Monday, 30 November 2009

It's the final countdown ...

Final countdown indeed, and there's been a lot to do this week. Firstly i finalised most of the core animation of the body, after the first test playblast of lipsyncing (below) i then added in the picking up of the 'whip cream can' and also the throwing away of it in dismay. Considering the video below is the first playblasted lipsyncing, i was rather surprised at how well it turned out and overall i'm quite proud of how easily how i picked up creating the right mouth movements and how good they looked.

Having said this though, i think the mouth movements need to be refined ever so slightly because he does look a bit mouth-choppy. Below is a short test of the character clutching the whip cream can which is looking pretty good, and with a bit more work will look better.

And put it together and what have you got? Hm good question, because i'm having trouble with it, so, i'm going to upload the two shots i've used for the mpeg4 file and a couple of images of what it looks like rendered.

I've learnt a lot about animation and the animation process in this project, and most importantly, don't try and keep improving it on the hand in day, especially if it was hardly changed and was good enough 2 days ago! So what have i learnt?

Well the essentials of a good, well-grounded animation works when you have some live action footage of yourself acting, so you have something to refer back to, and where in your animation you can see an area that needs an injection of a bit more realism, so you know which body bits to translate and/or rotate to get that right body posture and to get the emotions and feelings across.
After you have the filmed footage, it helped me when i had storyboarded out thumbnail sketches of the key poses from the live action footage, so that when it came to maya, i knew exactly what the key poses are and roughly where i needed them.
Another helpful factor is the dope sheet, although maya could hold the sound file and you could lipsync straight off by scrolling through the timeline. But by mapping out the mouth movements needed onto a dope sheet, i could then cross reference with maya to make sure the right mouth movements matched up with the phenomes on the right frame.

With this animation i feel this time my strongest point is the facial animation in terms of what i've achieved over the amout of time i had for it. I especially like the way the eyes move and blink, and how the eyebrows are positioned, which gives real character and emotion and you can easily tell this is a saddened face. I like the extreme poses of this character, which i think works very well for a sad and somewhat manic character at times, i know i would be with nine cans of whip cream! The timing also works well with this animation but at a place or two i do think it needs a bit more of an exaggerated overlap, but all in all i feel it's a believeable character.

Pose, Keyframe, Keyframe, Pose, yes i'm working In-Depth.

Okay we're starting to near a close on an epic, well not quite an epic, a couple of minutes of that good status, but it's a good work in progress on the initial playblast i uploaded last week. I've worked a small amount on the anticipation of the sitting down, he definitely needed a head turn to see where the chair is behind him. The movement of him sitting down, is a bit more snappier now, but i do think it this area needs a bit more work to bring it up to a good standard. There does also seem to be a bit too much (our) left (his right) hand movement at the dialogue point of "yesterday i ate", in fact just looking at it again now, i think i do need to refine his left hand movement as soon as he starts to speak again. So before i even start on the sound planning on a dope sheet for the lipsync, i'm going to tweak and finalise all body movements before starting on the lipsyncing.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Okay, okay you can do thumbnails ...

Week two on our new new project, well it's halfway old now, and this week i've roughed out the animation by firstly drawing out the key poses from the filmed acting, and presenting it in a storyboard kind of way. And then talk about doing a job twice, i then took the main key poses and turned it into an animatic, don't ask why i did it, maybe it was because i wanted to know in-depth as to what i was going to be animating.

The above are a few key moments that will occur in the animation and below is the blockthrough for the animation. I've got quite a lot going on for 11 seconds but i think it's working quite well with what i've got. A few things that do need work, is when the character goes to sit down, there's no anticipation, and the actual movement of him going to sit, is really still quite wooden and linear. But with a lot of work, i think it has the potential to become a good animation.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

What's that ... a, a, sound file that tastes like whip cream?!

Right, so we get the "big brief" and a sound file that emanates whipped cream, hmm. There's a little competition strolling around in a little-ish walk cycle across the internet, and every month a new sound file is released to let budding animators, enthusiats, and professionals as well, i'm sure, to enter into this competition with what they've created over the set month. This time it was our, you may call it a challenge, actually thinking about it, it does seem a challenge, lipsync *moans* *sobs* lip...sync. But yes our brief is to animate to this sound file and if it's good we may even want to enter the competition.

