those companies have more interest in Direct3D than they do OpenGL.

Without a major corporate sponsor, I don’t see how OpenGL will carry on. I’m actually surprised Apple hasn’t been a bigger supporter of OpenGL considering how important it is to them.

It was fun while it lasted…we’ll miss ya.

October 24, 2008

And Then There Was One...

Filed under 3D, Animation, Software

Wow! Autodesk purchased Softimage.

There was a time when there were 3 companies that battled in high-end 3D animation software. The competition was fierce and every year brought new features meant to outdo the other packages.

No more...all three software packages (Maya, 3ds Max, and Xsi) are now owned by Autodesk.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It seems silly for one company to keep all three packages since they have so much overlap.

My prediction: Maya will become the only 3D package Autodesk sells, with features from the other packages integrated into Maya.

What are your predictions? Post your thoughts in the comments. First with the correct prediction wins a prize!

August 24, 2008

SIGGRAPH Day 1: Ed Catmull - Managing the Creative Environment

Filed under 3D, Animation, SIGGRAPH


Ed Catmull, president of Disney Animation and Pixar, spoke candidly about his experiences running Pixar and Disney.

The talk was fascinating. I wish I had the whole thing on video. I jotted down some notes on what Ed said.

Why Pixar is successful...

What makes Pixar so successful is that Pixar focuses on the story.

BUT...*everybody* says they focus on the story. So saying "we focus on the story" is really meaningless.

If focusing on the story isn't what makes Pixar successful...what is?

Ed came up with two more possibilities: good people and good ideas.

Which one is more important?

Good people.


  • Good Idea + Bad People = Bad Implementation
  • Bad Idea + Good People = Fix Idea or replace idea with a better idea

An example of this...

Pixar had their "A" team work on Toy Story and then Bug's Life. "A" team worked well together and were very successful. "B" team started working on Toy Story 2. "B" team didn't have the same "magic" as "A" team. Toy Story 2 wasn't working and was in trouble. When "A" team finished with Bug's Life, they took over Toy Story 2 and started over (new script) with only 8 months until the movie was scheduled to finish. The movie was finished on time and was a huge success.

Every 1st version sucks. The next iteration sucks less. Keep iterating until it is actually good.


The software is used internally by Pixar and sold externally as a product. Pixar once tried to keep new features internal before releasing them to customers so Pixar would have a competitive advantage. Net result: customers stopped trusting Pixar and lost faith in the product. Releasing all features fostered a better relationship with customers and meant new features were vetted by a larger audience which improved the product.

Peer reviews...

At Pixar, people have to present their work to an audience on a regular basis in an unpolished state. Because of the frequency, people quickly get over the embarrassment of critical reviews. Also, the whole group learns from the criticism.

Desired Qualities in employees...

  • Have to be a filmmaker
  • Have to be honest
  • Have to be able to criticize people you may idolize. Once you are successful, people give you a "free pass" because they assume you know what you are doing. Everybody needs criticism to perform their best work.


You can't be successful by avoiding crises...because they always happen. *How* you respond is what determines success.

July 26, 2008


Filed under 3D, Movies

Disney unveiled a teaser for TR2N, the sequel to TRON, at Comic-Con

on Thursday.

Above is a poor quality bootleg video...but it gets the idea across.

For a play-by-play description of what we are seeing, check this out.

I *really* want to see this.


July 15, 2008

2D on 3D

Filed under 3D, Programming

My current hobby project (I always have some project that I'm working on that I never finish) is using Visual C# 2008 (free download) and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) to make an application with a slick, non-traditional User Interface (UI).

I'm using this project to learn about technology I think will have future importance.

So far I'm *very* impressed with C#. I've been doing C++ work since 1991 (Borland C++ 3.0). C# is a refreshing change, yet maintains enough similarities that it is easy for a C++ programmer to pick up with very little training.

WPF is the new UI API for Windows. It replaces the Win32 API, MFC, and Window Forms.

One of the features of WPF is that the fonts look perfect, no matter how much you magnify them. You can see this for yourself by using the magnifier tool (Start->Search->Magnifier).

To demonstrate, I created a sample WPF app in C# that displays some text...


Here is what my sample app looks like hovering near the task bar...


Here is what the same area looks like when I use 16x zoom with the magnifier (you'll have to click on the image to see it really zoomed in...it's too big to fit here):


Notice how sharp the WPF text is compared to the pixelated task bar. Very cool! This means apps can scale to any size monitor and still look perfect.

