Sunday, October 5, 2014

Generate 24 challenge

Since I only just got my computer working again, I haven't had the time to really continue my project.  However, I have managed to install Maya 2015, so I am going to be moving over there to try some of the new features out (like the improved UV mapping), and hope the new Renderman comes out soon.  If not, I will play with another renderer this time.
In the meantime, however, I was lucky enough to get into the SCAD Generate 24 hour challenge.  While I am an alumni, and this is usually for students, they do allow Alumni to participate, so I joined the VFX (VSFX) team this year for a challenge to create 2 scenes, totaling 10 seconds in length, with a live-action element and using Houdini in some way.  I figured this would be great for me to get back into Houdini.  I was considering the animation challenge since I love the concept and the fact that Floyd County was there to judge.  I wanted to do both, but since Floyd does mostly 2D work, I figured I'd do the 3D thing, which was judged by reps from The Mill, and Eric Schmidt of Pixar.
Long story short, we made a short about a paper boat floating in water.  I did the Photography and the Lighting.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Looking up

Good news in many ways today.  No I don't have a job yet (still working on that), but I did manage to get my computer working AND got my film, Lost Light, accepted into the Atlanta Underground Film Festival.  I am really excited, since they said only about 10% of the films submitted were accepted.  My good friend Raymond McCoy-Sanders also got his film in the festival (we worked on each other's films).  So that's 2 SCAD students.  Last week, I represented my other good friend Michelle Ionescu in presenting her film, The Leaping Place, which I was the technical director on.  It's a great film I am very proud of.  So while I am working on a new film, and working on updating my current film (updates won't happen till after the festival, sorry), and working on smaller projects designed to help me build my portfolio and learn some new techniques and tools, as well as looking for work, I am also glad to see the work I've done getting recognized!  :)
Now that I am in this festival, it could be a gateway to more festivals and presentations.  I am also really glad my computer is fixed, all I have to go is ship my old hard drive off.  With that done, I will be able to continue my Starbucks project.  I'm currently trying to learn how to get started with MARI, so give me a little time.  Learning new software isn't always that easy without a guide.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Computer woes

For those keeping track, this last week I was abruptly silent.  A big part of that silence was due to the fact that I've been struggling all week to save my computer hard drive.  For some unknown reason, my main C drive has decided to go belly up, but it appears I can still save my data.  On top of that, the external drive on my iMac that stores my music and video library is also on the fritz.  So that's what I've been doing most the week.  Backing up drives, swapping data around, buying and adding new drives, cloning disks... And not working on my scene.  I need to have a computer that works and won't lose all my data before I can continue working on anything.  Right now, I am almost done with the process (after some set backs) and will be waiting for a new drive in the mail to use as backup.  Hopefully this will work, and the problems will be gone... (Prays to the technology gods).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

WIP, Tuesday Sept 16th

I had a bit of a delay this weekend, but I have just about finished the modeling.  I have a few minor details to add (like the little feet and screws on the middle holder, better edges and details on the larger holder, and grout along the edge of the wall, a small object toward the foreground I missed before, and the powder in the containers).  I should have all this done tonight, and will start looking at UV mapping and MARI next.  So here is the latest WIP.

Friday, September 12, 2014

WIP, Friday Sept 12th

Almost done with the modeling.  I have the top of the machine int he back to finish modeling, and there are some smaller details like screws, grout, and feet to put in, not to mention the powder in the containers, but I think I'm almost there!  I am pretty satisfied with how the blender containers and handles came out.  Still waiting for Renderman, but I might have to bypass waiting for it, and either texture and light at SCAD on campus (if I can get in), or use 3Delight or Mental Ray.  Well, we'll see what happens next week.
Tell me what you think so far.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

WIP. Thursday Sept 11th

So I have been busy trying to figure out some modeling, and looking for work.  That and fixing technical bugs with my computer (please play my music iTunes, I promise to behave.).  Of course it took longer than I hoped, but I have an update, and I hope to have far more for tomorrow.  I am almost done with this phase of modeling.  Afterwards I will do a once over on everything, and look for feedback before focusing on textures and shading.
Original picture for reference
Full render so far with smooth models

