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Mixing C4D, Charcoal, and Cel Animation for Thom Yorke’s “Last I Heard”

February 4, 2020 - By 

Thom Yorke’s “Last I Heard” Music Video Director Saad Moosajee and Designer Zuheng Yin on using 3D and 2D to capture the Radiohead frontman’s dreams.

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke released his third solo album, ANIMA, last summer along with a short Netflix film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. He followed it up late last year with the release of a haunting video for the track “Last I Heard (…He Was Circling the Drain)”.

The dreamy black-and-white video was created at New York City-based experimental studio, Art Camp. It opens on a city in chaos and intermittently follows a spacesuit-wearing character through a dystopian landscape filled with faceless crowds, enormous fires and floating cars and debris.

Directed by Art Camp & Saad Moosajee, the video was inspired by Yorke and Radiohead artist Stanley Donwood’s imaginations and contains over 3,000 hand-illustrated and textured frames made using a combination of Cinema 4D, Houdini, charcoal, dust, paint primer and cel animation.

The approach is similar to the one Moosajee and Art Camp took when creating the video for Mitski’s, “A Pearl”. Only this time, an array of artists combined additional techniques and tools, including volumetric lighting, crowd simulation, powder texturing, charcoal washing and VDB. Yorke released the video with an immersive installation during a three-day event in Los Angeles hosted by ANIMA Technologies in October.

“In some ways, the direction for this was looser than what we got for “A Pearl”, Moosajee explains. “Thom told us about some images from his dreams and about how this would relate to the world of ANIMA, which is quite dark, and “Last I Heard” was written with London in mind.” So the brief was focused on creating a video with the look of an old black-and-white film that captured the feeling of anxiety and loneliness that often goes with big cities, like London or New York.

An Ever-Changing Process

Using some of Donwood’s Radiohead artwork, black-and-white photography and old NASA photos for reference, the team expanded on Yorke’s vision, giving each person an opportunity to contribute creatively across different mediums. Though they had only about two and a half months from start to finish, the team felt it was important to experiment and see what worked, so they switched up the process and remade the video over and over again before feeling like they got it right.

3D designer and animator Zuheng Yin worked closely with Moosajee to define the look of the video. “For a music video like this, we felt it was important to attract people from the beginning,” he explains, “Monochrome, film grain, and texture that felt human worked quite well in the context of showing Thom’s world. The visual language became more and more unique by layering our craft.”

To ensure a sense of realism and the look of an old film, the team opted to anchor much of their process in 3D. But, to make things “less perfect,” they used volumetrics and VDB in Cinema 4D, Octane and Houdini to create a layered atmosphere and light the world on fire. “I would often place lights behind animating pyro and fog containers so you would get natural flicker, diffusion and a sort of time-lapse sun effect,” Moosajee recalls. For a grainier look, the team made sure renders were never fully clean and contained noise in the images and volumes, while not being so grainy that they messed up the animation.

Though it looks like a film, nothing was practically shot for the video. Instead, the team designed and modeled the characters in C4D themselves, using motion capture to make characters’ movements look natural. Houdini based crowd simulations were populated with characters modeled in 3D by the team and outfitted using Marvelous Designer, so they would all be visually unique.

To build up the world further, the crowds were placed into custom-designed sets that were often interspersed with traffic simulations.

“Traffic is a big part of every city, and I imagined that the traffic structures inside of the ANIMA universe would follow real-world behavior, but would be just a little off,” Zuheng says. After creating a simulation with real-world behavior inside of Cinema 4D, he distorted it by pulling the road off the ground, deleting the traffic guides and silhouetting the moving cars to accentuate the negative space between vehicles and the city behind them.

Combining Mediums for Maximum Effect

To get the look they wanted for “Last I Heard (…He Was Circling the Drain)”, the team opted for a highly textural approach, using charcoal, paints, ink and powders. “We would print out 3D renders, sprinkle crushed powder over them, and brush on a mix of charcoal and water,” Moosajee explains. In certain scenes, for extra grittiness and texture, they first brushed on oil paint primer before using the charcoal wash. The effect added to the painted feel of the video, with the goal being to give every scene its own unique style based on what was happening in the shot.

