Back on the grid

 3D Test  Comments Off
Jul 262016

Greetings, programs!


It´s been a while, so you may ask what we´ve been up to. Actually, we´ve never stopped working on the project, but to tell you the truth – we´ve just been terribly lazy bloggers, lately. So finally, and without any further ado, let´s put on some samples of what we´ve been working on in the meantime. Here we go:

Jumping right off with some tests we´ve done on the material and animation (the latter as shown further below) for the Gryphon´s booster. In my first attempts, I combined a particle system with point density using volumetrics (pic 1-5). But since Meikel correctly favours a rather more scientifically firmer approach, he proposed to use a combination of several elements fitted with animated textures, instead (pic 6, after compositing). What a difference! Still wip, but looks kinda cool, so far.















Next one is some model tweaking that Meikel did on Jeff´s bridge.







Meikel has also been working on PBR (i.e. Physically-Based Rendering) shaders to give our metal surfaces a little more finesse. The first reveals a test on some parts of the cockpit, the second shows dirt and decay applied to the staircase that Meikel has just finished modeling.









Coming up next is fire and smoke. This is rather self-explaining – once I did Tornado 1 and 2 based on a fine tutorial on blender´s wonderful short-film “Cosmos Laundromat”, I´ve tried to apply the particle-settings (taken from the tornado´s set-up) to the “crash”-sequence. Damn tricky stuff…










There goes my very first hair simulation. Somehow, I start to admire hairdressers…






An experiment on a matte background for some of the sequences that take place on the planet´s surface. The foreground is a 3D mesh, the background is just a 2D montage made from Mars footage provided by NASA, and then mapped on a semicircular plane.






Modeling optical nerves has been great fun. Here are two stills. You´ll find a few seconds of animation further down below.






Never boldly go where no one has ever gone before without a decent razor!






Last but no least, here are some wips of the planet´s surface taken from different angles, altitudes and lighting. I´ve also tried to design some sexy looking rocks, a pebbly surface and bizarre looking plants. You might recognize Jeff´s proxy on some shots – I wanted to have him in the scene to give me a bit of a feeling for the right scaling and perspective.


















As promised, here are also some bits of animation as well. Three wips of footage that might be seen on the Gryphon´s computer monitors.




The next two clips reveal how our opical nerves might look like when being in motion. Again, this was really much fun. We came up with a mix of texture painting, a particle system and an emission-based shader-node. I like the way these tiny hair-like tentacles respond to Meikel´s animation.



And finally – it´s once, twice, three times a booster.




It´s been almost five years ago that we´ve started talking about an idea that eventually turned into “Membrane”´s script, and which will finally lead to a short-film that will hopefully blow your balls off! :)

So stay tuned and sharp!



Oct 112015

Greetings, programs!

This edition revolves all around our latest work on what we just call “The Surface”, i.e. the vast and remote surface of Tupper´s planet. As you may have already learned from our recent experiments on that model, this one´s not too easy to finish. Though being guided by our reference photographs depicting the natural world or just taken from movies, it wasn´t easy for me to learn how to reproduce those fascinating textures and shapes in the 3D world. For example, how to map textures accurately, to create low-poly rocks that would somehow look believable in the scene while handling the overall poly-count and reduce render times to a reasonable level.

The following figures shall give you a little look inside creating the latest draft of the planet´s scenery:
This one´s showing a test I did on low-poly rocks, shading and textures. Still using last year´s material.







Generating the surface I started with a 400 by 400 m flat (and rather high-poly) plane, applying so-called displacement-modifiers to change the mesh´s original topology into a different shape.
In this case, procedual textures were used to lay down the plane´s new shape:







Using the rocks as a group of objects to patch them into a particle system:







I´ve accidentally bumped into a turorial on blender´s Ivy Generator which I thought might be handy to bring some more live into the scene. Also attached to a particle system. And – sunlight turned on:







A third particle system has been used to spray some pebbles on the surface:







Sometimes you just fall in love with the possibilities of lighting up a scene, fiddling around with different settings… so this one has a sky texture, a sun and a blueish hemi-light shining from above.
Finally, I used the compositor to give it some subtle mist layer:







The scene´s not finished yet…next step is baking textures respectively applying normal- and bump-maps to a low-poly surface-mesh. We´re curious about it…
See you soon & take care!









Sep 212015

Greetings, programs!

Although you haven´t received any news for the last five months we didn´t stop tinkering. So today´s issue is about some cool progress that Meikel has achieved in designing Jeff Tupper´s space-suit. In March last year, we´ve presented its basic model that Meikel had transformed from our production designer Mathias´sketches (see our blog´s relating entry). Back then, he still used the good old poly-to-poly-mesh approach that already delivered much vital information on how to go on with both suit and helmet, detail-wise.

