Author Topic: MjnMixael on Cutscenes, and Memorising Them.  (Read 5368 times)

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Offline Stormkeeper

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MjnMixael on Cutscenes, and Memorising Them.
Stormkeeper: So this morning or evening or night depending which time zone and/or planet you might be on. We have MjnMixael. Largely credited for having singlehandedly popping out of nowhere to overhaul cutscenes.

MjnMixael: Only the easy ones! (so far)

Stormkeeper: So far, he says. Easy ones, he says. So MjnMixael. What made you do it?

MjnMixael: Well... when I got back into playing FS a little more than a year ago and saw all of the changes and how great it looked.. I was very impressed.. Then I watched a cutscene

Stormkeeper: And then your heart dropped?

MjnMixael: Yeah basically, not to say that V didn't do a great job with them, but after 10 years they have started to look REALLY dated.

Stormkeeper: So you felt that something had to be done.

MjnMixael: Yup! Since video production was something I had been doing for a while, it seemed like a relatively simple job to do.

Stormkeeper: So what did you decide to work on first?

MjnMixael: Well, first I watched all of the scenes and gauged them in terms of difficulty.. you know, did I have to model stuff, did they have character animation.. etc. then I started with what I thought would be the easiest, which was Ancients 1 from FS1.

Stormkeeper: Which, as if I recall correctly, is mostly audio voiceovers.

MjnMixael: Yeah, it's a voice over with some stellar visuals. In this case it's a planet, two moons and a sun that one was actually quite interesting because I hadn't had to make a planet texture before.. so I had to learn some new skills there.

Stormkeeper: But you tagged it as easy because there's not much there to overhaul. The planet texture being something new for you.

MjnMixael: Well, easy relative to something like Hall Fight that includes character animation I figured that if I could get a few of the simpler ones out the door, I could generate some interest and, hopefully, help.

Stormkeeper: So you obviously tagged Hall Fight as hard and I think it’s safe to say you did generate interest.

MjnMixael: Haha, perhaps, though at first it was in a different way than I expected.

Stormkeeper: So what are you intending to work on next?

MjnMixael: What happened was that one day, Galemp gave me an FSPort badge for releasing the first 5 cutscenes for FS1, which led to recreating a few command brief anims for FS1. Next up will be one of the cutscenes again (when I finish the character models)

Stormkeeper: So how exactly do you produce cutscenes?

MjnMixael: It's a pretty long process and in the case of remaking the FS cutscenes, I start by watching the scene over and over and over, until I know everything I can about it.

Stormkeeper: So you basically memorise it?

MjnMixael: Definitely! when I was working on Ancients 1, I could almost speak the whole narrative from memory.

Stormkeeper: ... Can you do that now?

MjnMixael: Haha, no.. it's been nearly a year since I did that for Ancients 1! once I'm familiar with the scene, I pick out the various elements that make up the scene or scenes and being creating them and piecing them together slowly.. it's actually a lot like a puzzle, but one where you make your own pieces.

Stormkeeper: So do you model everything that appears in the cutscene?

MjnMixael: In a way. I often use a lot of post-processing and compositing tricks to create some of the elements. Actually, the only thing I modelled for the Ancients cutscenes was the Asteroids for Ancients 4.

Stormkeeper: What kinda tricks do you use? Give us a few examples.

MjnMixael: Well, the planet in Ancients 1 is a planet texture I made in Photoshop, then I used After Effects to wrap the image into a sphere. I did the same with a clouds texture and simply placed that overtop the planet layer.

Stormkeeper: So that's ... compositing? Or something along those lines?

MjnMixael: Yeah, that's compositing. The sun in Ancients 5 was one of my biggest challenges and I'm still not happy with it... but it's essentially an incredibly complicated set of layers of fractals and image masks.

Stormkeeper: You're still not happy with it? Why?

MjnMixael: It just doesn't pop like the rest of them do.. it feels a little forced I think. The other Ancients scenes have visuals that really stand out, whereas this one doesn't.  typically, I'm never completely satisfied with my work anyway. Such is being an artist I suppose!.

Stormkeeper: Or a perfectionist, which might be the same thing anyway.

MjnMixael: Haha, probably.

