This is my new University.

This is my new University.

Normals | Maya | Crazy Bump

This was a fun week in my Intro to Animation and Game Design class. We learned a little about Normals and an application called Crazy Bump. Normals are an extended version of Bump Mapping. They allow the bump to respond to the lighting in your scene. That means, instead of simulating the bump of the texture, the lights highlight and give shadow to the bump. As the lights move across the object, the shadows and highlights also shift with the bump texture that has been applied. If you are clever you can really change the feel of your character in a dramatic way. Below I’ve embedded my character with the previous texture and a comparison with normals. I was so proud of my texture job. To see it next to the one with normals makes the earlier version look like a real pretty-boy who would never be seen on a battle field. My new hardened and scarred Soldier is ready for war!!!

Aegis Chung with Normals

His face is pitted and scarred like a guy who’s been a few rounds against the enemy and lived to never tell the atrocities he’s dealt.

Aegis Chung with Normals

Notice the wrinkles in his clothing and the depth of his chain mail on his shoulders.

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Character Texturing | Maya


I had the opportunity to texture my first character this weekend for my Intro to Animation class. For my first time, I think I did an awesome job. We’ll see how everyone else did. This guy is very low-poly, yet I gave him some real depth. We were given a model that was already UV Mapped. I did remap his head, but the rest of him I kept as he was given to me. I seem to have a little bit of a difference of opinion against the usual head unwrap. I think I’ve found a much simpler solution that makes the face line up so much nicer.

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Quick Animated Banners in Photoshop

In Alicea’s Intro to Animation class, we had a fun task of creating an announcement banner for the head of the Department, Watkins. Adobe Photoshop has a timeline now. You can create animated GIFs that are very internet-and-device-friendly. This is especially useful since so many devices do not support Flash content.

Hang With Us Banner

Create a quick animated banner in Photoshop.

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Liquify Tool | Photoshop

Thandie Cyrus

Mission, if you choose to accept it: Take a beautiful star and make them look like someone else, using the Liquify Tool only, in Photoshop.

We were given a silly but fun task in my Intro to Animation class this week. We are discussing Adobe Photoshop. It is a necessity in the business to know lots about Photoshop. Everyone uses it. Yes. Everyone. The task was to take a photo from online of a beautiful star and make them look like someone else, using only the Liquify Tool. It seemed like Mission Impossible, so the first person who came to mind was Thandie Newton. (My wife and I had recently pulled out an old MI DVD and watched it.)

I could have chosen anyone to make her into. I thought of several others who were similar in skin tone and thought it would’t be quite as fun. So I chose to remake her into the über white Miley Cyrus. Wow. Freaky.

See (below) what I did to Beyonce by quickly conjoining her features with Mel Gibson. Awesome. I mean… awesomely ugly!!! Fun.

Melonce

Beyonce with Mel Gibson’s mouth. Worse than the bride of Frankenstein

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Green Foam | Borders

Green Foam

An Abstract in Green Floral Foam

In my sculpture class, Prof. Borders basically told us to let the Foam block speak to us. Don’t dictate to the foam, let it tell us what it wants to be. So I started listening to the green foam. This is what it is so far. Wow. I’m really digging this class. While we’re sculpting the foam with our fingers (subtractive), Prof. Borders gives guidance constantly. Most of the guidance is philosophical and motivational with occasional direct input. Whatever the case… it works. Good stuff.

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Barcelona Chair | Lucio

Barcelona Chair

Barcelona Chair – 1920s

 

This is my first piece of furniture created via Maya. Fun. It’s a Barcelona chair, circa. 1920. They tend to to be more expensive so you see them in banks, doctors’ and lawyers’ offices. This was a “quick cheat” to give a nice impression, not a perfect build. It’s a great way to fill a virtual room when you don’t need tremendous closeup detail.

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Quick Sketches on Squiggles | Toms

photo 1photo 2photo 3

It’s all about the flow of the line. Draw a curved line on the page. Set your shoulder and hip. Indicate a ribcage and head. Flesh it out.  This is the beginning of finding expression of movement. All these images were all done from my imagination, but the next class will be sketches of live models. I have some understanding of the human body, but I expect to see things I’ve never seen before when looking at a model. I hope to be more aware.

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Basic Anatomy of a Freak | Toms

Back Leg

The back leg always has the same parts.

