Rush Hour/Fools Gold Final Film

The title of our film is "Rush Hour" it's a comedy film based around the trials and tribulations of our protagonist who is stuck in traffic. Straight away Dave and I decided that we would be using pre-rigged characters by using the Morpheus rig which is fully customisable and easy to work with. This was mainly decided as we're not strong modellers or riggers so we thought it would save time and stress so we would have more time to work on the animation of the film.

Looking at how customisable the rig was we started creating rough designs for the characters and the over all style of the film.

Above is a mood board I created early on to sum up the style and feel of the film. When pitching the idea for the film many people mentioned how it seemed a lot like the opening scene of the Michael Douglas film "Falling Down" which highlighted many of the stresses and annoyances we were going to put our character through only in a more comedic way. Also we came up with the idea that the cars themselves could possibly become characters just like in "Duel" which featured two vehicles (a lorry and a car).

Starting from there we began designing the characters, these are the rough images I made to help create the look of the models we were going to make from Morpheus.

Dave and I agreed quickly on what the characters should look like and had the same rough idea of how we wanted them in our sketches. From the sketches we customised the rig to form the characters to look like this:

I think we successfully transferred our character ideas to the rigs very well as they look right for their parts. We have an extra character that we have added who is the rough and gang looking one who is another stress for the protagonist.

One problem we faced though creating these characters was how we couldn't make the models look like the sketches as much as we hoped for example the old woman. It was hard also to try and create the little girl as making very young or very characters with Morpheus was difficult but we managed ok.

Here is also the animatic that Dave put together:

For the cars however we came up with a few designs and knew what we were aiming for. As we weren't confident in our ability to model the cars well enough for the film we got in contact with a friend of ours from Kingston University who was doing a course to do with animation to attempt to model the cars. This is what he came up with and we were very pleased with what he made:

 The main car

The main idea for the car was Mr Incredibles car from  The Incredibles as we wanted that humorous claustrophobia that was present in the scene; our protagonist was going to be feeling the same. Eren who we asked to model the cars sent us the model which looked amazing:

As colours go Dave and I agreed upon making the car blue in homage to Incredibles. The texture was put on by Dave using a simple blinn shader as we're not confident at texturing and all the texture artists on the course had been snapped up.

 The Old Ladies car 

For the old lady Dave wanted to give her an old fashioned looking car which was quite small so we settled on the car being a Beetle. According to Eren this was tricky to model but we agreed it turned out rather well. Dave was a bit funny about the bonnet not being the shape he wanted but I thought it looked great and made it look better.

The Lorry

For the lorry we had worries that the polycount would be really high and would slow down the scene however we will talk to our tutors about that if it comes to it.

The Honda

The Honda model was really well done and Eren even attempted texturing it however Dave didn't like the colour of it so he changed it a black to highlight that the character behind the wheel isn't a nice guy.

For the final film I am mainly going to animate along with Dave as there is only two of us in the group so we're going to spread out the work. This however for me isn't my job at the moment, I have been tasked with learning about lighting and matte painting.

First off I started looking into matte painting but couldn't find many helpful tutorials on it throughout the internet, however I found a book called "The Digital Matte Painting Handbook" which is very useful. It clearly tells you what you're meant to do and how to achieve it. I am going to also try the mini project that comes with the book to get some hands on experience trying to create the scenery needed, the project provided will be easier than starting from scratch as the resources are provided in the book and the CD that came with it. However this book has fallen to the way side at the moment as my dissertation took president the passed few weeks.

To do with lighting I have managed to get hold of some video tutorials which have been helpful. I haven't watched them all as there are 6 of them and each one is at least an hour long, so it is a slow progress of sitting through them.

As a group we decided that the time at which our film starts will be about 9am-10am when work is starting and rush  hour is at its peak, then when our main character awakens from his blackout it'll be around noon-1pm ish. This will give a dynamic difference to how the scenery looks and also it'll seem as if time has moved on.

The locale of the scene affects the lighting to seeing as different countries have different climates and this also affects what kind of light the area gets. Looking at the style of our film it suggests Americana so we've decided that the scene will happen somewhere along the West Coast which gets very harsh and warm sunlight. Adding to the lighting would be heat haze which will rise from the tarmac.

This is the roughly the environment I will be working around:

Sadly this update now explains why I haven't been able to do our matte painting or lighting properly, this is due to the scene now filled with models and basic environment is working so slowly. While looking into matte painting and the lighting I have been attempting animating which has proven to be very very difficult as our scene has somehow become unbearable to work in.

The problem with the scene as it stands is that it is so slow moving which we think is due to the scene being so cluttered with many different rigs and models. To counteract this we did attempt to just using close camera angles so we could delete the models we weren't using to free up the scene; this however didn't help. The scene was so bad we were animated in wireframe and having maya crash over and over when we made the simplest of movements. My shot I only managed to animate a tiny portion of it as it was horrendous trying to work through those complications:

My scene was the part when the protagonist spots the old lady and smiles which then leads to the old lady falling asleep behind the wheel. As you can see I only managed to get the smile down before we had to abandon the project after we spoke to our tutors. Dave and I managed to get on board on another film project called "Fools Gold" the idea from Richard. His group had abandoned him and left the course for all intents and purposes so we agreed that if he'd take us on board we would help him animate his film. All the pre-production work had been done and he already had models plus textures and environments created so we were just on board for the animation role.

