Sean Olson



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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Glowy Eyes

Just a quick post showing some experimentation with a glowy eye effect I am working on. You know the type that are often seen on super heroes and in video games? Here is my first attempt/stage. It just uses particles emitting from a sphere and then colliding with the "eyelid" while being attracted to an empty spherical force.

Glowy Eyes Attempt #1 from Sean Olson on Vimeo.

Peace (Wizards)

Well, today I was going to post a cool artistic piece that I made with topmod. It was a 3d abstract object that rotated on all 3 axis's at once. Problem is, the render of my movie crashed somewhere in between hour 26 and hour 28 of my animation. The upside of this experience is that it motivated me to learn about the "Image Sequencer" in Blender. If you care, here is a link to the tutorial. Basically, using this tool, I can render each frame of an animation to a seperate image file, and then combine them later. No more loosing 26 hours of render time if my system crashes. Yay!

So, since I don't have the cool topmod animation to show you, I'll show you another one of my projects.

When I was young, I was always attracted to the cover art of the movie "Wizards". I recently watched the movie, and it is not very good at all, but that cover art has always stuck in my head. So anyway, I've decided to model it.

Here is the reference image that I am using. The characters name is Peace.

I started work with the weapon in the image.

And Peace himself:
I've modeled some of the other parts of the image as well, but I don't have those images with me at the moment, so I won't be able to post them just yet. You will have something to look forward to now.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Flood Test

So, I decided I wanted to push the fluid sim a little further and learn how to make a big flood, rolling down an avenue. I started with just trying to get the look of the water right, so there is not much "environment" yet. Right now the street just consists of some boxes and a plane for the street level. Also, though I am pretty impressed with the results, it could use some tweaking. You might notice the water hits the top of the domain, that is a problem. (You want to make the domain as small as possible as it is very memory intensive...and it's memory requirements are exponential with it's size.) The material on the water looks a little "goopy", maybe like dirty toothpaste. I think that could use some work too. But, all in all, I think the proof of concept is in place and looks good. I'm going to have to figure out how to make some nice rain to add to the scene too. As well as lightning!

Flooded Street Concept from Sean Olson on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fire - Attempt #1

This is my first attempt at creating CG Fire. It took about a weekend of work to produce. The method used was created by Francois Grassard. The general idea is like this:
1. Create an object that you want to light on fire
2. Emit particles from that object
3. Use a "magnet/attractor" type force to draw the particles in the upward direction.
4. Use "wind" type forces at multiple sides of the object. Variance in the wind is good too.
5. Attach small spheres to the particles.
6. Find a nice orange material for the fire. (or whatever color you want the fire to be)
7. Light the spheres with a hard light on one side of the object
8. The magic is in the composting. You need to add a lot of blurs and glows to make this look right.

CG Fire - Attempt #1 from Sean Olson on Vimeo.

I'm not entirely happy with this fire yet. The color appears off. If you look closely you can still tell that spheres are used. The base does not look thick enough. And the randomness of the fire does not look quite right yet. I'll have another go at it in the future.


A few posts ago I mentioned that I would show off some completed eyes that use the Iris creation method I was talking about. So, here they are!

For the Iris you use the method that I described earlier. The rest of the eye is set up like this.

As you can see, there is the Cornea, which has a slight blue tint, and a lot of alpha applied to it. The iris is just the texture of course, but also make sure to set the material to be shadeless, otherwise you will get a nasty shadow on your iris. Then, the pupil itself it just a solid Black and the eye white is of course just a solid white. You can add some veins to make the eyes look more realistic, or leave them like this for a more "toony" feel.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


After playing with the fluidsim for a long time and studying the work of Mike Pan I created a really nice looking fluidsim. It's rain slowly falling on a chrome tube. Blenders fluidsim is very powerful and I can't wait to produce some more animations with it.

Rain from Sean Olson on Vimeo.

Magical Trevor

So, I decided to make a 3d composition of "Magical Trevor" for my brother Trevor the Magician. I tried to stick to the style of the original cartoon, but pulled into 3d. I'm getting faster. This piece took me about a night.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Iris Texture

I would just like to share the cool Iris making technique I learned the other day.

1. Create a Circle and Rename it "Pupil"
2. Extrude the edges of the pupil out a short distance.
3. Select the Extruded Part of the pupil and separate it into a new mesh. Rename this Mesh "Iris"
4. Scale up the Pupil Object slighty. This will create the black ring around the outside of the Iris.

1. Create a new Black Material and apply it to the Pupil Object. Make it "shadeless" so that light does not affect it.
2. Create a new Color Ramp Material and apply it to the Iris Object. 3 Colors in the gradient look nice.

