Earlier this month we were invited to visit NTU, Singapore. Our Dr. Nelson Chu gave a talk titled "The Quest for Digital Ink: developing tools for Painting, Calligraphy & Animation" (Abstract & Bio) on 20th Sept 2019, jointly organised by the School of Computer Science & Engineering, the Alibaba-NTU Joint Research Institute, and the NTU-UBC LILY Center. Dr. Chu shared his journey developing digital brush and paint dating back to 1999. We also met with folks from Cacani the animation system.
We also took the chance to visit the Singapore Zoo, and used Expresii on a 2017 Surface Pro to do some sketch there:
We miss the food there already. （*´▽｀*） We look forward to visiting Singapore again!
Expresii is being used for producing the animated feature film Red Squirrel Mai 紅松鼠米高. Do check out the teaser above (those from China can see it here)! This film uses Expresii extensively - both animation background and foreground are drawn with Expresii. The teaser video is shown at Hong Kong Filmart 2019 earlier this month. We thank Ink Culture Ltd and Rooftop Animation for producing such a meaningful work - this animation is the first one made in Hongkong/China that has a distinct style different from all previous works. It's been only less than two years from the setting up studios in Hong Kong and GuangZhou.
Seeing the teaser of Red Squirrel Mai for the first time reminds me of my feeling when I first saw a Kungfu movie of Bruce Lee - it's different from all the previous 'ink wash animation' I've seen! - Nelson Chu
Note：You need to watch it on 4k uncompressed to really appreciate the difference. Previous "ink animations" often use fume or make things blurry to give an impression of ink. In contrast, the teaser of <Mai> shows texture that is never seen before. 現在的動畫大都是‘單綫平凃’，而之前的’水墨動畫‘基本三類：1 用CG’雲烟’當水墨，2. 把東西 ’模糊化‘ 當水墨 3.用真的水墨筆觸貼圖。而此《紅》樣片出來的效果是有質感的！這個你必須要用4k 原片才感受到。網絡的FHD 版本太失真了！。。。所以才說像李小龍功夫片，李小龍給你的感覺是’真功夫‘，其他人的動作就是沒那麽快，不是同一個層次的。
Ink wash animation is a proud product of China from the 60's to the 80's. Nowadays, many attempts have been made to modernize ink wash animation. Our Expresii does provide a refreshing visual style that couldn't be achieved before.
One of the film Directors of Red Squirrel Mai Angela Wong draw Mai the squirrel, the movie protagonist, on the spot:
Visitors can get a glimpse of of the production processing:
Our Nelson demonstrates calligraphy in the show:
And also some doodles (after the famous comic artist 草日 from Hong Kong):
An inkjet printer was also setup there to print artwork done with Expresii on the spot:
We're lucky to encounter Kumamon as our Mai just stepped out of our booth: ^_^
P.S. Now you know why we have to put up a notice forbidding new users to use Expresii for making feature films till later in 2019. ^_^
We were excited ever since the first Surface Book came out in 2015, since it gave the option for a discrete GPU. Now we have a chance to test with a Surface Book 2, thanks to Microsoft for providing the hardware for testing.
We are provided with the 13.5" model. Coming from the 12" Surface Pro, I like the bigger screen size. The hardware feels really solid and clean. And of course, with an nvidia GTX 1050, we get very good performance, although it gets a bit hot and the fan would kick on.
You need the base
When you detach the base, the GPU performance drops significantly, so you would like to attach the base when you use Expresii. In fact, when I detached the base and held the tablet part only, I realized how convenient the kickstand of the Surface Pro is! Note that the tablet part doesn't have any USB port (or video port), so you can't really use it in place of, say, a Surface Pro. I believe they designed it for only brief detachment like for the case of quick presentations.
