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Head Sculpt

Task:

We had to model a class member’s head for our next Imaging and Data Visualisation task. We were required to make their likeness in a 3D sculpture and then use retopology to reconstruct their head in Maya.

Sculpting

For this task I modeled David’s head (images below).

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After following many of James Taylor’s tutorials, I was about to follow his Maya Head Sculpting guide… However, after watching multiple class mates struggle with this process and have to restart in Mudbox. I decided to avoid it and focus on the Mudbox modeling from the beginning.

Here was the Maya tutorial I considered using:

I mainly tried to figure it out myself without using a tutorial. However, I listened to this James Taylor sculpt video (below) during part of the sculpting process to find out which tools were best to use.

For achieving the rough shape, I used mainly a combination of the tools below at varying strengths and sizes.

  • Wax Tool – For Adding Material
  • Foamy Tool – Taking Material Away
  • Grab Tool – Movement/Placement Of Material

Here are a few images of the rough blocking out stage…

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Below is a perfect example of the reference image errors. It is particularly visible within the failed ear attempts (while using the reference images on front/side planes). As you can see, as I fixed it for one image, it messed it up as soon as I switched camera angle.

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At this stage particularly is when I realised that my reference images weren’t great. They are both at angles and were difficult to match up evenly. Therefore, I later started to create it more by eye with the reference images at the side of the screen. Personally, I found this a lot easier to manage and work with.

However, here is another failed attempt at the ears using reference images (yet still a better attempt than the previous one).

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Once I started making it by eye and not relying on the camera planes with the reference images is when I feel it began to look more like the subject (David). I actually took new reference images as well which I didn’t use on the camera planes.

I just couldn’t seem to take the photos correctly though, but by this stage it didn’t really matter an awful lot as I was quite far through the sculpt already. Therefore, these images sat alongside the others at the side of my screen as references during the sculpting process.

Image Reference

Anyways, I redid the ear and adjusted the face some more. I decided to block in the hair for a reference to help place the ear and other features.

Blocked in hairBlocked in hair_02

I found this to be very useful in the placement of the ear and other features. It really just brought it all to life and created a resemblance closer to David.

I used the same tools that I mentioned earlier throughout the entire sculpting process. However, some other tools were key in achieving the smaller details and finishing touches. Such as:

  • The Pinch Tool – Creating curves and receding facial features e.g. Lips, Eyes, Ears, Nose, Cheeks.
  • The Smooth Tool – Removing rough surfaces/edges/bumps/marks.
  • The Flatten Tool – Removing rough surfaces/edges/bumps/marks.

Here is the final Mudbox Sculpt:

Head Rotation

Taking A Break

As you can probably see, I prefer working with more exaggerated proportions in my art. This can be seen throughout almost all of my artwork. Therefore, while taking a bit of a break from trying to achieve a close to realistic likeness sculpt… I decided to make a few caricatures out of the sculpt. This started as a joke as I was sitting beside David, the “sculptee”. However, they developed into a few rather interesting quick caricatures. Here are three of my favourite…

The Evil Cartoon Character

The Clown

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The Green Goblin

All of the above are obviously not likeness’s of David.

However, they were entertaining to make and were quick models made as I went along with no other references.

Re-Topology

The topology, unlike the Sculpt, required a tutorial for me to understand, in fact, a couple of tutorials. Unfortunately, I came to this conclusion the hard way resulting in a few unsuccessful topology attempts. However, I learned from my mistakes and moved on.

After researching and talking to several class mates, second years as well as my tutor. I built up a small library of topology reference images and videos to look at and follow. Some of which were good, some of which weren’t as good. However, here are the ones that I found most useful…

I printed out a few reference images to ensure I was following the proper workflow in my topology.

Image sourced from Wiki.Polycount.Com

Image sourced from 3DTotal.Com

Anyways, on to the re-topology…

I decided to keep my character with the hair in the topology. I felt that this would make it more visually interesting to look at and work with.

Retopology_03

Here is the initial face topology without the ears. I tried to keep it reasonably low-poly to begin with. At this point, it is sitting at just over 1200 polygons.

After getting the main facial features done I went on to work on the ear. The tutorial I used as a reference, sort of skipped through this section and didn’t cover it very well… So I sort of had to work on it myself with no guide. It went rather successfully with the first ear.

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However, the second ear was where I had issues, due to the other side not being completely symmetrical, it created a number of errors which I tried to fix but it didn’t work properly.

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I kept the first ear that worked and then I deleted and replaced the verts and quads in the second ear.

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And this was the end of my Lower-Poly Mesh Topology.

Retopology_10

However, when shown with the actual head sculpt alongside/beneath, it lacked a severe amount of detail and didn’t match the contours of the sculpt well enough for my liking.

At this point it was sitting at 1426 faces/polygons, which was nowhere near the limit of 10,000 polygons. Therefore, I created a higher-poly sculpt as well from this one.

I went on to add much more detail to the mesh through edge loops and other tools. Smoothed out the curves and relaxed the verts into place. Allowing them to settle on nicely and fit the curvature of the face more accurately. I added in such things as a hairline and a better detailed surface.

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Below is a rotation of the Higher-Poly Mesh Topology.

Here is the finished head sculpt topology with around 6000 Polygons being used…

Retopology_23

Imaging and Data Visualisation Reflection

Reflecting back over the year of Imaging and Data Visualisation, I can’t help but see a definite change within my Maya work. I have learned new processes and ways of tackling issues. I feel that I caught on to Maya reasonably quickly. However, it was through being set interesting and unique tasks that inspired me to latch on to it. I feel that the group work and environment of the class really help in learning and enjoying the whole process.

I especially enjoyed the Floating City in terms of group projects. I feel that this was because of the possibilities and freedom of the task, and due to the fact that we were able to pick our own teams. The group work helps each of us as individuals as well as a team. It builds general group cohesion, motivation and confidence allowing everyone to work to each others strengths as well as their weaknesses.

Although I enjoyed the group tasks, I found the Head Modelling task to be very enjoyable also. It was a nice change and allowed me to build upon my skills individually and try out a new piece of software (Mudbox). I found the modelling of the head to be a far more pleasant and entertaining process in comparison to the re-topology process. Although, I am glad that I have experienced and now have a better understanding of the Maya topology process.

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Overall, I feel that my general Maya skills and knowledge of the program have been vastly improved by studying Imaging and Data Visualisation. I personally feel that the classes and tasks have benefited my in a vast amount of areas both practical and theoretical.

Life Drawing – Semester 2 – Brief Reflection

After another semester of Life Drawing, I can’t help but see a change in my work. The quality of my pieces, and my general process/workflow has changed quite a bit from day one. Back in Semester one I really didn’t see a huge point in the Life Drawing class. However, now looking at it with a further understanding of the Human Anatomy, form and design, I can see the importance of it.

Here are a few of my decent 5-10 minute pieces…

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For me personally, I found semester two far more interesting. The level seemed to go up and we began to work on more difficult sections of the body such as the hands, feet and head. I enjoyed working on these particular areas as we were allowed slightly more time to work on them and add detail. These are also key areas to learn for general knowledge.

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My favourite sessions would have to be the character sessions. Designing the life model as a character from a drawing sheet, or from my imagination was great. I would have often tried to add in more fantasy-based props (daggers/swords) to my normal Life. I found this more entertaining and interesting while drawing in the class.

Overall, I have seen a vast improvement within my proportions, form, drawing capabilities as well as my studies. I personally feel that the weekly life drawing classes have been of a benefit to me and have helped me in all these areas.