From a directing and animating standpoint, Moosajee found the team’s constant reinvention of the pipeline an interesting challenge that worked because everyone was very dedicated and flexible. “One week we’d go, ‘Okay the video is going to be stylized 3D with detailed 2D’. Then the next week we’d say, ‘no the video’s going to be 3D and should feel like film photography with accents of 2D.’”

What they eventually settled on was developing specific media combinations and software pipelines on a shot-by-shot basis, so the balance was always changing in the video. “Our animators and designers enjoyed the back and forth because we were all exploring different ways to build the world together,” Moosajee recalls. “I really think you need to give your team agency to contribute to the style whenever you can because that’s when people do their best work.

Credits:
Made At Art Camp
Directed by Art Camp and Saad Moosajee
Technical Director: James Bartolozzi
Design by Saad Moosajee and Zuheng Yin
Art Direction by Jenny Mascia
3D Animation by Saad Moosajee, Zuheng Yin, Chanyu Chen
Simulation and Effects by James Bartolozzi
Supporting Design: Chanyu Chen, Andrew Finley
Cel Animation by Jenny Mascia, Britton Korbel, Mac Ross, Jeremy Higgins, Danae Gosset

Production Manager: Matthew Kagen
Production Coordinator: John James Russo
Stop Motion Photographer: Jared Pershad
Storyboards by Mac Ross, Jenny Mascia
Cel Animation Consultant: Danae Gosset


Meleah Maynard is a writer and editor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


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Beeple’s Short Film is a Wake-up Call for Everybody, Including Himself

December 2, 2019 - By 

Four years in the making, Beeple never thought he’d finally release ‘Manifest Destiny.’ Now you can watch it and download all the scene files he made for free.

Mike Winkelmann, a.k.a. Beeple, wrote the treatment for his latest film, Manifest Destiny, a little over four years ago, never dreaming that it would actually take so long to get the film finished.

Derailed by procrastination, he finally got back on track after making a deal with an artist he met at SIGGRAPH, him agreeing that he would finish his film in 100 days, and she would create an Everyday for 100 days. “I don’t know why I agreed to that, but it forced me to f—ing do it,” he says, admitting that “I still didn’t do anything until the last two weeks, and I seriously finished it on the 100th day.”

Reached in Denver last week where he was one of the featured speakers on Maxon’s 26-city 3D Design + Motion Tour, Winkelmann talked with me about the making of Manifest Destiny, using Cinema 4D, Octane and Houdini; losing interest in making longer films; and how his Everydays have turned darker and more political in the last year, but he remains optimistic about the future.

Meleah Maynard: Your other films, Transparent Machines and Zero Day, were social commentaries too, but Manifest Destiny feels stronger and more pointed. Would you agree?

Mike Winkelmann: Yeah, this one is not vague at all. The things I’m pointing out are literally happening now. But there is a bit of sensationalizing, like I did with the other films. There is so much inequality in the world, and it is improving in some areas, like statistics show that the number of people living in extreme poverty is slowly declining.

But things are getting worse in a lot of ways too. I tried to choose statistics that people may not have been aware of, like how Jeff Bezos made over $100 million dollars every single day in 2018, and the average Chinese worker assembling iPhones makes $1.85 per hour. I wanted to hit on a lot of different points about money.

MM: You’ve been saying this film would be done for a long time. What happened?

MW: I don’t know. I think, to be honest, I’m not actually that interested in making things that are this long anymore. I’m more interested in doing short 10- to 30-second videos. I think that you can be more experimental when you have less time, like, ‘I’ve got two days invested in this, who cares? I can do whatever.’ But when you spend four years, you’re like, ‘OMG, should I do this, or that, or this?’ It becomes paralyzing. I don’t even watch short films much anymore. If I do another video, I’m giving myself a deadline, like a month or something.

MM: Were you redoing it over and over? What was left to finish?

MW: No, the only thing left to do was edit it to the Run the Jewels track. I had everything done and rendered. But then I just didn’t touch it for a year and, honestly, it wasn’t even bugging me that I wasn’t getting it done. I was always planning on using that Run the Jewels song, “Legend Has It.” I liked the overall vibe of the song, but I hadn’t talked to them about it yet. And then one of the guys got in touch with me to say they’d seen some of my Everydays and wanted to talk about making a video. So it all worked out.