See the calligraphy process video in Youtube:
Hong Kong-based artist Shuen Leung tries out Microsoft Surface Studio and Surface Book 2:
Shuen does artwork in both traditional and digital media. She specially likes Expresii for its ability to undo. "Expresii 是可以undo 的 水墨!" (ﾉ´ヮ´)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
Have you thought about making comic with Expresii? Here we show the process MEERKAT OJISAN produces their comic with Expresii:
STEP 1: Make a sketch on paper by hand
STEP 2: Digitize it into your computer
STEP 3: Trace the sketch with a dry brush using the Underlay (or Overlay) function in Expresii
今天，我們介紹一下 狐獴大叔 (ミーアキャットおじさん) 是怎樣用Expresii 畫出水墨漫畫來的：
步驟 3：用Expresii 的 ’背景圖像’ （ ‘前景圖像’ 亦可）功能導入草圖，以乾筆把草圖描成線稿
STEP 4: Switch to another layer and put down wet ink
This is what it looks with 'ink work' added to the 'line work' in Expresii：
It's so organic. Look at the subtle details! (ﾉﾟοﾟ)ﾉ
With 12k output, you'll have no problem making a large print of your work if you need to. 👌
Here is another example 這是另一範例幅:
STEP 5: Export a snapshot as PNG or PSD (alpha supported; layers preserved in PSD) or do a Copy (Ctrl-C)
STEP 6: Import or Paste (Ctrl-V) the image into Photoshop to do some color adjustment
STEP 7: Frame and add text (using third-party tool)
步驟 5 ：匯出畫作為PNG 或 PSD 圖檔 （支持 alpha；PSD 還可保留圖層），或拷貝（Ctrl-C）到剪貼板
步驟 6：匯入或貼上（Ctrl-V） 到用Photoshop 調一下顏色
That's it. Here is the finished piece 這樣一格漫畫就大功告成啦，看完成圖 :
February went too quickly. On the last day of Feb, we took a day off and visited some friends in Tai Po, Hong Kong. We also took the chance to get some inspiration for sample sketches.
Now with "Whole View" window, you can always check the overall balance (thanks to a user from Japan for his feedback). You can reposition and resize the "Whole View" window to suit your need.
Expresii Lite forces us to draw in only one single color. We have to rely on positive and negative texture to create value variation. Expresii's eraser is your friend for negative texture!
Zoom in to do the details and use the "Whole View" window to check the overall look.
If it's not for the recent nvidia driver issue with Expresii, we'd have made an announcement to call for more artists to try Expresii Lite preview. We notified nvidia about the issue but we never hear back from them. Hopefully this could be resolved soon. If you're an nvidia GPU user and you can't wait, you can still enjoy Expresii Lite by using an nvidia driver version 345 or earlier. If you're *not* using an nvidia GPU , great, just download Expresii Lite Preview and try it (and give us some feedback)!
Expresii Lite is something waiting to be discovered. Try it yourself to see why early adopters are saying that it's the most organic among all the tools they've ever used!
Finally, we wish you a happy and prosperous Year of the Goat 2015 !
Let's try some Chinese Brush sketching! 走，試毛筆速寫去！
[Continuing from last entry] So we took the W5 out and tried sketching on it with Expresii Lite. Frankly, the W5 is not a powerful machine and the frame rate is only 35-50 FPS. While you can easily get 10 hours of usage for an iPad, the W5 only gives you less than half of that, like 4-5 hours. The W5 doesn't come with a built-in stylus pressure curve adjustment tool (Wacom's driver does) and the larger Hanvon stylus feels too hard on the W5. We will add an adjustment tool in Expresii to help with the situation later.
[續上回] 今回要試試拿 Pipo W5 用 Expresii Lite 出外寫生了！因w5 比較慢，其實不能‘速寫‘啊，筆劃如果太快會出角，畫者要自我調整。還有W5 續行一般，只有4-5 小時，比較下 ipad 則可以有10小時。那支漢王筆用起來比較‘硬’，要適應一下，我們之後增加軟體筆壓調控到Expresii 去改善情況好啦。
We found that unplugging the machine from power doesn't affect the drawing frame rate. This suggests that the CPU throttling works really well in lowering the CPU frequency while you're not painting, and increasing it while you are. 沒接電源，感覺沒影響繪畫速度，都是 35 到 50 FPS。
I ended up doing only rough sketches and then finished them when I got home, with the luxury of a Wacom Intuos 3, which gives me stylus-tilt sensing.
