S.T.A.R.

Motion File Importer Tool

Situation:

Company:  Daybreak Game Company.
Game:  ‘H1Z1’.

It became difficult to find which source animations from MotionBuilder and Maya were used to produce exported XMD animations used in our state machine (Morpheme).  Hunting down files caused a tremendous amount of wasted time and resulted in problems with stance changes and mismatched rigs.

Task:

•  Work with code to get FBX support integrated into Morpheme.

•   Work with our Morpheme TA to Write a Morpheme LUA script that would export all slotted animations to a text file

•   Write a Motionbuilder Python tool that could parse the slotted files and make them available for importing back into MotionBuilder.

Action:

 Code integrated FBX support into Morpheme.

•  Our Morpheme Technical Artist wrote a LUA script that would publish all slotted files to a text file.

•  I batch exported all of our source animations to FBX.

•  I wrote the ‘Motion File Importer’ tool,  which had the option to display only Morpheme slotted files.  It would merge selected takes onto an existing rig, or with a new rig.

Result:

The animators adopted the workflow, and our exported animations became the ‘source of truth.’  The need to hunt down source files was completely eliminated, and the animation error rate was reduced dramatically.

 

Take Utilities Tool:

Situation:

Company: Daybreak Game Company
Game: H1Z1

In MotionBuilder, the animators needed a quicker way of selecting takes and performing custom functions on them.

Task:

Create a time-saving MotionBuilder Python tool that could:

•  Display all the takes in the scene, with a corresponding button to select them.

•  Plot selected takes to the rig or skeleton.

•  Copy selected joint values to selected takes.

•  Export selected takes to the game.

Action:

I created the ‘Take Utilities’ tool in Python.  It could perform all the tasks listed above, in addition to:

•  Copy a selected pose to selected takes.

•  Delete takes.

•  Renaming takes by searching and replacing keywords.

•  Activating an ‘Autoback’ tool (another Python script) that would display a modal dialogue that prompted the user to save their scene at a user-defined time.

Result:

The tool became an animator favorite and was able to speed up their workflows dramatically.  The ability to copy selected joint values to other takes proved to be an efficient method to fix entire animation banks quickly.

 

Center of Mass Tool:

Situation:

Company: THQ
Game: WWE All Stars Wrestling

In Motionbuilder, we needed a way to calculate the center of mass for characters so they could leap, flip, and realistically tumble through the air, independently or two characters together.

Task:

Create a MotiontionBuilder tool that would represent the center of mass as a sphere so the characters could be constrained to it and ‘zeroed out’ for use in the game.

Action:

Our Cinematic Director, Dori Arazi,  came up with the brilliant idea of creating a sphere to represent the center of mass and then constraining it to 10 key parts on the body.  The sphere’s position then became the average of all the key parts.

I wrote the tool in Python and created a UI that displayed all key parts as user-adjustable attributes.  That way, if a character was to hold a chair, the holding arm could have greater influence.  The tool would display the center of mass as a sphere, and upon processing would ‘zero’ out the sphere and the character’s root motion.  The game would use the new positions to flip and tumble the characters.

Result:

All characters that were required to leap of flip through the air would get their center of mass calculated and zeroed out for use in the game. This yielded realistic results for both individual and ‘attacker/victim’ combinations.

 

SCEA Head Creator Tool:

 

Situation:

Company: SCEA
Game: GameDay

In Maya, the character artists needed a way to efficiently create NFL character heads that matched the likeness of their real-life counterparts.

Task:

Create a Maya tool that would enable artists to select a character from the NFL roster, and edit their likeness to the image by manipulating blendshapes and projecting front and side image maps onto the geometry.

Action:

I wrote the tool in MEL.  It had the following features:

•  Upon selecting a character, would create front and side image planes for reference.

•  The image planes were projected onto the character, though an Alpha Blend Node.  The seam could be adjusted with a slider.

•  Used blendshapes for shaping the head and parts of the face.

•  Used wrap deformers to simultaneously shape low, medium, and high versions.

Contained a wig system for selecting and snapping hair.

Result:

The tool provided a quick and efficient method for rapidly shaping and texture mapping NFL players heads for use in the game.

 

Project  ‘TOASTERHEAD!’:

Situation:

After years of making short films on Super 8, and watching countless sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films, my brother and I needed to shoot a feature length movie of our own.

Task:

Write, produce, direct, and edit a dark horror comedy in the vein of Repo Man, The Evil Dead, and Reanimator.

Action:

•  Bought a top-of-the-line super 8 camera.

 •  Wrote 3 drafts of the movie.  Whittled it down to one that we could actually film.

•  Built all the sets, costumes, and props ourselves.

•  Learned how to create foam latex prosthetic makeup, and played all the major roles.

•  Filmed the movie over the course of two years.

•  Edited the movie on numerous systems.

Result:

The movie is in post-production and is scheduled to be complete in 2018.  Amazon Video Direct, here we come!