Sunday, September 28, 2014

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.

Anatomy of a CG camera by Denis Kozlov - page 1

Anatomy of a CG camera by Denis Kozlov - page 2

Anatomy of a CG camera by Denis Kozlov - page 3

Anatomy of a CG camera by Denis Kozlov - page 4

Anatomy of a CG camera by Denis Kozlov - page 5

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

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.

So we have a reference text and want to match its look as close as possible. And first of all we need something to match with. Adobe users have access to the great library of typefaces which is a blessing on a budget, but even with no budget at all there are online collections to browse out there (“download fonts free for commercial use” seems to be a nice search line to start with). “Free for commercial use” part is quite important as many typefaces are freely available only for personal use – fonts are usually distributed with a license text file which is always worth of a study. And for that reason in particular my preferred online collection is Font Squirrel.

As soon as we have a typeface library and a quick way of browsing through it – it only take looking and comparing to find the closest match. Here are few things to look at.

1) The sample text. I personally find it most transparent and convenient to use the reference text (or its part) itself as a sample line when trying candidate typefaces on. Making sure the test string has some digits and special symbols is a good idea too. Another useful and beautiful tool are pangrams – phrases containing every letter of an alphabet. Wikipedia offers quite comprehensive list for numerous languages (including Klingon); some of my favorites for English:

Public junk dwarves quiz mighty fox.
Cozy sphinx waves quart jug of bad milk.
Bored? Craving a pub quiz fix? Why, just come to the Royal Oak!

typographic variants of lowercase "a" grapheme
Image by GearedBull Jim Hood
typographic variants of minuscule "g" grapheme2) One reason to compare the look of all the characters is that even though the other visual parameters (addressed below) of two typefaces might match quite closely, still the same symbol can be represented with different graphemes like the alternative versions of a and g shown on the right. Numbers and special characters allow various visual interpretations as well.

3) Identifying the typeface in question within a broad classification as the first step considerably speeds up the comparison, since from now on we can quickly identify and skip the non-relevant styles and focus on closer examination of candidates from the same group only (like Script or Serif).

4) The next level of precision would be considering the contrast (thickness ratio between the main and supplementary strokes in a typeface) and other proportions of the characters (both overall like wide or tall letters, and between the elements within each letter like ascenders, descenders and counters). These qualities play a big part in defining the look of the font, and the habit of thinking of typefaces in terms of their contrast speeds up the navigation over the typographic ocean considerably.
The contrast of a typeface is the thickness ratio of main and supplementary strokes

5) And then the details. Typography is all about the balance in proportion and fine finishing, so what could be considered a minor in most other visual arts becomes diverse and intricately nuanced. Shapes of the serifs, ending elements, connections between strokes – all have space for diversity. Here is a very cool PDF listing the typographic elements. The style of those elements is also a subject of fashion, and certain details can attribute the typeface to a particular temporal or stylistic group.

Different versions of serif "T" letter

Next part, whenever it will choose to arrive, is going to cover the basics of display typesetting.

Monday, March 10, 2014

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.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

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. Probably the only 3D parts of the spot, which are not mine are the inner models like engines and stuff, modeled by Victor Tretyakov or provided by the client and generous Public Domain. We share compositing credits with Denis Kosar, who has been producing the job and multitasking as well. And by no means I am forgetting Marek Duda, who helped with fitting the edit together. Music by Lukas Turza.

We took a good portion of look development into compositing which can be clearly seen from this little making-of-quad:

Czech Technical University - making of from DPOST Prague on Vimeo.

Monday, December 2, 2013

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.

As obvious as they are, it is quite amazing how often even quite experienced artists manage to ignore them.

First one: RTFM. Read That Freaking The Following Manual. Seriously. You get your new toy, you play around, things go less or more easy, you either abandon or start thinking you already know it inside out... Well, if you're planning on using that toy in future – start reading the documentation asap, and try doing it top to bottom.

Every piece of software comes with a manual. Some are good, some are less, but all of them contain much wider perspective on the tools that you would get elsewhere (or at least from a lone journey). They also often describe the intended use of not always obvious features and address the particular working techniques – personally I've learned a good deal of software-independent tricks and methods from manuals alone.

It takes less time than it seems to go through the whole book. And although you probably won't memorize or even completely understand all of it in the first reading, the further you would get – the better idea of what your toy is capable of you will have – the less time you'll spend figuring out the answer when confronting new tasks during the real production.

Because you don't abandon the documentation after the first reading – you just start using it as a reference from now on, since from now on you have a good idea where to find what. And (might sound a bit shocking) there is a search function to it! Again, strictly personally, but the first thing I do whenever get stuck with a software – press F1 and type the issue into the search field. Google helps as well of course.

The second tip is as groundbreaking as the first one: use hotkeys. Same way as putting hands at 10 and 2 for driving; while holding a mouse or a stylus in one hand, it is a good practice to keep another one on the keyboard when operating the graphics software. It is just plain faster. Times faster. And it is quite addictive after you start, so it only takes to overcome a little laziness once. Unless you're already doing so (and you probably are, but just in case) – look up the keyboard shortcuts for the 5-10 functions you use most often (they are usually listed in the menus, when hovering the tool button and/or in the manual (see above)) – and start accessing those functions with a keyboard rather than a mouse. Give it an hour, and if your life quality will not improve – do not listen to me anymore.

Thank you. Hope it helps.

Might return to the typography article next time, but that would mean a longer pause as well – will see...