Ric Holland's Blog

Zero One Animation


Zero One Animation

 Brad May, Peter Leary, Drew Wood-Davies, Trent Denham

RH            So, guys, welcome to the Art of Making Marks which is a book that we’re producing.  If you’d like to just introduce yourselves and your organisation to kick things off.

BM            Brad May CEO of Zero One Animation.

PL             Peter Leary.  I just hang around with Zero One really.

DD            Drew Davis environment artist at Zero Link.

TD             I’m Trent Denham, environment artist.

RH            Well maybe just this question directed to Brad about the organisation.  So what type of work does Zero One Animation do and maybe describe a little more about it.

BM            We create cinematics for video games.  It’s the majority of our work, a couple of ads and various other thing here and there but the bulk of our work is cinematics.  We’ve been operating for about a year and a half now.  We set up the company to make cinematics for The ‘Acme Arsenal’ Looney Tunes video game which finished a couple of months ago and  we’ve moved on to a couple more games.

RH            We’ll just have a quick look at that shall we. (Just cut to that scene). So were the Wacom tablets of any use at all in the production of that?

BM           Yeah, we used them a lot.  Mostly the artists doing textures that sort of stuff but I know some people were using them instead of mouses…

PL             mices?

BM            To save their wrists and various other things so.

PL              Yeah I pretty much use Wacoms for everything now.  I go off the mouse completely which is kind of cool.

RH            What sort of tablet are you using.

PL             6 x 11.

RH            the Intuos3.

PL             Yeah.

RH            So were you using a tablet before then.

PL          Yeah I’ve kind of gone through a few.  This one which was kind of like an old dinosaur… and then I ended up nabbing someone else’s for a year or two and then this current one. But yeah this one is definitely the best one that I’ve had.

RH            I notice you’re using the wide screen because you’ve got multiple monitors.

PL     Yeah.

RH            So I mean one of the things that I guess… you know what I’ve seen people with multiple monitors doing with mouse is taking forever to get from one side to the other, so does it speed you up in the environment in which you work.

PL     Well it’s good like that but with the old ones we had they were just square so basically you’d be losing a whole lot of it anyway.  I would just map it so it was a wide screen tablet and so it made sense… also you don’t have to have this huge amount of space in between you and the keyboard and the monitor then.  So it’s kind of cool like that.  But yeah it definitely works well with the wide screen and the dual monitor set up.

RH     Can we just go around the room then and pick some thoughts on that.

PL     He’s got the fricken huge model

DWD     I think one of the things that sold that tablet for me was definitely if you’re working on a large kind of 24 inch display to get a relative scale when you are painting….

RH        So you’re really dealing with a one to one.

DWD     Yeah, that ratio’s really helpful.  I mean with the smaller tablets you could always zoom in but being able to have the whole canvas on screen and able to draw a relative scale straight onto the canvass is awesome.

RH         Have you used it for everything or just specific, within specific applications.

DWD     As Brad mentioned a lot of texture stuff.  But I find it a great tool to detail things in post and… because a lot of the work that I’m doing is environmental, from a map painting point of view and a post tool.  It’s just superb


to be able to add that detail in.

PL     Yeah I don’t use it for 3D yet though, I’d like to try it.  I know a lot of people do actually.

RH     You were talking about [Mud Box] is that an area you’re going to be using the tablet with.

PL      Yeah, it doesn’t feel like 3D when you’re in Mud Box because they’re so intuitive.

RH     What does Mud Box do.

TD     Mud Box is a really high resolution detailing tool for 3D where you can extract normal maps and displacement maps.  Yeah it’s amazing, it doesn’t feel like that…

RH            Painting in 3D.

TD     Yeah it’s a push pull modifier basically when it comes down to it and especially the tip sensitivity and everything… you just can’t do that with a mouse, it’s impossible.  Yeah that… and it saves your arm a bit.

