How I’ve seen WarCraft getting craftier

Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness

Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness Game Box Cover

The first proper PC game I ever owned was WarCraft 2: Tides of Darkness. I first played it from a demo disk and seeing as the Real Time Strategy (RTS) genre was a rarity on the Mega Drive (which was my main entertainment device at the time) I thoroughly enjoyed the new experience and wanted more. Continue reading How I’ve seen WarCraft getting craftier

Little history on Digital Lighting Effects

Another amazing feat from production teams at Pixar Animation Studios, Emeryville, California, “made possible by modern technology (William*)”. With processors and memory available in such large quantities more computing can be done in less time, with time being money, and films having a limited budget it means higher quality films can be made at lower special effects costs.

Simply put: How?

The film WALL·E uses a derivative of the Ray Tracing Technique, light rays are projected perpendicular to the viewpoint plane into the digital environment and reflected off surfaces until a set number of bounces or they reach a light source. This creates a very realistic looking shot, with the realism being proportional to the number of reflections, 1 bounce casts shadows but doesn’t produce any ambiance, 3 looks only just plausible but will be too dark, 8 would be acceptable for daytime television and a full 16 or more are used in motion pictures.

As you can imagine each bounce has to be remembered, the colour information of its reflecting surface(s) and the distance between each one until it matches a finishing condition, this has to be done for each pixel. A rough idea of film resolution is 2048 by 1152, that’s 2,359,296 light rays (2.4 MegaPixels) every 1/24 of a second. An awful lot to remember for just one frame of 129600 in a 90 minute feature.

Is there a simpler way?

There are many other ways, each with pros and cons, my particular favourite, for sentimental reasons, is Ray Casting, the technique used extensively in the film Tron (1982).

Ray Casting functions in a similar way to Ray tracing except there are no bounces once reaching a surface, colour and shading is faked. With less information to remember the process is a lot quicker but also has more inaccuracies. If the shading and colouring isn’t done proficiently then the entire shot looks fake.

Further Advances

There you have it, the basics in how light and shadows are produced digitally. Mathematical equations work out the path a real light ray might take, complicated stuff made possible by the advances in technology. Luckily Pixar aim to create one frame (1/24 second) to be rendered in 3 minutes, making a whole film take a year, so its safe to say we’re a long way off being able to create photorealistic digital environments in realtime. When that happens I would worry, if we could create a near perfect environment in a simulator and you went into that simulator how would you know if you really left?

WALL·E

Such a loving little film about an endearing robot. Whenever I’ve been in the cinema over the last month or so I’ve heard people saying “Have they remade Short Circuit?” Obviously not but there are some similarities. Back then they used Johnny as a promotional tool, but there was only one because it was sooooo expensive to make, with most of the budget going to the Visual Futurist, Syd Mead, who designed him.

How things have changed, now there are many of the things.

One of my Favourites clips

Keeping with the jovial attitude of the majority of their films the Animators often place a lot of ‘in jokes’ throughout their features Jim Hill lists most, if not all, the visual jokes Pixar employees have included in their final products. Enjoy.

Work Addiction?

So I’m watching this report on ITV investigating Video Gaming Addiction, when I was little I played and played games day in day out, these days I can’t even imagine sitting down to play an hour. I know that to make any decent progress; level up once or move onto the next area it’s going to take me a few hours possibly even a few hours everyday for a week. I’ve got to re-acquaint myself with the game controls, practice so I don’t ruin how well I was doing 6 months-3 years ago and get going again.

These days its wake up, goto University, come home, if there are no plans its finish of this recreational project or a movie to unwind, sleep and repeat. The inner critic rationalises that because I’m not turning down social opportunities to work I’m not addicted but why do I feel so much more at ease when I on camp and can’t work?

I LOVE computer games, I really do, you can participate in events you couldn’t do in real life, dodge bullits, fly, fight, drive. duck, jump, force-push. Its a lovely escape from reality, but thats just it, its not real and all those scores and stats don’t count.

I produce as much as the next guy, more so even, website results are like icebergs; you only see 10% the rest is hidden under, water or behind the pretty template. Yet actually producing something isn’t enough for some people who think that they work hard when infact all they do is send a dozen or so emails each week (like I don’t!). Perhaps I should prove a point and print out every single line of code I’ve cut’n’pasted or written and display it all at my next opportunity? I wonder if the point will be taken?

This is possibly the biggest sign that my childhood is over, work whether it be ‘recreational’ or educational dominates my time instead of play, I didn’t see it coming nor did I ever think that I would fall victim to this affliction as all other adults have. I think its now too late to set course for the second star to the left and go straight on till morning…

Film Review: Firewall

I’ve just finished watching the movie Firewall, it wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad it just was. Its one of those films that a select few revere (there always are a few) but I’m guessing the majority are like me and think “m’eh”.

In fifty years time it’ll be one of those films that put on in the middle of the day that when someone goes sifting through the TV guides looking for were it says in bold letters FILM: they’ll see this, skim the synopsis and more on for something more interesting. What I don’t understand is why the legend that is Harrison Ford got involved in it? I mean a living legend, he’s had a lot of high hitters ( for example 9 top 10 movies in the 1980s ) a slew of others since then. This it was just a little plain, yeah okay he’s getting on a bit but so was Sean Connery when he did Last Crusade or even later still Entrapment.

I just hope that the effort that when into this movie isn’t the same that gets applied to Indiana Jones 4 if it ever gets out of the pre-production stage.

Rating: 53%

Star Wars, Lightsaber effects and a Macbook

First I found this: MacSaber
You’ve all seen/heard about that kid who swung a pole around making Lightsaber noises, that got the mick taken out of him and then later had CG lightsaber effects added in making it cooler?
Well there’s the latest OMG thats so Geeky experience: Star Wars Kid macbook

Now I’m a big fan of PCs, I understand the need for Macs in Design and appreciate *nix systems for what they teach you about Programming. Surely this sort of thing alone puts a Mac way ahead of the curve! I mean whoa, your sitting at your desk in a cubicle working away and someone nudges you. So you pick up you Mac and swing it around, I doubt that person will be “accidentally” bumping into you again ( and hopefully not because your fired! )