How to make dancing robots in 10 easy steps! Just kidding...
New Zealand-based 3D Artist extraordinaire Rich Nosworthy is about as humble a guy as you'll ever meet. He single-handedly makes some of the coolest photorealistic 3D animations you've ever seen, and still finds time to be pestered with all kinds of questions from people who want to discover his secrets to killer work.
If you haven't already seen this... take a minute to check out this great piece he released to promote the 99 Frames Competition.
In this interview, Joey asks Rich to take him from-start-to-finish through the entire process of making this piece. They get deep into modeling techniques, texturing strategies, VRay specifics... it gets geeky fast and it stays there.
Find out more about the 99 Frames competition as well as all of the resources we talk about in this interview by looking below at the Show Notes section.
99 FRAMES COMPETITION
GPU RENDERING SOFTWARE & RESOURCES
CINEMA 4D TOOLS & RESOURCES
School of Motion: UV Mapping in Cinema 4D
OTHER 3D SOFTWARE
Joey Korenman: This is the School of Motion podcast. Come for the MoGraph, stay for the puns. I think you guys are going to really like this very dorky interview with Rich Nosworthy. If you don’t know who Rich is, you should go to GeneratorMotion.com and check out his work. Rich is based out of New Zealand and he's an amazing 3D/motion graphics artist and his work is so polished in just so beautiful. There's so much detail to it. It's just technically done so well and I wanted to pick his brain about how the heck he does stuff like that.
Specifically, I wanted to pick his brain about the trailer that he just released recently for the 99 Frames Competition. If you don’t know about 99 Frames, it's a cool contest. It's running from March 15 to July 1st, 2015. 99Frames.net is the website that has all of the information. Essentially the rules are, you create animation in Cinema 4D at 720p resolution, 30 frames per second and it has to be 99 frames. Plug ins are allowed by the way. I was told specifically.
Plug ins are allowed. You just need to make sure you credit the plug in developer so if you want to use X-Particles or VRay or Octane or anything like that, it is allowed this year. Rich's trailer for 99 Frames is incredible and there's so much detail. It's funny and it's great and I wanted to pick his brain, not just on a high level but on a very low level about how he got the results that he got. Let's get started with the interview and say hello to Rich Nosworthy.
Rich Nosworthy: Hi, I'm Rich Nosworthy. I work at a [small CEO 00:01:53] in Auckland, New Zealand called Bunker. I've been doing CG for the last like since about 2000 or so. I first sort of got into it like around just after university. Yeah, I've been doing a lot more motion graphics and stuff recently with Cinema 4D and yeah, that's kind of me.
Joey Korenman: The reason that we're doing this interview is that I wanted to talk to you about this really amazing thing that you've come out with recently which is a trailer for 99 Frames. Anyone who's interested, I wasn't very familiar with it until I saw your trailer and then I looked into it. It's amazing. It's a contest, right? Can you explain a little bit about it, Rich?
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah, they've had two in the past but I think last year, there wasn't one and the year … I think it was the year before, that was maybe the last proper one. It's a really cool contest organized by David Drayton. It's basically open to anyone so like whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, you can enter. The idea was just to create 99 frames of animation.
You can do whatever you want. Just have fun with it. At the end, it all gets compiled into one long movie so it's like an interesting sort of thing because the whole ... it's called the social animation project because everything sort of gets combined into one final movie at the end. There's great prizes, and it's a lot of fun. There's a good community vibe about it, so yeah.
Joey Korenman: That's really awesome. I looked at the website which is 99Frames.net, if anyone is interested and the contest runs from March 15th to July 1st of 2015 so if you're listening to this interview after that, you're out of luck but it's amazing because I looked at the prizes and they're super legit. You can win like Maxon is offering up like a full version of Cinema 4D, a version of Prime, there's X-Particles, Video Copilot, Greyscalegorilla, a couple of others. Like there's really awesome stuff you can win and then the judges, Rich, you have to be kind of psyched. You are in some lofty company, my friend. [crosstalk 00:04:09]
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah. I didn’t even know, like Dave mentioned it like about a week that we released the trailer and I was like yeah, good luck with that. I hope it goes well. He's like, you're a judge as a well. I was like really, what? It's cool. I'm stoked to be obviously judging as well but there's some awesome people on that board so.
Joey Korenman: That's cool. How did you get involved with 99 Frames in the first place?
Rich Nosworthy: I entered it last time and I won, I suppose so it's …
Joey Korenman: You're very modest. I guess, I won.
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah, I've been kind of trying to get more into the C4D community, I suppose. I've be doing a lot of stuff in my spare time that no one had ever really seen and I started like a Tumblr and stuff to try and get some more of my work out there. Most of my work was sort of ending up on my computer and not really being seen by anyone. It seemed like a good chance before to try and put something out there.
It was good and I got talking to David obviously through the contest and stuff and we sort of stayed in contact since. Last year, he said, I'm resurrecting like 99 Frames. It hasn't been around for a while so and would you be interested in doing a trailer and I was like of course, man, that would be awesome.
Joey Korenman: That's awesome, that's really cool. Just so everyone knows, the rules are 99 frames of animation at 30 frames a second so that's really not a lot of time. There's all the technical specs are on the site also. Then here's one thing that David actually asked me to mentioned which is I guess new this year, plug ins are allowed so you can use VRay, X-Particles, Octane anything like that. You have a lot more insight obviously Rich, like why was that a controversy in the first place?
Rich Nosworthy: It was. The controversy. It's like Watergate or something honestly.
Joey Korenman: Exactly. There's bodies buried because of this.
Rich Nosworthy: I thought there was a lynch mob or something. I was going to have to stay in my house, lock the windows and order in takeout food [crosstalk 00:06:17] you stay out of sight.
Joey Korenman: Wear a disguise.
Rich Nosworthy: I know, it was kind of, I guess, me and David never really talked about it when we were coming up with the whole concept for it. I mean, I kind of assumed that plug ins would be fine. Like in the previous years, there were a few entries that did have plug ins. There was one VRay entry I think and one, yeah … I saw [inaudible 00:06:40] in one. I think I guess like last time, it was a few years ago so the plug ins probably weren’t that big on the scene back then. They were obviously but like you've got such big players like Octane and hello … Sorry, hello, X-Particles. I think I guess you probably end up with just Octane and X-Particles if you allowed the plug ins.