Close-up of tongs (notice the chipped container in the back)

Close-up of container with feet (one broken)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

WIP, Tuesday, Sept 9th

Well after taking a short break for the weekend (while working on other projects), I've come back to the Starbucks picture.  Right now, I am (finally) done with matching and placing the objects.  At last I've started making the refined models.  I am using a combination of subdiv and polygons (with a few NURBS).  After experimenting with the Maya 2014 feature of creases sets, which I have worked with before, I've found that while they are are useful, not everything supports it properly.  Case in point, I am planning to render this using PR Renderman (whenever Pixar releases it... they said they'd release it at SIGGRAPH but that was a month ago), so while I wait, I am using a copy of another Renderman renderer, 3Delight.  Apparently, it doesn't like crease sets that much, and there have been other issues.  But I can say this, it is a lot better and faster than Mental Ray.  I haven't gotten to texturing or lighting yet, but with a simple test at full resolution, it took Mental Ray about 1 and a half minutes to render the scene, while 3Delight actually added shadows (turning them on on the default lights) and took only 16 seconds to render the same shot.  Much faster.  So right now, I am using 3Delight, but I am hoping PR Renderman comes out soon.

Until then, here are the visual updates:
No wirefreame

With wireframe
As you can see, I have refined the models of the nozzles in the foreground, as well as the lid in the foreground to the left (also added the indents), refined the cups in the tower, remodeled the containers in the center with better lids and more details, as well as the pumps on them, and the handles sticking out of the containers behind them.  I am hoping tomorrow to finish modeling the containers in the stand, the pitchers on top of the larger case, and get cracking on the machine int he background.  One large challenging piece for that will be the odd-shaped structure on the top of it, which I have mainly avoided for the rough placement, but will need to be figured out and addressed soon.  Once that is done, I will do a once over on the models and their placement, and finally get started on shading and texturing.

I also have plans to start modeling a minor character, from Dexter's Laboratory, as a practice on modeling a character and texturing it.  It should be easy, but will let me explore Mari some more.  More on that later.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

WIP, Friday Sept 5th

Here I am in my project.  I had to redo a lot of work from the previous day or two because I discovered that by trying to place the foot of the large machine int he back cause me to realize how off everything is.  How does it go?  It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing.  Well thanks to that tiny little cylindrical foot, I had to realign most of the object all because I didn't have the actual dimensions of any of the objects, so I have been forced to eye-ball them.  I think I'm pretty close now, but that did put me a little behind where I wanted to be.  Today I will begin actually refining the models so I can move onto texturing.  I think this is a lesson learned, get measurements.

Friday, September 5, 2014

WIP, Thursday, Sept 04th, 2014

Almost done with aligning objects.  I hope to spend more time tomorrow on this than I could today, so I can catch up.  I hope to have the placement finished and the modeling well under way by tomorrow.  Just have a few nozzles and "stuff" to add for placement, but I think it is coming along nicely.  I'm going to try using subdivs for a lot of this.  I'll start polygon then go into subd.  I also plan on trying out Mari for texturing after that.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

WIP Wed, Sept 3rd, 2014

I'll keep this post short.  I have been working on taking one of the existing images and recreating it into CG, rather than taking more pictures.  With the weather misbehaving this week, I rather start working than waiting for it to clear up.  So for now, I am working on one of the Starbucks images I took.  This will be the first of many projects.
The biggest problem I ran into was trying to align the camera to get it just right.  It is still something I'm struggling with perfecting, but I had to do some research to figure out why it was always a little off.  I had already adjusted the focal length of the image, but what I was missing was the size of the digital back.  This is the sensor of the camera, and I had no idea what it was.  I knew it wasn't a full-sized one, so I couldn't use a preset in Maya (which is based on film, like 35mm), so I looked up the size of the sensor for my specific camera online, adjusted the image plane to view the entire image, and voila!  The image now matched a lot closer than it did before.  It is still hard to get it just right, but that is part of the nature of this without having exact measurements and the like.
So for today, I will post an image of the first round of blocked in objects, trying to align them to the positions and sizes as those in the photograph.  I also drew another picture on my iPad, but I am not satisfied with it, and won't be sharing this one right now.  I rather do more work on it or move onto something else.  It was an experiment in technique and I haven't quite figured it out yet.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

