Tuesday, September 24, 2013

VIST 205 Graphic Design: 3D Representation and Final

With this design step I imported the "evil red LED light" .svg file into Maya 2013 and messed with converting the paths into planar geometry, and then extruding/beveling the geometry. Eventually I came up with sort of a landscape. I finished it off with a basic texture and a couple of lights.

The final step involved arranging each design iteration into a composition. I started with the original photo and arranged the steps so that they progressed into the posterized cropped images and then the vector images. From there you can see the split between the orange and pink images and their variations and the "Sinister"-themed images.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Poster for El Eternauta

I was bored so I decided to try my hand at an Illustrator Project that was more interesting. Here is a poster for the Argentine graphic novel El Eternauta by Hector G. Oesterheld and Francisco Lopez.

El Eternauta is a classic comic tale of aliens, robots, melodrama, flying saucers, ray guns, giant cockroaches, and zombies; all of which was the pulp of 50s and 60s comics. Having lived in Buenos Aires, I appreciate Oesterheld giving Argentina a voice in action comics. The book is well-paced (as long as you can read Castellano) and is highly entertaining for its "vintage" quality.

Here I took a bunch of scans from my personal copy of the book, arranged them into layers and messed around with transparency. The figure in the foreground is from the iconic scene where the main protagonist, Juan Salvo, steps out into a flurry of radioactive snow armed with a hunting rifle. In popular culture, the image has come to represent the ordinary man's honorable struggle against the forces of evil that surround him. The image is also a popular subject for graffiti artists in Buenos Aires.

The color of Juan Salvo's figure is based on the dark blue color of Salvo's suit on the "official" 50th anniversary edition of El Eternauta. It seems to be the "canonical" suit color, though I have seen it colored orange like a haz-mat suit.

Check out El Eternauta on Amazon here:

Follow me on Twitter: @masonsmtx

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Working with adding text to the abstract vector images and including the word in the foreground, background, and as a pattern. The typeface needs to reflect the word chosen, with conscious design of color, composition, size, proportion, letter spacing, etc.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

VIST 205 Graphic Design Assignment 05

Moving on to incorporating colors into the vector graphics:

Here I added a de-saturated ochre, a mix of red, orange and brown. Red, orange and brown are "appetite stimulants". Since the vector graphic was cropped originally from a photo of a toaster oven, I feel this choice of color symbolizes the comfort of food, brought with ease to our tables thanks to 20st-century technology.

For this image I added a cyan-teal color, indicating the cool, sleek, calm, detached life of ease brought to us by modern convenience products such as the toaster oven.

In this image I added a bold, somewhat darker tone of red. The red in the isolated round area is a symbol of the LED light, which turns red when an electronic device is activated or given power. The red spot becomes almost like the sinister eye of a potentially sinister beast: technology.

In this image I added a color trying to capture the sickly, green-yellow glow of florescent lighting, a symbol of 20th-century technology. Filmmakers often use florescent lighting because of its distinct color when recorded on camera. This color can represent the oppression of the city, as seen in Van Gogh's Night Cafe

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

VIST 205 Graphic Design Assignment 04

Week #3...

Moving into even more abstraction. First image is an invert of one of my "Abstract Vector Graphics":

Next I combined the original crop with its color inverse:

Below I took a crop from one of the high contrast images, ran an image trace and formed into a texture.

I multiplied the texture across the art board on Illustrator and applied it to each area of the graphic of a certain tone. The assignment was to replace all the black or white in the graphic; I thought it was too boring so I applied it to one of the lighter gray tones:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

VIST 205 Graphic Design Visual Organization Annotations

Here's what my peers had to say about this first image:

"Has similarity in curved shapes; repetition with the curves"
"The proximity and transition of the fuchsia object in the top half of the image creates a kind of rising motion"
"Clear division of shape and texture"
"Alignment that leads eye throughout composition"
"Repetition of color, shapes; figure-ground reversal in bottom half"

VIST 205 Graphic Design Assignment 03

Graphic Design Project Part 3:

Taking from one of the images from Tuesday, I made even smaller crops that formed abstract images. Then I opened them in Illustrator and converted them to vector graphics. I played with the Golden Ratio, unison, contrast, noise vs uniformity, balance, and emphasis. You know design stuff.

Here's the original image:

And below is the link to my vector graphics taken from cropping images from the original. I tried all night to figure out how to embed .svg files into Blogger, and it was really just too much trouble.


Monday, September 2, 2013

VIST 205 Graphic Design Assignment 02

Assignment 02:

Selected one image from my previous six photos as my original:

Used Threshold filter. The first image is more simple and provides more contrast; the second image used more black in the threshold filter, adding detail:

Took second image from previous step and cropped out three smaller images:

And finally, used Posterize filter on the second image from the previous step, two color and two greyscale. I experimented with different levels of Posterization. Using fewer levels made the images more appealing:

VIST 205 Graphic Design: Assignment 01

Assignment 01

Six photos, two of each category: animal, plant, industrial/mechanical:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I Drew Robots Then I Built A Robot

My final project for VIST 106 at A&M was pretty cool. We built human-sized sculptures which were grouped into themes like jungle, aquatic, sci-fi, etc. I got asked to join the "industrial/mechanical" group and about 5 seconds into the brainstorming we decided we wanted to sculpt a team of giant fighting steampunk robots.

