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The Mind of Marc Ecko

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#1 the_Monkey



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Posted 06 June 2007 - 02:30 AM

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The Mind of Marc Ecko Final

This was a piece I directed with Dorian Orange a couple months ago. I think it's worth sharing with the community for a variety of reasons:

1. It was our first deep integration between Maya and C4D
2. It was my first time using SteadyCamPro.
3. I have a lot of assets that I can share.
4. People on mograph.net have expressed interest in project workflow

The Crew

Our crew consisted of 4 people: an Illustrator, an AE, Maya, and C4D artist. I think that's relevant because it forced us to divide the work up in a specific way. One of the obstacles that is ever present when working with a team is, "How do we make this piece look like it's all coming from the same hand?"

The 3D Split
Consistency has been a problem in the past with our 3D because the 3D section always looked like "the 3D section". Over the last year or so we got better at erasing those kinds of boundaries, but the new obstacle was getting the Maya and C4D Renders to look like "one hand". Instead of doing some scenes in Maya and some in C4D we decided all the watches would be modeled/rendered in Maya and the scenes and cameras would be built and animated in C4D. If all went well, we could export the camera data from C4D->Maya via FBX and comp the two passes in AE.

In the past we had problems getting animated FOV between C4D & Maya cameras. We'd also get slippage from time to time over an animation with complex curves. We had just upgraded to Maya v8.5 and C4D v10 and when we tried some FBX tests everything worked great. We did have a few problems with track exports wrapping their math (-360...0...360), but I believe they were all related to bugs with the first release of C4D v10. One other small thing that I remember was that we had to reverse the step direction of the keys in Maya, but our biggest lesson learned was that FBX does NOT translate animated Null Objects. That's bad for me because I nest the hell out of my objects in C4D and animate them accordingly. The work-around is to use an empty polygon object instead of a null object.

Wow. In a previous thread on mograph I'd mentioned being a terrible camera snob. I would rig a complex nest of cameras with targets and Xpresso tags with great pride. I had seen SCP for a long time on the market and never gave it a look because, frankly, I thought it was for amateurs who didn't know how to control their cameras (told you I was a snob ;) ). I bow my head in shame to have learned that it's almost completely the opposite... SCP is an incredibly advanced tool for expert camera animation. I barely even used a third of it's features and was blown away. I started building the draft for Ecko with standard cameras... and while it was only a draft... you can get a good sense of how much better/smoother/tighter the cameras got with SCP. SteadyGlide, IMHO, is worth the cost of the program.

Mind of Marc Ecko Draft (pre-SteadyCamPro)

• During the transition between the Bookcase and the Briefcase I discovered a phenomenon that *must* have a name. The first time I animated the transition I scaled the x/y/z axis uniformly... and it was booooring. In order to make the transition pop I decided to scale the x, then the y, then the z... much better results.

XYZ Briefcase

• Many people mention the cityscape->gears scene as their favorite. Early I figured out how to make the buildings/gears "tick", but it was (again) too distracting... so I switched to a smooth rotation. The thing that's hard to appreciate in that scene is the fact that the curvature of the landscape and random distribution of the buildings is controlled with a single slider (MoGraph+Xpresso). If people are interested I can provide a scene file so you can see the setup.

Ticking Buildings
Buildings Movie

• 500% metal specular on the Ecko chair patterns.

The Chair

• Math-tastic proportions: Cut your music to 90 bpm -> edit your tiles to punch in 20 frame increments (@30bpm)... saves a lot of headache down the road.

What Didn't Work
• There was this idea we had early on that "it might be cool" if, when we focused in on each watch, the hands would switch from "real time" to "hip-hop time" and move with the beat. You can see one early example in the draft. The problem was twofold: 1) it was distracting 2) it tampered too much with the product (they started to look broken).

• We were thinking about taking the top watch in the hourglass and disintegrating it into sand particles that would fall into the bottom half and form the second watch. A wowie-zowie moment for sure, but we cut it because we didn't have enough scene time to establish the image of the two products before and after the particle transitions. It was just too fast and featured the fx more than the product. At the time of the decision we had already pushed the 1:30 target up to 1:40 and we weren't interested in pushing it again. We promised the client we would find the right time/place to do this in the future and they were cool.

• Mental Ray produced some pretty sweet results when the watches were rendered on their own, but it was much harder to find their sweet spot when you put them behind glass. We ended up rendering most of the glass in C4D in a flatter and more illustrative manner.

Glass Comps

Who Cares?
I'm not entirely sure. Hopefully someone will find such nerdery useful. I'm happy to respond to questions/comments. The checks for this job have already been written, cashed, and spent, so anyone wishing to offer suggestions or critisism should keep that in mind. ;)


Edited by the_Monkey, 06 June 2007 - 02:44 AM.

#2 Guest_dumbo_*

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 03:11 AM

how long did you work on that project for? total hours spent?

#3 misanthrope.


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Posted 06 June 2007 - 03:13 AM

i care. very cool writeup. thanks.

#4 Gary Gnarly

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 03:35 AM

Incredible insight to the process. Thanks for sharing!

"hard to appreciate in that scene is the fact that the curvature of the landscape and random distribution of the buildings is controlled with a single slider (MoGraph+Xpresso). "

Thats cool.

Edited by Gary Gnarly, 06 June 2007 - 03:49 AM.

