View Full Version : WWII Aerial Combat

08-12-2004, 05:17 PM

Here's some animations I've done for a video that will play in an exhibit at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. It recounts a mission in which a group of P-38s were sent to intercept and shoot down a "Betty" bomber carrying Admiral Yamamoto over Bougainville Island in 1943. This was a fun project for me, a real labor of love, and I learned a lot of new techniques (Skytracer, particles, hypervoxels, parenter.) It took me around two months, on and off, to model and texture the aircraft, create the water and island, and design the sequences.

Photorealism was beyond my capabilities (and their budget), so I went for a slightly dreamy quality, like an aviation art painting. In the finished video these animations are intercut with maps and interviews with the pilots.


Section 1.mov (31 seconds 3.6MB) (http://homepage.mac.com/wshawn/Yamamoto/Yamamoto_Stringout1.mov)

Section 2.mov (34 seconds 4MB) (http://homepage.mac.com/wshawn/Yamamoto/Yamamoto_Stringout2.mov)

Section 3.mov (34 seconds 3.9MB) (http://homepage.mac.com/wshawn/Yamamoto/Yamamoto_Stringout3.mov)

Shawn Marshall
Marshall Arts Motion Graphics

08-12-2004, 06:00 PM
:D I liked it, gave me a nostalgic fealing. But, (there always is a but) feel that the textures/materials didn't quite make what you were trying to project, they felt a little to gamey and bright/clean, which is not neccessarily a bad thing, but thought you were going to do something a little more real...... Anyway I fell that your not that confident on your texturing/materials, so would love to see an update when you have had a good look at these, also there is the odd pont where the action is slightly out of sink with the animation.

Sorry if this sounds negative, that's not my intention, as it is far better than anything I have produced. Simply looking at your work and seeing the advice on a number of links on this forum, I feel that you could do alot better..... So let us see some stills and wires of the planes.... and if you do update an animation....



08-12-2004, 06:32 PM

Thanks for the feedback. I have no problem with constructive criticism. I would probably agree with you that the textures are a little bright and saturated. Part of that is due to a technique I used in After Effects that's nicknamed "Instant Sex". It basically involves making a duplicate of the animation, blurring it, and laying it over an untreated version of itself with a transfer control. This softens things and makes the image a little less computery. I used a Hard Light transfer control, which tends to boost the saturation of the colors. I liked the way it looked in NTSC, so I went with it.

You have more confidence in my abilities than I do; I could probably make these a little better, but probably not a lot better. There are always compromises when working on projects. The producer came to us a week before the video was due to be installed in the Museum (they'd tried to recreate the battle in the Warbirds online game, with no success after several months.) As it is, it took me about a month longer to complete this than I anticipated. There was no way I was going to fool around with Radiosity or some of the other exotic lighting techniques to increase the realism. At some point you have to say "this looks cool and tells the story" and move on. And the clients are delighted.


Shawn Marshall
Marshall Arts Motion Graphics

08-12-2004, 06:51 PM

Firstly, I hope you didn't think I was being to critical.. I did like the animations alot (I was reminded of a trip to northern france a couple of years ago)... I just get the feeling that you are capable of alot more.... I am not one to be critical as I am not good enough myself, at any of the areas of 3D..... I've not got and neither tried after effects, so I'll take your word for the work you've done in it. I think your animation side is great, and I would like to see more... If your looking to do textures/materials can I suggest leigh van der byl's texture book, and although I'm only part way through, Nicholas Boughen's lighting book... I'm finding these exceptionallty worth while as a newbie and reference material... Also, the 1001 tips and tricks is worth a look... anyway I could go on about learning material... Let us see more.... Post some pics and wires of the planes/landscape....



08-13-2004, 09:47 AM
overall I thought they turned out good. the camera seemed to stop suddenly when the zeros first shot and there were a couple of other shots that didn't quite work for me.

I've used the AE technique you used but didn't know the term :)

08-13-2004, 10:46 AM

Thanks for the reply.