Using the magnifier, I've only found one application that uses WPF: Visual Studio 2008. And it only uses WPF in one place: the properties window for WPF elements. This is fairly new stuff...I expect it won't be long before you start seeing WPF-based apps.

Today I learned about another feature in WPF that I look forward to using: 2D on 3D. Basically, you can create standard 2D UI (buttons, scroll bars, sliders, etc.), but they can be mapped onto a 3D surface...and they still work!

It hard to explain, but this video really shows it off.

Daniel Lehenbauer and Kurt Berglund: Interactive 2D controls on WPF 3D Surfaces

I've downloaded the sample code from here. I plan on incorporating this into my project somehow.

This is fun stuff. When I have something worth showing, I'll post it.

March 18, 2008


Filed under 3D, Animation, Computers, SIGGRAPH, Software


I registered for SIGGRAPH 2008 this morning. This year it will be in Los Angeles August 11-15.

Registration opened yesterday. Register before July 4th for the best rates. Become a SIGGRAPH member and save $50.

One notable difference this year: no Electronic Theater viewing day selection in the registration. I actually can't find any mention of the ET. The closest was this quote about Computer Animation Festival changes:

Computer Animation Festival
For SIGGRAPH 2008, the festival has adopted a new format. Each day of the conference, it presents competition screenings, showcase screenings, and panel discussions with filmmakers, instructors, and artists involved in the creative process. The traditional Animation Theaters will not be available for SIGGRAPH 2008.

I hope this doesn't signal an end to the ET...it is one of my favorite parts of SIGGRAPH.

Sounds like several things have changed (or at least changed names).

Here's a list of future SIGGRAPH's...

Year Location
2008 Los Angeles
2009 New Orleans
2010 Los Angeles
2011 Vancouver (first time held outside of the US)

This will be my 12th SIGGRAPH in a row! It never gets old!

March 1, 2008

The Last Lecture

Filed under 3D, SIGGRAPH, Software

Randy Pausch is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He is losing his battle with pancreatic cancer and is expected to live for a few more months.

CMU has a lecture series entitled, "The Last Lecture." It is supposed to be your chance to talk about things that matter deeply to you. For Randy, it really may be his last lecture.

I first watched his 10 minute reprise of his lecture as a email forward...


After watching it, I wanted to see more. Here is the full video (76 min) from his original talk, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams..."


The second video is more sincere and drawn out and I recommend viewing it.

Also, I was surprised to see a co-worker in the second video, Tommy Burnette. Tommy got a nice shout out from Randy for following his dreams to work on Star Wars.

I've seen Randy's work at SIGGRAPH's Emerging Technologies. He's worked on a VR project called "Alice."

Randy was involved in the Aladdin Magic Carpet Ride ride at DisneyQuest, which I tried out during SIGGRAPH '98 Orlando.

In his "last lecture," Randy announced one of his childhood dreams of "being Captain Kirk"...since then, J.J. Abrams gave him a role with a line in the upcoming Star Trek movie.

February 20, 2008

GDC: Wednesday

Filed under 3D, Programming, Video Games


Optimizing DirectX Rendering on Multi-Core Hardware

I didn't get much out of this that I hadn't already heard before.

They presented some profiling for some games that showed 50% of CPU time was spent on graphics related tasks.

They gave a list of tools that are helpful for profiling:

Some of the talk was about the benefit of multiple cores verses the overhead required to synchronize multiple cores.



Sandbox2 editor for CryENGINE by Crytek

  • Best/slickest game editor I've ever seen
  • An editor built on top of the game engine
  • Everything is WYSIWYG
  • Artists can get great results very quickly
  • Realtime Shadows
  • Realtime Ambient Occlusion

Check out these demo videos of Sandbox2 in action...


Intel VTune

  • Only works on Intel processors (surprise!)



  • Allows C# code to run on Linux, Mac
  • Have a validator that examines C# code for compatibility with Mono called MoMA
  • Mono supports most of .NET framework 2.0


IGF Pavilion

There were some "indy" games that caught my eye...


World Of Goo


The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom




Crayon Physics Deluxe


Pleo is a dinosaur-robot made by UGOBE. What are they doing at GDC? They wanted people to know that Pleo is a "platform"...you can program new behaviors and applications for Pleo (via an SD card) and they are reaching out for people to add to its abilities. Check it out in action here:


Technical Issues in Tools Development (Day 1)

This was my favorite talk of the day.

