Friday, August 5, 2011

What They Say teaser

I created a teaser for the short film What They Say. Read about the film here. It's a creepy story about depression and what happens when we let our inner demons take control. I'm in charge of all post-production, including editing and VFX. Check out the teaser here:

Excited! Damn right, now hold onto that feeling and go here and donate:

All joking aside, we were fortunate enough to raise a good amount of money for production but now, in post-production, it is imperative that we raise more to pay for a quality sound mix, good visuals, etc. All of this takes time, and even a small payment will make it SO much easier to put in the dozens of hours to take the film above the competition.

Here's a little Behind-the-Scenes sample. It will give you a good idea of the amount of work that goes into even a short 30-second teaser.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Bearded Dragon model finished

... finally.

Been too busy working on What They Say. But now that we're in production, most of the work is being done on weekends, so I have a bit more time.

So here he is! The finished beardie.

The base texture painting was done in Mudbox, then the textures were tweaked in Photoshop. I used high-resolution images of my bearded dragon (what else?), shot with my Canon 60D camera.

I originally planned on setting up several diffuse lights to create a small "lighting stage" to shoot my dragon with as few shadows as possible (even, diffuse lighting is essential for proper textures) but on the day of, I stepped outside and realized we had a perfectly overcast day: the kind of day where the light seems to come from all directions and there is absolutely NO hard shadows. So when you see an opportunity like that, it's really best to go for it. I pulled a sheet of glass out of a picture frame, put my lizard on top (so as to get no shadows under the lizard at all), had my buddy hold it while I photographed the hell out of that sucker. The images were great, and everyone was happy... except for the dragon, which ended up getting a bit antsy because it was pretty cold outside that day. Sorry buddy! At least you've been immortalized in 3D.

I'm particularly proud that I could capture the "chubby" nature of his belly and legs. That's my Fish! (named for Wentworth Miller in Prison Break, long story)

And off he goes! To Turbosquid. You can check him out right here:

I'm happy to see some of my earlier uploads from last month have indeed been purchased, so I can see there's at least a bit of a market for high-quality stuff that I produce. As bearded dragons are fairly common lizard pets, I'm hoping he'll be pretty popular.

What's next? Well, I could create several color variations for him, as more colorful beardies are more valued. And of course I could rig him, which would increase his value greatly. I could also create a custom displacement map which would really help the scales pop; I would say this is the greatest visual deficiency right now. But for now, I will let him lie fallow. Maybe start on a sugar glider model :) So cute.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bearded Dragon BABIES!!

Well, not quite yet. But while I was working on a 3D model of her boyfriend, my female decided it was time and dropped a clutch about two dozen strong. Mom's healthy though evidently uncomfortable, while the eggs have been transferred (from an egg-laying bin full of peat moss) into a ghetto incubator made up of a 75 watt lightbulb heating up a vermiculite-filled leftover Chinese food container. Hey, at least I stabilized the temperature at 83 degrees.Allow me to take this occasion to post some pictures of a dragon clutch from a few years ago. I think you'll agree that kittens and puppies have NOTHING on how cute hatchling bearded dragons are.

Okay with that out of the way, let's get to work, as this is a WIP blog after all. I did some UV mapping on my beardie model. For the uninitiated, UV mapping means taking the geometry and flattening it out in the most economical way on a two dimensional image. To make it easier, I removed certain parts from the whole (in UV space), such as the legs, head, jaw, etc. After some doing, here is what I came up with. If you have nothing better to do, try to figure out which parts correspond to what part of the lizard! :DDDD

The spikes are not UVed, as I plan to throw a procedural texture on them. Now, this *would* work, but we want to make better use of the space. After some playing around with placement, this is a much better arrangment:

And this what the dragon looks like with the good ol' checker pattern. Besides looking awesome, this lets us see where the texture would be stretched or warped (by way of stretched or warped squares). As you can see, this guy's looking pretty good.

Next stop, Mudbox for texturing and normal map painting. God I hope my tablet still works.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Beardie Update

Happy Day! More bearded dragon WIP shots. I was considering doing touch-ups in Mudbox but I think the model is pretty much there with just subdivision poly modelling in 3ds max.

I had a bit of a tough time with the spikes, as I didn't want to have to position them all by hand, and max doesn't have a "paint effects" tool like Maya. I ended up using the Hair and Fur system, then converted to geometry, which worked out pretty well.

Next up is UV mapping, and taking some hi-resolution shots of a very annoyed and confused lizard.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bearded Dragon

There's a site called Turbosquid that's been around for a while. In fact, it has been around for so long that I remember high school friends coming over to my house and wondering "what the hell that weird icon on my desktop is."

(The icon, a shortcut to the Turbosquid desktop client application, featured a cartoon squid-- what else?--so without any other information, really- that's a pretty damn strange icon to have.)