MM: Talk a little bit about your process for making this.

MW: The workflow was pretty simple, really. I mainly used Cinema 4D and Octane. Octane gave it a great look that really felt super realistic. I could just set up a couple of lights and throw some volumetrics on it to get a lot of depth and atmosphere.

The buildings were modeled in C4D, and all of the fire and destructions was simulated in Turbulence FD and rendered in Octane. There was no compositing: I just went straight out of C4D and Octane and did one color correction and that was it.

MM: What about the fat gold characters, and how they sort of melted together?

MW: Oh, yeah, I used Houdini for the melting gold people. I have no idea how I did that. When I started this four years ago, it was the first time I’d ever done characters. I used Mixamo for the big gold character, and Houdini for the melting effect. It’s a good thing I saved that as an Alembic file, or I would have had to start over since I don’t remember how I did that.

All of the fighting was done with Mixamo models that we already in poses, like they were hitting, ducking or punching. I just had to choreograph the characters, so it looked like they were fighting. I’m happy with how it turned out. The melting thing was kind of symbolism for this weird orgy of people at the top, like our politicians and upper-class elite, all bumping heads and wrestling around in a big pile. They’re not really doing anything meaningful, just shifting their weight around while very little changes for the rest of us.

MM: Why did you go with text and music rather than narration this time?

MW: I was going to do a voiceover with music, like I usually do, and I had like 140 people submit auditions, but none of them were right. So I decided, pretty much at the last second, to put use text, even though it would be covering up all that sh-t I worked on for so long. That was probably a better choice anyway because a lot of people watch videos on mute, so they wouldn’t have heard the narration. I wanted to get a lot of stuff across, like how much debt we’re in, how rich Americans are, and how so many people are insanely poor and a few are insanely rich.

MM: Do you worry, or think about, the state of the world a lot these days?

MW: No, I wouldn’t say that. But I do work a lot more with two TVs on, one turned to FOX News and the other to CNN. I mute the sound, but it’s very interesting to see how differently they cover things. FOX is just all of this propaganda and, pretty much the opposite of what CNN says. You can see why the country is so divided.

I’m definitely interested in politics, and I do think we are headed for a time when we’re all going to have to make some changes and adjust to a new reality, including changing our levels of spending. But there are things we can do, like give money. Most of us can afford to give money, but we don’t. Or we don’t give enough. Honestly, as I’ve made more money, I’ve given less money. This film is kind of a wake-up call, for everybody, me included.

MM: It seems like you’re trying to say more with your Everydays now, too.

MW: I’d say it was about July when I started doing things that are overtly political. I like taking a political- or commerce-related scenario and abstracting it out to a ridiculous degree, like the pro-choice one where robot Trump is being forced to have a baby in the future, or where Mark Zuckerberg has no nipples because women can’t show nipples on Facebook.

The response has been super, much bigger than anything else I’ve done. It really just felt like a natural progression from the storytelling I’ve been doing.

MM: What else are you doing these days?

MW: I’m working on a couple of things I can’t talk about yet. I just did some concert visuals for Zedd, and I’m doing a video sculpture for a festival that Amazon’s doing in December. I’m traveling a lot more. A month ago, I was in Brazil with my wife and the kids. And my wife and I are going to Russia soon for a conference I’m doing with Maxon. There’s a lot going on.


Credits and Free Downloads:

Directed by: BEEPLE
Music: RUN THE JEWELS

Donate:
Donations to Direct Relief.

Make a Donation

DOWNLOAD ALL CLIPS:

Does not require Cinema 4D.

Download Now

DOWNLOAD CINEMA 4D PROJECT FILES:

Beeple’s resources

Get the Project Files

Meleah Maynard is a writer and editor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


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News: Free Megascans for Unreal Engine, Substance Updates, and More

November 13, 2019 - By 

Big news in the material creation world. Megascans is now free for Unreal Engine 4 users, Substance announces updates to Painter and Alchemist, and more.

There have been quite a few large announcements in the 3D world lately. Let’s take a glimpse at what is going on in the industry.