In my drawing class tonight, Toms talked about basic anatomy. You cannot cheat on this. It doesn’t matter what kind of freak you are creating, the same basic principles are always at work. Although a giraffe has a stupendously long neck, it still has the same number of vertebrae in its neck as we do. It looks like a horses knee is bent backward to an amateur, but we all know that it has exactly the same parts as we do. The only difference is in which bones are elongated and bear the weight.

We also did our first flow studies. We drew some basic squiggles on a page, located the shoulders & hips, then sketched a figure in action. I always find this stimulating. You can play around with different body-types and extreme actions to make some really useable stuff. It reminds me of my favorite drawing book, How to Draw the Marvel Comic Way. I think that’s the name of it. It’s a basic drawing book by Stan Lee the Master of Marvel Comics, creator of everything from Hulk to Spiderman  to X-Men. You’ve seen him cameo in all the latest superhero movies. He’s da Man!!! And Graham Toms is right up there with him. Look at what he does as easily as you and I speak. Left hand or right, if there’s something to make a mark with, it’s sketching.

Toms @ the Board

Toms sketches incessantly. He did 4 of these during class like it was nothing.

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Gilberto Alicea | Intro to Animation & Game Design

Gil Alicea

Gil Alicea

Professor Alicea is a fun guy who really knows how to break things down Barney style while maintaining attention.

Alicea's Work

Alicea’s Work

The other day we sat around and took a computer apart, and talked about what does what. Then we had a contest to see who could build the cheapest and most expensive computers online. In the graphics field Mac computers tend to be king, but in 3D animation PCs dominate. It became evident as we built the richest computer with great specs, why gamers and builders choose PCs. The team that was building on newegg.com built an amazing computer for around $1700. A computer from newegg.com with the minimum specs was only $1100. A comparable Mac was much more. I have done this in the past and still came up with a cheaper Mac with the right innards, but you really have to buy it right to justify it. My current Macbook Pro with a 2 GHz  Quad core i7 processor was only $800. Nice! Otherwise the minimum specs for a decent 3D animator’s build would be:

  • CPU: i7 Quad Core 2+GHz
  • Ram: 12Gb
  • GPU: 2Gb
  • Monitor: 24″ 1920 x 1080p

Let’s face it, professionalism isn’t always getting it done in the prettiest fashion. It’s all about getting it done fast, efficiently & right, while maintaining the bottom line.

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Carlos Lucio| Set/ Level Design/ Modeling

Carlos Lucio

Carlos Lucio

Carlos Lucio is my set design and modeling professor. He’s a local architect and interior designer with exceptional rendering skills. He’s currently working on his Masters of American History. Smart guy. He’s very low key and patient.

Our first project is modeling a room that we’ve chosen. I picked a relatively easy room with views of all walls and a basic floor plan.  I plan to stay up and finish all the basics tonight. I have the walls and ceilings done and on layers. I need to name the polygons. He likes names & layers. He hates having to work on someone else’s project, but having to clean it up before starting. I need to learn this process. It makes perfect sense. I want to work on projects that are bigger than just myself. Therefore I’ll be considerate and keep it clean and organized.

 

Lucio's Work

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James Borders | Sculpture 1

James Borders

James Borders

Professor Borders is my Sculpture 1 professor  at UIW. He’s from Louisiana, loves good food and has an epic beard. I was impressed with how clean and orderly the studio was when I first walked in. This guy’s attention to detail is renowned.

Things he said:

  • Attend all classes – don’t be late.
  • We are searching for a truth.
  • Erase all visual static.
  • Excuses are for weak individuals.
  • If you work in shit you create shit.

He likes quotes. We are expected to have a meaningful quote at every class. We’ll do 2 projects in his class – a foam one and a wood one. The foam will be subtractive. The wood will additive. We’ll provide the materials and a box to keep and transport it in.

Hans Arp

Hans Arp

The works will be based upon or similar to the work of Henry Moore and Hans Arp.

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

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Graham Toms

Graham Toms

Graham Toms

Graham Toms is my Drawing-for-Animators teacher. He’s from Ireland and just started a batch of new beer before class. It sounded like a good IPA. I’ll hit him up for a sample in a couple weeks. He’s been around in the industry for quite some time, previously at Disney.

Some of the things we discussed in class:

  • Narrative is always important as an underlying element. Paint pretty and have a story.
  • If the poly flow is beautiful then the model will work.
  • HDRI – look it up.

grahamtoms.wordpress.com, also on youtube.

Next class have an 18 x 24 sketchbook, 2 types of charcoal (willow & compressed), opt. pastels and a razor.