WIP Tuesday, September 2nd 2014

I said I was going to do it, so here I go.  Due to some unfortunate weather conditions, I was unable to take photographs outdoors, so I took some indoor ones.  I kind of got stuck in a Starbucks, so I decided to use my time there to work on things.  Here are 4 photographs I took (of many), one of which I might start working on turning into a 3D image.  I will try to take some more tomorrow, but after that, I will have to pick one of these (at a time) and dive in to the 3D.  I hope to have some stuff blocked in for tomorrow, maybe more.
Any comments on which (if any) you like?

But I decided not to leave it there and just take some photos, I also wanted to work on brushing up my drawing skills.  I need to keep working on it, and I am hoping to find a modeling session somewhere locally I can go to weekly.  If anyone knows of one, I would be eternally grateful.  So right now the image isn't finished.  I am getting used to my new Wacom iPad pressure sensitive pen, as well as the way Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for iPad works.  So a lot of this was learning and experimenting, but I would like to keep working on this.  I hope to keep doing these daily as well to improve my drawing and visual story telling and lighting.  Still haven't finished the actual line art.  I want to work on the girl more, a lot more, add more detail, and fix a few things.  I only have base color and roughed in shadows, so I have a long way to go yet.

If anyone knows of a tutorial or suggestions for techniques for using Sketchbook Pro, I am all ears.  I'm just starting to learn this stuff, so I hope I can pick it up and start making these faster and better as I go.
So that's if for WIP 1.  Stay tuned for tomorrow!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Returned from SIGGRAPH 2014

In order to keep everyone up-to-date, SIGGRAPH 2014 was a BLAST!  Vancouver is an amazing and beautiful city, and I must say dealing with Canadian airline security and customs was easier than dealing with USA security and customs.  (Also Canadian money is so pretty and colorful.)

Behold my fellow SVs!
While I was at SIGGRAPH, I helped out a lot with Studio, which is where cutting-edge applicable technology is showed off.  This is stuff like 3D printers, auto-stereoscopic (3D without glasses) displays, and various other technologies.  They had some really cool stuff this year, including a printer than could essentially print a relief on a 3D object.  Imagine printing a texture, like a snake skin or pattern, on the back of your phone cover, with a full color image.  That was the station I worked at, where the Roland printers could print on just about anything.  I ended up staying with them for several days helping them print on phone covers and more, and I even managed to get my own business card holder printed on with a texture.  It looks (and feels) great!

Definitely a technology I can see hitting it big in the near future.
When I wasn't helping out at SIGGRAPH, I managed to do a little site-seeing, and I've got to say Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities around.  I loved the view with the shore line, the water with the planes and cruise ships, the ocean liners in the distance, the beach and city beyond that, and the cloud-covered mountains in the back.  Not to mention the local sights, like the Steam Clock and Chinatown.  It was a blast.

Steam clock in the middle of Steamtown.
The one draw back to the week was an old foot injury started to act up, so if anyone saw a Student Volunteer walking around with a crutch, that was me.  Luckily it cleared up and I was able to walk, crutch-free, for the last 2 days.  I even managed to go on a studio crawl where I got to check out the actual studios for Sony Imageworks, Motion Picture Company (MPC), United Front Games, and East Side Games.  It was a great experience, and I got to talk to a lot of talented people.  I just wish it could have gone on longer.

