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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Character Rigging and Skinning

Character rigging and skinning is the process of building a "Control Skeleton", like a puppet rig, for a 3D sculpted character. Above is an image of my Centurion character with the control Skeleton (Rig) almost completely visible. The process of connecting the 3D mesh to the skeleton is skinning and building the skeleton to match the character and the complex set of relationships that become the controllers or the control system of the skeleton is rigging. Fortunately my first experience with character rigging and animation was my first Maya class taken at CADA. Susanne Taaffee's Maya 1 class "Trial by Fire: Intermediate Character Rigging." Character rigging is tedious and was overwhelming when I was first exposed to it in that class, but over the two years before taking Dan Visloski's Character Rigging class I really worked rigging concepts enough to really have a handle on it and was able to really glean all of the information from the advanced rigging classes necessary to feel competant in rigging just about anything I want to.

Rigging Image LARGE

Logo Design

NOMMO: "Word Magic"
New Story of RA

This is my official logo for the project. Ultimately I chose the typeface and design because it is reminiscent of typefaces used for Greek stories and easily relays to most people the idea of expressing mythos through story. Since Egyptian mythology as well as all other African mythologies pre-date and heavily influenced the development of Greek mythology I felt it was extremely appropriate. In the future I will redesign the logo, modestly, to include technological elements that are also representative of this story.

Link to Larger Image

Influences: The Thinking Beast

I am very story/purpose oriented so conceptually, with all of my creations, I have a fairly clear idea of what I'm looking for early on because every character or creature or environment or architectual structure has a clear purpose or place and set of emotions I intend for them to carry in a given story. Once I have the story nailed down I begin to find ""loose" image references or sketch, or commission another artist to sketch images of the character(s) which I model from, regardless of where the reference images come from I can have as much or as little freedom in the modeling phase as I choose. In more than a few cases I've found it useful to use modeling applications without reference as an effective brainstorming/sketch tool as is the case with the "Thinking Beast" and my Centurion.

The "Thinking Beast" is a character/creature that I felt I definitely needed in my story. No sci-fi fantasy film is complete without a huge imposing quadraped. The main difference between most huge creatures, as depicted in film, and "Thinking Beast" first can be distinguished first from the character's name; as the name would suggest these creatures have as many complex thoughts as any man intelligent man would. In keeping with with Egyptian Mythos that character is a mix of animal and human/Sphinx-like elements and also falls squarely between the ethereal an corporeal realms. The beast is "Ghostly" white because it represents that rarity and mythical element that has been recognized by so many cultures and traditions throughout history in story. Most of my characters are not replicas of the original Egyptian pantheon deities, because these are "The New Stories of RA." The following images are random images that influenced the 3D design of the "Thinking Beast."

The "Thinking Beast" was modeled, rigged, and skinned (enveloped is the XSI terminology) in Softimage:XSI. I later exported the geometry for tweaking in Maya and to re-rig and skin the character since I decided on primarily using Maya for the rest of my project.

Digital Sculpting: The Process...

Using an image like this isn't the way I start all of my models, but it is the standard, accepted beginning of most 3D sculpted characters. Essentially images, drawn, photographed, or aquired from any other medium are used as "set" reference for multiple perspectives to aid in sculpting from all three dimensions {X, Y, Z}. The red lines represent continuity of the position of facial features from all three perspectives.(Gotta have your eye in the same spot regardless of angle of view, because it's still your same head.)

Even with the reference images, for three dimensional sculpt most of the information just isn't there, so it takes a considerable amount of patience, diligence, and a modicum of innate ability to fill in the gaps and move towards a 3D sculpt that looks like the original 2D image.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Fleshing things out...

I really just noticed that while I've been working on developing this project and solutions to problems I would encounter for, going on, two years now I've not done an adequate job of "fleshing out" enough elements out for everything to fit together and make sense to someone who doesn't know me, my work, or this story. The rest of the posts will be about strictly putting 2 and 2 together so everything makes sense and in some cases I'll be reposting some images with descriptions that clearly define what or "who" they are in the story and what's going on in the image.

