By: Marek Paterczyk
I have always liked computer animations. In fact, I often played a game that didn't entertain me, only to see the cutscenes (Blizzard's cutscenes are the best!). I started thinking about making something myself quite early, in primary school. Pentium computer and 3D Studio Max 3 didn't allow to do much, but hardware and software improved over the years, and so have I. It wasn't an intensive hobby, from time to time I launched 3D studio and tried to model or animate, rarely able to achieve my goal, mostly just giving up. I didn't make anything worth showing until the 3rd year of my studies, when I started to model my favourite movie character... the T-800 Endoskeleton.
At first it was supposed to be only a Terminator head, but after it was done, I thought it would be nice, if he also had a neck and shoulders. Before the T-800 bust was ready, I started to imagine cool animations I could make if he had arms and torso as well. Soon I realized that the only way to regain my inner peace is to make a complete model. I had a little idea about character animation then, but still had an ambition to make it animation ready, with all the moving pistons, rotating parts and elastic cables... and so I began to work my way down the endoskeleton.
I reached his feet on 7th November 2004 (after 1.5 year of work, a date to remember). I learned a lot while making this model, actually I had to go back many times and redo something I did earlier, because my skill improved and I didn't find it satisfying any more. Even now I see lots of things that I would do different, especially animation scripts, but I don't alter him anymore - it's a good way to get stuck in an infinite loop.
With a complete model I could start bringing my ideas to life. I didn't want to make still images, it was about movies from the very beginning. Some of my ambitious plans included a preview of a non-existing FPP game, with a player walking around post nuclear ruins and facing Terminators (with some statistics at the bottom of the screen and fps counter, it was supposed to be a kind of a joke - some people could actually believe that this is a trailer of an upcoming game), or a deserted future street with Terminators and Aerial HKs searching for resistance in the ruins. Sadly such projects have proven to be too much, for me and for my computers, both didn't even leave an early stage of development. All I did are some simple and very short animations, none of which could be called a movie.
That's why I decided to do something less complicated, an animation doable for a single person in home environment (no rendering farms and hi-end workstations). I started making a film about an AHK leaving it's underground dock. Closed area of the scene and much simpler model to animate gave me a reason to think that I'm going to accomplish this time.
This simple movie took me 5 months to complete. It consists of 2031 720x480 frames and lasts approx. 85 seconds at 24 fps. Special fx, like dust, hot air coming from engines (barely visible) and some flare effects were done in separate layers, all put together in Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5. The typewriter console was made in Macromedia Flash. I used 3D Studio's default scanline renderer, so no fancy stuff like global illumination or realistic refraction, but at least it was quite fast, the rendering time didn't exceed 4 minutes per frame (my system is Athlon 2Ghz with 1 GB RAM). The overall rendering process took 3 days and nights (I was away skiing then, hoping that my computer didn't reboot just after I left home).
Last thing to do, when the scenes were composed together, was to add some sound. The choice for music was obvious... the T2 soundtrack. But the sound effects weren't that easy, I spent weeks trying out different clips that can be downloaded from internet for free, mostly all kinds of jet plane sounds.
Finally, in February 2006 "The Dock" was complete. I'm quite proud of it, but I must admit, it's hard to see where did all the effort go. Once again I learned a lot, not only about the software and stuff, but also I understood why animations are made in teams and independent 3D artists tend to make only still pictures. Nothing spectacular, just a short, decent animation and it's already a huge effort. Or maybe I'm just too lazy.
Right now I'm not planning anything big. Just a little joke - me and T-800 drinking wine in my kitchen. Only pictures, no animation. Sounds really easy, since I got the Terminator model already done, rest will be photographed. I'm working slowly and getting tired quickly, but I hope that revealing those plans to the public will motivate me enough to finish it.
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