The Final Two Animations!

The First Draft

Things we knew about-

  1. Lid bounce had managed to go out of sync/stopped completely in places.
  2. Quality had to be reduced to 720 to get it rendered in time-This will be changed
  3. Lights and camera settings were grainy and noisy
  4. Sounds were a little off, had to be done very quickly before the deadline-We want richer sounds with a LOT less bass.
  5. Some of our camera angles don’t make you feel like part of the action.

Feedback-

  1. Could change the shape of the bouncer (big shoulders)-Tried before…looks a bit off.18387233_10211579704624808_257523284_n
  2. Lighting needs altered-White Light between colours- Altered by adding Fog and a ‘Moonlight’ spotlight. Box lights now only 2 area lights.
  3. Lid bounce out of sync-Was already being changed
  4. Rope Barriers outside club?- No space for the action to take place…also for realities sake, where would they have found a perfectly proportioned rope barrier? Barbie set?18405634_1535857119779002_800999767_o
  5. Include Fog/Glass Box?- DONE
  6. Timing and camera Issues-RESOLVED…we hope.

The Final Edit 

 

 

Lighting

Originally, our team was a little in the dark with lighting (ha).

The Original Set Up-Edit One

We had our whole scene lit by an Arnold Skydome light, which cast an even but unrealistic light over everything; taking away any opportunity for shadows and interest. We didn’t make a wrong choice in doing this…it just wasn’t dynamic in the way we wanted.

Our original studies and sketches show a beam of moonlight flooding into the room and lighting up the box, with lovely dusty light, but at last minute, this just wouldn’t have worked with our render time.

In saying that…neither did the EIGHT LIGHTS that we had put into our Box nightclub. In 1080p renders, our eight lights did look fabulous though…but only when they weren’t interfering with the animation and creating noise.

The Box Set Up-Sarah created our box lights-which would then be imported into the final scene. They consisted of eight different coloured spotlights, each with a cone to the back to prevent light from spreading past the desired area. The area over the ‘Windows’ was then covered with an ‘AiMesh’, which created the ‘disco ball’, ‘clubby’ look. It really does look beautiful when it shines over reflective surfaces and over the faces of our characters…but was just too complex and confusing in the final close up scenes.

Another thing that we found out later on is that you can save your renders in one of two ways…RAW, or Colour-Managed. 

For the first set, I think we were working with Colour-Managed, while RAW would have been better (darker). (We didn’t know about this setting at the time, as well as camera settings).

For the second set of renders, we chose to go with Colour-Managed saves, as it was a little brighter in the shadows, which we could darken down in post. We couldn’t undo the crushed black look we got with RAW files in after effects.

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To resolve the lighting issues we had in the first edit, Clare and I spent the day researching lighting-in particular, how to create a dusty moonlight look. We also looked into the best way to create the box lights, without over complicating the scene and creating white light.

Researching the moonlight was easy…applying the moonlight was tricky. Clare and I wanted it to be obvious that it was moonlight, and not sunrise. We needed it to be blue and cold, but not too dark or ominous. The room had to seem foggy/dusty, but only the right amount…too dusty and you couldn’t see all the lovely models that everyone had made…It began to look more like the club was on fire and the room was filled with smoke. Not a good look. Over and over we kept finding that we couldn’t get the scene to brighten up…only to realise about an HOUR later that our screen brightness was way down. FACE PALM.

But in the end, with much fiddling with fog densities and spread, we got to a happy medium of cold and cosy.

 

 

Animation

With the models made, room arranged and characters rigged and textured, it was time to start the animation!

This part of the process was simultaneously great fun and unbelievably tedious. Having the most knowledge of how the rig worked, Clare started the ball rolling by animating the first few scenes (checking for any random glitches etc), while I worked on the simple animation of the trap door closing, the box lid bouncing and the mobile slowly spinning. I love that the two of us are always on hand to help each other out and give critique/advice on the best way to do something.