Here are some of my favourite pieces from the second Semester of Life Drawing…

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Note: Unfortunately, I handed in my sketchbook early, forgetting that I needed to take photographs for my blog post. I will try to remember to update my post with the homework tasks once I get it back. In my opinion, my homework tasks were substantially better than the in-class drawings, as I was able to practice the techniques that I had learned in the previous class.

12 Principles and Character Design…

Tasks:

As our main assignment for our Life Drawing classes, we were asked to design a character based on Appeal (the 12th Principle of Animation).

In doing so, we were asked to look into the 12 Principles and briefly describe them.

Finally, we are to conclude our year of Life Drawing into a 500-word reflective essay.

Understanding “The 12 Principles Of Animation”

The 12 Principles of Animation were discussed in Frank Thomas’ and Ollie Johnston’s book, Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life (1981). These principles function for both traditional and computer animation. The Principles have been created by condensing Animations Theory into 12 steps to help portray realistic and believable motion and movements that bring characters to life.

Disney Animation - The Illusion Of Life
Disney Animation: The Illusion Of Life – Image sourced from Wikipedia.Com

1. Squash and Stretch

Description – Squash and Stretch is used to show the mass of an object. The softer the object, the more it will be affected by Squash and Stretch. Squash and Stretch are used to help create the illusion of movement. It emphasizes an object’s speed, weight, and force, giving it mass and making it look more realistic.

Below is the first of a twelve-part series of videos made by Alan Becker. They are based upon the 12 Principles of Animation discussed in Disney Animation: The Illusion Of Life.

2. Anticipation

Description – Anticipation is used to create more realistic movement. Firstly, Anticipation is used to prepare the audience for an action. Secondly, to make a realistic movement, it is necessary for the character to build up enough force to fulfill the action.

For example, the run-up before the leap… If the character just leaps without building up the speed (momentum) it will most likely look unrealistic and risk confusing the audience (as they have not been prepared for the action).

3. Staging

Description – Staging is mainly about controlling the audience’s eye, making them focus where you want them to focus, see what you want them to see. Staging is used to make the point extremely and “unmistakably” clear to the audience. Staging is applied to a number of factors including – Acting, Timing, Camera, and Setting. The main action needs to be kept very clear, often utilizing the well known “Rule of Thirds” to frame the action properly.

4. Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose

Description – This covers the process in which an animation is made. Straight Ahead action is drawing each position in the sequence that they come. However, Pose to Pose is drawing the key poses for the animation and filling in the gaps afterward. Generally, Pose to Pose is a better process, as you can check that the early key frames of the animation work, before filling in all the breakdowns. Straight Ahead animation is better for more unpredictable animation such as fire.

5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action

Description – This principle focuses on the external body parts and features that drag behind the rest of the body, continuing to move when the body stops.

For example, whenever a character jumps, the arms move once the body lands to balance out the mass (it also covers items such as clothing and hair moving as well).

Follow through – The continued motion of parts of the body after the body stops.

Overlapping action – The offset of the action between the main body and its other parts.

Drag – Delayed movements of body parts in comparison to the main body.

These can also impact the mass of the object, an object with more follow through and drag will look softer/lighter. This is similar to how Squash and Stretch works.

6. Slow In and Slow Out

Description – Slow In and Out can be thought of similar to acceleration and deceleration. This is a key principle in replicating life-like motion instead of mechanical motion. Movement looks more realistic when it starts slow, speeds up and then finishes slowly again. In 2D the frames are more condensed and closer together at the beginning and end to portray this. However, in 3D it is altered within the graph editor, making it a spline rather than linear graph and giving it a steeper curve in the middle.

7. Arc

Description – Adding Arcs within a movement adds more realism. Making a movement follow an arc makes it seem less robotic and often adds more character/expression to the movement. Mainly because organic movements follow a more circular path (or arc). This is a simple yet necessary step to creating organic life-like motion.

8. Secondary Action

Description – The secondary action helps display the primary action by adding more character and dimension to it. Basically, the secondary actions are the small gestures or other actions that the character makes to help express what they are doing. These often can be as important as the primary action when conveying realism.

The examples in the video below are very useful for understanding this.

9. Timing

Description – This principle states that “the personality and nature of an animation is greatly affected by the number of frames inserted between each main action”.

This basically means that the timing is everything… If the audience isn’t given enough time or is given too much time to view a movement or action it can completely change its meaning, causing it to lose it’s effect/impact.

Note: The standard frame rate for movies is 24 fps (drawing on ones). However, it is also common to work in 12 fps (drawing on twos). Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

10. Exaggeration

Description – Exaggeration is key to creating more realistic animation. This involves making the movement more clear through amplification of the action, almost by making it look less realistic (more exaggerated) it increases its believability. The shorter the animation (a few frames long), the more exaggerated the motion may have to be to make it noticeable (as the eye may not perceive it). Often by taking the exaggeration level too far, you can judge what is enough/appropriate, as you have seen the whole range.

11. Solid Drawing

Description – Solid Drawing is the principle that makes the character/animation feel like they are in a 3D space rather than just flat and boring. This is done by adding a sense of volume, weight, and balance to the character. This also includes being able to draw the character/object from all angles in a 3D environment. This can be done by considering basic solid shapes, vanishing points, contour lines and so on.

Overlap must also be considered within solid drawing to bring your characters and objects out into the 3-Dimensional Space. It shows where parts of the body recede (without it, everything feels flat).

12. Appeal

This is the principle that we have been asked specifically to focus our character design upon.

Description – This principle covers the audience’s opinion of a character. Any character within an animation should be somewhat pleasing to the eye. This is applicable to all the characters, it doesn’t always mean that they have to “good looking”, they just need something within their design that makes them unique, cool or interesting to look at.

There are many ways of going about this, first of which is by giving it a dynamic design. Using a combination of shapes, changing/exaggerating proportions (the defining aspects) and finally keeping it simple (at least initially, as it will need re-drawn many times).

The vast majority of these principles can be paired together with one or more of the other principles. However, they are all key in the creation of a life-like animation.

Character Design

I initially struggled to settle on a character, I designed a number of characters based on appeal.

I considered the ‘appeal’ attribute from a number of perspectives. I considered exaggerating the appealing aspect through –

Making the character cute and likable… (I drew a couple of stylized Baby Groots from Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in there also).

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I tried making the character more sympathetic in most of my drawings (above and below)… As well as making the character with more extreme proportions and exaggerated features…

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I even thought about designing a villain type character based on appeal. It possibly would have been more unique and interesting, at least when comparing it to a typical fluffy cute character.

From my initial designs and research, I had settled on a few key attributes I wanted to keep within my character design, they were…

  • Head Size/Shape – Large and Horizontally Oval Shaped
  • Ears – Large and capable of portraying emotion/feeling
  • Bone Structure – Skinny/Frail
  • Height – ≤ 3 Heads High (Less than or Equal to symbol)

I settled on these attributes as they would give the character a sympathetic feel to it. They also were in some of my favorite designs that I both looked at and drew.

However, I also intended on making the character in the role of a mentor. This may have stemmed from the mentor being one of my favorite of the archetypes. Then again, it may have been just from reading and studying the Mentor section in Vogler’s book The Writer’s Journey. Therefore, I needed him to inspire/demand respect through his design. He needed to look tough, wise and experienced. The sort of take-no-nonsense type of character. However, I still wanted him to have some sympathetic aspects to him (as most great mentors do).

I began researching further into how I wanted my character to look. My research led me back to the gaming side of the animation industry. Mainly because I wanted my character to function in this type of environment.

Influences

Below are some of my influences… As you will hopefully see, they share many/all the attributes that I previously mentioned that I wanted to keep within my characters design.

They are mainly examples of games characters, most of which I grew up with and personally find to be very appealing.

