Friday, 1 May 2015

It's been a while!


Since uni finished I have unfortunately not had much time for a break!

However, now back on track with planning new animations and it feels great to be in that process again. Since last year I have found a job in a school and barwork in the evenings - the only downside is this gave me very few opportunities to give my animations the time they need to really get off the ground properly! My harddrive was slowly filling up with half-started projects and scene files.
Now I am setting more time aside for it and suddenly things are getting done!

Kick-starting this new plan is my entry for the 11 Second Club last month.
I had a lot of fun on this project - partially because of the dialogue itself and partly because it reminded me of how much fun it is to simply sit and animate again! Although I did not manage to completely polish and render this piece for the competition I have had some great feedback from it and hope that I can build on the suggestions for a more well rounded dialogue piece.

I have just finished last month's 11 Second sound clip. It is a dual-dialogue piece again but this time  I put more physical movement into their actions from the way they are talking to each other - both sounds pretty tired! Pushing their poses and paying more attention to their changes of expressions was a bigger challenge on this one - and I'm was very excited when it started to work! :)
In the downtime the plan is to go back to both competition entries and work back into them, feeding in the comments and advice I've received since.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

End of major project had to happen eventually I guess.

Everything we have been working on for the past 5 months has now been handed in and marked for our final degrees! It has been an amazing experience and I wanted to share some of the work on here.

Firstly, 'The Waiting Room' is now finally complete!

I am very happy with how the final film came together and want to give a massive thanks to the whole team who worked with me on this project. Please go and check out their blogs and websites to see some of their work outside of this project as well.

Animators - Suvi Jokiniemi and Matthew Kavanagh
Artist - Laura Swindells
Voice Artists - David Hutton and Rhys Wyn Davies

I will be posting separately about the projects 'Curious and Poe' and 'Legend of the First' both of which are in their final stages now. I cannot wait to share the final version of each of these films here, so much work has gone into them both and I am proud of both the animation produced but also how well all of the animators' work blend in with each other.

I have a couple of ideas going for more short films but all of them need a lot of fleshing out before I can commit to one. 'The Waiting Room' was an experience that taught me a lot - particularly the importance of planning your sequences! A new short will probably take a longer time but the end result will be worth it.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Major Project Update

Since it has been a while since the last post I thought I would give a quick update on the progress of my major project.

The key updates are that I have now finished animation on both 'Legend of the First' and 'The Adventures of Curious and Poe'. Although I am very happy to have the weight of both of these off of my shoulders, looking back I am amazed by how much you can learn through these kind of collaboration projects.

It's also interesting - to me anyway - of how different the experience can be depending on who else is part of the team. There were only two people (including me) who were set to work on both projects - everyone else was dedicated to one or the other.

For 'Legend of the First' there is a team of 8 people. Most of this team are animators who transferred to the project after the plan for 'Company 302' unfortunately fell through. Since half of the animators had not been on the project from the start it meant we had to break up our animations into shots as opposed to giving each animator an allotted time frame to work in. However, it seemed to work well regardless. Graham was clear on what he wanted out of the piece and the style he needed to achieve that. From watching the other animators through the 2/3 weeks we had of animation I was surprised with how closely our styles fit together. There are some 'cartoony' elements in all of our shots but for the most part we were all able to give a nice, smooth and realistic motion to our character's movements.
I had worked on other projects with most of the animators before which, I think, was an important part of making the project run smoothly. I already knew I could work well with them and we often gave critiques of each other's work in passing. A 3 second critique could change the smallest thing and still make the biggest impact to each others work.

On the other hand, 'Curious and Poe' was a slightly bigger team with only 4 animators working on it. For this project I had a lot more to animate (I think I ended up with 25/26 seconds of animation spread across 12 shots in total!).
I had not worked with 2 of the other animators on any project before and the last animator had his hands more than full dealing with other projects as well so most of my feedback came from the director of the project (Grace) rather than the other animators.

Anyway, both of these projects are now finished (on my side anyway - they're being rendered as I type!) which means I can finally turn my focus to the last two of my fight sequences and - after an unexpectedly long break - return to the final renders and editing of 'The Waiting Room'. With the deadline coming up next Friday whether we like it or not I think that this week is going to see the days blur together and me start counting the hours until hand in time on the 23rd!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Inspiration - Ubisoft Montreal

I first began to look into this company's work upon the release of the first Assassins Creed video game when it was released in late 2007. Since this point I have loved finding out about new projects the company is working on particularly on the Assassins Creed franchise as well as going back into their earlier work.

