Ten Years After - The Making of Dartanbeck.com

DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502
edited October 14 in Carrara Discussion

Nope, Unfortunately not a discussion about Alvin Lee and his amazing band (if you catch that reference), but fairly soon marks my tenth year anniversary of having Carrara - and it feels to me like I've really come a long way!

As most of you know, I started using Carrara with a special purpose in mind - to make movies, or at least A movie. After a short while playing around with Poser, I was wishing I could find a version of Poser which had a 3d modeler built into it. When I stumbled upon Carrara, I couldn't believe my eyes, and didn't rest until I finally owned it. Then I really didn't rest! LOL

So with Carrara in hand, and the pile of 3d content that Daz3d gave me for being a new PC member, Carrara buyer, and for them just being Daz3d, I very blindly set out to start learning how to set up my characters, animate them, light them, render them, etc., so that I could make this darned movie - or series if them if I could.

I say "blindly" because what I had no clue of at the time is what it really takes to make a movie - No Clue!

It was really funny. I even went through great lengths trying to develop my own way of perfecting my final 'look' that I wanted, because I had no idea about even the simplest methods of VFX, color grading... any sort of working with the animated renders after they were done. Just stitch them together to get something silly like my first experiment done with my rendered tests. Totally naive!

I don't want to bore you further by recollecting (again) my entire journey. I just recently lost my main Carrara computer and built a new one - and after nearly ten years of messing around, I'm finding that a new approach to all of this is most refreshing, just as fun, and seems to be a lot more productive.

The biggest difference is the same thing that kinda got me culled as a Daz3d Premier Artist - I took a leave of absence from creating new products to learn VFX, then Screenplay writing, then back into VFX, since the tools are fairly easy to understand but require quite a bit of practical experience to truly embed them into ones workflow. Before I continue I need to point out that I'm still very green (newbie) at using VFX tools, and am still not even green yet at screenplay!

So my last Carrara machine was dedicated to learning how to get my 3d creations and assets to look and behave pretty much the way I want them to, especially including putting it all in motion. The first task of my new machine was to work out the kinks of my experiments in dynamic hair I was trying to do on my vastly underpowered laptop. That part is totally kickin' right now - at least for the new Rosie. Dart now had dynamic hair too, but his is still in the creation phase. 

During my tests to try and break Rosie's hair, I finally decided to getting more serious toward making more finished animations, and recording down as a more permanent outcome that I might use in a movie - basically I started rendering to sequences of png files with alpha.

After doing quite a bit of these, a couple of them fit together as a very short bit of fun to experiment with further, so I took a break from all of that to make some other rendered elements to fill out the rest of this very short scene sequence. I had a lot of fun with this part - mainly because I'm so new to this way of working. It's kind of the opposite of where I started ten years ago. Instead of trying to inkjet print my movie frame by frame, I'm now taking more of an ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) or Weta Digital (but much more basic) approach - and I LOVE IT!!!

I'm a total PD Howler user now. It's an invaluable asset to my kit, and it was actually what propelled me to learn how VFX is done in the first place. But in this short experiment, I bypassed my Howler steps (already knowing what I'd be doing in it) and went straight to the new DaVinci Resolve 16, and did my compositing in Fusion within. What a contrast to the last time I tried using Fusion!

When I first started trying to use Fusion, the Node Based workflow really threw me off, even though I would defend it openly as a more powerful and efficient method. I could do a few simple tasks, but then my lack of knowing or guessing what to do next just drove me away. HitFilm then became my goto for compositing once I got all of my preliminary work done in Howler - then I often take things back into Howler for more artistic fun.

With my Carrara computer being down for such a long time, when I just couldn't take trying to experiment with this underpowered laptop anymore, I decided to learn more again.

So this time around, there's still a standalone Fusion, but I'm using the one that comes in DaVinci Resolve. After just recently doing quite a bit of studying, I actually felt right at home and built up a nice, efficient and flexible tree of nodes that I could animate throughout the progression of each animated render. It will be even much more powerful once I complete my initial Howler work ahead of time, since that will be producing a lot more possibilities to use in the flow of nodes (nodes are just tools used in a particular order in the whole chain of going from the original image to the final output).

Okay... if that sounded like a bunch of jargon-talk... maybe it might have been. All of this will be a lot more clear when I include screen grabs and other visual feedback of what I'm talking about - hopefully coming really soon. 