This guy sketches incessantly and paints about 70 works every year. He sells most. He said to never throw your sketches away; they come in handy. He has an interesting approach of sculpting a scene in 3D then painting it. Nice results.

Toms Banner

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This Is Where I Begin Again

This is my new University.

This is my new University.

This is my new college, the University of the Incarnate Word. I went on terminal leave from the Army this week and now am a full-time student in the 3D Animation and Game Design course. It is a 4 year course & a big leap for me. I already have over 130 credit hours at other institutions with no degree to show for it. This is going to be a bit of a challenge, providing for my family while I get my BFA. It is the most time-intensive degree at the University. More than half the 3D ANGD students change their major after the first semester. Only 1 out of 10 are expected to receive their degree. It’s gonna be tough. I’m gonna be incredible. My measly little demo reel should be exploding by leaps and bounds when I have time to edit it.

 

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Demo Reel

When in the midst of a career, one is required to demonstrate his abilities, a demo reel is a obligatory. I shall periodically update this reel to demonstrate my growth.

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Select Pieces

These are just a few demonstrations of my talent that I am at liberty to present.

Psylocke

This is a Marvel Comics character that I have crafted in Adobe Illustrator using the Gradient Mesh Tool.

XBeast

This is a Marvel Comics Character drawn in Illustrator with the Blob Brush and inked in Photoshop.

PsyOp Horse

This Trojan Horse is a vector design for a Battalion T-shirt. My design was chosen over many senior Illustrators.

Skelecycle

This slightly menacing T-shirt design was sold to a motorcycle club in North Carolina.

CBsSquare

This Company Motto Illustration was quite the morale booster for training.

Triumphus Persuasionis

Military Insignia are usually depicted as flat symbols. I chose to create the illusion of depth to characterize the depth of Purpose in the PsyOp Mission.

Michelle Obama

The First Lady is a lovely person. I had the opportunity to portray her with graphite on paper for a timed assignment.

General Officer

This was a timed assignment, graphite on paper.

Self Portrait

This was a timed self-portrait, pastel on paper.

Hugh Jackman

This was a timed assignment, pastel on paper.

 

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What Made America Strong: US World Power

US Economic Power is a River of Life

The US Economic Power is a River of Life

There were three major events that thrust the United States into the arena as a world power. Our commitment to World War One was our first real test. At the end of the Second World War a key decision was made that really benefited our workforce. Finally, the election of President Ronald Reagan put a nail in a proverbial coffin. When I think of an event I do not think of progression of events such as a war or a philosophy. Those are effects of a certain cause. I will describe what were the three major causes of our world dominance.

It was the decision to finally enter the First World War and stay until it was won, that was the first major world-power event in our short history. There were many factors that brought us to that decision in spite of President Wilson’s campaign promise to remain neutral. The sinking of the Lusitania was upsetting, especially since Americans had no clue that she was heavy laden with munitions. Submarines off our east coast was unsettling. The “Zimmerman Letter” that was decoded and released to the public describing an alliance between Mexico and Germany was the last straw for many Americans. The fact that the Allies owed us over $2,000,000,000.00 whereas Germany only owed us about $56,000,000 was probably a bigger factor than we like to admit. Yet the fact that we committed, entered the war, stayed until the end and had an influence in the Treaty of Versailles made us look like one pretty big dog for the first time in world history. Never mind the fact that President Wilson’s “14 Points” were largely disregarded in favor of punishing Germany and setting the world up for another big war.

Before we dropped the bomb on Japan and demonstrated our technological might to the world, The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act in 1944 poised us for economic world dominance. Don’t get me wrong, the atomic bomb was big, but maybe not as big as we historically like to think it was. One would think that the first one would have been big enough to convince the Japanese to surrender. We waited. We waited. On the third day we decided to do it again. That second one was somehow a little more convincing. More than instruments of war, the “GI Bill of Rights” that provided multiple benefits to veterans of our armed forces, proved to be the deciding factor of our true dominance. It was our brains not our brawn that made us strong. Within a few years of the war we had the most educated work force in the world. Within 10 years over 2 million veterans had degrees and over five and a half million had gone to trade school on the government’s dime. Our education made us productive and wealthy. The whole world has benefitted from the GI Bill.

