Day 18

Today, I spent some time testing out another renderer. By default, Maya renders with “Maya Software”, which has far fewer capabilities than “Mental Ray”, which is another renderer. One of the benefits of Mental Ray is that objects can be made into light sources, which is the only way I’ve gotten my lights to be lights, as opposed to the ceiling emitting a glow from where lights would be. Mental Ray also makes the picture look¬†much prettier. Not that Maya’s renderings don’t look nice, but Mental Ray’s are a lot nicer. But with prettier pictures comes longer render time. To test them, I rendered out ten frames in each and timed them. Mental Ray took 5 minutes and 22 seconds, while Maya took 23 seconds. If I was to render every frame of the animation, that would come out to 1 hour and 40 minutes. Maya takes 7 minutes so as heartbreaking as it was, I had to stay with it. After my tests, I got the dynamic validation all rendered out and sent to Matt to grayscale who sent it to Killian and Elizabeth to make work. We made a video of it for our presentation, and its pretty exciting to see the model work.

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Day 17

I had an unproductive morning because the grayscaling duties had been taken by Matt (not something I was disappointed with) and Joe came in later, so I didn’t have a defined task. After lunch, I felt like I needed to get to work, so I set some goals and got to it. The ceiling of my model hasn’t been perfect because the grid for the tiles has been incredibly difficult to make, I hadn’t put the rails in that hold up the curtains in the lab, and the lights haven’t been visible objects in the model, just sources of light mysteriously coming through the ceiling. I put in the curtain rails without a problem, found a new way to render the lights that looks all fancy-like, and it took me a few tries, but I got the ceiling tiles in. Then, I put the outline for our final presentation into a powerpoint and filled in what I could. When Joe came in, we went over the presentation for the Undergrad Symposium and my animation (now called the dynamic validation). I need to change a few things in the animation and throw some pictures and/or videos into the presentation, so I have my work cut out for tomorrow.

Day 16

I got in this morning and figured out the animation right away. The problem was that I was moving the figure himself instead of his “reference”, so my ridiculously monotonous typing of numbers was all in vain, which I was pretty psyched about. Then I moved on to rendering the animation. Maya apparently isn’t too fond of rendering videos, preferring instead single frames, so I wasted a decent amount of time before discovering that videos are actually impossible to render, at least with my version of the program. I switched my focus to getting all of the frames of the animation into stills for each camera. The array’s program runs on stills so it worked out. Once I got all of the 1,110 frames neatly into folders, I sent them over to Matt. He plugged them into the program and of course, they didn’t work. I realized that I didn’t put the images into grayscale, and so we had to search for a way to convert such a huge number of pictures, since Maya won’t let me render in grayscale either. We still haven’t figured out how to do it. After lunch, we found some spray paint and tape next to our static validation test balls. Joe said he wanted to make them contrast more for a more dramatic effect for a demonstration, so my job was to paint some patterns. Taping polka dots (which were already there, but didn’t stand out enough) and stripes took forever, and then I had to spray paint. I was pretty rusty on my spray painting skills and started off with some nice pools, but I got the hang of it pretty quick. There are now two big rubber balls hanging out in the fume hood room.

Day 15

The animation still doesn’t work. The pre-made walk that I’m using turns around a few times, so I have been trying to get him to walk in a straight line across the room. As I typed that last sentence, I realized that it would be fine if he was turning around…maybe I’ll look into that. Anyways, I tried pulling out a brief clip of the animation to loop, and grabbed just enough frames for a cycle of the figure’s walk. Or so I thought. When I had finally gotten the figure in place (by repeatedly typing the same group of six six digit numbers [rotating and translating on each of the three axes, each to the thousandths place] for every one of the 40 frames of animation that I had) I tried to loop the walk, and realized I hadn’t taken¬†enough of the animation to loop it. Then, I took a swing at the computer. He ducked quickly, evading my pathetic blow and instead landing one on my jaw. I was knocked to the floor beside the desk, and he proceeded to press his thick-soled boot into my brittle chest. The sounds of small explosions going off in rapid succession erupted from my ribcage. I writhed in agony. He looked down on me, foot resting on my vertebrae, a trace of a smile on his cold, nearly robotic face, like one would look down upon a cupboard thieving mouse that he had finally cornered, a hammer in hand, and he whispered, “You will never be able to animate a person walking in a straight line”. With that, he picked me up by the collar of my blood-soaked shirt, kicked open the lab door, and hurled me over the railing. On my break, I decided to be productive and went to read my summer reading book down at Global Village. After I got through a chapter, I saw some people walking out of the Global Market with some delicious looking drinks, so I went in to see what it was. There is a Bubble Tea stand in the store, which I have never tried before (at least not served this way), so I gave it a shot. The drink brand is named FatStraw, which I thought nothing of, figuring it was just a marketing scheme, so I grabbed a ‘FatStraw’, stuck it through the strange, plastic-wrapped top of the cup, and took a sip. I was greeted by a sugary drink, as expected, and a rubbery ball, which I did not. I looked into the cup bewildered and realized the dark stuff at the bottom was a strange, chewy, asian candy that I had just slurped into my mouth, and the abnormally large straw was sized this way to fit them. And then, I went back to the lab.

Day 13

We finished the static validation today. It was pretty rewarding to see my model in action and actually working. With the exception of a trial for a senior project and a trip to Java’s, I spent the rest of the time trying to get animations to be pretty. I created person that walked mildly less robotically, but it still isn’t great, especially compared to the animations from Motionbuilder, an animation program that the previous models used for their moving figures. I’ve was able to import both the figure and the skeleton (pre-animated set of joints that controls the figure) into my Maya models, but then they wouldn’t properly combine to move together. Then, through several file conversions and a lot of throwing stuff around on my jump drive between the windows computer and my laptop, I got the figure and skeleton together and functional into my model, but then I had no control over the animation. So that is my goal for tomorrow.

Day 12

The Graduate Symposium was today, so me and a few other interns spent the first half of the day drowning in sciency words and nonsensical graphs and getting fantastic free food. Once we got back to the lab, Billy and I worked on the static validation. I would get the six stills from my model and send them in an email to Billy. Then, he would try running the program with it, and it wouldn’t work, so the cycle would repeat with a setting changed every time. It took a while but eventually he discovered that the images needed to be in greyscale, and they were not. We sent the pictures to Joe to fix them up and before I left we got it working. I noticed that one of the pictures looked slightly misplaced, so I will work on fixing that tomorrow. In the time when my labmates were trying to solve the static validation issues, I got going on my animations. There is now a “humanoid” that will awkwardly do high knees across the lab in my model. It’s pretty excellent.