Learning Blog

Wow I haven't been on this blog for quite a while (been distracted over the longest summer I've ever had). I started back last week to Ravensbourne at its new home in Greenwich. The building is awesome and so many new toys to play with haha. Straight away we are in the middle of plenty of work :( no room for summer blues.

We've been given two main projects and also contextual studies (laaaame) anyway the two projects we've got are:
1. Digital Environments
2. Character Animation

Digital environments sounds awesome we (as in my little motley crew of animators) have to design a 3d environment with animation happening within for example: a ghost town with animated tumble weed blowing through it. The possibilities for this project are endless.

During the class we were told to start thinking of ideas and not just generic ones like Castles and Fantasy/Sci-Fi environments because we can make them look like whatever we want them to look like. The idea is we have to research and produce a well thought out idea that can  be fleshed out into "reality" with our group modelling, lighting, etc. 

This actually started to get my imagination going, i was thinking of so many ideas but most of them were ridiculous and nothing to do with anything substantial so I focused on really interesting places and how they became like that.

First off I thought of Chichen Itza the Mayan sacrificial pyramid in Mexico... yes this is because I watched Idiot Abroad the night before (was quite funny, so funny in fact its still on my sky+ box.) None the less the environment itself was amazing, the structure was ridiculously steep with god knows how many steps up to the top. I started thinking what an amazing place and i wonder what it would have been like when Mayans still lived around there in its hay-day. I started thinking that would be fun to model this grand structure standing out with its civilians milling around it going by getting on with their day (until there was a sacrifice... then I think they would be hiding just so they wouldn't be picked.)

As I was thinking along the lines of ancient cities and structures the thought came to me of Pompeii and how well preserved it was after being covered in ash. To see that as a working city with its delegates, soldiers, farmers, etc. moving around it, lit with torches and alive. I thought that would be a challenge especially as roman architecture is quite intricate.

While thinking up other ideas I remembered something Jared (our tutor) said about some animations were subtle showing environments and what effect time itself has on them. Pompeii has an interesting history seeing as it was at the centre of a devastating natural disaster. The thought of showing the environment going through its time line would be wicked having it all happy go lucky one moment and the next molten rock and ash crashing down destroying the city in blink of an eye and then being cocooned in the ash until it rose again when it was excavated in 1599 accidentally (honestly how can you accidentally discover a city that was lost for 1,500years, its not like your walking down a road and trip over an ash covered pillar and go "oh I've found a city"... they should have at least pretended like they knew what they were doing to give them some credit.)

anyway for now thats it from me next time ill talk a little more about environment and a lot more on my character project once I've got some done hahaha (slacking :( )

Right we have finally decided on an idea!!!!

Our idea is *achem* "The Weather Maestro"!!!


The idea is basically the environment of a lab situated in a lighthouse, that within it is the scientist who has created a weather machine. To use this machine he plays it like an organ (phantom of the opera style, except not as ominous.) As he plays we will visit the different areas through screens on the machine.

For this idea we are going to have to design more than one environment... not full scale ones but snippets of them with maybe a matte painting for the rest of the environment. The concept of the environment is that it is organised chaos. The lab is going to be in disarray but the character is going to know exactly where everything is. 

To research this I'm going to look into films and art books that have the same sort of feel of what I envision the lab to look like. Its meant to be along the lines of organised chaos so along the lines of maybe, his lab is like an office desk. It looks disorganised and cluttered but to the owner it is organised and has everything where he wants it and knows where it is.

Another idea for the organ's pipes are going to come out of the lighthouse or connects to fog horns. Through the pipes/foghorns weather is going to be produced and manipulated. The team were also thinking if boats should be involved that react to the weather being produced and maybe feel the consequences of this.

Right now that is it so laters
We as a group have come up with the idea that the style of the environment and animation should be cel shaded. I'm gonna look up good examples of this such as this example Jared showed us:
http://www.axisanimation.com/index.php?id=456&loc=WORK

For this environment I am looking into the inhabitant of it first. There are 3 different characters that were suggested being a Scientist, a Sea Captain and a Composer. These mainly because theres a machine involved thus the scientist, the lighthouse so i suggested a sea captain and the composer because we are using a musical element to it.