Ratchet And Clank – Insomniac Games

This was one of my favorite games series whenever I was younger, so no wonder it influenced my designs now. This game series has stood the test of time thus far, and it’s character and environment designs are stunning in my opinion.

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Even within the pictures above, we see clear examples of the 12 principles in action. Therefore, I feel that this was an excellent reference to work from.

Ratchet_And_Clank_Design_Concepts.jpg
Early Ratchet Designs – Image sourced from InsomniacGames.Com

I was considering making my character a wise old mechanic or engineer. Possibly with a robotic leg or arm to further exaggerate this profession.

Ratchet_And_Clank_Design_Concepts_02
Engineers/Mechanics from Ratchet and Clank – Image sourced from InsomniacGames.Com

Jak and Daxter – Naughty Dog

This game series is another childhood favorite of mine. It also adheres to a number of attributes and characteristics that I would like to replicate within my design.

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However, the mentor from Jak and Daxter was the main character I wanted to focus on. It was on the back of my mind when researching/designing this character. Even whenever I was reading Vogler’s book and his theories behind the mentor archetype.

Jak_And_Daxter_04.jpg
Samos Hagai – Image sourced from JakAndDaxter.Wikia.Com

In the game, Hagai (above) was a very wise and noble mentor. He was a mentor that took no-nonsense but yet you still felt sympathetic towards. This may have been due to his height, proportions, stilts or the walking stick. Many of these sympathetic qualities shown in Hagai I would like to replicate within my own character design.

Dobby – Harry Potter

Talking about a character that fits the attributes I previously mentioned… Dobby is a perfect example, as he has a large horizontally oval head shape, large ears that help show his emotions, a skinny/frail bone structure and he is small (around 3 heads high)…

Therefore, I felt he deserved a mention as he is a very likable and appealing character.

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Whenever Dobby died it was a very key emotional moment within the film and for many fans. I feel this was mainly due to Dobby being such an appealing and likable character.

Dobby_Grave

Dobby’s Gravestone – Image sourced from HarryPotter.Wikia.Com

Vogler – The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey
Image sourced from TheWritersJourney.Com

I considered many mentor qualities that I wanted my character to have. These were based on Vogler’s book and my previous post on the Mentor chapter within it. Click here to view it… [Pre-Warning: It is quite a long post]

Bolt – The Space-Specialised Engineering Mentor

Here is my initial design for Bolt that went on to further inspire my character rotation of him. Hopefully, my research into game characters makes more sense now…

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I drew this rough character rotation in a neutral pose for our Life Drawing class to get some critique on it.

Bolts_Character_Rotation_Pencil_Study

Overall, I feel it went quite successfully, I understand that I drew the character with some incorrect proportions as the rotation went along. However, all in all, I think most people that I asked found the character appealing.

In an attempt to fix the positions of body parts and shapes, I took the character back down to his silhouette and tried to make some adjustments to him.

Bolts_Character_Rotation_Silhouette

I quickly made a rough digital version of the back view as I forgot to include it on my previous character rotation…

Back-View

Testing the Principles…

I made a short animatic of a movement of my character (‘Bolt’)… I was trying to find a movement in which I could make use of multiple principles at the same time.

After Effects Screenshot

Apologies about the slight jumpiness, the After Effects file looks smooth but while rendering it out it became a bit jumpy.

Since Bolt is intended to be aged, slightly slower and reasonably realistic. I didn’t want to really exaggerate all the principles. However, I attempted to cover them all…

Squash and Stretch/Exaggeration/Secondary Action

I showed squash and stretch within his goggles and face (here are the frames below). The goggles and arms gave a nice amount of stretch, and the main source of squash was in the single frame of the goggles sucking into his face after the release.

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I think we can agree that the equipping goggles action is very exaggerated. This was intended to build a slight bit of humor and impact. This was actually intended to be a secondary action. I liked it so much that I tried to prioritize it more, However, I have still tried to leave it as a Secondary Action (the Primary Action being him taking a look at the out of place subject, which could be a loose nail or something).

Anticipation, Timing and Staging

The Anticipation was in the quick glances that Bolt gives the camera, alongside the action of reaching for the goggles. I made Bolt walk in from the side at the beginning to help with the staging and to build the anticipation. Bolt then sees something in a glance (like a loose screw) and then reaches for his goggles for a better look. I also used the rule of thirds, to stray away from everything being completely central. As well as to allow me to easily bring in the hammer/mallet in order to complete/conclude the movement.

Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose

It’s hard to show how I drew it. However, since it is more of an animatic, I used a mixture of Pose to Pose and Straight Ahead Action. However, I leaned more towards the Pose to Pose drawing style. It helped that I kept him at the same angle, so I could just move the drawing ahead slightly and work from the previous one.

Pose-to-Pose

Arcs/Follow Through and Overlapping Action

I tried to make his movements follow Arcs, even though I didn’t make it 24 fps. I feel it is still visible enough within the majority of his movements. (Paying attention to his arms in the frames below).

The Follow Through and Overlapping Action is shown again in the arms, head and ears. They all shoot back when the goggles are released, showing their follow through with the force build up in the goggles.

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Slow in and Out

I didn’t prioritize this principle much. However, there is slow in and out vaguely shown within the realisation of the out of place object, and again in the goggle stretch and release. (The tension is built up in the goggles and then released in the face squash.)

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Solid Drawing and Appeal

I attempted to draw in solid shapes, I broke him down into his basic shapes. This helped me to learn his shape better and more accurately, it could also be used as a reference for me if I couldn’t draw a movement correctly.

Broken_Down_Into_Shapes.jpg

I feel Bolts looks appealing both with his goggles on and off. I don’t know if he looks appealing like a Hero or Villain (nor was he really intended too). Instead, I aimed his appeal towards the Mentor category, an often secondary (yet key) character to the story.

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I gave him several interesting qualities and characteristics to make him more likable and visually interesting. Such as his robotic leg, his cane and his general hunched over shape and exaggerated (fantasy-based) proportions.

All these features add appeal and show experience, either through age, his knowledge of his profession (building himself a complex robotic leg). Even the very fact that he has a robotic leg, suggests he made a mistake and has learned from it (possibly referring back to his own Hero’s Journey)…

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As you can hopefully see, many of the principles pair together very well and can be shown reasonably clearly through an action or movement. Obviously, some of the Principles aren’t shown as well as others. However, I have attempted to show all of them in one way or another.

Overall, I really enjoyed working on this task. I have attempted to input both my Life Drawing and general knowledge into this character, and I feel it has been successful. I have learned a large amount from this task, I would have liked to be able to devote more time to it and develop Bolt further (possibly recreating, rigging and texturing him in Maya). This may develop into a summer project for me.

15-25 Second Animation

Introduction

Task:

Our task for this half of the Semester was to create a 25 second 3D animation. In order to do this we will be utilising Maya to explore genre, storytelling and the principles of animation.

My Team

My team members for this project are Erinn, Leanna and Michael. Please follow the links below to view their blogs and work.

Erinn Morrow – https://erinnmorrow.wordpress.com/category/space-animation/

Leanna Hillan – https://panbud.wordpress.com/category/animated-short/

Michael Lilley – https://michaellilleyart.wordpress.com/

rigging_attempt_09

I am really enjoying this task and I look forward to working on it and developing upon it throughout the course of this semester.

Initial Recommendations/Suggestions

Genre – Our tutors recommended utilizing the comedy genre within our short animation. As it is much easier to tell a joke within 25 seconds, rather than build the anticipation required for a horror or thriller.

Character – We were advised to make a character with few to no limbs as it would make it easier to rig and animate. The example we were given was a bean, as it can still show its personality and expression through squash and stretch, alongside the other principles of animation.

Idea Generation and Concepts

We were given a week to develop a pitch that we would present to the tutors and the rest of the class.