I know the shot you're talking about where the camera appears to come to an abrupt stop as it arcs around the Zeros. It was really bugging me, but I could not figure out why it appears to do that, because the camera moves throughout the shot. I think it's an optical illusion due to some sort of retrograde motion. If you focus on just the Zeros you can see that they're still changing perspective as the camera arcs around them. The camera was parented to the null to which the planes were parented, and that null is moving through space.

I spent an hour dissecting the move to try to smooth that out, but the client was getting antsy to get the animations edited into the video, so I had to move on to the next shot.

In general, I tried to keep the camera moves in the realm of the real world, as if it could have been shot by a documentary cameraman. I saw a History Channel show on this subject, and it started with the camera flying all around the flight of P-38s, and it just screamed "computer animation."

Shawn Marshall
Marshall Arts Motion Graphics

08-13-2004, 11:20 AM
Wow, that is some great work. And I like the way it looks. I don't know why people think that 3D has got to either be totally cartoony or totally realistic. I think there is plenty of room for everything in between. Really nice models and animation. Great job :)

08-13-2004, 12:28 PM
it looks cool!
it has its weaker and stronger points, but overall a cool job!:)

08-13-2004, 12:49 PM
Thanks for the comments.

By the way, the animations I did were created to replace some that were produced over a decade ago using software called Stunt Island. Here's some stills from that original animation:


Not bad considering how long ago these were created, but the clients are quite pleased with these new animation upgrades.

And here are some representative wireframes from the scenes. Nothing too exciting:




Pretty much everything is subpatch models. I had to make a tradeoff between detail and interactivity (my dual 1Ghz G4 Mac isn't the most powerful 3D platform.)

I was quite pleased with the way the props turned out. I tried several of the prop tutorials on this forum, but I didn't think they were realistic enough. I created a realistic prop blur recipe in After Effects using motion blurred shapes and opacity oscillation to creating a strobing effect. This sequence was then mapped to the transparency channel to the disc shapes in shown in the third wireframe. I usually rendered the props separately and composited them in AE because the transparency map interfered with the hypervoxels (and I got strange noise artifacts in the props if I raytraced the transparency.)

Shawn Marshall
Marshall Arts Motion Graphics
Portland, OR

08-14-2004, 02:54 PM
Great storytelling!

08-14-2004, 04:48 PM
Great, great work. The movement is spot on, and fows beautifully.

I have to make a real effort to look for problms, the only things that strike me as not quite there are:

The green forests are very homogenous, and seen to only use 2 shades of green. (given that, they are very effective though!.

The sea / lakes look a bit bright, an drather too much like sky.

But to put the criticism in perspective, this is why I'd rate it as 98%, not 100%!


08-18-2004, 08:31 PM
Awesome work. How did you do the bullets? Those bullets rock!

08-18-2004, 11:44 PM
Thanks for the comments.

The tracer bullets start with particle emitters parented to the plane; I had to play around a lot with the particle weight and velocity and the amount of parented motion to make them look right. I then applied hypervoxels to the particles. I used a Sprite (1 slice) as the object type and stretched them (4%) in the Velocity direction. The size of the particle varied by scene. I used a yellow to white gradient, based on local density, for the color. No texture.

For the muzzle flash I parented a null to the front of each gun and applied hypervoxels. I used a Sprite and animated the Particle Size by applying a Noisy Channel to randomly ramp the scale from around -4' to 4'. I used an IFW2 noise texture and a yellow orange gradient for the color and an IFW2 Noise texture for the Hypertexture.

I had another null parented near the guns to create a smoke effect. I used Sprites again, animating the Particle size and Size variation using noisy channel envelopes. The color was dark grey with a Turbulence texture in the Hypertexture.

On another note, props to Bruce Rayne and his Renderfarm Commander software. His software made it very easy to add and remove nodes during my Screamernet renders on our Mac systems. I highly recommend it to any Mac users who want to do Screamernet renders.

Shawn Marshall
Marshall Arts Motion Graphics