2021 New3dge VFX Graduation Projects

I had the incredible honor again this year of being part of the 2021 VFX Graduation Projects for the Senior Projects at New3dge school.  This year again due to Covid we looked at the students work and met virtually. The school allowed us access to the students’ work, breakdowns, and face time with the groups.  The Senior Projects are a group of shorts that a small group of students (usually 5 to 6) work on as team replicating a mini pipeline as they execute a highly caliber of work. The students of VFX/Animation graduation projects for 2021 were just as impressive this year. They produced really outstanding quality all the while having to work remotely due to Covid. This is no small feat! So much great work and inspirational to see!

It was a great pleasure to interact with each team and talk about their projects and questions. New3dge school is doing a superb job teaching their students to be ready for professional careers in VFX, Animation and Games.

Unfortunately I can’t share the projects that the students worked on yet. The School has them submitted to various festivals. Once I am allowed I’ll share the works with links.

Just like last year, these shorts are worth checking out!

Clarisse 5

This is was released over a month ago, Clarisse 5!

There is a whole host of cool features the Isotropix has been working hard on.

Enhancements in layout set dressing, lookdev, lighting, rendering, and workflow.

I’m still going thru all the various upgrades, but so far they are great in speeding up your workflow and output.

Coming soon, I’ll do some short demos in Clarisse workflow.

For now James Miller’s tutorials on getting started are great.

Affinity Software

There is this relatively new software, Affinity that’s pretty good candidate as an Adobe substitute if you are looking for a non-subscription model. Their current applications are Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher. I’m currently most interested in Photo.

You can download them for a 90 trial.

The Affinity Photo has some nice features that Adobe Photoshop still hasn’t addressed over the years. Raw editing, true HDR workflow, and 32-bit workflow.

What’s nice is you can import/export PSD/PSB file formats and it supports ABR brushes, so you can have the best of both applications.

You can see the UI is very similar to Photoshop so working in it it’s hard at all.

The cost of the software is pretty affordable, just $50. You can purchase these apps at a 50% discount now. They are available for Mac, PC, and iPad. It is not a subscription model. It is a single one-off price. You have full capability whether on PC, Mac or Ipad.

Download for free and see what you think. For me the HDR and 32-bit capability alone is worth looking into.

Human Generator for Blender

New “Human Generator” addon for blender allows you to create and customize any character. It allows you to design your character’s gender, ethnicity, body shape, hair, age, clothes, and it’s fully rigged. Cost for the personal license is $68 and $128 for the commercial use. It’s created by Oliver J. Post and Alexander Lashko.

Simple clicks and adjustments to create
Various poses and clothing

Check our this teaser YouTube clip:

For even more information, check out their website: https://www.humgen3d.com/

Pretty easy to use and great for creating a variety of characters very quickly to suit your projects needs.

Maya/Clarisse Bridge 2.0

If you’re used to working in Maya and want something to help you port over files from it to Clarisse this tool is awesome.

Muhammad Etman created it. Here’s the gumroad to purchase if you like what you see. It’s $70 but for what it does it could really speed up your workflow into Clarisse.

What’s great is you can still set things up in Clarisse as you’d normally do but now you have the ability to just send over files you want from Maya easily. Update a camera in Maya, click to send over the camera. If you have a huge geometry set you want to port over now it just takes the push of a button to send it over. Now, you can manually setup your shaders in Clarisse or you can assign an arnold shader in Maya and port that over. Super handy.

Here is a great example of using it for a large scene.

Here’s the UI for it (you can set it up in different viewing modes)

Select the elements you want to port over, click “add” and then send it over to Clarisse. It’s that easy.

Maya file:

Simple click to send over the camera, light, and geometry with shaders

Clarisse file after sending over elements (3 clicks later):

Pretty slick and simple.

Take a look at it and see what you think.

The Shot List

I came across this amazing series on YouTube by StudioBinder. Their YouTube channel goes over everything video and photo production. Their series the Shot List is a must watch on a series of ultimate guides to camera shots, camera framing, camera angles, Depth of field, Camera Gear, Camera Movement, Camera Lens, and Frame Rate. This is a must watch series to increase your knowledge in cinematography and photography. Definitely worth the investment. Enjoy.

If you want to study other movies for their cinematography these two sites are wonderful resources:

NFT Art…what is this?

There’s been big buzz on NFT Art over the past several months and now it’s really starting to explode.

So what’s NFT? Or should I say “Non-Fungible Tokens.” And what are NFT artworks?