Initially, we struggled in this area. I personally think it was because we were limiting ourselves… We were attempting to come up with a story revolving around a character with 2 or fewer limbs. As our tutors had advised, as it would make it easier to animate.

Rayman – (Image sourced from Wikipedia.Org)

In line with this idea of a limbless character, we thought about animating the life of either a bean or a rock. We considered how a rock could grow up (obviously taking the viewpoint that rocks would be conscious beings).

This video above was very helpful with the idea. However, we obviously didn’t have 5-6 minutes to tell a story. The success of a short relies on how long it is and what point it is trying to get across. If Seth Boyden’s short film (above) was limited to 25 seconds, it wouldn’t have had nearly as much impact as it did being just under 6 minutes long. Therefore, we had to gauge what type of story we could tell and what type of character would be best for telling that story.

Leading us to quickly figure out this idea was not for us… Any 25-second long rock concepts we had were lacking in narrative, intrigue and many other necessary aspects in order to create an appealing story. Besides all of this, it didn’t sound like much of a challenge to animate.

So we generated a number of ideas. We considered how difficult it would be to animate flightless birds, as they had less limbs to work with.

Here is the Pixar short that one of our tutors showed us in class that helped us come to the idea of birds.

After this we went through and watched a good few more Pixar shorts. These included shorts like Boundin’ (2003), Day and Night (2010), Piper (2016) and so on.

However, we decided to scrap this idea with birds as well. We wanted to take it a step further (by adding more limbs). Besides, we wanted to be original and not just copy Pixar.

We wanted our idea to be “out of this world”. And it literally was, as the idea that we settled on took place in space… We decided to focus our pitch on an astronaut concept. Don’t get me wrong the suggestions our tutors gave us were good, and probably would have been much easier to animate. But where is the fun in that?

Here are some of the space themed shorts that we looked at…

The next short fits perfectly with the style one of our lecturers mentioned in class. He said, not to tell a horror story in 25 seconds, instead tell a joke… “A fart joke can be told in 25 seconds”. He went on to say that a fart joke is simple to understand and to tell.

Character Design and Initial Ideas

We came up with a few concepts for narratives and characters. Here is an example of one of my quick sketches and rough storyboards.

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The idea above is one of my early concepts (we all took a night to come up with a couple of concepts to discuss for the following day). Basically, our astronaut is flying around space, he lands on a moon to capture it. However, after planting his flag, he discovers that the planet is alive… And it didn’t appreciate being woken up.

I designed a rough character for our pitch (based on the image above). I wanted to keep it simple and make it as easy as possible for us to animate (due to the fact that we haven’t animated a character before… Alongside, him having a considerable amount more limbs than a bean).

Below is a turntable of our characters first initial design (rough).

cartoon_astronaut_char_rotation_01

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His limbs were too small for him to do what we needed him to do. Furthermore, we wanted to be able to control his animation to a further extent. After the pitch, one of the lecturers reminded us to be careful with lighting. As for a space scene, directional lights are used rather than spot lights.

Idea Development and Brand Designs

Idea Development

After meeting up to discuss ideas with each other, we developed our story. We tried to incorporate all of our ideas and in doing so completely changed it. We decided to base it on two astronauts and make it more of an advertisement campaign.

Whenever considering whether drinks brands would work in space. I remembered a Carlsberg background I had seen a while back, I showed it to my group. I feel that this image aided us in coming up with some new and more interesting ideas for our animated short.

Image sourced from WallPaperVortex.Com

Below is a more developed storyboard that we used for our pitch and most of the frames were in our first animatic.

Storyboardoutline

As our idea quickly developed to incorporate drinks brands, we needed to start creating them. We started thinking about space-related words that could work with drinks brands.

Since establishing time is limited, we figured that the names of our drink brands need to be structured into two parts. Firstly, a space-related adjective or noun followed by a word that our audience would associate with a drink on Earth.

Following the two-part naming structure, we considered general astronomy (including the names of different moons, planets, suns, galaxies and so forth). This led to features commonly associated with them. For example, moons having craters, suns producing solar energy.

Image sourced from Aqua-Amore.Com

I designed a few ideas/concepts based on some of the “space drinks” we had been discussing in class.

Below is a logo I designed, “Crater Cola”, it was designed in the style of Coca-Cola (I redrew the font too). I thought it would help further establish the brand as both being a drink as well as being able to advertise in space… Coca-Cola is a company with an enterprise value just over £145 Billion. The company could actually advertise in space and it would barely make a dent in their funds. Therefore, in an attempt to help establish our idea and to keep some sense of realism, I thought this brand was appropriate.

Crator Cola Designs

I very much enjoyed looking at the Fallout concept art with my team. We noticed that they utilized the aging process for their in-game drinks brands and I tried that in the image above in the top right corner. This caused us to look at other in-game drinks brands, such as the well-known Call of Duty drinks brands.

Following a similar process to this, I designed another logo/brand based on a popular brand, Mountain Dew. Which we changed to Crater Dew. Which maybe should have been Meteor Dew, as the name would have been closer to the original brand, Mountain Dew.

Crater Dew

For the design above I tried to incorporate a few different colour schemes to test out what worked and what didn’t. I tried to use different saturation and value levels within them. I personally prefer the right column of colour schemes, in which I attempted to make use of the “Monochromatic colour harmony” discussed in the video below. In my opinion, even though the middle column stands out the most and are the most likely to be used in a brand (in order to grab your attention) they would be my least favourite.

I found this video below very interesting and helpful when I was trying to understand colour a little better.

The Main Brand…

In order to further develop the comedy within our short I wanted to try and incorporate a more humourous brand into it. After much thought, I was able to come up with a brand that actually fitted the category of the “fart joke”.

Uranus Juice Logo_02

I enjoyed creating this design and surprisingly my team was fine with the idea and found it rather humorous (as did many of my classmates that I pitched it to).

My other teammates also developed some designs for the drink brands (which you can find on their blogs).

Billboards

The idea with the flag transforming into a billboard meant that it had to be designed. In the designs of my astronauts earlier, I had intended for a billboard.

18196058_1540310459347540_1795255627_o

Here is an example of a billboard design I did based on an earlier sketch/astronaut design.

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I liked the outcome of the billboard design above. However, I had made several other attempts to re-create other styles of billboards. Below is an example of a style that wasn’t working out as expected. Therefore, I stopped working on it and continued with the one above.

Crappy_Billboard_Design

I obviously never finished it. However, it was based on an interesting art style that focused on 4 or so colours and only using solid shapes. Here is the style I had intended to replicate, but didn’t finish.

recore.jpg
Image sourced from Strongstuff.Net.

I feel that it was the initial drawing, it was hard to express in only shapes, it didn’t enthuse me, it didn’t have any real character to it and I lost interest in it. I was working on patterns in the style shown above, I thought they were fun to design and they resulted looking reasonably successful. (Below) This was done using only circles mainly, with a few rectangles through in to make it more visually interesting.

Cool Pattern Design

I found more of the same style of work on the same website (StrongStuff.Net). Here are a few more shown in a slideshow below…

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I would have liked to explore this style more and give it another go. However, I had to move on and direct my focus/efforts back on to the character again…

Character Development

After our pitch, we were starting to design some more assets for the scene, I took on the character. We all had designed a few more ideas after the pitch for how the astronaut and his surroundings could look. Below are a few of my other concepts with more realistic (less exaggerated) proportions…

I tried considering varying sizes, the short and stumpy look gave the astronaut an appealing quality to it. However, the realistic proportions looked far better. We settled for proportions that were somewhere in the middle.

My teammates also had concepts and designs drawn up for the astronaut. Therefore, I tried to combine my ideas with theirs. Here are a few, of their designs (in the slideshow below).

