my first post *ever* about my PhD

I think I’ve fallen into a groove this  year of putting up one blog post a month. Not a brilliant track record but at least there’s some consistency. But then, I almost missed out on May. Just making it with this post. Sjoe!

So why the tardiness? I’ve been pretty busy – coding, modeling, texturing. All in the name of my PhD prototype which is, in a nutshell, a 3D storytelling environment for a certain museum in Cape Town. I’ve learnt a lot of things from scratch in building this prototype, picked up Blender and made a basic, animated human model, learnt C# (which was really easy if you know Java) and XNA (Microsoft’s free, yes free, kind-of-awesome games engine). I have also zoomed up my Photoshop skills to new heights in doing textures. This week  was a big deal for me. I demo’ed the first fluttering of the prototype to the museum where it was met with giggles and smiles (rather than the awkward what-the-hell-is-this silence I was dreading). I also made a video to send off to The Supervisor and demo’ed to a bunch of people in The Lab. So far so good. Lots to do but its finally on its way.

During this past month, I spent an inordinate amount of time texturing the first (of two) main storytelling models/avatars. It’s meant to be a representation of Noor Ebrahim, a guide at the museum and District Six ex-resident. Here he is in real-life:



I made a model whose geometry (and skeleton) was as simple as possible so that even a monkey like me couldn’t mess up the model too much during tweaking and animating. But, since the geometry was simple, I figured texturing his face  was really important. The ever-obliging photog Max Barners agreed to help out and took some awesome portraits of Noor (and Joe the other storyteller I am modeling) to help with this. So after much fiddling and diddling with UV map generation and painting in Photoshop, meet virtual Noor:

virutal Noor

virtual Noor

Ta-daa! Yeah, he’s not a patch the real thing and there are number of issues to sort out with him. Like, for some reason, XNA is lighting him with a blue-ish light for no good reason. I need to track down the reason for that. And I’ve coloured his shirt and pants and hands and shoes with solid colours for now. At some stage I should really give him some decent threads though. But he animates! He boasts a range of about 30 different short animation sequences and I’ve coded him so he can tell a whole story so far with scripted animations that match. Now I’ve moved on to making him a bit more interactive.


One Response to “my first post *ever* about my PhD”

  1. Rudy Neeser Says:

    It’s sweet that you’ve got things happening in your VE 🙂

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