What a difference! I know that I caught a lot of flak for spending so much time doing various things with Carrara, talking about - even teaching a bit of - animating, lighting rendering, etc., without producing anything to "see" except for junk that I didn't mind showing, but I wasn't relly in a hurry to just spit out a movie. I wanted this to be a big learning experience and I certainly got that - in a lot more ways that I had even imagined before. 

Wow... I am SO anxious to show you all how cool this dynamic hair works!!! Thanks again, Jonstark!!!

Post edited by Dartanbeck on
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Comments

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    LOL! For example, here is one of my first animation tests that I published to YouTube. Yikes!

    ...and then I bought Mimic Pro for Carrara!

    When I did this test for dragon flight takeoff, I was still very much into the idea that I had to perform all effects directly in the initial render. So the little dazzling light on the Carrara logo was an animated lightbulb with a lens flare on it. It's very obvious I was still oh so new to all of this.

    I still feel very new (and Newbie) to most of this. It's fun to look back at these early days a laugh, and also to realize how even these older early experiments were still pretty cool in their own way. Carrara really changed me in all of this. My Poser work was just... not good! Not Poser's fault either.

    GoFigure's aniBlock Importer for Carrara came out! I bought quite a few collections right away, and still didn't actually own aniMate 2, other than the free version that comes with Daz Studio. I imported aniBlocks and tore them apart and swapped them around... we were still using the really old (original, I think) Daz Forums when I wrote the original version of AniMating in Carrara 

    I made this one (really bad) with Windows MovieMaker. Once it was replaced by MovieMaker Live, I just couldn't seem to use it anymore.

    JonnyBravo made the tutorial video for aniBlock Importer for Carrara and a bunch of cool test movies done in Carrara. I contacted him and ended up getting Sony Vegas Movie HD Platinum, which is what he was using. This is the one I made during my 30 trial with a pile of test renders that I haven't deleted yet (you've probably seen this one before)

    Blah blah blah... funny to look back! :)

    I recently put up a video of my ultra-low resolution dynamic hair tests I did on this horribly under-powered laptop - even put a few links to it. It's likely to come down soon. I only put it up to be able to stream it to my livingroom TV while Garstor and evilproducer were here for a Carrarateers visit this fall. It's totally horrible compared to the new version - and so is the proxy Rosie 5 I used to experiment with. 

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    This is a frame from a test render of the new Rosie 5 with her current hair. The still doesn't do the hair justice, and this is not her usual costume. It drove me nuts that hair moves off the shoulders so quickly during a simple walk cycle without walking into the wind. It's like she is walking into the wind. Otherwise the dynamics work amazingly well for pretty much any other animation. I've finally found a solution through Carrara's Forces. More on that in the future tutorials ;)

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    Another cool improvement in my studies is more use of plugins that I hadn't figured out before. A good example would be Space Ship engine fire. In this image I was using the freebie Carrara Flames Engine Fire I gave away here on the forum. My new method (sorry, no test image to show right now) uses PrimiVol for a much better engine fire effect!

    ...another example of the Carrara Fire primitive Freebie I was giving away. Looks great in stills, I'm just not happy with how it animates.

  • DesertDudeDesertDude Posts: 1,064

    Those clips are treasures Dartanbeck, many of which I missed in the past. Thanks for sharing

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    Those clips are treasures Dartanbeck, many of which I missed in the past. Thanks for sharing

    Thanks for watching! 

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    So with this new workflow (which is progressing nicely), I'm rendering many different elements separately - but each element is being made for use with the next. So if my camera is moving for one element, I have to save (or copy over) that camera for use in the other elements for that sequence. It's a bit wierd at first to get used to, but after doing all of the elements needed for a few sequences, the process becomes so natural that I don't even have to remember to do it anymore.

    There were a few times when I did forget but that didn't actually wreck anything, I simply had to recreate the camera again and move on. For complex camera moves, that might be too difficult, however, in which case I'd likely just start over from scratch for that sequence. Not a big deal for me since: A) most of my sequences are less than five seconds long and, B) I love doing this stuff - if I already did it once, I didn't really forget what I did, especially knowing what I need to do!

    So right now I have several elements assembled in a Carrara scene (torches burning in a dungeon hall) and rendering them together as my animated backdrop, which I'll render my heroes over. Each flame is an animation with an alpha channel applied to a bent card (plane) with a pair of animated lights attached. I take this group and save it to my Browser so I can use it over and over again - and the animated flames are ten seconds long, so for a few flames I can simply shift where the animation is at frame 1 for each instance. The animated lights illuminate everything around the flame in a quasi-realistic sort of fashion, so it's just drag n' drop and adjust. 

