Week 1 (5/24 - 5/30)

So I moved into my apartment in Philadelphia the day before my research started. It was a little rushed, so I was certainly anxious. It was hard to sleep that night, because I'm not very good with meeting new people. The next morning at the lab was great though. Most of the students working were all starting that specific Monday, so it was a big welcome for everybody. In the lab I have a partner who was always chosen through the DREU program, Kourtney. Together we got assigned to our project. Interactive Control of Non Humaniod Characters. We met with the head research professor, Alla Safanova, and we figured out exactly what our project entailed. Kourtney and I were both excited to get started. However we both knew little about how to actually get our project up and going. So the first week consisted of a few things. First, we completed a lot of Maya Tutorials. We both have never used Maya before, so we spent a good 4 days going through most of the tutorials and trying to learn the basics of this program. We also got hooked up to a Vicom motion capture device. We both learned how to set up, take, and clean motion captures. Along with this we also used foot pressure sensors in order to gather further data. Our specific project will not focus on foot pressure sensors though. By the end of the week I felt like I knew a lot more than I did 5 days prior already. I'm excited for week 2!

Week 2 (5/31 - 6/6)

This week has gotten a little more intense. Another PhD student has come back from vacation and returned to the lab. She is the main student overseeing our project. We had Monday off because of Memorial Day. But Tuesday we started up strong. I started moving from just Maya tutorials into something that would contribute to the overall project. I built a character in Maya, a 3 dimensional non human character. I made my character very blob like, along the lines of Ditto from Pokemon or Bob from Aliens vs Monsters. Together Kourteny and I have to decide how to map out motion captures with a human skeleton onto our blob characters that lack such a skeleton. So we have to decide what will move on our character when a human's hand, leg, head, etc moves. We are taking a script that does all of the calculating of translating and rotating of the joints and bones that lets a human move, and we are altering it to fit out blob characters. I am trying to use the deformers in Maya to achieve this. I am also reading up on Maya programming techniques so I can try and fully understand that architectures of Maya. This should hopefully make using Maya easier to understand in the future. There is still a learning curve I have to battle in order become knowledgeable in Maya. 

Week 3 (6/7 - 6/13)

We worked on using the deformers in Maya all week this week. Kourtney and I both got very frustrated with our progress. We both found it very hard to work with with C++, Maya, and writing Maya plugins. Maya just did weird things sometimes, and we didn't always know what was going on. It was definetly a learning experience to say the least. Unfortunately, we weren't happy by the end of the week. We expected to be done mapping out our non human characters with pre exisitng motion capture data by the end of the week, but not everything went as planned. There were two meetings this week for research students in computer science. The first was a tutorial on Matlab. The second was an introduction on how to search different sites for research papers. Both were extremely useful, and we got a very good free lunch out of it! After we found out how delicious the lunches were, we decided we must attend every one of these. There should be one next week too. I also did something very fun this week too, on Friday night Kourtney and I took a break and we went to the ballet in Philadelphia. We saw Romeo and Juliet. It was amazing! I've never been to a ballet before, so it was really nice to be able to see one. Then I went to dinner at Chima, a brazilian steak house, on Saturday night. It was delicious. I want to try more resturants while I'm in Philly.

Week 4 (6/14 - 6/20)

So we finished four weeks of work in the research lab. We still are working on the same thing we have been working on for the past two weeks straight. Kourtney and I are getting more and more frustrated and discouraged with our work and progress. We are getting a little further though. I'm hoping we can get it done this next week. We have some more ideas that we will try, so it's possible we can accomplish this task. We also went to another meeting for undergraduate students. This time we had a presentation on how to make really detailed and awesome power points. It was really interesting to see all the stuff that could be done. We really enjoyed it. Over the weekend Kourtney, my friend Rob, and I went out and roamed around town trying to find an Italian place for dinner, it took a really long time. I should have looked exact locations up before we left. Then the next day we went back into town for the touring production of Avneue Q. It was great! I'm so glad we got to do those fun things over the weekend. It really helped relieve some of the frustration from our failures at the lab. I'm determined to accomplish something this upcoming week!

