Thursday, October 15, 2009

Using another of Ray Keim's paper model templates, I completed this short animation exercise recreating the animatronic tombstone found outside the entrance to WDW's Haunted Mansion attraction.

I made some minor modifications to the original graphics to animate the eyes and also changed the design of the base to look more like that of the actual installation.

The model and animation were created in 3DS Max.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Trial Run

In 2004, graphic designer and animator Ray Keim created Haunted Dimensions--a website tribute to Disney's Haunted Mansions and all things
generally spooky. What has most distinguished Ray's website from other tribute sites is his creation of numerous paper model kits available free to download and construct.

Though the models are intended to be printed and cut out for assembly, I thought it might be interesting to simulate that process digitally--essentially creating pieces of mesh based on the shape of the graphics and then assembling them (mostly) according to the original instructions.

It makes for a great exercise in modeling at the sub-object level.

The initial idea was actually to do this with Ray's model kit for the Liberty Square Haunted Mansion, but I thought I'd start a little smaller and see what I might be getting myself into. So I started with one of the less complex models--the Liberty Square entrance pillar.

Anyone with an affinity for The Haunted Mansion, modeling, or both should visit Haunted Dimensions and browse through all of the galleries and look at the model kits.

Ray is also a seasonal designer with Universal Studios Orlando and works on the design team for the annual Halloween Horror Nights event. Check out his blog (The Mansion Observer) for more on his work at Universal.

This model of the entrance pillar was created and rendered in 3DS Max.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

After reading his initial post on the forum at, I contacted the author of the blog The Zeitgeistarium about using his design concept for a Haunted Mansion-themed theatrical stage set in a 3D modeling and animation exercise.

He graciously gave his permission and here is the final visualization.

The first big obstacle was the spiral staircase, which is always a little tricky whether you're working in SketchUp or 3DS Max.

The next challenge came in the animation stage with reproducing the ghostly footprints effect as seen in the recent enhancement to the attraction. I'm sure there are multiple solutions, but mine was essentially a series of keyframed planes with instances of an image sequence and alpha channel sequence.

Then came Constance, the ghostly bride. Using an edited video sequence from an excellent fan video (, the video loop was applied to a couple of bent planes with an alpha channel and many tweaks to self-illumination and RGB output to make her visible. And since the source video was shot only from her waist up, I had to figure out a way to "fudge" the lower portion of her gown as she walks to the balcony railing (just don't look too closely, please).

I'm still not happy with the lightning effect at the end, but it will do for the purposes of the exercise. Keyframing a light to simulate lightning is--quite literally--a nightmare. I had to go to the Graph Editor in Max and use a waveform, but even with that there is a problem with variance because of the uniform wavelengths.

Laying the audio tracks was probably the most enjoyable part of the video compositing.

Special thanks to Kenneth Macleod for the use of his concept and design. See more of his projects at The Zeitgeistarium