Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A little update.

I'm still tinkering with HTML and CSS for the Fentil website, so I still have nothing to show.
However, I do have some drawings and videos to show:

Another Life: Bright-eye concept stages

The stages of the side-on concept art for the Bright-Eye in the Fentil documentary. I'll be doing a similar one for the front so I can use it for Maya reference. I'm not sure of the best way to model this.
I could go about it in the same way as the raptor I did - start with a profile and flesh it out as you go. I learned it from here:

I might try a few different techniques, but one of the major things I want to tinker with is using normal maps to take care of the little details, freeing up polygons and making the model more economical etc.


Here are some doodles on brown paper with biro and white pen. The benefit of using darker paper is that you can add the highlights, which helps define the shapes. I'll have to give it another go with a white pencil to get smoother highlights.

Photonimal natural history

This began as a simple doodle in a sketchbook to help me get my head around the taxonomic tree of these organisms. Add a red filter and some text and BOOM! textbook page.

I ♥ DV

A quick photoshop doodle professing my love for the podcast, Distorted View (caution - explicit)
That heart is...it's a...well, it's this.
it's a running gag on DV.
The podcast is funny though, definitely worth checking out if you like weird stuff.

Now you can watch things to..er...cleanse the palette:

Saga of Biorn

I like how even the snowflakes are made of stylised knots.

The cel shading makes me think of Wind Waker (Which I have been playing lately - it's one of the few older games that have aged well) and I'm a big fan of this look.
It also made me think of an episode of Samurai Jack (possibly one of the best cartoons ever) where a viking warrior is cursed into a magma warrior, unable to be defeated in battle and so, unable to ever be free.

It's actually quite sad.

Legend of Grimrock

I've been thinking about game design lately and I found this dungeon crawler, which looks nice but has such devilishly simple controls that it would be an easy game to make mechanics for.


I'm not normally a fan of tweened stuff in flash, because in a lot of cartoons it's over-used and just looks awful. I'm not sure why Gundarr seems to get away with it, though.
I think maybe that they use a lot of sprites for each tween, so it doesn't look like a bunch of cut-out bits being pushed about.

Shows like Adventure Time,Flapjack and Regular Show are the few mainstream cartoons that are almost completely frame by frame, and they just stand out.
They also seem to swear a lot more than cartoons that were on when I was younger:

It's weird hearing someone on a kids show saying "pissed off".

Minecraft 1.8

So here's an announcement/demo from PAX of the upcoming update for Minecraft.
I'm pretty excited.

Because it's taking so long, here's the Terrain.png from a Mars texture pack I've been working on:

It's mostly complete with lots of carbon fibre. The only things left are Nether tiles, cobwebs and wheat.
It's taking just. So. LONG.
However...pixels are fun so I'm going to carry on with it - Once I've done this one I'll do a post-apocalyptic one, featuring ash instead of snow.

Back to tinkering with code...

Thursday, 25 August 2011

For yer eyeballs.

I'm sick and have been too busy drinking water/sleeping/feeling sorry for myself to do much work lately.

Instead, here's some cool animations I've found and some brief analysis.


I love the animation of this, and being a Minecraft player, I 'get' the 'message' behind this inspiring piece.
Creepers are dicks.

Fuck you.

The song is also surprisingly well done, despite being a parody.

One issue that this video brings up is re-mapping in animation. (At about 3:00)
Re-mapping is when you distort time for whatever reason, often to show details or complex movements, made very popular by the movie 300. Also seen here.
The advantage of re-mapping in real-life footage is that everything in-shot has no choice but to comply with the time distortion and the whole effect looks very nice.

The problem with re-mapping in animation, however, is that a lot of those details need to be put into the background to show that time has slowed down, otherwise it just looks like the characters are moving really slow/fast. Like in the minecraft animation, it's not 100% clear that time is being manipulated.
Minecraft doesn't have swaying grass or dust or anything else that would be useful for showing time's slowing, so I suppose they didn't really have much to work with.
Another way to show the effect could be with perhaps a filter over the footage, such as a tint or messing with contrast.
Still, it's a really good video. There's a fairly long explanation/making of here.

"I'm a monster"

Needless to say, the frame-by-frame animation is beautiful. It's also cleverly coloured and the character designs are simple and effective.

The characters have so much personality and detail, and in the mere ~3 minutes we spend with them, we already have a decent understanding of their interactions.
The dog, for example, has eaten a squeaky toy. From this we can gather that it's probably a lazy/bumbling/useless dog.

