Monday, 31 March 2014

Another Sculpture

Another sculpture to add to the collection. This time I thought I would post without the 'how', and just see what the response is:

Conductor's Arm - Taken from Part 1 - Requiem

I've been thinking more about how these sculptures could be represented physically. While I'm not saying this example is structurally sound (there are still some free floating shapes!), I hope it communicates how something like this could be constructed.

The colours are arbitrary, but for future examples, I think that this is something that could come from the mood of the music.

So what are peoples thoughts on this?


Ethan Shilling

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Shrink-Wrapping and Scanning

Continuing with my experimentations; I wanted to find an effective solution to shrink wrap a mesh around the curves. I also wanted to explore ways in which to scan the 3D curve data (like an MRI scan) to build up a series of flat sections of the curve.

All curves and sculptures are from part 3 of Verdi's Requiem, 'Offertorio'.

With the help of some plug-ins I was able to create this structure.

The idea here is that we could create a wire frame structure which we can shrink wrap some kind of material around, to create a light translucent sculpture. If only we could reconstruct one of the original 3D curves for real, I think the translucent effect would look quite good with the silhouette of the curve inside. Or at least with something inside.

The same technique was applied to this sculpture.

It is similar but different as I didn't shrink wrap around the original curve. Instead I traced sections of the curve from two sides at various depths. I did this by creating a camera with a tiny clipping distance to run through the curve from a particular angle. This allows me to scan through the curve and get a picture of a slice of the curve. I traced around whatever I saw in the view by hand. The resulting curves were then used for wrapping a mesh around in the same way as above.

Since the above image is a bit difficult to interpret, the following image just shows four of the traced curves from the front view at different depths.

Interestingly enough, watching the camera/scanner run through the curve produces it's own interesting animation!

So how did I shrink wrap the mesh around the curves? A dense spherical mesh was created as a starting point. The mesh was then snapped 'magnetically' to the curve with the help of a freely downloadable plug-in called prAttractNode, which I found on Creative Crash. I maximised the falloff so that the whole mesh was attracted to the shape of the curve. This is the resulting mesh.

The plug-in has options for creating a smoother look, but the results were not satisfying so I kept the hard edge look and decided to rely on something else to smooth the mesh out. I achieved this with another plug-in (which I wrote myself several months back) specifically designed for smoothing high poly meshes. Here you can see the effect it has on the mesh.

Using the two plug-ins in combination works well to create various shapes influenced by the curve. Because they are deformer nodes, it means that the effect is animatable too. For example, by changing the size of the source shape, you can create shapes that wriggle through the curve.

It looks quite good when you put a series of flat sheets into the structure.

So there we have it.

I now leave you with this animated blob!

Ethan Shilling

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Requiem - Abstracts #01

Already, this project has overcome the unenviable task of creating form from data, embarking on the task of creating art from numbers or mathematics. These technical challenges were intense and complex, far too complex for myself, and the work that Alan and Ethan have undertaken has been quite astounding. A real headache destroyed with some superbly clever scripting and scene setup. And from this, from these csv files, a set of curves have been born that directly translate to the creation of Requiem. From movement to music, data to sculpture, it is a project that seems so pure in its representation. Something so different from my usual practise. I will be writing more about some of this conceptual stuff soon, but my job now is to join the team as a artsy fartsy experimenter. I've stayed clear of the technical setup (not only because my brain lacks that capacity) because I wanted to approach from the outside, purely to experiment with the tools and setup created. Already, I've had some fascinating results, and I can see plenty more in the future. So, here is the first contact sheet for Requiem by myself.

The future of the project is still wonderfully open, with ideas and conclusions born from the act of creation. I'll be experimenting plenty more with different approaches and data sets, but for now, this demonstrates some initial creation from data. I'll also discuss how some of these were made, but for now, I'd like to keep the experimentation free from technical details. So, I guess, more soon. 

Another Curve Experiment

After further experimentation with the curves, I have come up with another technique. It's completely procedural, and is animated so that you can see what the shape looks like over time. Here it is.

