Monday, December 02, 2013

Blog address change

In the next couple weeks I will be switching the blog address to

If you have an RSS feed, please update it.  I hope to get back into posting about my extra curricular sculpting and rigging, as well as the work I have been doing at Walt Disney Animation Studios for the past three years.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Appealing Deformation: Clean Mesh = Predictable Articulation

So you just spent some time on your brow weights, getting your spans to flow in a nice appealing smooth shape. Congratulations! Now let's mouse over the below image to see how it holds up in the opposite position.

(hover mouse over image to see poses)

Gross. It doesn't hold up at all. What was smooth in the down pose, is now jagged in the up pose.

In order for the emotions of the character to read clearly the brows should flow as a cohesive unit, giving us a soft arc when the brows are up and a bold straight when the brows are down. Take a look at these drawings of Aladdin to see examples of bold and clean brow shapes.

(hover mouse over image to see poses)

This all boils down to how clean our default mesh is. The more even and clean our edge flow is in the default state, the better chance it has of holding up in all poses. We are talking very small positional changes that have the potential to create very large and very noticeable improvements in our rigs. Once our mesh is cleaned up, we will even see that smoothing weights is a bit more predictable and useful.

Below is a version of the mesh cleaned up in it's initial state, an how that now plays well with our two poses.

(hover mouse over image to see poses)

Now obviously we can't have every edge smoothed out and evenly spaced; our models would become mushy and bland. In a later post I will go into how we need to be mindful of vertex speed when adjusting influences and how skinning workflows should involve setting key-frames.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Eating Salad for Breakfast

If you are anything like me, you have a hard time getting vegetables in your diet. I buy lots of them with the intention to eat them all, but I end up throwing most of them out the next week because they turn. I think I've found a solution that works for me, maybe it could work for you.

Two weeks ago I finished reading "Born To Run" by Christopher McDougall. The Author who suffered injuries every time he tried to run more than a few miles set out to learn if humans were, as his doctors said, fragile and not built for running, or if we are actually the best long distance runners and our expensive sneakers and our tendency to be obese has just made us bad at it. I'm sure you can tell from the title, what he discovers. In one of the chapters, the author mentions how he is trying to change his diet to train for a 100 mile ultra-marathon. He has concerns about tiring of seeds and vegetables and falling back into his usual routine of hamburgers, when the Dr./Athlete he is talking to says, "Have you ever had salad for breakfast?"
"You get leafy greens in your body first thing in the morning and you'll lose a lot of weight," she urged me. Because a monster salad is loaded with nutrient-rich carbs and low in fat, I could Stuff myself and not feel hungry--or queasy--when it came time to work out. Plus, greens are packed with water, so they're great for rehydrate after a night's sleep. And what better way to down your five vegetables a day than forking them all down at once.?"
So I tried it and have been doing it for two weeks now; the longest I have been able to do any sort of dietary change. The problem for has always been: I never crave vegetables throughout the day, and given the choice I will fill up on pasta and meat and leave the side salad sitting. When I wake up, I am always thirsty and my stomach is hungry but at the same time not ready to handle food. Eating salad for me takes care of that hunger, and like the McDougall said you won't feel queasy, even if you workout right after eating.

So that certainly isn't the normal kind of blog post for me, but I wanted to share that in case you have the same trouble forcing down your veggies in the hopes that maybe it could work for you too. Besides if you eat all your veggies first thing in the morning, the sooner you can have your dessert.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In progress digital sculpt

Blocked in this sculpt over the weekend.

I tried sculpting it from scratch in Sculptris, but I just don't think that workflow works for me. It was taking me forever and I wasn't getting the control I wanted, so instead I blocked in this low poly version in Blender and I will try importing that into Sculptris to add some detail.

This is based off of Brittney's print "Rainboots" (image found here).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sculpting concept art

I started modeling Kane in my free time to improve my understanding of the other half of deformation. Rather than build my learning on a foundation of (my) weak design, I convinced Brittney to let me use hers. Since then I have been working on some new characters and I am still learning tons.

When I started on these two love birds I found myself going down the same path as Kane. The sculpt was losing the appeal that was in the concept art. Now it is tough sculpting a three-dimensional character with a sketch from only one camera angle. I prod Brittney for a quick sketch from a different angle now and then, but most of the time I am guessing. I found that trying to eye it, for me, leads me down a path of too much detail too soon and results in a mushy design that no longer looks like the character I set out to make.

(first attempt at the female dancer)

(first attempt at the male dancer)

In the past few weeks I have been working on a clay maquette in a sculpting class at Disney, and well whadayaknow? My clay sculptures were suffering from the same problems. I sought guidance from one of my fellow trainees, Ryan Tottle who is getting trained up in the modeling department and he showed me the importance of finding the big shapes with the clay first. He told me how to stop smoothing things out and adding little layers of clay bit by bit. He taught me to just go for it (the shapes) and have some fun bringing those shapes from the drawing into 3d.

