The Trouble with Trolls…


Photo by: Avery Salmon

From time to time I take on freelance projects to help keep the lights on, and several have proven to be both extremely challenging as well as genuinely exciting. Given the recent Halloween festivities, I was prompted to share something fun and thought a brief post about making this little guy might be just the thing.

As was mentioned in Videoblog #4: Digital Sculpting and Design, learning to make rubber masks and creatures was one of several rather unique pursuits of my misspent youth.

Troll_CU_01This creepy critter is something I developed for a successful YouTuber (whose upcoming project must remain undisclosed for the moment). It’s essentially a hand puppet created using many common mask/creature production techniques.


The first thing I did was find an innocent animal plushy with the right type of fur to use as a base for the puppet’s body, then Photoshop-ed a new, ugly mug in place of its decidedly cuter face (adding some wicked black claws for good measure). This part of the process is especially fun, and I gleefully combined elements of both Mogwai and Grinch until an appropriate troll-like visage was achieved.


Once the design was sufficiently repulsive, I began to sculpt the charmingly grotesque features in oil-based clay. The basic size was determined by the need to have a hand fit inside to operate the finished creature. A variety of fangs were made from oven-hardening clay, but the eyes took a little more ingenuity.


I found some glass forms in a craft store (meant for making those photo/magnet baubles you can display on your fridge), then created the desired iris/pupil/sclera in Photoshop, printed them out and glued them to the back of the glass using clear adhesive.


After positioning the eyes and teeth, the skin and all of its detail was sculpted in clay. In the above photo, I’ve started detailing part of the face; you can also see where the lower jaw was separated from the rest of the head to facilitate sculpting the interior of the mouth more easily.


Once the sculpture is finished, a plaster negative mold is made. The clay is removed and several coats of liquid latex are poured in (allowing time to dry between each). When the desired thickness is achieved, the rubber casting is dusted with talcum powder (to keep it from sticking to itself) and carefully peeled from the mold.


After trimming away the excess rubber from the edges, eye holes and back of the throat, acrylic paint mixed with latex was used to color the face with a series of washes to get the layered tones I wanted. When this part was completed, the eyes and teeth were attached.


The claws were made from the same material as the teeth. They were attached to wire armatures and placed inside the existing toy’s hands and feet, cutting the single pieces of fabric into three separate digits and gluing everything back together with contact cement (a puppet-maker’s best friend). To help connect the claws better, I wrapped the tips of the fingers and toes with soft foam strips, then used cotton and latex to build up the rough anatomy of the knuckles, palms and soles (a fairly crude technique, but since those areas wouldn’t be seen much, it made sense to save time doing it this way). After a thorough drying, everything was painted. The poseable interior armatures also included a threaded mounting point for rods that could extend out and control each of the limbs.


The hair for the head was made from a multicolored yarn brushed-out with a pet grooming tool, and then straightened with an old flat-iron. I glued swatches onto the rubber head in overlapping layers and punched-in small tufts along the hairline using a homemade tool.


The face was then attached to the body with a lined passage for the operator’s arm that went from its back up into the head. I also created a fabric ‘esophagus’ that allowed him to ‘eat’ objects directly through the mouth. The teeth, gums and tongue were coated to give them a permanent shine, and there you have it … a custom-made troll puppet to haunt your dreams!

Clearly, this project represents an awful lot of work, but also a tremendous amount of fun. Taking a break from the digital world to get my hands covered in clay, paint and glue again — even for a little while — takes me back to where these dark fascinations began; I hope you enjoyed this demented detour! :)


Opportunities & Automobiles

With the crisp autumn air and distinctive smell that heralds the change in seasons, my thoughts have turned to my visit with Neil at his splendid Castle Gaiman. Sifting through memories both spellbinding and surrealistic, there is a moment  I still feel pangs of regret for.

One day, we traveled through some strikingly pretty country in Neil’s car to attend an event for his good friend and assistant, Lorraine, and her  roller derby team. As we drove, I asked him a few questions, but was leery about ‘taking’ too much after he had already generously invited me to stay in his home and spend a few days tagging along (for a more detailed explanation of my concerns with overstepping boundaries, see this blog post regarding an experience being on set with Stephen King).


(This photo was taken by the one-and-only Cat Mihos, who arranged my trip and then selflessly sat in the back seat despite my feeble attempts at chivalry.)

