FLOW – The Making of the Film

FLOW is a short art film I’ve started mid-summer at Mixpoint – a post-production house which kindly bears with me as their resident CGI director. Few images like those Juno photos got me seriously captivated at the time; I was also deep into commercial tabletop photography with their thick, vividly textured imagery of mixing liquids of all sorts – a grossly overlooked form of art. On top of that, there’s been a bunch of technical stuff I was looking to play with for ages, so here’s the resulting mix, shaken and stirred for your viewing pleasure (and then over-compressed beyond any of my control):

And below I’m diving into the making-of details:

Procedural Bestiary and the Next Generation of CG Software

In the previous essay “Procedural content creation F.A.Q.” I’ve claimed that it would take few months to assemble a full-scale creature generator. So I took those months and did it – introducing Kozinarium v1.0:

Procedural Creature Generator from Denis Kozlov on Vimeo.

Procedural systems I’ve been developing during the recent years served different purposes, not the least one being exploration of how far one can go in formalizing the visual art, expressing its language in machine-readable terms. “Quite far” is the answer I’ve got, and today I’d like to share my vision of the next generation of artistic tools which could empower anyone to render their imaginations with almost the ease of thought. But first, let’s take a look at how these procedural systems are made.

Procedural Content Creation F.A.Q. - Project Aero, Houdini and Beyond

I’ve finally found the time to put together a long-requested video demo for Project Aero and would like to use this opportunity and answer some of the questions I’m often hearing in its regard.

Procedural Aircraft Design Demo from Denis Kozlov on Vimeo.

What is Project Aero?

Project Aero is the software I’ve developed for rapid design of aircraft concepts. The video above demonstrates its main features.

 What does “procedural” mean?

In a wider sense it means “automated” - created algorithmically by a computer (rather than manually by a human operator or sampled like a scan or a photograph). Here are the good places to learn more:

Render Elements: UVs

Continuing on the topic of AOVs with another brief anatomic study. This article closes my series on post-render image manipulation, I believe and hope that understanding of other AOVs like Z-Depth, Direct/Indirect Lighting passes or World/Rest Position can be easily derived from the principles already discussed, common sense and the Internet. And the following video could serve as a good example of utilization of these principles.

Now let's take a look at the UVs...

Render Elements: Normals

This time let's do a brief anatomic study of a Normals output variable. Below is my original manuscript of an article first published in issue 188 of a 3D World magazine.

A brief anatomic study of a Normals output variable
A typical Normals element rendered in screen space

Packing Lighting Data into RGB Channels

Most existing renderers process Red, Green and Blue channels independently. While this limits the representation of certain optical phenomena (especially those in the domain of physical rather than geometric optics), it provides some advantages as well. For one, this feature allows encoding lighting information from several sources into a single image separately, which we are going to look at in this article.

Storing masks in RGB channels

Storing masks in RGB channels
Base image for the examples in this article

Finally returning to posting the original manuscripts of the articles I've written for 3D World magazine in 2014. This one was first published in issue 186 under the title "The Mighty Multimatte".

CG|VFX reel 2015

CG|VFX reel 2015 from Denis Kozlov on Vimeo.

My reels tend to become shorter and shorter. Here goes the new one – a generalist's reel again, so I have to take the blame for most of non live action pixels – both CG and compositing. With only a couple of exceptions, the work has been done in Houdini and Fusion predominantly. Below follows a breakdown describing my role and approach for each shot.

On Wings, Tails and Procedural Modeling

Project Aero: Procedural Aircraft Design Toolkit for SideFX Houdini
Project Aero: Procedural Aircraft Design Toolkit for SideFX Houdini

I find Houdini a very powerful tool for 3D modeling. In fact, this aspect was largely motivational for me to choose it as a primary 3D application. And talking procedural modeling I mean not just fractal mountains, instanced cities and Voronoi-fractured debris (which all can be made look quite fascinating actually), but efficient creation of 3D assets in general. Any assets.

Evaluating a Particle System: checklist

Below is my original manuscript of what was first published as a 2-piece article in issues 183 and 184 of a 3D World magazine. Worse English and a bit more pictures are included. Plus a good deal of techniques and approaches squeezed between the lines.

