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Old 11th May 2011, 10:16 AM   #1
David cgc
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Default SciFi - Babylon 5- Points of Departure CG Recreation

So, something I've talked about more than once is the pie-in-the-sky idea of an HD transfer of Babylon 5 which, by necessity, would require all-new visual effects, not unlike what was recently done with the original Star Trek series. A couple weeks ago, after school died down, I decided to relax with some nice, simple spaceship layouts, and begin attacking an episode of B5, possibly eventually doing the entire thing. For the moment, though, I've just done two visual effects shots in the teaser.

The episode I picked was the season two premiere, and the sequence is the very beginning, the introduction of Captain Sheridan aboard his soon-to-be-former command, the Agamemnon. I never seriously considered trying to be exceedingly faithful to the original shots, mostly because that'd be no fun. I mocked up a couple of images to show what such a recreation might look like, and, who knows, if someone was paying me I'd certainly be open to trying to match the originals as close as possible. But since it's just me, I figure, why not indulge myself?

I'm not sure if I'm going to move forward on this anytime soon (I certainly haven't ever completed a long-term solo production yet), but since I prefer to live in hope, I started the thread in the WIP section.

Without further adieu, here's the shot.

Omega Destroyer by Rhys Salcombe
Freighter by Dave Hribarm
Jumppoint by Yuri A. Parovin
Planet and Rings by Björn Jónsson
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Old 11th May 2011, 12:28 PM   #2
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A great idea, and I really like what you've done with it so far.

Wow though the sets/costumes look dated


CG wise the only thing that bothered me was the moment the Aggie jumped. The transition from ship-speed to jump-speed felt like a step rather than an acceleration and the jump speed itself seemed too slow.
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Old 11th May 2011, 01:26 PM   #3
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That's very good. I agree with what Meurig said. The jump didn't seem like a jump. too slow.
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Old 11th May 2011, 05:30 PM   #4
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I like the idea of re-creating the Babylon 5 visuals as they do look very dated IMO. Looking forward to seeing more.

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Old 11th May 2011, 09:01 PM   #5
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i think the jump was cool, and i liked it....

Nice job

cool way to do it with some original footage...
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Old 12th May 2011, 03:28 AM   #6
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That's really cool, and it's nice to see so another B5 project going.

I agree with Meurig about the jump though, bit of an abrupt speed change and then too slow into the jump point.
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Old 12th May 2011, 11:23 AM   #7
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What happened with that was that I initially had the jump about twenty frames too late to synch up with the sound effect, and when I fixed it, I didn't want to mess up the frames I'd already rendered that were still good, so I didn't make the acceleration as curvy as I wanted to. I'll correct it and make a note that the passes with the ship need a re-render at some point (which, truthfully, I'd need to do anyway, since there's some weirdness going on with the transparency of the jumppoint. You can see it in the lower left, where the planet's ring suddenly cuts off rather than fading gradually behind the vortex).

Stupid render times, taking all the fun out of 3D...
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Old 12th May 2011, 12:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David cgc View Post
...Stupid render times, taking all the fun out of 3D...
Tell me about it, my OCD is currently taking about an hour to render each frame.
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Old 12th May 2011, 04:41 PM   #9
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I just watched this again. I really like it I hope you do more clips from this or other episodes.

I seem to remember Lemon Wolf was redoing the FX for a full episode a while ago... I wonder if he ever finished it.
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Old 15th May 2011, 01:50 AM   #10
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Amazing work!
we love to see more
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Old 15th May 2011, 03:41 AM   #11
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Nice little animation. Good recreation. Keep em coming.
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Old 16th May 2011, 04:23 AM   #12
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Very nice!
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Old 17th May 2011, 03:08 PM   #13
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I noticed something while splitting out the rest of the shots for this episode which amused me. The last establishing shot before the rogue Minbari ship arrives is the sun going down behind B5 and the station lights coming on. The first one after the Minbari are taken care of is the sun coming up. So, I have three choices, near as I can tell.

1- I can ignore it, like they did in the episode. 2- I can keep the establishing shots and redo all the scenes with the Minbari ships to be in local night, which will look cool and/or be an enormous pain in the butt, or 3- I can flip the establishing shots so it's morning when Lennier explains Season One to Sheridan and Ivanova and evening when everyone meets up at the officer's club and Sheridan gives his speech to an empty C'n'C. I'm leaning towards the last one as making the most logical sense.
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Old 17th May 2011, 06:57 PM   #14
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Nah... Enormous pain in the butt is better... j/k
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Old 25th May 2011, 12:02 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meurig View Post
I just watched this again. I really like it I hope you do more clips from this or other episodes.