I took this attitude back to the male dancer and scrapped the face I had already created and started over, working simple. Another modeling trainee, Ke "Jackie" Jang introduced me to an interesting method of projecting the concept art onto the surface while you sculpt. This allows for two things: It allows you to get accurate shapes from the profile just as you would with an image plane behind your sculpt, but it also allows you to see the model textured with the drawn shadows so you can see how that relates to the actual shadows of your three dimensional sculpt. He had some great success with it at work so I thought I would give it a try at home.

(work in progress using the concept art as a texture)

It isn't the most ideal setup, since the concept art I am using isn't from a full on profile. The character's head is tilted ever so slightly so there is still guesswork to be done. I think the result I got using this method was closer, but still has some tweaking to go to compensate for the mismatched perspectives. After my tweaks I am going to try this method again on the female dancer and I might just revisit Kane for old times sake.

(the progression of the character sculpt)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

James V Bobrowicz (1923-2010)

I only learned a few years ago that James was not his birth name, though he was likely to punch you in the nose if you tried to call him by that other name. He was Papa to me. In my world, he was the inspiration for Grumpy Old Men, Big Fish and Mickey Rooney's character Gus in Night at the Museum, though, it is unlikely that any of those script-writers knew my Papa. He was as rough and tough as the Cowboy movies he watched so often, but his weakness for pinching the chubby cheeks of his great grandchildren leads me to believe that it was all a facade. He suffered a stroke and was pronounced dead in the hospital...and then went on to live another 20 years (talk about tough). He had a pace-maker put in, he had tuberculosis, diabetes, lost half of one foot and all of the other foot, due to diabetes, but he still refused to sit around and be idle. He would still use the push-mower from his motorized wheel chair, invent contraptions to help him lower and clean out his purple martin birdhouse. I remember visiting him in his rehab after they took half his leg off. He was working the exercise machines before the therapist even got there and refused to stop after his sessions were over. When the therapist had him practice moving from a wheel chair to a mock-bathtub, he did it in one try and told the guy "piece of cake, what else ya got". He was walking on his new prosthetic leg the next time I saw him.

He died this morning, December 16, 2010, 5:10am EST. at the age of 87. I am heading home to be with my family, and we will probably exchange stories of him that will make us laugh until we cry. I will miss him so, so much. I hope he's resting peacefully in whatever his heaven might be: probably the old hunting camp, or the perfect fishing hole.
"Huduyalikea punch in da nose?"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Character TD reel 2010

Character reel demonstrating modeling, articulation, rigging and tool writing abilities.

I am currently living in Glendale, California and looking for work as a Character TD in feature film, tv or video games. I spent four years working at Crystal Dynamics on "Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light" and "Tomb Raider: Underworld".

View my resumé at

Monday, October 04, 2010

Facial tests

This is the facial rig in a mostly done state. I need to add articulation to the eyelids to get more expressiveness out of them, and I need to add controls for the cheekpits, tongue and the outside of the orbicularis oculi which helps sell winks and squints. This rig is made with a combination of wire deformers for general movements and clusters for finer articulation. The lips have separate translate, rotate and scale pivots so each action can have a different pivot and different falloff.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Performance without a body.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love the Muppets. Most of my animation friends knew they wanted to be animators when they saw a particular Disney or Pixar movie when they were little. For me it was Muppets.

So much character, so much performance, in just a little foam banana peel.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Still going...

Last post I talked about progress on the face rig and the skinning. That progress showed me several areas in the mesh that needed improvement so I back tracked and made some topology changes in the face and torso. While I was at it, I decided to do some adjusting of some of my joint pivots as well as adding in some helper joints that will be used for preserving volume. Though this does set me back in my progress, I think that this rig will benefit from the changes; and that's the whole point, right?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Long overdue progress.

Finished hooking up the face controls and the initial weighitng pass. After posing this guy, some problems became apparent in both the weighting and the mesh. I know my poor lighting job doesn't make it clear, but the upper eyelids are a bit lumpy in the area that leads up to the brows. The shape of the nose gets muddied up when I lift the nostril. I'm pretty happy with the mouth. The corners of the lips need some work but i'm liking the center of the lips are working out.

I'm trying to avoid correcting things with Blendshapes as much as possible for two reasons: I want this setup to be able to work in a game pipeline, where we are all joint driven, and this character has been an exercise in learning to model for deformation. I want the Rig and the Topology to carry the deformation and only use Blendshapes to augment, instead of correct.

Feedback is always welcome in the comments or you can email it to me as well. This is certainly a good learning experience for me.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Who does your taxes?