'Ubisoft Montreal' was founded in 1997 under the parent company 'Ubisoft'. The studio's most successful franchises include The Prince of PersiaAssassins Creed and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell series.
The company's approach to designing gameplay is a big factor on what keeps me interested in the games - I love the open-world format they give the player which links smoothly with the free running elements (successfully transferred from the Prince of Persia series to Assassins Creed series).

The narrative driving force alongside the clean visuals for Ubisoft Montreal's games are what keep me hooked on their work and eagerly anticipating their next major release: Watchdogs.

Friday, 25 April 2014

FMX Day Four: Friday 25th April

We have finally reached the final day of the FMX festival here in Stuttgart meaning that the next four presentations rounded off my time here. They were amazing...

'The LEGO Movie: Assembling the Master Builders' presented by Damien Gray, Animal Logic

Possibly my favourite presentation of the entire conference week.
Damien Gray went step-by-step through the various tests Animal Logic produced when going into the film. From filming video reference for animation, to taking macro pictures to capture the detail of Lego bricks and even animating a short 'interview' of the lead character Emmet to show to the directors (this animated interview in particular was a highlight of this presentation).

The amount of detail in the CG made Lego bricks was astounding. There were passes for lighting, dirt, grain, dust, bumps, chips and more on every brick in the movie.

The other part of this talk I particularly liked was the rig demo that was displayed. It was a test of Emmet's rig and included so many nice touches such as leaning on the edges of the bricks, rotating his different body parts to mimic real Lego and showing off the face controls.

'The Art Direction of Frozen' by Michael Giaimo, Disney Animation

This presentation focused on the designs of clothing and environment designs for Frozen.
Choosing colour schemes to suit the mood of the film and changing the environment in subtle ways to reflect the character's emotions are part of what makes a good film so to see what the art directors took into consideration for Frozen was very interesting.

'Bringing Rhythm into Animation' presented by Chip Lotierzo, Blue Sky

This presentation was divided into two parts. Chip Lotierzo gave a breakdown for one of his character acting sequence before moving onto breakdown how he choreographed one of the opening dance sequences of the movie.

For the first section Chip took a piece of dialogue and showed us how he created an 'energy line' of the piece. This is literally a line from one side of the page to the other which peaks and dips depending on the delivery of the lines and the overall mood being conveyed in the piece. I had never seen a voice clip broken down this way and could immediately see how useful it could be for a character acting piece. Especially working alongside thumbnailing and other planning stages.

The first section was very useful and extremely interesting to see Chip's animation process. On the other hand the second section was technically mind-blowing! Choreographing a complex sequence involving dozens of tropical birds. These birds would weave in and out of eachother's paths creating intricate patterns which, when viewed from above, looked a lot like a kaleidoscope or tropical flower.
This took meticulous detail and planning but it looks worth the pain of the process once you see the final result. As always, watching somebody's animation breakdown gave me greater inspiration and admiration for what a good character animator can achieve with careful planning and a passion for what they do.

'Unmask the Secrets Behind "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"' 
Presented by David A. Smith, SPI (Sony Picture Imageworks)

Now we come to the icing on the cake.

Broken into three parts, David Smith covered the effects used for Spider Man's suit, his web design (hehe) Electro's skin effects and the modelling and compositing effects for various locations in the US.

It was great to see how SPI had created a new suit for spidey in this film and very interesting to see how they cut between using the real-life footage and the cg animated model - sometimes if the live-action shot had not quite worked they could go back and do it over but this time purely within a cg environment.

In terms of scale, the most impressive part of the presentation for me was the recreation of Times Square in New York. This part of the movie introduces Electro as the main antagonist and so needed to be a big demonstration of his powers and show how much damage he is capable of inflicting when he is angry.
They recreated Times Square up to the tiniest detail of scratches on a small restaurant sign. As with most artist presentations I have been to, the dedication to re creating the smallest levels of detail for an object was stunning.

The final point I would like to mention from this presentation is the process behind creating Electro's skin.
Drawing influence from lightning storms, plasma balls and visual representation for the way the brain sends impulses through neural pathways, the fx department created an amazing under-skin effect for Electro.
The effects would also change their colour depending on Electro's mood at the time. Small touches like how translucent it became and the way the sparks travel under the surface of his skin gives it an eerie quality which works well for his character.