The election of a single man was the last great event in a very colorful history that proved to be our most dominant decision as a nation. We elected President Ronald Reagan, an actor, to represent our country in the seat of the presidency. Before Winston Churchill described the Iron Curtain to America, Communism was already beginning to form a cancer in the hearts and minds of the Soviet Union and the world. The Cold War that developed between the United States and the USSR brought us close to total annihilation through a policy of mutual nuclear destruction. President Reagan resolved to win this Cold War. He built our nuclear armament to ridiculous levels forcing the Soviets to compete in an arms race they could not win. It was a risky game that pulled them “all in” as it were. Communism, he felt, was a failed system that could never be sustained, and rather than let it linger and die slowly he drove the nails into the coffin and insured a quick demise.

As I stated, there were three main events that thrust us into world power. By choosing these three events I am not diminishing many great people and events in the past century. I am not even choosing political sides. People often love to lambast great men as being complete imbeciles. I don’t think one could rise to the seat of President of the United States if he were an idiot. Unlike President Reagan though, others simply didn’t have an opportunity to culminate something as important as the Cold War. Certainly the atomic bomb was more spectacular than the GI Bill, but did it truly make us great as a nation? No it did not. It was not our entrance into World War One as much as our resolve to finish the war that made it a worthy event. Together these three events made us strong as a nation, perhaps stronger than any nation in the history of man.

Henretta, J. A., R. Edwards and R. Self (2012). America: a Concise History, Volume Two: Since 1865. 5th ed. Bedford/St. Martin’s (ch 21)
Ibid (ch 24 & 26)
“Ronald Reagan.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. <http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/ronald-reagan>.

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Video Auditions for the US Army Soldier Show

Video Auditions

Another wave of the selection process out of the way as SPC Melendez starts breaking down the tables. Officers, Enlisted and civilians all had a hand in choosing who gets to come to the live auditions for the Soldier Show.

Hundreds of submissions all boiled down to about 70 videos watched at Army Entertainment in JBSA Ft Sam Houston. These were the cream of the crop that made it to the video auditions for the US Army Soldier Show. A room full of civilians, Enlisted and Officers all judged these Soldiers‘ ability to present themselves on video. We will all see in a couple weeks how the “chosen” will present themselves to a live audience.

I am always amazed at how much the scores vary. You would think that, with the sheer amount of criteria that these Soldiers are judged upon, the scores would be similar. Not at all. People have different tastes. One may see a character flaw before another. One may detect a hearing deficiency in a few short bars that another judge didn’t pick up on. One judge may see that slight rhythm glitch that a perform displays.

In the end, because of our well-rounded board-members from various walks-of-life, I feel that we have chosen the best of the best to come to the live auditions. They have a pitch sense, a sense of rhythm, and an artistic sensitivity that is unparallelled. They are all romantic artists. Of course! Who is more romantic than a Soldier? Not many people will die for a way of life… an idea. Soldiers capture the heart and soul of America. We are America. No wonder the Soldier Show continues to draw crowds wherever they go. It’s terrible to see the hordes of people turned away with tears in their eyes when there is no more room left in the house. Some of these people will travel many miles to the next garrison simply to see what they missed – never to be disappointed. This is THE SOLDIER SHOW. Come early. Don’t miss it! To be in that room with your Army Family, shoulder to shoulder, side by side, one unified body with one understanding – life at its fullest – nothing compares to this experience.

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Nutrition Basics

My Nutrition Basics – My Philosophy, Not Science

My Food

This is a basic sample of how I like to and do eat. My wife is awesome!!!

Many views abound when it comes to Nutrition. How can this be? Aren’t we all made of simple cells with similar needs? Absolutely not! All people are complex creatures with various deficiencies and genetic predispositions based upon their ancestry. Maybe my ancestors ate little meat and lots of grains. Well, I probably should eat a similar diet. Maybe my ancestors were hunters and ate lots of meat and veggies. I should follow their lead. How can you know? Some people are lucky enough to be pure-breeds. They can go back to the land of their ancestors and see how their people lived and ate. Most of us are pretty much mutts. We’ll have to do a little experimenting to discover what is right for our bodies.

