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    After the cyber girls of Maxims moved on, Liam Kemp has gone on to work on 'The Normals', another personal project a little closer to the gritty reality of life. 'The Normals' tells a tale of an experience in a public lavatory. "Nothing too sordid," explained Kemp.
    This is a look at a small group of normal people, as opposed to the glossy models from the previous major project for Maxims. A football crowd perhaps. The 'every man.' The Normals. More images from the project, which is still in production, are below.

    The Normals has been a full-time commitment for the past three and a half years for Liam. “During this time I've taken on occasional contract work in order to give me just enough money to fund the project,” h e explains. “Very fortunately, I have always been compulsively creative, and so have never had to deal with any kind of artist's block.

    When I decide to start a project, I don't allow myself the option of turning back. This gives me a clear path ahead for progressing with whatever I choose to do.
    While working, I do feel I get 'inside' my projects, as opposed to them being inside me; though this does have its benefits and consequences in equal measure."

    Clip from 'The Wonderful Life.'
    Liam Kemp admits to being continually fascinated by human behavior and everyday life, and this is a key to what drove each of his projects. “When I was an art student," he explains, "we were told to carry a sketchbook around with us and just draw people in public places.

    I was always more interested in just observing the behavior of these people. I would imagine what kind of lives they lived, what kind of characters they were. With my animated projects, my aim has always been to create 'real' people; characters that are three-dimensional from the inside.”

    The Normals is less of a story and more of a snapshot of life, capturing the behavior and conversation of three middle-aged men in the few minutes that they spend inside a public toilet just going about their business; the slight interactions they may have with each other as they pass by.

    "During the facial/muscle system R&D stage, I had to turn down all work as I needed to remain focused on problem solving, and splitting myself in two would have been a destructive influence to the process,” he said.

    Liam took the sober path, trying to have his work accepted for the result, and not just for the sex-appeal. “What I'd like to achieve is to create an 'untold story,'” Liam describes. “To set the scenario which will become the foundation, whereupon the 'real' story will actually develop within the mind of the viewer.”

    “The short movie will be a mixture of the banal and bizarre. I see it as a comedy, though my intention is not to force this on the viewer, but instead let the comedy present itself to those who are receptive.

    The characters play their roles straight, without saying or doing anything that could be described as funny. If the movie is able to make the viewer laugh while I keep the comedy 'invisible', then I will have succeeded in my aim." Liam decided to only take on additional work only during certain points of the project - the less intensive periods where a break in continuity wouldn't severely affect the momentum he says he'd already built up.

    The Normals. Head, Eyes and Neck test.

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  • The peach fuzz that Liam introduced into the 'photo-shoot' renderings of the Maxim girls a few years ago is now standard in all his characters.

    "The importance of adding peach fuzz cannot be under-estimated," he explains. "The tendency is to think that it will only be effective for close-up shots, is mistaken. Even at mid-range the effect is noticeable." Liam uses HairFX to create all the hairs of the characters, and uses grayscale maps for things like density, distribution and hair thickness.

    "As for the textures," he explains, "I paint these by hand, adding layers for blemishes, veins and freckles. The bump maps for the face are also painted from scratch. I choose not to use the diffuse map as a base for the bump map, but instead I paint all the wrinkles and pores on one layer."

    “In the Normals, from the very beginning I wanted to use Global Illumination and to represent the public toilets as realistically as possible,” Liam explains.
    “I began by gathering many images from the Internet while also deciding to visit the Derby railway station toilets during 'quiet' hours with my camera.
    I actually ended up having to wait patiently in a cubicle for one last guy to finish his business before I was able to hurriedly take all the shots I needed while the place was still empty.”

    Kemp generated an enormous number of tests with various types of light: disc lights; strip lights; photometric lights; area lights, but after three years on the project he wasn't happy with the lighting set-up, and so decided to re-structure the method he was using. A couple of months of intense and intricate tests brought him the look he needed. "The improvement being only subtle, but more realistic,” he says.

    There were many new software and pieces of equipment Liam felt he needed to introduce in order to make The Normals project an advancement upon This Wonderful Life.

    “During this time I taught myself MaxScript,” Liam says, “which I used to create the facial rig and user controls. Global Illumination was also an issue, due to render times; though now thanks to Brazil R2, I am able to produce renders at half the time that it took previously.”

    The first was to create a facial and muscle system that would give the flexibility to create a complete range of expressions and deformations.
    This whole process took him eight months, but is now fully transferable from character to character.

    Liam Kemp is now in a fortunate position in that he is able to choose what projects he would like to be a part of, though because of his earlier commitment to The Normals, he’s had to turn down several interesting offers. He has several non-CG creative projects that he will be pursuing after 'The Normals' is complete.

    "With these, I hope to re-capture the feeling I had when first learning 3D," he says. "That sense of excitement about discovering something new while not quite knowing what direction it will take me. The Normals has stretched me both technically and creatively, and it is that kind of growth that I strive to achieve in whatever I decide to do next."

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    “Since I began work on The Normals in 2004 I've gone through a few hardware upgrades as well,” he continues.
    “I am currently using an Athlon dual-core 4200 with an NVIDIA GeForce7950GT and 4GB RAM, all running on Windows XP x64.

    I also have four other PCs that make up my render farm. My software of choice is 3ds Max, with Brazil r/s and HairFX.”

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