Happy Wheels Reloaded: Segway Guy

Hello, everybody!

I haven’t posted much on the forums in a while (though I have still been lurking a bit). There’s been so much work to do, for myself and for other people. But I wanted to share one of my current projects for Classy Dog: the follow up to my original Happy Wheels video. I made that video 3 years ago, and in that time it’s gotten about 7 million views. So for this video, I want to push the bar a lot higher and make something that will hopefully blow the original out of the water.

The film is essentially a man riding a segway down a city street, avoiding obstacles and people.

Due to limiting factors (mostly the fact that I’m the only person working on it), the video will be almost entirely CG. So it’s a bit more work than a live-action video would be, but it will allow for extra possibilities that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. I’ll share some more images from the work I’ve done so far in the next post.

The two most important pieces of the puzzle for this video are the environment and the rider. For the environment, I’m using lots of shots of buildings from CG Textures, and just creating low-poly models for those textures to be projected on. I’m also using Bitmap 2 Material to create normal maps for the buildings, just to give them a little more believability and help them integrate with the lighting more.

I haven’t put together most of the buildings yet, so what you see here is just the textures themselves. I still have to go in and create the sides of the buildings to make them look better/more interesting.

The road and sidewalk was bought on Turbosquid (it came with 4 other road/sidewalk choices). It was a bit of money, but I knew I had so much more important work to do, I wanted to get the road sorted and done with, especially since everything is built on it. I’m pretty happy with it.

As I mentioned, the other big component is the rider. In this case, I needed a Segway and a suit, again both bought on Turbosquid (I’m not paid to advertise TS, I promise!). The Segway model was okay, but it took a little bit of work to clean up some nasty looking topology.

Since I’m playing the character, I just need to scan my head and add that and some hands to the suit, and it should be good to rig together with the Segway.

I’m not sure how the rig is going to be built yet, as there are a number of events in the video where limbs are removed, or even the entire body cut in half. It may just require multiple rigs of the same character to be used, depending on what the shot calls for.

By the way, the reason the Segway has big tires instead of the normal smooth ones is because the map was originally going to be off-road. Here’s a render from one of those earlier tests:

That happy Wheels video cracked me up!

I think this next one will be pretty cool. Can’t wait!

Good to see you doing another project, James. The render with the segway in the street looks fantastic and very promising. I like the lighting, the motion blur and the shaders. Are you doing the motion blur in post or is it rendered?

Anthony - Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I really hope this one will be many orders of magnitude better!

minoribus - Good to see you here! I hope your work has been going well. I always enjoy working on lighting and materials, so I’m glad to hear you like them. The motion blur is rendered in camera. I hadn’t considered doing it in post yet, but it’s something I will think about.

I ordered a few more assets from Turbosquid tonight (hands for the character, a fire hydrant and some telephone/power poles). I also bought the Action Essentials assets from Video Copilot, as there are some really good blood and destruction effects in there.

I also remembered a model I had from a previous project, and decided it would be useful here. So I hacked it up and separated out the buildings from it. You can see them on the right side of the lineup:

I think these models will help to sell the realism of the environment a lot more, and the simpler models I’ve been making can act as fillers. Here’s another view with the extra buildings:

Here’s an extra render just for fun. I’m also thinking of going with a very wide aspect ratio. For one, I very rarely use it and it’s a simple way to make the video feel more cinematic. And two, it will cut down on render times, which are already getting a little long (I think about 6-7 minutes per frame). Fortunately I have my other (new) computer which will help reduce render times significantly once I get to that point.

The buildings look great. Especially the second shot is very appealing - in terms of CG, of course :wink: Do you have any plan for the environment already?

i like that second shot of the buildings, too! But i notice that those drainpipes are duplicated on two of the buildings and don’t really do anything. :eek:

The road and structures look top notch James…are you considering adding any road markings?

harley - It’s great to see you again, as well! Just like old times again! Thanks for the kinds words, and yes, I was just thinking that the other day. I want to add some yellow and white markings to the middle and shoulders. Maybe some bike symbols or other stuff, as well as those reflective plastic markers that you sometimes seen in the middle of the road. As it is now it’s a bit bare. I wish I knew how to add decals to the material (like a decal they would use in a game), but I have no idea if that’s even possible in Cycles. It would be an easy way to add potholes and cracks to add some interesting details to the tiling road texture.

