Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Going Forward...

I have been able to achieve an acceptable level of production from Poser, so I guess that means we're back in business. I've also had to re-evaluate a couple of positions within the last week.

First, since Poser absolutely refuses to produce the opening shot of the movie, I've had to chop it into layers to get it done. Basically I'm doing it in passes - on this pass, we render only the ground; on the next, the kids walking; on the following, the trees, etc. The shot in question is an overhead tracking shot that follows the three children from our story to a grisly scene in the woods. It will consist of at least five seperate layers. Once each layer is rendered, I'll composite them together in After Effects. I did this sort of thing a lot with the final sequences of RAVEN 2.

At this point, the one minute sequence which I animated back in January - and have been rendering out ever since - is done. I'm using this as my test sequence, and have prepared a DVD with the three versions of it for study. Although my wife says that my character animation has improved since the RAVEN days, the overall look of the footage is taking some getting used to. The desaturated color scheme is more severe than it appeared on my PC monitor. In order to accomodate the 3D, I overlit everything - and on TV it looks almost too bright (especially since the scene in question takes place by moonlight).

Due to the nature of interlaced TV fields, the field sequential 3D version displays more noticable jagged lines on objects than I was anticipating. The anaglyph version requires significant tweaking of the TV's color settings to achieve a tolerable effect (it does work, but the depth effects are not as pronounced as the field sequential version, and ghosting is a fact of life). Maybe this could be remedied by including a couple of setup screens on the eventual DVD.

And, the streaking title sequence will probably not make it to the final film. The style is just not in keeping with the tone of the movie. Maybe I can use it in the trailer...

I keep looking at the thin script sitting on my desk and wondering why I wanted to make this movie so complicated. It's scope, in both the number of principal characters and its locations, are much more ambitious than the two RAVEN films. At this point, nearly four months after starting the project, it feels like I'm standing at the base of a mountain, looking up at the summit - and it's beginning to dawn on me just how much work is going to be required to pull this off. I'm toying with the idea of taking another pass at the script and paring it down, striking most of the peripheral characters and making it more of a three character piece: the little girl Leeta, the Frankenstein Monster, and the Wolfman.

We'll see what happens. The computer's time for this week, and maybe some of next week, will be taken up with rendering out right and left pairs of each layer of this first shot. More as it happens...

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Production in Jeopardy

It has now been three months since any real animation work has been done on "Frankenstein vs the Wolfman". And now we've hit a snag that may cause the whole project to collapse.
I upgraded my computer to an AMD 64-bit 3000+ processor and brought the system RAM up to 1GB. You would think with the added power, things would work smoothly.
You would be wrong.

Poser is a tempermental program. Although it supports animation, it's really designed for making still images. I've come to this realization because for the past 2 weeks, I've been trying to get it to render out more than 40 frames at a time without crashing with "Out of Memory" errors. This is despite the fact that it's only using a fraction of the total memory on my machine (both the physical and the virtual memory combined). Forty frames is just a hair under 2 seconds worth of animation, and it would take a lifetime to complete this movie at that speed.

Funny, but with 512MB on my previous machine, I could get Poser to output between 100-140 frames before giving up the ghost. Was it too much to expect that additional RAM would allow me to render more, and not less? The upswing is that it renders faster, but it hardly seems an even trade.

I'm not defeated yet. There are a couple of ideas I have for tweaking some of the system settings, hopefully to coax the program into better behavior. But, if I can't get results better than 40 some frames before a crash, then I'll be shutting down the movie.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Casting Underway

Last week was a pretty productive week. Andy arranged to have about half of the voice talent come in to the studio and perform their lines; once casting & recording are complete, I'll post cast names and character photos to the Characters page. We've only have 2 leads and a few secondary characters yet to fill. This gives me enough material to begin animating characters.

Unfortunately, this week has been slowed to a stand-still. I've been trying to work on some animation, but my PC resisted. The current file that I'm working on takes up 726MB of system memory, draining the system resources and slowing the computer to a crawl.

So, as seems to happen each time I make a movie, we had to upgrade the computer. The new beast chugs along quite nicely, and is rendering a test frame from the troublesome scene as I write this.