Finished it. The motivation behind me wanting to learn to sculpt was to have something to send to the "Hey You Guys" art auction. Now that it is done, however, I decided not to send it. This sculpt was a huge learning process and I would like to have a bit more practice before sending these things off into the wild. I learned a lot of good techniques from a lot of helpful people and I learned a lot of what works and doesn't work from this experience so I will apply that to the next sculpt. Here are some final shots.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

I used to have a roomate, but my mom moved to florida...

Haven't touched this for over a month, but I need to get this done. I went through and added some more detail to the hand, the face and I began to smooth out the pack. Had some good tips from some people. The biggest things that have helped have been:
  • keeping the clay cold to make it easier to get corners. The fridge works, or if you are pressed for time, I recommend using dust buster for keyboards
  • the exact-o knife has become my favorite sculpting tool
I also remembered that we had a "Lazy Susan" that was going to the Goodwill, but instead I ripped it apart and created a little turn-table to work on.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Latest progress on the sculpt....

It is going much better. I tore off most of the clay and thinned down the armature a lot. The sculpt is less bulky now and that is more in line with what I had originally designed. Sculpey is very pliable and my sweaty hands make it even more so. That makes it difficult to work on the non-organic parts like the proton pack. Any time I make a hard edge I end up mushing it up. I was told that throwing it in the fridge for 10 mins. or so it will harden up enough to work on the details without smooshing the rest of it.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Learning as I go....

Oh, trial and error: You teach me so much. I was not satisfied with how bulky the maquette got one I added the clay so I ripped most of it off and slimmed down the foil thickness underneath. There are some important things I will not forget the next time I try one of these.

* Don't go for the complete silhouette in the armature. Get the pose down and some slight foil thickness so that the clay has something to grab, but definitely leave plenty of room for the clay.
* Make sure to keep the wire away from the surface. It is easy to compress the foil down when you need more room to work with but if wire is hitting the surface then there is a problem getting around that without adding a lot of clay. As you can see above, I tried to remedy by cutting pieces of the wire that stuck out. It mostly worked with the exception of the piece I cut out of the torso that was holding the leg on. Whoops.
* Mind the anatomy that you will have to build. Elbows and Knees have to be higher on the limbs than I would expect. I think my eye forms the implied contour of the design when I am just looking at the wire and that throws off the proportions. What I mean is, I bent the wire of the elbow to be about where I would expect the elbow bone to be protruding. Once I added the clay it made the upper arm about 1/4 inch longer than I wanted it to be. I did a similar thing with where the legs connect with the pelvis. I didn't leave any room to sculpt up the muscle of the glutes and how the pants hangs around them.

I will try to fix as much of these as possible as I go, but boy it will be nice to start fresh on the next one.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


I've got the basic shape all blocked out. It's not quite going how I drew it up, but there is a lot I would do differently if I were to start over. Tomorrow I'll start refining some of the shapes. The hardest part so far was foreseeing how much the design was going to change from armature to clay blocking. In the current state the sculpt is a lot bulkier than I had drew it up. I built up the armature too much. I was so bent on getting the pose and silhouette right in the armature phase that I didn't leave much room to layer the sculpey. Oh well, now I know.

Learning process...

Taking up a new hoby...

Trying out sculpting. I've never done it before and I now wish that I had taken the Character Design class back in college so that I had more knowledge of how to do this.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Camping: mustache style...

(Me being mustach-tic. I was surprised that I
could even grown one of these)

(My stache was nothing compared to brother Adam's)

(Brother Matt is more in my league when it comes to facial hair
growing, but he forgot that mustaches were requried for the trip. If you
zoom in really clost you can see the faintest dirt-stache)

(Sister Sarah was exempt from growing a mustache for the weekend)

Traveled back to PA for the yearly trip home. The Suroviec clan just keeps getting bigger so my time was spent (as usual) visiting relatives. My brother Adam planned a camping trip for us at Red Oaks campgrounds. We used to go there all the time when we were kids. My Papa had a hunting cabin near the campgrounds, but unfortunately they sold it several years ago and no one in my family was able to buy it at that time. We got to visit the cabin though. The folks who own it now were very friendly and gave us a tour of the inside.

(Chloe, Scooby and me in the canoe and Adam in the Kayak)

The whole weekend was a trip down memory lane and a great opportunity to just sit, cook, eat, drink, chat and relax with all of my siblings. We even had time for several games of teather ball.





The family is growing so big. I have all of these beautiful nieces and nephews, and another niece on the way, all made possible by the beautiful in-laws.

(Reba trying to tell me to stop taking picutres of her)

(Norma deep in conversation)

(Joshie trying to get everyone to smile for the camera)

I can't wait until next year. Hopefully we can go camping again.