I seem to remember Lemon Wolf was redoing the FX for a full episode a while ago... I wonder if he ever finished it.
I've got a very short avi of an omega being thumped by a whitestar that he did, but was off the web for a while around the time he was working on it, so I'm not sure how far he got along with it either.
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Old 26th May 2011, 08:45 AM   #16
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The only way this will be done is via fans. I'd love Warner or whoever owns the rights now to swoop down onto CG forums and say 'hey, we've got 5 million dollars here, build a team and do every episode - here is the raw live action data' but that's just not going to happen. A dedicated team of fans might be able to do a few select episodes. I'd want to see more if it was this kind of quality.
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Old 26th May 2011, 04:17 PM   #17
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Actually I would second that motion, and I would gladly pay the price for the special edition versions. Heck my box sets need replacing anyways since...
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Old 1st Jun 2011, 06:48 PM   #18
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So, I've still been fiddling with this in the background, conducting some research and prep-stuff. Just to make myself happy, I found an on-line calculator for centrifugal artificial gravity and got a spin-rate for B5 that I could use with authority (once every 90 seconds). I added more of a self-lighting rig on the Minbari Warcruiser based on Sheridan's ship in "The Lost Tales," with lights in the recesses between the ribs, and one of B5 Scrolls' interviews mentioned how the high deffy Epsilon 3 map was made for TLT (a recolored Mars with a bunch of gouges added from topographical surveys of the Grand Canyon so there's somewhere for the Great Machine to go) so I shamelessly ripped off that tactic because I don't trust my own painting ability and it looked fine in the movie.

Yesterday I cranked out the next shot in the episode, an establisher of Babylon 5. When I was looking at it, I realized that, as nice and proportional as Ed Giddings' B5 is (the benefit of being the first one released after plan drawings of the original were released, IIRC), it's really '90s in terms of detailing. Since I'd want to replace it as soon as I could with a HD-level version anyway, I decided to phone it in a little and not do a proper shot breakout for this one yet, and just use it as a placeholder for now. Since I didn't go through all that work, it meant I wasn't really that upset when I looked at the finished product and found that I'd forgotten to reset my fake nebula radiosity from 30 fps to 24 fps, so the fill light is flickering, and that the red light in the center docking bay has shadow casting on, so the bay flickers off then back on when the little shuttle flies through it.

ETA: Oh, and there's a keming problem with the "y" in "Babylon" and the "J" in "January" overlapping on the chyron (which I looked up to get the spelling, and has a completely different etymology than I'd guessed). I'll get that, too.

Double ETA: Also, since amazing people frequent this form, if anyone knows of where I could find a plan view of the Observation Dome/C'n'C set, that'd be awesome. I'm considering building a low-detail version of the set, which I'll need because I'm insane, but it'll only be really useful if it's pretty close to perfect in terms of proportions. Actually, I suppose I only really need to get the window perfect...

Babylon 5: Ed Giddings
"Epsilon 3": Starbase1
Epsilon Nebula: Amras
Starfury: Mark Kane
Starfury Wingart: Chris Guinn
Freighter: Dave Hribarm
Shuttle: Alexander Shareef
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Old 2nd Jun 2011, 08:23 AM   #19
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That is pretty cool work.
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Old 2nd Jun 2011, 08:53 AM   #20
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Great shot of the station David. Cant wait to see a full episode with your work.

-Steve
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Old 25th Jun 2011, 08:44 PM   #21
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And here comes the really ambitious part. As I alluded to in my last post, I decided to fill in an appropriately spinning starscape into the Observation Dome window. The first scene in the C'n'C was next up in the episode. One of the shots was locked off and at an angle, so there were no reflections, characters, or preexisting felt-and-rindstone star-fields to worry about. The other had all of those, as well as a relatively sweeping camera move that I had to match in Lightwave, rather than just rendering the view outside from the angle where you could see the most out the window and match-moving it in After Effects. In fact, it's probably tied for the most difficult such shot in the episode. In light of that, I just temped it in here, superimposing the exterior render on top of the episode footage. I'll come back later after I've done more of the simpler ones and gotten a better handle on how things work. Not to mention that I didn't do the best job eyeballing the match move in Lightwave, and missed rendering one frame. Whoops.

