BEHIND THE SCENES

COME ON IN
                                  ... or visit my TOOLS page

WHERE I COME FROM WHERE I'M NOW WHERE I'M GOING
I have been interested in music, animation, photography, electronics, and computers from a very young age.
My first two books at the age of six: one about a cute penguin, and one about computers. Linux didn't even exist (Unix v1 did). At the age of nine I started with organ and after a few years also piano.


More After keyboards, samplers and synthesizers I mainly use my digital Roland FP-5 piano and digital B3-style Hammond XK-3c organ in combination with Propellerhead Reason, a virtual music studio with all the instruments and effects equipment we could only dream of in the seventies. Reasons Pitch Edit mode for monophonic sources is ultra cool and allows me to sing without frightening the neighbors. It offers new possibilities for self development.

Learning to sing is much like learning to produce narrations. You think you can talk, but you only hear how bad it is when listening to a recording.
During recordings you need to suppress your accent, articulate well, control your breathing, and on top of that you pay attention to emphasis, accents, tune, sound, rhythm and speed.

And then the sound of your voice seems completely different each day and depends on mood and physical condition like fatigue and even the amount of milk fat or caffeine. Even after so many years, every production is another challenge, at least for me. The good news is that you do learn how to sound less bad. Besides that it's a lot of fun.

Photography started early with my own camera and a b/w doka. When I could afford it, that b/w doka was replaced for a color doka. It proved to be a forerunner for my video activities, much later.

Electronics was initially practically limited to simple DIY projects and lot's of electronics magazines and books, many were related to musical instruments, but that changed with avionics training in The Hague. Nowadays I hardly touch a scope or soldering iron.

On the Commodore-64 I learned to program in Assembler and I bought my first 286 PC in 1987 that I used to learn programming in C and C++.

My first introduction to animation at an early age were story slideshows from Disney. And their movies. And their magazines! Unfortunately you need lot's of drawing skills and, in those days, expensive 8 mm film equipment so that was not really feasible. When DVD was introduced I bought every nice animation production on the market - I still do!

Then I bought the book Adventures in Ray Tracing and I was instantly in love with the 3D computer animation technique that let you render images on a computer, based on mathematical formulas. The included computer program POVCAD (it still exists) needed about one night on a 486 computer to render a marble ring. A few weeks after that, I read an article about LightWave 3D v4 in a magazine and I decided to buy the program on sight. It wasn't cheap, but not as expensive as others. This was the start of my love affaire with LightWave 3D and it still continues after soo many years. Learn more about the history of LightWave 3D on YouTube or Wikipedia or in the LightWave 3D 2018 documentation. In those days ILM stood out with their first Jurassic Park movie and Pixar started their business. With every movie production, their results (and our tools) became better and better.
At work, over the years I moved from Avionics to IT to 3D to AV, Narrations and VFX to Interactive 3D productions. But I never moved completely away from it all.
At home, I'm preparing for an independent 3D animation project that includes singing, story development, acting and voice acting, and of course animation. Not for money. Just for fun!


More
To support this production I'm developing my own tools, LW-link for Vegas Pro and Legato for LightWave 3D.

Producing entirely in 3D would be overly ambitious. Instead, all backgrounds will be VFX compositions with footage from cameras, like this simple demo. Nowadays I'm experimenting to improve skills and help in hatching a number of ideas. There are still a few older exercises on my Vimeo page.

I can relax in our garden at Amstelglorie. Far away from wall outlets and large computer screens.
I want to produce at least one animated short before I die. And I hope to pursue the necessary skills from the animation style of the 1940s which I love so much.
Even if I fail, I really hope to have fun en route!

Adam Backwards is the 3D character that I've had in my head for a long time. Although he is sometimes underestimated by his small size, it often turns out to be his great strength. His somewhat unusual solutions are not always well received, but he always means well.

Welcome to the universe of Adam Backwards!




IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS NOTHING

Sooner or later I would design a figure that would have the potential to captivate the public for a longer period of time. An original figure that was completely mine, protected by Dutch and EU copyright law. A figure that could grow with my skills and ambitions. With a 3D model that didn't take ages to render.

DISCOVERING THE RIGHT TOOLS

I've been a loyal LightWave 3D user since v4.5 of this software in 1995. From the start, LightWave was known for its affordability, excellent render quality and ease of use.

In later years, it became more difficult for NewTek to attract new users with innovative updates and interface refinements, but fortunately that is precisely why LightWave has retained much of its character.

The announcement of LightWave CORE around 2010 did not suit users who felt they were forced to participate in the adventurous development of completely new software, with a completely different interface but without much backward compatibility. That uncertain strategy was stopped and NewTek decided to introduce innovations more gradually, while losing valuable time.

Now in 2019, the backlog has not yet been completely eliminated but fortunately the situation has improved a lot. The updates appear more often, in number and quality still in line with the price and the number of paying customers.

Many customers are very satisfied that NewTek has never succumbed to the much hated software subscriptions. Simply add missing functionality through other software, or write your own plug-ins, and you still have an excellent 3D package to earn your living.

For me, LightWave remains the center of my 3D modeling and animation activities.

My Legato plug-in for LightWave contains a range of tools to improve the processes around character animation. For details, visit my TOOLS page.

THEN  ADAM  CAME



My first Adam character in 2005.
Copyright © 2005- by V.D. Mesman, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, EU. All rights reserved
Adam was born on a cold Tuesday in the winter of 2005, in LightWave 3D 8.2, in our home on the fourth floor of a monumental warehouse in the historical city center of Amsterdam. In the soft light of romantically shimmering canal lights of the Oude Schans, we named our little guy Adam_v000.lwo. He weighed a healty 57 kB and was saved on January 25, 2005 at 21:34 CET.