    Being a backdrop, I went for eight seconds so that I know I have enough for each shot that I need this for without looping.

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    Okay, so I mmentioned rendering my heroes over this animated backdrop - and that's exactly what I'll do - but not entirely in Carrara.

    Instead, I keep this as a separate png sequence that I can load into the backdrop for reference, but when I actually render the heroes, I hide the backdrop and render to alpha. This gives me more control for naturalizing the transition between them and the backdrop with conventional VFX tools and filters.

    Doing it this way, I can also layer in more elements between the layers, like sparks, creepy things peaking around corners, shadows from something else off screen... whatever I need as my imagination carries me away with it all.

    Using this workflow, Carrara becomes immensely powerful for the one person studio like myself because I can create and animate all manner of elements to use (and often even reuse) in my projects. It also gives my imagination the freedom to continue adding to any given sequence without having to re-render the whole thing. Most of the time I won't even have to re-render anything - just layer more in, like using Photoshop on an image!

  • I just set directors camera to wherever I left off on the last scene then create a new camera and set that to directors camera at the beginning of the timeline, I often do this going through doors then deleteing the previous room and adding the next one for afterwards 

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    I use PD Howler to edit sequences and make things like masks and other useful animated image maps for use in the compositing process. It feels so good using it for this things due to its very hands-on artist workflow and tools. It took some getting used to at first, but now I just open it up and do what I came to do with a smile on my face.

    I own a few versions of HitFilm and several of the expansion packs for it, which comes in handy for times when I really want a more Photoshop (well, I use Affinity Photo instead) feel as it's layer based compositing.

    For the final VFX compositing and movie editing, final color grading (I use Howler for preliminary color grades), sound and music and final delivery I use DaVinci Resolve, currently version 16. With Fusion now built into Resolve, I can go back and forth between editing the movie and tweaking the VFX in the same pipeline. The input to Fusion come from the editing timeline, and the output of Fusion becomes what I was just seeing in the editing timeline - a full circle loop! Just Rocks! That same looping is also how it works for sound and coloring - even delivery (I can export a movie of just partials, each sequence separatey(but with VFX and Sound/Color, etc.,)) making it the best editor I've ever used so far.

    So yeah... I'm having immense fun with my new computer! :)

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    Finally, before I stop babbling, all of these techiques can be poured back into Carrara again, since it has the beautiful ability to use animated footage! How spoiled am I?

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    I just set directors camera to wherever I left off on the last scene then create a new camera and set that to directors camera at the beginning of the timeline, I often do this going through doors then deleteing the previous room and adding the next one for afterwards 

    Absolutely! Works great! I do that too

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    Crazy. After all of my success with the new Rosie 5, Aeon Soul's store going on sale has inspired me to go for Rosie 6. 

    Hmmm... I do have a few cool character shapes for G2F, but nowhere near as many shaping and expression morphs. So I fired up Daz Studio, which now has Genesis GenX2 as a tab along the full bottom of the UI, sharing with the Timeline and aniMate 2, so that I can pull it completely up across the entire workspace just for transferring. Since Rosie 5 has a full load of morphs already, and I have a saved folder on my desktop containing all of her needed morph files (so that I can make sure they're in the structure if I need to Auto-fit, etc.,) so I plopped those into the data folder and transferred them to G2F via GenX2. 

    Sweet! Although I couldn't help but to make an improved version, since G2F is an improved female, after all, Rosie 6 looks so much like Rosie 5 that I can easily get away with using both in the same production! V4, sadly, is completely out of the game - but she lives on thanks to GenX2 in both of my new Rosies!!! 

    Okay... back to work! :)

    Cheers!

    P.S.   Hopefully I can take some frames to show in this thread soon. I try not to connect my new Carrara machine to the internet if I can help it - it's always too busy working for me anyway. But I'll try to take some screen grabs along the way. Besides, I want to work on these Carrara challenges - even if only to join in and share in the wonderful WIP topics! ;)

  • ed3Ded3D Posts: 1,002
    edited December 2019

    _  interesting  subject  _

     

    Post edited by ed3D on
  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502
    ed3D said:

    _  interesting  subject  _

     

    Thanks! I hope someone might find some inspiration out of this ;)

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    So, right now the G2F idea is a wash. I am still so incredibly tied to my 3rd and 4th generation content that it makes more sense to use figures that can use that plethora of possibilities.

