A New Year’s Treat:

Happy New Year everyone!!! This is gonna be one fantastic year, I can feel it — can’t you??? And to celebrate, I wanted to share a sneak-peek of a test-rendering/composite of one of the featured character models that is nearing completion… guess who???

(click on it to see a bigger version!)

Please know that my small (yet dedicated) team and I are continuing to working long and hard to bring The Price to the screen; I hope this glimpse of what is to come will help you keep the faith and stay as excited as I am!!!

About Xtopher

Director of The Price, and Owner/Creative Director of Silver Fish Creative, LLC.
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40 Responses to A New Year’s Treat:

  1. That is awesome. I love it. Seriously, there’s something fantastically real and unreal about it, really expressive. Look forward to seeing him move!

    • Xtopher says:

      Thanks dude … just as long as I don’t wander into “Uncanny Valley” territory, I’ll be pleased! :)

      • Joe K says:

        Second the “Wow”s. Characters are hard. I find this very encouraging.

        Yeah, Uncanny Valley was my one concern when I saw this. I *think* he’s caricatured just enough that you should be OK.

        On the other hand… Given the kind of story you’re telling, _some_ amount of uncanniness could actually enhance the ambiance. I’ve been following the webcomic Twilight Lady, which until recently was computer-rendered. It did hit the uncanny valley at times — but since it too is a tale of the supernatural, I found that actually worked pretty well for me; “what is reality” is, after all, part of the question. (On the other other hand, it reportedly did turn off some readers, so caveat creator.)

        Try it, tweak if necessary, try it again…

        I’m very glad to be a supporter… I sorta feel like a proud uncle…

        • Xtopher says:

          Good point, Joe; I just don’t want any random ‘U. Valley-weirdness’ to become distracting in any way. And you are an uncle … :)

  2. Mark says:

    duly added to my wallpaper folder πŸ˜‰

  3. That’s awesome! I can’t wait to see the movie! I’m betting and hoping it will win lots of awards when it comes out! A good year to you! :-)

  4. Andrea Z. says:

    Wonderful! For a split second as I scrolled down the screen I thought it was a still shot from a video. Then I realized it was the animation. That’s awesome!

  5. R Skye says:

    Brah! You nailed the hair, dude (and that alone is testament to your skillz). Well right on!

  6. Rosalind says:

    This is pretty impressive work! The skin and the lips are so real! And I love the hair!

    • Xtopher says:

      I was very pleased with the look of the skin — the digital sculpture was gorgeous, but getting the materials to render properly (ie: getting the skin to actually look like skin) takes it to a whole new level; so glad you approve, Rosalind! (And yes, I believe Cat is recuperating quite rapidly, but I shall forward her your thoughtful concern.)

  7. Firstly I would like to make a caveat that I am not making a criticism of your art or technical abilities, for all intents and purposes, that is quite a stunning rendering of Neil’s character!
    That being said, I can’t help thinking that his eyes look like those of a Gerry Anderson creation. That’s not a terrible thing, but it’s something I can’t get out of my head. It might just be the angle he’s being viewed from and the fact that he’s not looking at the “camera” maybe I will feel differently when he’s a bit more animated!

    • Xtopher says:

      Ha — that’s a funny observation, Rich (I can see what you mean)! Hopefully we can squeeze a little more life into our character’s eyes than those of Mr. Anderson’s Thunderbirds! πŸ˜‰

      • Rich Spencer says:

        It’s a relief to hear you say that! Mind you straight up 3D character models are usually somewhat puppet looking before gestures etc are put in – I’m sure you’ll end up exceeding expectations!

        • Xtopher says:

          I appreciate the vote of confidence! :) An interesting detail: my designer Dave Laub had the same response you did, and surmised that part of the problem was that the character’s eyes were looking off into the distance instead of making contact with the viewer. He did a quick paint-over and sent it back to illustrate his point, which was indeed quite valid. Unfortunately, this was only a render test with a static model without pose or expression; in future tests, we’ll try using a posed version and hopefully we can alleviate the “G. Anderson Effect.” πŸ˜‰

  8. Joe K says:

    Took the liberty of posting a pointer to this on Gaiman’s facebook wall. Hope I haven’t just slashdotted your server…

  9. Court says:

    Holy cow it’s Neil! :) Great stylized version of him, rendered quite beautifully.