This week i needed to get down my ideas on film, to act out the dialogue *sobs* "I'm living in a cocoon of horror," *sobs* " "Yesterday i ate nine cans of areosol whip cream" Now there's the initial thought, okay so what actually can you do with this, how much acting can i really do for it? It's eleven seconds long, so it would look kinda odd if i put in too many extreme poses and too much movement, so after much deliberation, many, many takes of acting and slight annoyance from the 'actee' i finally settled for this:

I also needed to rough out a scene plan for my environment, which will be similar to the current environment as in the acting above. But i'll probably change my mind as soon as i've done animating.

Friday, 6 November 2009

I'm happy, no...wait, i'm sad ... oh, oh, no happy!

And here we have the last installation of maya shorts before the epic. Hmm, well i think this was fairly epic when i was animating at the time. So the brief was to animate a character changing between two emotions. It could be sad to happy, excited to angry, fear to joy, the list is fairly endless to a point.

My initial idea was to (once again try and be epic), so i thought of a character waiting with excitement for the postman to pop a letter through the door. When he does the character will then run up to the letter, rip it open, start reading, and slowly becoming more and more sorrowful, until he falls back onto a chair feeling sorry for himself. Having thought in depth about this, i decided not to opt for these emotions for the final length and the amount of time needed would be too great seeing as we only have a week.

Instead i decided to keep the sad emotion and use surprise as well. I'd have the character walk along slowly and sadly and he'll suddenly jump and be surprised by a sound. Below is the finished product, which i think did turn out really well, but i do find that there is a problem with it which is when he turns his emotion into surprise, it doesn't really work without a sound there. So to keep in mind for next time, if i'm not using a sound i should put in anticipation, so here he'd move his head slightly with his eyes and then jump in surprise. Another thing is the walk at the beginning which does feel a little wooden.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Up, down, up, down, hang on ... it's heavy!

After the huge plight of maya last week, hopefully this week maya will be nice to me, and you know what it was! Okay so I went through a few blocked out ideas with no successful result, but i got there in the end. This time we were set the assignment to animate a character picking up a really heavy weight.

It took a while to get my head around giving the illusion that a character is picking up a weighted item but after watching a few animations on youtube, i got a feel for how many ways there are of portraying weight and the motions that come before, during and after of the weight lifting.

Just from these few examples, you can see actually how different they all are even though they're all doing the same core thing. I decided to go for a rather simple idea: stepping up to the weight, misjudges the weight of the ball, picks it up slightly and then puts it back down again. After this, he readjusts himself and tries again, although this time he overbalances and walks back to balance himself. This video is halfway through but you can see it coming together,

Below is the finished product, and i'm very pleased with how it turned out. The movement is fluid throughout his body and there's the important illusion of a heavy weight.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Right, er ... where's that button ...?

Okay so now we're settled back, given briefs on the various projects, I can now start on this practical work. So we started off with just a simple walk cycle. I know (in hindsight after getting back into maya) this was the simplest task ever!! But... it seemed like a hurdle the size of the empire state building at the time, keyboards and computer monitors flying everywhere, wasn't really a pretty sight.

Anyway, after finally managing to crack the system I soon got stuck into creating the walk cycle, which in the end took no time at all really, but looking back on it now I feel it's lacking something. I wanted to create a different walk, compared to the one foot in front of the other, so I went for a feminine slow strut. Below is the rough through at the early-ish stage, and it's beginning to take shape with just a bit more tweaking on the hands and the legs, to make the deeRig flow a bit more fluidly.

I think maybe it's the way the right hand is on the hip, and it does slightly move, it kinda navigates away from making the character feel completely alive. Of course it does in the sense that the whole body flows, with the hips and a little back and head movement, but I think for future reference, adding a bit of blink, and finger movement will help immensely to get that 'real' look. Below is the final take of the deeRig in motion, I am quite pleased with how this turned out but for the next time I do a walk cycle, or any other animation in that case, to add the blinks and finger movements even moreso subtle movements.

"Character's you say, eh? Fictional I assume..."

