AuthorTopic: Using 3D models to trace pixels?  (Read 15286 times)

Offline Mike

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Using 3D models to trace pixels?

on: January 19, 2009, 05:25:23 pm
Have you ever suspected 3D models being used as a base for tracing pixel work?  Specifically for rotating machines, and other mechanical devices.  Hell I even suspect that the sprites drawn in "The World Ends With You" were based on 3D models.  Oh and before a riot starts I'm not talking about directly screen capping from a 3D program resizing it and calling it a day.  I'm talking about taking a 3D model with the pose you want, shrinking it to the size you want and then tracing from it.

What do you guys think of using 3D models for pixel work bases?

Has anyone here used this technique?

Personally if I had the skills of constructing a 3D model that was rigged well, I would totally trace from it so that way I could get proportion, and angles perfect.

Take a look at these(I'm probably just being a fool)

http://sdb.drshnaps.com/sheets/Misc/Square/Other/IAWW/Neku.png

I've also been told that the sprites in Symphony of the Night used 3D models, but that I don't believe.

I really wish I could remember more examples  :(

Offline ndchristie

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #1 on: January 19, 2009, 06:46:12 pm
Why word this like a conspiracy theory?  dozens of games have used 3d as a base for sprites, some more and some less obviously than others. 

Blizzard used prerendered sprites in many early titles, including starcraft, diablo, and warcraft.  Many interplay-published games, such as Conquest of the New World and titles within the popular Fallout, Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale games also use prerendered sprites.  Command and Conquer is another one that comes to mind, along with the popular Total War games (Shogun and Medieval), Ultima online...the list goes on for AGES.

the ultimate reality of of a resized render and particularly mid-90's capabilities is that they require either extensive redrawing or tracing, so while many games on this list appear pixelled (outlines, low color counts, very few frames), the reality is that it was at one point cutting-edge.

Is it useful?  for MANY games, I think not at all.  most animators have the experience necessary to animate a human in far shorter a time than it would take, as you've said, to model and render.  For other games, i think it's great.  A quick scan of the list reveals primarily isometric views, which are notoriously more difficult to draw for, as well as monsters which an animator may be less experienced with and vehicles which do not need to be rigged.  In additon, they typically have 8+ rotation frames (most have 16), which is also far faster to do this way than by hand.  However, without total redrawing they all also lack the pixel precision and cleanliness that many games require, so you'll also notice that they fall generally within the RTS category (famous for unclear, "realistic" graphics).
« Last Edit: January 19, 2009, 06:54:18 pm by ndchristie »
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Offline huZba

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #2 on: January 19, 2009, 08:18:22 pm
A lot of the sprites in "the world ends with you" have been drawn in high res first, then shrinked, color reduced and slightly retouched with pixel tools. The game also resizes the sprites on the fly while you run around and that really hurt my eyes. It's not because of unorthodox ways of making the sprites, but rather that they really look like a mess most of the time. I guess they didn't have any pixel-artists to work on the game so they had their normal illustrators to do what they do and then reduced them to be used on DS.

For some games the pre-rendered 3D stuff works great. Like CnC Tiberian sun for example. It had a huge amount of sprites for each unit so it would've been madness to make them by hand. Not just the normal directions, but all of them also going uphill/downhill.

Using 3D will not make you a better animator and there's really no use to go that way unless you need great volumes of different angles of the sprite.

Offline Dusty

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #3 on: January 19, 2009, 08:25:34 pm
I've always wanted to render a very bare-bones, no-texture human and create animation frames in 3D so I could trace over them.

Offline ndchristie

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #4 on: January 19, 2009, 09:00:36 pm
the world ends with you is a terrible-looking game, which is a problem in itself regardless of methods.
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Offline Dusty

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #5 on: January 19, 2009, 09:02:58 pm
Wow :o:(

Offline Jad

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #6 on: January 19, 2009, 09:15:23 pm
Those would've looked nice if im9today had made them  !yus!
' _ '

Offline ndchristie

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #7 on: January 20, 2009, 02:30:18 am
if all you need is a static base, there is one other major benefit that i forgot : your 3d model is allowed to SUCK.  for instance, this piece is made in about 20 minutes while watching Bones using only extrude and rotate :



now this is a building, not a tank, so it's not obvious what type of game might use this particular template (perhaps a god sim with city-building like black & white?), but it's more than enough information to a pixeller to use, in a fraction of the time it would have taken him to measure each segment.  it's just a means to an end, but it's a fine place to start if this kind of accuracy is required

You can also do humans though if you stick to a few simple ideas :



this guy is done with the same bad 3d techniques as the buildings, here using mostly separate primaries and a ridiculous polycount.  however, it will be easy to rig, because the joints will be, as you can see, round, segmented, or otherwise obscured - as in games like warcraft.  this significantly reduces the difficulty of a good rigging, and completely does away with good modelling, resulting in this bust taking a fraction of the time.

 you've gotten me curious now - i might just finish up this character to see if it's worth it.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2009, 04:38:12 am by ndchristie »
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Offline ptoing

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #8 on: January 20, 2009, 05:46:33 am
Like CnC Tiberian sun for example.