1. Add a Particle system of type "Hair" to the Iris Object. Bump up the Normals Size to "Grow the Hairs".
2. Invert the normals on the Iris object. This will make the normals go in towards the pupil, thus making the "Hair" grow towards the center of the eye.

1. Make the camera directly face the front of the Iris object.
2. Place the camera in "Orthogonal" mode.
3. Scale up the Eye Objects (Iris/Pupil) so that they fill the whole camera viewport.
4. Snap a lamp to the same position as the camera

1. Render Image and smile at your Iris Texture.

I'll show some fully rendered eyes with their whole setup soon.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Ah, a weapon! I decided to make an axe the other day on lunch. I think it turned out quite nicely, but it shows that maybe it's time for me to start flushing out more materials and textures to complete some of my models. Everything is feeling a bit gray to me. The hardest part about building this model was keeping the topology of the Axe-Head clean and Triangle Free. (Triangles do not play nicely with subsurf animation.) I got it after struggling for a little bit. Anyway, here is the source image, and my version.

My first, "Paid Project"

So, I needed a way to "bring attention" to our internal announcements web page when important updates were made to the page. At first I thought, since I work in a game company, that the Mario Star, , would be a good indicator. But then, after a little more thought, I realized that Activision and Blizzard just merged, so a Wow Quest Exclamation point would be ideal. After about 10 minutes of searching google images, I realized that there were no good Warcraft Exclamation points out there suitable for web graphics. (I was looking for a 3d animated gif exclamation point.) So, I decided to boot up blender and go to work. This only took about 10 minutes from idea to completed gif. I should have started with Blender and I would have saved 10 minutes of searching! Anyway, here it is. Simple and Sweet.
Sadly, it appears that blogger does not support animated gif. So you will have to settle for a still version.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I felt this blog needed a bit of color. So here is my node based lava material. It could still use some work and tweaking, but I got the gyst of it down. There is a nice tutorial on how to work with node based materials in Bounce, Tumble, and Splash.

So you want to make trees?

L-Systems are super cool! They take all the work out of making trees! And guess what? There is a great Python Script that works in Blender just for this activity. You can find it here.

Creature Factory Creature Modeling

So, watching and following this DVD really bumped me up to the next level. Watching a professional artist create his work from start to finish really erased a lot of the nagging questions in my mind. Issues like, "Is it okay to have multiple objects be in one model?" got answered just by watching him work. I basically followed along and picked up a lot of neat shortcuts and tools that I had no idea how to use previously. Some of these tools, like the proportional editing tool, are hard to live without. The picture included in my post is my work in progress Creature. I'm sure more "Creature Factory" posts are forthcoming.

Buying Tutorials

Ok, so my SCV experience left me craving more. I decided to splurge and go buy a bunch of Blender related resource materials. I picked up Creature Factory, Big Buck Bunny, Bounce Tumble and Splash, and Character Animation with Blender. To tell you the truth, I'm still slogging through most of them. I also have been working my way through the online version of "The Essential Blender" and I downloaded the torrent of "The Mancandy Faq". (Don't worry, these are both CC licensed so this does not constitute piracy in the fact, it was sanctioned by the authors of the content! All in the name of Open Source!) Anyway, my next posts will highlight some of the learning that took place from these sources as well as from various spots scattered across the Internet. Here are the is the Big Buck Bunny Movie and the Creature Factory Trailor for those you you looking to be entertained.

Big Buck Bunny from Blender Foundation on Vimeo.

Creature Factory from Andy Goralczyk on Vimeo.

The SCV Learning Experience

The SCV taught me a lot. Most of which is that you can take a lot of simple objects, combine them, and make something that looks really cool. Doing this project made me learn a lot of Blenders tools very well including extrude, duplicate, and all of the fun translation, rotation, and scaling tools. One of the biggest things that I learned on this project was how to control subsurf edges. I learned about the Mirror functions and the modifier stack. Ambient Occusion. Curve Manipulation, Lighting etc etc etc. It's really hard actually to catalog this project because so much learning took place. Basically, I can confidently say that this project taught me 3d, and everything since has just been refinement.

Here is a dual-Monitor Desktop background if you want it.