One thing I asked was what he thought of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. He responded that after the first film, he chose not to watch the rest; having lived with his own vibrant visions of Tolkien’s world for many years, he wasn’t ready to replace those imaginings with someone else’s version of Treebeard. I can respect that wholeheartedly, but since those are my all-time favorites, I couldn’t think of a whole lot to add at that point in the conversation. He was listening to various musical selections (clearly enjoying himself, even singing along occasionally), and a sense of having encroached upon a very, very busy man’s pleasant afternoon drive began to creep over me.

That might seem odd to some of you, but I’ve had the chance to see firsthand how much his fans can ask — even demand — of him. By nature, Neil is a generous and kind man, and I didn’t want to take advantage of that; I still don’t.

He drove a Mini Cooper  that day, a fitting choice of vehicle (I thought). Back when I created the original images for the animatic of The Price, I used a SAAB for the car in a scene where the Narrator returns home from working on his latest book to find the mysterious Black Cat ragged and “almost unrecognizable,”  sitting on the front porch like a weary sentinel.


When it came time to render this shot in 3D, I decided to go with the Mini instead, and had a ton of fun setting-up the materials and animation rig (check out those Minnesota tags)!


Looking back, it feels as though a rare opportunity was squandered that October afternoon by not allowing a more natural moment to just … happen. I was too worried about the author-fan scenario and withdrew myself somewhat out of fear that I might become a nuisance or irritant — one more fan with his hand out (despite the fact that he remained friendly and exceedingly hospitable throughout my time there).

Fear is a dangerous thing when we allow it to dissuade us from moving forward on our chosen paths, sowing its dark seeds of doubt and insecurity. I will do my upmost to bear that in mind while continuing to craft this little film that I so dearly love; here is one final image to help with that:




For some time, I have wanted to get (a lot) better at sharing some of the ups and downs of production in a more spontaneous way. After exulting in a triumphal moment with my wife Glynis and detailing the various obstacles I had to overcome to get there, she suggested making a brief video so I could do the same with all of you. As one who has learned by sad experience the peril of not heeding a spouse’s wise words … well, here it is:

And for those of you who may want to take a closer look at the set I refer to during the video, here is a render:


Now imagine the same scene without all those books … not even remotely close to the real thing (trust me), nor would it be the right thing. All of the many ‘props’ required to dress the set are searched and selected with care; look at how the items on the desktop convey information about the character who spends so much time here:


From the tea cup and fountain pen to the contrast of using both a note book and a computer, all of these details help tell the story. That’s all for now; I hope you enjoyed my little rant and quick peek under the hood! :)


Happy Halloween!

Yes, I know Halloween was yesterday, but I didn’t get this post ready in time (big surprise there). I seem to over-complicate things more often than not, so I decided to just write a quick note and add a cool new image to let you know I am still alive, still working away on this little film, and still extremely grateful for the chance to be doing so.


A few weeks ago, I had the unique (if last-minute) opportunity to fill-in for an absent ‘break-out session’ presenter during a Digital Media department conference held at a local university (UVU). With about 45 minutes warning, I grabbed my laptop and made my way through truly horrendous campus traffic to the large auditorium with only moments to spare. The keynote speaker was cinematographer/DP Munn Powell of Napoleon Dynamite fame (who was thoroughly entertaining and informative); after a brief interlude I was privileged to share with about a hundred students the process of getting started with The Price, including my initial emails with Mr. Gaiman, the Kickstarter campaign, Comic Con, and everything else to this point. I had a wonderful time, and enjoyed talking with several audience members afterward. It seemed to be well-received, as the department chair, Arlen Card (brother to author Orson Scott Card), asked me to come back and do it again for a larger, more diversified group tomorrow morning. (I’ll let you know how it goes — hopefully they’ll record it, and if they do I will post some of it here.)

My thanks again for all of the kind messages and positive encouragements; they continue to provide a powerful curative for those dark and discouraging thoughts that try to squirm their way into my heart from time to time, and stand as a reminder that there are many others besides myself who haven’t lost the faith.


Brick by Brick

Brick-By-Brick_01Hey everyone — it’s good to be back (finally)! I’ve mentioned before that many of my friends (along with my wonderfully patient wife, Glynis) keep reminding me that I don’t always need to have some big, fabulous thing to show in order to create a post here. While knowing they are right, I continue to struggle with feeling a lack of anything genuinely interesting to display or speak about … then the time between these updates grows longer and longer, and all my anxieties along with it. It’s a vicious circle I am (still) determined to break, even if that means sharing something that didn’t work right, or to express a hope/frustration in a line or two.