I kind of originally the plug ins weren't allowed and I get why people are annoyed about that. Because it's a cool competition, you kind of want to do like the best work you can and you get used to using these sort of plug ins. You know, if you've got this great idea but you can't do it the way you want then it feels a little bit like some people say, it felt a bit limiting I suppose but yeah.
On the other hand, it's going to be an open competition that's available to all. It was also trying to keep that fairness aspect of it so that everyone sort of had the same sort of toolset to work with to create these things. Yeah, you can use plug ins now. That's all good. You just have to mention it when you … in the note section when you upload your videos.
Joey Korenman: Cool. The reason I thought it was interesting and I don’t know, maybe it's just me but I love plug ins. I feel like it's just an extra screwdriver that you have. It's not like you need the plug in like if you like if you have to rely on VRay to make good work then there's something wrong. Like at least the way, when I try VRay, when I use it, it doesn’t automatically make anything I do look good. I mean, maybe I'm doing it wrong. [crosstalk 00:08:17] I don’t know, what's your thought on that?
Rich Nosworthy: Exactly. I mean I think VRay is one as well in particular, it's kind of [inaudible 00:08:23] people, people try it for the first time and like your stuff doesn’t necessarily look good straight away. I think it's because Cinema 4D's renderer is very easy, it's a kind of, you can do whatever with it and it works like as you expect. VRay is kind of more based on like a real light simulator, I suppose. It came from the architecture world so you need to be more thinking about working in like real world scale when you're modeling a scene and using sort of real life values and camera set up the same.
Yeah, it's almost like you have to start thinking more like a photographer than you would if you were using normal Cinema 4D. It's definitely a tool but doesn’t really like … it's not like an auto make great button, that's for sure.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. That's actually a good point though. I think a lot of people don’t know that. I did not know that by the way with the first time I used VRay that the size of things on your scene all of the sudden matters. Like lights react very differently if you're lighting something that is a hundred feet tall versus an inch tall.
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah. I think it's kind of the way it's becoming more, I guess people are sort of noticing it more especially now, there's quite a realistic render things has been around a bit for a while now and to see that sort of stuff, you kind of need to be working proper scales. It's been the same with like Cinema 4D Dynamics for a while as well like you needed to model your scenes at the right size to make sure the dynamics worked correctly for the size it was. Yeah, it's a good habit to get into. I guess Cinema 4D because it's so accessible, you don’t always have to worry about that when you first start off. It's a bit confusing when you start having to thinking about this sort of stuff.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I've said this before. I think I may have actually said this to you last time we spoke, Rich. I think the beauty and the problem with Cinema 4D is that it's so easy to just start making cools tuff that you can get away with not having a clue what it is you're really doing. That's why, Dynamics is a great example because I see stuff all the time where it's very net looking but it just looks like it's moving in slow motion because it's like modeled as this mammoth that you know enormous scaled kind of scene.
Because like when you make a cube, it's by default. It's the size and if that's what you always use then like okay, that might be too big if you're trying to make grains of sand or something like that. I'm glad you brought that up. I don’t use Octane or Thea very much yet. I haven't gotten into those but I know you do. Do those work the same way as VRay like is it still important to have scale and think like a photographer for those?
Rich Nosworthy: Not yet. I guess so. I mean I haven't really used it that much. I haven't really used Octane. I tried the demo. I've used Thea a bit but I haven't really got the GPU to make the most of it so I'm waiting till I upgrade next time. I think yeah, this probably would be working the same sort of way. It's even like in Cinema 4D if you're using like the physically correct [inaudible 00:11:20] that does start mattering then. Like Cinema's lights by default are kind of infinite, I think so …
Joey Korenman: Right.
Rich Nosworthy: It's a good way to sort of get your mind into thinking if you're interested in doing more realistic sort of renders and stuff, for sure, but it depends on what you're interested in kind of creating I suppose. I think it's harder for you basically.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. I think that what a lot of people are interested in, and what draws a lot of people to a lot of your work, I mean kind of the more high profile things you've done is there is a very photorealistic quality to it. I want to get into to how you pull that off. Why don’t we take a step back and start by just telling us how you came up with this idea in the first place like were you given direction? Did you just see a robot thing on TV and thought robots, I had it, where did it come from?
Rich Nosworthy: No, not really. It was kind of robots evolved because David Drayton loves robots I'm pretty sure. We all do but …
Joey Korenman: Who doesn’t?
Rich Nosworthy: He got in touch with me last year and just said if I wanted to create just like a sort of teaser thing for 99 Frames. Initially, I was just thinking about doing some kind of logo resolve and then I thought maybe try and do something to make it better. There was some ideas about doing a … it was just me coming up with some ideas in my head. I was thinking about doing maybe a kind of Goldberg sort of machine like all the moving parts and stuff like that and having the logo up in there somewhere. I've also been doing sort of character stuff, again recently.
I thought it would be kind of cool to have this like a character guy in there. Something like just like a super simple guy like maybe a cube or something with some blue arms and legs and so I did a few designs, sent them over to David and David is like this is cool but we should make him robot arms and legs. I was like okay, yeah, right. Then obviously, I thought if we're going to make a robot, maybe we should just design this properly as proper robots so I just started sketching and coming up with these new idea based on that.
Then it was kind of like doing this character, the whole thing about 99 Frames is everyone's pieces are random and because everyone is working on their own sort of thing in their own head, everything is so disconnected. It's almost like a montage when it comes up at the end so I thought it would be kind of fun maybe to have these robots try to create their own 99 Frames sort of animation and try to go with that. Obviously, that was great because that was basic ... base of the thing. There's all these sort of clichés of like film stars like horror or like whatever we wanted to do like you sort of show.
Joey Korenman: It was like a buddy montage like the robots exercising together and all that stuff. Did you sort of have this thing edited in your head before you went out and like started coming up with the ideas or did you just like I'm just going to go in and start animating stuff and see what happens. How much planning did you do?