RH     There seems to be a lot more applications also developing in this direction where… for an artist to interact with a complex 3D tool as apposed to more a engineering level type of user experience.  

DWD     And you can also use it for games

PL     I mean it depends on what sort of game.  I played this poker game a lot and you just move the stuff around and you don’t want to get a claw hand mouse thing going on, it gives you a lot of strain really doesn’t it if you just kind of sit there.

RH    My son plays counter strike all the time and I try to get him to use the tablet and he just says ‘no, no’.  So I’m not too sure whether it’s quite there in that space.  I’d love to see some more games developed specifically for tablet interaction where that would be some kind of advantage over a mouse.

PL     You could use the tilt.

RH     Exactly. So is that something within your work that does give you an advantage or some greater level of creative control?

PL     Well I don’t use it very often,most of the time I just go ‘Oh okay, cool’ then I’ll use that to my advantage like with z-brush

TD     I was going to say paint is a good one for that.

PL     Well it’s sometimes good.  Like you see like a spray going out of the handle… it’s useful.

RH     Have you seen the artist painting at all which actually recognises rotation as well.

PL     So it’s as if like you’ve got a felt tip pen or something you could rotate it around.

RH     That’s right.  So it’s great for that sort of sweep *7:26 and you can calligraphy or I don’t know how you would use it…

PL     That would be cool.

RH     It does follow you know certain painter… you get that sort of beautiful sort of three dimensional brush stroking being pulled through with your turn of your wrist.

RH     Yes, well they work with Intuos.  So every Intuos…  and with the Centeek as well. So we sort of talked about how long… so it seems like you’ve all been sort of long term Wacom tablet users.  You don’t want to go into tablets anonymous or anything… so I guess I’d like to hear a little bit more about your actual work so that we can look at the actual workflow. What is your application workflow, that is mainly used here?

DWD     Like software?

RH        Yeah.

BM        Well most 3D is done in Max and we use Mud Box obviously for detailing some of the 3D stuff.  Pete uses Z Brush I believe.

PL         Yeah and a bit of painter.

BM        Painter, Photoshop and then in post production we’ve got digital fusion and after effects.  I think that’s about it, there might be a couple of other random apps.

DWD     Rendering is done in V-ray

BM        Rendering in V-ray – that’s right and a couple of really good plug-ins that we use with Max.  We’ve got fume effects which is really good and Render Pass Manager which is by a local guy.  But it’s an absolute time saver and I’d recommend it for anyone working in Max.

RH        And at the visualisation end is that all done in PhotoShop, you know from the point of view of your story boarding or just working out ideas or are we sort of on paper traditionally and then scanned in.

BM       It’s a bit of a mix but story boards would be done on paper for the majority and then scan them in. Then we create an animatic that gets filled out with previews and then the test frames and then final renders and so on.

PL     Yeah most of the time we just do them on paper but heaps of the concept that I was doing for this latest project we’re working was whipped up in Painter because it was a lot quicker just to get colours and things out.  Or sometimes I’d draw it and then just head in to painter and colour it because it’s easier and you don’t have to rub out areas and what not.  So we use a bit of that kind of thinglike mix it up a bit.

BM     I find the relationiship between your hand and your screen really difficult to sketch out ideas on the computer but I guess that’s the same for you, you usually draw everything on paper, sketch up a rough…

RH     Definitely need to lend these guys a Cintiq for a little while.   

PL     Don’t do it, don’t do it!

PL     I don’t know but with this one after I was drawing it and scanning it and colouring it for about a week or so I just ended up just doing it all in Painter because you get the hand eye thing and then it all just sort of comes together.

BM     You need to have that don’t you.

TD     And then you go back to drawing just normally on paper

RH     I think that’s obviously the main distinction when you say in a production mode with a normal tablet that even having your hand away from the screen seems to be an advantage in some cases, we’re so used to working that way.  But when you’re fully doing things from scratch, expressing that hand motion, that thing, that’s all about Centeek and you suddenly realise that ‘wow I’m not thinking about what I’m doing’.