It was a round table hosted by John Walker from High Voltage Software. John was the moderator. He started by asking for a few topics people would like to cover. Then he would ask some questions concerning a topic and let people in the room answer. Some people used this as an opportunity to say, "Has anybody in the room tried to do X? How did it work for you?" It was very informative.

There is another one Thursday and Friday, so I may go to those as well since the conversation will be different because different people will be there.

Some of the things I picked up...

  • An artist complained about data-driven tools being great for programmers, but terrible for artists. He wanted more custom GUI work.
  • Someone mentioned using XGE (Xoreax Grid Engine) to speed up their tools.
  • We have debug and release builds of code, why not data? The debug data could contain information about where the data came from so that a crash because of bad data could be quickly resolved.
  • Artists and Programmers need better communications
    • For artists, programmers should do video captures with audio explaining how to use a tool
    • For programmers, artists should do video captures with audio showing how they *actually* use a tool
  • Artists were pleading for tools to use standard formats as much as possible, it makes their lives much easier
  • A company should standardize on a set of icons so their tools look and feel the same
  • When planning the UI, consider what the artist already knows and is familiar with. Maya? Max?
  • Involve Artists in UI design
  • A new, untested concept: decoupling the UI from the code, like the WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) model in Vista. This lets an artist build the UI independently of the code behind it. No one had done it yet, but there was much interest.


Stupid Spherical Harmonics Tricks

What I learned here...was that I need to learn a lot more about spherical harmonics (SH).

The DXSDK has several samples involving SH.

The presenter has a couple of papers on the subject (here and here).


Creating Havok with Destruction

Havok announced a new product, Havok Destruction.

  • Coming out mid-2008
  • Features fracturing and deformation
  • Artists draw how and object can be destroyed (where cracks will be)
    • Deterministic
    • Art driven
  • Use "connectivity" to determine how much of an object breaks
    • No connectivity - object breaks along every crack
    • With connectivity - object can break along crack in close proximity to collision
  • Deformation
    • Throwing cannon balls at barrels that dent instead of crack
  • Direct competitor to DMM


February 16, 2008

Game Developers Conference 2008

Filed under 3D, Programming, Video Games


I'll be going to GDC next week. GDC is the convention for video game developers. It is here in San Francisco at the Moscone Center.

Not sure what I'm attending yet, but I'll probably be there Wednesday through Friday.

GDC is not as fun as SIGGRAPH, but you can learn a lot. The focus is on interactive 3D graphics and techniques you can use today to speed up or improve the look of your graphics.

Looking forward to it!

February 13, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Filed under 3D, Animation, Movies, Work


Wow! Some interesting news dropped today.

Lucasfilm Animation's first project, The Clone Wars, is going to be released as a movie August 15th followed by a TV series on The Cartoon Network and TNT. More details here.

The trailer is here.

January 22, 2008

I Feel Another Oscar Coming...

Filed under 3D, Animation, Movies

imageNominations for the Academy Awards were announced today. Ceremonies are Sunday, February 24.

In the Best Achievement in Visual Effects category, ILM has two of the three nominees: Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

The other nominee is The Golden Compass.

ILM has won 15 previous Oscars for visual effects, including last year's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men's Chest.

I will be *shocked* if Transformers doesn't win. The effects amazed me, and that doesn't happen very often anymore.

Good luck Scott!

November 7, 2007

The Pixar Story

Filed under 3D, Animation, Movies, Reviews

image I saw "The Pixar Story" today. It is a documentary following the creation of Pixar and the people behind it.

The director, Leslie Iwerks, did a Q&A session after the screening. Leslie's grandfather, Ub Iwerks, is the creator of Mickey Mouse.

I loved this film because I could relate to so much of it. Many of the movie events chronicled in this film made me want a career in computer graphics.

This is a great film...go see it if you get the chance or rent it when it comes to DVD.


March 31, 2007

Back to Modeling

Filed under 3D

Before I moved to San Francisco, I was working on building a model of the Bank of America Plaza in downtown Dallas. I didn't get very far, but I did learn a few things...which is really my goal in doing this.

Now that I have new surroundings, I've decided to start modeling something different...my office. The Letterman Digital Arts Center (LDAC) is comprised of 4 buildings: A, B, C and D. I'm in building C.