Rich Nosworthy: I guess, I kind of drew up a few story board things. I'm not that great drawer though. I just drew out a few ideas of what maybe each scenario would be. I edit it to a rough temp track and it's actually just like story board pictures just to a temp track and sent it to David and Wesley, he did the sound design. He did an amazing job on the sound. They were both into it so that's cool. Then from that, that's where I sort of started developing it from there and started animating these scenes one by one and I would sort of …
I'd render them out as hardware sort of renders so it's just like a Cinema 4D but it's super quick to get your renders out. I'll just edit them back into After Effects basically. It's kind of like the animatics sort of built up from there. It started off with just story boards and drawings and then sort of slowly get replaced by hardware renders and then as we get more and more towards the end, you start replacing those with like final renders and stuff. I mean I've never really sort of like done that sort of proper [traditional 00:15:33] sort of how you're supposed to do this kind of stuff that's it's something that seemed the easiest way to do as I've kind of done this over the last few years.
Joey Korenman: I'm a big fan of doing that and what struck me too because it was funny, up until right before I talked to you today, I didn’t realize and then all of a sudden, it struck me that what you had done was made a bunch of little 99 frames things. I actually opened up your cut and I was like you actually made these 99 frames, those little vignettes, they were pretty close.
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah.
Joey Korenman: They were like 100 frames some of them but …
Rich Nosworthy: [crosstalk 00:16:11] 99 frames each but they're kind of close to …
Joey Korenman: Yeah, they're like around that length and so it kind of like I don’t know. It felt like it all worked together and then you had that nice little moment in the middle where the music stops and it's like the Halloween one like in the graveyard. It felt very ... it felt like it worked cohesively as opposed to these are just cool shots edited together. I think that that process helps that. I was curious if that's what you did or if you're just that good that you don’t need to do that. Which could be it …
Rich Nosworthy: [crosstalk 00:16:41] No, there's nothing … Sound helps a lot as well like I mean kind of like Wes did a great job like sound designing and putting like sort of adjusting stuff to things that I've done. Obviously, when he would then give me a track back of what he's been working on and then you can refine the edit from there so it definitely wouldn’t have been as good without his sound design as well so …
Joey Korenman: Totally. Yeah, the sound is great on it. There's like one scene where the robot's sword fighting a giant like octopus arm and rather like the sound effect for what the octopus sounds like, is really funny. It's like the man screaming or something.
Rich Nosworthy: An amazing project, you like recall most of his own stuff and just like, I remember even for the last [inaudible 00:17:22] testing, he would try to get these sound effects for there was like a spinning lottery ball machine. He was in this tumble dry with these tennis balls inside this thing. He's like a freaking [inaudible 00:17:33] professional.
Joey Korenman: That's amazing. I have to try to talk to him too because I'm fascinated by sound design. That's something I don’t know as much about as I wish I did. Robots, David loves robots, everybody loves robot and so then you started sketching the robots and I saw you making a video you put together. You drew the robots and you don't have to be so hard on yourself. You actually can draw like pretty well. You drew the robots but the detail you drew them at is a hundred times less than what you modeled right?
Rich Nosworthy: That was actually, I mean, yeah, that was became one of the hard bits like I think modeling did take awhile and the hard thing was kind of because I had like a rough outline of what this thing should look like but then obviously, getting in there and modeling this thing for real, it's a bit, it's kind of tough. What I ended up doing was like I kind of blocked out the main body of him which is what I … kind of the gist or the shape that I wanted. I ended up sort of like taking a step back and just going and kind of creating a load of these sort of component parts.
I've been looking on Pinterest for a while and creating this massive board of robots designs and stuff. I was just going and creating these cool little things that maybe could be part of the robot. I just made this library of stuff and then it came to the modeling, I just lock out a basic shape for how the arm was supposed to be. Then take some of these bits I've been modeling on another, like the other day and start sort of putting them and arranging them around. I think it's if you're modeling something like hard out from the start, you can get a bit sort of fatigued after awhile trying to figure out how all these bits are doing if you haven't got a clear idea of what you're doing.
I don’t think like someone said in one of the questions you we're talking about, the idea of [kit 00:19:24] bashing I think it wasn't maybe my intention to do that but it was probably something I ended up doing a fair bit. Certainly, for the arms and the legs because it was like quite of little bits in that. I think it helps to kind of have like a little library of pieces that you've maybe got that you can make and draw on them sort of, just kind of make things a bit more complicated quite easily.
Joey Korenman: That's great. I noticed in your making a video, there was like a you pan the camera across this stuff like all these little bolts and nuts and screws and wires and stuff. Billy Chitkin had asked that question about the kit bashing and there was another question from our good friend, Noah Witchell. He was saying he notices that like a lot of your work has robots in it like it's kind of the theme. Your last 99 Frames thing was like this cool kind of robot arm thing, too.
Like where did you kind of learn to design that stuff like is it just something that you've been into since you were a kid and you've always drawn robots and you don't know where it comes from? Or have you at some point studied like engineering or something to be able to come up with had draw this stuff.
Rich Nosworthy: Not at all. I know it's got ... I don’t mean to keep on making these robot thing but they sort of somehow keep appearing. I'm going to try and make something that’s not anything to do with robots. I guess I've always kind of been a little bit into that sort of thing like a bit geeky. As a kid, I was least to be into like, I love the old films of the 80s and stuff like Terminator. I'd be super interested in like the people behind it who are building these robots for the films.
I guess I also always kind of locked into concept art and stuff as well and sort of the making of light things behind that. It's definitely something that's kind of in my head I guess from an early age. I suppose I'm more so like the way I model, I suppose I'm kind of quite not so good at organic stuff but I'm quite good at maybe doing hard surface stuff so it's for me, perhaps it just kind of the way that I kind of model stuff …
Joey Korenman: That actually segues very nicely into the next part of the process. You've got the robot and now, you have to model it. Cinema 4D like the way most people learn to use it is you use all these procedural tools, you make splines, you extrude them and stuff like that but you can still get your hands dirty and do hard surface modeling or subdivision modeling, however you want to do it. Did you ever learn modeling like the proper way you're supposed to do it like how do you approach modeling something like this robot?
