e: steve@goofypixel.com

The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway

The last Episode of The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway aired last night (Wednesday 30/07/2014) on BBC Two, there are exclusive clips and a series catch up via BBC iPlayer here on the BBC programme page.
I had the pleasure of working on Episodes 1 & 3 of this series whilst under contract at Fluid Pictures and a collection of my shots can be seen here in my portfolio.

Design – A Ball that’s not a Sphere.

Recently I was asked by a client to do some character design work, or maybe that should be ‘re-design’ work.

Award winning Film and 3D Animation studio polarmedia had been producing a short corporate animation for a client.  The animation was at the polishing phase and the production nearly completed when they ran into a small problem.  The production had been pitched, signed off and animated using a LEGO man character, which for copyright, patent and legal reasons is simply not usable.  So the re-design brief, was to create a new man character, with the same proportions of the LEGO man; same height and shape so that it would still work with the control rig and all the animation that had already been completed, but still needed to look like a LEGO man as that is what they had pitched to their client with and that the client had signed off on.

A LEGO man that is not a LEGO man.
It is one of those daunting design questions that you sit in fear of, wondering how on earth you are going to achieve such a thing.  Like being asked to create ball but it can’t be a sphere.

Never any point on pondering what you may possibly be able to achieve, best to just get stuck in and start at the beginning.  What follows is a breakdown of how I personally tackled this and the end result.

Starting at the beginning – shapes and silhouettes

Immediately trying to get away from the trademark LEGO man design, with the perfectly vertical legs and the torso that is tapered towards the shoulders and wider at the hips, I blocked out some very simple shapes leaning more towards a truer resemblance of the human form.  Shoulders and chest wider than waist and hips, feet apart rather than together.LEG1_SilhoeuettesStraight away F is too close to the upper body shape you instantly associate with a patented LEGO man.  The broadening of the shoulder and chest on A-D made the character too overtly masculine, whereas E is a much more subtle broadening and hence chosen as the shape to progress.

Progression of Design E

At this point I am using the original LEGO man head with custom shades, hard hat and back pack already created by Polarmedia and I am solely focusing on the design of the body.  Here I have 3 variations on Design E which experiment with different ways to connect the arm at the shoulder, different definitions on the chest and how it catches the light, different pinches on the waist from the sides, different levels of stomach being tucked in, and different depths to the arch in the lower back.  The hands have been given added definition to depict fingers to lean away from the smooth design of an actual LEGO man, and in the opposite fashion the toes have been rounded off to move away from the completely square design.LEG3_E_Versions_FrontLEG3_E_Versions_Front_WireLEG5_E_Versions_SideLEG5_E_Versions_Side_Wire

The Head

With Design E3 a joint choice between myself and the Lead Animator and production Supervisor at Polarmedia, the next step was to give options on the design of the head.  The shades and hard hat had already been created as original designs by the Polarmedia team and were to be kept on the final character.  The choice was made to keep this away from something that could be manufactured and infringe on the LEGO design, we would have no neck on the character, instead opting for a game style floating head with a minimal gap.

Here are several head designs created from a simple cylinder (C1-6) and an even simpler square cube (S1-6)LEG8_HeadsIt was harder to come to a decision on the final head as we all had different views but end result was opting for C2.

So there we have it the step by step design process of creating a LEGO man that is not a LEGO man, a very fun and rewarding little project to be involved in.

The Final ResultLEG9_HighPolyLEG10_HighPolyLEG11_HighPolyLEG12_HighPoly

The End… of Softimage.

So last week on 04/03/2014 Autodesk confirmed what several of us 3D Artists had been dreading, by breaking the news that they will be ending the life of Softimage after it’s next release in April of this year. After only 6 years since acquiring Softimage from Avid in 2007, Autodesk have decided to discontinue it.

This news has been met by a community united in sadness and anger at such a decision which has no rhyme nor reason to it. Autodesk themselves officially claim it is due to financial reasons, and they want to put more investment into their other two big 3D applications, Maya & 3DS Max. This, however, is largely rebuffed by the community as the current team developing Softimage is very, very small, based out in the east. This coupled with Softimage currently having somewhere in the region of 10,000 licensed seats worldwide, it seems unbelievable that Softimage was doing anything other than creating more funds for Autodesks other investments.

There has been some great open letters and fantastic blogs on the subject of Softimages end (some of which I will share in a moment) which have gained so much ground that Autodesk has even back tracked a little on it’s end statement. The original intention was that Softimage would have 2 years support from final release, meaning it could be used up until April 2016, and then all licenses would become non functioning, meaning the software would simply stop working. However, now due to a vocal community they have retreated somewhat and stated that, although support will end in April 2016 licenses will continue to function indefinitely. This is somewhat good news, as many users believe that Softimage in it’s current state is good enough to compete with whatever updates Autodesk put into Maya and 3DS Max for the foreseeable years to come.

The other point that makes this a little bit of good news is that Autodesk are actually hearing the communities voice. So with that in mind allow me to share this change petition so that you may register your vote to save it from extinction as have I.

If you need more of a push to register your vote to keep Softimage in the game, and keep the 3D software market from becoming a monopoly please read this blog. It details popular opinion of how Autodesks management and marketing of the software since acquiring it led to it’s inevitable ‘Autodesk’ destiny. There is also this well worded open letter from Alastair Hearsum, founding partner, director and head of 3d at Glassworks.

Please sign the petition, the quality of your future entertainment depends on it. The commercials you watch and the films you pay to see are made better with Softimage. The proof is in the pudding, The LEGO movie is entirely made using Softimage. It makes no sense to kill a software capable of creating such box office success.

I will leave you with my favourite tweet from that fateful March 4th by an anonymous tweeter
“Autodesk had to kill Softimage, it was making the rest of their portfolio look bad!”

Thanks for caring and for your signature on the petition 😉

New Additions

My Introduction to Maya project is now complete! Hoorah!
It has been a bit on and off with a small private gig getting in the middle of it and then Christmas and the new year and so on etc. but I have finally got round to putting the finishing touches to it in comp and it has been uploaded for all to see here.

As well as that I have also added a social network section to the bottom banner of the website. This can be used to access all my social network platforms so that you may subscribe, follow or add me!

Happy 2014!

A third pass version of my animation for the Digital Tutors course “Introduction To Maya 2014”
Finalised the landing. I have also worked a bit on the camera moves and the cuts between shots.


Here is my latest test render which includes a new afterburner effect.


A few stills of my first project in Maya, rendered with Arnold. Still quite a bit of work todo but I’m happy with the direction it’s heading.

Simplerworld launches 16-09-13

That’s right, the Payments Council advertising campaign for a simpler world launches today!
I had the pleasure of being part of the fantastic team producing this commercial back in May at Not To Scale London, check it out in my portfolio section here and be sure to watch out for it on TV!

Back down South

After a fantastic four weeks up in beautiful Edinburgh, freelancing for a great little studio (Interference Pattern/) I am back down south and on the freelance job hunt again.
I had an amazing time in Scotland, striking lucky that the Fringe was on whilst there I took full advantage and saw some great comedians.
At Interference Pattern we were creating a new Sourz commercial which will hopefully air soon and I will be able to upload it here for you to see, will keep you posted on that one.

Updated CV

An up to date CV can be found here containing my new employment and skills for the fist half of 2013. I am currently available for work so please take a look and get in touch regarding any possible opportunity.