"Fruit Hat"

It's an old one, but I still find this little movie hilarious. The art at the beginning with the subway trains and the jiggling lightbulbs is also pretty nice.


If you can't be bothered to watch all of the custom map, then skip to "6:50" to get to the good bit.
They even got Valve to provide GLaDOS' voice for it.
Impressive, no?

It's quite a sweet gesture, and I'm sure the girl would've been a little taken back to hear GLaDOS address her by name.

"Creating Fun Through Fear"

Finally, here's a talk on making games scary. And it's done by a guy who works on, YOU GUESSED IT!

It's a really interesting/educational presentation and is definitely worth a look if you're interested in horror.

Now for some drawings I done did done do.

"Bone Lady"

This drawing is all biro and took about 3 hours (is that good?) and is inspired by bones and skulls etc. The woman initially came first, but then I framed her in shattered bone splinters (inspired by this) and it grew out from there. I might try something similar again some time, as I don't think I quite captured the 'bone-ness' quite right.

"FINAL Fentil Map"

Fentil has a pretty much finalised global map. (black is land, white is ocean).
Initially when I started hunkering down for this documentary, I was a little uneasy about finalising so many details about the planet/life etc, as Fentil seems so incomplete. However, the need for a final design seems to actually be helping, and is forcing me to think about the designs and make them workable. Prior to this, I changed a lot of things fairly often and the whole project felt floaty and intangible.
This may be what I need to push the whole project forward.

my joints/head/entire body are all starting to ache so I'm going back to bed and feel sorry for myself some more.

Enjoy the videos and stuff, I should be updating the progress of Fentil's documentary soon.
Once I get the website finished. (I'm tinkering with HTML and CSS and I can't tell if it's going well or not).


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

I've been working hard on Fentil lately, as it's going to be the subject of my potential 3rd year movie, which is a sort of wildlife documentary focusing on the lives of Fentil creatures.
I'm not the first to do this. In fact, one of the major inspirations for this idea was the successful 94 minute documentary 'Alien Planet', which was released in 2005 and was based on Wayne Barlowe's book Expedition.

A climbing daggerwrist, a popular denizen of Darwin IV. Like most creatures on Darwin IV they were originally eyeless. In Alien Planet, however, they were given eyes.

Lucky you, I managed to find the entire thing on YouTube.
The chase at about 01:01:05 is part of the inspiration for the chase scene in the Fentil documentary (I'll explain below). I just love the energy and the initial flight of the gyrosprinter.

National Geographic released a similar feature called 'Aurelia and Blue Moon' Which focuses on two fictional planets.

The only video I could find was this one of Aurelia to some cheesy music.

While I don't like the creature designs on Aurelia and Blue Moon, that is the minimum CG quality is what I'm aiming for, but hopefully I can exceed that of Alien Planet.
Ultimately it all depends on who I get to work for me.

The actual 'story' of the documentary follows the universal struggle of predator and prey, divided into four main 'beats'.

It will begin with perhaps a zoom-in of the planet, with maybe a short spoken introduction as the camera zooms in.

The camera settles in on a tailfeeder grazing. The hunter begins to creep up on its quarry.

We then follow the chase as the hunter runs down the fearful tailfeeder. With the prey pinned on the ground, the predator begins feeding as the tailfeeder dies.

It begins to rain, and the hunter finishes eating and runs back to its calf, who is hiding under a 'tree'. When it arrives, the parent begins feeding the baby regurgitated meat. I see this a lot in nature documentaries - and I think it's important to show that while predators are indeed ruthless killing machines, they also have babies to feed.

And here it is all as one.

Also I'm working on a new blog/website to cover the development of Fentil and this documentary, which will be up in the near future.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Pixels and Politics

So that sketch I put up the other day has been all lined out:

I added a few details and tweaked a few things, namely the lightbulb thing on top and the polyp-like growths on the 'arms'. I'm probably going to make bubbles or something come out of those. Colouring is already underway, and I'm pretty happy with how their coming out.

While doing this colouring, I've also been re-living my youth and doing some pixel artwork. Don't worry, though, there is a purpose.

It's actually been quite fun to do, but I'm slowly coming to realise just how much there is to do.