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To see more of their designs, please follow the links to their blogs at the top of the post.

Anyways, back to the character design/modelling…

Below is the character that we went with for the short. I modelled him in more detail in comparison to the first rough design. The proportions are more human-like while still keeping some of the appealing qualities that the short and stumpy astronaut had.

Astronaut_Re-Design_01_Render_01

We are still trying to go for the simple look and attempting to keep our poly-count to a minimum. This is mainly for later stages, as we intend on using Substance Painter for our texturing. Therefore, we can add further detail in later while maintaining a low poly count now.

Rigging

Initial Skeletal Joint Stage

I started by building his skeletal structure in beneath the skin, this was the first main step in the rigging process and it was done by using joints.

rig_shots

The joint system starts at the Pelvis of the model, following 2 main stems.

  1. Pelvis > Spine & Neck/Head > Clavicles > Shoulders > Elbows > Wrists > Fingers & Thumbs
  2. Pelvis > Hips > Knees > Ankles > Feet

I know that there are joints for the forearms and thighs as well. They do not function as joints and are just there to help with possible weighting issues.

After making this skeletal rig of joints I then attached it to the skin through Geodesic Voxel binding method and roughly painted the skin. Following this, I added in some extra detail to the mesh. Extruding some elbow and knee guards from the original mesh. Therefore, he had to be re-skinned and re-weighted. For weighting the skin, I used a combination of the Paint Skin Weights tool and the Delta Mush weighting function (after having to paint the weights on 2 or 3 times before).

Painting Skin Weights.png

In the process of skinning and weighting our character, I watched a number of different tutorials. Many weren’t particularly useful, or didn’t tackle the issues I was facing properly. However, I found James Taylor’s tutorials particular useful for this skin weighting section.

Posing the Character

I had to test both the rig and the skin weighting to ensure that the character would work for what we need him to do… I done this by simply moving and posing the joints.

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After these poses, I tried more extreme poses for the fun of it. They were mainly film or game related ones.

Mario Jump.png
(Above Mario image reference sourced from NewSuperMarioBros2.Nintendo.Com)

The above image was testing his legs and arms, these were not really to extreme angles. However, it was just to see if there were any major issues with the initial rig.

Deadpool Pose 2
(Above Deadpool image reference sourced from MovieBoozer.Com)

The above image tests the legs, arms and the side/clavicle joints mainly. This was a funny pose that I enjoyed making. Yet, surprisingly functional at the same time. Even though it may not look like it, this is quite an extreme pose for the rig to be tested with. It uses almost every major joint in the body and stretches the skin/mesh substantially in a number of areas.

Adding Controls

I used IK Handles alongside NURBS Curves to create the proper Rig/Controls. I made a range of curves to attempt to cover all the movements the astronaut may need to make. I followed several tutorials in order to do this and I think it works quite well.

Rigging_Controls

I tested the rig by trying out a few of the animations that we may actually need him to do. Here is an example of a jump and a front flip that I animated using the rig (not that he will need to do a front flip).

Alike with the poses, I then tried a few more extreme movements that could test the skin weighting at some of the extreme angles/positions. Below is a quick interpretation of him dancing Russian style.

After I had messed about with it making the astronaut do some funny movements/poses. I finished my last pose (as the rest of my group wanted to take on a couple of animations each to play around with the rig as well).

I tried to help out with the majority of the other movements. Since I rigged the character, I had a good idea how it worked. Therefore, I was glad to help fix a movement.

For all of the movements above (and the ones I helped my teammate on), I researched the movement and practiced the movement myself to try and make it look more realistic. For example, the heroic step up, the jump and even the vomiting scene I practiced to see how I would have done it naturally (I didn’t vomit obviously).the

If we take the jump for example, I took several jumps around the classroom/my bedroom and assumed many of the poses to help me understand how it worked. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I don’t have any videos of me jumping around looking like an idiot. However, I feel that it helped a lot in giving the poses some realism and expression.

UV Mapping/Unwrapping

I first decided on a rough colour scheme for the astronaut (below) before beginning the UV mapping process for him. This had to be done for both his backpack and chest plate too, as you can see in the image below.

Rough_Colour_Scheme

It helped visualise what the astronaut would roughly look like and acted as a bit of a guide for later in the process. However, I had specifically split them into around 3 to 4 different materials each to allow for me to overlap the UV maps.

I was able to do this as Substance Painter treated each material as a separate UV. Therefore, allowing me to leave to overlap each material in the UV editor, allowing the UVs to have more room, meaning more detail.

Below is the UV Map for the Backpack. This was the first piece I unwrapped and I didn’t use the overlapping multi-material technique on it.

Backpack_UV

Below is an example of the overlapped UVs that I unwrapped. I first split it all over 4 planes, making sure each material covered a full plane, then moved them back over to the original UV map plane.

Astronaut_UV

Although this UV looks extremely messy and looks like it may not work… It does, and it makes it easier to manage in Substance Painter. The above UV map has 3 layers.

  1. Body and Legs
  2. Arms
  3. Head/Helmet

The next UV, although it looks cleaner, is also layered in a similar structure (except just in material/colour sections instead).

Chestplate_UV

Alright, after unwrapping all the UVs the meshes are each exported separately to be imported into Substance Painter. The files were exported as ‘.fbx’ to ensure that the materials would be kept separate when opened in Substance Painter. (Saving as ‘.obj’ didn’t keep the different material presets that I required).

Substance Painter

I have to say Substance Painter did take a number of attempts to create a decent result.

Substance Painter allowed us to create more natural looking textures and designs on our meshes through the UV maps.

Importing to Substance Painter was easy enough once we figured out how to do it properly. It was exporting from Maya that took longer to figure out. However, after watching about 3 tutorials on it, we figured out how to do it properly.

Substance_Painter_01.PNG

Above is how it looks when it is imported into Substance Painter. This is the one mesh of the astronaut body and it is shown in both 3D (left) and 2D (right).

The overlapping UVs/multiple materials were able to be seen/selected/textured individually. Below are the 3 overlapping meshes in the Astronauts UV map.

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These allowed for each pieces visibility to be turned on or off, making it easy to focus on particular areas of the mesh.

Substance_Painter_02

This is basically how the backpack and chest piece looks inside Substance Painter as well.

‘Uranus Juice’ Astronaut

Based on the colour scheme I showed earlier in the UV section of the post I designed the character piece by piece. I began with the backpack, here are a few Substance Painter renders of the backpack after being textured.

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I used a range of materials in this backback. I used fabrics for main blue section, PVC/Iron for the canister and a mixture of Pure Aluminium and other metals for the remainder of the pieces. I applied a slight rust texture to some metallic parts of the backpack and through using height maps I was able to add external dirt effects and such around the rest.

I tried to use maintain the same colour and materials as I continued to work on the next meshes/parts of the character. Here are a few of my renders after finishing the astronaut.

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I made further use of height maps on the astronaut himself to add detail to him, such as the vents and large zip down his front. I was able to make use of different brushes, textures, alphas and stencils to add additional features and details to him. We wanted the reveal of the main astronauts brand to be suggested to, but not fully revealed until the end. Therefore, I added small “UJ” prints on to different parts of his gear to subtly hint to it.

Below is the final piece of the character, the chest piece…

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After much consideration, we named our astronauts after the legendary characters ‘Buzz‘ and ‘Zerg‘ from Toy Story. We thought that this was applicable as the two characters are rivals in the Toy Story film, as well as being space-themed characters. Furthermore, we are studying an Animation course, and Toy Story was the first fully 3D animated feature-length film.