Overall this was an amazing talk and a perfect way to round off a great week at FMX 2014.

Now to get back home.....

Thursday, 24 April 2014

FMX Day Three: Thursday 24th April

'Behind the Invisible Effects of Rush'
Presented by Nathan Ortiz - FX Supervisor at Double Negative

Having not seen the movie myself, I went into this talk only knowing what I could remember from the trailer and hoping that it wouldn't take away from the presentation. It didn't.

Nathan Ortiz gave a detailed breakdown of the visual effects for the film and it did not matter if you have seen it or not, you will still be blown away by the complexity and careful attention to detail that went into this production. The crew from Double Negative worked on everything from smoke and fire effects, modelling cars, creating believable reflections for materials on the cars and driver helmets to crowd simulations and compositing.

With such a high concentration of technical detailed required it was nice to see that they animators and supervisors at least took breaks in a driving-simulator they brought into their office - for "research" purposes of course. Overall this was a very detailed and interesting talk and one that made me even more eager to see the film itself.

'Making Animation Blockbusters in France for Hollywood'
Presented by Jacques Bled, Illumination Mac Guff

Unfortunately I did not manage to see the whole of this presentation however, I was lucky enough to get into the room before they played two of the 'minion mini-movies': "Puppy" and the final scene of 'Despicable Me 2' where they sing 'I Swear' and 'YMCA'.
Going from all of the realistic creature animation and effects presentations that I have seen over the last two days it was great to watch two fun cartoon shorts - especially with the lovable minions from the 'Despicable Me' franchise.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

FMX Day Two: Wednesday 23rd April

'Acting for Animators Part Two' by Ed Hooks

Picking up from where we left off yesterday the first part of today's installment was spent on a quick recap of the points covered yesterday.

From there we moved onto the importance of creating a character bible to give artists and animators alike a solid idea of how the character fits into the created world. Questions such as name, age, interests, goals, dislikes etc should all be fleshed out as early as possible for any character. The more you know about the character, the more natural they will start to feel in their little animated world.

Charlie Chaplin was played on the big screen for approximately half an hour - pausing every now and again so that Ed could input a few sentences to deconstruct the scene and highlight key points of what made it so funny or emotional to watch.

Honestly I have already written one dissertation this year and I fear that if I start describing this lecture in too much detail then I will be well into a second one! Rest assured that being able to sit in on this class (both parts) was a source of great inspiration for me - definitely a big highlight of the week!

'Frozen: The Technology Behind Art-Directed Simulation'
Presented by Rajesh Sharma and Lawrence Chai - Disney Animation

Simulating snow and making it so believable that the audience accepts it sounds like a tough job. It is! Capturing the correct texture of the snow, the way it can lump together or break apart, it's stickiness or the way it picks up more snow if rolled down a hill - all of these barely scratch the surface of how much detail and research went into simulating the snow in Frozen.

Even though I have no plans (at least not right now) to go into this area of animation it renewed the amount of respect and admiration I feel for people who work in this kind of heavily-technical department. The presentation itself was too technical for me in parts especially when in also moved into how they simulated the clothing and hair for two of the lead characters in particular (Elsa and Anna).

Overall this was a great talk and the first very technical presentation I have been too up until this point. I came out of this one with my brain racing but feeling as though I definitely made the right choice sticking to character animation and body mechanics!

'Simulating Monsters University' presented by Samantha Raja - Pixar Animation Studios

A second simulation presentation but this time from Pixar! Samantha Raja has been working in the simulation department there for 3 years and was here to take us through how they simulated fur and clothing (as well as other things but these two were the focus points of the talk).

Given that all of the monsters are very different in terms of shape and proportions to each other it wasn't difficult to think about how tough it must be to simulate clothing for them let alone adding fur into the mix. Samantha showed us a very cool method they used to minimize problems with hair/fur coming through the clothing at odd points. Any hair that is under the clothing is but away/not shown at all but the hairs at the edges of the clothing are bent outwards as if being pushed down by the clothes.

Again, going into the type of detail covered in this presentation would take far too long to right and if I get things wrong (which I would), then it would simply be too confusing to read anyway!

Although it isn't part of the presentation if you are interested in the behind the scenes for this film I have also found another article which you can enjoy reading!