Rich Nosworthy: Kind of, yeah, I mean I suppose because I started off in film V effects and stuff. Rather than learning to animate sort of like logos and banners and stuff but the first thing I suppose you learn when you're going that sort of route is kind of how to model stuff because until you can model stuff, you can't really do that much in 3D I supposed if you're working for V effect sort of stuff. It's definitely a tough thing to do. I mean, we used to, I guess the traditional way is to use box modeling and start with a cube and you start slicing up the planes and pulling bits out and things like that.
Joey Korenman: Right.
Rich Nosworthy: It's kind of tough to get your head around that sort of thing. I normally just stuff I do, I just try and sketch out a front and a side view and then I'll be needed thing that new [poly pen 00:22:58] thing in R16.
Awesome, man, like in the old days I felt like every time I was modeling, we had the short keys, just like you're typing a freaking letter or something trying to weld stuff together and extrude stuff and so many shortcuts but this thing is kind of cool because you can just like slice stuff and merge stuff down now. I kind of just sort of try and draw out the basic shape of it. I try and keep everything to quads like when you can and when it makes sense because that stuff works well with subdivision surfaces and … [crosstalk 00:23:30]
Joey Korenman: Like a question that I would have because you know I know a little bit, I know enough about modeling but for example, on your robot, you’ve got right on the front of him kind of these holes, it's almost like a speaker on him. Like the way that I would do that is to you get the shape of the robot and then you'd bull out these ... with like a cylinder or something like that. I know that's kind of the wrong way to do. You're not supposed to use bulls in Cinema 4D, they stink. I'm curious. I know that there's a right way to do stuff like that where you get cleaner UVs, you get cleaner mesh. Is that how you model or do you still use kind of the quick and dirty way sometimes?
Rich Nosworthy: It kind of depends on how much time you've got I guess. I mean like the way if you do it the proper way, it's kind of a ... it's good because you get a nice beveled edges and stuff and that catches the light. Also, it helps with you could have a lower res mesh that you can then use it like a [inaudible 00:24:25] and it still holds up whereas if you're using funky geometry then it won't hold up the same.
Joey Korenman: It's jaggy.
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah. I mean it's like I still use like simple stuff when you don’t really need a … like bulls are great if you haven't got time to model that stuff in because it's a lot of work as well. It really depends on like the length of how long I've got to do something. This was kind of this project was rolling live for a number of months so it was kind of time to spend on it and make it look nice.
Joey Korenman: Did you model everything that we see in this piece like there's a lot of little props that have a ton of detail. Right now, I'm looking at the video camera he's holding and there's the stereo and the guitar and all that stuff.
Rich Nosworthy: Some of that stuff was … some of it was bought from TurboSquid so that the camera was bought from TurboSquid, the drum kit was bought from TurboSquid. The guitar was something I modeled a while back and so was the … What's the other thing?
Joey Korenman: Let's see, the boom box.
Rich Nosworthy: Boom box, yeah, that was something, it was made just like one of my sort of like a side project a while back. Yeah, I've got a few things that like are in my library that I've made over the years that it's always good to dig into and borrow for things. It takes a long time to model the stuff so yes, sometimes you just need something quick so I think the camera was like about 20 bucks off TurboSquid.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I'm a big fan of TurboSquid. It's funny because it's easy to get caught in that head, that mindset of like, no, I want to make everything that's on screen, I'm an artist. Then sometimes, you're like yeah, you know what, it's on screen for 99 Frames, I can just pay 20 bucks and get the model.
Rich Nosworthy: It was meant to be done like in September time but we went completely overboard with this thing and it took like an extra three or four months. There was a time when I was thinking it would be cool to make this tuff but just got to cut it and just get on with it.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, it looks like a monumental amount of work. Okay, you model everything and you're doing a combo of simple shapes, nerbs and then also like traditional modeling. What's the next step for you, do you then texture or do you start rigging like what comes next?
Rich Nosworthy: Next was probably I think I'd lay down some UVs for it next. I mean it was kind of a little bit back and forth because of it being a robot, you can actually like rather than having to do a proper rig for it, you can just pretty much just parent all the geometry to the bones of it. You don't have to do like an intense character bind so it almost helps as well to have an idea what the skeleton is like before. You can sort of build the points, that you can build the geometry on the skeleton as you go. I had … I don't remember now.
I definitely UV-ed it first, yeah, so there was nothing too crazy about the UV stuff I was doing. A lot of it is just sort of like box … simple box projections in Cinema. The main body was kind of a box projection and then I just adjusted it a little bit so some of the seams were lining up. The seams that wasn't lining up, I just wouldn't try not to have any detail on there so it's just not so obvious. Just sort of little tricks to speed things up.
Joey Korenman: Let me ask you this. If I was asked, what's the one thing that in Cinema 4D that people know the least about, I would say UV mapping. It's just one of those things like it's not because the app gives you so many ways to texture without doing it. I think a lot of people shy away from it. I'm curious where you learned to do it in Cinema 4D. Did you just figure it out and transfer it over from Maya or whatever you knew or like how did you actually learn how to do that?
Rich Nosworthy: Kind of. It was something, I didn’t even let it in Maya for quite a while. There's a really good tutorial. I think it's like a DVD series from the Gnomon Workshop and it was called something like UV mapping 101. It was from a few years ago. That was in Maya. It's not ideal but you can often like follow these things and maybe sort of apply them to what you know what you're used to. I'd also watched another training series, it's quite an old one there by 3DKiwi, it was [crosstalk 00:28:52]
Joey Korenman: Yeah, C4D Café.
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah, that was good to get the gist of the whole thing. To be honest, I think it's the tricky thing is it's quite an old system that hasn't been updated for so long. It kind of needs to be, it's definitely not the most intuitive part of Cinema 4D.
Joey Korenman: That is an understatement.
Rich Nosworthy: Some of it, yeah.