*Grabs the dictionary* okay, c, c, ch....chara, aha! Character, here we go, hmm...... Right it's this one, n. 1 the collective qualities or characteristics, especially mental and moral, that distinguish a person or thing. Basically ask this, what makes a character? Well it's all about body language, and the qualities of a person or object and in the context of animation, it's based on everything with how a person behaves, the way they, walk, talk, the way they retell a situation or story, the body language, the way hand gestures are used, even the way someone looks at you without saying a word, you can immediately associate a word.

A strong, well developed character is something that the audience can easily and quickly read, if this can be done, it creates the most important thing with a character. Believability. Okay so you have a good story, maybe even the next big thing, but it's nothing without great acting. Without a good actor, or as is the case, an animator, the story cannot be read with poor character animation, it isn't about facial emotion, fantastic if you can do that, but without the base of good, well-understood actions, a character won't be believable.

Note to self: Become the character! Get inside the character. What would they be thinking? What do they want? What would they do? Why are they doing it?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

On With the Show

*Yawn* sits up *stretch* "ahh." Alrighty, so here I am again, after spending the last three months stashed away in a human-sustainable pod tucked away in a cupboard, along with my fellows in the animation suite, i awake to fully submerge myself into the world of animation, hopefully doing more "advanced and pushing myself further stuff" Okay, so maybe being taken hostage by tutors to collectively plan for world domination isn't legal and didn't happen, but hey, i've got to have a crazy imagination to keep me busy.

So here I am, i've revamped my blog a bit, made it look aesthetically pleasing, and hopefully i'll be posting every week, but it could be pushing it!

Week 1 and the very dawn of year 2. Literally dawn!
We're given the general outline for the projects that'll be carried out this term, animating and giving character to a 3-d model, 2-d drawing or maybe even stop-motion. The brief for a sketchbook project was given, all about capturing conversation between people. Also another little, well another big project, experimental animation and putting animation to music. There's also an optional face assignment, to make a virtual '3-d' me. Hmmm talk about piling it all on, nevertheless it'll all be very interesting.

Monday, 1 June 2009

So Year 1 comes to a nearing end .....

The final evaluative report on our final project ...

The end of our project comes to a halt like the train that pulls up to the last stop of the line, the end of the road. I had no idea what to expect from this project, a number of factors being, how well would I work in a group, would everyone get on together and do all work set out before them, and more importantly would we set a realistic goal and manage to finish the animation well? The answer to all these would be yes. Our team had excellent variety over the roles, with me on pre-production, Matt and Matt on the actual animation: the production, and Tom doing post-production stuff, but we did all share out various roles within the various stages of producing the animation, but with the main contributors to that area of production having a final say.

First off was choosing which medium to do the animation in, 3-d or 2-d, well it was fairly obvious we all had our hearts set on animating in Maya, but the tricky part was which style to use and effect we wanted to have on the audience. So first off we had to scrounge around the internet and various thoughts, concepts and ideas on films and in books, to settle on our ideal storytelling for the sound file. We finally came across a Supinfocom student film, “La Marche des Sans-Nom” and saw the main character, a long gangly type figure, very long and thin, and thought we could use this archetype for our main character also. There was also the stylised background, setting and props which gave the animation a somewhat realistic feel in a surreal way which is something that we all picked upon, and decided to opt for a stylised look to our animation. As well as these secondary resources we also arranged a group trip to Hayle to get a first hand feel for what it was like, which is hopefully portrayed in the final animation.

Since we were a pretty varied skilled group it was easy enough to assign tasks and roles to our group as mentioned above, I had the main role and say in pre-production, as it was something I’m seriously considering as a career prospect, so this has been the perfect time to have a go at. I was also working as both the director and producer of the group at the start of the project for a couple of weeks. But it was decided that Tom would take over as producer since I wasn’t being firm enough with the work that needs and needed to be done at the time, so he would co-ordinate and hand out work to the group, being more productive and the team producing better work in the long run, as well making sure everyone is always getting on with something.

The pre-production role was fairly easy to approach creatively as I could experiment and research as I do for my own work, and form it in a way that was applicable to the project. For a while though, I did find it hard to fully apply myself, and put my heart into this project but once I got my head into the hard craft of designing characters and streets and figuring out the right sepia tone or black and white tone to the animation, I soon delved into the pages of my sketchbook.