The short story is, Turbosquid is a website that allows you to upload your 3D models and sell them to others who might need them, with Turbosquid taking a percentage off the top for themselves. So if you make a catfish, you can upload that catfish to Turbosquid, and anybody that needs a catfish model can download it. It's a great passive way to make additional income on project assets that would otherwise lie dormant on a hard drive somewhere, and it's a great place to find 3D models for current projects.

Well, as 3D graphics are becoming more and more popular, so is Turbosquid growing more and more robust each year. So I've decided to use one day per week to create assets or dust off models for this site. Last week I cleaned up some old models. This week I started a new one, and what's a better subject than something of which you have plenty of readily available reference materials? Enter my bearded dragons.

These are some isometric shots, edited with Photoshop, to aid in crating the basic shape in 3D.

And here's how he's coming along so far. YES, it is a boy. My second-generation dragin Fish is being immortalized in digital 3D.

And if you're curious, check out my current collection of Turbosquid merchandise here:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Music Video

Finished Anthony Bryant's music video for his single, What About Life. It has a very catchy beat and was extremely fun to work on. Anthony is a great manager, and it's great to see him get super-excited about a new idea or a new visual treatment, but he also knows when to pull the artist back a bit. For some in-depth analysis of the early behind-the-scenes, check out my earlier post from late December.

Here is the final video:

And here is a comparison video of a very early cut, with no color grading, no additional city backgrounds, and some early edit changes, too.

Click the "YouTube" button on the bottom bar of the player to launch the video in the original YouTube page, or go full screen HD for the best sound and picture!

Music video performed by Anthony Bryant
Directed and Edited by Radek Michalik
Produced by Mark Nadolski

Monday, February 28, 2011


Bit of a fun diversion project I'd like to share today. I've been recruited to create some graphics and icons for Starcraft player.
Now, normally I wouldn't bother to bat an eye at this project. Two reasons convinced me
1) I am a Starcraft player, and felt that I could make something cool based on my knowledge (not to be confused with SKILL) of this game, and
2) Said player is in the Master League of Starcraft, which is super-exclusive and encompasses just the top 2% of all players.
If you're not aware, Starcraft is extremely competitive, and the top players often have
thousands of lower-ranked players following their strategies and matches. So when a Master
League player comes calling, you don't say no.
Long story short, here are the graphics I created for him. The first is a kind of banner.

The second and third graphics are for forum posts and "pause" graphics on video streams:

The interesting thing here is the tools that I used to create this, namely, After Effects. That's right, zero Photoshop. And it was an extremely efficient way to work. The smoke elements were stock footage shot against black, the red lasers were particles emitting particle trails, and the "K" element opening up was in real AE 3D, which means I could potentially animate this logo to make a cool video intro.

Follow speKter's Starcraft exploits here:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

3D Caricaturization!

Let's begin by saying this is one of the most fun assignments I've worked on: create caricature 3D spaceman characters of everyone on the client's team. Could hardly be called working at all.

Starting out, I took some reference images. Here's one. We'll call him Tim.

The next step was to create some sketches and nail the right look. Too bad I can't draw caricatures to save my (or anyone else's) life. Luckily, I found an extremely talented artist, James Hungaski, who was also excited about the possibility of working with a 3D artist who would translate his artwork into 3D models and characters. We went through several iterations of caricatures until we arrived at one that Tim signed off on.
Here is James's website, give him a holla if you need artwork done...
And while I can't draw caricatures, I do have a small artistic bone in me, so while James tackled Tim's face, I sketched out the full body and suit.

Then, the relevant (front and side isometric) images were imported into 3ds max to allow modeling to begin.

I quickly realized that caricatures don't necessarily translate perfectly into 3D space, so I had to make lots of decisions about the forehead, chin, face shape, etc where to front and side drawings didn't quite match up. I think, in the end, I did justice to the concept art.

Tim requested some small tweaks to the face, as well as a render using an Ink and Paint shader for comparison. I felt that the cartoon look wasn't quite as successful, and I would have liked to keep the face as it was (slightly simpler, with larger, more expressive eyes). In the end, Tim agreed with my assessment and decided to drop the Toon shader, though he stuck to his guns regarding the updated face. Oh well, it's his face, after all...

The final render is at the top. It is rigged using 3ds max's CAT animation rig, which is super intuitive and very easy to set up quickly and use. In a project like this, where the budget doesn't really allow for creating individual bones and rigging the skeleton, that is invaluable. I'm very happy with the final product, and I look forward to watching James tackle some more people. In the face.

I wonder if there is a demand for more artwork like this? Possibly companies are just waiting to be sold on the idea of fun, 3D avatars of their employees.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Men" and "Munich"

The Men Who Would Be King chronicles the inception of Dreamworks in the early 1990s and its fall and reorganization just a year ago.

Munich is one of the last films Spielberg made under the umbrella of the old Dreamworks.