With the first camera pan already rendered, I also started to design the ‘Fitting In’ title on after effects, while Sarah and Holly thought about different ways we could make the end credits interesting (adding little drawings from each of us as a logo). I would have loved to put more time into the title, its’s my kind of thing. With the time we had, I just ended going for one of my favourite fonts-a very simple font called ‘Peach Milk’-to give a paper cut look. I think it also reads really nicely as a description of the story, the ‘In’ is different to the ‘Fitting’ but it can still fit in…the difference is part of the harmony of life. Yes, that much meaning in a typeface. Graphic design, boom.

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The plan – We would have the room completely animated so that the basic animations listed above stayed constant. Then, each set of character animations would be imported into that working scene at their specified frames and saved as new versions (frames###-###). Unfortunately we must have got an old file and an animated file of the room mixed up at some point, resulting in the box lid stopping it’s bouncing at points 😦 By the time we noticed, it was too late to restart renders.

Clare then blocked out the beginning and end positions of the characters in each section of the story, and set the OUTLINE file to each of us. From there on, we could work on our own section of animation, knowing it would at least roughly line up with the next section.

Clare-Opening Hop Up, Dance, Cylinders Jumping In

Me-Cube Hop In, Crash, Fall Back, POV shot

Sarah-Get up and Turn Around

Holly-Sad Walk and Turn

Yazz-Lid Pop, Turn, Jump, Freeze Frame

Lots of squash and stretch used in all of our animation to give it a very traditional feel. We made sure to follow the 12 Principles of Animation-Blog Post.

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Some shots from my section above^ Look at those little concerned faces!

 

Rigging and Texturing

Rigging

Clare, our resident rigger, did an amazing job rigging the characters that we had all sat and modelled together. She used a simple lattice rig, with cluster handles at the head, belly and feet, with expression controls for squash and stretch on each one. Very similar to the Jonas rig (I watched the process many times to learn from her).

We did have a lot of trouble with the rigs to start off with. Having rigged the characters, we didn’t realise that if you changed their UV map that the rig would no longer apply. While Clare had been testing out rigs, I had been designing UV mapped textures on another model…and when the two were brought together, weird things happened. We thought we were being time efficient! BUT, in the end, the two came together beautifully to create the squishy, squashy little characters we now know and love-Shout out to Clare who must have rigged each character at least 5 times-STAR!

I’m sure Clare will have loads on her blog about the rigs, so I’ll leave a link here.

Textures and the Facial Rig

It was actually great fun learning to UV map the characters, and then paint over the maps to create a custom texture. I had also worked with projection maps to add the faces onto the characters, which was fun! The only issue was getting the face to scale correctly, which could be a bit of a nightmare. In the end I stuck with this option though, as the tutorial for creating 3D eyes was a very old one and seemed to have a lot of issues (Of course I found this out 3 hours into trying it over and over again).

No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get this tutorial to work. It has a lot of grouping and parenting issues which I couldn’t resolve in the time frame.

My attempt to follow this tutorial^ I was only one step from the end when things started to go wrong…Maybe it just needed more time…But in the end, I loved the 2D faces so much more!

In the end, I used this tutorial to learn how to add the faces to the texture of the characters. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, the expressions we could use in the animation were limited…but I did design and create expressions for 9 different faces on each character. These were set via an added attribute in the channel box of the top nurb of each characters rig.

^Some of the earliest tests, with quick doodles to check that the placement of the maps worked out. Note-Encountered problem with the UV map ‘Sticking’ to the background of the editor…possibly problem with laptop, but was extremely frustrating as I couldn’t move the UV around make painting in Photoshop easier. 

Cubeeyes.001eyes.001triangle

 

 

 

 

 

 

An example of each texture map-there were nine of each, with different faces on each one. This was then used as an ‘Image Sequence’ in Maya.

The ‘wood texture’ texture was based on my original character rotations. We wanted something that looked illustrated, and not true to life-just to differentiate them from the world around them, and to give the whole thing a ‘handmade’ feel.

Modelling

With the characters and environment now solid in our heads, the team got stuck into Modelling our objects in 3D.

We decided to split up the room a little, to make sure we didn’t end up with duplicates; taking the first shot and separating the most important pieces.

Yazz-The Attic Frame(The Room)

Clare-Floor Boards

Holly-Researching Textured and Bump Mapping

Sarah-The Toy ‘Box’

Me-The Lightbulb

Over time we would then all pick and choose various objects to model and fill the room with.