As well as any other aspect in a working environment there are sure to be, ups and downs and strengths and weaknesses. The strongest aspect of this group was probably the animation, and how easily and competently the two group members, Matt and Matt got on with most of the modelling, rigging, lighting and animating and also the persistence to carry on going strong and to achieve the best, even when impossible to jump hurdles came their way, for example the rather lengthy creation (technically and creatively) of the exploding gas works, which inevitably we did fall behind on schedule on. I think the biggest weakness of the group; I felt, was the communication between group members in assigning the work to do not just for an afternoon or day but for the next week or so, which is why it was decided that Tom would take over as producer so that he could hand out work progressively to keep everyone occupied with stuff to do, as well as making sure there is some variation in the tasks.

This project has given me the chance to practise and work at the pre-production area in producing animation to give me a feel for what it’s like to be at the most important area of the work, at the core of the concept and design, and hopefully within a big animation company, having some influence over the final design. I especially enjoyed conceptualising the street scenes and full length character, Alfred, as I could play around with colour palettes, if only briefly, and various angles on the street. I also feel that my skills in designing and coming up with ideas for projects like this have improved working to a set brief, i.e. no deviation from the set story given in the sound file, which means no deviation from the setting.

All in all I’m proud of the work that our group has produced, and very pleased with the outcome of the hard work we’ve all put in. I especially like the fly-by scenes the planes do, they’re quite simple yet really effective, what I think needed a bit more work was the main character, Alfred, as portrayed in youth, the animation was slightly limited and linear, which could have been produced by the simple rig that had been applied to it. My favourite scene from the whole animation would have to be the gas works explosion scene, and how well it managed to turn out, considering there were many hurdles to overcome which set us back only slightly on our schedule. I enjoyed helping out with this and finding the basic dynamic presets to modify to create different effects was really enjoyable, finally getting to see the final result of my initial assistance.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Wandering aimlessly around the world, i'm once again saved from insanity...

Once again i've found myself lost in the unforgiving world of the internet, wandering aimlessly through the many html's of the world, trying, hoping to find the information i desire, but alas, i'm again saved by the blog, but stressed at the fact i've hardly written anything since, well, i was going to emphasize alonger period of time but couldn't really do it, so it wasn't that long ago really.

Well one should be drawing this minute in time, more specifically, the complete storyboard for the animatic due for next tuesday, but instead i decided to end up, somehow, who knows how, being told by some extreme field of force something, attracting me to the computer, and even more worse, to the internet which i could spend quite some time on just finding random and useless general knowledge (aka the stuff that you never really need to know in life) Luckily for me though i've managed to make it through the barricaded area, guarded by supremacy, the gunmen in black (picture a darker version of the bad guys on the Incredibles) guarding the 20ft tall concrete wall with lethal barbed wire spiralling in on itself, perched atop the sloping wall; while a dark gloomy sky lurked above letting loose the water from the heavens, icy on my cheeks. Okay, so I make it sound worse than it was, but it was indeed the setting, best thing was they just asked for my I.D. to check i was who i was, and let me past. Simple really, when you know how...
Where that came from though, I have no idea, probably been so long since i've been creativly writing?!.... ah well in a week or so i'll think this creativity is rather lame, and then wonder why i wrote it, hm.

And now for the story on the project, I say story it's more a sort of ..... biography, factual information, feedback on the ponderings and goings on in the life of the Producer/Director.

[Sudden realisation of needing to do this storyboard *eyes wandering back down to focus on the sketchbook and then back to find the sound file* ......]

--Half an Hour to 50 minutes later... --

My pen stick has gone walkabouts, and it doesn't really help with a memory like a seive in the first place so, naturally, i cannot remember where the ********* it's been put.
*********- please insert a very long descriptive curse.

Okay none of this has anything to do with the group project, hmmm, i'll come to it in a day or so ....

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Wind, snow, sleet, and ... Hayle?

As the end of one project closes, a new clear page is turned entitled, The Hayle Oral History Project. Hayle is a fairly small cornish town just outside St Ives, and is a town forged during the industrial revolution by the growth of two big companies: the Cornish Copper Company to the east of the town and to the west, the iron foundry Harvey and Company. As research voice recordings of the local residents has been collected, of how they remember Hayle as it stood in the first half of the last century. These recordings are full of drama, fact and comedy and provide a wonderous insight into the lives of the people of Hayle.