I hope your holiday celebrations were warm and wonderful, and that this year has been good for you thus far. With so much of the negative being emphasized in the world right now, it’s more important than ever to stay aware of the positive and be grateful for all that we have.

Like many of you, the grinding process of working towards long-range goals can make it easy to slip into self-recrimination, allowing devastating sentiments to cloud the precious creative drive we depend upon as artists. I discovered a welcome antidote for those pernicious feelings while reading an article by one of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell. A celebrated contributor to The New Yorker, Mr. Gladwell has written several fascinating — and hugely successful –books (Outliers, The Tipping Point, Blink, and most recently David and Goliath) that each had a profound effect upon me, resulting in much reflection  and a renewed sense of curiosity about how things may actually work (as opposed to how we sometimes, mistakenly, think they do); his TED talks are highly recommended as well.

In the article Late Bloomers, Gladwell begins with the story of a young, aspiring writer named Ben Fountain whose seemingly rapid ascent from obscurity to literary darling is revealed to have actually transpired over the space of eighteen years — most of it spent working away at his kitchen table.

Although the focus of the piece is to ask why we equate genius with precocity, I found great comfort in the way he describes two different artistic personality types.

First there is the prodigy, a fresh, young creator that just blows-up right from the start; in cinematic terms, think Orson Wells, who created his masterpiece Citizen Kane at twenty-five, or Steven Spielberg setting the world on fire with Jaws before even turning 30. Then there is the late bloomer, who takes a much longer and protracted time to develop their style and produce the works they would eventually become known for. A  great example of the latter is Alfred Hitchcock, who made seven of his greatest films (including Rear Window, North by Northwest, and Psycho) between the age of fifty-four and sixty-one! (Insanity!)

Can you guess which side of the line I lean towards?

If you read the article, you’ll notice that many of these late bloomers continue to work on and refine their art throughout the lengthy process of its creation. And although some of the attributes he lists for this creative type don’t fit, I can identify all too well with this familiar methodology,  and wanted to share an example from The Price to illustrate…


Near the beginning of the animatic (the simplified, rough-draft of the movie), I choose to introduce the audience to the narrator by having a stray cat approach the front door of his home. Using storyboard illustrations, this was accomplished with cuts between the feline visitor and the opening door.


In the actual film where the camera is free to move about the 3D ‘set,’  I devised a more immersive shot; we glide up the steps and across the porch, past the stray, and push-in close to look up at the door as it opens (a point-of-view similar to the cat’s). I was thrilled with the effectiveness of the move, but then noticed a glaring issue … the bricks looked fake!

To explain:

The model of the house was made with a minimal amount of polygons, the building blocks for 3D images. Simply put, the more polygons in a given object, the more complex and realistic it may look — but the computer has to work harder to ‘draw’ or render them onscreen. With limited computing power, that becomes a vital issue.


All of the brightly-colored lines in this image make up the triangular shapes of the polygons, and they act like the frame for the model of the front porch. These digital frames are covered with images called texture maps, using a technique similar to wallpapering. Below are examples of some of the textures used  (many of which were made from photographs I took while visiting the legendary Castle Gaiman).


To keep the poly-budget down to a reasonable level that my computer won’t choke on, many details have to be ‘faked’ with texture maps and another type called a ‘normal’ map (the name doesn’t make any sense at first, but we aren’t going to go into that right now). The seemingly bizarre coloration of the normal map tells the computer how to light a flat object — like a smooth, featureless wall — so it looks like rough bricks with sunken grooves of mortar.

These two maps go a long way toward making it appear as though the house walls are actually made of bricks … until you get to the hard, sharp-edged corners … and the jig is up. Illusion shattered — it looks like wallpaper!

While that may not seem like a big deal, by having the camera move in this close, the lack of edge detail becomes extremely distracting! The whole point of the shot is to focus anticipation on seeing who is opening the door, not the limitations of my PC, right?

To go back and rebuild the porch walls with individually modeled (and textured) bricks would have been a huge, labor-intensive job, and defeat the purpose of keeping the assets lean in the first place, so … what to do?


Using the Element 3D plugin for After Effects (which didn’t even exist when I started this project), I developed a way to build very low-poly bricks and insert them into the existing model only along the edges that were giving me trouble. Look at the difference with those bricks in place…

…and then without.

And in the final shot, those bricks even cast a shadow across the door, adding one more  detail that helps keep the illusion onscreen alive.


Back to Late Bloomers, I could empathize with some of the artists Mr. Gladwell talks about (like the great French painter Cézanne), and was grateful to note that several of them endured adversities similar to my own. Here is a particularly uplifting passage:

“On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure: while the late bloomer is revising and despairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all. Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go. Late bloomers are hard. They require forbearance and blind faith.”