Week 5 (6/21 - 6/27)

This week has gone really well. Kourtney and I finally got both of our characters to move correctly with motion capture data. We are SO pleased. It feels great because it finally feels like I've accomplished something. After we got our characters working, we got instructions on what to do with the next step in the project. We started streaming motion capture data from the Vicon system. We are streaming this into Maya via a C++ Maya plugin. There will be a few problems we will have to deal with. For one, the motion capture data isn't streaming rotations. So we will have to manually compute rotation in order to get our non human character to rotate the correct way. I believe this will be the hardest part of this step in our project, but if we can get this working correctly the hard part will be over. Kourtney and I are both excited. After the week was over, Kourtney and I went to out to dinner and then saw the touring production of Dreamgirls! It was awesome. I had a great time. Then on Saturday we met with one of the PhD students in the lab, Aline and we all walked around Philadelphia. She showed us many of the places we haven't seen yet. So it was great being able to check out the other side of Philadelphia. We also saw the USA vs Ghana game on a big screen TV on the side of a building in Northern Liberty. It was exciting!

Week 6 (6/28 - 6/4)

This week we worked with moving our characters using motion capture data that is being streamed from the Vicon system. This week was VERY sucessful. We got the markers for the motion capture to appear, so it looks like a person is moving. Again, the problems we had had to do with the characters translation and rotation. With the pre recorded motion capture data we used in the first half, there was a root rotation and a root translation we could work with. However, using the streaming motion capture data, we were not getting that information. So Kourtney and I had to figure out a way to make our characters rotation and translate with the motion data another way. Using math, we were able to find a way to make our characters rotate and translate correctly. We considered this a HUGE sucess. Unfortunately, sometimes the motion caputre loses 'markers', the places where the body parts are labeled. This makes things difficult, because when a marker dissapears, our character looks jerky. This is obviously not very ideal. So we have to figure out a way to fix this. We also met with our mentor this week and she gave us some more things to do. We had to make a PDF of different characters this method could potentially be used on, list why some deformers work on some characters, and why some don't, make more characters to test with, and read a few more papers. I went searching through all of the 2D disney movies and all of the 3D animated movies that were released. From those, I took the non human characters that acted or moved like a human and made a PDF featuring them. It was an extensive list. This weekend was also the 4th of July. It was exciting to be in Philadelphia for this event! My mother came and together we went around the town and saw the sights. Unfortunately, we were too tired at night to walk to the fireworks. But it was a lot of fun watching them from the roof of my apartment building as well!

Week 7 (6/5 - 6/11)

This week was filled with disappointment. Our characters were still jerky by the end of the week, and we were really beginnig to run out of ideas. Hopefully we can get everything running smoother this next week but we're still not too too hopeful. We also began modelling different characters to use. Kourtney modeled a Gumbee and I started modeling Totoro. This was my first experience modelling something semi complex in Maya, so it took a lot of trial and error, and took me a long time. I spent all day Thursday modeling him, and he looked terrible. I tried again on Friday and he looked very boxy. I wasn't very pleased with him, so I think I will try again next Monday. We found out that with other, more complex characters, the code we have doesn't work as nicely. Their body parts don't flow with their body and everything looks very choppy. But this could also be our inexperience with modelling in Maya. We will both try and improve our characters and how they move next week. Over the weekend I went home to NJ with Kourtney. We had a FANTASTIC time. We went to six flags on Saturday, and it was awesome. While we did get lost, and ended up driving an extra 60 miles... when we got there, the trip was well worth it. It had rained all morning, so the park was pretty empty. Almost no one was there and we were able to just sit on rides and not get off. It was awesome! The next day we went to the beach. It was a beautiful day, so I'm psyched we got to go! Unfortunately I got pretty badly sunburnt... But hopefully it'll turn tan! Only a few weeks left of this program!

