When you have a project as specialised as demonstrating safety tools for the offshore platform industry, you need software that is as flexible as it is fast.
There were two immediate challenges facing Cian McGrath, owner and lead animator of CMG Designs. The first was understanding how a variety of safety tools designed for use on offshore platforms actually worked. The second was being able to animate a set of characters to actually illustrate that use in practice.
To get a handle on the first problem, Cian met with Offshore Handling Systems at a warehouse in Shannon, County Clare, Ireland. Each tool that the company produces was demonstrated to show how it is used in real life. For the CG versions, the client was able to send Cian STEP files of the tools that were originally modelled in SolidWorks.
It was a case of running the files through the PolyTrans 3D file convertor and into Cinema 4D. With the upcoming Release 20 of Cinema 4D, CAD import is a major focus. You can now easily import SolidWorks, STEP, Catia, JT and IGES files directly into Cinema 4D.
Then came the tricky part, as Cian explained, "The big challenge for us was the character animation. We have animated characters in the past where the movement required was minimal. This animation, however, required 16 characters to walk several steps before placing objects like containers and drill pipes into position with the safety tools."
To get things started, CMG Designs purchased 3D models of an oil rig, supply vessel and oil rig workers from TurboSquid. Fortunately, the oil rig and supply vessel were available in Cinema 4D format so didn't require any major changes, just setting up.
Cian revealed, "Of course, we needed to modify the oil rig as we needed the crane to function as it would in real life. You can do this very quickly and easily using Cinema 4D's powerful modelling tools and a little bit of XPresso. I must have spent a good 15 minutes just playing with the crane for fun once it was all rigged up."
It was then time to set up the oil worker figures and here CMG Designs benefitted from the fact that they were originally created and rigged in Cinema 4D anyway.
Cian pointed out, "As the characters were pre-rigged it was fairly painless to animate them. If the characters hadn't been pre-rigged it would have been extra work of course, but it would have been fairly straightforward to do using Cinema 4D's powerful character rigging tools. We just needed to figure out how best to animate a rigged character, but now that we have it won't be an issue for the next project that requires character animation."
XPresso was used for rigging many parts of the oil rig, like the cranes and drill pipes, but because CMG Designs has been creating animation since 2009 the camera movement and timing the character movements were fairly straightforward.
The first thing tackled was animating the drill pipe moving into position. Once CMG was happy with the timing Cian would then animate the characters before finally animating the camera. He added, "We like to keep the timing of the movements slightly slower then you would see in real life as this gives the viewer more time to see what is happening."
As well as the ease of working out the animations required, it was Cinema 4D's Take system, along with Layers, that made the project considerably more easy to manage. Cian described the difference it made, "Because the scene file was so large it would have been a nightmare if we didn't have everything layered. It meant we could solo certain parts of the scene that we needed to work on without getting bogged down."
"The Take system was also great as we could easily switch between scenes within the main file. It allowed us to change the lighting for each scene using a single light setup, without having to create multiple lights which we would have to turn on and off for each scene. We were also able to assign individual render setting to each scene so we didn't have to keep changing frame ranges, output files and setting each time we rendered a scene."
The lighting itself was a single dome light with an 11K HDR background image and Global Illumination. Half the project was rendered using V-Ray on CMG Design's two Intel Core i9 7980XE workstations running at 4.2Ghz on 18 cores, but, because of an eight week deadline where the client was attending a tradeshow in the USA, the rest had to be rendered in the cloud."
It was fairly tight but, as Cian pointed out, "Because we didn't have to fight with Cinema we were able to meet the deadline. It's very robust and intuitive. The tech support is second to none and the online community is strong."
Duncan Evans is the author of Digital Mayhem: 3D Machines, from Focal Press.
All images courtesy of CMG Designs.
CMG Designs Website
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