My Models

The Lightbulb …… Creating glass and chrome …..learning how to make a ‘glow’

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Suitcases

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Globe17820808_1498408903535017_846816609_n

Rockets17909501_1507214449321129_1614649111_n

Astronomy Stool18142847_1521183454590895_491578861_n18155385_1521183457924228_1798903914_nSolar System Mobile (top right corner)(look at that lovely render)

HHH

Environment-The Room

From the beginning of the project, we knew that we wanted our scene to take place in a dusty attic- stuffed to the gills with old clutter, boxes and furniture.

The idea was that a little boy had grown up in the house, and all of his old toys were packed away with the Christmas decorations and other pieces that might hint to his personality. Later on in the modelling process, I came up with the idea that the boy needed a hobby; something that would really define him. This gives the room itself a personality, and invites the audience to learn more. We plan to have a defining opening shot, where we get a real sense of space and time in the attic, as well as an insight into it’s owners. We decided that he would have an interest in space, so as you look around our final room design, you can see various toys and objects that hint to this…A telescope, A table of Astronomy books, toy rockets, a solar system mobile, as well as crayon drawings of aliens and spaceships on the toy box (young graffiti artist).

In terms of time, we wanted our scene to take place at night. This gives it that ‘blanketed’ feel, where the toys are partying in secret, away from the preying eyes of humans. It also creates a peace that can be interrupted up the disco lights and music. The dust in our room will feel stagnant until the music starts, and it begins to flow and bounce again…Just like the memories of the little boy.

Lighting wise, our room will be flooded by moonlight from a skylight, which casts a spotlight upon the toy box, illuminating it and drawing the audiences eye to the right place. There will also be light from below, coming from the closing trap door. This will be blocked out, plunging the attic into darkness. The box itself will have its multicoloured disco lights, which reflect off various glass/reflective objects in the room. We did initially have a lightbulb that turned off as well…however given render time, we have decided to leave that out.

At this stage, we were so keen to get into modelling that we looked more to research for an aesthetic instead of creating much concept art…However this is something I would like to do as a summer project.

The Little Prince

Both Clare and I had watched ‘The Little Prince‘ and took great inspiration from it’s beautiful scene in the aviators house. The light and atmosphere in the room really make you feel what it must be like to be there…dusty and warm. The camera angles are stunning, and often come from through or behind other objects, really adding to the cluttered and haphazard feeling. They often frame the scene with objects in shadow, to give the feeling of a small, confined space full of treasure.

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Unfortunately, with such a short time frame to get the story across, we couldn’t be as adventurous with artsy camera angles as we would have liked…Again, an activity for a rainy day over summer! I would love for our attic to be just as cluttered as this room, just with slightly more muted colours (for night time).

Later in the process, Clare and I worked on creating moonlight for our scene, to give the effect of shafts of light pouring into the room. It was an extremely long and tedious process to work with all of the light settings without having been taught much on this topic. Most of the tutorials online were quite old and didn’t quite have the look we were going for…so it was a matter of a lot of trial and error! This also included working with fog densities and atmosphere in the room, which was another learning curve!

UP

Another film we took a lot of inspiration from was Pixar’s UP. It’s melancholic colour palette in the scene we were looking at was far more in line with our own, and the scenes had a lovely exaggerated style to them. Many of the objects (like Ellie’s chair) are exaggerated in order to reflect the owner. Ellie and Carl’s chairs look like chair versions of them! We loved that each item in their room had a specific story behind it.

The Box Trolls

I’m just going to put it out there… I haven’t actually seen ‘The Box Trolls’. However I remembered the ad from years ago, and had always loved the style of Laika productions. It instantly came to mind when I started thinking about the colour and style of our animation. After seeing the beautiful textures and painted sets of ‘The Box Trolls’ the whole team had decided that we wanted to give the scene a ‘handcrafted’ kind of feel…with lots of rich textures and colours.