In the group we have decided to use the Composer because the is more style to him. It also makes more sense seeing as theres going to be a musical organ made of different instruments. Looking into composers the caricature of them is crazy hair slicked back, formal composer outfit with a ruffled shirt, shoes and wand. 



Or they all look like Beethoven...

This will make quite a good interesting character to base an environment on. As the character is quite eccentric the environment , so plenty of weird machines and mechanisms in and around the lighthouse he inhabits. There will be plenty of scrap metal, cogs, etc. which will show his engineering side. Along with  scrap everywhere there will be different mechanisms like a stair lift or pipes and gears steaming/rotating in the walls and ceilings.
Today we have decided what jobs each person is doing at the moment. I was given the job of researching and to start modelling the stair ways, which are a main part of the interior of our environment.

My idea for the stairs in the lighthouse is too make them seem quite regal and decorative giving a sense of style to the interior and a time period of when it was made. Also looking at films that have mixed machinery have mainly made building styles look Victorian and Renaissance styles.

I looked up examples of Victorian and Renaissance stair ways, here are some of the best examples:









Based on these images I have started sketching and drawing out different styles and shapes of stair cases that look like they can flow through the space. The styles above looks aesthetically great and would go well with the mechanical objects that are going to be situated in and around them.

While i was searching for examples I also came across a stair case design by Thomas Heatherwick, which has pushed the design of stairs to the extreme. Instead of sticking to conventional designs he made the stairs flow to create new forms and shapes. Taking this as inspiration I'm going sketch possibilities of using different forms and shapes to create conventional stairs.


Later I will scan in my sketches and post them up on here.







Through this project my job was to modelled, texture, light and film the inside of the lighthouse tower which is quite a main part of the environment. I started off drawing concepts from regal and posh looking staircases like the pictures below, here are some concepts I drew.




In there concepts there are a few ideas that never came into fruition such as the stair lift which wouldn't have looked as good as actual steps. From my concepts I did take certain ideas such as the huge entrance staircase which i thought looked very royal and looked stylish, although I modelled it slightly strangely when i realised this it was too late to go back to it so I soldiered on with it.

Also we decided not to do the character walking through the environment as it would add to the already big workload of our ambitious environment.


For the lighting to stick with the polished and posh theme I decided to design a posh looking light. I was going to go in the direction of having chandeliers but thought with my lack of modelling experience I decided to make a simpler electric looking light which I placed within my tower and also been placed in the other rooms. Here are examples of them in action:





The way the area around the lamps are lit dimly which I thought added atmosphere to the environment. It created almost a noir styled shadows, which enhanced the regal and classy look.

Littered around the environment I put pipes, radios, railings, etc. For the radios I went for an old receiver radio look including knobs. Like this:

I liked this style of radio as it looks at home within the style of environment I had in mind. My modelled version was slightly different to this with little poetic license on it.


I decided to add a funnel to it to give it an interesting look, I based the funnel on more of a gramophone record player then a kind of radio.
With the funnel I thought it added a quirky look to the detail of the radio and to the environment as a whole, as the place itself is a quirky machine. The modelling of this was quite straight forward as it was basic shapes, all it took was just some tweaking of the vertices.
Around the platforms up the tower I decided to add railings to them but made them simple, nothing fancy as it wouldn't fit with the fact its a fancy lighthouse. So the idea was that the railings were the original railing but polished up.


The pipes I made polished as well but instead of brass I made them copper piping with brass brackets. Littered around the environment they went collected in groups around the space. 


I added brackets to the pipes so they look held into place and not floating in the air.
This is the first time I have used cameras before and I found it quite simple as I thought it was going to be much harder. To make smooth camera movements I parented cameras to circles so I could rotate them with ease and make the movements less jolty as moving it manually by using the move tool; it can be very robotic in it's movement.


These are the animatic and the storyboard which show the basic version of how our camera work and final film will look like. Obviously a few bits will change when the final rendered version is made due to tests of camera angles not being s good as others.

The sound effects we all did together chose the sound-clips and decided where to have them come in or out.

Right this is my first post on my character animation because I haven't gotten round to doing it. The characters we had to choose from in this brief were out of 5 characters, all varying in personality and interest. Out of the characters I chose the 9 year old boy as he had the best description that stood out to me, as he sounded more fun to try and design.