PL     Yeah definitely I’m hanging to get one.  I occasionally look them up on the internet…. So yeah.

RH     So I guess if there were any innovations that come out of your studio that may have something to do with the way you’re using the tablets, what would that be.

TD     Definitely like line stuff for how we tackle modelling texturing for the future.  I mean doing something, modelling for really detailed stuff can take heaps of time which can be done in Mud Box in half or quarter to the time.  Once the software just develops and keeps getting better things like texturing and the communication between that and other 3D software is going to get better and better…

TD     I mean that stuff traditionally… If you’re painting it and bringing it back in and trying to use the same doc can be such a painful and long, long process.

RH     So is it just about time or is there also maybe quality.

TD     Digital feedback as well.  Seeing it as you’re going.  I mean right now you’re doing textures for a model, you’ve unwrapped it, you’ve got your texture in Photo Shop, you’re touching that up, you’re bringing that back onto the 3D model, you’re rendering that without seeing how that change is happened.  But to be able to see that visually, you know I’m talking more about software than a tablet but it will be good to have tools developed to be able to achieve that.

RH     Sure, sure.  If you could say look make me something… this isn’t quite where we want it to be yet, maybe there’s something else touched *14:17.

TD        You could start with gloves.  Hopefully one of these days I mean.

RH        Maybe touch hand point would that be…

DWD     Multiple sensory stuff.

RH        Well I think there’s still the need for, if you like the pen input, it’s still the human device which is kind of sub-programmed in us but maybe the idea of being able to use your hand as well to manipulate an object.

BM       Even just for rotation.  If you have your pen and you turn the image with one hand…

RH        We did have multiple input at one point with a mouse and a pen and you could use the mouse to rotate an object and you could paint on it but I think we’re moving on further in that, as I say that touch space, we can see a lot of things going on at the moment.

DWD     What about having a little track ball in the corner or something?  I’d probably like to see a lot more map board keys that you could use that maybe with an overlay that you could print out what they are… just have your brushes on there as pre-sets for 20 different brushes and you just hit the corresponding button.

BM     A little LCD where you can just scroll through different menus.

PL     There was a keyboard where they were doing that.  I don’t think they ever finished it but all the keys were LCD.

DWD     Yeah, yeah.  There is something available.

PL     Like if you went into Photoshop you would just see all the icons for short cuts instead of the letters.

BM     Is that the case with the Centeek?

DWD     With the screen, are you able to use it similar to like, digitise as we used before where you can create menus to the side and stuff like that, custom stuff, to access those tools.

RH        Well I mean it’s really still about the application because all we’re doing really is enabling… we’ve got a certain set of programmable parameters with the keys and things like that, we don’t at this point in time have anything programmable within the screen area.  But of course that’s really still just up to the application to maybe, if you like evolve a little bit more into our technology.  I mean things like Photoshop have literally been built from the ground up with tablets in mind.  So when you go into the brushes menu it pulls up all of those attributes which are directly from the Intuos range of tablets.  So that’s a great kind of marriage if you like and Painter obviously… and I think we’re now starting to see more 3D apps starting to think that way, we just hope to see better integration and more intuative approaches to interaction.  So in answer to your question probably not at this stage but there’s still a hell of a lot…  I guess in just using the Cintiq as an interface tool…  I mean we even talking to people in medicine about using it from the point of view of just an easier way of working with your computer system, and still have a conversation with somebody, use hand writing recognition as your input or actually just writing and making notes you know on a piece of paper rather than sitting behind a keyboard.  So it’s just, from that point of view, it’s just a user experience thing.

Well fantastic I think we all want to have a look at your work now so we’ll rush off and place all the animations.  Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us before we sign off.

BM      No, we’re just looking forward to see what you guys are coming up with and the next sort of range of Intuos and graphite tablets.

RH       Next year’s going to be a very exciting year.

BM       Excellent.

RH        All right thank you.