This character is a heroic "Good Guy" character and is part of a story steeped in the Mythology of ancient KMT/Egypt (Ra, Horus, Anubis, etc.) The story is also heavily influenced by post twentieth century science fiction storytelling, most notably Japanese anime/manga. The character is a statue (Birdlike/Dinosaurlike/Humanlike) "Imbued with Fantastic powers" by the avatar of Ra, who is the star of the story. Although this character isn't the star of the story he is the star of that particular scene, and that scene happens directly before the swarms descend on Ra. It's important, for me, to nail down the look and feel of how the creature should move here to establish the feeling of the scene as a whole moving into the climax of the trailer. At the beginning of the scene the creature is beaten down by the desert sun, but scouting ahead of a large military force to find a particular offender. He checks behind him to see how far back the military force is. He then, in the middle of the previous action, hears then sees a bird, or something, in the air that can clearly be associated with the particular offender he is pursuing and and goes into high-speed chase mode. The animation speed/motion blur/ shutter angle was deliberately stylized to maximize the dramatic impact of the scene. It is both a stylized effect as well as part of the way this particular creature moves. In the final project this will be a cut away shot from the main action and there will be a large army that follows after the scout in high pursuit and will jump off of the lower cliff after him onto the field of battle. He is pointing the direction of the offender out to the army near the end of the scene. Larger copies of both of these images have already been posted here and are readily accesible.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Egyptian Pantheon

This is a brief visual look at the Mythical Deities of KMT (Ancient Egypt.) Given the long period of time the Mythology was developed over this does not represent a complete picture, but does give some idea about the Egyptian Pantheon. It is interesting that many scholars have always seemed to believe that the Egyptians were Polytheistic many other scholars believe that they were were monotheistic. I tend to believe the monotheistic theory primarily because of the research that supports the idea that the Egyptian Pantheon provided divine inspiration for the for the development of organized and civil society where all other Dieties had their own duties or tasks but were all subjects of RA, just as there were many subjects of KMT, but the Pharoah was the singular ruler. The downfall of the of Egyptian society really happened after one Pharoah decided that he wanted to be both the ruler of KMT and divine naming himself both Pharoah and RA which led to civil unrest and ultimately created weaknesses in the society that made it vulnerable to outside invaders. This is very much similar to way my story will develop.

from the website of "The Brish Museum"

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Cheikh Anta Diop

There are two major influential elements that inspired me to write and develop this story NOMMO: New story of RA.

1.) The idealized version of Egypt which has been realized over decades having billions spent to research, document and publicize Egypt commercially and non-commercially.

2.) The simultaneous discoveries made by Chiehk Anta Diop and Theophile Obenga that ultimately changed the face of the people of Egypt or what is now widely accepted as KMT{Kemet} - "Place of the Blacks" and reoriented the development of modern languages.

Diop discovered that the ancient Egyptians were in fact Black or Negroid, and Theophile Obenga discovered that contrary to popular belief, at the time of his discovery, Kemetic language developed independent of and actually predates Semitic languages.

For me, this means that Egypt, or KMT, has evolved into a much more interesting sand box where Egypt not only represents the origin of modern civilization, but it also exists squarely in the center of African culture, history and tradition which is significantly less researched and in many ways very mysterious and/or even esoteric in nature. All of the qualities of KMT lend themselves perfectly to epic story telling for Fanatasy/ Science Fiction.

more on Cheikh Anta Diop:

African Perspective-Quarterly Magazine:

"... In 1966, the First World Black Festival of Arts and Culture held in Dakar, Senegal honored Dr. Diop and Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois as the scholars who exerted the greatest influence on African thought in twentieth century. In 1974, a milestone occurred in the English-speaking world when the African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality was finally published. It was also in 1974 that Diop and Theophile Obenga collectively and soundly reaffirmed the African origin of Pharaonic Egyptian civilisation at a UNESCO sponsored symposium in Cairo, Egypt. In 1981, Diop's last major work, Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology was published.

Diop was not only an intellectual, he also had a past as a man of action who did not hesitate to embrace political militarism when he judged it necessary. It was in that regard that he published scathing and brilliant articles in "La Voix d'Afrique", a journal of students of the RDA (Rassemblement Democratique Africain). One of his articles appeared in February, 1932, and already he had put (at an epoch where most African parliamentarians opted for a policy of compromise - not to say betrayal) on the agenda the question of independence and the federation of the ex-colonies.

Throughout his life, Diop led a pathetic struggle so that Africa might at long last get rid of the claws of cultural alienation which had lasted far too long, so that they would again become masters of a history which they had not lost before colonialism. "Black nations and culture" was within the context of an intense ideological struggle opposing the most awakened and conscious elements, the most politically awakened of the African elites to the tenants of colonial order who, to be witnesses to its collapse, were nonetheless less solid and untouchable.