Joey Korenman: There's actually, I did a tutorial on UV mapping. It's on School of Motion somewhere. It's one of the first things I ever made and that tutorial has been watched probably times 10 more than any other tutorial because I think that that's something that just … There's the 3DKiwi thing but I don't even know, can you still get that, because I bought that too. That was like seven, eight years ago or something like that. [crosstalk 00:29:40]
Rich Nosworthy: I'm not even sure but …
Joey Korenman: Body paint's changed a lot since then and that … It used to be a separate program and now it's built into Cinema 4D and that makes it more complicated. It's tough to wrap your head around.
Rich Nosworthy: It's kind of difficult because it's like you almost have to select your polygons and then you have to select the UV tool and then you can start moving points and stuff. There's almost like a disconnect between the way it works and especially with other apps like I almost think, I just maybe should just try getting some of that MODO and do for now and just fill my UVs in that maybe be or something. There's another one called UV layout which is like it looks … I haven't actually used it yet but …
Joey Korenman: I've heard a lot of good things about MODO. Actually, I've been thinking about trying it out and I don’t know. I'm guessing the founder is going to be sending you a free copy after listening to this. You UV map it and just in case anyone isn't clear what that means because there may be people that don’t actually don’t understand what that is but basically you're just creating a flat space where you can paint the texture that gets applied to the 3D model.
Just a map between the 2D texture and the 3D model. The secret sauce and I haven't done as much, nearly as much of this as you, Rich but the secret sauce always seems to be layering up different material layers like your color, channel and then you get your speck channel and so you did render this in VRay, correct?
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah, that's right, yeah.
Joey Korenman: Can you talk a little bit about the different material layers that you used and did you hand paint all these mats, or these maps? Did you go to CG textures and grab anything like how did you build up this material and make sure that it was going to look like metal or plastic or whatever it was supposed to be?
Rich Nosworthy: I kind of when I was coming up with the idea, I've been like getting a lot of reference and a lot of the reference I was going for was kind of old, old televisions, old computers, like an old 70s vacuum cleaner kind of had the front of this, holes for the speaker thing. I had quite a lot of reference for that and a lot of the textures I've got, I've got quite a big library that I've sort of accumulated over the years from places like CG textures for example. I don’t really hand paint a lot of it.
I mean to be truth, I put a lot of the hard lifting sort of on just using photo textures and stuff and just painting in sort of areas. I'll darken a bit for example for scuff marks and just painting like a mask for how you'd want that bit to affect the rest of the layer. It's pretty much all just one big Photoshop document, I guess.
Joey Korenman: Let me ask you this. I'll give you a specific example because I'm looking at the piece right now. There's a shot, it's really great. It's the two, one robot has magnets all over him and the other one is trying to pull one of the magnets off. The robot that's trying to pull the magnets off. This is weird to like describe this in an interview. It's a visual thing, but the side of the robot looks like it's made out of plastic or something. It looks very dirty but then there's these streaks on it that looks shinier than everything else, right?
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah, sure like …
Joey Korenman: I'm pretty sure that up until Cinema 4D R16, you almost wouldn’t be able to get that texture without VRay or something else like that. How do you approach creating something like that, like do you know in your head what you're going for so you create just the right black and white image to put on the glossiness channel. How do you kind of … where do you start, do you start with the color and then build up or do you build it all at once?
Rich Nosworthy: I'd start with … Actually, I was going to say there's a really … Again, it's not a tutorial plug in, but there's another one on the Gnomon Workshop. I have to find out the name, it's like I think it's texture painting with Justin Holt. He textures this like old clock and I watched that a few years ago. I'll find the link so maybe we can put it in the notes or something.
Joey Korenman: That will be awesome, we'll definitely do that.
Rich Nosworthy: That's relaly good. Learned tons from that. Yeah, the idea is that you'll probably start with like the color channel and you just make all the dirt textures and the stuff to make that look good. Then you probably you make a duplicate of all those layers and you sort of make them black and white. You take the ones that makes sense to be like more the scratch layers and combine them down so you've got like it's black and white image which maybe represents like the shiniest of the surfaces. I guess in the old days, you could kind of do it by putting that into the specula channel but now you've got like R16, you’ve got the whole reflectants and stuff.
You can now use this in like the glossiness of the reflection which is kind of the proper way to do it I guess. That's kind of cool because it gives you this really nice sort of like the reflection that everything is perfect, just kind of like the sort of distortion from the scratches and stuff and yeah, I kind of try and do that whenever I can because I like the look of that. It looks kind of cool when you get like a light passing across the surface and it kind of feels a bit more tactile and real maybe.
Joey Korenman: That's a perfect segue into another question, Rich. You're good at this. Because a lot of textures I think you don’t really know what they're going to look like until you see them turning or like a light moving across them because there's still it's hard to tell how that specula is going to move across the surface. One of the questions and I want to give credit where credit is due, I think it was probably Billy Chitkin's question. How much does interactive rendering play a part in that look development process? Obviously, if you're using VRay, I don’t think VRay for C4D has a GPU accelerated window yet, right, like Octane and stuff like that?
Rich Nosworthy: Not at the moment. Hopefully, soon in the next version but at the moment, no, it's not as easy as something like Octane where you've got the instant feedback. What I normally use is there's a plug in called Magic Preview by Nitro4D which is pretty good. It's basically like a real time update but it's just rendering rather than the GPU. I normally would just settle all my quality settings down super low, either have like a really low setting GI or just turn the GI off. Then just basically rendering it like that and you get an almost kind of semi real time view of it and just enough to get lighting and work from there.
Joey Korenman: That is awesome. I've heard of that plug in. I've never actually used it but we'll put that in the show notes too because I've heard a lot of people actually say that that's what they do. That's genius.
Rich Nosworthy: Once you got the light set up, you can just do like little test renders like tiny little bits just to see region renders just to see how things go but I'd like to get some more interactive rendering stuff going on because it definitely helps for sure.
Joey Korenman: I'm sure you've seen the demos of Octane running on four graphics cards at the same time and it's pretty cool. That's the future. Although I will say because you know I've played around with Thea, too. The final renders are not much quicker as you'd think they'd be. [crosstalk 00:36:44] They still take a long time.