NFT art is a record of who owns a digital piece of art using the blockchain technology. Any piece of digital content can be “minted” into a NFT that creates a file which lives on the “blockchain” which tracts the entire history of that piece. That NFT art can be sold and re-sold and a record exists of it’s ownership and price value. The payment for these artworks is cryptocurrrencies, usually Ethereum. Now, the head scratcher is after you’ve bought a NFT artwork, you don’t receive an actual piece of art with your purchase. You’ve bought the non-fungible token which is just a long series of letters and numbers that is dropped into your digital wallet. You don’t receive some physical file or print to hang on your wall.

An NFT is non-fungible because it is not interchangeable. Each NFT Art is distinct and has a unique ID assigned to it. It’s blockchain cannot be altered. It is a permanent record or ledge of this piece.

When you buy a piece of NFT artwork you retain ownership of the digital piece, but it still is available on the internet and various other digital means. Anyone can still download that piece from the internet, share it, etc. So what good is ownership? Well, the more a digital artwork is seen and shared it increases it’s visibility and potentially it’s “worth”.

Now, when that artwork is first sold, the site hosting the artwork retains a commission and the artist receives their payment. If the artwork is resold (and resold and resold) the original creator retains a “commission” on every resale (usually 10%). So as the work gains in value the original creator still receives “commissions” on the work.

This sounds awesome. How do I get into this new market?

Well, it’s not as easy as it seems. Not crazy hard but their are some hurdles to handle.

You need to have an account to buy Cryptocurrency, like Coinbase, Kraken, or many others. Now you need to buy some cryptocurrency (like I said usually Ethereum).

Once you have that you need to attach your coin to a digital wallet (usually MetaMask). Finally, you can link your digital wallet to the NFT Hosting site. You can now buy a NFT artwork.

But what if I wanna sell NFT Artwork? That’s another hurdle. Some of the top sites like Nifty Gateway or Super Rare are curated sites. Meaning you have to submit a portfolio and a video about yourself to gain access to sell on those sites. Other sites, you need to submit an application, and other sites you can just upload an NFT artwork and sell. Obviously the curated sites offer a larger audience and can command a larger selling price.

Okay, you are able to get onto a site to sell a NFT artwork, you need to convert your file to the blockchain. This will take “gas” to “mine” your artwork, which costs you a fractional fee of crypto currency. Now, the gas rate is variable. It depends on when you go to “mint” your artwork. Think of an utility company charging different rates for electricty, peak vs. off-peak time. This mining comes with an environmental impact since it takes a neural network of computers to process the data.

So is this a sustainable market? Is this all hype? Should I do this? Are all very good questions and honestly I don’t know. I do know people said the same thing when Crypto Currencies first cam on the scene. The technology of blockchain is very real and stable, but is this a fad? I guess only time will tell. There are good signs that maybe it will stay, Christie’s auction house is treating it as real. Artists such as Beeple, Ben Mauro, and many others have had tremendous success with it. To be honest I’m still learning about this interesting new art space for digital artwork. If anyone has any thoughts I look forward to hearing them.

An excellent talk about all things NFT is with Emmanuel Shiu and Jan Urschel on their Art Department Podcast. Listen to it, they go thru the whole rabbit hole of NFT art and should you do this or not. Also, check out their links page, it’s a great collection of information.

Epic Games’ MetaHuman Creator in Unreal

So most of you might have seen this amazing announcement from Epic Games/Unreal: MetaHuman Creator

Now this is crazy impressive, but wait it gets better…

Mind blowing stuff. You can download 2 free metahumans already. I’m very excited to see the full version of MetaHuman Creator when it comes on-line. It’s a cloud based application. You’ll be able to create real-time photorealistic digital humans in blazing speed.

This made for Unreal so it’s going to hook in nicely to all of unreal’s tools. 30 different hair styles using Unreal Engine’s strand-based hair, 18 different proportional body types. When you’ve completed your character download the asset via Quixel Bridge. It’s fully rigged, ready for animation and motion capture in Unreal. You can also get source data in Maya form with meshes, skeleton, facial rig, animation controls and materials. I think the possibilities of this tool are endless. It is a top tier fidelity cg human but you can also output a lower level of detail. You may have limitations of modifying this character into other applications. I haven’t really messed with Unreal that much but this just might push me over the edge to jump in.

Keep an eye out for updates on Epic Games’ MetaHumans creator and lets see where this goes.

Mapbox plugin in Houdini: Terrains

Mapbox is an amazing plugin within Houdini. It allows you to download elevation data (heightfields) from anywhere in the world along with a color map.

Mapbox node with zoom capability to download data

You just zoom to whatever region of the world and click download.

Downloaded data
Zoom around and download again

See below for a little quick demo.

Demo