Actually, I just remembered that my student copy of Maya is good for a while longer, and it included the unimaginatively named MatchMover. So, that should at least solve my "shots with big camera moves" problem. That only leaves the "thundering pain in the butt rotoscoping" problem. Why couldn't the Earthforce uniforms have been, like, powder blue instead of navy? Why couldn't Ivanova be blonde?

Anyway, here's the scene in question, in glorious 720p. Even though that slightly uprezzes my 3D stuff, and drastically uprezzes the footage from the DVDs, it's the only thing that I can think of that'll stop YouTube from compressing it to death when I upload something at anything less. There's also a photoshopped mockup for what the difficult shot might look like once it's properly masked, and a modeler screenshot of the low-detail C'n'C I built so I could match the shots to exactly the right position and angle on B5.

I built it by matching camera angles to DVD screencaps in layout then shifting points in modeler until everything lined up. It's a bit weird, probably since I had to guess about the original camera FoVs, but as long as the window was close, it was good enough. I'll come back to it later and try to adjust the whole thing to be in proportion, especially the right side. The captain's station is so screwed up, I don't even know how it's all supposed to fit together in the same space as the left side.

I was also really surprised when I figured out that the left wall wasn't perpendicular to anything, not to mention how much bigger the room is in scale to the station than the corresponding part of the show model was.

God, I love rambling.
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Old 2nd Jul 2011, 05:10 AM   #22
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Ah, I've spotted the missing frame
This looks already very promising. At first I thought you were going to replace the whole front of the shot with CG - the windowframe - so that you'd only have to rotoscope out the actors (and the console that's visible for a few frames).

I don't know anything about this but I think that way you'd have an easier time with the shot, since you could layer the four resulting elements more easily:
The spining background - the reflection on the glass - the CG-windowframe - the actors (and console).
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Old 25th Jul 2011, 07:21 PM   #23
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you are doing a superb work here mr
i would love to see the final result.
any update to show?
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Old 26th Jul 2011, 08:09 PM   #24
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Awesome, crazy, crazy awesome work! I've got to get my Starfury with cockpit finished so you can use it if you want!

Did anybody else notice that the display behind Sheridan aboard the Agamemnon reads "Corrtez"? I guess they were producing these a little out of order.
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Old 27th Jul 2011, 11:41 AM   #25
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The next thing on my list is getting my new website. Once I get that up and running, I'll get back to this. It's funny you mention the Starfury, I've had some ideas about that, like making a subtly different Minbari-War era version, but given my relationship with modeling, I'll be just as happy to use yours. One thing that I definitely will do, no matter what model I end up using, is a swankier version of the HUD. Rather than the color-coded wireframes from back in the day, I'm thinking something more like the night-vision effect in the last Halo game, that sort of AO-looking effect that follows the contours of the model.

Anyway, since I'm posting, here's Meurig's Sharlin with the new lighting setup I worked out for it. I also put little room-boxes behind the windows, because I love it when people do that. The rooms are based on the all of two times we saw the inside of a Minbari cruiser and it wasn't a hallway or a featureless black void. I also did a 1080p still of a frame the first shot of the episode, so here's that, too.
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Old 27th Jul 2011, 11:53 AM   #26
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That Agamemnon still is lovely!

I think you should tone down the spec a bit on the Sharlin. When they hit the highlights are too broad, it's a little overwhelming.

The windowboxes work a treat though Shame the model doesn't hold up to being seen as close up as your second pic.
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Old 27th Jul 2011, 03:00 PM   #27
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Looks awesome, I'll try and add a few things to my Fury for you, like finishing the dashboard and a grappling arm. I've also been thinking of a new design for the Soul Hunter as an exercise, interested in doing the grappling sequence from "Soul Hunter"?

Would you try and do a revised version of the flashback from "A Sky Full of Stars," or a new version of the battle from "In the Beginning"?

One thing, though: why is the EA insignia purple? All the refs I've seen shows it as blue. Otherwise great work!
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Old 28th Jul 2011, 04:20 PM   #28
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Hey thats great work. Well done

Yes i did finish a few shots but at one point i needed the station and just couldnt find Ed´s station again so i stopped working on it... Maybe ill start on it again one day lol.
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Old 30th May 2012, 11:48 AM   #29
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So, after I was reminded of it over at the FirstOnes forums, I decided to start back up on this project. I haven't done any new shots, but I've done a good amount of R&D, which is almost as much fun.