I went through many different ideas for the character in a brainstorm (I'll scan it and put it up when i get to a scanner). Through my brain storm I decided on the idea of making the kid an Anteater. I thought this was a good idea because the description of the character was he is obsessed with "creepy crawlies" and hyper-active. I got the image of an anteater running manically to the insects house in a zoo.

I've done a few drawing based on my brain storm which I also need to scan in. The designs I've done take into account that the character has to be clay-mation styled (so textured with clay like substances with a few finger prints thrown in). Thats all for now I'll post again soon with ant eater research and hopefully my scans!
Right this is my first post on my Industry Excercises project because I've been meaning to upload images from my sketch book but my scanner isn't working as of late, this means i haven't scanned in images for my other project for environments either.

This project gave us many different descriptions of other characters for the Character Animation brief. I chose the character William Billiam who is a 9years old, hyper active, obsessed with creepy crawlies. This was a very descriptive and precise description. Out of this we had to make an original and believable character.

From this description I began designing a range of characters using brainstorms of possible character designs (to be uploaded later).

For my character I decided to choose Billiam Williamson who was the hyper-active 9year old who has an obsession with "creepy crawlies". This description gave me many ideas of normal human kids dressed up in insect costumes or just normal looking kids. But I thought why should it be human, whats stopping me from branching out into animals who love insects... not interested in them but love to eat them.

I went through a variety of animals and doodled some ideas. I went from Aardvarks to Chameleons, which was fun to produce a clay-mation styled version of it. Here are some pictures of my designs:




Through these designs i decided on choosing the Giant Anteater design which looked more cuddly and fun to do. The primary break down of the character is he is going to have a basic shape because thats how I would model him if he were really made out of clay, also to make modelling easier he is going to have big feet and hands.


Based the description of the character I decided to give him baby reigns as he is hyperactive and its the only way to control him. I went beyond the brief and thought it was a quirky idea.

I started off slowly and kept the design simply so it would be easier for me to model and keep to the clay brief.


The look I aimed for was a sort of children's program look of simple shapes and soon to be simple colours. The idea would be close to the style of Peppa Pig and Morph which are simple shapes and colours suitable for children. This route seemed to be appropriate because Billiam sounded like a very child friendly character who would entertain them.




The texturing of my character was an interesting ordeal as it was the first time I've modelled and textured a character ever... The textures i decided to use were simple colours of play-dough and clay, to give it the hand made feel.



In keeping with the hand made style I thought it would be fun to keep it as if a child made it out of clay and the world he inhabits. The props I put around him are a sign saying "creepy crawlies <--- " in pen and the actual sign made out of a wooden stick and cardboard. It gave a fun feel to the scene as well as adding little touches to the sandals and baby reigns by texturing them out of cardboard as well as felt.

I gave my character a basic rig to pose him simply, which turned out not very good as I ran into trouble posing certain limbs which wouldn't bend or stay in shape. I worked around it eventually and gave him a basic pose of just standing there.





The base of the character i textured as tarmac as if he was standing on a zoo path which are usually tarmac. I gave the character a base so when i sent him to be printed he will be able to stand up on his own. I altered the model though for printing, i got rid of the sign and the baby reigns as they were to thin or fiddly to model in a 3d printer (which is in a long queue to be eventually printed). From this project I've learnt that I need to manage time more and definitely work on my modelling and texturing skills.
This is my model; its a bit worse for ware because it fell apart over the weekend in the prototype room, BUT here are pictures of it anyway:





p.s. My super glue dried up thus the lack of togetherness of my model

For my tutorial I've decided on a quadruped walk cycle because I haven't done much animating this year and wanted to take a shot at it. The rig I'm going to use is the Great Dane. This model and rig was developed by Cameron Fielding and is free so who ever wants to give it a try can use the same rig as I am.

http://www.creativecrash.com/maya/downloads/character-rigs/c/great-dane

BASICS:

The basic walk is as follows:


This image is from the "Animator's Survival Kit" this rule of basic locomotion is through out the animal kingdom too with slight variation. 

When you start a walk cycle, select a starting position you would like to begin with. This could be either a stationary pose where the character hasn't moved or a mid step pose which captures the character moving and good way to start. Its a good way to start because it helps you follow a certain stride and speed plus which foot (or feet) are leading.