 

The Animatic-Fitting In

Initially, our team had a bit of trouble with our animatic. The key with an animatic is for it to have a consistent look and smooth motion-to keep it simple enough to just get get the story across and no more. Over complication definitely hindered our first animatic, with colours, different styles from each person and different methods of working (traditional and digital).  We were also pretty pushed for time this week, which didn’t help much! It’s really not good…however we did create some atmosphere and shots that would continue on through the whole process, so definitely not time wasted!

I was actually really happy with how my quick title shots turned out. Although they are very sketchy and rough!

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 14.47.29Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 14.48.07To resolve the animatic problem, Myself, Yazz, Clare and Holly sat down to discuss possible options for moving on. With a far more solid idea of what we wanted our camera angles to look like, and where we would cut the animation, we got to drawing up a new rough storyboard. Not everyone in the group had access to the right materials at this time, so we decided that we would draw up a rough storyboard first, which would be transferred to digital once the angles were all worked out. This way, we would end up with an animatic that flowed and was stylistically sound. I began by drawing up the first few frames, along with a few roughs for in between. Clare took on the job from there, and did an amazing job at figuring out camera angles that would work seamlessly with each other…a massively time consuming and tedious task! While she worked on with that, I got to creating some final character designs, so that when it came time for me to draw it up digitally, I would know exactly the look we were going for.

Once I had the frames from Clare, I got to drawing them up in Photoshop, adding a paper texture to the background and some additions of colour to tie it in nicely with our childhood theme. After looking at some Pixar storyboards, I had noticed how keeping the mood and atmosphere of the idea constant-even in the practical, planing phases- was so important in really nailing down the feel of the project. I also added in some extra frames just to make the piece flow, as well as a title sequence. I love working with Clare on projects like this. We often share a very similar idea of the end goal, and will stop at nothing to achieve that goal! Since the animatic, we have changed quite a few camera angles, just to make the audience feel more a part of the action, and to draw your eye to the right spot in the scene…but the main angles all stayed fairly accurate to the animatic!

 

 

Fitting In-Characterisation

We began looking at our character design a lot this week. A slight downside to our story is that our characters are innately simple. Without all the best intentions, you can’t really make a cylindrical peg look like anything other than a cylindrical peg. However this does give us a lot of room to experiment with style and the little details that really make an animation loveable. Each member of the team spent some time drawing up multiple variations of the character so we would have a pool of choices. These can be found on each of their blogs!

I decided to draw up two of our main characters quickly in photoshop to get a sense of their personality. I wanted to give the characters a very natural, earthy look, while also looking like something that a child would want to play with.

shapes

I really like how the characters turned out, and think that the wood grain really adds to their personality. If we were more advanced in maya, I would have loved for the wood grain to form the eyes, using knots for the darkest sports…however for now I think simple holes will do the trick. Since this drawing, we have decided to get rid of the arms on the characters, as our new storyboard doesn’t require them.

expressiom<Some character movement ideas. We think that the character of the shapes will mostly come across in the way they move and act.

Edit: Soon after these drawings, the team decided on a solid character design, which I drew up in rotations to get an idea of scale and texture. Having now finalised our animatic, we knew the characters no longer required arms, so they were taken out of the design.

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A really helpful resource when looking at character design and storyboarding was the Pixar website. Early in the year I watched a great video documenting the storyboarding process of ‘Monsters Inc’ (no longer available) where the group voiced and acted out the story along to the storyboard frames. My own team definitely found ourselves acting like wooden pegs more than is probably socially acceptable.

I believe Clare also has this on her blog, but one of the sections of the website that is most useful is their ‘TIPS FOR DESIGNING A SUCCESSFUL CHARACTER’. Now, I will openly admit that I found this long after the character designs were actually created; however it is really reassuring to see that the team actually went through each and every one of these points without even thinking about it!

Research and evaluate
It can be helpful to try and deconstruct why certain characters and their characteristics work and why some don’t. 
 Study other characters and think about what makes some successful and what in particular you like about them.

Who is it aimed at?
Think about your audience. Characters aimed at young children, for example, are typically designed around basic shapes and bright colours.

Visual impact
Whether you’re creating a monkey, robot or monster, you can guarantee there are going to be a hundred other similar creations out there. Your character needs to be strong and interesting in a visual sense to get people’s attention.