Anthony - I noticed the repetition as well, once I placed them side by side. It might look a little silly, but it does add some extra detail which I like, and I think as long as I don’t place them too close together in the video (and maybe add some props in front to add variety), I think they will work well. There should be enough going on in the foreground that duplicates won’t be too obvious (or so I hope!).

minoribus - Thank you! I assume you’re asking about the events of the story that occur in the environment (correct me if I’m wrong). “Story” might be a bit grandiose for this video, but as a special insight for those of you taking the time to follow this thread, I’ll share the whole outline here. It will be interesting to use as a comparison to the final video. If you don’t want to see any script spoilers, just skip ahead to the next post!

Happy Wheels 2
Sad music plays (or just sad ambient sounds). Body parts are strewn along the ground. Something is hanging from a hook? An axe is spinning mindlessly with a foot stuck to it. A Segway lays toppled on it’s side. Blood is everywhere. A severed head tracks into frame. The eye twitches. “Restart Level”. The body parts move in reverse, like a tape rewinding. Blood spills back into the body. Limbs reattach to the torso. The Segway fall into place under the feet and hands grasp it. The head flips through the air and lands perfectly on the shoulders. Strange slow motion sound design to compliment these events. The man takes in a deep breath as if finally breaking through the surface of the water.
The body, finally together, rockets backwards, back to the finish line, for the next run.
“Your goal is to… Survive. Again.”
The music starts.
Segway Guy rolls through panes of glass. Easy at first, gradually harder. The last one is very thick, it takes a second hit to get through.
At the neck test, his head is stretched very far from his body, impossibly far, but he manages to squeeze through.
He passes a man directing traffic and enters the construction zone. Someone is using a jackhammer. A man pushing a wheelbarrow is in front of him, he jumps over the wheelbarrow and into the man, knocking him down and landing on his head, crushing it. He jumps and runs into the side of a porta potty, which a man just went into. Screams are heard from inside. (Maybe three porta potties, all three tip over?).
The sidewalk ahead of him is blocked off. He turns off the sidewalk and is immediately hit by a car, and flies backwards into a garbage truck just as the garbage is being compacted.

Instead of turning off the sidewalk, Segway Guy jumps and blasts through the barricade. He jumps and lands on a guy coming up from a manhole, crushing him. Mini obstacle course with stand-alone weapons and workers holding weapons. And jet engines. Wrecking ball smashes him into building (or into vehicle).

Maybe a mini montage of death and gore here, many failed attempts?
An arrow (or harpoon) misses him and hits the driver of a steam roller, causing the machine to drive into a fire hydrant. The water shoots up, Segway Guy drives into it, and is propelled up and over the wrecking ball. He drives over a bumper pad, which sends him upwards, into a speed booster. He flies upwards, narrowly avoiding death on the spike walls on either side of him (but still losing an arm). He lands on a rooftop.

Balcony Terror drop. He drops from balcony to balcony, seeing some of the characters from that level. People say things. Someone shouts, “Boy, don’t make me get my tractor!”. Someone calls the police on him. There are also jets here. One of the jets catches him, and sends him flying upwards, into a helicopter. The blades turn him into confetti.

He falls from the balconies, avoiding rockets and people/bodies. At the end, he grabs onto an umbrella and floats gently down onto the ground.
He rolls merrily forward. “Finish Line ->”. Strolls past that sign and up to an area that says “99.9999% impossible” or “implausible”. A tank is there (and fires at him) as two trucks collide head on and floating bombs go off. Harpoons and crossbows fire into him, and he just has to get over a wall and cross the finish line. He does it in one go, amazingly. Maybe all that is left is a chunk of meat (his heart). It achieves victory and farts to death.