Having finished reading the former, I had a hankering desire to view the latter. (Trust me, it all makes sense.)
Men is essential reading for those who enjoy keeping up with the endless circus of Hollywood hubris and power plays, or put more simply: film buffs and anyone that enjoys ruining rose-colored glasses.
I could write essays about this book; about why Dreamcast failed to live up to expectations, what drove the three giants behind the company (filmmaker Steven Spielberg, animation pro Jeffrey Katzenberg, and multi-billionaire music mogul David Geffen).
I won't. I had some drinks and I'd like to sleep.
But I will say that I sympathize with Spielberg (yes, I had to put that image in here, shut up you know it's cute)
especially the chapter on Munich, when it was blasted in the press, and he was accused of everything from elitism to making a film that was essentially anti-Isreali (it wasn't). The movie follows a group of Isreali assassins on a mission to avenge the slayings at the 1972 Olymics in Munich. I won't go into a review here, though there's much to praise and a couple of things that bug me. I will say that the movie was beautiful to watch, from the rich retro sepia tones to the often heartbreaking performances. Technically, there are marvels in terms of camera work as well.
When I was young, I was afraid that watching the behind-the-scenes of movies on VHS or TV would ruin the magic. Now, having followed the logical course (BTS on VHS leads organically and naturally through film school) I can safely say that it has NOT. However, when I see a shot where a camera is tracking focus on a character's reflection in a car's window, only to pull focus to a character beyond the glass inside the car, then to pull focus back to the reflection passing by, all the while keeping lighting on all subjects perfect and making it all look effortless, I can't help but shake my head and want to high-five Spielberg or cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.

Monday, January 24, 2011


If you desire many things, many things will seem few.
-Benjamin Franklin

In the run of my current project I have the opportunity to create a bust of America's first great lothario-philosopher-enterpreneur, Ben Franklin.

I started out by researching statues and busts of Franklin (in-between bouts of Youtube clips of Tom Wilkinson's amazing Franklin from John Adams) and quickly realized I actually have quite a bit of artistic freedom, since even the great statues and paintings don't necessarily see eye to eye, regarding what Franklin looked like. Nevertheless, I started by researching...

Benjamin Franklin busts.

My favorite is the second, from Lundeen. I like the witty facial expression. I can't afford a bust that probably costs several grand, but that's one I would totally buy.

The next images outline steps in the process. First, a very rough shape of the bust is created. And I do mean ROUGH. You just need to have a very basic starting mesh to begin your sculpt.

Afterward, the head was brought into Mudbox and the fun begins. Thanks to a pressure-sensitive Wacom tablet, slowly but surely, Franklin's face begins to peak out of the polygonal mess. I begin by adjusting the biggest features and work down to smaller and smaller details, increasing the polygonal resolution of the head as I go to accommodate the smaller and smaller details. By the time I reach the final images, the model weighs in at about 4.5 million polygons.

A little bit too "evil emperor Franklin"...

...much better.

The final render was straight from Mudbox, which actually outputs some very pretty imagery thanks to the Ambient Occlusion and Depth of Field and Lighting and Tone control, all in real time. The next step will be to export a reasonably dense mesh to 3ds max, export the finer details as a displacement map, and export the very tiniest bits, like eyebrows, as a bump map. That's a project for another day!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

After Effects Dilly-Dally

"Tell your wife it's After Effects time!"
- Andrew Kramer,

Not a problem, not married. Anywho, I've recently taken to just playing and having fun in After Effects, not for any particular project but because I learn best when I play or have fun. It's true for my 3D work, when I've got a camera in hand, and when I'm sitting at my computer, compositing. So here's a few projects I've been working with, along with a short description.

I found the image above during some random internet search, I don't even remember what I was looking for at the time. The flare, the different layers of clouds, the deep gradient of blue in the background, is just amazing. So the other day I decided to try to recreate it. I haven't finished it, but for now, what I've got is below. The clouds are two 3D layers with fractal noise and the blacks punched out, rest is a gradient and a lens flare. I'm going to set it up so that I can animate the camera, as if we are seeing through the eyes of a person sitting on a plane, and it will still work. No perspective tricks, the clouds will move, etc.

Another random internet image. Again, no idea where it originated. But the clouds there looked so strange and surreal I sat down and tried to recreate it. A short while later, the image below is the result. The clouds are all procedurally generated with masks and displacement and noise effects. Additionally, the clouds move and roll above the city. Movies > stills, so I rock!

The video below is a project test for a patented dollar bill cannon. Because if you got a ton of chedda, you should blow it out of an air cannon. I may or may not use it in the Anthony Bryant music video (in production currently, see blog entries below). A limitation of the After Effects particles is that they themselves cannot (to my current knowledge, at least) deform, bend, or fold. Maybe it doesn't matter, since the effect is so ludicrous anyway.

That's it. Just some AE fun that may or may not come to anything. Thanks for watching!