Rich Nosworthy: It's actually slower for me because I've got a really shitty old graphics card but I find also, you need to I think with the … limited experience with GP or find you need to kind of you can't get away with noise as much because the VRay has almost got like a mode by default where it keeps the noise the same per frame so it's less noticeable. With like GP renders like so far, the ones I've been playing around with, it's like it's always changing every frame so unless you get it super clean, I find it more distracting but yeah. On my machine it takes a lot longer to do that in the VRay render but I think if you've got a good graphics card then obviously, it's great.
Joey Korenman: Do you use the Render Farm or did you use one on this?
Rich Nosworthy: No, it was mostly just on my machine at home, just quite standard quad core machine. We've got two computers at work that I kind of borrowed overnight for a few things and they're kind of similar spec but I just used a DR thing which is like the team render version for the VRay. It wasn't too bad, like fame times are probably somewhere between five and 10 minutes a frame I suppose. Some of the biggest shots went up a bit more like the last frame. The last shot took a little bit longer to render but it was nothing too crazy so yeah.
Joey Korenman: That's crazy. It's funny, I've been using Rebus Farm for a long time and it's ... I'm surprised that you didn’t use something like that on this because it's like it's a game changer. I don't know when we, my old company when we got a Render Farm, it changed everything for us. Man, like to think what you'd be capable of with like a Render Farm behind you is kind of scary, if you did this on your own computer.
Rich Nosworthy: A friend of mine was telling me that it's got a lot better in terms of being able to down … like there used to be quite a lot of data to download obviously at the end with the renders and it was quite slow. Apparently, it really upped it.
Joey Korenman: I'd definitely recommend that. Cool. Then okay, we've got textures now, it's modeled, it's rigged. Actually, I've got a question about the rigging too. You can use those built in rigs and send them a 4D. I think it's called the character tool and you can pick a biped rig and just adjust it. Did you use those built in rigs or did you actually set up your own rig with Icahn, all that stuff from scratch.
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah, I used the character object from one guy, the sort of the zombie guy in the graveyard. I was short of time and I wanted to do it quick. For the robot, it was quite a simple rig and I didn’t really want it to deform with the binding and stuff. I kind of ... I'm interested in setting up that kind of stuff. I set that one up from scratch. It took a little bit of time like a couple of nights but it's not really that complicated all in all.
Cinema's got some really good rigging tools like I've used my other four for rigging. That’s cool as well but Cinema just seems to be a lot more easy to use like everything is based on null objects and constraints and yeah, it makes it a lot easier to visualized how things are working and if things go wrong, you can normally just see something is not zeroed out, properly or yeah, so.
Joey Korenman: There's a really awesome Greyscalegorilla tutorial, we have to link to that, too. I'm writing all these things down so I don't forget. Where Chris Schmidt goes through basically, setting up a robot arm and he's using constraints and stuff like that. It really does look so much simpler than I thought it would be to do something like that. I was thinking that would be Expresso and math and all this stuff. Like the process of using a constraint, I mean is that that pretty plug and play like you need this piston to move when this arm rotates so you put a constraint on it and it happens? How do you figure that stuff out?
Rich Nosworthy: Kind of. Chris' tutorial is really good. I watched that a few years ago when I was start to look in to actually rigging in Cinema 4D because it was the first time I kind of come across that. Yeah, the constraints are great. They're quite, they're just a tag so they just drag whatever you're trying to constraint into the object and it kind of picks it up. You have to watch a few things like you need to make sure your pivots are in the right place and sometimes, you have to watch about priorities because that can be a quite complex part of Cinema. Yeah, I mean overall, it's a really great system.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, that sounds awesome. That's one of the things I want to get more into is that kind of stuff because it seems fun and watching this robot video like I want to go make a robot right now. In my head, I'm like I could spend a day playing with that and actually, it probably took you a week or two just to have one robot working correctly I'm guessing.
Rich Nosworthy: It's going ... Once you know how to do the basics of the rigging stuff, it's quite a good knowledge to have because you kind of get more of a feel of how the whole hierarchies and stuff work in Cinema. It's a lot easier to set up stuff for everything then because it's really a good thing to have. Check out Chris' tutorial for sure.
Joey Korenman: For sure, that was amazing when I watched that. Let's talk about the lights. How did you light this thing?
Rich Nosworthy: It was pretty, like I said VRay is based around like the real world stuff so it was kind of pretty standard studio set up. I was using one HDRI as kind of like a base which was ... it was the free I've got online which is just a sort of simple studio set up. Then I was just adding it maybe top lights and side lights to it. That's kind of it really. I always sort of try and sort of like a put a rim light in there to catch reflections and stuff. It was yeah, it was nothing too crazy.
Joey Korenman: I noticed a lot of great … because that's one thing that I think when you're starting out in Cinema 4D, it's easy to overlook this but like lighting is not just the effective of light hitting something. Also, the reflection of that light in that thing. I noticed a lot of that in this and so I was wondering like in VRay, like do you place like little cards with a white texture on it around or do you actually just let the Cinema 4D lights reflect in your stuff?
Rich Nosworthy: VRay has got the area lights you have ... It can either come up as a white plain or you can actually texture the lights so it's got like a reflector built into it.
Joey Korenman: Cool.
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah, it's pretty good like that. You can create your own light. Light, they work just like proper studio lights would. In fact, to be honest, I've kind of been looking more at photography tutorials and stuff and products set up for this sort of thing to see how you would light something in this situation and that's a good resource as well to kind of know that kind of thing. Especially when it comes to the physically base rendering stuff. If you're just doing more sort of stylized, it's not so important at all but yeah, it's good to know how you … If you think of how you'd set up in the world and it's kind of how it works in sort of this set up too.
Joey Korenman: The disco ball, I mean it looks so realistic because you've got those reflections and they work. Was that tricky to do, that disco ball or was that easy?
Rich Nosworthy: It's kind of … I mean that’s the other good thing, it's kind of once you've set up these lights, everything works the way it should. That was just a sphere with ... I think it's the MODO extrude deformer on it. It's just got like a little bit of random extrusion all over and then just the edges kind of capture the highlights so yeah, it was super simple.
Joey Korenman: That's crazy.
Rich Nosworthy: [crosstalk 00:44:27]
Joey Korenman: I mean I've used VRay before but it was always, I never took the time to really … I think to get renders like this, you really have to know what you're doing with it. That's the problem, Rich. There's the awesome button was not working on my version of VRay.