Crater Cola Astronaut

Since there doesn’t seem to be any hue tool (to change the colour) of brush strokes, I had to re-do the majority of this astronaut… I changed the ‘UJ’ designs to ‘CC’, I re-drew the vents and extra details. Thankfully, the fill layers were able to be changed reasonably easily, so the fabric texture was able to be changed colour with ease.

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Designing the chest plate was a reasonably similar process… I added a few different detail/decals to it to create more variance between the two astronauts. I also changed the nameplate to ‘Zurg’ rather than ‘Buzz’, as I explained earlier, those are the names we went with.

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Importing Textures

This was a bit of a struggle for a good while at first. However, once I found this tutorial (6-part) we were able to import all of our Substance Painter textures into Maya again. I found these tutorials very useful, as they went into detail on how and why we were importing certain things and taking certain steps.

When exporting the textures from Substance Painter it saves them as 6 different maps (Diffuse/Specular/Roughness/f0/Normal/Height) per section. The maps then get imported into the material attributes of an aiStandard material.

War Amongst The Brands

Once I was able to import their textures, I was able to adjust their rigs. Therefore, to ensure they worked as intended, I put them into fighting poses to test some of their extremes.

Astronaut_Rivalry_Rendered_And_Textured

Since we decided to animate before texturing I had to figure out how to properly transfer the animations we had on the non-textured rig to the textured rig. It was reasonably easy to do, I followed this tutorial on each of the NURBS controls.

I then transferred the Substance Painter textures to the animated rigs (shown below). The astronaut itself (not including the backpack/chest plate) has around 25 individual texture maps (including diffuse colour map/bump maps/roughness maps and so on).

Above is an example of the animation being transferred from the non-textured character to the textured character.

After this, I created a scene including all of the animations that each astronaut would need to do alongside the textured rigged characters. (There were around 5 or 6 different animations that needed to be transferred). We took the approach of having an individual character per animation, which we would position within a master copy of the scene and key the visibility on and off.

Assembly and Rendering

After transferring all the animations to the textured rigged character, I cleaned up the scene a bit more before importing it into the main “Master Copy” file/scene. It was all reasonably clean, except for the fact that I only named the original astronauts components (meshes/rigs etc.)… Therefore, meaning that the other 4 imported astronauts had the file name before them in the Outliner.

Outliner_Screenshot

Here are the four Crater Cola Astronaut Animations together in one scene…

I set a project for my astronauts, which was separate to the project of the scene file. This later turned out to be a bit of an issue, resulting in having to re-path/source the original texture files individually (as well as through the file-path editor).

Once we had the file all put together on the master copy, I had the unfortunate task of cleaning it all up. I had a video of me scrolling through the Maya Outliner and it lasted around 45 seconds (with me scrolling at a decent pace). However, after spending about 15 minutes or so, I had it looking reasonably clean and manageable…

We collectively mapped out the scene. I positioned the astronauts roughly where they were meant to be and fixed their animations to allow them to not jump back to their original position. Then we messed around with lighting (directional lights and skydomes). We applied the background onto several planes and created a hexagonal shape around the scene to cover the surroundings with a starry background. We adjusted the planes to allow the directional light to pass through them. Erinn and Leanna imported their camera movements and we positioned them around the scene.

Settling on a Title

We eventually settled on our title… “Freshly Squeezed”, we felt that this was a suitable title for both our drinks brands and for the possible double meanings.

I designed a few titles in a mixture of font types and styles below…

Freshly Squeezed Title Ideas

Final Assembly

After we had everything assembled we set the project again, sorted out minor problems and then copied it to memory sticks to render on several other Macs. I think by the end we were rendering over 4 Macs, and it took 2-3 days roughly to render out our animation (roughly 5 minutes per frame).

Below is our first render version of the ‘Freshly Squeezed’ Animation.

Corrections

After presenting our initial ideas, processes and final Animation to our lecturers and classmates, we were asked to make the following corrections:

  • Character Lighting (make them stand out more)
  • General Lighting of the Scene
  • Staging and Camera Turns
  • Smoothen Terrain
  • Make the Billboard Clearer (Possible Logo Re-Designs)
  • Develop the Billboard Shadow
  • Title/Credits
  • Astronaut Visibilities and other minor Continuity Errors

In order to make these corrections, we realised that the entire animation would need re-rendered. Therefore, we needed our corrections to be made with at least 3 to 4 days left to render before hand-in.

Making Corrections

We attempted to make these corrections within our animation and I feel they were reasonably successful.

  • We used Light Linking (to a further extent than before) and connected a directional light to hit all of our astronauts, bringing them out more and giving them more of a definition. In order to bring more attention to the astronaut we altered the starey backgrounds colour to make it more of a blue-white.
  • We added a warm orange spot light to the cabin in the lander. We also added in a few more directional lights with a slight colour to them. We utilised light-linking again for this.
  • We adjusted a few camera in order for it to make more sense in terms of continuity and staging. For example, we flipped the camera on the long-shot realisation scene to match the head rotation of the UJ astronaut.
  • Smoothen Terrain, we adjusted the bump mapping and other Substance Painter files to draw more attention towards the astronaut and smoothen the terrain. We also adjusted the mesh of the terrain to bring down the harsh extruding areas.
  • We adjusted the font on the Billboard, and the size proportions of the key attributes on the billboard to make it more visibly clear. We were running low on time due to other projects overlapping with our corrections, the re-rendering time (3-4 days) and the assembly/editing process. Therefore, we didn’t adjust the shadow as much as we would have liked. However, I think it doesn’t impact it that much.
  • The title was done in the famous Guardians of the Galaxy style font to reference back to the genre of a space-comedy. The credits were altered slightly as well, due to them being so plain and boring.
  • We tried to go through and fix all the continuity errors (including the final scene where the UJ astronauts visibility was keyed off).

Floating City

This project has been running alongside our Schematic/Artifact project… Since our Artifact project had a much earlier deadline, it had to take priority when it came to the Floating City. (I would have preferred to be working on this project and making use of Maya and developing my skills). Therefore, I haven’t had much time to focus on this project until now.

However, now that the Artifact project is over, I can now focus my attention on this project thankfully.

My team consists of Erinn, Leanna and Michael.

The general idea behind this project is to create a 3D Floating City based upon a city that currently exists. We stuck with Belfast, as that is the city we were assigned and that we are most familiar with…initially met up a while back to collectively research statistics on our city…

We initially met up a while back to collectively research statistics on our city…

Statistics Research

(Image sourced from – OnyxAcademy.Org)

Honestly, I initially struggled with this area, as the majority of the useful statistics take Northern Ireland as a whole rather than just Belfast. This may be because it is one of the smallest capital cities in the world. However, we each managed to find some useful information on Belfast thankfully… Here are a few general statistics/facts…

Co-ordinates –

54.5973° N, 5.9301° W

Area size –

115 km²

Population –

City of Belfast: 333,000 (2014)
Urban Area: 483,418 (2001)
Metropolitan area: 585,996 (2001)

Male/Female Percentages –

Male – 48.3%, Female – 51.7%

Life Expectancy –

Male – 75, Female – 81

GDP of Belfast –

€13.7 Billion (approx. £11.93 Billion)

GDP per person in Belfast –

(2007) €48,300 (approx. £42,000)

One of my teammates managed to find this which we all found very interesting and useful for our research. It pretty much contains all the information we need to get our percentage statistics.