I'm going to use the tag "Modeling LDAC Building C" for all my updates. Search for this tag to see all my updates on this project.

To get started, I went to work today to take some reference photos. Here are the photos.

I will use overhead aerial photos from Microsoft's Virtual Earth and Mapquest to get started with the main outline. Google Maps was too out of date to use, the building was still under construction and the resolution was not very good. Yahoo! Maps resolution was too low to be helpful.

I am using Maya 8 Unlimited for the modeling, and Adobe Photoshop CS2 for image manipulation.

March 16, 2007

Maya + Copy/Paste = Next Blockbuster Film!

Filed under 3D

This guy has it figured out! Hollywood uses Maya. You can get Hollywood 3D models on the internet. Copy and paste those models in Maya and you are on your way to making millions from your new film! It's easy and he shows you how...

August 20, 2006

Ambient Occlusion

Filed under 3D, Maya

Ambient Occlusion (AO) is a trendy shading method for 3D graphics. It is useful for showing off geometric detail. Most AO renders are a single color, usually white, with no texture. AO is a simplification of global illumination (GI). GI can be very time consuming, whereas AO is relatively quick. Here are a bunch of AO examples. Besides simulating the ambient shadows from GI, AO is also used for "rust shaders" and "dust shaders" since AO is darkest in crevices, where rust and dust are the most likely to exist.

I was using Maya 6.0 which did not have built-in support for AO. I was considering creating my own AO shader for Maya 6.0, but decided instead to just upgrade Maya. Now I'm running Maya 7.0 (with 8.0 on the way).

Maya's AO is accessed as a Mental Ray shader. To do an AO render, create an ambient occlusion texture (Maya->Window->Rendering Editors->HyperShade...->Create->Mental Ray Textures->Mib_amb_occlusion) and drag it with the middle mouse button and drop it on the object you want to render. The Connection Editor will pop up to ask you how to connect the Mib_amb_occlusion to the object. Select the "OutValue" of the Mib_amb_occlusion and the "Surface Shader" of the object. When you render, make sure you choose "mental ray" as the renderer to see the results.


Here are some pics of the window I did for the Bank of America Plaza. This picture is from below looking up at the window.






From the side.








I need to place those windows on the building. First I tried duplicating the window with an offset, which was very time consuming and left me thinking there has to be a better way.

Next I found a plug-in in Maya called "geometryPaint." To use geometryPaint, you pick an object to paint with and then use the "Artisan Brush" to paint the geometry on another object. It seems like this would work well, but I ran into a problem. I set the brush to paint my window at every vertex I touch. For interior windows this is fine, but windows on the edge are a problem. The brush uses the normal of the vertex to determine the orientation of the window. The normals for the interior vertices are correct. The normal for vertices on the edge are shared by two sides, so the brush averages the normals. This gives you windows at an angle...which is not what I want.

I could probably just paint the whole model and then go back and rotate the edge window correctly, but I'm going to try another approach...MEL (Maya Embedded Language) scripting.

August 12, 2006

Placing Windows

Filed under 3D, Architecture, Maya

In the picture above you can see one window (upper center) placed on the building.

I used a lattice (Maya->Animation->Deform->Create Lattice) to make the window fit into the window rectangle on the building. I had some problems when I was trying to snap to vertex since there were so many vertices. I found that I could simplify the scene and then moving the lattice became trivial. I added 4 "locators" (Maya->Create->Locator) and placed them in the 4 corners of the destination of the window. A locator is just a vertex place holder. With the locators in place, I could hide the entire building model and just use the locators. Next, I hid the window geometry and just used the lattice cube. Instead of working with tens of thousands of vertices and struggling to get the right vertex in the right location, I only had to work with 12. MUCH easier and a big time saver.

One window down, thousands more to go. I started using the duplicate command with and offset (Maya->Edit->Duplicate) to position windows. There were two problems with this...it is *very* tedious* to have to type in all the offsets to place a windows and my system started to grind to a halt when I added about 20 floors of windows.

I decided to stop and try a different approach. My new plan to address the placement issue is to use a script plug-in that comes with Maya called "geometryPaint". It sounds like I could describe how windows are spaced on a grid, make the building paintable, and then just scribble on the building until it is covered in windows. There is no documentation for this script as far as I can tell, so I'll need to do some experimenting and digging on the net.