This effect is made possible with the detachCurve node in Maya. This is called the Detach Curves command in the Edit Curves menu. It is capable of cutting a curve into smaller sections. You need to specify the points along the curve before using it. By default it will create the new curves and delete the original, however by going into the commands options you can chose to 'keep original', which will leave the original curve unchanged and generate new curves with a connection to the original. With the detachCurve Node that is created, you can animate the points at which the curves are cut from, allowing you to create an animated curve, which follows the path of the original.

It is similar to how a motion path works, except rather than tracing a single point along the curve, you can trace a portion of the curve. As I said, it is completely procedural, meaning that the original curve can still be modified and the traced curve will update to any changes.

To create the final structure, I lofted between two copies of the traced curve, one of which was flattened, while the other remained 3D. Hopefully this video from a top down view shows what's going on.

The green line follows the path of the blue line, and the white line is the flattened curve.

Any thoughts on this?

Ethan Shilling

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Scribbles to Sculptures

Now we have the data available in Maya (as both animation and nurbs curves), the next step is to derive as many interesting shapes and designs from it as possible. I have been able to come up with a few techniques.

The following technique offers a way to potentially generate an infinite number of shapes from the curve data. Looking at just one of the many 3D curves we have can reveal many different shapes within the intersecting lines, however depending on the angle you look from, it will appear different, and dramatically change the look of the curves and shapes within.

The screen shot below shows the same curve from three different angles, clearly demonstrating this effect.

By placing one of these curves into a group and scaling the group down in one axis, we can generate a flattened curve, representing what the curve would look like from that angle. By rotating the curve from within the group we can quickly preview the flattened curve from any angle.

The trick is how can we quickly break the curve into individual pieces at every point the lines intersect. Once we can do that we can build the individual shapes.

If we do a surface planer operation on the flattened curve, it will fill in the entire shape with a flat surface.

We can then go into the Trim Edge mode for nurbs surfaces, where we can then select different intersecting lines to extract the individual curve pieces. We use Duplicate Surface Curves in the Edit Curves menu to do this. We could select all the lines at once and get every piece of curve or just select the ones we need.

Either way, once we have the curve pieces extracted we can select whatever we need to make a shape and use the surface planer operation to build it.

From here we can convert to polygons and extrude it and do whatever else we can think of.

If we were to gather enough of these abstract shapes, we can use them to create more complex sculptures.

Here are a few more ideas.

A more straight forward interpretation of one of the 3D curves is to simply extrude a shape along its path. In this example I extruded several smaller shapes to create a brush stroke look. I suppose we could use the shapes generated from curves with the technique I explained above.

I created this coloured version, by using the samplerInfo node to sample the world space location (i.e. x,y,z became the new r,g,b values) and finished off with some colour remapping.

In this one, I wrote a quick script to duplicate the profile shape along the path and adjusted it's scale based on another piece of animation data. By lofting the duplicated profile curves in the correct order, we can create a shape that follows the path while also varying the width of the path at the same time. After the extra effort to get something more interesting I don't think it notices that much!

And here's a coloured version, same as the last example.

Since I haven't posted the following anywhere else yet, I will also include this experiment.
This was achieved before we even had the final .csv script, and shows what can be done with a particle simulation. In the following example I attach a particle emitter to one of the pieces of animation data, to trace the path with particles. I then generated a blobby mesh, which gets smoothed/averaged to clean up the shape. The particles die after a set period of time so as you play through the simulation, you're viewing a segment of the data as time goes on.

While I've only shown a few examples in this post (it's been more focused on techniques), I think they are good starting points to generate more designs!

Ethan Shilling

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Concert in Sections

After clipping and aligning the data to find the ‘true concert’ the next stage was to cut the performance in to manageable sections so that each generated curve would be more musically and visually specific. Each section of the seven chosen represents a natural break in the music, these are:

1: Requiem
2: Dies Irae
3: Offertorio
4: Sanctusi
5: Agnus Dei
6: Lux Aterna
7: Libera Me

To achieve this in Maya the timeline was adjusted (using a little math) to pinpoint the frames representing the breaks, fine tuning by ear was also needed to nuance the start and end of the break. Using the new time codes curves were generated for each data stream, shown below.


 Dies Irae



Agnes Dei

Lux Aterna

Libera Me

The next step: Giving each curve physical form...