Gladwell then states the extremely vital role that patrons play in allowing these types of artists the time to be able to develop and produce their work.

“That word [patron] has a condescending edge to it today, because we think it far more appropriate for artists (and everyone else for that matter) to be supported by the marketplace. But the marketplace works only for people like … Picasso, whose talent was so blindingly obvious that an art dealer offered him a hundred-and-fifty-franc-a-month stipend the minute he got to Paris, at age twenty. If you are the type of creative mind that …  has to experiment and learn by doing, you need someone to see you through the long and difficult time it takes for your art to reach its true level.”

That brings me to all of you, and the overwhelming surge of gratitude I feel towards everyone who has believed in my vision and generously supported this project, who continue to send so much encouragement and … yes, love.

“Late bloomers’ stories are invariably love stories, and this may be why we have such difficulty with them. We’d like to think that mundane matters like loyalty, steadfastness, and the willingness to keep writing checks to support what looks like failure have nothing to do with something as rarefied as genius. But sometimes genius is anything but rarefied; sometimes it’s just the thing that emerges after twenty years of working at your kitchen table.”

I can’t say it any better than that. My deepest thanks to everyone (beginning with Mr. Neil Gaiman, my family, and to each one of you) for allowing me to make this little film, to honor a story I fell in love with and can’t get out of my mind/heart until it can be shared with the world.

It’s been a long, cold winter, but spring is coming …


Legs & Layers


I’m preparing a new Video Blog that illustrates some of the various hybrid animation techniques being used in the production of The Price, and wanted to share a screenshot as a quick preview — stay tuned!

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Dreaming Dangerously

Every year it seems my family and I wind up celebrating my birthday somewhere along the vast stretches of interstate that constitute the 1000 mile pilgrimage we make each summer to be with family north of the border. A sourly noted  coincidence is that it almost always occurs during the very week of the San Diego Comic Con — the Mecca of all Geekdom — and often while I’m not even in the same country.  Although this has never been a big deal (as I cherish every minute we get to spend in the gorgeous Okanagan valley), I have long wished for an opportunity to go and see for myself what all the Comic Con-fuss is about.

Part of the joy in writing this blog comes from the opportunity to share with you some of the astonishing experiences that have transpired during the production of this little film. Most recently, two things happened that made this year’s birthday extra-extra-special…

First, I had the extraordinary good fortune of being invited to attend and participate in the 2016 San Diego Comic Con!

And then, this happened:


Photo by: Mysterious Female Gaiman Fan (who took this for me after I took one for her)

I’m going to explain the excessive use of italicized words in just a moment, but there is something more important to show you first: here is the brand new trailer that was created exclusively for Comic Con!

It was such an enormous thrill to watch this on a huge screen and hear an audience (larger than my family) react to it for the first time!

So… how did all of this come about? Neil’s Director of Development (and my own wonderful Producer) Cat Mihos asked me to be a part of a special SDCC panel entitled “Neil Gaiman in Film.” Focusing on the work of several talented artists who have been inspired by Mr. Gaiman’s life and creations, each of us showed clips from our cinematic projects and shared the motivations for making them.


Photo by: Tyler Bel

From left to right, our distinguished (motley) group included: Olga Nunes and Alan Amato with their documentary Temple of Art, our fabulous moderator (and childhood friend of Neil’s) Geoff Notkin, the incredible Cat Mihos herself, her partner-in-crime and the panel’s appointed color man Ethan McQuerrey, Patrick Meaney the director of the featured documentary Dream Dangerously, his cinematographer Jordan Rennet… and that other dude there at the end.

(As I began listing these talented folks it became apparent there was no realistic way to include all of their multi-hyphenate descriptors, so you’ll just have to take my word for it: this is a powerhouse group!)


Photo by: Taylor Maw

I was sincerely honored to be included and had a veritable blast onstage (hopefully video of the proceedings will be available soon), but it got even better afterwards when I had the opportunity to speak with some hardcore Gaiman-ites who had stories of their own to share.

First, a young man named Ryan shook my hand as he thanked me for creating the animatic of The Price, claiming he had watched it more than 20 times. He said it gives him hope as an artist (he is a writer) when hitting those down days that we all struggle through, and found it has provided inspiration for him to keep going. I was overwhelmed to hear this, and felt an intense gratitude that my little prototype film had such an effect on this earnest fellow; his enthusiasm to see the finished movie was humbling.