I believe I already have a good solution for the performance issues as I add many windows. In the original window file, I created a 4 vertex plane that represents the window and has the same dimensions as the window. I put both the high resolution window (the original) and the low resolution window (4 vertex plane) in a LOD group (Maya->Edit->Level of Detail->Group). For the LOD group, you can choose to let the distance from the camera determine which model is used or you can set it manually. While I am modeling, I am going to manually set the low resolution window to show. When I am ready to render, I switch it so that the high resolution will show. Since all the windows are "references" (Maya->File->Create Reference....), I should only have to change the LOD group once and it will effect every window on the building model.

July 27, 2006

Window Finished

Filed under 3D, Maya

I finished up a single window for my model of the Bank Of America Plaza. I used a couple of pictures I took as reference photos (here and here).

Being an engineer...I like to make things perfect. However, I don't have the blueprints for this building, so there is a lot of guess work. That is probably the most difficult part for me...using my best judgement instead of using an exact measurement.

I put *WAY* more detail than I needed, because I want the model to capture subtle shadows in the crevices (between windows, the horizontal indention in the base, the horizontal bar across the window, window indention from frame). It took 47 faces to build, which isn't much. However, this window will be repeated on the building over 13,000 times! That will put me at around 600,000 faces! And I haven't even gotten to doing the ground level or the detail on the roof. I will quickly have to figure out how to work with a very polygon-heavy model!

After I finished the window, I tried to attach it to the shell of the building. I *thought* I would just turn on snap to vertex and then use the scale tool to stretch the window to fit inside one of the open window faces on the BOA shell.

Unfortunately, Maya doesn't work that way. Snap to vertex only snaps when *moving*, not scaling. I could not just move my window because I needed to move *and* shrink the window proportionally to fit in the face of the building. My Maya mentor Kyle Rives had a brain storming session on how to best make the window fit precisely in the face on the shell of the building. There were plenty of ways to do it, but I wanted to do it the "right way"...the most efficient way possible. Kyle came up with the idea to try using the animation menu's "Deform->Create Lattice". I never would have thought to look in the animation menu set for the solution to a modeling problem, but it worked really well. I just put a lattice around my window, turned on snap to vertex, and then moved each corner of the lattice to the face of the building. The lattice took care of scaling the entire window appropriately. I still have more work to do on it, but the lattice tool worked really well and is a big time saver.

I'm off to SIGGRAPH...so no more updates until I get back.

July 8, 2006

Building Downtown

Filed under 3D, Maya

My buddy Trey (a.k.a. Spaghetti) and I want to get better at 3D modeling. The problem is that 3D modeling is time consuming and it is very easy to let it drop as life gets hectic. That's where the blog comes in. We are both going to detail our work in our blogs. If I don't see a regular update from him on his blog, then I will harass him until he starts producing...and I expect the same out of him.

Peer pressure has already worked...I was supposed to do this initial blog entry last week, but I got tied up with a few things...which triggered the guilt-inducing emails from Trey. It worked!

Trey will keep me honest...but I welcome prodding from anyone. If you notice I'm not updating my blog with 3D modeling updates, send me an email or post a comment...it will definitely help keep me on track!

So what am I going to model? I want to build downtown Dallas. I am starting with the tallest building in Dallas, the Bank of America Plaza.

The Skyscraper Page is one of my favorite websites for looking up information about tall buildings. Here is their info on BOA Plaza.

I am going to use Maya 6.0 for modeling. We use Maya at work, so anything I learn on this project helps me with my job as well. I use a SpaceBall 5000 to make manipulating 3d models easier (left hand on SpaceBall, right hand on mouse). For manipulating images, I'm using Corel's Paint Shop Pro X.

Here is what I have so far. I built the frame of the building. Next up: add the windows.

All of my updates will be filed under the BOA Plaza Model, which you can search for. Spaghetti's updates are here.

May 26, 2006


Filed under 3D, Animation, Computers, Maya

I registered for SIGGRAPH 2006 today. This will be the 10th consecutive SIGGRAPH I've attended. This year it will be in Boston in late July/early August. I plan on spending a few days checking out Boston before the big show starts (I've never been to Boston before).

Now that I have this blog thing down, I plan on doing SIGGRAPH trip reports directly on this site. Should be fun! If anybody else is going...let me know and we'll hook up at the show.