As the next step, using dynamic-topology Meikel took this model as a template for further details. He then finished with a rather explicit sculpt-model ready-to-retopologize. But since he emphasized on the basic mesh´s consistent flow of face-loops, he was able to adjust its new topology in order to bring in all those fine details that the precursor high-res sculpt possesses. Though it´s not completely finished yet, you might get a great impression of how things are actually developing. So the two figures reveal the latest version of Tupper´s suit. Patrik Solanki´s “Dynamic Sky” free add-on was used to experiment with the lighting.

Enjoy! See you soon!


May 252015

Greetings, programs!

With Jonathan Lampel´s great tutorial on cgmasters we´ve finally found the perfect way to set up some rather believable explosions. So I basically recreated his approach to test blender´s smoke and fire simulation. As you can tell by the animation, I made a beginner´s cardinal lighting-mistake, though: Never present an explosion when it´s lit up against the camera´s perspective, otherwise the smoke will appear too black…
With render settings adjusted on “final” and 16 samples, my brave computer has been calculating on 120 frames for four long days. The bottom link reveals the final test result coated with a sound sample from my foley library.
So turn it up and enjoy watching!

See you soon,



May 082015

Greetings, programs!

Tonight´s edition reveals Meikel´s latest achievement in retopologizing Jeff´s space-helmet. Once you compare its older version (which Meikel has done poly-by-poly a few months ago) you might detect the advantages the dynotopo-workflow adds to the show. I think it´s really awesome!
Meikel provided a turntable-snipet that´s linked below – Jeff´s new helmet in all its glory ;)

Speaking of snipets: I again have dealt with the smoke simulation, this time trying to come up with an animated test of a smoke trail that´s emitted by Jeff´s space-capsule on its way to the planet´s surface. These 5 seconds are rendered in low-low-low resolution, so don´t worry – the final result, of course, shall look far better. I´ve only wanted to find a way to control the smoke´s trail.

Anyway, thanks for your encouragement and for stopping by!
Stay tuned and take care!
See you soon,

Here are the links. Enjoy!

Apr 242015

Greetings, programs!

Open your eyes and rejoice – this month´s edition comes with indeed two new clips.
But first things first:

It´s banal to mention that in (3D-animated-)filmmaking there´s lots of things to deal with, but I guess it´s basically all about these two domains: How to set up things you want the audience to see, and then to present them exactly the way you want them to be presented.
Now that we´d spent some good amount of time on designing, modelling and going through that good old trial-and-error-routine, we´ve thought it would be some kind of welcoming relief to eventually make up our minds about the photographic style of “Membrane”.
Two years ago we´ve been asked about our own science-fiction movie-favourites. Surely most of them had been produced back in the 80s, but it was very difficult for us to define what had generated that visuell magic, back then, after all…was it the cool spaceship-designs? Mechanical visuell-FX? Lighting? Motion blur? The celluloid´s graininess? Of course! But how to transform all those factors into the 3D-world, making the show look like it´s been done on REAL film?
How to deliver a punch line?
Discussing things like the camera´s focal length, motion blur etc., Dan Brown has given us some great advice on that. So we´ve used some of his expertise to revisit the set-up of a scene we had dealt with before: The planet and the rings…tedious work on the rings…I´ve tried with the smoke-simulator first, but the results didn´t look really cool until Meikel finally set things up in the compositor. At least I made my first attempt in animating the camera´s movement with a “path”, which basically works like a virtual dolly. Well, trial-and-error, here we go again…;)

While working on Jeff´s little sleeve-computer, we´ve re-discussed the suit´s design, and Meikel detected an encouraging article by masterxeon 1001, presenting his workflow on hard-surface-modelling, which (towards constructing a geometric basically wireframe-based model) seems to be more efficient and fun. So, the second clip reveals a sculpted version of Jeff´s space-helmet, given a proxy metcap-material and done by Meikel.







Enjoy watching, thanks for stopping by, and see you soon!

The fly-by:

The helmet:

Mar 062015

Greetings, programs!


Today we´re finally gonna spoil you with an animation test we did on the diaphragm´s model that Meikel has been working on for the last two weeks. It´s been really hard work: First, we´ve studied on some real life´s references to get a deeper understanding of a diaphragm´s mechanics. Then, Meikel started the modeling process trying to use modifiers like array, subsurf, edgesplit and finally armature to gain animation control in the most efficient way.

Texturing-wise, we´ve been running a few tests on dirt´n decay shader, some of them written in OSL, some home-made, but for the animation test we´ve just used a relatively simple node tree working with procedual textures.

Enjoy, and see you again, soon!



Happy New Year!

 Modeling  Comments Off
Jan 202015

Greetings, programs!