These are the blocks I've edited so far, including the ground/flowers. Some stuff such as the wood and sand are colour-tinted stand-ins from other packs, such as the Painterly Pack which is one of my favourites. The whole thing is supposed to be Mars themed, but I'm not sure how to get that across.
At the moment I have red/brown soil and orange foliage, which just looks like autumn. I'll have to experiment with perhaps getting rid of the grass all together, or perhaps only making it cover a sparse amount of the tile. As for the trees, I may make the leaves more scraggly and twiggy, and perhaps just make them completely invisible to make the place more barren and alien.
I'll also be changing the textures for the Mobs and making them more Mars-contextual. I'm still unsure as to what to make the skeletons and zombies. I don't want them to be people, nor do I want them to be humanoid aliens.
I'll figure it out, I'm sure.

On a similar topic, my quest for isometric paper - a paper type which no-one seems to know exists - has been abandoned. I can't find a shop that sells it and the only option I've found online is a print-out:

This would be so much more useful if I had a printer

Why am I so obsessed with finding isometric paper?
because it looks great for technical drawings:




Indeed, that's what isometric was made for. I plan to use it for designs of machines/tools for all that space stuff I'm designing.

Now, I'm not one for being contemporary and keeping up to date, but this one was hard to ignore miss. Riots. I know that this has been covered by every blogger and their dog (and whatever other pets they have), and I know that simply typing about it won't change it, but it's an absolutely disgraceful display of behavior.
This sort of attitude is just... saddening. It's a totally unjustifiable act. It's like those student protest riots all over again; an initially acceptable act of free speech quickly snowballs into full-on anarchy.

I felt like contributing. I'm not one for subtlety.


With that out of the way, here's some interesting stuff for you to watch:

More goodness from Cyriak.

-Obvious drug metaphor-. I also like the way Death's scythe blade unfurls as he sits down.

Another brilliant animated short from our rivals fellow animators in Gobelins. They are too good. And I still can't pronounce that title.

A short based on Silent Hill concepts. It is adequately mind-fucking.

Apparently this was at Bradford Animation Festival. I wouldn't know, what with me not going and all. I love this and how it's constantly shifting. Morphing animation is some of my favourite.

Sleepy time now.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Drawing report

Now for the 'second half' of this post. The art side.

So when I went to Italy, I took with me a little drawing pad, and here are the results from that and other post-holiday drawings. Be warned, the pencil ones are a little smudgy, as I didn't bring and fixative with me. How foolish. And legally impossible.

The airport
I drew these while we were waiting for our gate to be announced. I ate a ham and cheese baguette, it was pretty delicious. (I'll get around to rotating/separating that one with people eventually)

The cabin.
I like the regular repeating patterns of the chairs and lockers as you follow down the cabin. I pretty much used the whole flight as research for designing commercial Earth-to-Orbit vehicles...

...Which brings me to EVA suits.

I'll do a whole separate post about these. This thing on his back is a type of MMU (manned maneuvering unit).

Meet Plank-Head

Some possible tattoo ideas.

A lion statue (with cubs) on the side of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. We were waiting in line to get in for about half an hour, so I had plenty of time to draw it. I kept getting bothered by women trying to sell shawls to me. This makes some sense in that you have to be covered up to go into a church. It stops making sense when you learn that I was wearing trainers, jeans and a hoodie - I could not be any more covered up.

Prior to Italy, I spent a few days at my grandparents' house up in Durham. I had to babysit for an hour or so, so I entertained the two children (8 and 10 y/o) with my lovely '3 word game'. It's exactly as complicated as it sounds. 3 people play, each says a word. Hopefully, the 3 unrelated words will make an interesting combination, which the players must then visualise and draw. It went surprisingly well, and we managed 3 pages (this is just one). I'm in the process of combining them all onto one page and colouring them. The only particularly annoying part of playing the game was continually telling the children that they can't both say 'bum' in the same round. Oh children.
How I hate them.

I found this drill lying around the house, going for a more technical look, while still maintaining the observational construction lines. It's also a little wonky - I didn't use anything for guiding straight lines.
Back in A-levels we were given really rubbish coloured markers, which put me off them for a while. When I bought these markers, one of the main uses I planned to give them was for technical drawings such as these.
One of the main reasons why I like drawing machines, tools and industrial scenes is because I've been around them all my life, as my parents were always doing some DIY or repairing something. They still do. I think this is one of the factors as to why I like Dead Space so much, as most of the weapons are industrials tools, with designs heavily based on actual industrial tools, which I think makes them way more interesting than typical sci-fi weapons.