I did end up trying Autodesk MatchMover. It handled the shot of Ivanova and Corwin from the last update with aplomb, but choked on the closing shot of the episode, which I expected to be the sharp, pointy crown jewel of difficulty on this project, containing both a lengthy camera move and a focal-length change.

I used the a spare computer in the office to re-render the second shot of the Agamemnon from the episode's teaser, removing the odd tweening error I'd hoped no one would notice but which Rhys caught immediately. I re-rendered it again when I got frustrated with the jump point opening effect. Yuri's "A Call to Arms" jump point used a pre-made animated image map to accomplish the sparking that occurs before the point opens. Unfortunately, it was set for 30 frames per second, and I'm rendering the shots for this episode at 24 FPS. Lightwave seems to make an odd choice when it comes to splitting the difference in this case, keeping the timing correct by rounding to the nearest frame, rather than making the transition within frames. The upshot was that the texture would hold for two frames, then skip a frame, then proceed normally for a time, giving the effect a noticeable stutter.

I asked around at the office, and figured out a plan of attack to recreate the effect procedurally. In Lightwave, it's using "Previous Layer" as the input to a gradient shader, and in Maya, it's called a Ramp Shader. Whatever it's named, the way it works is to take a source image and redefine what its colors output as. In this case, grey becomes white, and both black and white become black.

I'd seen this technique described before, in a presentation by Bungie Studios ("Blowing S#!t Up the Bungie Way") describing how they were able to get everything from flaming explosions to electrical arcing from one or two grayscale textures, and recognized it as how that jump point texture had to have been done, but I hadn't realized how to translate that technique into the programs I use.

I tried a purely procedural solution, but it didn't quite look right. The "energy ring" was too even, and it didn't crinkle up at the center of the cone object the way the image map did. I eventually created a map in Photoshop to use as a baseline, and animated the "Previous Layer" gradient instead. I threw in a semi-transparent layer of fractal turbulence in Lightwave which was gradually animated just so the energy effect wouldn't repeat precisely every time. This was the most contact I've had with Lightwave's node-based surfacing, and I finally used some of the features that set it apart from the traditional surfacing options. The ability to directly feed one texture into multiple channels was a revelation, compared to the old way of having to copy-and-paste texture layers from color to specularity to glow to transparency and so on.

The upshot is, the new jump point now looks smooth opening up even at 24 FPS. I've attached the updated version of the shot. Meanwhile...

I took another pass at the lighting rig for Rhys's Warcruiser, brightening it considerably and switching the lights between the bottom ribs to single points rather than pairs of spots. I experimented with doing the effect with a luminance map, but it didn't quite achieve the goal, so I stuck with doing it with lights. I also created a beaten-up version of the ship to represent the Trigati, to give some visual credence to the idea that the ship had been square in the middle of the biggest battle of the Earth-Minbari War when it deserted and hadn't been able to make port for repairs in the twelve years since, and to differentiate it from the second Warcruiser that shows up at the end. It's the first time I've done modeled damage on a spaceship, so that was fun.

The top fin has a blast mark on both sides, inspired by one of the shots of the Battle of the Line in "In the Beginning," where a Starfury crashes into that section of a Minbari ship and blows out through the other side. I chewed away the lower left fin, and added a fairly large hole on the right side of the main hull, as if the right forward gun on the ship had misfired. I put a layer of procedural dirt over the whole ship, as well. I'm sure some people will think I'm overdoing it, given how much the Minbari outmatched Earth during the war, but there were a fair few shots of damaged Minbari ships in ITB, and I figured a Warrior Caste ship would be more likely than most to wade into the middle of the fight where they might take a few blows.

Cruiser Front
Trigati Front
Cruiser Rear
Trigati Rear
Trigati Damage Close-up

(It's been too long, I forgot that the multi-file-uploader doesn't like me. Sorry about the lack of thumbnails. I'll remember to attach next time.)

Next up, I believe, are a couple of easy Observation Dome window shots, a couple of Babylon 5 establishing shots, and then the Battle of the Line flashback. I'm planning to figure out the whole battle for that part, so I can have iron-clad shot continuity between this episode, "And The Sky Full of Stars" and "In the Beginning," (assuming I get that far).
Attached Files
File Type: mov 2x01a_002_revB.mov (4.55 MB, 264 views)
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Old 9th Jun 2012, 07:44 AM   #30
Temporal_Mechanic
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Nice to see you working on this again. The new jump point looks really good. Looking forward to seeing more.
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