Most units in Tiberian Sun are in fact using voxel graphics. So they are not prerendered at all :) The stuff that is not voxels is tho, afaik.
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Offline ndchristie

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #9 on: January 20, 2009, 05:54:44 am
i'd be terribly skeptical of the idea that voxels could be used effectively produce the walker units and many of the tanks - are you sure it's not the buildings that were voxel?  the infantry of course are pure sprite though so C&C isn't the *best* example.
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Offline ptoing

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #10 on: January 20, 2009, 07:03:55 am
There are no ugly colours, only ugly combinations of colours.

Offline Mike

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #11 on: January 20, 2009, 11:39:46 am
This animation looks like it was rotoscoped exactly from a human model, or possibly a 3D one.  Or they have great animators and artists.




Oh and ndchristie that is probably exactly what I'm going to do for the 1st layer of paralax buildings in my game.

On a slightly unrelated note, does anyone know where I can find a pre-rigged human model for 3Ds max so that I can pose it and draw from it?

Offline Helm

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #12 on: January 20, 2009, 12:13:20 pm
That is rotoscoped from a human person, with the head pasted on. I think it looks pretty horrid as a result. The human body, squashed vertically (because they wanted longer legs) and then with a tiny anime head. Also watch for appearing/disappearing details while it animates like on the knee or the inside of the thigh. Dancing seloutry, generally, a mess. But yes, it animates smoothly.

Mike: I use Poser for basic anatomic fact-checking.

Offline huZba

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #13 on: January 20, 2009, 12:18:18 pm
Wow that voxel stuff is really interesting, gotta look into it more. In my mind voxels always were the kind of stuff that was in comanche games. Guess it's more versatile than i thought.

The street fighter character looks like it's rotoscoped on a human and then stretched around to kill the proportions. To me it doesn't sit well with the other sprites and the popping of details looks odd as well as the head that doesn't animate at all. It's smooth tho.... (helm beat me to it  :P)
 
3dsmax has a biped character rig you can use as is or rig a human character with it. It's really easy. Just do a search for "biped" in 3dsmax help.

Offline Mike

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #14 on: January 20, 2009, 02:45:20 pm
That is rotoscoped from a human person, with the head pasted on. I think it looks pretty horrid as a result. The human body, squashed vertically (because they wanted longer legs) and then with a tiny anime head. Also watch for appearing/disappearing details while it animates like on the knee or the inside of the thigh. Dancing seloutry, generally, a mess. But yes, it animates smoothly.

Mike: I use Poser for basic anatomic fact-checking.

Its weird because only this animation looks awful for that character, the rest are done really rather well.  The idle doesn't even have toes or fingers and I believe the reason is because they couldn't properly draw the pixels for the toes or fingers because of how smooth the animation turned out.

Also I'm gonna check out the biped in 3Dsmax first since I have that program, afterward I'm gonna do a search for poser and see how much it costs.  I have a microman Sakura figure that I have been using for poses but sadly its limited because it needs to be able to stand up.

Offline Ben2theEdge

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #15 on: January 20, 2009, 02:55:26 pm
I occasionally use very simple 3D models for reference when doing awkward perspectives/angles and such. I believe the new King of Fighters used some kind of 3D-rendered skeleton for their animations. And there's a Capcom game called Red Earth that uses it as well but not very well. In fact Capcom has done the 3D-render tracing thing quite a bit and always with piss poor results. As has been mentioned before, if you have proper animation technique, creating 8-direction running animations, etc. is perfectly doable and is way faster. In fact if you don't have your animation fundamentals down, the animation of your 3D model will be pretty stiff and clunky and your final character will be devoid of life anyway. So it's better not to use shortcuts unless you're forced to by time constraints.

Concerning Street Fighter 3 I'm pretty sure that's the only rotoscoped character. Rotoscoping is pretty easy to spot because it NEVER WORKS! :mean: Tracing an animation that you don't understand always results in wonky lines that shuffle around and appear and disappear for absolutely no reason.
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Offline Helm

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #16 on: January 20, 2009, 03:24:07 pm
Rotoscoping works on Flashback because the main character was capture and overdrawn with flats with not much individual detail that could theoretically jump around.

Offline Gil

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #17 on: January 20, 2009, 03:28:03 pm
Rotoscoping works if you have a good animator. Unfortunately, rotoscoping is used 90% of the time due to time constraints and/or lousy animators...

Prince of Persia, the original, has pretty good rotoscoping, but the angle of the tiles destroys it basically.

Offline ndchristie

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #18 on: January 20, 2009, 03:44:30 pm
the main problem with roto that i see is that people use it not as a tool but as a way out - they stop thinking about consistency and keying and what actually MAKES a good animation, particularly a good loop - the results, not so good.