Rich Nosworthy: It takes a bit of learning to start with but I think once you get the basics down, it's easier in a way because you know things are going to look right in any sort of situation like these materials would look correct in a light or a dark lighting environment. There's less guess work I suppose …
Joey Korenman: Got you.
Rich Nosworthy: You just have to I suppose know a little more about it at the start
Joey Korenman: Hopefully, they'll update for VRay for C4D sometime because I know that it's long overdue. Now, Octane is starting to probably take some of the market shares.
Rich Nosworthy: I think there's also the guy from VRay, Stephen's just started like a master class thing. I think it's about $200. It's on their webpage, but it's really good. If you're interested in getting more into that, it's quite geeky and technical but like he know a lot of stuff so I think if our want to get more into it, that would be a very worthwhile.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I could imagine he knows a lot of stuff. That's awesome. Cool, all right. Now, we've got textures, we've got lights, we've got a rigged robot, a bunch of robots. Now, you've got animate this thing. I'm more of a kind of standard MoGraph guy. I animate everything from beginning to end, just straight ahead. I'm assuming, correct me if I'm wrong but I'm assuming that you don’t animate something like this that way. You would do pose to pose. Is that correct? What's your process for animating these things?
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah, sure, I mean, I only really animate like this if I'm doing something like a character. I mean for more sort of simple primary sort of work then yeah, you can totally just do whatever you want. I found with this sort of stuff because it's quite complex with the like controls and stuff, it's much easier to sort of … I would set my key frames to step so you've got no sort of interpellation and just work on getting your poses right and sort of just blocking out all the main key poses. Then once you've done like a round of that, you kind of know the gist of how the character is moving. You go do a second round where you sort of put in like the next part of the move.
I think the idea is it's kind of maybe more about a traditional way of doing it but if you can sort of get all your movements done before you convert to [spline 00:47:09] then it's much easier once you convert to the final splined animation. You've take care of all the work earlier on. It's less like messing around with curves and stuff like because obviously, it's quite complex, this sort of stuff so it's easy to … It's better to try and break it down to simple parts. If that makes sense, I mean …
Joey Korenman: Yeah, that does … I mean to me, it makes sense. I don’t know if it makes sense to anybody else. I mean I think you're … so let me ask you this because the way that I animate most of the tuff I work on is a try to use as few key frames as possible. With character animation, it sounds like you're saying sometimes, that's not a good idea. You could get the same movement by bending the animation curve in some extreme way. That's going to be harder than just adding an extra key frame, is that correct?
Rich Nosworthy: Yes, for me I think, yeah. I was looking at a few like tutorials of people that work in bigger studios and I agree, it's better to have fewer key frames where necessarily. Sometimes, you kind of if you want to get like, you want to put in like an extra bit of detail about the way the arm moves and it's a lot of work to get all the curves working whereas sometimes you just want to have it one frame where it's up there, one frame where it's back. It kind of blends together. In the final animation, it kind of looks a bit more fluid maybe.
Joey Korenman: Got you.
Rich Nosworthy: Yes, it's a funny one because you don’t want to be doing this for everything because like you say, most of the time, it's better to use fewer key frames but I think with character stuff, you kind of … There's almost like an extra level of detail in there which kind of gives the illusion of it being sort of more alive, I guess. Almost like these little random mistakes kind of give more a life to it, maybe.
Joey Korenman: Did you do anything deliberate to make the animation feel robotic as opposed to if these were supposed to be like Jell-o looking aliens or something. Did you specifically keep movement more linear or anything like that or because they feel like robots. I mean is that just an artifact of the way they're modeled and rigged?
Rich Nosworthy: Probably, yeah, I didn't really do anything like that. To be honest, I was just kind of trying to animate it the best as I could. I find it was kind of good to get like if you can get the hips sort of right and like the feeling of the weight of the hips going then the rest of this sort of stuff kind of followed along from there. Certainly, from these shots so that was wher I went with that. No, it was certainly nothing like, I wasn't trying to keep it sort of too robotic and …
Joey Korenman: Got you. I mean it's interesting to me because I don’t do any pose to pose animation so like at what point do you start adding in things like you know, follow through like the antenna lagging behind the movement of the robot or the arms being delayed a couple of frames. Do you do that when you're blocking stuff out r do you wait until it's blocked out? Then you convert all those key frames to spline and then add that stuff?
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah, I think I'm not like an expert in this stuff, but for me, I was just kind of blocking stuff out with sort of stepped animation, then doing like a few little offsets and stuff and then it was pretty much the final thing in the whole process was converting from step to spline animation kind of when everything had been taken care of. Then just going and having another look and seeing if anything wasn't working right. The antennas were different because they were kind of quite bouncy and all over the thing. I kind of did those etc. just like you'd normally would animate something like without that sort of post [inaudible 00:50:43] straight ahead because they were followed after the … [crosstalk 00:50:46]
Joey Korenman: That was like a second pass after you got the basic stuff down. Got you. For the robot at the end, the big crazy terminator looking one. There was in your making of, there's a shot where you actually see some of your onscreen controls for that thing and there's like dozens of them. How many controls and parts did that thing have for you to animate?
Rich Nosworthy: It wasn't that crazy. It was the same rig basically as the main robot. I just swapped out the body for a different shape and adjusted the arms a bit. Those were just kind of Expresso controls because when you're trying to control the fingers and stuff, you don’t want to … For me, it's hard to keep like going on screen and selecting each little piece and moving it around.
It's easier to have this kind of board that you just tweak these sliders or have a slider that controls the curl of the finger. There's probably a lot of detail in there and it did take like a few days to set up all that stuff but most of it was just pretty much straightforward Expresso just linking one value to another. It's quite powerful when you get a grasp of that stuff because you can do a lot of automated sort of stuff with that.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, so you would just drive like a rotation value with an onscreen control or something like hat. It wasn't anything fancy. It was just … I want that control on screen as opposed to buried …
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah, for example, I have three sliders for a finger. For example, say one slider that just links directly to the top of the tip of the finger turning, another one that does the middle and another does the base and there was also a curl slider which just took off, like it added a value to all of them at the same time. If you wanted to curl the finger, all the fingers kind of move [crosstalk 00:52:35]. All the digits to move at the same time but you can also still control each individual one as well. Yeah, that kind of stuff is great with Expresso because you can link it up quiet easily and it works pretty well.