Stormkeeper: So what about cutscenes with ships? Do you model your own too? Or use the FSUs where you can?

MjnMixael: I use FSUs all over the place. It just takes way too much time to model one from scratch, and I have even less motivation if we have a nice high-poly model sitting in the mediaVPs.

Stormkeeper: True. I bet it saves a lot of time too.

MjnMixael: Oh yes, it saves days!

Stormkeeper: So you mentioned you're in video production.

Stormkeeper: What kind of videos have you done?

MjnMixael: Oh goodness, you name it and I've probably done it or something like it the usual stuff we get hired to do is like interviews and promos for various things I guess we mostly to promos.. when I think about it.

Stormkeeper: So I can hire you to do a video of this interview?

MjnMixael: Sure! I have no idea how that could be pulled off that this point though!

Stormkeeper: Well. You're the professional, I'm sure you'll figure something out =P

 Stormkeeper: How long on average does it take to produce a video? Of an interview of about an hour long?

MjnMixael: Um... probably about 10-15 hours.

Stormkeeper: And a FS cutscene?

MjnMixael: Well, the FS1 endgame took me several months FS cutscenes have nothing filmed, everything needs to be created digitally, which takes a long time! You could say that Hall Fight has already been in development for months and it has many months to go! The interiors need to be created, the characters rigged and animated, post-processing & effects, render...

Stormkeeper: So am I correct to say that you will eventually have fully animated and rigged FS Marines and a detailed interior of a Shivan ship?

MjnMixael: Oh yes!

Stormkeeper: FPS modders, take note. =P

MjnMixael: I'm mostly excited about having a rigged high-poly Shivan model

Stormkeeper: True. Rigging it can't be easy.

MjnMixael: I'm sure I'll find out soon enough! Modelling and 3D development isn't my strong point, I preferred motion graphics. I usually just ask my studio's 3D Developer to do that stuff. But doing all this FS related work has really helped me develop my skills.

Stormkeeper: So wait. You have your studio's 3D developer working on rigging the Shivan?

MjnMixael: No, I asked him to do some FS stuff and he said "I don't want to get sucked in, like you have.. because I know I will!" though thanks to the community, he is modelling and rigging the Vasudan.

Stormkeeper: That's good. That's the first step on the road to damnation. Uh. I mean redemption.

MjnMixael: Hahaha, so true.

Stormkeeper: So, who else is helping you with the cutscenes?

MjnMixael: That's actually still a pretty short list!

Stormkeeper: Well, it’s still a list.

MjnMixael: Galemp is going to be working on some interiors, RgaNoris is actually the one working on the Shivan, and Pecenipicek is working on the weapons for the Marine.

Stormkeeper: And the Marine himself?

MjnMixael: That was originally a model I got from Styxx. I took it and worked it up some and rigged it myself

Stormkeeper: Took you long?

MjnMixael: Not too bad actually. I always understood the concepts of rigging, I just didn't have a whole lot of practice but that's about to change as I'll be rigging all the human characters. Oh! I forgot Peterv who gave me an Officer model, though he gave me that to finish my FS1 main hall remakes.

Stormkeeper: Do you have pics?

MjnMixael: Yeah, let me grab the links

Stormkeeper: Interviews are always better with pics.

MjnMixael: Here's the Officer.

MjnMixael: Scientist

MjnMixael: Engineer

MjnMixael: The Marine, I believe most have seen already

MjnMixael: Those are the images from this thread. People can browse the thread to see them too.

Stormkeeper: So how far along is the cutscene?

MjnMixael: At this point, the remaining cutscenes are at the same point in the development process because I've basically halted all my various projects to make sure the character models get finished.

Stormkeeper: So all on hold?

MjnMixael: pretty much, except that the characters are some of the most important elements for the rest of the cutscenes.

Stormkeeper: So Bosch is being done too?

MjnMixael: yeah, Bosch will be a variant of the Officer model

Stormkeeper: So the models are Bosch, Officer, Marine, Shivan? Did I miss anything?

MjnMixael: Pilot is a big one

Stormkeeper: Oh right. From the Ross 128 cutscene?

