Ann & the King: The Kong Chronicles

It’s been weeks and more since my two fellows in this project posted in the original thread, or have contacted me about their progress, so I’m for now assuming it’s now a solo endeavor. I’m adding in some stuff from the earlier thread for continuity, but mostly concentrating on the newest progress. This will require posting over a number of installments due to the 3-image limit per post. First, the old news.

Ann Darrow model development

The Ann Darrow model was developed by remodeling and costuming the generic female figure from my Universal Figures/Muscle System project.

Next up: Hellcat!

The planes attacking Kong in the original movie and Peter Jackson’s remake are, from all reports, Curtiss Hellcats, an aircraft for which it is very difficult to find adequate reference material. So much of my work is somewhat interpretive, but hopefully not egregiously in error.

The custom flight rigging took about a day and a half to design, build & troubleshoot.

hello chipmasque ! nice work here, Ann looks awesome ! what help u still need here ?

The tower of the Empire State Building, representing floors 87 - 103 from the main observation deck up, evolved along with the Ann, Hellcat and Kong models, and also required quite a reference search. The modern tower is encrusted with communications antennae, but was originally intended as a mooring for zeppelin aircraft. This latter idea was scrapped due to the unpredictable wind patterns that the building itself generated. I eventually added my own concept of the mooring mast’s apex.

At first I thought I would have to limit camera views to sky-BG-only shots, then stumbled across a 7k wide panorama of the city taken from the observation deck that was available in the public domain. I spliced this onto a glorious 4K HRDI sunrise cloudscape and applied it to a skysphere mesh, as well as using it to provide Environmental Lighting for the entire scene. The NYC panorama is contemporary but I could in no way pass on such a spectacular resource.

During the weeks of producing all the above I was also waiting for Kong to appear, a task initially given to another team member. But as nothing was forthcoming, I decided to tackle the King myself – as the assigned Animation Lead (a rather pretentious title, really), I needed something to animate! So once again I turned to my Universal Figures stock and began reworking the generic male figure to the physiology of a mountain gorilla. In this case, refs were more than plentiful.

I plan to be using the muscle system enhancement during Kong’s animation, so as well as adapting the rig and skin mesh, I had to reshape the muscle meshes to conform to the gorilla’s requirements. Scaling Kong to an 8m height (standing upright) turned out to be almost trivial, employing an Empty to which the model’s armature was constrained with Copy Scale. Worked like a charm.

PS. I’ve already been tutored on the proper configuration of Kong’s fingers for knuckle-walking – thanks Tonatiuh!

With all the actors and the stage construction completed, I’ve begun planning camera angles and shot sequences. The lighting had evolved along with everything else to the point where I felt it worked well with all models and portrayed the setting in a dramatic fashion, while looking quite natural for the wide-open space containing the scene.

Using standard day-for-night techniques, I plan to open the sequence with a peaceful sunrise awakening. These “storyboard” stills must be spread over a number of posts, so bear with me.

(cont’d in my next post)

Sunrise awakening (cont’d)

(cont’d in my next post)

Now the drama deepens as potential danger appears out of the clouds.

(cont’d in my next post)

New to my version is a sneak attack, as the lead Hellcat approaches from below while the target is distracted by the rest of the squadron.

(cont’d in my next post)

Now the battle really starts!

This is my progress to date. Comments & crits welcome.

Thank you, malhomsi. Right now no help is needed, but your offer is much appreciated! I’m just doing my animation thing, planning out the shots and camera angles, helping me identify any new resources I might need, and trying to get a handle on rendering requirements. It’s going to be a long process. I am considering switching to a Linux OS because of reports that Win10 & Cycles do not play well together in 2.78. I need all the help I can get reducing render times per frame, but that’s not something that can be aided by others, more’s the pity.

Nice & great work… appreciated.
some notes:

  • could make a “storyboard” instead of posting numerous images :wink:
  • city below is modern, should be drones & helicopters flying around and few crashing into buildings :stuck_out_tongue:
  • same ending? (really want to be surprised) :eyebrowlift:

Love it.

Thanks for the kind comments, burnin. This is my storyboard so far. I think to put the images up at less than “broadcast” resolution (HDTV 720p) would be to lose impact that the pics have at full size, particularly in the characters’ expressions. With hand-drawn storyboards, the drawings can be made to emphasize whatever the artist/director feels is most important. Not so much with fully-rendered frames, or even OpenGL previz frames. It’s also important to show a progress of scene development in the earlier pics, which is also in the old thread but not as succinct.

Incidentally, being able to put up more than 3 images per post would do a lot to relieve the issue you raise – double that would be great I think, with smaller images in the post window but still able to click to enlarge them.

My god this is absolutely beautiful! Has there been any progress lately? Is the project complete?

Thanks, KK. I’ve been back into the files now & then but no real progress simply because the per-frame render time is far too great to be practical. The latest versions of Blender do not produce very good results with the particle hair (no idea why not) and the workable version (2.76b) takes over an hour per frame with both Anne and the King in the frame. This is even with a comp barely a year old, 16Gb RAM and a decent graphics card. I’m limited to CPU rendering only – GPU/CUDA fails due to lack of VRAM (2Gb). No upgrades possible in the near future. I’ve tried many optimization ideas but no real improvement.

The long render times would be almost bearable if rendering did not also slow my comp performance by a large factor. That many hours being able to do virtually nothing else on the machine is just unacceptable. And unfortunately I have no budget for distributed rendering options.