    Moving on

    Above I kind of breezed through the new process I'm undertaking, which can be hard to describe briefly - at least for me. While I'm either waiting for a render or too exhausted to work on the project, I devote a lot of time studying VFX, which is the huge difference in this whole Ten Years After workflow change.

    Well I've just ran across this awesome short walkthrough suggested to me by YouTube due to the kinds of things I've been watching. It shows a VFX supervisor visually explaining how he solved a very short sequnce in a film. This single shot took him 3-4 weeks and I don't think it's even one second long. Still, his explanation of what he's done to give the director what he or she needs describes (visually) the approach I'm taking Ten Years After, except I'm shooting in Alpha, so I don't need a green screen.

    Enjoy

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502
    edited December 2019

    There are some amazing tutorials and lessons for learning this sort of stuff if you're interested. Just as a means to become a bit more savvy with filmmaking in general, I really love running through videos from Film Riot (Ryan Connelly) who is a filmmaker school grad sharing his knowledge and expertise as he develops more and more films, and sells filmmaker assets along the way.

    Here is one that just came out regarding Motion Control filming using a camera. However, he then briefly describes how he puts it all together, but not really in tutorial form - though he has some tutorial type videos as well (but HitFilm Channel is truly brimming with those!)

    I'm putting this one up so you can see what he does at about 4:54 in the video - where he describes filming a blank room (in the proper motion), then films his brother posing on various pieces of furniture and so forth, and then they "rotoscope" out the furniture and such, hence the need for the shot of the blank room. After rotoscoping, he then finishes the shot off with vfx - and he mentions that he used the new stock footage available in his new pack that's for sale. That's the magic of Carrara. We can use any number of the easy-to-use tools to create our own personal stock footage - and we can make it even better for our custom scene when we know exactly what we need. This is why I like to save the effects scenes that I make (for making stock footage) into my browser in case I need more of it at, say, a different angle or some other tweak that's easy to make on an already finished effect.

    Anyway, after all of those typed words, check out Ryan's video. If you're not interested in the cool Motion Control camera stuff, just skip ahead to 4:54

    Post edited by Dartanbeck on
  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502
    edited December 2019

    When I took my VFX course through Norwich University of the Arts, Simon Jones was my HitFilm instructor. After really getting intrigued with this whole VFX thing, it was this playlist that really got me inspired to learn more of this stuff, and to keep studying - and along the way occasionally hit up the FXHome (HitFilm) YouTube channel for more instruction and advice, and eventually got me to subscribe to Film Riot (above video) to just learn more about making movies in general. Film Riot, as the name dictates, is actually about making movies with cameras and actors. Much of FXHome's material is actually that too. It's all still very relevant to making movies entirely in CG. 

    So this playlist begins with the actual short movie that Ryan Connolly made, starring his brother and sister and actors that work with him a lot, and then goes into some really short primers by Ryan about how he pulled it off along with some really nice tutorials about building the VFX in HitFilm Express (Free) by Simon Jones

    Portal Combat Playlist

    Post edited by Dartanbeck on
  • ed3Ded3D Posts: 1,002
    edited December 2019

    Thanks! I hope someone might find some inspiration out of this ;)

    + you' re welcome        

    _ also supposed about saying    _ " I'm Going Home "        _ thanx

     

    Post edited by ed3D on
  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    yessmiley  Thanks !!!!   So Glad to be Home !!!!

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    ...and if you like that last playlist, here's another, where the team at HitFilm show us how to launch ourselves as Iron Man - and includes downloads to free assets for making this scne yourself

    Head Up - HitFilm Express 4 (previous version, but this still applies)

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    ...and I got a LOT of inspiration and workflow ideas from these featurettes (this is but one of many)

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    (btw - the channel playing the above video has MOST if not ALL of the Star Wars behind the scenes stuff)

  • LotharenLotharen Posts: 265
    edited December 2019

    @Dartanbeck  Thanks for sharing all this! It's really interesting to see just how you have evolved your workflow since starting out. I wanted to get into the 3D animation but a lot of hurdles blocked me, the main being no video editing software that could do what I needed. I used movie maker for a while to, until the live version which was horrible in comparison. I've been considering getting back into it, just need to decide what program I want to use for animation, Daz Studio, Carrara or Poser....it's a tough choice. That and I want to create my own visual style and realistic textures are NOT what I'm after.....its hard to explain.

    I do want to share that Humble Bundle has a Filmmakers bundle that includes Hitfilm Pro and a few plugins that might be just what others need to get into the VFX side of animation and movie production. To get the top teir of that bundle you just need to donate a minimum of 30 bucks USD. Thats a steal for what your getting.