MjnMixael: Yeah, I also need him to remake a couple of ANIs

Stormkeeper: Oh yeah...

Stormkeeper: And the Operator too, from the same.

MjnMixael: I think the Operator will also be able to be a variant of the Officer model

Stormkeeper: So ANIs are also being redone by you?

MjnMixael: Yup, though it might be more accurate to say that the ANIs are remade by me

Stormkeeper: How do you make ANIs? The same way as a cutscene?

MjnMixael: yeah, the basics remain the same. They are just smaller and have a different final file type.

 Stormkeeper: Cutscenes are .ogg? And ANI are ... uh. ANI?

MjnMixael: Correct. .ani or .eff

Stormkeeper: .eff? I didn't know that FS2 used that format.

MjnMixael: .eff is an FSO format that isn't really an image or video format at all, but basically it's a text file that tells FSO how to play an image sequence.

Stormkeeper: Oh. So an ANI is either that or .eff? But isn't the ANI a video? Then .eff is a text, so how does a video get played from text?

MjnMixael: Yeah, let me clarify. FSO reads the text file to learn the number of frames, FPS, and file type of the image sequence for the Animation in question and uses that data to play it. Essentially .ani is a container for an image sequence, whereas .eff has no container. If you look in your data/cbanims you would see a text file and hundreds of images for each ANI.

Stormkeeper: So basically, the .ani is the box, and the .eff is the instruction manual and where to find it and how to use it?

MjnMixael: Yeah, you could say that.

Stormkeeper: Hmmm.  Enlightening. Isn't a bit complicated?

MjnMixael: A bit! And hopefully SCP will be able to implement a new format (.mng) for us to use which will give us the quality improvements of .eff, but the container and file size of .ani.

Stormkeeper: So .mng will be self-contained?

MjnMixael: Yeah, .mng is like a .gif file but better

Stormkeeper: That would certainly simplify things. And it would also reduce file size wouldn't it? If you no longer needed .effs and only had .mngs, that would also reduce the number of images.

MjnMixael: Yup! It has a large number of advantages

Stormkeeper: Hmmm.  Certainly an advantage.

MjnMixael: yeah, I have been working for a while to test some of the .mng tools out there, hopefully to help SCP get it implemented.

Stormkeeper: Hmm.  But changing the format require a change in the code base, right? That can't be easy.

MjnMixael: That's all beyond me! You'll have to wait for the SCP Interview to ask about that.

Stormkeeper: ... True. A bit involved...  That's it for me. The floor is open for questions.

CommanderDJ: What part of your work do you enjoy most?

MjnMixael: I love doing Motion Graphics the most. My world is in After Effects and that's where I thrive.. the rest is fun, but often a chore for me. Actually, you may all be surprised to learn that I also work with an organization called Campus Crusade for Christ. I do missionary work on college campuses where I live, I really enjoy doing that too.

bigchunk1: You still into 2d art or is animation mostly your thing?

MjnMixael: I stick with Animation, any 2d art just comes from things I created while animating. In fact, often times when I need to create an image, I'll use After Effects because I understand it far better than I understand Photoshop.

bigchunk1: What got you into animation?

MjnMixael: well, like anyone who got a video camera for Christmas, I started making videos and soon I wanted to make nicer titles, then I wanted to start adding effects... etc. Once I discovered After Effects for compositing, I learned I could do digital animation. I was hooked. I could spend hours sitting in front of the computer doing animation, just because I enjoy it. In fact I think when I first got married, my wife was utterly surprised by how much time I could spend doing it.

Stormkeeper: I bet she's still surprised.

MjnMixael: oh.. sometimes she gets annoyed with me. I get so easily distracted with video projects that I do sometimes forget what time it is... XD Considering we have our first baby on the way, I'm going to need to get a timer or stopwatch or something!

Stormkeeper: Oh? Having your first kid soon? Congrats man.

MjnMixael: Thanks! yeah, the baby is due in late July. But lucky for you guys, since video production is one of my jobs, I won't disappear completely

Stormkeeper: Goob will be very happy to hear that, eh Goob?

MjnMixael: actually I think he and I had a conversation about that at one point!

 Stormkeeper: Really? What did he say?