April 23, 2006

Character Animation

Filed under 3D, Animation, Maya, Reviews, Software, Video


I played with a very cool application this weekend. It is called Endorphin by a company called Natural Motion. Endorphin is used to generate motion for 3D character animation.

Trying to animate a character by hand (using a package such as Maya) is tedious and likely will not capture all the subtleties of motion. An alternative to animating by hand is motion capture or mocap. Mocap requires a studio with expensive equipment that records the location of positions on actors bodies. This motion data is applied to 3D characters so they behave just like the real life actors.

Endorphin is a new twist on character animation. It uses a different approach. To capture motion, you place a "dummy" into your 3D scene. This dummy has highly tweak-able "behaviors" that make it react in a very convincing fashion. Once your scene is setup, you press the "simulate" button to calculate what will happen. Simulations run in real time, so feedback is very quick.

Here is an example I threw together in about 5 minutes. It is very simple. I applied a force to the chest of the dummy to simulate a gunshot. I also applied a behavior to the dummy called "stagger" that is responsible for how the dummy reacts to the gunshot. Then I pressed play to see what happens.

Here is a more complex example. This was also very easy to setup...probably about 10 minutes. I started by having the dummy jump by giving the dummy a jump behavior. I tweaked the jump behavior until the dummy's hands were close to the pole. Then I added a constraint that locked the dummy's hands on the pole. The hand constraint causes the dummy to rock back and forth on the pole. I added another behavior called "legs kick" that adds a bit more life to how the dummy moves his legs move back and forth. Then I undo the constraint to let the dummy fall to his death. It is really fun killing dummies.

The next thing I tried was posing a character. For example, how do you position a character so that it looks like they are sitting in a chair? With Endorphin, it is very easy. Since the dummy reacts like a real human, you just place him in the seat. His body will collide with the chair (not go through it) until he is sitting. And since the dummy understands how humans move, the resting position of the dummy in the chair is very believable. For example, if you try to place the dummy's arm on the arm rest, the rest of the body will react appropriately without letting you create an arm position that a human cannot possibly have. Positioning a character in Endorphin is very easy and a huge time saver verses doing it by hand.

Several big name video games are using Endorphin for their character animation. The new Indiana Jones video game is one example coming out in 2007. Namco's Tekken 5 also used Endorphin for generating the animations of two players fighting each other.

Endorphin is not cheap. The full version costs $9,495 plus 12 months of maintenance for $2,395. If you can't afford to buy their software, you can rent it for $1,195 a month. If you want to use this app for non-commercial purposes, you can get the student version for $995.

I used the free trial version this weekend. The only difference between the free version and the full version is what you can export. The full version will let you export data (via FBX file format, for example) that can be read by an animation package like Maya. You can also export movie clips. The trial version will only export movie clips.

Since you can do all your work in the free trial version, it may be cheaper to get your scenes setup in the trial version and then rent the software for a month in order to get the motion data out. I'm not sure if their license allows you to do this, so I'd check with Natural Motion first.

Natural Motion has several very impressive video clips on their website that show off much more complex examples. Check them out here.

Final thoughts...very fun program to play with. When I do character animation in the future, I will certainly consider Endorphin as the fastest/easiest/cheapest way to get good looking character motion data. Highly recommended.

February 5, 2006

How to use the DirectX Extensions for Maya

Filed under 3D, DirectX, Maya

I wrote up a webpage to show how to use the Microsoft DirectX Extensions for Maya.

How to manually install the DirectX Extensions for Maya

Filed under 3D, DirectX, Maya

I could never get the Microsoft DirectX SDK to install its extensions for Maya. I wrote up a webpage that explains how to install these extensions manually.

With the DirectX Extensions for Maya, you can export the .X file format, use .FX files for materials, and open a Direct3D viewer inside of Maya.

How to stop “Please select the view you want to render” dialog box in Maya

Filed under 3D, Maya

If you use Alias’s Maya, then you have probably run into this. When you open a tool or another window, the focus leaves your 3D view. When you try to render a view, you get this annoying message…

Please select the view you want to render

I put together a web page that explains how to tell Maya to use the last view you had selected for rendering and get rid of this annoying dialog box.

I got a thank you from a Maya modeler that has had the annoying problem for a long time. I wondered how he found my website. I did a search on Google. I found that Google has indexed my website. If you do a search on the above dialog box message, you will find that I am one of the top links on Google!


About 3D

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to David's Blog in the 3D category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Animation is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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