The task for us animation students is to produce some short animation clips to these voice recordings, to help visualise what life was like in those days, being as creative as we can with the animation being in any style, with added sound, music, effects and music.

So it's been just over a week since the briefing and it's taken quite a while to get into this project and creating ideas for what we could do and where we can go with it. But we did hold a sort of "mini-meeting" in the same afternoon of the briefing to decide on the overall look of the animation, what programme we were going to use and more importantly the sound file.

"Maya, Maya, Maya, Maya" chimed around the room. So that was that. Maya. It was decided in using the 3-d animating software to produce our hayle project, and with that dilemma out of the way it was time to run through the .wav files. After much deliberation, okay, listening out for the smallest mention of guns, shooting and bombs, we settled on a retelling of the bombing of St Ives gas works, as well as finally finding a style we all liked, and would like to recreate in our own way, was the Supinfocom student animation, "La Marche Des Sans-Norm": opting for the long gangly look of the main character and stylised design of the background, props, setting and characters.

The next hurdle was roles, sorting out the main areas of productio was easy enough with me on pre-production, Matt and Matt on production and Tom sorting out post-production but with the sharing of certain areas, like lighting and special effects ect. It was also decided that i'd take the producing and directing role, and with these i immediately started on the schedule the next day along with the rough storyboard, and now ... well less than a week until animatic day ...

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Maya Maya Fire: Part 2

And so comes the early hours of saturday and i should be in bed resting for another early start in the studio tomorrow, but instead i've decided to be a dedicated animator and stay up doing work, creating that fire movie. So here it is, and again hasn't taken that long to render!

Maya Maya Fire!

Words cannot express how enlightened and joyous i am at figuring out a lot of things (i knew there was some reason why i work mostly during the night!) For starters there's special effects, quite a huge range of things to do here but i'm most focused at messing about at trying to make fire, then there's changing luminosity and colours, and then finally rendering it all. So i saw how you set the render options to do a batch render, which i'm pretty sure we learnt in the first term with the torus, if not, well, it was lurking around in my memories of maya in the first term; but problem arises when you don't know how to actually tell maya to batch render, which the programmers thought to put it under the rendering mode, (well figures really) Render -> Batch Render. Simple really when you sit and work it out, so here it is my first, quick 15-20 minute stab at fire (not the real fire, the fire that's an ethereal blue for my ident fire). It would have been longer, but because i thought rendering took forever i only told it to do a small number of frames out of the 300, it ended up only taking a minute to do 25 frames so i'll do the full video of what i did.

I do really like the way this turned out, exactly the kind of look i was going for in order to create my blue fire, and it does appear to have the eerie feel to it.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Live @ 5

Monday. Dread. Rush. Fear. *sigh* Not at all really. I'm sure there could have been some drama, but it just couldn't seem to present itself. I had images of running back and forth between the studio and the broadcasting room, with last minute changes to Astons and the weather maps, that the MA Broadcasters got wrong, but, alas, all the 'last minute' changes were done hours before the show aired. All that needed to be done were the Astons, that tell the viewer who it is we are seeing talking about some issue, and the football and rugby tables and the weather maps, so there wasn't much for me to do since these tasks were taken. So i oversaw how everything was going, and offering some helpful hints, although these were to be very few and of no concern to after effects, seeing as everyone had good grounding in the areas they were working in. Barney, as well as an excellent team name, made to be a very good team full stop, providing us all with a good learning experience and a semi-realistic view on how the news programmes work 'behind the scenes' aka the graphics team sitting rather contently at the back at the room, sniggering at the production team when things go .... how do we put it? .... pear shaped! I stuck it out to see the final Live@5 aired at the back of the room and see the fellow team members work up on the big screen. Although i must admit i'm rather disappointed with the lack of drama in this project :P

Friday, 27 February 2009

Crouching concept, hidden fear.

*sniffs air* hmm ... drama. DRAMA! Okay so yesterday saw the dawning of the 'pitch' to Chew TV. I'll admit i didn't think i'd have a good enough idea thought up in a week. But inspiration hit me. No, literally it did, in the form of a tree branch as i walk by on yonder path in semi-darkness. Well ... not really, but you get the idea of how hard it hit me.