When he died on the 7th of February, 1986, Africa lost one of her illustrious sons, an exceptional African whose singular destiny and contributions were in tune with an Africa sometimes (promising), hopeful and some times despondent. While leaving us, he bequeathed to Africa a heritage of liberation without precedence: the knowledge of one's origin.

Here are some of Diop's major works that have been translated into English: The African Origin of Civilization, Myth Or Reality.

The book presents Dr. Diop's main thesis that historical, archaeological and anthropological evidence supports the theory that the civilization of ancient Egypt, the first that history records, was actually Negroid in origin. Pre colonial Black Africa.

In the book, Diop compares the political and social systems of Europe and black Africa from antiquity to the formation of modern states. Black Africa, The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State.

In the book, the late Cheikh Anta Diop presents a dynamic and convincing argument for the creation of a unified black African state and there is an interview by Carlos Moore on Diop's vision of Africa's emergence as a major world power.

Civilization or Barbarism - An authentic Anthropology

This last work of Cheikh Anta Diop is a summation and expansion of his two previous volumes -Precolonial Black Africa (1987) and The African Origin of Civilization (1974) - offers a refined statement of his life's work, to prove the primacy of African culture by proving that ancient Egypt was a black society, first in many cultural achievements later claimed by the following Indo-Aryan cultures.

Dr. Diop was the Director of Radiocarbon Laboratory at the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa (IFAN) at the University of Dakar. He sat on numerous international scientific committees and achieved recognition as one of the leading historians, Egyptologists, linguists and anthropologists in the world. He traveled widely, lectured incessantly and was cited and quoted voluminously. He was regarded by many as the modern `Pharaoh' of African studies.

In 1987, the Dakar University was named University of Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) in recognition of his achievements. Dr. Diop was also member of UNESCO's Scientific Committee."

Friday, August 26, 2005

Impatient Render

I've been working on modeling this head in modo like forever, got impatient and needed to do something somewhat creative with it as well as continue to test and learn the mental ray renderer. Still a lot of problems to work out, but I'm satisfied with the progress I am making..maybe.

"Impatient Render"

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

PreVisualization Animatic

I'm not nearly as comfortable displaying this stuff as some of the other work I've posted recently. This is an animatic and screenshots from the animatic that lays broad strokes and begins to give an idea of what the pacing of the trailer will "feel" like. Missing are the cut away shots showing the closer look at the four armies approaching RA. I'll be posting a story synopsis for the trailer shortly.

Nommo: New Story of RA animatic v.1

That Didn't work out too well...

Ok, well I'm going to add some more things, including animation clips. You'll have to email me at to aquire the username and password for the animations.(sorry, no way around that just yet.)



The depth of Field effect, which theoretically blurs everything in front of and behind the subject of the image, can really only be seen in these larger renderings, it is pretty important to the readability of the scene, it begins to emulate a style connected to film and gives a "More real feel" to the whole thing. It's hard to explain, but hopefully you'll be be able to see what I mean from the images.

Image Plowing into My Sidebar again...

I'm posting these images and journal entry to try to tidy up my Blog a bit and get that image from clashing. Essentially, this is a model that I already posted earlier, without some modifications and a completely different surface material. I'm posting both images, because I used it for a class assignement to combine CG materials with Real world footage. Let me know what think about the image in general and try to compare the two images.


My personal favorite.

Probably the better one.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Brief update!

Long time no post here's a brief update: A test animation for this character is finished, I just have to find somewhere to store it so I can post it here and my overall story animatic; which are all coming soon.

Here's a test render of the centurion character with an altered color scheme, that changed for an event for the DeviantART "Yellow Day" events. Blue, red, and reflective white will be the color scheme in my thesis.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Great Rift Valley?

What Is the Rift Valley?

Africa's Great Rift Valley is a 6,000-mile crack (fissure) in the earth's crust, stretching from Lebanon to Mozambique. One of its most dramatic sections slices through East Africa, dividing Kenya into two segments. Geologists know that the Rift Valley was formed by violent subterranean forces that tore apart the earth's crust. These forces caused huge chunks of the crust to sink between parallel fault lines and force up molten rock in volcanic eruptions. Evidence that this process, called rifting, is still in progress comes from the many active and semi-active volcanoes, located along the Rift. Evidence of volcanic activity along the rift is provided by the presence of numerous boiling hot springs.