Week 8 (6/12 - 6/18)

Another week… Done! I just finished week 8 of the program, and I feel like there is a ton of work left ot do! I’m working on making my Totoro model move properly, and I was just going to use deformers. But this week Kourtney and I decided to use IK splines on our character. They are moving a lot more natural now. After we get it perfected, we can hook up the characters to live motion capture data. Then animations can occur in real time! However, there is still some work other than that left to do. Kourtney came up with the idea to make an interface for our project. So our goal is, by next week, to build an interface, so the user can select parts of their 3d model, tell the system that it is the models right arm, left arm, left leg, etc. and our program will automatically fix up joints and an IK spline on the model. It will also have some other features as well, but we have to see what we can get done in the next week or so. It’s a lot of work, but we’re both hoping if we put in some extra hours we can finish it. We hope to complete most, if not all of it, by next week so then when we go to SIGGRAPH we don’t have to worry about it. And when we return from SIGGRAPH, we have a week to mainly relax, play with a few things, and do some last minute fix ups. Hopefully this all works out! I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

Week 9 (6/19 - 6/23)

So this week was interesting. We tried to get as much done with our code, unfortunately it didn't exactly work. We must be programming something wrong, but we can't quite put our finger on it. However, the program is started and it was working menus and has potential to function well. Also, other than our coding problems, randomly our characters, when hooked up to the motion capture suit, will bend at the waist and flip around. It was quite frustrating. Also, another problem we have is if the markers get hidden our charactrs really can't follow the correct motions and they end up following the motion captured foot, or hand, and not the root. Unfortunately, we aren't entirely sure how we can fix this problem. Towards the end of the week though, the anticipation was growing for our trip to LA. SIGGRAPH 2010 was just around the conrer. Kourtney and I were anxiously waiting for our flight Saturday night.