Take the Ralph Bakshi lord of the rings movie.  everything about it looks like a high-budget saturday morning cartoon until gandalf' cape swirls suddenly with perfect physics and awkward times, and there are more equally awkward examples - opposite of the rest which had no physics but a pretty good sense of what 'worked.'
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Offline ptoing

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #19 on: January 20, 2009, 04:07:10 pm
Rotoscoping needs good animators and also decent actors to work. Quite a lot of the big budget Japanese animation studios use rotoscoping for in certain situations and they make it work. Lots of the old Disney stuff used rotoscoping and they made it work as well.
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Offline Mike

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #20 on: January 20, 2009, 04:17:03 pm
Another reason I would want to use a 3D model as a base for tracing is so I could get light and shadows perfect and make sure they stay perfect for every single character and frame of animation(since you could use the same lighting for all of them.)

This brings me to another thing I noticed, there is this energy wave that Chun li fires in Street fighter 3 and I could(can?) swear that it was done in 3D and then traced.  It looks too damn good, and if it isn't...I'm even more impressed!

I hope they let me hotlink this, cause I don't feel like uploading it



Also check out this animation 

specifically this frame



Is this one frame resampled or something?  I mean I took a look at the colors and they aren't all over the place but maybe they resampled it within the palette they had.  Anyway I've always thought this frame was weird.

Rotoscoping needs good animators and also decent actors to work. Quite a lot of the big budget Japanese animation studios use rotoscoping for in certain situations and they make it work. Lots of the old Disney stuff used rotoscoping and they made it work as well.

I agree it can work, if you edit the rotoscope to fit more into the snappier speed of animation.  Animation is about exaggerating what is real and that is what makes it unique to live action.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2009, 04:20:38 pm by Mike »

Offline Gil

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #21 on: January 20, 2009, 04:24:09 pm
The only thing that frame teaches me is that the artist who made that has no concept of stuff like banding and AA...

Offline ptoing

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #22 on: January 20, 2009, 04:29:43 pm
I see no reason why the energyball thing should be made with 3D and traced. It's a pretty simple effects animation really. Anyone decent at animation could do that no problem

That other frame probably looks like that because they were using tools similar to DeluxePaint or Promotion which have stuff like paletted blurring and such. Also it only is on screen for what? 1 frame or something like that, so who cares how polished it looks really. Does not matter. These people were on a schedule.

Saying that animation is about exaggerating what is real is a crude oversimplification and generalisation. Animation can be whatever you want as long as you are a good enough animator.
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Offline PypeBros

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #23 on: January 20, 2009, 04:40:20 pm
i think the power of "a 3D model for tracing sprite" is a bit overestimated here ... or maybe 3D humans have much evolved since i last checked how they render, but basically, as soon as you move, muscles change in a way that makes most 3D modelers/animators will screw up.

Not mentioning that you will have to make that 3D model move in a way that matches physic laws ...
(again, professional tools may do this right by now. But i've seen countless walking 3D stick figures with 3DSmax that were just lame compared to Prince of Persia/Another World/Flashback).

Offline Mike

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #24 on: January 20, 2009, 05:06:06 pm
I see no reason why the energyball thing should be made with 3D and traced. It's a pretty simple effects animation really. Anyone decent at animation could do that no problem

That other frame probably looks like that because they were using tools similar to DeluxePaint or Promotion which have stuff like paletted blurring and such. Also it only is on screen for what? 1 frame or something like that, so who cares how polished it looks really. Does not matter. These people were on a schedule.

Saying that animation is about exaggerating what is real is a crude oversimplification and generalisation. Animation can be whatever you want as long as you are a good enough animator.

lol sorry I was quoting something I read in "The Illusion of Life Disney animation" book I didn't quote it verbatim though.

Are there any tutorials on how to do special effect animations?  I haven't seen any and unfortunately I won't be taking a class on it for awhile now.  Special effects is probably my weakest area in animation.

i think the power of "a 3D model for tracing sprite" is a bit overestimated here ... or maybe 3D humans have much evolved since i last checked how they render, but basically, as soon as you move, muscles change in a way that makes most 3D modelers/animators will screw up.

Not mentioning that you will have to make that 3D model move in a way that matches physic laws ...
(again, professional tools may do this right by now. But i've seen countless walking 3D stick figures with 3DSmax that were just lame compared to Prince of Persia/Another World/Flashback).

Personally I would only use a 3D model as a guide line really, so that I can get my proportions and angles right.  Sadly I don't even know how to animate in 3D yet.  I used to know how to rig a character using other 3D objects(bones) but now there is biped, physique, character studio, etc and I have no idea how to use those.

Offline Vercingetorix

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #25 on: May 26, 2009, 10:43:20 am
Mike said way back at the start of  this topic "I've also been told that the sprites in Symphony of the Night used 3D models, but that I don't believe."

I know this is an old topic but i can't help being curious - where did you hear the idea that Castlevania SoTN's sprites are based of 3D Models?

Offline Ben2theEdge

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Re: Using 3D models to trace pixels?

Reply #26 on: May 26, 2009, 01:24:19 pm
Quick comment on the Chun Li anims (I know they're old but I just saw)
Highly doubtful that they were 3D-traced. if they were it was probably just a very simple skeleton. The keyframes are all very solid and well-thought out, but if you look at the 'tweens they are actually not very consistant and they bend and stretch quite a bit - not a "bad" thing but definitely a telltale sign of hand-animating.
I mild from suffer dislexia.