Why is the location important?

Partially, the location is important because the story is supposed to take place in Africa and from a story stand point it is important that RA have a "Last Showdown" as it were. John Kilner, the avatar, has spent a great deal of time forcibly occupying other countries and in a modern society not all that diiferent the current US New KMT has recieved a mixed image from the public/media of who John Kilner, the avatar of RA is. The African Military wants to show the public that it is capable of dethroning the tyrant and governing and a final showdown after a "Coup d' etat" is the all too familiar solution in Africa dating back to post-colonialism times. From an aesthetic standpoint the crowd movements over and through terrain presents the most visually striking solution.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Story Synopsis

Hopefully a couple of people are itching to know what the story is behind this "Nommo: New Story of RA" thing is, because there have only been disjointed bits and pieces up to this point. Here is an updated draft of my Thesis treatment that will hopefully pull all of the random pieces I've posted, so far, together. Feel free to ask any questions you'd like.

NOMMO ->“Word Magic”

{i n t r o}

Nommo is a West African term for “Word Magic” or "The Power of Words" and it is an important part of the title of my thesis project. The story is one based in the long lineage of fantasy/science-fiction storytelling, but with a twist. For me, it’s important to declare that it is a story of fiction, so that it is perceived as “A story being told” not just a sequence of fictitious events being given to an audience. I would like to establish the story as the beginning of a new kind of modern mythology that blends futuristic technology elements with elements of the ancient African cultural aesthetic. The premise of the story is the demise and redemption of John Kilner, the avatar of Ra. (Egyptian mythical God) Because this will be a CG short story/trailer, the challenges will be the amount character animation/ design/modeling that will be necessary and the creation and rendering of natural rural environments.


The McGuffin - “A man with the power of God that began as a hero and became a villain choked out by his own villainy.”

The story "NOMMO: New Story of RA" takes place in the distant future of earth where the countries of Africa had united and become one powerful country in the world system, under RA. The transformation/reshaping of Africa took place as a direct result of the intervention of John Kilner (aka., The Avatar of RA.) As the Avatar of RA Kilner was only supposed to oversee and intervene as minimally as possible with the activities of the universe. Greed, lust and frustration with the "Order of Things" corrupted him and he abused the power he was given. The birth of New KMT was the result. (KMT ->Kemet -> “Place for the Blacks”/ "Black Land") KMT is the original name of Egypt and was adopted by the new United Africa. For some of the citizens of New KMT life was more than fair, but for most it was egregiously unfair. Disparity of justice and inequality under a tyrannical government lead to strife and civil unrest, which lead to a coup. Kilner falsely accused of a murder was stripped of his governmental position, hunted down and killed in a nameless ravine in South Africa. Carthegians lead by a descendent of Hannibal pursued, the Spartan Army of Zaire pursued, The Royal Marine Corp. of Johannesburg pursued, and the Elite cloud forces of Nigeria pursued. Kilner's end came after being surrounded in a valley by armies charging from peaks of the cliffs, mountains and plains surrounding the barren, desolate, sun beaten valley {ravine.} (The trailer is ultimately about laying out the "Chase Scene.") The Mountains and cliffs on one side were beige, like a desert with sparse foliage. The other side was green with dense foliage and many trees and in the distance were snow covered mountain peaks. RA was in the rift attempting to escape while others closed in from the outside. This area most resembles the Great Rift Valley in Africa today.

{m y m o t i v a t i o n}

The "Ra" fantasy/mythology story is one that I had developed fairly extensively three years ago. The developed story, for me, represents an amalgamated creative structure for me to continue to explore a couple of areas that I have always been intrigued by: ancient African history, culture and art, science fiction, fantasy and mythology. The “Ra” story was originally conceived as a novella/graphic novel, but can easily translate to a more cinematic presentation format. While "NOMMO: New Story of RA" is different from the RA stories some of the characters and the storyline follow the same path and there is quite a bit of back-story development for me to pick and choose from in the original fantasy/fiction stories. The new story takes place much further in the future and includes aliens from the farthest reaches of the universe as well as technologocally advanced or even enhanced humans.

Stylistically, I always intuitively lean towards “Clean Lines” and geometric pattern while wanting to do grunge work. The largest influence on me, in terms of overal design of "Look and Feel" of futuristic environments and specifically for this project is Syd Mead, a world renowned Cinema Set/Art Director. Syd Mead is most well known for doing most of the conceptual art and set design for the film “BladeRunner”, "Aliens", "TRON", "Short Circuit", "Solar Crisis", "Star Blazers: Yamato 2520" the animated series and "Gundam".