  10. James says:

    You guys are really pushing yourselves. The image is fantastic! The nose, mouth, and eyes are particularly expressive of the talent involved (not that I’m an expert, just a critic that has no experience other than personal tastes!).

    • Xtopher says:

      Thank-you James; I’m pleased you can see what all of the effort has been for! (And I for one think you have fantastic taste!)

  11. Jeff Salmon says:

    Looks Fantastic Xtopher! Great work!

  12. Heather says:

    That looks fantastic! Love the hair, especially.

  13. Trinity says:

    I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s the absolute perfect balance between reality and caricature. The tweaking that I spot is tactful. It gives it a slight, not over-done, charm. The hair is flawless. It’s his most defining feature, I find, and you’ve executed it well.

  14. Dee says:

    Wow, I really like it!

  15. James N says:

    Fantastic job! Really looking forward to seeing this great tale play out on screen. Your animation is up there with todays big names and I’m glad to be a supporter of this project. Keep the art flowing.

    • Xtopher says:

      That is very kind of you to say, James, and you do bring up a good point: audiences have been inundated with staggeringly good animation that pushes technical and creative envelopes with every successive release. With enormous teams of people able to put significant resources into specific tasks like “hair simulation” and budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars (BoxOfficeMojo has a listed production budget for Disney’s Tangled at a whopping $260 Million), how on earth can a little guy — or make that, a micro guy — like Silver Fish Productions come up with anything that can remotely pass muster?

      Well, I decided not to rely on traditional methods for creating the animation: using 3D models rigged with muscle systems, skin solvers, hair & cloth simulations et al; having them rigged and animated (by hand) and working and re-working each movement until the performance is right; rendering each shot using a huge ‘render farm’ of computers able to process the thousands upon thousands of individual frames needed to make my ‘little’ 18 minute film (at 24 frames per second, that’s almost 26,000 images) … and that doesn’t even include dealing with all of the funky glitches that can occur during rendering (things missing/moving suddenly, scene lighting flashing erratically, pieces intersecting that shouldn’t … I really could go on and on here from extremely painful experience, but I’ll spare you the grief) that in each case necessitate re-rendering; and then there is the ungainly task of storage and data wrangling … do you see the picture I’m trying to paint? (I’ve exhausted myself just typing this out!) :)

      Basically, what I’m doing is to spend the time and money that I have to use on the 3D models, making them as well designed and crafted as possible, and then having the sculptor pose them for me in all of the ‘key-frame’ positions I’ll need to visualize each shot. This way, instead of creating a complex fabric simulation routine to emulate the appearance of Neil’s jacket wrinkling or folding as his arm moves across the screen, Ryan Peterson (my character designer/sculptor) can alter the model and re-sculpt the folds in his clothing just the way we want. And instead of the thousands of renders needed (and the many computes required to generate them), I can use a couple of powerful machines to render each pose and the various pieces that I’ll then composite together in 3D space using Adobe’s After Effects. Although my final animation won’t be a seamless flow of motion, it will be similar to my animatic version of The Price, blending poses of beautiful renders together, and in many instances, manipulating these single renders to create moving elements. Combined with lighting and atmospheric effects (like lens flares, smoke/steam, dust) and a virtual camera that can move around and shift focus just like a real camera, the finished piece will have a stylized look and feel that will truly be unique — more like a series of moving illustrations — and one that I think will only add to and enhance this remarkable story itself.

      I know you probably weren’t expecting a diatribe of this magnitude in response to your comment, but I wanted to write-out my production plan somewhere in more detail, so … there you go! :)

  16. Steve W says:

    I just took the evening and caught up on your production of The Price. Everything from kickstarter to your vlog posts about how the project is coming along. Everything looks so amazing; I can’t wait to see the finished project. Way to go!

  17. Wow, what incredible work you’re doing. Does “SilverFish Productions” do any other work at this time? Do you have a website? I’d love to see what else you guys are up to.

    • Xtopher says:

      Thanks James! You can view a variety of past project videos here, and check out my rather ancient website here. Right now, I’m pretty much full-time pushing this particular beast! :)

  18. Awesome work. I cant wait to see the final product.

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