Inside the convention center, the world was waiting.
Because of my injury, I didn't have the time to post more on this site, and I also noticed some of the posts I did make accidentally were posted on a different blog I run.  So I will re-post those, and apologize that I wasn't able to keep up with more posts during the week.

Every day was like this!
Luckily for me, the powers that be at SIGGRAPH have been working on ways people like me who have graduated and no longer able to be student volunteers will be able to continue to volunteer in the future.  I have to look into this and see what how it works, and I'll post anything I find out, but it is one of those things that only a select few will even be eligible for.  We'll see how it turns out.  Next year in L.A.!

Sweet Dream roomie...
I was also fortunate enough to be able to have several portfolio reviews with amazingly talented people from Dreamworks, Disney, and Blue Sky.  These guys were great, and I got some top-notch feedback for my portfolio.  I want to thank Josh Staub, Eldar Cholich, and Frankie Liu again for all the work they did to help us volunteers, and all of those who dedicated time, money, and talent (and anything else).

And on that note, I am currently working on a new series of projects.  These are going to be photographs (and possibly paintings) brought to life in 3D.  I am going to try to create everything from scratch, with a focus on the texturing and lighting.  I really want to push myself and learn some new stuff, and if I can, I hope to add some camera animation and possibly some particles and/or fluids for fun.  I will be starting this tomorrow, and I will be attempting to keep a DAILY BLOG on here (at least 4 times a week if not more) posting all my Work in Progress (WIP).  I will be starting this ASAP, and I want to push myself to see how fast and how detailed I can make these things.  I will really need to build an audience here as well to force myself to keep up with the work, as a way to help me with motivation.  I am eager to get started, and can't wait!  In the meantime, I have also been working on a new short film, called "H2O No!", but production is still early and slow, so I need these shorter faster projects to help me out now while we get the ball rolling on H2O No!.  I will also be posting work on my portfolio site, HixonArt, as well as other sites like CGSociety.

So stay tuned and tell your friends!  Let's get dangerous!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Well tomorrow (err... today) is the big day.  I get all my stuff together and head out to Vancouver Canada to attend SIGGRAPH as a student volunteer this year.  I managed to make it last year, and here I am again this year.  Since I just graduated, this will be my last time as an SV, but it is an honor and a privilege to donate my time to this.
I will be updating my blog every day during the trip, and updating my twitter feed with pictures and the like, so be sure to look out for @PixeloftheDay, and check back here often!  In the meantime, I have to finish lighting some scenes and packing... no rest for the wicked... or the artist.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Hi everyone!
It's been a little while, I know.  The long and the short of it is, I graduated Magna Cum Laude from SCAD Atlanta with a BFA in Animation and a minor in Technical Direction!  It feels great, but now I need to start getting out there and find a job!  Honestly, getting the degree was the easy part, getting the job is going to be hard.
One step I am taking toward my goal of working in the film or television industry is to attend SIGGRAPH this year, as I did last year.  Again, I was chosen to be a Student Volunteer, and I am very excited to have this chance.  I will chronicle my time in Vancouver at the conference here, as well as on my twitter account.
Other than that, I am starting a new film project.  Right now it is still in story development and preproduction, but the plan is to enter into production by the end of the summer.  The current working title is "H2O No!" (formerly Snack Attack).

I will be posting more on that project as things progress, and luckily we are getting support from SCAD to use their facilities.  There should be a blog set up soon for it.  I look forward to seeing everyone at SIGGRAPH, and please feel free to drop me a message.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Breaking the silence

Wow... another quarter is already over, and I was so busy I didn't make a single post on here, and yet I didn't feel as busy.  That's probably because I put more effort into making sure I slept most nights, and I did.  I feel much better this quarter physically, as I haven't stayed up overnight AND the following day.  I must say using time management tools and techniques have been really helpful for me, and I have to say Trello is awesome!  It helped me with all my collaborative projects, and more.