WoW and the 3d revolution

Ok, for about the past 4 years...basically since college, most of my free time has been spent playing the MMO known as World of Warcraft. It is a pretty amazing game, but you give up a lot to play it as well. Your social life turns digital. Anyway, being very into Wow I was determined to go to the most recent Blizzcon. (I went to the last ones too. It really is a blast.) Anyway, there was a fiasco when Blizzard was selling tickets this year. The website kept going down, and it was almost impossible to get to the transaction page. Ouch. But maybe not, because I actually would define this moment as a defining moment in my 3d career. Every time the webpage failed, we would see this image. Well, after staring at that image for 4 or 5 hours while getting red in the face, I decided, "Hey, lets make the best of this!" I then decided to go grab Blender and try my hand a modeling that SCV that kept popping up. Here are the results!

Activision Web Programming and Administration

These days I'm doing mostly web stuff for work. I was approached to implement web management solution for the disorganized document structure that was in use. The old way of document management meant asking various people if they had a copy of document X on their machine. Of course, they probably had document X on their machine...but it was version .08 when when about 12 other versions of the document had already been approved. Anyway, I got to spend most of my time researching a CMS solution for the department. Then I got the job of implementing it and organizing all the documentation for the department. Now, I'm basically the "web man". I'm currently working on a Microsoft Sharepoint solution now for individual document shares but no-matter how hard I try, I can't stop thinking about 3d.

Activision Network Lab

My next step on being a major game industry player is learning the Network Lab. I got to learn all there is to network testing. What fun that is... Most bugs involve desync issues. I also got to learn all about Sony/Nintendo/ and Microsoft networking requirements that developers tend to always ignore until we tell them that their game is going to fail submission. Anyway, Netlab gave me the opportunity to get credited on a ton more games, most notably Guitar Hero. It also afforded me the opportunity to do some web programming. Oh yeah, And I learned how to ride a motorcycle in crazy LA traffic during this time. Here is a fun video that simulates my commute!

Activision Compatibility

So, after doing general game testing for ahwhile, I realized I wanted more. I had found a lot of hardware related bugs on some of my projects, so the Compatibility Lab at Activision took notice of me. I expressed a strong interest to work with them, and when a spot opened, they grabbed me. This gave me the chance to learn hardware backwards and forwards. I had to tear apart and rebuild machines all day long with testing focusing just on hardware issues. You definatly get to know your problem video cards and sound cards, but you also get to play with some very beefy hardware. That's always fun! I made a 3d Tetris game during those years too, but It's stored on a harddrive sitting in my closet, so I'm not going to go dig that up.

Activision Testing

Well, I got out of college, packed the U-haul, and moved to LA to make it in the game industry. I got picked up by Activision fairly quickly as a QA Tester on Tony Hawk's Underground 2. I then went on to test a number of other games including Call of Duty, Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 3, and Rome: Barbarian Invasion. Though I did not get to play in the graphics world much, I did get to watch the development of a product from start to finish. That's always fun! (Minus the 80 hour work weeks...)


I knew I always wanted to work on video games, and figured it was a very competitive field. I figured my chances would be best as a programmer, so I went to school for Computer Science. Now, let me preface this by stating that I am a very "Right Brained" type of person. Computer Science tends to be a "Left brain" type of activity... In short Computer Science was very very hard for me. But, I also tend to be a very stubborn person when it comes to giving up. I don't do it. I wanted to work in the game industry, no matter what. I forced myself through the boring stuff, (which in hindsight, was not that boring...Sorting Algorithms are actually fascinating creatures) until I got to some of the higher level courses of which I could apply the knowledge directly to the game industry. Matrix Theory, AI, and Graphics Programming were a blast!

Graphics Programming. We had to make a "scene" using just OpenGL programming. I wanted to make a remake of the MC Escher's famous piece, "Relativity". I would say, for just using code, I did a fairly good job. You can download my project here.

The next year I went on to work on a small md2 graphics importer. But I had much more fun making the character for my little game. His name is Max and Max supposedly lost his marbles. The overall concept of the game was to help Max collect his marbles. To create Max I used the 3d Modeling Program known as "Milkshape3d".

High School

My first step into 3d was in an Advanced Photography class while I was in high school back in 1997ish. It was basically an independent study project to learn the program Ray Dream Studio. This first step was the roughest. I got an overly large "manual" that was extremely poorly written. The program worked nothing like the manual said it should. In short, I decided to pursue other interests and 3d got put on hold until my later college years.

The Beginning!

The Beginning! This sites aim is to chronicle the blooming of a 3d CG "caterpillar" into a fully fledged butterfly. I'll probably touch on my game development goals as well. Hopefully, my path will help some others avoid some pitfalls, find some shortcuts, and answer questions. In addition, I will be maintaining the site in order to keep track of myself and my progress. Hopefully it is swift! The first few posts will be "catch-up". Basically bringing readers up to speed on what I have done in the CG and Game Worlds up to this point.

3d Swamp

Knee Deep in 3d

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