This is the animatic of the film and the basic idea:

I have been tasked with animating the dog in the second throw scene, I have a small part because the dog parts have been allocated to quite a few people in the group now such as Lily, Rob and Adam. This means I only have two camera angles to animate the dog to.

I began by experimenting with the Trax editor on maya, I started doing this when our tutor Dan mentioned that it was a tool which recorded keyframes and any movements on the grapheditor so that you could transfer them to other scenes and have the same consistent fluid animation. I thought this would be a really good idea for the walk cycle of the dog as he'd be doing alot of it throughout the film.

I began looking into it and found a very helpful tutorial on vimeo about how to use the Trax editor:

I began by animating a rough walk cycle using the dog rig to test out the tool:

I followed this tutorial while animating alongside it, however for some reason it wouldn't work. For a week I was going back a forth trying to work out what I had done wrong or to see if I had skipped a step. At first I thought I may have put keyframes in the wrong character set that the tutorial tells you to create which wasn't the problem as I created the character set as the tutorial said. I then thought maybe I had to do the animation before and then copy the keyframes over into the character set I would have created but this did not work either. It got to a point where I didn't exactly know what had happened and I showed Rich who also watched the tutorial and he didn't understand why it wasn't either. After this mishap time was running out so we decided to just carry on animating as is and try to keep it as fluid as possible.

I began blocking out my dogs movements against a motionless prospector rig which I had placed in the position of where Rich said he would be animated in the scene:

This was as far as I got before Dave and I realised we were working on the same scene (I was animating the dog whereas he was animating the prospector). I told Rich who didn't realised we got the same scene to do along side each other,  at first he said to carry on that the two separate animations would fit together but I instantly saw a problem that Dave would be working to a different time scale to me to do with the prospectors reactions to the dog and vice versa for my scene. I told Rich and the problem was resolved so I stopped what I was doing and blocked out what I was going to do next to a rough scene Dave had done before:

I made the dog react to the throw as best as I could very roughly so I knew what I wanted to make the rig do. I originally wanted to make the dog follow the hand of the prospector as that's what animals do rather looking at the object or directly at the persons face. Along with that sort of interaction I was going to have some secondary animation of movement in the tail such as wagging and some overlapping in the ears when they move with the rest of the dogs body.

After I had blocked out the movements next to the rough version of Daves throwing prospector I got the actual scene which I then realised the camera angles were totally different to the ones I previously believed were going to be involved. This meant I had to change the placing of the dog and the timing of my movements. The camera angles that Rich had given Dave didn't give the dog that much screen time so I began by shortening my movement, this meant though that the dog was moving incredibly fast when I made playblasts of the scene. I did at one point move the keyframes of Prospector back and the keyframes of the cameras to give the dog more time to move and for me to animate it well however it didn't look right and everything went out of time so I had to deal with what I was given and I think I managed quite well:

While animating the scene I noticed that the rock the dog was dropping and nudging was constrained to the wrist of the prospector which I had to sort out, as it would suddenly travel across the from the dog all the way over to the wrist as if it were flying. I decided to hide that version of the rock on another layer in maya and duplicated the rock to animate it on a visible layer so that it won't fly off. It was simple and effective as it meant when it came to rendering the shots all you had to do was change the visibility of which rock. The nudge on the rock turned out smoother than I had thought it would given the time constraints I had with the very quick camera changes, the rig James Waters created for the dog is very malleable so it's quite flexible for small shots such as that one.

The camera angle in this shot however was tricky because it meant I had to place the dog rig in the river which we didn't have time to model and create to a good standard. I changed the angle of the camera slightly so you couldn't see exactly where the dog was so it would seem he was next to the prospector the whole time.

The second scene was when the dog watches and reacts to the prospector throwing his rock:

Again this is a very very quick shot due to the speed the Prospector is moving but I think I got the dog looking inquisitive and alert when the rock is thrown. As I previously mentioned about the other scene I had to place the dog where the river bed would be, so I duplicated the dog rig to place him next to the prospector when he throws the rock. I altered the camera angle slightly so you wouldn't see the other dog rig which was simpler than putting it on another layer. I did try this at first but when I clicked the visibility of the layer it would make the model disappear but keep the rig and handles. I thought with the time we had left it would be quicker and simpler to just fix the problem with a simple camera change.

In the end however we had a problem on our dropbox folder and final version of my scenes was taken off by accident so unfortunately Rich had to render and use an older version of my animation for the final film.

Looking back at the project(s) the groups have run into a lot of trouble which were mostly technical problems in the beginning. I like to think we managed to overcome them as best we could unless it was a truly dire situation such as the first film being unworkable and counter productive. Through the projects progress I have to be brutally honest with myself and say that I truly didn't pull my weight with some of the work, up until Fools Gold where I actually managed to get some animating done and focused on actual production of something I was kind of dead in the water so to speak. I didn't have the drive to get things done quickly which I feel did let down some people as we would have discovered problems sooner to deal with them rather than later. On the plus side I have learnt a great deal from this project as I have branched out into new fields of interest such as matte painting and lighting which I aim to carry on looking into after this project is finished and I also have gained more confidence in my animating and more technical side of using maya which came from experimenting with the Trax editor; which even though wasn't a huge success still became a learning curve for me.