This year´s first update sees us making pretty good progress in modeling the props: Meikel has just finished one of our film´s major elements which refers to one of Jules Verne´s most famous stories  (just a hint: that story takes place mainly underwater…). As you can see, the design of this, well, window-like construct, is quite different from other components you previously might have seen on our blog. In comparison to e.g. my today´s contribution (an astronaut´s drinking bottle and an ordinary soap-dispenser that Jeff uses on the “Gryphon” while being in space) Meikel´s window itself doesn´t look too convenient, which is just intended:
As some of you already know, “Membrane” is set on two, say, main-stages: The real world, and the Other World. So whenever we reveal some new “work in progress”-material, you might tell only by its design to which part of the story it belongs to. Sorry that we still keep so many details secret and unspoiled, but we just really want to surprise you with the finished film.

If we keep laboring maybe we could rather finish the modeling process in a few months time. Let´s find out! :-)
Thanks for joining us, and have a happy New Year!

See you,

Dec 102014

Greetings, programs!

Today´s update features some photos depicting loads of tests we´ve been doing recently. Before we´ve taken an excursion onto our film´s second major set (i.e. a remoted planet), Meikel had found a great way to lighten its open-air scenery. Ben Simonds had experimented with Open Shading Language codes and has been kind to share his results that are based on a 1993´technical paper written by Tomoyuki Nishita discussing a model for rendering Earths atmosphere. It actually is difficult to explain how the math works, because we (as Ben himself) don’t 100% understand it anyway, but with Meikel´s expertise in tweaking the code´s script we´re now able to use it for our purposes. The shader provides damn cool results, don´t you think?

Jan-Eric from Blender Club and Zacharius from AgenZasBrothers have given us great input in finding some handy ways to texture big scale-landscape surfaces.
In the meantime, I´ve tried on some “alien plants” that I´ve put in the proxy scenery below. The next days will see Meikel working on experiments with “dirt and decay”-OSL-shading. We´ll keep you in the loop!

Enjoy watching, thanks for following, and take care!
See you soon!


Blue Note

 3D Test  Comments Off
Nov 112014
Render um 6 Uhr

Greetings, programs!

It´s been a long night since we´ve taken a long look at my first rig I did on the cryo´s piston, we´ve been observing Rosetta´s way to a hopefully successful landing on the comet a while, and we did some improvements to the console´s keyboard. Took some time to come up with some reasonable key´s shading and IOR, but then again, it´s just a wip.

Cheers, see you soon!





Nov 062014
Oct 102014

Greetings, programs!

This time, we got back to the Gryphon. Meikel has detected a free-to-use high-poly model of the original Space Shuttle (Orbiter) Flight-Deck, which had been kindly provided by KuhnIndustries over at blendswap (big shoutout to all the guys at blendswap and kudos to KuhnIndustries!). We´ve taken some bits and pieces of that, tweaked, scaled, rearranged and shaded them for our own purpose.  And so, we´re proud to present a glimpse upon Jeff´s cockpit.

Enjoy and take care! See you soon,


Aug 132014

Greetings, programs!

This is one of those typic “summertime” kinda short updates: While Mat has taken his family on vacation, Meikel just returned and so we continued modeling the props. blender laid again some wonderful new features on its latest version (e.g. baking is now possible running the cycles render engine, which is very cool, and the smoke simulator shall as well kick some ass!), so we just couldn´t wait to get our hands on the keyboards.

As you can see, this picture again shows elements you normally wouldn´t connect to anything but a “typic” science-fiction topoi: A baroque chair, a table and a standard lamp? Humph…sounds intriguing somehow. Anyway, these are key parts of a very special scene in which we´ll combine many honorable citations from some good amount of science-fiction cult-classics….maybe you can already guess the quote by the furniture ;o)
The scenery may look a little bit dark, but that´s intentional for the final shot itself will be rather dark, and we just wanted to get an impression of “how dark” we can go.
The table comes with some nice pieces of scrollwork that Meikel had started to sculpt out of the table´s geometry at first, but then decided to just give it a decent bump map – which just worked pretty good!

Now that we´ve spent some months on designing and modeling stuff linked to Jeff´s spaceship (the Gryphon), we enjoy moving to different sets like the planet´s surface, caves, surrealistic looking places that you might find fascinating and never-before-seen.
Besides, the piece below is one of the first that Meikel and I have done rather together. It´s good to know I finally start to advance, ha!

See you soon, and take care!

Jul 082014

Greetings, programs!

Mat showed up our workshop last night to present some fresh 3D-visuals of the banister for the spiral staircase. As you may probably notice he hasn´t worked with blender on that one but a different tool which for obvious reasons I rather don´t want to plug here. Anyway, we like the banister´s style very much, and so we´ve continued tweaking around until we´ll find the final shape. Here´s a shot from our workshop.