Set in a dark and eerie forest, one camera shot will be used , which will delve deeper into the forest while simultaneously the colour of the sky will change from a peacock blue to a deep navy blue. The camera will ease itself to a stop so that we can see a small clearing with a small boulder off centre. This boulder will then release a puff of blue smoke/fire/particles, illuminating the clearing in an ethereal white-blue. The camera will resume its zoom, and head for the fire where the logo will be revealed either as the last particles combine to form the logo, or centre particles will form the logo and remaining particles will just fly past. As of now i'm still unsure of how to create this, but i'm pretty sure it will all be pulled together in after effects.

Hmm, these images haven't been scanned that well cause of some printer to computer connection problem apparently, even though it did manage to scan these ... *curses something about technology* So that was basically my pitch, nothing really to be that worried about in hind-sight, apart from most people having proper presentations to avert the eyes from small A4 sketchbooks *ahem* and since it was quite a dark and eerie ident, i was given feedback that it could be used well with a film screening as that was also a horror/dark orientated film. All in all i was relatively happy with how the pitch went, also providing some experience as at some point in my career i will indefinitely need to pitch my ideas whatever they may be ...

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Maya Interior Assignment

The day the maya brief came, and i'm absolutely positive, stress was ensued the second the first syllable was announced. Well, that's slightly exaggerated, maybe after 'model an interior in maya' was announced you could feel the levels of trauma increase, well they did in me, for i didn't think i'd remember a thing of our maya classes and all the various tools for modelling, drawing curves, rendering, textures, colours, bump mapping, lighting .... i'll admit it seemed like one huge blur when that brief was first given. *Pause to asses the situation* So we must start where everyone must, at the very beginning, grounding the idea; the few sketches that would somehow present themselves in the form of a fully rendered 3-D room (something i knew from day one that i'd have to be proud of, seeing as it would be a miracle if i could succesfully build a wall - let alone a room) It just had to be done one step at a time, even if they were small and tiny steps, they'd finally lead to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Step 1: Concept. Preliminary work, i.e. the sketches of what the room was to be, and the few contents it was to have.
Step 2: The plight of Maya. Okay so there's not much of a predicament once you start, but still it was enough to drive me insane *hopes there's no side effects* Starting off in Maya on a mission, i thought it just best to have a mess around get a good feel for the tools and their advantages and disadvantages, pushing them to the limits (also not amiss of the odd crash of Maya and occasional temper as a result)
Step 3: Construction. Taking time to look at the situation of building a room, or simply deciding where to start, i figure it's best to do it how it's done in real life, minus the foundations. (I don't think it needs to be that in-depth) First down goes the plane for the floor, and then the task of building walls, window sills, skirting boards and architrave.
Step 4: Interior designing? ... what course is this. This step involves, if you get it wrong or model something in the wrong order, some odd tantrums, upset and cursing over 'The Crash!' Which thankfully only happened to me twice and was saved before messing with the lamp base, and sofa settings. Modelling all the objects though, i admit, was pretty simple, once you got your head around the various tools available to you, and ways in which to get the best results from them, and especially enjoyed modelling the glass and the cushions for the sofa.
Step 5: That looks real! As soon as you've finished modelling your object, you now get to choose the colour, pattern and the design in the way you want it to look. I couldn't help but think at this point maya was just a more in depth version of the Sims 2 on the build mode, but slightly more annoying when you forgot how to bring up the texture editor. I did enjoy this, as i could see that slowly my room, was all coming together to finally look like a room.
Oh and there are quite a few side/sub steps called procrastination in there somewhere, but it's just best to leave those be.

Final Render of the Glass - At some point i will go back and fix the pixelation at the base, now figuring out how it's done

Looking back in hindsight, this assignment wasn't much to cause anxiety over, and once i got stuck in with maya, i thoroughly enjoyed every minute of creating this room. And looking at the final renders, even though there is something not quite right with the shadows, reflected the hard work that i put into making this room. I will certainly consider modelling as a possible career outlook after this project but first i will need to model more. Now onto bigger and bolder creations ...

Early Render Shot of the interior

Wireframe Shot of the interior

Polygon layout of the interior