Epic Games and Quixel Join Forces

Quixel, makers of Megascans, have announced that they have joined forces with Epic Games. Not only does this create amazing opportunities for Quixel, it makes immediate changes to Megascans users.

Megascans is now free for use with Unreal Engine

The entire Megascans library is now completely free for use with Unreal Engine. UE4 users have free unlimited access to all Megascans through Bridge and Mixer.

If you are already using Megascans with UE4, Quixel will refund all of your subscriptions for 2019.

Megascans subscription prices lowered

Megascans pricing has been cut in half, regardless of DCC, engine, or renderer you use.

Bridge and Mixer 2020 will be 100% free

The upcoming 2020 versions of Bridge and Mixer will be 100% free for everyone, with no subscription required and both fully featured.

Bridge 2020 introduces an improved browsing experience, nearly a hundred new collections, improve search, and powerful filtering.

Quixel has also implemented an AI search feature that finds all the assets in any image you feed it, essentially making environment planning much easier, whether you have real-world references or concept art.

Mixer 2020 introduces 3D Painting, Real-time 3D Curvature, Smart Materials and more. The update also introduces 3D Blur, Grouping, Map-specific Blending, Advanced AO Mixing, Box Projection, Material ID Masking, 3D Position Gradients and 3D Normals to name a few, as another step on the path to making Mixer the ultimate, and now free, texturing app.

The new free Mixer and Bridge 2020 will be released later this year.


Adobe Max 2019

At the annual Adobe Max conference in LA, Adobe announced many of their big updates for Creative Cloud and Substance.

Substance 2019 Updates

Substance has it’s own time to shine at Adobe Max during the Substance Day presentations. Here’s what we learned about new features and tools coming to Substance.

Project Captis

Project Captis may be the most exciting announcement for material makers. Substance and HP collaborated on a scanner prototype that would allow anyone to create scanned materials.

Connected to Substance software, Captis will generate PBR materials for 3D rendering based on physical sample.

Image via Adobe/HP.

HP and Adobe will deliver Project Captis to partners across various industries, including game development, ecommerce, architecture and fashion, among others. Project Captis kicks off at Adobe MAX and will run through 2020.

“HP is at the forefront of bridging digital and physical worlds by providing a comprehensive ecosystem of tools and solutions to the creative community, and we will continue to progress as the landscape and needs of creators evolve,” said Alex Cho, president, Personal Systems, HP Inc. “Today, with Adobe and Project Captis, we are raising the bar for how creative pros manage their digital workflows and evolve their craft.”

Image via HP.

“At Adobe we’re passionate about building tools and services empowering digital artists,” said Sebastien Deguy, VP of 3D & Immersive, Adobe. “Our collaboration with HP through Project Captis takes us one step closer to the fastest and most efficient way for creatives to digitalize materials and use them in their 3D design process.” – HP

Substance Painter

New in Substance Painter, users can now import their favorite Photoshop brushes.

Image via Adobe/Substance.

Starting with the next Substance Painter release, you’ll be able to import and use .ABR brushes in your favorite 3D texturing app. We also announced opacity blending and pressure sensitivity improvements, bringing the painting experience closer than ever to Photoshop’s.

Substance Alchemist

Substance Alchemist is officially out of Beta. It features an improved layer stack, the ability to share projects with other users, and an improved delighter.

The team is also working on a new fully automatic tiling filter, born from the collaboration between Adobe Research and the Substance Alchemist team. Ever used the Content-Aware fill in Photoshop? We now use the same technology to remove seams on the edges of your input image automatically, and soon a full material at once! This new algorithm is faster, doesn’t require any tweaking, and often produce better results than the previous methods.

Image via Adobe/Substance.

Sketchfab will also be integrated into Substance. More than 220,000 free models from Sketchfab will be available to download in Substance Painter and Adobe Dimension. There will also be 35 new free characters on Mixamo.

Image via Adobe/Substance.

After Effects Updates

For After Effects users, Adobe updated the app for better performance speed. 9 to 5 Mac reports,

You can now expect smooth, fluid playback of cached video previews. A new version of Cinema 4D, bundled with After Effects, can be opened as a standalone application. Caps and bevel tools have been added.

Check out this overview from the team at School of Motion.