    Anyway, keep it up. Can't wait to see more videos of what your up to and how your achieve your results!

    Post edited by Lotharen on
  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    @Lotharen Yeah, I'd love to get my hands on HitFilm Pro!!! Even without plugins that would be a sweet kit!

    I have HitFilm Express and a few of the add-on packs available for it. I love it for compositing VFX, but I always liked either Sony (now Magix) Vegas Movie HD (less expensive version) or Corel VideoStudio Pro for actually editing, even though I'm sure it would be nice to get used to doing it in HitFilm.

    With a beefier computer now I'm using DaVinci Resolve for all of that. Version 15 began incorporating Fusion (VFX Compositor) right into it, and it has Fairlight Audio too. It takes some getting used to working with Nodes instead of layers, however. But I like it.

    As for animating, I used to use all three: Daz Studio for baking custom aniBlocks (paid version of aniMate 2), Poser for making PZ2 animated pose files, often from their walk designer, and Carrara for putting it all together - and I also used Carrara for all of my custom animation work. I just love how easily I can tweak animations to my liking in Carrara!

    As my aniBlock collection grew with various walk cycles (saves a LOT of time for a one-person production!!!) I have more fun taking apart various aniBlocks data and mixing them up with others, and then of course adding my own custom touches directly in Carrara - so I don't really use Poser anymore - but I do want to eventually get a new copy. My copy of Poser is version 6.

    This is my older article on the basics of how I manipulate aniBlock data in Carrara: ► AniMating in Carrara

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    So even though I'm using DaVinci Resolve, I still also use HitFilm Express. They are two different workflows but both output files - so I just keep making new files and edit them in the software that I feel most comfortable in for the task at hand.

    ...and this bring me to PD Howler! 

    I got Project Dogwaffle Pro - Howler as a new image editing software after you-know-who went subscription only. But it's a lot more than that for me! Howler is the version of Dogwaffle that has all of the animation tools, Artist is the version that does not, but can still use limited animations as brushes.

    Dan Ritchie, the developer of Project Dogwaffle used to work in the VFX industry and has built a lot of wonderful animation tools directly into Howler - and he never stops working on more... never!

    So Howler is a major part of my VFX workflow. It is where I can work out motion blurs, edit animated renders on a frame by frame basis or by rotoscoping, creating animated masks for use either in Howler or any of the others, etc.,

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    I won't find out until I get home later, but I just bought a new aniBlock pack from Posermocap that was made for Genesis 2 and 3 to see how well it works with Genesis 1.

    I really like using MoCap animations for the natural movements of them, then I just pick and choose which parts of any particular capture I want to use for any given part of the body. With Generation 4 figures, I always deleted all of the head and neck keyframes and animated those myself. While I still might do that from time to time, I actually prefer to leave the motions there, and use the pose controls on the neck of Genesis to change the direction of the head when I need to. Works really well!

    It's amazing what we can make our CG characters do with aniBlocks that are made for an entirely different reason, once we manipulate them to what we want. I might take the end of a Stop from Walking animation, just keep the parts after the body has stopped moving very far, and copy those keyframes around, reverse them, retime them, etc., to help get the body from being totally still for a head shot of the character talking, for example.

  • LotharenLotharen Posts: 265

    Interesting that you use PD Pro! I would love to see a short video of what you do in that. I also book marked your link for manipulating aniBlocks in Carrara. I'm pretty sure I have a few plugins for Daz animation. I really want to hand key my animations....it wont be as quick but it will be all my creation. Hard, for sure but rewarding in the end I would think. I do have the newest Poser, I'm glad Rendorosity purchased it, hopefully it will see some love in the animation department now.

     

    Again, thanks for sharing your workflow. I never tire of reading or seeing stuff like this.

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502

    Animating by hand is Very fun and Rewarding! I still do quite a bit of it myself. 

    Jealous about the Poser thing! LOL But Carrara actually is kinda like a Poser on steroids with full-blown modeling any other nice CG features built in. But if you don't need to model directly in the animation application, Poser freaking ROCKS, even back then (Poser 6). I was really green and felt that I needed to have modeling capabilities directly within Poser... and then I found Carrara, which is very much that, and more, but also less. Like, no walk designer. But I don't really feel the need for that anymore - but I'd use it if it was there! :)

  • mindsongmindsong Posts: 1,436

    :^)

    --ms

  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 16,502
    mindsong said:

    :^)

    --ms

    yes

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