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Cloud Army Concept

The cloud army concept is something that just kind of popped into my head at some point and many of the things I learned in my Particles and Dynamics course with Jean-Micheal Mistrot really filled in the gaps, as to whether I can realistically get the smoke effects I would want. Below are images of the Human Torch, because I can't really find any reference of of the same look using smoke gotta use the imagination God gave me. The idea of the look, for me, is to replace the flames with smoke, or "Clouds." The characters will appear "Hawkish", or short tempered. They will be flying feverishly towards the center of the terrain area and swarming roughly in the shape of a sphere. It will look like a cross between a moving bee swarm shaped as a sphere and an atom with positive and negative charges speeding around it.

Different variations of long draping leather-like costumes, partial armor plating, primarily white with red accents, "Pilot" goggles, "Spitfire" bomber style leather pilot helmets.

(Image Below is by Skottie Young)
"Human Torch" is © Marvel Comics group ® All rights reserved

(Image Below is of stutue Sculpted by Thomas Kuntz/ Bowen Designs)
"Human Torch" is © Marvel Comics group ® All rights reserved

Friday, April 01, 2005

"The Messenger"

This is John "The Bike Messenger." He's a computer/graphic art/ Traditional art guy that I used to shoot the breeze with at my beloved Empryean Cafe, which is now closed. John likes some of the fantasy and sci-fi stuff out there, loved the idea of being turned into a 3D character, so he'll probably get a kick out being the leading general of my cloud army.

The Bouncing Stilt Walker Concept

The majority of the visual "Weight" in my piece is coming from four armies converging to one spot. Since I will have cutaway shots getting closer into the armies I can really open things up a bit and make the armies and their movement/design more dynamic. I decided to make all four of the armies very different. The bouncing stilt idea came from seeing performers on bouncing stilts at the grand opening of the World Class Kimmel Music and Theatre center in Philadelphia. The dynamic bouncing movement that these stilts lend themselves to idea of "Acrobatic Super Soldier" very well and will add believability to the kind of movement I want. These things are real and there are many types and variations. Right now, my designs will more closely follow the Poweriser design. Below are images that hopefully will describe what I mean in a more clear way.


Bionic Boots


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Nuts and Bolts

At this stage of my project there are really two areas, being evaluated against the reference artists' work that I am focussing on to establish the tone of the film:

-Poses and gestures

There are certain gestures or posture that
uniquely identify characters, particularly modern
myth characters, like Superman or Spiderman,
even if they are only seen in silhouette. This
includes body poses, face poses and original character design.
It's my intention to depict, clearly and visually, that this is a story about Heroes and Villains.

-Properties(all props.), texture, Color Palette

Ideally I will have figured out, fairly soon, a set of rules or a theme
for these interconnected elements. Right now, I am thinking to
primarily work in shades of a muted slate blue, and muted red,
and shades of grey. Having green trees and forrestry "Pop-out"
from that should be visually interesting. Also, possibly tinting with
a virtual neutral density, or slate blue filter at the end, may help blend everything.

(Image Below is by Leinil Yu)
"Superman Birthright" is © DC Comics group ® All rights reserved

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Blackmale photos of a Troll.

Flikr's a pain in the A$$. I like the idea of being able to have a seperate image posting service from my Blog, but Flikr makes it difficult to find just the html code that points to where the picure is. Instead, it's much easier to find their "Blog this" button which creates a seperate Blog entry for every single stinkin photo and , but of course they add a nice little hotlink to that takes people to the Flikr website so they can peddle their services. I personally think this process is retarded...if you didn't pick that up already and am still trying to figure out how I got the code for the first images I posted.

Anyway the pictures below are of Lauryn Smith, a classmate of mine at NYU: CADA. The images are being used as reference to build another character fo my thesis project. I joked to Lauryn and said that I was going to make her a troll, she insisted that she would better fit the roll of a "Sexy Elf Chick" (Index Fingers pointed up and around her ear area "Blinking", I was appalled by her vanity and reiterated that she would be a troll. After some consideration I won't make Lauryn a troll, I do however think I can model a character from the photos of her that will make a pretty cool field general for my bouncing stilt-walker army.