I will be updating my senior film blog and will post some more work here.  This is it though, my last quarter- nay, my last WEEK at SCAD!  I loved every minute of it, and I can't wait to get into the "real world" again and put my new talents to use.  I am already planning another film (or two) and will keep updates on the process here.  Hopefully I can use something like Kickstarter to make it happen, we'll see.

Monday, March 17, 2014

... 1 To Go

Well the Winter 2014 quarter has ended, and it appears I am getting some decent grades (2 A's and a B), but what is really exciting me is what is to come ahead.
First of all, my graduation.  I will be graduating next quarter, and as such I have to prepare.  I have ordered a cap, gown, stole, tassel, class ring (custom made by my awesome professor, Matthew Maloney) invitations, and a partridge in a pear tree.  Well... no peach tree, this is Georgia.  So if anyone is interested, the graduation will be May 31st, and will be down town Atlanta (you can find details on the SCAD website).
Other than that, I am working on my senior film, Last Light.  It is coming along nicely, but I have a long way to go.  I helped a bunch of friends on different projects last quarter, including an awesome short by Michelle Ionescue called Leaping Place, and a group project short called Nor:  A Cloud Story.  Now it's my turn.  I watched these students go from scratch to a finished film in 10 weeks, while missing almost 2 weeks of class due to unexpected snow storms.  I also watched my friend Nora take her senior film from a a project with no models, no rigs, and no animation, and complete it in the same amount of time WHILE directing Nor.  That is inspiration right there.  If these amazing folks can do it, so can I.  And I probably don't have as far to go with it either.  So I will be spending a lot of time on my film and perfecting everything I can about it.
When I'm not working on my film or my other class, I will be working on a very important project... I like to call it GETTING A JOB.  Or at least an internship or apprenticeship or something.  I have had a lot of awesome opportunities come up, and this coming quarter has a lot of them hitting me all at once.  The career fair in Savannah is soon, followed by several internship opportunities, and then Out2Launch (sort of a reverse career fair where the students set up booths and the employers go around looking at them).  I have a LOT of stuff to do for this including fixing up my portfolio, and I have to do it all as soon as possible.
So I'll be working a lot this break, although I still plan to have a little fun.  I have to meet with some of my friends to go over changes to my film, and get some feedback on my portfolio, and get my iMac fixed, and my printer, and my scanner...  There truly is no rest for the wicked.

Well I better get back to it.  Right now I'm fixing up some of my older works that I really liked, starting with my Diner.  I'm liking this 1950's feel I got going, maybe I'll do more with that theme.
Oh, and then I have to get a hair cut, and shave, and get a picture... and go to the printers... and get my images approved... and submit for my monitor.......

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Image Based Lighting and more

So last time I showed some photographs I took studying light, specifically time of day outdoor light changes.  I have been working on a short animation that involves an outdoor shot of a market as the sun sets.  Right now it is suffering from rendering errors that our renderfarm occasionally puts in, so my next step is to fix all those.  I also have a slight displacement problem, but the other big factors include the light colors and positions of the street lights.  I have a lot of work to do to make this scene work, but once it is finished, it will look really nice.

But that isn't all I've worked on.  I have also been taking this to another level and creating a scene that uses actual photographs and actual light information from the environment and integrated by own CG element into the scene.  In other words, like action plate CG integration.  I went out and took a series of images at SCAD Atlanta's DMC, where I captured "background plates" and environment maps.  These environment maps are made as HDRI so they hold more information than a regular image, and are then manipulated in a program called HDR Shop to fit into my CG scene.  I can then use this to capture the light information in the scene to capture the ambient light, and then tweak it from there.  I also had to render in passes, so I could isolate everything from the shadows to the reflection of the chairs to the ambient occlusion.  I finally used Nuke to composite it back together, and voila!  Movie magic!

Image Based Lighting with CG Character Integration from David Hixon on Vimeo.

But that's not all!  I've been a REALLY busy bee.  I can't show anything currently from my last 2 projects I've been working on (not to mention math), but you can check out my other blog to see updates to my senior film, Last Light, at  Besides working on my film, I have been lighting and rendering and compositing Michelle's film, Leaping Place.  It continues to be a challenge, but this entire thing must be done in one week, so it's crunch time!  I'll update more on that later!