最後還是把sketch 帶回家來完成，而且忍受不了 W5 沒有筆的斜度感應，用回wacom的 intuos 3了！W5 是一部完整的Windows PC，是可以連接intous的。以下是完成了的作品，隔天帶回原地對比拍照，呵呵。
Tip: hold the stylus vertical to the surface, so that the pressure gets registered.
I was so tempted to slant the brush when I need to do texturing, just like in traditional painting - only to be frustrated by the W5 not supporting tilt sensing and that a too-tilted stylus won't get its pressure registered.
If for sketching with the W5, the pros and cons are:
Granted, the W5 is not a perfect sketching tool, but given its price which is only 1/12 that of a Wacom Cintiq Companion and 1 / 5.3 that of a Surface Pro 3, you should consider it if you are on a budget.
用W5來畫畫並不完美，但它的價格是最便宜那款Wacom Cintiq Companion (US$1800) 的1/12，最便宜的Surface Pro 3 (US$800) 的 1 / 5.3，初心者可以考慮 (btw, Cintiq Companion 其實挺重的)。期待下一批 Core-M 跟Cherry Trail 平板於2015年的出現，並希望廠商可以加入筆的斜度感應，配合我們Expresii 軟件，打造完美的毛筆水墨寫生利器!
Update 12/31: The maximum output size of these sketches generated by the W5, which has only 2GB of RAM, was 5,120 x 7,680 pixels. If you load the artwork on a desktop with a discrete GPU, you can easily get 8k x 12k.
測試發現，用W5輸出，最大為5,120 x 7,680，但你可用家裡有獨立顯卡的電腦讀進作品檔，就可輸出高達 8k x 12k 的圖檔了！
Check out the 5k x 7k output at here.
Update 1/6: The following are screenshots showing you the details of one of the sketches we did (in case you can't watch the youtube video above). It's amazing what such a small device can handle.
In 'Girl with Ice-Cream', we demonstrate how one can create various patterns with just one virtual brush. In other painting apps, you may need to collect various bitmap patterns as your 'brushes' - which involves a lot of mode changes. In Expresii, you can simply go by with one brush and use stylus pressure, tilt and speed to create different patterns. You will enjoy the expressiveness like never before digitally. Demo was done in Expresii Lite.
一支毛筆，有很多可能性。這裡我們示範，用一支筆來做出不同的肌理。不同你用開的 PS，SAI 或 Painter 之類。
來，重拾筆的味道，今天就來試一下 Expresii Lite。
3. 用少量墨水 (1-2%) 跟平均壓力做出絲線
See a quick demo below. 也配了示範視頻：
BTW, this cute girl depicted is actually comic artist Little Thunder from Hong Kong. Look for the photo in her Facebook page we painted this demo from. :-)
We love Junggi Kim's work so much that once we saw an interesting drawing of his labelled 'Brush pen on paper' in it from his Facebook page, we thought, can we redraw this with our virtual brush and get a nice "brush pen" quality digitally? The result is shown in the following video:
Expresii Lite's Overlay function allows you to load an image and trace over it. Watch the above video and see how organic the brush strokes are. It's really a dream come true for digital artists!
The following is the final digital image we made. However, it's scaled down so, again, watch the above video in full HD to appreciate the organic quality please!!!
This video shows a quick demo of Expresii running on a laptop with NVIDIA 750M and WACOM Cintiq Hybrid. We just love the multi-touch manipulation + pen control provided by the Cintiq. We also show a shot of using GUI to adjust the moisture and surface tilt. Remember to view it in full HD to appreciate the quality of the rendering.
片裡有用GUI操控水的示範，請用Full HD 觀看。新的Cintiq Hybrid 還讓你用手指觸控來把畫面放大和平移，實在太爽了！片裡使用的是配有NVIDIA 750M 的筆記本電腦，算是中等級別的GPU。