Dan Harmon’s Story Circle

Dan Harmon's story structure diagram, with the one-word plot points at each important step.
Dan Harmon’s story structure diagram, with the one-word plot points at each important step.

A few days ago I had a conversation about Channel101.com and found out that Dan Harmon was one of the creators of the network. I knew about Channel101.com, somehow knew that Rob Schrab was one of the creators, but never knew that Dan Harmon was involved. That conversation sparked a memory of some good articles on story structure on the Channel101.com site and, after a quick search, I found them and realized that Dan Harmon wrote them, which makes it even worse that I had no idea he was involved with the site. Oops.

The articles are a great summary of how to write good story structure. Dan Harmon distills the concepts from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces into a simple diagram. He argues that all good stories follow his diagram, whether they are epic films like The Matrix and Die Hard, television shows (following the diagram within each episode and, hopefully, longer arcs between episodes), sports games, or even simply stories about your day.

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Tim’s Vermeer

This is the painting that Tim Jenison recreated, first by building a copy of the physical scene and then by painting it.
This is the painting that Tim Jenison recreated, first by building a copy of the physical scene and then by painting it.

I found an interesting article about Tim Jenison, the founder of NewTek (owner of the 3D animation software I use, LightWave 3D). The article explains how Tim Jenison spent quite a few years studying the artwork of Johannes Vermeer (a 16th century painter), came to the conclusion that he must have used a “camera obscura” (mirror and lens contraption to project the scene onto his canvas), and then recreated the scene from a Vermeer painting to test his theory.

And now you can watch a movie about the entire process. Working with Penn and Teller (apparently Tim Jenison is a good friend of Penn), they financed and created Tim’s Vermeer, which chronicles his recreation of the scene from a particular Vermeer painting and then using the camera obscura to make his own version. The movie has already been released to theaters — I hope it winds up on Netflix streaming!

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Starburns Industries

Starburns Industries (Logo)I caught a cold late last week, so I spent the weekend sleeping and catching up on television. I finally got around to watching the last few weeks of Rick and Morty, Dan Harmon’s new animated show on Adult Swim. If you have not seen the show, it is a good comedy animated series featuring sci-fi adventures and some dark, witty humor. If you do not know who Dan Harmon is: he created and provided the main creative direction for the NBC show Community. If you have not watched Community, you are missing out on a great comedy series. Now that 30 Rock is finished, it is the only network show I watch.

Anyway, I noticed that the end of Rick and Morty has a closing tag for “Starburns Industries”. For those of you that do not watch  Community (shame on you for not immediately rushing off to watch a season or two!), “Starburns” is a side character in the show, so that name in another Dan Harmon creation immediately grabbed my attention. And that is how I found out about Starburns Industries, an animation studio created by Dan Harmon. Check out their reel, available on the front page of their site. Their About page is interesting, too, especially the bios for co-founders Joseph Russo II (he was an animator on The Simpsons) and Dino Stamatopoulos (from the Chicago area and has some solid comedy writing credits).

They primarily work in 2D animation and stop-motion, and I was surprised that I recognized a fair amount of their work (even though I have not watched much of it — I didn’t see Frankenhole or Beforel Orel, for instance).

 

LightWave 3D Earth Tutorial – Part 3

LightWave 3D model and render of the earth.
LightWave 3D model and render of the earth.

This is the third and final part of my series of tutorials showing how I created a model of the Earth. If you missed part one, I showed you how to create the simple model and add the basic color/bump image maps.  In part two, I showed you how to add shader layers for the ocean, clouds, and the night city lights.

Because LightWave does not have volumetric shading support, we are going to fake an atmosphere glow using a flat, transparent object. Using the node editor, we will control the transparency based on its relation to the light vector.

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LightWave 3D Earth Tutorial – Part 1

LightWave 3D model and render of the earth.
LightWave 3D model and render of the earth.

In this series of tutorials, I will show how I modeled and textured the Earth in the image above using LightWave 3D. The surfaces are primarily driven by image maps along with  some custom logic in the Node Editor.

You can download the images I used in my model in this zip file. The images are collected from a few online resources: Planet Pixel Emporium provided most of the images, and NASA helped with some others.

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Earth and Moon

For the past week, I decided to work on a more photo-realistic render. A while back, I was entertaining myself by trying to render the Earth and moon in Maya. I never finished that scene, however, because I couldn’t find a good way to render out stars in Maya without using a static background image. Before I found a good solution in Maya, I got sidetracked and forgot about it.

I decided to translate the surfaces from Maya to LightWave, to try to stretch my abilities in the LightWave node editor. Here is my final result:

LightWave 3D render of the Earth and moon from space.
LightWave 3D render of the Earth and moon from space.

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Cowboy Bebop Warehouse Wrap Up

The last two weeks have been pretty hectic with the holidays and then getting caught up at work, so I never had a chance to finish touching up the Cowboy Bebop warehouse scene I was creating. But that’s OK, because I learned some good lessons from creating the scene, especially as it relates to building anime-style backgrounds in LightWave. The only touch up I wanted to try was adding a paintbrush effect to the walls, but I don’t expect I would use it very often since I tend to prefer cleaner renders. Plus, that would be something to create in Photoshop, not within LightWave itself, so I can push it off to another time, if I ever need it.

Here are the some of the lessons I learned while working on this scene:

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Cowboy Bebop Background

I have continued working on my 3D representation of the Cowboy Bebop background.  I created a series of UV maps on the floor, walls, and some of the boxes.  I then created individual bump, diffuse, and color maps to mimic some of the features in the original scene.  I also tweaked the geometry since my last post, to fix some of the relative proportions of the different objects.

The first draft of my textured Cowboy Bebop scene (click for full size image).
The first draft of my textured Cowboy Bebop scene (click for full size image).

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Another 3D Anime Background

Now that I finished recreating the FLCL background using LightWave 3D, I have started working on a second background. This time, I’m using a shot from Cowboy Bebop, my favorite anime. If you haven’t seen the show, get yourself a copy (or wait until it starts airing on Adult Swim again — they have been showing Cowboy Bebop since Adult Swim first started in 2001, because the series is that good).

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