I started with a mid step pose:


The next stage is to show a little more push so the character is lifting his weight and pushing forward. A simple lean forward with a slight upwards motion will help simulate this.


In a quadruped walk cycle you still use the basic principles of a bipedal walk, it has a slight waddle as the hips and shoulders concertina so the characters body wiggles. This appears in bipedal walking but upright as our torso and hips move to balance us.


See the "S" shape, this is the quadruped balancing of the hips and shoulders. This goes back and forth like this : 


An easy way of looking at the legs is by think they are two sets of bipedal walk cycles in sync with each other. So this would be diagonal, so the font left leg is up as is the back right leg then vice versa.

In the previous video you can also see the squash and stretch I have attempted to do to give the walk a bit more character. Through squash and stretch you can also show where weight is being distributed through the body.

Things that could go wrong while trying to animate this sort of walk cycle is the breaking of the rig, which entails moving the joints in an awkward and unnatural manner causing the rig to go out of control when you play back the key frames. To keep this from happening keep the knee joints infront/behind their designated controller.

Another thing that could go wrong is if you lose the speed and stride of the character's walk. Try to time it just right so it stays within 25fps, this way when rendered it will flow much more nicely and more fluid. Sometimes that can be slow and padded out so if you want to make the character look like they are running faster; exaggerate their movements and skip some of the in-between poses that smooth out the animation.
In my group we have Josh Coldham (Group Leader), Dave Cowell, Callum Dallimore, Sarah Piedot, Niko Sierra and Me. Our group is called the Mike Smith Appreciation Society! Trying to score extra points there with the tutors.

Our project idea changed time to time through the course of the module. The original idea was to have a table and our group standing around it; on the table was going to be moom rigs fighting goon rigs in a call of duty sort of battlefield with tanks and explosions. We actually loved this idea BUT we thought it was way to ambitious especially with our track record of starting projects late. With this in mind we whittled it down to a colosseum with a moom gladiator and a goon gladiator battling it out with us watching like omnipotent beings. Although again we thought it was to ambitious.

In the end we settled on the idea of having Dave reading a book and having his imagination appearing on the table. For this I helped film certain angles and moving a table as a dolly to make smoother shots. Here is the story board curtesy of Sarah:




We had to film quite a few time due to lighting problems and marker problems, but here are some pictures of us at "work":





These photos were taken from the first time we filmed which was successful until the motion tracker marks couldn't be seen by maya.

As well as helping out with the filming I also created a pre-vis of what the animation sequence could be (bare in mind it is a very rough idea):




This is the very rough version of what the imagination sequence could be. I tried to mix as much creativeness and random bits together to form a really creative and fun mind.

After showing this we split up our project into jobs for each of us to do. I decided to model the clouds, the UFO and the squid, Callum took responsibility to do the city, Dave did the dinosaur, Sarah textured everything, Niko did the crane and some motion tracking and Josh composited and did motion tracking.

For the squid I modelled it in maya and aimed to  make it simple looking and not very threatening as it is a imagination sequence so nothing violent was going to happen. Here is a picture of it:



Along with modelling it I had to animate it, so I looked into rigging the tentacles because they were the only things moving. I tested out my rig on a cylinder and had really good results:




The problem with this rig was that it didn't twist and plus the rig didn't work on my model. The rigs handles got to confusing on which tentacles they were attached to, plus instead of deforming the tentacle itself when you moved a handle it would twist and deform the model as a whole.

In the end i gave up and decided to use a rig called "Octomail" which I downloaded fro free off of creativecrash.com. The rig was easy to use and animate so I was able to have my octopus   moving about on top of a building.



BUT sadly this wasn't used in the end due to problems with maya changing the files frame rate on its own and not accepting it into the composite maya file. We are still not sure how this happened.



The title of it is "Imagine" and was pieced together by Josh Coldham. Looking at the final result the project could've been handled better by our group. Our idea was sound but we were lazy about doing it well.

Summary
Looking back at this year so far, my projects have been mostly successful but have not reached their potential due to my lack of organisation. Throughout the year I have picked up many new skills in texturing, modelling, etc. All these skills are basic but at least I have come out with the know how and skills that could get me a job. 
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