In other Creative Cloud news, Adobe Photoshop will now be available on iPads, with Illustrator for iPads coming soon behind it in 2020.


Greyscalegorilla Plus

 

After a successful VIP launch, Greyscalegorilla Plus is now available to everyone. The subscription platform gives members instant access to the renowned professional training guides as well as new exclusive training series for Cinema 4D, Houdini, and much more.

Before the end of the year, Arnold training will be available to members, as well as additional Quick Tips, and training on concepts like animation and the ACES color workflow.

Want a preview of Greyscalegorilla Plus? Stream example lessons and explore the membership overview.

Also included with membership is complete access to the entire Greyscalegorilla Material Collection library.

Everyday Material Collection

Plus members get instance access to the Everyday Material Collection, Modern Surface Material Collection, and Texture Kit Pro. That’s over 600 drag-and-drop materials for Cinema 4D included with a membership.

Interested in joining? Learn more about Greyscalegorilla Plus.


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How MPC Combined C4D, Maya, Houdini and Unreal for this Music Video

October 28, 2019 - By 

The making of Ed Sheeran’s magical music video “Cross Me,” featuring Chance the Rapper and PnB Rock.

Ed Sheeran and Chance the Rapper weren’t able to actually be in the music video for their new single “Cross Me,” which also features PnB Rock. But Riff Raff Films director, Ryan Staake, and the Moving Picture Company came up with a mind-blowing way to combine motion capture, photogrammetry, 3D animation, and visual effects to allow all three of them to appear anyway.

The result is a video that offers a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to create a fully CG story. Read More


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Exclusive New Pro Training and Last Chance Savings | Greyscalegorilla Plus

October 18, 2019 - By 

Here is your Fall 2019 Greyscalegorilla Plus update, featuring all the new training and downloads that members can access now and in the coming months.

When Greyscalegorilla Plus was first conceived, the goal was to bring you all of Greyscalegorilla’s industry-leading professional training series in one place at one low price. Starting with the Guides to Cinema 4D, Redshift, X-Particles, and other pro training series, Greyscalegorilla Plus quickly became a platform where we could give members so much more.

Today, not only can you stream the training guides and exclusive new training series, members also get access to our popular drag-and-drop material collections. All of our material collections will be in Greyscalegorilla Plus before the end of the year, and even more assets and downloads are on the way.

Render via Zachary Corzine’s Procedural Systems.

Greyscalegorilla Plus is growing at a rapid pace, and things are not slowing down anytime soon. The team just introduced new Head of Plus, Todd Blankenship, who will oversee the release of new training series, downloads, and more.

He has already put together a new quick overview of Greyscalegorilla Plus so he can introduce himself and show you what’s already inside.

Take of tour of Greyscalegorilla Plus by clicking here to checkout the lesson previews

Join before October 31st, and you will get over $1500 in pro training and product downloads for only $348. That’s just $29 a month. The price goes up on November 1st, so don’t miss out. Head over to the Greyscalegorilla Plus page to join, and use discount code NEW2PLUS at checkout to save $120.

Curious to know what is coming to Greyscalegorilla Plus? Let’s dive into a few of the Fall 2019 releases Read More


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Interview: Making Iceland’s Landscape More Surreal

January 8, 2019 - By 
Interview: Making Iceland's Landscape More Surreal- Featured

You’ve seen countless photos and videos of Iceland, but nothing like this.

See how this filmmaker and VFX team took surreal footage of Iceland, then used Houdini and Nuke to create something you’ve never seen.

It was really refreshing to see a unique piece like this, so I reached out to the creative team behind it. Here’s our conversation.


Interview:

Michael Maher:  We have the whole ANOMALY creative team joining us today. Can we go around and hear a bit about each of you?

Jacco Kliesch: Hi, my name is Jacco and I’m a filmmaker. I grew up in Erlangen, Germany. I studied Media Technology with key focus area Media Design at the Deggendorf Institute of Technology. Now I live in Nuremberg.

I love to make creative films and to edit dynamic videos. I work in advertising and I do corporate videos and commercial films. But I also do personal projects from time to time – like this short film ANOMALY, which I did with Wildboar 3D Design Studio. Read More