Belfast as 100 people
(Image sourced from Ninis2.Nisra.Gov.Uk)

I purposely didn’t put a range of statistics in this section as I intend on spreading out my research, statistics and historical elements throughout the blog post. However, here are some of my links in case you just want to jump straight into the statistics and numbers…

2011 Census Website – http://www.nisra.gov.uk/census/2011Census.html

2011 Census PDF – http://www.ninis2.nisra.gov.uk/public/census2011analysis/pc/PC.pdf

History of Belfast – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Belfast

History of Belfast Harbour – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belfast_Harbour

Belfast Economy – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Belfast

“Belfast Harbour Growth” Statistics –http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/news/belfast-harbour-has-a-record-year-of-growth-the-silver-lining-in-our-economic-cloud-30946991.html

 A few random “Maya Assets” while researching

We made a few assets before we settled on a specific design or idea… Most of my assets included things like windows, chimneys, pipes etc. Really small and almost insignificant objects, they didn’t actually end up being used really within the final render/assembly… But anyways, here they are…

victorian_style_windows_01

chimney_render_01

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The helicopter above was discussed with the group. It was going to have a spot light on it, and it was built in the style of 1980s helicopters… It was intended to possibly represent times like the Troubles. After researching what the helicopters looked like back then, I drew up a couple of reference images that I followed while making it (shown below).

Below are the sort of images I assembled on a Photoshop document before drawing mine. I wanted to ensure that I was creating an accurate representation of a helicopter from the time… They were quickly sourced from Google Images.

Helicopter Reference Images For Sketch_02

A few more of my ideas/concepts

I began spitballing ideas (like you can see below in the left image). I wrote down key words that came to mind in relation to Belfast, then I attempted to string words to that word and made myself almost like a mind-map of ideas.

These were ranging from camera movements on a tram/train running through each of the sections of the city to different modes of transport. I liked the idea of the zeppelin, (referencing to two big industries in Belfast – Aeronautical and Boat-Building) I even began building one, until we decided on the lower poly approach and began settling on ideas. I may go back and re-model it myself at some point. However, probably not for this project.

zeppelin_start

The Rough Concept

We had a group meeting to discuss roughly how we wanted to design the floating island. Below are the two rough ideas that we discussed in class. (Primarily drew up by Michael).

The idea behind this design (above) was to build a tower like structure. Built up of three main layers/platforms each representing a different section of Belfast’s past… The top section would be current modern day Belfast. The section below would be 1980’s Belfast and may have broken sections floating around representing the troubles and its damaging effect/impact. The third section would just be 1970’s Belfast, having classical pieces of Architecture that Belfast would be known for. This third section would be built upon strong man-made foundations (representing Belfast’s actual foundations because of the boggy land that Belfast is built on). The base with the gears/cogs and propellers was to represent industry and boats/ships etc.

I tried to do it up a bit in Photoshop… It still is a very rough drawing… I will hopefully get a chance to go back and redraw the design or even just design concept art for it…

sketch-of-idea

Getting the gears going…

More Background Research and Concept Justification

We took a section of the design each, I primarily focused upon the base. Which was to be geared around a propeller.

The base is key to our design and occupies such a large section of the concept for many reasons. Some of which are:

  • The History of Belfast

The base had to revolve around propellers in order to explicitly represent the boat-building that is so important to Belfast’s history. The size reflects the Golden Age of Belfast’s ship-building and the complexity of said ships at the time.

Titanic – Image sourced from BBC.Co.Uk/History

The production of the Titanic… “It was the largest man-made object ever to have taken to the seas.” (Sourced from BBC.Co.Uk/History)… Our propellers represent that achievement in their size. Furthermore, the location of the propellers in our city (based at the bottom) could be an implicit meaning for the Titanic being at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean.

  • Economy of Belfast

The huge boat-building and aeronautical industry in Belfast could not be ignored… The size further represents the income that these industries provide Belfast and its local economy.

Belfast Harbour – Image sourced from BelfastTelegraph.Co.Uk

Bombardier and Harland & Wolff are perfect examples of companies that utilise Belfast for the Aeronautical and Boat-Building industries.

Image sourced from Commons.Wikimedia.Org

The Belfast Harbour was used by 476,000 freight vehicles in 2014. The harbour handled over 125,000 containers and 6.0 million tonnes of bulk cargo in 2009. Furthermore, around 1.4 million passengers used Belfast’s Ferry services in 2014. This information reflects the scale at which Belfast exports from its docks. (Information sourced from – Wikipedia.Org).

Trading across the waters was key to Belfast particularly in its early years and development (from the 17th Century onwards). The dock helped keep the city afloat financially and socially through trading and exports. Therefore, this was reflected within the size of our design.

  • Location of Belfast

Water and ships are primary elements to the city, as Belfast is built on the River Lagan and in the Belfast Lough. The Belfast Docks were built in the 17th Century and are vital to Belfast in both its history and its future. The docks are necessary to the survival of the city financially, socially and historically. Therefore, it needed to be reflected clearly within our design.

Image sourced from Ninis2.Nisra.Gov.Uk

Now on to the fun stuff…

Due to the base being so heavily mechanical, I began making some cogs and gears. As I knew when designing this section I wanted it to have lots of movement and stuff going on inside it.

However, after making the first gear without any references. I began to wonder, what other shapes and styles should I use? Therefore, I started using some silhouettes for shapes and inspiration.

Image sourced from – Freecreatives.com

My cogs changed dramatically after this, I noticed a significant improvement within them, they seemed more realistic, interesting and unique. I settled on 5 different cogs (as shown below) for my design…

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I then began building the turbine that I had envisioned making. The aim was to make it a semi-functional looking turbine. Therefore, I adjusted the sizes and positions of the gears, slotting them together to allow them to turn and function as if they were real gears.

Studying Engineering and Technology & Design at A-Level, helped with this section substantially. Working both with physical gears and gears digitally (on CAD) I could understand the slightly more technical element behind them. Therefore, I tried to ensure that the number of teeth on each gear would work and be able to be rotated to fit with the other gear shapes. I transferred the gear ratio rotations into the key frames and messed around in the graph editor until I had them working in sync endlessly.

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I researched quite a few turbines, blades and propellers… As I said before, I wanted to reflect the boat-building and aeronautical industries in Belfast.

Below are some examples of boat propellers that I found interesting… (Image sources can be found on the images themselves.)

Below are some examples of airplane propellers that I found quite useful… (Again, sources can be found on the images.)

I found this all very interesting and it got part of me wondering how many propellers it needed to have… So I began researching this, I came across an interesting video on YouTube that helped describe why Wind Turbines use three blades…

I was almost convinced to make my turbine have three blades after watching this video… However, I decided to go with four blades for my own propeller design, and here is why…

  • It was easier to make and animate…
  • I personally preferred the look of four blades…
  • Each section of Belfast – East Belfast, West Belfast, North Belfast, South Belfast. (Each known for having particular religious affiliations/preferences).
  • The slight resemblance to the Titanic (the middle driving propeller has four blades).

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I then added some textures to it… I used the standard Arnold shaders (AiStandard) to make my own textures… I added reflectivity, diffusion, specularity and various other effects to the gears to make them look that golden metallic colour. I made around three different shades of golden metallic to create a bit more of a uniqueness and difference to each set of cogs/gears.

floating_city_base_render_textured_01

After designing this single turbine and comparing it to the overall design I thought that something didn’t look quite right with it… It didn’t look like it would support the shear size of our world at all. It would be look more aesthetically and ergonomically pleasing if there were three turbines… (Alongside, making it look more impressive). Logically, it makes sense to have three turbines as it provides better balance and follows the three points of contact rule (making it more balanced than one turbine).

three_propeller_turbines_base_render

The resemblance to the Titanic was another reason as to why I created a base structure with three turbines. My group approved the decision too.

Talking about the resemblance to the Titanic brought the idea of the “Golden Age” of boat-building back into my head. Which helped influence the idea of a colour transition to an all golden/brown base.

three_propeller_turbines_base_steampunk_style_render.PNG

Another reason for this transition to gold was to fit with the Steampunk style that we initially set out to go with within our first set of designs. (Below are some examples of the Steampunk style (image sources on images)).