"We looked at a lot of real tools like impact drivers, circular saws, and that sort of thing. They all have bold, simple silhouettes and strong colors, as opposed to the muted colors and shapes of guns. So we just carried those cues over to our weapons as much as possible."
From the Official Dead Space 2 Guide

I always seem to find a way to get Dead Space into a post, but so many aspects of the game tick so many boxes for me, something about it will be relevant to something. Sorry.

I'm not sorry

Now for some other stuff, most of which is on paper. *Gosh*
Most of these have better, lengthier descriptions on DA:

Various doodles with markers.

(It doesn't have a proper title, so it doesn't get the bold treatment).

Diamond on a Landmine

A little practice at drawing the ladies (Sng. Lady). You may notice the absence of any kind of detail in the feet. I need practice with feet, and this was in biro, so I wasn't willing to completely ruin a picture with crappy feet. Also, I was listening to this song.


Cropping is for lazy people losers. Enjoy the hatching. Also, note the post-apocalyptic background. That cow is hardcore.


Nightwalker is the name given to any Fentil 'animals' that remain active during the eclipse of its parent planet, Olympus. For this piece I wanted to try a more stylised look, and went for a sort of cut-out effect for the bone trees in the background. The cool monochrome palette helps the feeling of darkness, which is broken by the red light-emitting spots on the head of a opportunist predator as it (they have no gender) approaches a small stream. The Bonetree forest has hard edges, as during the eclipse, they retract their leaves, showing only their white, spiraled, bony, shells.

The original sketch (done in Italy), plus a possible future piece of a parent/baby Dplacate. As you can see, I initially planned to use a 'Platehead' instead of the hexapod I eventually used.


This one will probably go over most people's heads. It's an insanely niche inside joke. Obviously the body is that of Pyramid Head from Silent Hill fame, whereas the head belongs to an alien called the Prismalope which is found in Wayne Barlowe's book, Expedition. The similarity of head shapes led to this.
Also, the head in his hand is that of an Arrowtongue, another inhabitant of Darwin IV and predator to Prismalopes. This is another sort of in-joke but on a more personal level, as about a year ago I started modeling and rigging an Arrowtongue (with plans to also do the same for a Prismalope) and animate a predator/prey chase scene with them, but I kept putting it off and pushing it aside for other projects and it has effectively died.


A necromorph zombie thinger idea I scribbled out. It's in the same fiction as the maskjaw. This monster gets its name from the rattling 'song' given off by the vibrating bony rods projecting from the ribs. A low resonant noise can be heard as the sinuous chords in the abdomen are plucked by the remains of fingers. The multiple holes in the torso also give off deep, gurgling sighs. Snaking through its body is a ropey, sinuous tentacle.
The creature shuffles slowly through the dark corridors. It's best to avoid it, as the tentacle can snatch out. Cutting off the 'rattles' will slow it down and disorient it, but it can't be stopped so easily...




I wasn't sure what to name this one, but it's an old man playing a little song for a little girl. I'm happy with how the markers came out in this one.

Fast Food

Practice with a new TerraCotta pencil. Get me, it's almost like I'm a real artist.

Smile for the Camera

Practice with a charcoal pencil from the same new set. He has a cuddly Tardigrade. I like shading wrinkles, and big open spaces are harder to shade without making them too dark. Either that or I'm just rubbish. I did read somewhere that big spaces need softer shadows, whereas smaller spaces need higher-contrast shadows, and that's what I work with.
These two drawings taught me not to try and put in too many tiny details, and to focus more on the bigger picture.

Fog Walkers

The middle picture is of a Pouchback and its calf searching for shrubs to feed on. They live near the polar circles, where their downy fur keeps them warm. In the background is a forest of bonetrees. Pouchbacks are a 'primitive' vertebrate group, retaining antenna and lacking the olfactory 'tongue' which 'modern' vertebrates use for picking up scents.
The picture on the left is a basking Photonimal; An ancient group of red-skinned organisms that include the 'trees' in the ocean and the tiny airborne creatures forming the layer around the planet which helps block out harmful radiation. This particular individual is from an iguana-sized, amphibious species.
On the right is a resting Hopper, a mobile plant (Blas). Their dark blue skin acts like a leaf and absorbs sunlight for photosynthesis, but they are also capable of consuming food to supplement photosynthesis. Their glassy, unblinking eyes are always on the look-out for predators.