Next, a woman named Sarah approached me with tears in her eyes. She thanked me for working on The Price (her favorite short story), and referenced something I’d said when introducing the teaser trailer for Castle Gaiman. It was reminiscent of this blog post about my visit to Neil’s Midwestern home where the real-life events of this fictitious story took place. I told the audience (who all looked at me in various shades of jealous-green) about getting to spend time there, catching glimpses of the relationships he has nurtured not only with a variety of ‘lost’ animals that he shares the house with, but also the ‘lost’ people with whom he surrounds himself. And by ‘lost,’ I mean individuals who may not feel as though they fit the regular-shaped holes that society has available for them to fill; somehow, he has made them all a home.

Because of this remark, Sarah related an experience several years prior at Comic Con when she had waited for hours to see Neil in sweltering summer temperatures and while she was extremely pregnant (with a son who was attending himself this year). At some point, she was told that she had been waiting in the wrong line, and had to scramble up elevators and down corridors to arrive at the new location. Then, after waiting even longer in this second queue, was informed she had been in the correct line the first time around, and would now miss the event altogether. Heartbroken and feeling miserable, she made her way back only to find closed doors; all her efforts to see him had been in vain.

But wait…this is a Neil Gaiman story, so it can’t possibly end there, right?

With a huge smile, she said that as Neil was leaving the room after the panel concluded, he recognized her from the line, walked over and sat down for 15 minutes to chat with a tired mother whose fan-hopes were suddenly rekindled in the best possible way.

“I was one of those lost people you mentioned.” she finished, her eyes still gleaming.


Photo by: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for STARZ

Everything about this entire experience was so overwhelming that I cannot begin to give you an accurate sense of what it all felt like (keep in mind this was my first time at SDCC), but let me share a few more moments.

Getting to attend the American Gods panel as part of Neil’s “entourage” was both exhilarating and rather startling, especially when finding myself at the pre-panel gathering in the presence of actors like Ian McShane, Kristin Chenoweth, and Producer/Writer and Showrunner Bryan Fuller. I’m standing there trying not to gawk openly at all of these people, when Neil calls out my name and comes over for a hug while wishing me a happy birthday — I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that, right? I don’t even know if I said anything that made sense after that, just grinned a whole lot. Maybe too much.


Photo by: Natalie Fisher

After his panel — and it really did belong to Neil, as the audience cheered and clapped for all of the guests, but absolutely went berserk when Mr. Gaiman took the stage (you can see for yourself here) — all the participants and their guests returned to the same private gathering room, and again, Neil took time with me for that priceless photo above and to chat amiably with the horde of people who all wanted a piece of his time. I was able to meet some wonderful new friends, and once again was left to marvel at the generosity and kindness of a genuinely good man who has touched so many, many lives.


This was my POV from backstage — crazy-cool!

On top of all this, there was the thunderous, mind-blowing insanity that is Hall H, the ultra coveted venue that people literally camp overnight in line just to be a part of. It was like a full-on rock concert in a 7000 seat madhouse! Screaming fans, laser holograms projected on smoke, ear-splitting audio all fused to the kind of live-wire adrenaline that drives everyone to their feet when someone like Benedict Cumberbatch suddenly appears onstage… jaw-dropping!!!


Photo by: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

In addition to the marketing juggernaut of the Marvel panel, there were other phenomenal events to savor, like the Aliens 30th Anniversary panel with James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver — I was in heaven!

What more can I say? Only that I hope you enjoyed this offering and the spirit in which it was given, one of gratitude and pure amazement at getting a chance to be there and take part in so much geeky-goodness!

One last thing… my Comic Con experience was made possible through the tireless, behind-the-scenes efforts of the person who my wife has pointed out is the equivalent of our own personal Black Cat. Like the quiet hero of The Price, she is the resilient and positive force that brought everything together at SDCC and kept it flowing: Cat Mihos (along with her awe-inducing hubby, the giant, pony-tailed, kilt-wearing dynamo that is Drew Johnston). Her consistent encouragement and genuine desire to help others has been a source of inspiration and hope even durning times when this project was moving so slowly, it was hard to see progress. She has opened many doors for me (and others), and creates networks between those of us lucky enough to associate with her. And when I witness how deftly she coordinates the intense storm of focused attention that always threatens to engulf her beloved boss, I know she is his Black Cat as well.

A 1000 thank-yous, my friend.


SDCC: Your Cup of Tea?