So we went to LA! SIGGRAPH 2010 in LA! I was so excited and the excitment lasted throughout the entire week. This was such a fantastic conference, and I learned so much while being there. I also met a lot of really awesome people. The first day we got into LA, we really only had time to check into the hotel and go to IHOP, but the next day the conference began. We got there about 11 and picked up our badges. Sunday was a bit slow but we learned a lot! We checked out animation in Maya 2011 and learned the basics of ZBrush. After that we went to a course on Build your own 3D display, which was really really interesting! Last for the day was the technical papers fast forward, we got to listen to all of the people that would be presenting papers throughout the conference try and get us to come listen. It was a lot of fun and it was nice being able to see everything that was going to be spoken about. That night we grabbed dinner at a mexican resturant and crashed. The next day we had to get up earlier. There was a lot more to do. We went to see a talk called, Rendering Intangibles. They talked about Shrek, Alice in wonderland, fur and photon density. It was really interesting! After that we headed over to see painting tips in CS5. It was so awesome seeing this demo. The presenter really knew a lot and showed us a lot of neat stuff. Also, this was the first time I saw the new Cintiq tablet. It.was.so.amazing. I want this tablet so bad, having a tablet as a monitor is just amazing to me. Unfortunately it's very expensive... After oogling at this, we moved on to catch Don Marinelli's talk. He was a keynote speaker at the conference and is one of the guys who runs the ETC at Carnige Mellon. He was a fantastic speaker, and made the talk great to listen to. After that we went to go see the Making of Avatar in the Geek Bar. The geek bar was awesome because you got a headset, and could watch any of the eight or so talks that were going on, so I flipped through a bunch of the talks. We checked out the Shorts and Longs animations screenings, and let me tell you. It was really weird. Maybe I just didn't know what to expect, but a lot were very strange, and some were just disgusting. I didn't enjoy myself as much as I thought I would. We finished the day at the conference with the electronic theatre. Now that, was amazing. There were a lot of great peices being shown and it was fantastic to see. I loved the animation that was shown here. After that we went out to dinner with some University of Pennsylvania alumni. It was a ton of fun. The next morning we went back to the convention center to check out some other talks. In the morning, we first checked out the exhibition. It was so awesome! I loved seeing so many companies in one room and all of the products and books that are out about computer graphics. Just walking around was fantastic. After this we went to hear Jim Morris speak, a general manager from Pixar. He gave a really interesting talk about how far computer graphics have come throughout the past 50 years or so. He mentioned movies that I didn't even know used graphics, such as Forest Gump. (Though now it makes sense that it did...) We went to tips and tricks of digital artist after this talk and learned about how to get into the business as an artist. Though I'm not exactly an artist, it was very informative nonetheless. I also won a drawing! I got a free tutorial DVD. I can't wait to watch it! Then one of the talks I was looking forward to the most came up, Visual Style of How To Train Your Dragon. Now this is one of my favorite movies, so seeing this talk was amazing for me. It was great to see how far this movie came from when it started, it was so different! Kourtney and I are both glad they changed the plot and the movie ended up like it did! We checked out Dallies! A little bit later, here they showcased a bunch of the best works from people who attended the conference. They each gave a 2 minute talk and preivewed what they did, or how the did it. It was a great way to end the day. Wednesdays schedule was fun as well! We went to the making of Day and Night. It was great to be able to see how that was made and where the ideas came from. What a great short! We took a break for a while and headed to the geek bar after that. We watched how Alice and Wonderland was made and listened to a talk on Perception, Presence & Animation and Advances in Real-Time
Rendering in 3D Graphics and Games II. We then got into listening about some papers as well, until a friend of ours asked if we wanted to check out another part of California, Burbank. After finding out we did not win a drawing at the Intel booth in the exhibition, we left and headed out to Burbank. It was great to see another part of California. We saw the different studios there and went out to an awesome dinner! (Japanese food!) After that his brother joined and eventually we all went to the beach to hang out. It was a blast, I'm so glad I got to see somewhere out side LA and it was a lot of fun! Thursday was our last day at the conference, we were quite sad. We started the day at a course called, Advanced Techniques in
Real-Time Hair Rendering and Simulation. This was probably Kourtney and my's favorite talk. I love the concept of 3D, computer animated hair. Making it look relasitc is so facinating to me. It was a long course, from 9 - 12:15, but it was worth going and learning about how they make it, their suggestions, and how to render it in real time. It was a great way to basically end the conference. The talks after this were good, but no where near as interesting. Also, the conference was starting to die down in general, the end was quickly approaching. By the end, Kourtney and I were exhausted and happy when we finally got on the plane to come home. Though we were tired, we had a great time, so it was almost sad to leave. I really enjoyed being in LA and the conference was a huge eye opener for me. I learned so much while being there and really gave me a good idea of what I'm going to need to accomplish if I want to make it in this feild of work. Overall, it really made me excited and ready to accomplish what I want to do.

Week 10 (8/2 - 8/6)

The last week. Wow. What an interesting 11 weeks and they flew by. So much has happened and looking back, I feel like I have accomplished so much. Though overall, it probably shouldn't have taken as long as it did, I'm very happy with the progress that was made! This week was basically a week to wrap things up. Kourtney and I are stlil thrilled about attending SIGGRAPH, but we knew it was time to get to work. We put some finishing touches on our characters and got them working well enough to do some real time demos. We spent all day Wednesday recording videos with us moving in a motion capture suit, and our characters mimicing our movements in the background. It was so much fun making these! We also made a presenation explaining what we did the past 10 weeks. We had to present it on Thursday to a group of people. The presentations were voted on by all the students and prizes were given for the best project and presentation. The rest of the day we just worked on our final paper and recording some more videos. Our research professor, Alla, wanted a paper written explaining some extra features that the DREU paper would not necessaily need and our code had to be fully commented so someone else could pick up where we left off if need be. There is still so much that can be done on this project to make it better, more efficient, and more useful. If it is worked on more, it could really turn into something that can be widly used. I loved working here this summer and I hope I get the chance to do more research in the future. This really opened my eyes to what can be done with research in the computer science field, especially with computer graphics. Also, this has really gotten me excited about applying to graduate school and applying to jobs. I can't wait to learn more about computer graphics and try and reach my goal of acquiring a job in the field of computer animation.