Joey Korenman: That's excellent. Let's talk about compositing now. On that last shot for example, I'm seeing some lens distortion. How much of that look did you get in composite and how much was just baked into the rendering and I'm talking about just like the motion blur and another post effects you added. Like how much of that was done after the render?
Rich Nosworthy: I mean it was pretty much that was all pretty much just mostly in camera stuff. I mean the motion blur was just the array's standard motion blur. It doesn’t take too long to render really. Then like I added a few little tweaks and after effects like I just do a slight bit of chromatic aberration sort of stuff and things like that. Most of those renders were kind of as they came out of the box, I didn't spent too long grading. There was a slight adjustment curve for the colors to kind of give that little bit of a slightly faded look so it wasn't quite just out of the box. I would say composite was pretty minimal on there.
Joey Korenman: Got you. Why, because there's different approaches and some people they really do a ton of the look in the composite and that's essentially typically what I do. I do a lot of look development in composite. Do you ever do that or is there a reason you don’t do it that way and you try to nail it in the render first and not render out your 20 passes and put them back together?
Rich Nosworthy: It depends, sometimes, I do. Yeah, with this one, I was just messing around with a lot of the lighting for the shots and most of it was kind of coming out pretty much the way I was wanting it with a little bit of correction. You can do all the sort of like the post effects like you can get the real smart motion glare and the Frischluft depth of field. It's often a little bit, it doesn’t always work the way you want and VRay is quite actually faster in that sort of stuff anyway.
Adding the motion blur and stuff, it doesn’t take a huge amount longer than it would for the normal render anyways. Yeah. I mean there's definitely still stuff like I would probably take and do more work on in comp and add more grading and stuff too. This one, I just didn't really feel like it necessarily needed that much more so …
Joey Korenman: Cool. That's actually a question, it's popped up actually recently. A bunch of people asked me about this but the advantage of doing the motion blur and the depth of field in the render as opposed to doing it in post afterwards in … I'm guessing you'd agree with me but my advice is always do it in the render if you have the time. Would you do that?
Rich Nosworthy: Yeah, there's also the thing obviously that if you get it wrong then you've got to re-render everything so it's yeah, it depends like obviously how much time you've got to kind of get it right. I mean, you can get some great results with stuff like Frischluft anyway. Sometimes when things pass in front of one another, they don’t quite look right sometimes because it's just the way the sort of the depth thing works. If you want to go the extra mile, you can but I guess you don’t want to risk your entire shot in doing it, if it's not going to come out …
Joey Korenman: Exactly, that's why you need a Render Farm, Rich because then you can screw it up four times and it still gets done on time. Although you don’t want to do that. I'm not saying that's the right way …
Rich Nosworthy: [crosstalk 00:56:07] … good reasons to use that stuff for sure especially with tight deadlines and stuff but I quite like doing it in render if I can because I kind of like that.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, there's a lot less surprises that way and it's less work too like you don’t have to spend time building like a composite tree just to make it look like the render and then you can start tweaking it. It's like I like the way it looks. I'm going to color correct it a little bit and it's done.
Rich Nosworthy: [I did composites 00:56:33] and stuff for them. There was like a few times where I'd like just to boost up some of the reflection and stuff on the surfaces as well just because I thought it might look a bit nicer.
Joey Korenman: Do you do your compositing in After Effects or do you use Nuke or anything like that?
Rich Nosworthy: I'm pretty much in After Effects at the moment and I mean there's not too much this. I used to have Nuke at the old place I used to work at which is really good but yeah, I can't really afford the license of that.
Joey Korenman: It's not a cheap program, Rich. It's not inexpensive.
Rich Nosworthy: They have got the new noncommercial version coming out soon which I'm pretty excited about so for anything that you want to mess around with at your spare time, it's kind of cool so I'm going to check out that.
Joey Korenman: In a huge fan of Nuke for stuff like this. After Effects is great and you can obviously do all of the same stuff in it that you can at Nuke. For putting 3D passes together and really nailing that look, if you've used Nuke, you know. It's more like a scalpel, I think. You can just be a little finer with that detail. Awesome. We've pretty much covered the entire production process. Is there anything else that maybe we didn’t get into that you think is interesting about the way you handled this or like unique or some little trick that you used to get these awesome results, single handedly?
Rich Nosworthy: No, I don't think … I think that's kind of covered everything from what I could think of. I mean obviously, it can be tough trying to … It was quite a big project and it was done in spare time so it can be tough fitting this stuff in around work and family time and stuff as well. My fiancé is very understanding. I'm sure she's glad it's over now.
Joey Korenman: Gosh. Everybody, Rich is getting married soon by the way took so he has a full time job, he has a fiancé and he still finds time to do personal projects. There are no excuses, there literally are none.
Rich Nosworthy: Free time is getting smaller though.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Just wait till you have a kid, buddy.
Rich Nosworthy: It's going to be all over now?
Joey Korenman: Awesome. Rich, thank you so much for doing this interview. I think this was like my hope was that this was one of the geekiest interviews that anyone has ever heard. I mean, I think we may have achieved that. We got pretty deep in the woods. Awesome, yeah, thank you very much and yeah, we'll have to do this again soon.
Rich Nosworthy: Cool, awesome, good to talk to you guys again. Anyway.
Joey Korenman: If that doesn’t just make you want to run out and open Cinema 4D and make something awesome then I don’t know what will. I want to say thank you one more time to Rich for being so generous with his time and his knowledge and for being so humble and really open sharing this knowledge with us.
Again, if you are interested in entering the 99 Frames Competition, go to 99Frames.net. If you like this interview and you'd like to hear more stuff like this, please leave a comment and let me know because this is kind of a new thing for School of Motion. If you guys like it and if you've got a lot out of it, I'd love to do more of it. Let me know. Thank you and see you around.