Hey everyone! It’s been a few weeks since I last posted, and I’m incredibly excited to finally share some news that’s been in the works for awhile: I’ll be debuting a brand new cinematic trailer for The Price at the San Diego Comic Con later this month!


I was asked by Cat Mihos (my wonderful producing partner and Head of Development for Mr. Neil Gaiman) to join a special panel called “Neil Gaiman in Film,”  featuring the new documentary Dream Dangerously and other great art. For those of you who may be attending the Con, here are the details:

Neil Gaiman in Film: Dream Dangerously, The Price, Temple of Art

SDCC, Saturday July 23rd, 8:00-9:00 pm Room 29AB

Patrick Meaney (Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods), Jordan Rennet (She Makes Comics), Cat Mihos (Neverwear), Allan Amato (Slip), Olga Nunes(Temple of Art), Christopher Salmon (The Price), Geoff Notkin(Meteorite Men) and Ethan McQuerrey (The Executive) discuss three different upcoming films featuring Neil Gaiman (Sandman, The Graveyard Book).They will show clips from the films and then have a Q&A session/discussion moderated by Ethan McQuerrey & Geoff Notkin.

Pretty cool, right???!!!

Needless to say, I have been working around the clock, and in addition to The Price, will also be showing the Castle Gaiman mini-doc trailer as well (with some exclusive new interview footage).

Patrick’s film, Dream Dangerously is available starting tomorrow on Vimeo, and contains some truly fascinating insights not only into Neil’s world, but of the challenges in creating art professionally as well.

I hope to see some of you there, and finally get a chance to express my gratitude in person for helping make this filmmaker’s dream come true. And after all, it is Comic Con…who knows what surprises may be in store? 😉


Windows of the Soul

Gollum_Smeagol_TheTwoTowersI remember the first time I saw Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers and sat in slack-jawed amazement during the scene where Frodo confronts Gollum about his long-forgotten past as Smeagol. So much of a genuinely affecting performance comes through an actor’s eyes… and here was a CG character emoting in a way I’d never imagined possible! Somehow, the animators had managed to capture Andy Serkis’s phenomenal work and translate it through the computer to play out on the screen.

Because there are several shots in The Price when the Narrator is simply staring at the Black Cat or off into the distance somewhere, I knew that the CG model’s eyes were going to bear the brunt of the audience’s focus (not to mention scrutiny). With that in mind, digital designer and sculptor Ryan Peterson had his work cut out for him.



Again, it may seem like overkill to go into this much detail, but to get the computer to make things “look right,” you have to give it plenty to work with. (Seriously, click on the image above and look closely at all of those sculpted folds in the iris [dilator pupillae] and the intricate veining on the sclera — that is just plain nuts, right??!!) Ryan even made a shell that covers the eye and incorporates the “corneal bulge” shape, which actually helps in the next stage.



When preparing a model for rendering, I can assign certain characteristics to each individual part. In the image above, I gave the skin of the face and the eyeball itself some translucency, so that part of the light in the scene actually passes through the material instead of just bouncing off. It’s not something most of us walk around thinking about, but your brain inherently recognizes the difference between something organic (like skin) and something else (like rubber), and will let you know immediately if something looks “off.” For the scleral covering/corneal bulge pieces, I used a glass-like shader with actual refractive properties, so the image of the iris and pupil behind it are slightly distorted (in real life, the cornea and surrounding liquid do the same thing). An environment map (depicting the scene around the character, like a backyard or a room interior) is also applied to give that glassy surface layer something to reflect, which is what makes it seem wet or moist. (That last reference was specifically for my sister Jen — she absolutely loathes the word “moist.”) :) All of these little things really add to the overall impact when you see them together, like this:


I’ll admit he does appear a wee-bit maniacal (sorry Neil), but those eyes make it seem as though there is someone “in there” (even if he may be a little frayed around the edges).

Well, that’s all for now; I hope you enjoy these “behind-the-scenes” posts — have a great week, everyone!

PS: This whole topic was kind of ironic, as I had my very first visit to the Eye Doc this morning (getting old, I’m afraid…), so here’s a quick shout-out to the whole team at Davis Vision Center (especially that dapper-doc, the one and only Kurt Hepworth)!



Stunt Cat


Here’s a quick shot I took of what’s currently on my screen: The Black Cat’s very own “stunt” double (hairless at the moment). Used in medium to long shots, this model can be posed and animated in real time. (For those emotive close-up shots, a “hero” version of TBC is rendered in a different program.) I’ll show a demo later on of how this guy works and has solved a specific set of problems for me on The Price. More soon!

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