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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."