#5 fishface


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Posted 06 June 2007 - 04:02 AM

thanks for posting. I'm interested to hear why it was decided to use two different packages to render. Did you have a hard time getting the watches to look right out of C4D? or was the other guy just more capable using Maya? Why not texture and render all out of one package?

I'm also interested to hear a little more about the FBX between the two. Interesting stuff.

Edited by fishface, 06 June 2007 - 07:19 AM.

#6 pixel_pimp


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Posted 06 June 2007 - 07:07 AM

WOW! Really kind of you to take the time to write all that up! Thank you! Amazing Job! I know the hell it is to deal with Maya files and Maya Users; having to "translate Maya to C4D". There really needs to be a better way to work in any application and export it between any applications that has 3D space.

Great Work!


#7 the_Monkey



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Posted 06 June 2007 - 09:25 AM

Thanks everybody... glad to see it received well.

dumbo: Time was something I meant to mention. This job was bundled with a few other jobs for the same client which all had to be completed over a few months. They mentioned wanting this particular piece to stand out so we had the luxury of shifting extra amount of attention towards this one. The 4 of us worked on it for different lengths of times ranging from 3-6 weeks. We gave ourselves an *absurd* amount of time to develop the creative... 7-8 days I think... research, sketches, storyboards, but in the end I think you really see every second we spent on it. We didn't get more than a hand full of assets so just about everything needed to be built. This was also for one of those dream clients that didn't want it fast... they wanted it to look damn good. They understood the need to budget time and money for quality work... and that is truly rare. After we hit the creative the project barely changed.

fishface: The reason for using the different packages has nothing to do with their qualities or capabilities. Drizzle knows Maya (he lurks around here), I know C4D and I think we've each been using our respective programs for 5+ years. That's a hard habit to break and neither of us will be switching any time soon... but, we work well together and "people compatibility" goes a long way.

So that's it... you only got so much time and so many resources. Even if I got the models from Maya, I would still have to take the time to texture them and light them. Each one of those watches contains more geometry than the scene it's in. For an AO pass that can be crushing. This way I could push forward, building each scene knowing that Drizzle would have a sexy watch ready for me. I had some sacrifices to make too... I wanted to do all the tile patterns with mograph+effectors, but I was the only one who knew C4D... so, because of time... most all the wallpapers were built in AE and then animated in C4D with UV offsets. Dare I quote Rumsfeld? "You go to war with the army you have." If everyone knew everything it would be much easier, but that's just not realistic...

(unless you're Blur. Those bastards!)


#8 Yuki



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Posted 06 June 2007 - 10:08 AM

Thank you for the "breakdown" really nice work!

I'm interested in the setup scene file you were talking about. ^_^

#9 carbaldi


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Posted 06 June 2007 - 01:38 PM

This is excellent! Very very nice gesture!
Thanx a million, Monkey.



#10 shiftypixel


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Posted 06 June 2007 - 02:17 PM

What a great post. There's such a wealth of information here. It should be nominated for Post of the Year. There is an award for that, right?
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#11 TyMotion


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Posted 06 June 2007 - 05:07 PM

Thanks a lot for the post. One of the best I've seen in a long time. I know we all appreciate it here. Keep this kinda stuff coming!

#12 foughtthelaw


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Posted 06 June 2007 - 06:13 PM

this is probably one of the most useful posts I've seen on this site in a while. Thanks for taking the time to write all this up.

#13 silatix


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Posted 07 June 2007 - 03:33 AM

great breakdown. ditto on the insightful post..
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#14 the_Monkey



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Posted 07 June 2007 - 01:31 PM

Here's the CityGears scenefile (v10).

It fairly simple once you see it. The single cog was built first and then scattered around. I could have used instances or a second cloner, but at the time I had no idea what it was going to become so I traded optimization for versatility. That came in handy down the road because I could move individual houses left or right to avoid the camera. I had also intended to go back and res-up the buildings a little more, but the move is so fast that it fell to the bottom of my change list.

If you've never used or animated Sky before this file also contains a simple "accelerated setting sun" trick that I've been using all too often.

Sadly, the camera in this scene follows a straight line so there isn't much SCP info to share although the fluidity of the turnaround was controlled quite precisely with it's targeting tools. I baked the main SteadyGlide camera for those who don't have SCP so you can still see what's going on. I also turned AO off in these files to accelerate the test renders.

Enjoy. :)


#15 imcalledandy


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Posted 07 June 2007 - 02:09 PM

this is why i love this forum - monkey you're always so generous with your knowledge and it's really appreciated. great spot and i think whether i'll purchase SCP or not has been confirmed. too right i will!

congratulations on a great spot, and thanks for the informative post.

#16 Pixeldisfunction



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Posted 07 June 2007 - 03:29 PM

Thanks a lot for sharing, nice piece of work.
My life is a journey..........

#17 brandj


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Posted 07 June 2007 - 03:40 PM

This is a great post and a great spot, Monkey. Awesome to have all your details of the production. Nice work.
"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." - Antoine de Saint Exupéry

#18 nhowe


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Posted 07 June 2007 - 04:25 PM

Really nice work!!
Thank you for sharing so much info along with the movie!


#19 Bohemten



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Posted 07 June 2007 - 06:35 PM

Monkey you are the salt of the earth! :)

#20 C.Smith


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Posted 07 June 2007 - 07:35 PM

You're the shit Monkey. Extremely appreciated. I can't wait to get home and have time to study err'thing. Huge fan.
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