This past weekend I bought a couple more props that I needed, and set up their materials. I find it quite relaxing to take an existing model and textures and tweak material nodes until you have a result you like. Here’s a render with the new power poles and fire hydrant.

I’ve also started working on the obstacles for the video. It’s interesting trying to create “real life” versions of these game items. Sometimes it’s quite straight forward and simple, and other times you have to deviate quite a bit from the game version for it to look good. Here’s the jet engine obstacle- I’m not sure yet if I want a cover on the front or not, I like how dangerous it looks with the bare turbines spinning.

After a long delay, I’m finally back to updating this thread! I had a collaboration with another channel that I really wanted to focus on and complete. Now that it’s finally finished, I’ve returned my attention to this project.

Currently I’m in the process of importing another Stonemason model, Urban Sprawl 3, into Blender. It took about two hours to set up the materials for this first building, and there are many more to go (around 50 I believe). It’s a tedious process, but in the long run I’ll be able to use this “set” on other videos this year, so I hope it will end up saving me time in the long run.

The set also came with some vehicle models, though they will mostly be used for the background since they are pretty low poly.

And of course I’ll still be using the environment models I posted in previous threads. This will just be something additional to help fill out the space for shots where more is seen, and to add some extra variety to make the video more interesting.

I’ve almost got all the Urban Sprawl 3 assets set up and ready. Here are the bulk of them that I’ll be using:

I just hope that I’m able to load all the textures onto the GPU at render time. The files aren’t big, but there are a lot of them!

Damn, this a very nice work :o

Nice materials, James! The outline of the shots in post #10 clearly shows how ambitious this project is. Animated characters, fluid sims, collisions, to name just a few of the challenges :slight_smile: From your previous works I know that you will master them and it will be fun to follow your progress.

Looks awesome!

Papounetman - Thank you! I’m glad you like it!

minoribus - Thank you! Yes, this is probably my most ambitious project to date. Fortunately, most of the work are things I have some experience with, so the learning curve shouldn’t be too difficult. It is mostly just a matter of keeping track of knowing what needs to be done and staying organized, and of course making time to experiment to find a result I like best.

Aiduss - Thanks so much!

Here are some test renders from this past week. One idea I had was to render part of the video in an orthographic perspective. I plan to use multiple views in this video (as opposed to the single camera view seen in the first Happy Wheels video I made), and I thought it would be interesting to see what an orthographic/isometric view would be like, especially since it would be an impossible thing to do in real life. The render times shoot up when rendering orthographically, though, so I may only use it sparingly.

Below is the orthographic render. I like it because it also gives a strong silhouette to everything. It combines the benefit of a wide field of view (which you get from a short lens) with the flatness you get from a long lens. So everything you modeled is clearly visible in the scene, and stays in the shot longer even with a moving camera. The orthographic view also means green screen footage is easier to composite convincingly, because there’s no changing perspective even though the Blender camera is moving.

Still a lot of work to do!

Interesting that an orthographic render increases the render time. I wouldn’t have expected that. But I can clearly see the long lens effect. If used in the animation it could have a bit of a parallax effect like in some (older) games, which could be an interesting reminiscence.

I had the exact same thought, minoribus! I think it would be nice to see a little bit of parallax mixed in with the orthographic view, so I plan to use a very long lens for some shots like that. It could be appealing to have some telephone poles or other objects moving by the camera in the foreground.

I’ve been continuing to work on the video. Sebastian Zapata rigged the character’s body for me, and a lot of other assets have been prepared. There is still a lot of work to do, but I’ve begun pre-vizing the video. Here are some test renders for you.

Awesome update. I’m still fascinated by the lighting of the renders. Especially the one with the headless guy on the segway :slight_smile: Did you told us already how you did that? Is it an HDRI? Also, the motion blur in that render is a nice touch.