A couple more random Maya assets

After I finished my section, I built a few more Maya pieces that my teammates still needed… The main piece that I was proud of for making was this telegraph pole… I left it un-textured when I gave it to them to allow them to adjust it to suit their section of the city… However, I later realised that I should have textured it before giving it to them, as they forgot to change it and just left them a plain white texture/shader…

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Pipes

Animation and Assembly

After showing my section to the group, I assembled the platforms together. I focused on doing the animations and the key framing for the city.

The assembly of the city was a reasonably simple procedure. However, having all the assets, lights and shaders from each section did make it a slower operation for my laptop to handle. I adjusted the base colours of each city platform to allow for a slightly better colour cohesion in the city.

platforms_render_view_01

After assembling the city together, I began animating them (keying rotations). Each part of the city had to spin in opposite directions to one another to follow the idea of gear rotations. The rotational speeds were then adjusted to show city development and economy in each of the sections.

The base (my section) rotates at a reasonably fast pace reflecting the golden-age of boat-building and the growth in economy/industry at the time. (Below is a playblast of it…)

The next platform (Erinn’s section, 1970’s) maintains an average pace as the economy and industry were still successful and growing at this point. (Below is a playblast of it…)

The second platform (Michael’s section, 1980’s) rotates very slowly with the broken islands rotating at a similar speed. This represents the steep decline in the economy and the damaging impact that the troubles had upon Belfast. (Below is a playblast of it…)

The top section rotates at a fast pace representing the new era of Belfast alongside its growth and development. This can be seen particularly within the more recently established Titanic quarter and the more modern architecture. (Below is a playblast of it…)

After sorting the assembly and rotations I tried to add in smaller touches (animation wise) to each section, for example, the water wheel rotation on the 1970’s section, the orbiting islands that bob slightly and rotate at a different speed to the rest of the 1980’s section.

After I had finished this I played around with the background (which Leanna had drawn) on a plane to get it to work.

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Animating the Camera

We had a few ideas of how to animate the camera initially… We all seemed to agree to keep it with one long shot that shows the entire city. Therefore, I made an example camera movement that went up from the base, over the top while performing an 180° turn and retracting back down the city again. Similar to the diagram below.

camera_movement_01

When I tested this camera movement on our city it did work quite well, it was a relatively simple movement. However, the most difficult bit of it was making the rotation at the top look natural with city platforms rotating alongside the camera. (Unfortunately, I forgot to record/playblast the actual camera movement before deleting it. I apologise for that. However, I hope you can get the general idea of the camera movement from my diagram.

The diagram for what camera movement we actually went with is below… I made the camera track up and to the side of each platform. This looked reasonably fluid and dynamic as each of the platforms themselves rotate (therefore, our camera didn’t need to/would have taken away from it).

camera_movement_02

The thought process behind the panning to the side was to make room for statistics to be input. The camera angles were added to make it seem more fluid and natural. The camera starts facing downwards then rotates upward to face the platform at 90°, the camera then proceeds to angle upwards as it moves on, then returns to face it at 90° again, then angles downwards as it leaves that platform. The camera repeats this motion in an attempt to build anticipation for the audience as the next platform approaches. The camera then tracks outwards to show the entire city.

The background on the plane had to be adjusted to fit the camera movement. I tried multiple different processes to make it work (warping it around the city to almost make a 3D shape around it). However, in the end just leaving it as a plane and adjusting the sizes looked better and more accurate…

I animated the camera while the rest of the team worked on in other areas of the project (like the presentation for example), I had never animated a camera before. However, I feel that it was a reasonably successful camera movement to caption the entire city well. I am just unsure as to how well the statistics will be able to be input into it. As our rendering process has begun (so it is too late to change it).

Rendering

The rendering process was definitely more difficult than I had initially expected. I have to say that it surprised me how hard it is to try and figure them all out for the first time…

After I had finished with animating the camera. I input the lights into light the scene, Leanna stayed and gave her input with this section. We then began distributing the files amongst a number of Macs at the end of the room.

We started with three Macs and were almost at the point of rendering until we realised that we had an issue… Our camera wasn’t working properly, it seemed to be zoomed in alongside having some other additional issues.

At the time we thought it may have been an issue with the rendering settings, so we looked through them several times, and couldn’t find anything… We asked our Tutor, Alec for some help, he came over and managed to fix the issue after about 20 minutes or so. However, just as Alec left, the Mac crashed. So we were back to square one again.

After searching the render settings again as well as the camera settings we managed to fix the issue… Only to have it crash again. However, this time we knew what needed to be fixed. So we sorted out the issue and re-distributed the file amongst the Macs again and we estimated how long it may take. (Note: Rendering process started at 10pm on Wednesday night).

image_for_rendering.PNG

By this point, I had pretty much learned how to render through trial and error. Therefore, I knew exactly what to do when re-distributing renders later on. However, I recorded some of the render settings for future reference, and in order to help other teams out. (This actually did come in handy when a few of my friends asked me about rendering. I told them what to do roughly and sent them this image to follow…)

Render Settings.jpg

For some reason our first few renders were only taking around 2-3 minutes when Alec tested them, so we had it estimated to roughly 40 hours (split between 3 Macs – Just over 13 hours per Mac)… This meant that it should be finished by the morning (Thursday). However, once morning came, we checked the renders to find that each render was taking around 15-20 minutes each on some Macs. One Mac had somehow finished its section (Thursday Night). So I recruited 2 more Macs to the cause and re-distributed the rendering across all the Macs again. I kept doing this each time one of the renders would finish on one of the Macs, I would get it going with another batch of tougher renders.

Our rendering process somehow lasted all the way to Sunday morning (just under four days render time), by this time, I had seven Macs on the go. We were able to do this as most other people had finished rendering (even though they started after us). Therefore, meaning there we free Macs that we could use… By the end, I had re-distributed the renders around 3 or 4 times, as well as, having multiple documents that had reduced numbers of lights, effects etc. in order to render it slightly faster…

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Rendering: What I would do differently…

There are many things I would do differently when it comes to rendering…

  • Ensure I check the number of lights – Are they all necessary?
  • Reduce the amount of shaders/materials we used – It might look better if texturing was all left to the end, to ensure everything matches (reducing the overall amount of different shaders/textures being used within the scene).
  • Reduce the amount of additional, potentially unnecessary effects being applied to the shaders (like reflectivity for example)…
  • Reduce the file size as much as possible (or practical) early on – Meaning it has less to render and it doesn’t need to be done later (mid-render).
  • Allow for even more rendering time – A week for rendering would have been better and less stressful.

However, it was my first time rendering and I feel all in all it has been a success (despite all that went wrong). I now know what to do in the future and what precautions may need to be taken before and during renders.

Here is the final render assembled (without sound) below… (Please watch it in 1080p HD, thanks).

Final Product/Version

Below is the version with sound, and then following is the video with some statistics input… Personally, I prefer the version with sound to the slowed version with statistics. As I previously mentioned, the render took until Sunday, leaving very little time for us to learn After Effects and input statistics onto our rendered city. If we had more time, I would possibly re-render to adjust the camera movements to allow for more time to show renders and a better positioning for them.

I think the music seemed to mess up a bit in the version below (with statistics) when my teammate was uploading it to YouTube for some reason…

Overall, I am very pleased with how it turned out… There would be a number of changes I would make to it if we had the time… However, I feel that for our first 3D creation based group project we did very well… My team was very good, effective and hard working. I feel that it was because of this work ethic that we were able to distribute work so well and conclude with such a successful piece (in my opinion).