This one is from last night as a sort of concept, and it was fun to do something rough and sketchy. I plan on drawing up a nice digital version of this, which I think is inspired by the colouring of Anthony Clarke (AKA Nedroid)

Although his hilarious comics are only in shades of blue, his other colouring is beautiful.

He also colours for the comic Dr McNinja.
The colours are intense, but not painfully bright. I want to discover this secret.

For my 'imagination' drawing, I was thinking blue/purple for the fleshy legs, and yellowy-green for the background. More colour theory. Yeah!


AAAAAAND now for Fentil business.
I spent a good portion of my drawing time in Italy on the re (re re) design of Dorsoplacates, which I covered ever so briefly two posts ago.

I really like this new design, and I'm inexplicably proud to have gotten rid of a tail, which is something that baffles me is always in alien designs.
Why? (This is going to be science-heavy, you were warned.)

I understand where tails come in handy, on terrestrial Earth animals they are useful for balance in their most basic use, such as in cheetas and monkeys (Also, most raptors had fused tail-bones, so their tail was just a rod that bends at the base), but some animals store fat in their tails, some use them to swat away flies, some have flukes for swimming, some are prehensile etc etc. But , tails are just an extension of the vertebral column, which in our ancestral fish was used for swimming, so unless your aliens' aquatic ancestors swim in a fish-like manner with a body extension that begins behind the rear set of legs, it makes no sense to have a tail. In fact, the main difference between US and THEM is that our butt is before the end of our body segments. Not necessarily the exoskeleton or compound eyes. Our butts. This is what gives us the 'post-anal tail' seen in ancestors as far back as lancelets:

Say hi to grand-daddy

Crustaceans such as lobsters and shrimp (and crabs) have it differently, and have a 'tail' composed of rear body segments. These segments have reduced/altered limbs. This is due to the differentiation of segments thanks to mr Hox gene.

Thanks, Nature.com
The Hox genes (as I understand it) control how segments and other repeating units (such as limbs) differentiate and form. Now, pretty much any animal 'up' from a worm is also a segmented creature (think spinal column) and as such,during development the segments are told what to do by these genes (In humans, perhaps 'rib', in an insect, perhaps 'mandible'). Sometimes during meiosis, or chromosome crossover, Hox genes (like all genes) can end up duplicated or lost, and this can result in gained or lost segments in a single generation. I imagine this same process is how lengthy legless snakes, slow worms and caecilians end up so long and wormy. Despite the obvious implications, hox genes are a lovely piece of evidence for evolution and common ancestry, as the hox gene for 'eye' in a fruit fly will produce a perfectly healthy, working mouse eye when transplanted into a mouse (while the mouse is still an embryo). This shows that even organisms as distantly related as flies and rodents are all using the same genetic operating system, so to speak.

( Now back to Fentil )
I imagine that life on other planets will have a similar segmentation system (or perhaps a branching/pod-based system in possible fractal-like organisms) and I've chosen this with Fentil life.
In Dorsoplacates, there are only 3 'segments' remaining after the rear pair of legs, most of which are fused into a sort of cradle. A tail is impossible. Instead, some of the more agile DPlacates use their rear legs in the same manner as a tail. These are known as Whip Runners.

Again, I understand that sometimes a tail just looks nice, I'm just saying that there doesn't necessarily need to be one, or even one at the very back of the body.
The final sorting out of their design will make sorting out my proposed 3rd year film a lot easier now that I know what the cast looks like.

On the topic of settling designs, While I was at home I figured out how to keep ElectroHeads in the Fentil fiction...It 'turns out' that they are distant relatives of inflatogastrates (balloon worms)

The same 3 siphons which inflatogastrates use for locomotion have remained lungs in Electroheads, and are on a lobster-like tail (remember earlier about Hox genes?) which has folded back over itself to protect the delicate sacs. I've also had to concede to physics (you win this time) and give them basic eyes and echo-location, as electro-detection doesn't even work over long distances in water so in air it's going to be near-useless, despite Fentil's denser, wetter atmosphere. I've wriggled around this and made it so they emit metallic 'chaff' from the glowing pads on their feet. This helps extend their electrical range and aids in marking territory. Woo, loophole.

I think that's all. Well done for making it this far. I may have to do posts more often in order to make them a decently short length.

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