I generally tend to operate according to a few basic philosophical principles when it comes to nutrition and diet:

  • God didn’t mess up. What comes from a farm is better than what is manufactured.
  • We didn’t evolve to become big-brained humans by excluding whole classes of foods. We are omnivores, not carnivores or herbivores.
  • Generally moderation and balance are the key… unless your goals are extreme. Then an extreme, yet healthy-ish approach is in order.
  • Clean eating is great. The body has systems that remove toxins. Don’t worry about a few toxins; they keep the systems running properly, but don’t overdo it often. Don’t test God.
  • Don’t be too picky. If you only eat the choice parts you will miss lots of nutrition. Eat a hotdog occasionally… and gnaw the ends of your chicken bones.
  • The body will repair itself if you provide the nutrition it needs to fix the issue. That being said, if you lose a finger because you carelessly thought you were tough enough not to get frost-bite, you’ll heal. But you’ll still only have 9 fingers.
  • Yes, some people are gifted and can draw nutrients from a rock & still look like gods. I’m not a god. I have to think about what I eat.
  • I live a vigorous lifestyle and eat accordingly. If you aren’t willing to chase a large beast, tackle it, overcome it, murder it and eat it, maybe you should eat a more docile diet. Otherwise you probably are not hormonally set to digest it properly.
  • People who are “into” artificial sweeteners and fat substitutes are killing their natural instincts of satiation. They will never be satisfied. They live a life of deception, fooling themselves, and often find comfort in tricking others into eating their unnatural non-foods with delightfully tasty recipes. It’s like a religion to these people. Don’t try to change their religion, just lead by example and maybe they’ll catch-on.
  • My good old-fashioned 93 year-old grandfather grew up eating potato chips dipped in lard, chased down with a gallon of sweet tea daily. And more salt than you can imagine. How did he survive past 35? Is it possible that fat, salt and sugar are not as bad for me as “they” say it is?
  • When you see articles about vegetarians outliving omnivores, remember that I, who eat lean meat and lots of veggies, am lumped into the same category as those who eat fast food for every meal. Don’t trust that kind of shaky science.
  • Jesus said that His people were the salt of the Earth. I don’t think he was saying that His people were bad for the other inhabitants. I also think he was in favor of having more of them. In that case, I’ll have a little more salt, please.
  • I eat real butter, real sugar and real fat. I think they are food and I would rather have real food in me than something that was manufactured to take its place.
  • I don’t think God messed up when he made a cow. I drink whole milk. Besides, the doctor won’t even let my babies drink the lighter milks. And, no; we are not the only animal that drinks the milk of another animal. Likewise I eat whole eggs because God also didn’t mess up when he made a chicken, and I don’t want to insult God.
  • I have heard all kinds of stories about pigs being dirty animals and why I shouldn’t eat pork. Chickens are just as disgusting. Fish are too. Think about where eggs come from. Honey is bee barf. Milk is pre-digested food. We’re human. We eat weird stuff. Shut up already!
  • I like my food cooked, generally. There are fringe obsessions with raw foods based on shaky science and faith. Those guys are the exception not the rule. Humans generally universally prefer their foods cooked. Maybe we were supplanted here by aliens and need our food to be cooked. Whatever. We all do it except for the freaks. There must be a reason.
  • Alcohol and caffeine are mysterious substances that occur naturally and have been proven to be of some cooky health benefit to us. Take them in their more natural forms. When you start drinking energy drinks instead of coffee and tea, and straight liquor instead of beer and wine, you are fooling your body like those zealots who prefer food-substitutes. You’re only a couple steps from smoking crack. Beware!!!

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Family Building

Family With Our Gingerbread HouseNow that’s family-building. OK. Bad pun. That’s my family. We just built our first gingerbread house together. It was awesome fun. I really cannot believe it came out so great-looking considering how much input we allowed Zsolti to have. From the mixing of the batter, to the roll-out, to the assembly and decoration, we all played a part. Well, Gabor did very little besides add a lot of love and slobber, but we don’t plan to feed it to anyone else.

Being in the Army and a Soldier who’s away from my family half of every year means, Christmas is a time of catching up. We don’t mind if the boys make a mess. We’ll clean up. We don’t care if they get too tired and whine a lot. We’ll tolerate it and get to bed early. Heck I have PT at 0630 in the morning anyway. Christmas is fun and nothing is gonna spoil it.

Zsolti got the race-car he wanted. He was soooooo funny when he woke us up this morning. “Daddy, you gotta see this. You gotta see this!” He got just what he wanted. Of course he did. Tunde PsyOped him into wanting exactly what Santa was going to bring him. My wife’s got SKILLZ. Gabor was happy as snot about everything. Lots of sweets. Lotsa toys. Nothing else matters.

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Soldier Show Deadline

20131220-221730.jpgWell, it has come almost as slowly as Christmas but it is here – the deadline for application packets to the Soldier Show. We’ll be presenting a lot of great talent to the selection board in January. Everyone keep your fingers crossed!

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