Friday, January 31, 2014

A Study of Daylight

So our next lighting project is to make a time of day study and recreate it digitally.  Now we are not actually trying to mimic the exact lighting in the scene, that is we aren't re-creating the study digitally, we are supposed to do more with it.  We have to make an outdoor scene with a transition of light from across the day.  I'd love to do the entire day if I have the time, but that is a big 'if'.
The first step, of course, is to make the study.  Unfortunately, at the time that I was able to make this study, the weather did not cooperate with me, and clouds moved in to make the sunset completely overcast.  While this is a great study of ambient light, it isn't showing the sunset colors like I had hoped for.  However, I plan to take another study of the light at sunset when the weather clears (and I have the time.)
For now, here is my study, showing noon (winter time), dusk (overcast), "golden hour" (overcast), and dawn (twice).  I plan to add more to this soon, we'll see how it goes.
(These are photographs, not digital renders.)

Noon (Winter time)
Dusk (Overcast) 
Golden Hour (Overcast)
Dawn (closeup)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Ok, it's 4 in the morning... and I JUST finished rendering my Egg project after a lot of hard work and fighting with my computer to render.  I just wanted to make a quick post to show the final product.  What I was supposed to do was make an image that looked like this:

Original Photograph

This is what I got (trust me, I'd spend more time on this if I could, but I am too tired and need sleep, and my back hurts...):

3D Render

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Eggs and Ice

So I've been busy working on various shaders and am moving onto lighting.  I have been working on Michelle Ionesue's senior film doing her texturing and lighting.  I have just finished a shader focusing on icicle stalactite/stalagmites in her cave scene.  It is supposed to have an eerie other-worldly feel to it, and I think I managed to get the feel she was going for.  Once I finish with the final tweaks on the textures, I am going to be moving onto the lighting for her scene.  I also have my film to texture and animate, and another friend, Raymond, who's film I'll be helping him texture and light.  And I am going to try to help with the 3D Group Project film as well.  Busy busy busy...
Other than that, I've been diving into the advanced Photorealistic lighting class.  This is promising to be a challenge, and is somehow both frustrating and fun at the same time.  The current project we are working on is to recreate a photograph of a bowl (or plate?) of eggs as accurately as possible.  I am struggling to get the lighting just right, but the biggest problem is trying to get the geometry just right, repositioning, resizing, reshaping, and adjusting every single object dozens of times and then fixing the lights and shadows.  It is far from perfect right now but I am well on my way with it.  I want to make this look as close to the original photograph as possible.
So I leave you with 2 images, one of my eggs, and the other of my ice shader.    Enjoy! (Updated)

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Year!

Hey all!  This will be a short post.
First, I wanted to say Happy New Year!  Also, This is my last year at SCAD, as I graduate in the spring quarter (if all goes well).  Now that it is getting down to it, it is time for me to get an internship, apprenticeship, and/or job out in the real world.  So I am going to be preparing a new portfolio site, and putting together the best work I can to show.  I am also going to be attending the various career fairs and other events.  I will also be attending SIGGRAPH this year.  I just submitted my application for a Team Leader position, so here's hoping it gets accepted!
This quarter is supposed to be easier on me, but helping so many other people with their films is proving to make up for the easier class-load and I am already staying up late on assignments and deadlines.  Oh well, back to the grindstone.
Check out my latest update on my senior film blog, Last Light.  Got some cool new stuff up there.  Sorry about having to password protect my animatic, from here on out it is going to be getting too close to the final and I need to keep it from the public so I can prepare for film festivals.
So stay tuned for more work!  I'll leave you with a Sub Surface Scattering test I just finished that I think came out pretty good.  Still needs work on the highlight and bump, but it is a good first step.

No SSS (sub-surface scatter), lambert.

Adjusted SSS