Meikel has given thought to our propfiles` structur – something that has indeed nothing to do with modelling or design, but is important when it comes to administrate our whole data in the most sensible and effective way – so he layed out some both very suitable and quite easy-to-follow rules to bundle various files in distinct file-groups.

Finally we´ve tried to experiment with some of blender´s new features – the speaker object. Now that feature seems to be very cool, for it´s supposed to provide you fully control over mixing the sound in blender; but sadly we couldn´t find out why our test didn´t work yesterday. So…that seems to be my homework for next week.

Take care, and see you soon!





Jun 302014

Greetings, programs!

If memory serves you right, you already might have guessed it – due to the footy match Germany vs. Algeria we´ve decided to skip tonight´s production meeting, indeed. But don´t worry, as we won´t leave you without the promised render of the hour glass-model which is admittetly a minor prop in the film´s final sequence, but then again good practise for me….

Enjoy the championship!

Take care, see you next week!


Jun 262014

Greetings, programs!

…and again, geez, it´s been quite a while…as you know, we´re having the footy championship around, our demanding bread&butter´s jobs stuff…but we´ve been indeed productive as well, nevertheless: Mat came up with wonderful new sketches of the spiral staircase, which is a key element to one of the film´s most regarded design aspects. But Mat took his drawings back to his workshop, so we shall present them next time.

My latest approach to both my hourglass-model and the computer-monitor frames got a “Yes” from Meikel, chaka, but then I´d rather like to tweak a bit with the glass material to get you a better render…next time ;)

Today, you´ll get to see Meikel´s fire-extinguisher. We´ve sat on texturing that one for hours, and it´s not because of lacking of skills, but maybe because of some blender´s internal problems. Anyway, there you go!
Take care & see you soon,


Jun 102014

Greetings, programs!

sorry it took us a while to update the blog…blame it on Cologne´s tropical heat slowing us down a bit. No kidding, we´ve been haunted by heavy thunder storms that made sleeping impossible, but working also…well, back to the topic: The following prop is Jeff´s belt buckle which comes with a locking mechanism – you just rotate and then push the disc element in the middle to open the lock. Mat has made its design, as our friend Hannes provided the logo-design itself. Meikel introduced me into the basic secrets of the edge split modifier, so now I´m finally half-way cool in shaping round edges without using sub-surf all the time. We´ve worked with another texture map at first, but then I tried something different to make the buckle look like scratched up metal.

Can you guess the name of the company Jeff is working for?

Take care and see you next week,


May 212014

Greetings, programs!

Tonight´s update provides something very special for you: My first totally acknowledged set of models! Remember all my trials shaping some minor props on the show? All that work in progress concerning basic stuff like forks, plates, knifes, cups, thermos, pots etc.? Well, there you go, as every Monday, Meikel and I shared our usual inspection procedure upon the recent workflow before Mat would show up… but this very time, the WHOLE bunch of my stuff finally got greenlighted! That really means much to me since now I reckon I finally got on the right track considering modelling, so I proudly present…

Having said that, the figure above shows some elements of Jeff´s kitchen utilities. Again, minor stuff, but then…stuff that just helps to make the scenery credible.

Besides, not to forget to mention, we´ve been tweaking around a lot with THE alarm-clock everybody´s talking about, you know, to give its lid some proper texture; to make its diffuse/glossy/transparent-shaders work together (….which´d been quite a bitch for some good reasons, but Meikel´s luckily still confident on that). I´m sure you´ll get to see the result of his work next time!

Enjoy, take care and see you next week!







May 132014

Greetings, programs!

Meikel and I continued modelling THE alarm-clock yesterday night, i.e. Meikel did, while I did the good old learning by watching. Seriously, he´s taught me some fine tricks to handle a decent UV-mapping if the going gets tough. Generating alpha- and UV-maps takes some good amount of both patience AND Photoshop-skills – but in the end, as you can see below, it IS always worth it.
See you next week, take care,


P.S.1: Did anyone already figured the movie from which we´ve taken the “Parazonic”?
P.S.2: Yo, my third prop got greenlighted – it is a CUP :)

May 112014

Greetings, programs!

Last week we´ve continued processing the props: Mat provided his latest sketches which Meikel again turned into 3D-wireframe. It was a very special night for me since it was the first time for two of my own models to get a green light. Guess what it was….it was a plate and a knife. I can already see the credits saying “Additional modelling by Holcha” Well, now you´re laughing :o)

Meikel got me something very special last night. As you might recall we try to bring joy to you coming up with some famous props taken from movies that are seen as pop-culture. (Long sentence, sorry.) Anyway, Meikel started building this very, very famous alarm-clock that we´re going to use in a key shot. Take a look! Of course it´s not finished yet, but I already love it!

See you in a couple of days, take care,