Exaggerated characteristics
Exaggerating the defining features of your character will help it appear larger than life. Exaggerated features will also help viewers to identify the character’s key qualities.

Colour
Colours can help communicate a character’s personality. Typically, dark colours such as black, purples and greys depict baddies with malevolent intentions. Light colours such as white, blues, pinks and yellows express innocence, good and purity.

Conveying personality
Interesting looks alone do not necessarily make for a good character; its personality is key as well. A character’s personality can be revealed through animations, where we see how it reacts to certain situations. The personality of your character doesn’t have to be particularly agreeable, but it does need to be interesting (unless your characters is purposely dull).

Express yourself
Expressions showing a character’s range of emotions and depicting its ups and downs will further flesh out your character. Depending on its personality, a figure’s emotions might be muted and wry or explosive and wildly exaggerated.


Goals and dreams
The driving force behind a character’s personality is what it wants to achieve. Too often the incompleteness or flaws in a character are what make it interesting.


Building back stories
If you’re planning for your character to exist within comics and animations then developing its back story is important. Where it comes from, how it came to exist and any life-changing events it has experienced are going to help back up the solidity of, and subsequent belief in, your character. Sometimes the telling of a character’s back story can be more interesting than the character’s present adventures.


Beyond the character
In the same way that you create a history for your character, you need to create an environment for it to help further cement believability in your creation. The world in which the character lives and interacts should in some way make sense to who the character is and what it gets up to.


Fine-tuning a figure
Question each element of your creation, especially things such as its facial features. The slightest alteration can have a great effect on how your character is perceived.

 

 

The Pitch

The Task-

Create a 15-25 second animation that ‘Evokes Emotion’. 

My Team-

Sarah, Clare, Yazz, Holly, Moi. 

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^photo cred to Holly!

We began the ideation process by thinking of the various emotions we would like to convey in our animation, and the ones we instantly connected with were Nostalgia and Humour. Thinking a little deeper, we knew we wanted to create an animation that taught a moral tale, with a deep implicit meaning.

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After a morning of ideation and brainstorming…and MANY subway cookies, we came up with our final idea. When I think of the word nostalgia, the first thing that comes to mind is childhood. From here we began to think about the various toys that we played with when we were younger, and we all agreed that we had the wooden peg toyThe basis of the toy being that you had a wooden box with shaped holes on each side and a lid on top; the goal, to fit the correct wooden peg shapes into the correct holes. The great thing about this toy is that it stayed popular over many generations, so the story would be accessible and understandable to all.

The story kind of wrote itself from there on..

TITLE- Fitting In.

Our characters would be the various shaped pegs that fit into the box. The box has just been left in the roof space by a parent (the child has grown too old for it). As the door closes, and the lights in the roof space go out, multicoloured lights (including Christmas lights left in a decorations box) turn on in the toy box to a little cheer of excitement. For these toys, they finally have their freedom, they are now adults. Music starts to play as the characters peer around the side of the box. The audience now grasps that the box is like a club to the characters (note:our play on the real BOX nightclub in Belfast).

The front doors to the club will be a circle hole and a star hole (for the VIP’s), and all of our characters, bar one, will be cylindrical. One by one, they are let into the ‘club’ by the bouncer (who is a triangle of course…he’s edgy). The camera pans out and reveals an anomaly, a little cuboid, standing excitedly in the middle of the queue. His turn comes to get into the club, but no matter how hard he tries, he just can’t fit into the cylindrical hole. He is turned away by the bouncer and walks away, dejected.

We follow as he walks into the distance, while in the background, the audience can see the lid of the box being opened by lots of little cylinder characters. One whistles to the cuboid, and he turns around to see his friends becoming him over. Showing that you don’t have to conform to the regular shape, the cylinders either turn him over and fit him into their doorway, or let him jump in through the roof.

To end, we cut back to the first shot of the lights in the roof space, showing that all has returned to normal. Role credits.

We presented the idea to the class, and both Conánn and our classmates loved the idea! Yay! … Well Conánn said he ‘nearly loved’ it…which to us pretty much means loved.