Drawing inspiration from Big O, Power Rangers, and others, we formed our team with specific combat roles in mind. Think your typical D&D campaign. We had a heavy brute robot, a sniper robot, a rogue/assassin robot, an engineer robot, and even a mage robot. My robot was the valiant leader of the group.

Here are some pages from my sketchbook showing my creative process. Since I draw robots all the time this wasn't really work.

Above, I started with a rough silhouette to figure out the pose. The leader needs to show confidence, courage, etc. Though it didn't appear in the final product, I liked the wide legged stance. Very Kurosawa. The big sword with the saw blade stuck til the very end.

 Above I was working out design details, trying to figure out the steampunk look.

 Eventually I inked out this concept: adding gears was cool, and it was fun to explore the possibilities of the heroic sword. Unfortunately it all just looked menacing and cruel when I was done.

Once I had a general concept of what I wanted, I simplified the body and proportions until I had something I could actually build with my limited time and college-kid budget. I guess it became less evil-looking on its own, perhaps due to the pose:


...And there's the final project. I'll post more of the actual construction process later. Looking back, it's fun to see my process of working out a design for the robot.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pixar's Lightspeed Brings New Light to Monsters University

No, literally. Pixar's lighting/rendering systems were completely redone for their new film Monsters University. In my correspondence with Chris Horne, who studied Visualization at A&M and works Pixar's Lightspeed, he mentioned his work on MU:

I was on MU from May 2012 until April 2013 -- so yeah I worked on it for a *very very* long time as far as the lighting department is concerned. When I joined it was only leads + 1 shot lighter and me. It was a blast to work on because we completely rewrote our lighting system to be a raytraced/GI system -- and since I was on early I got to test the boundaries of it and figure out how we should light the show from a technical aspect. We really explored the lighting system - and I feel like a significant amount of work we did back then is going to live on in the way we light shows with this new technology. It was really unnerving and weird though to run into something new, ask some really smart people what the hell is going on, and hear back "We have no idea. It's all new. Good luck!" P.S. - the film is fully done and in the can as of this week (including credits, stereo, and all their international permutations, and the audio related to all of those). Creative production here finished maybe the 2nd week of April?

I was surprised that Pixar was just now using all ray tracing in their system. A few emails later I asked him if audiences will notice the difference in lighting:

There's a huge difference in MU compared to past films. Even people that don't know anything about our tech change going in walk out going "HOLY CRAP!"....but they have a hard time putting their finger on why it looks so awesome. Personally I see a huge difference between MU and Brave - there's more shaping, more little splashes of color, and everything feels a little bit more dynamic and pulled together. This is particularly evident in the toxic urchins sequence - where every single urchin is a light source. We couldn't have done that sequence in the past with our old technology. 

Historically we don't use raytracing. It wasn't until Cars that we actually supported raytracing (and even then it was a haphazard and mostly broken support). We really only used it for highly reflective smooth curved surfaces that absolutely needed to be truly reflected and not faked. We fake almost everything - mirrors, wet surfaces, eyes, shiny props like belt buckles/spoons/swords/etc. We obviously can't get away with that on Lightning McQueen - so we would cache out the scene into a brickmap (essentially a kd-tree with shading attached to the voxels) and fire rays against that (so even then....we aren't doing traditional raytracing). For shadows - we would sometimes use raytracing when we needed particularly awesome looking contact shadows. The same shadow would ramp off to using a shadowmap to help lower the expense. 

So our Director of Photography went to a studio that is so clearly raytracing averse and essentially said "We're raytracing everything. True reflection and refraction in the eyes reflecting actual SCENE GEOMETRY and not a brickmap. Yep - we're refracting through the cornea onto the sclera and iris. Oh and all your shadows are raytraced now - no more shadowmaps. Nope. None. Yes I know you like them but no. And global illumination! We're doing that now. By default. Everywhere. Oh and I almost forgot - all reflective surfaces will do real true reflection....and deciding what's reflective will be a shading decision instead of a lighting one. Yes you heard me right. Now get to work" It was extremely controversial, but it made a huge impact and really was one of the true success stories of the film. And now I'm working on that.

If you're advanced enough to understand the tech jargon above, good for you. For the uninitiated, ray tracing is a relatively advanced CG lighting technique which virtually simulates actual rays of light and all their interactions with the objects in your environment. In technical terms, Global Illumination lighting is like super hard core ray tracing. Both techniques use up a lot of memory. A more comprehensive explanation can be found here.

I was surprised that ray tracing in Pixar was historically a clunky, haphazard process. I always thought of it as this smooth, polished machine like something you would see at an Apple store. It's cool to see Pixar making history and advancing themselves over the past couple of years, I mean you can already see the difference in the images above.

Follow Chris on Twitter@distastee
And follow me on Twitter: @masonsmtx