Part 1

Most of the 3D and compositing packages offer some sort of a particle systems toolset. They usually come with a nice set of examples and demos showing all the stunning things you can do within the product. However, the way to really judge its capabilities is often not by the things the software can do, but rather by the things it can not. And since the practice shows it might be not so easy to think of all the things one might be missing in a real production at a time, I have put together this checklist.

Flexible enough software allows for quite complex effects 
like this spiral galaxy, created with particles alone.

Project Tundra

Project Tundra 01
01. Tundra

Since I find it very cool to call everything a project, here goes “Project Tundra” with some anagrams. Pretty much all visual elements (except for a couple of bump textures) are completely synthetic and generated procedurally with Houdini and Fusion. So almost no reality was sampled during the production of the series. Some clouds from these setups were used. 

Bit Depth - color precision in raster images

Bit depth diagram

Last time we have been talking about encoding color information in pixels with numbers from a zero-to-one range, where 0 stands for black, 1 for white and numbers in between represent corresponding shades of gray. (RGB model uses 3 numbers like that for storing the brightness of each Red, Green and Blue components and representing a wide range of colors through mixing them). This time let's address the precision of such a representation, which is defined by a number of bits dedicated in a particular file format to describing that 0-1 range, or a bit-depth of a raster image.

Pixel Is Not a Color Square

Rater images contain nothing but numbers in the table cells

Continuing the announced series of my original manuscripts for 3D World magazine.

Thinking of images as data containers.

Procedural Clouds

Sample outputs of self-made procedural clouds generators

I've been playing around with generating procedural clouds lately, and this time before turning to the heavy artillery of full scale 3D volumetrics, spent some time with good old fractal noises in the good old Fusion.

On Anatomy of CG Cameras

Diagram of the main anatomical elements of a virtual camera
Anatomy of a CG Camera

The following article has first appeared in issue 180, and was the first in the series of pieces I've been writing for a 3D World magazine for some time now - the later ones should follow at a (very) roughly monthly pace as well. These versions I'm going to be posting here are my initial manuscripts, and typically differ (like having a worse English and more silly pictures) from what makes it to the print after editing. Try to enjoy.

Typography Basics for Artists. Part 2 - Matching the Typeface

Anatomic parts of a glyph according to Wiki
Anatomic parts of a glyph according to Wiki:
1) x-height; 2) ascender line; 3) apex; 4) baseline; 5) ascender; 6) crossbar; 7) stem; 8) serif; 9) leg; 10) bowl; 11) counter; 12) collar; 13) loop; 14) ear; 15) tie; 16) horizontal bar; 17) arm; 18) vertical bar; 19) cap height; 20) descender line.
And here it comes finally - the second part of the typography basics for artists, where we're going to address a very common and practical task of matching a typeface to some pre-existing reference. The first part can be found here, and again, the material of these posts should be considered as no more than a starting point for further investigation – a hopefully useful introduction into the boundless world which typography is, aimed at those who do not necessarily inhabit it full-time.

My article on CG cameras in 3D World magazine

It should be out and on the shelves by now. Unfortunately, few errors sneaked into the printed version of the article. However, the editorial promised me to fix those in digital edition and to put the edited pdf into the online 'Vault', which all print readers have access to when they buy the issue. 

3D World Website

A little preview of the article below.

CTU's Faculty of Mechanical Engineering video

Double no: No, I didn't forget about the next part of a typography article and No, I didn't lie claiming it will take a while... And while a while continues, here is a piece of recent work I accomplished with the guys at DPOST Prague.

Czech Technical University 150th Anniversary from DPOST Prague on Vimeo.

Aside from wearing both Director's and Art-Director's hats, I've spent quite some time with hands on material here, taking the 3D work into Houdini to design the cubes effects, animate and render.

Two Killer Tips for Mastering Any Software

RTFM and Ctrl-Alt-RESET
RTFM. Please.

At different stages in the career I've been paid for working in Houdini, Nuke, 3DSMax, XSI, Fusion, Maya, Shake, Blender and After Effects among the other applications. I've been using Lightwave, 3D-Coat, Combustion, Rayz and so many other things. Not even mentioning programs like Photoshop, Corel Draw or Inkscape here. Of course I'm not the master in most of them, but I think I'm OK with learning new software, and here are the two tricks I know.