I’ve taken to posting 3D exercises (built in Cinema 4D) to Instagram fairly often more recently, and yesterday morning I noticed a posting from about 2 weeks ago was getting an unusual amount of views and likes. Looking at my private inbox, I noticed I had received a message from Instagram notifying me this specific post had been selected as an item to be featured in a “Surreal Graphics” collection, promoted in the explore section of Instagram. This was a cool and unexpected honor that explained it all! The collection should be featured for another day or so, and the post in question is already on its way to reaching 3000 views (to contrast with my other postings, which had topped out at around 100 views). My main goal in posting these exercises was to keep myself on the ball of practicing new techniques, and keeping myself from getting rusty in 3D, while possibly get some feedback from the pro 3D design community on Instagram in the process, which has already happened. With the traffic this post is getting, I can say I have been able to reach a far greater audience than I ever imagined. I’ll take it as encouragement to continue pushing myself to practice, learn new techniques, and create better original animations and graphics.
The above animation is an early sample result of my toying with sub polygon displacement in Cinema 4D. For anyone interested in learning how to get started, a great intro tutorial can be found via Greyscalegorilla. Sub polygon displacement is a simple yet highly flexible tool that can be used to quickly build some very complex forms, both geometric and organic. And as you see from the gif above, it is all animatable. Here are some other examples of what I was able to quickly create:
For no particular reason, I set out to practice making a walk cycle in After Effects a while back. I didn’t have any character to start with, so I threw together the retro looking farmer character you see here. He actually started off in an early sketch as an even more heavily stylized, ambiguous humanoid, but quickly evolved when I got into Illustrator. Once I had the character in place, I decided to take the whole thing further, and build the walk cycle in the context of a old-school animation. To achieve that, I brought in a film preroll (which, if you look closely, you may notice includes flashes of my website logo), film grain and scratches, film reel sound effects, and throwback, Ren and Stimpy inspired, music. I mixed eras up a bit with some 3D elements (which I built and rendered out in Cinema 4D), though rendered in a low polygon style, to make them fit with the 2D look of the central character.
So this happened. As I got to building out more of these kawaii/barrio infused characters and objects, I got to thinking of ways of tying them all together. The classic game, lotería (a cooler, more visual, and definitely more Mexican version of bingo, if you’re not familiar), soon came to mind. Yes, bad parodies (and some good ones) of it have been done to death. This pairing just seemed natural though. Plus it’s not cultural appropriation when you’re actually Mexican. You’ve got me there on the kawaii part though.
Here’s the first in what will hopefully be a series where I merge the kawaii look (essentially, cute or adorable) with common scenes/characters from around the hood in Los Angeles. Particularly the areas you might refer to as the barrio – East LA and South East LA, where I grew up. I was partly interested in creating an ironic juxtaposition, but, I can also admit, the look has grown on me. The common anthropomorphization, giving inanimate objects faces and expressions, takes me back to Pee Wee’s Playhouse, which both inspired and traumatized me as a child. Chairy, anyone?
I start here with a paletero, or popsicle/icescream vendor. If you don’t know about them, ask any Mexican.
I recently posted a video I put together of footage from my recent trip to Joshua Tree, but I hadn’t done anything with the few photos I shot that day – until now. During the trip, I captured a couple shots at four different exposures to test out Magic Lantern’s expanded bracketing options (which allow up to 6 automated bracketed shots, versus the limit of 3 of the default 60D firmware), to later combine into HDR (High-Dynamic Range) photos, via Photoshop. I took it easy on the HDR effect, since it can easily get over the top, and cartoony. I just wanted clear, natural-looking pictures. Here are a few examples:
I should preface this by saying I don’t think the “Minority Report UI” is a great idea, at all, in terms of real-world usability (this article sums up some reasons why). But nonetheless, it looks pretty cool and has become widespread in sci-fi films and television shows, and even things like CSI:Miami. So, of course, I had to take a crack at it.
Last weekend I went on an impromptu hiking trip to Joshua Tree National Park, and decided to take my Canon 60D, and cheap homemade rig (see previous post) with me, for some videography testing. I put this short edit together from the footage.
It was all really a rushed job, since the hike itself was the main goal of the day. I shot clips at random points, with no real end-game in mind, but the test proved to me that $10 can go a long way. Without it, even simple pans were harder to keep steady, without the use of a more cumbersome tripod – the DIY rig, meanwhile, was easy to dissemble and throw in my backpack. Previously walking movements would be too jumpy to even smooth out effectively with software image stabilization (which I have also applied here on a few shots).
I have been experimenting with videography more lately, using my Canon 60D, which offers a good image sensor and set of features for video, including a pop-out swivel screen. But the bottom line is DSLR bodies are designed for photography first, and are not optimally shaped for shooting stable video. Searching online, you can find several products designed to help compensate for this, including all kinds of rigs and both official and faux Steadicam™ setups. These range in price, and can get very expensive, up to several times the cost of my camera. I started looking for simple, cheaper solutions.
At this point I remembered stumbling upon a tutorial for a cheap shoulder rig on YouTube. Searching for it, I found a ton of similar videos offering different variations on the theme. I decided to go with the simplest and perhaps lowest cost one I found. You can find it here, and see the resulting rig above. True to its claim, it only cost about $10 in parts, and took less than an hour to build. Though I’m sure it doesn’t work nearly as well as a $10,000 setup, for the cost, it works pretty well, and is definitely an improvement over just going handheld.
Another simple hack I found involved the camera itself. Leave it to hackers to find a way to expand the functionality of the 60D and other DSLRs. If you’re up for a little hacking yourself, and have a Canon DSLR, I suggest you look into Magic Lantern. Depending on your model, it can unlock some features otherwise only available on much more expensive cameras. And fear not, you don’t have to risk bricking your camera. It can run off your SD card, without the need to meddle with the system’s firmware.