MjnMixael: Oh, he mentioned a few other HLPers that disappeared when they had kids.  I'm sure I'll have less time to do FS related stuff, but I'll still be here.

Stormkeeper: That's good to hear.

MjnMixael: If anything, I don't like to leave projects unfinished.. and right now I have a lot of unfinished HLP projects (mostly waiting on characters).

Stormkeeper: Out of curiosity, how long is it exactly?

MjnMixael: how long is what? The list of unfinished projects?

Stormkeeper: Yep.

MjnMixael: Hmmm. FS1 cutscenes, FS2 cutscenes, FS1 Intel ANIs, FS2 Intel ANIs, FS1 main halls.. not to mention that I have planned a few other classified projects. Sometimes it's hard to focus on 1 project.. especially when I get a lot of requests too.

CommanderDJ: speaking of requests, what motivated you to start your rendering boutique?

MjnMixael: Hahaha, now that's a funny story. My inbox is often full of request for ANIs, or help with ANIs or cutscenes. And it sometimes feels like I can't sort through it all, especially since the PM functions on the forum are a bit whacked right now... Goober popped into #scp-fsu a few nights back when I was trying to clean my inbox and I half jokingly, half frustrated.. demanded he give me a board called "MjnMixael's Render Boutique" He replied "OK". And the rest, as they say, is history.

Stormkeeper: Heh.

CommanderDJ: that's an awesome story!

MjnMixael: it actually prompted me to make the Anim Creation Tutorial and my ANITools, which make that process incredibly easy for others. Since interviews are always better with links, here you go!

Stormkeeper: Any other questions? Or tales to share, MjnMixael?

CommanderDJ: I have a question where did the username MjnMixael come from? is there a story behind it?

MjnMixael: MJN is my initials - Michael Joseph Nelson. There was a time I was really into studying Greek and Mixael is Michael in Greek, so I just put them together.
CommanderDJ: Cool.

MjnMixael: So yeah, I'll close with this... The only reason I can do everything I do is because I tried! I have no professional or academic training for this stuff, I just tried. I simply spent the time to learn the tools and techniques. With that in mind, I just want to encourage you all to do the same! Pick something you want to learn and go learn it! RgaNoris is doing the same thing. He wanted to learn to texture.. and guys.. when you see what he is working on! You will be just as impressed as I am.. and it's his first real texture job!

bigchunk1: Good message.

Stormkeeper: Well. A good note as any to end it on. That's it for this interview, gentlemen. Thanks for taking the time MjnMixael. Even if it was kinda impromptu.

MjnMixael: Haha, it was fun though!

Yes, I am aware the image links are broken, most likely because they were moved. I'm getting the actual images from MjnMixael asap.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2011, 09:43:13 pm by Stormkeeper »
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Offline Rodo

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Re: MjnMixael on Cutscenes, and Memorising Them.
So no professional training?, and yet you manage to get those beautiful renders...
Another reason to keep trying for me :yes:
el hombre vicio...


Offline mjn.mixael

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Re: MjnMixael on Cutscenes, and Memorising Them.
Study, study, study! I've spent many hours reading articles and resources about specific programs and rendering techniques. Understanding the "hows" and "whys" behind everything have helped me tremendously.
Cutscene Upgrade Project - Mainhall Remakes - Between the Ashes
Youtube Channel - P3D Model Box
Between the Ashes is looking for committed testers, PM me for details.
Freespace Upgrade Project See what's happening.


Offline Rodo

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Re: MjnMixael on Cutscenes, and Memorising Them.
I need to do that someday, right now I'm more like the type of guy that's always: "what happens if I press this buttom.. oh I see, and what about that one?... oh look at that" and so on.
I realize it's not the optimal way to learn something, but that's something...I guess :P
Something I don't recall reading anywhere, what program do you use for the renders?, 3ds?
el hombre vicio...


Offline mjn.mixael

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Re: MjnMixael on Cutscenes, and Memorising Them.
Yeah, I use 3ds.
Cutscene Upgrade Project - Mainhall Remakes - Between the Ashes
Youtube Channel - P3D Model Box
Between the Ashes is looking for committed testers, PM me for details.
Freespace Upgrade Project See what's happening.