The most important characteristic of Adam that I wanted to give him is to be genuinely kind.
In order to keep his character in balance, he may occasionally be a bit quick-tempered (I naturally reject any resemblance to myself). You have been warned: no jokes about his nose! It's a delicate subject.

In the years thereafter he grew into a cheerful boy and his model received many changes and improvements, mainly at the head. These refined details give me more possibilities for emotional expression. Combined with his rig (a skeleton that drives his bones and muscles), Adam magically comes to life.
Adam enjoys that life and developed many interests. He loves science and technology, and he likes to design (anything!) in order to solve problems or to make life easier.

Adam also enjoys all kinds of music but he is intensely passionate about opera singers, and he likes to scare his neighbours with his own music!

His original rig has been replaced since the introduction of Genoma in LightWave 3D. I've added custom parts to control the facial muscles. In time his rig will become more complex, depending on animation needs and technical challenges.

Experiments with fur made it clear to me that such techniques would distract too much from my initial goal: learn 3D character animation. Maybe I'll add some fur when he grows up! That would make sense, doesn't it?

The same applies to his wardrobe. For now I'm afraid that clothing is optional.
I promise to add some clothing in the future but first I'll be working on his moves!


My latest Adam character in 2019.
Copyright © 2005- by V.D. Mesman, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, EU. All rights reserved

WITH A REAL WORLD PURPOSE

BACKGROUND FOOTAGE

The world around us naturally produces rich images so modeling an entire virtual world for my purpose seems to be overly ambitious. Camera images provide a much more practical and flexible solution. In addition, identifiable locations can have a positive influence on a production.

STORYWISE

The interaction between the virtual world and the real world can trigger many interesting plot turns, or motion details that strengthen credibility. It makes it easier to respond to current local issues.

FRIENDLY AS ALWAYS

character

In the future, Adam needs an antagonist with opposing interests, and a sidekick who supports him. For now I'll limit myself to the development of Adam as a protagonist.

As stated above, Adam's dominant characteristic is his genuine kindness.



FLEXIBLE FACE

ADAM'S FACE




Adam's facial rig needs more attention but even then it's easy to spot how well
he comes to life, just by slightly changing the controls in the area of the eyes.
Copyright © 2005- by V.D. Mesman, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, EU.
All rights reserved


I wanted Adam to have a very expressive face that was not necessarily photo-realistic and could withstand explosive emotion changes. At the same time, his facial muscles should be easy to read so that the subtle movements do not lose their power of expression. See below for yourself how much influence the eyelids and eyebrows alone have.

Genoma is LightWave's fully extensible autorigging system that converts its rig definition (hidden in the model itself) into a useable rig, after loading the 3D model into a 3D scene.
Since Genoma doesn't have ready-to-use presets for facial rigs, I've developed one of my own. The controls of his facial muscles remain in neutral position while their rotation is driving the rotation of a bone that has been parented to a null inside the skull.

The result is that the bone tip seems to be driving a piece of skin that's sliding over the skull, without penetrating the skull. This is important to prevent the mass of the head from ever changing with every muscle movement.


Within limits, the controls work pretty good and the deformations are not too bad. Future improvements will be focused on assisting with extreme expressions, like pouting lips, improved flexibility of the cheeks, and better deformation near the hips. Also the mouth corners are too thin and could use more controls for precise skin manipulation.

DEVINE BODY

ADAM'S BODY




Extreme poses easily identify weaknesses.
Copyright © 2005- by V.D. Mesman, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, EU.
All rights reserved

Adam's expressive head is working reasonably well up close, but for communication at a greater distance he needs a flexible body that does not distort with extreme poses or natural limitations, and has to distort when he needs it. For example, to make his poses more interesting and energetic with a clear Line of Action.

The Line of Action is the curve that defines the meta shape of a body. It accentuates motion, speed, gesture, and intent. Watch this video made by Matt Jones to get a better understanding about Line of Action.
Can you spot the strongest pose in these examples? Note that the weaker poses lack a clear Line of Action.

These are experiments with Adam's body rig, a Genoma preset enhanced with custom built joint type deformations that preserve body mass. The messy deformation issue with his lower body is on my to-do list. I'm still discovering the possibilities and limitations of this rig to figure out a best approach.

ANGELIC VOICE

lip-sync speech


Copyright © 2005- by V.D. Mesman, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, EU.
All rights reserved

While talking, lips and cheeks should only express a phoneme or a phoneme transition on the syllable level. Expressing every single vowel or consonant would result in a very hyper active style of talking that is not very realistic.
Also, the lips and surrounding muscles must express a constant certain mass and associated inertia. But even then the result is somewhat mechanical. Something seems to be missing.

It's the emotional expression that pulls you into the story!
At least if there is a story to tell.

For this reason it's much more productive to start with layout to check if the face is actually visible at all, then continue with voice acting to get the timing of the underlying emotions and goals, then enhance the performance with physical acting, then finish with lip-sync.

Usually I prepare the lip-sync process by posing the eyelids, eyebrows, and cheeks first. When the global expression has crystallized I start with the first movements of the jaw and the lower lips. From there is easy to refine the details of the lips and surrounding tissue.

A VINCENT MESMAN PRODUCTION

PROJECT STATUS

Please come back later for the latest updates.


1 / 9
Adam the entertainer
2 / 9
Adam in a good mood
3 / 9
Adam a bit skeptical
4 / 9
Adam still awake
5 / 9
Adam still young
6 / 9
Adam doesn't mind a classic pose
7 / 9
Adam in the kitchen - does it blend?
8 / 9
Adam slightly uncomfortable
9 / 9
Adam in a nostalgic mood

TO BE CONTINUED

Copyright © 2005- by V.D. Mesman, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, EU. All rights reserved