Final Portfolio/Showreel Feedback & Chosen Disclipline

This afternoon I delivered my final portfolio to all members of staff present and was given my grade for it. Here are my thoughts on the whole submission.


A common mistake during the Christmas 2016 prep run for this was talking too long about your work and treading over ground the lecturers are well aware of. So I made the decision to edit everything into a reel, its a little long for a standard industry showreel but has to cover all aspects of the course and a years worth of best work from each module. So eight minutes isn’t bad. I themed it 1980s style and did all the title card work in After Effects for some extra spit and polish.

Feedback was immensely positive and the few bits of constructive feedback I received were as follows:

  1. Where I collaborated on a project, clearly state which aspects I was responsible for.
  2. For future reels, cross fade music track to music track without any pauses between audio. Gary compared this to an animation where it stops suddenly and is jarring to the viewer.
  3. When rendering animation cycles or anything with a ground plane in future make sure objects are actually touching the ground (my cycles were hovering and casting shadows making it really obvious).
  4. My font choice for the lower banner is a little bit unreadable (I was worried about this and seems I was correct). Thankfully an easy fix to make.

The fact those few points were the only things to be raised, I’m absolutely bloody thrilled! I was graded a Distinction for the portfolio. It has been a fantastic first year and has really woken up a side of me I’d considered long gone, as sentimental as this might be, a big thank you to all of the staff over the last year who made this possible. I’d buy you all a beer but rules don’t allow it, so catch me in another year!

Now after seeing some of the truly wondrous talent at Animex, I don’t personally feel like I’m anywhere near the level of talent I need to be despite the grades. So I have a long year ahead but more on that in a moment.

Chosen Disclipline

Being a mature student with some prior experience I already knew when I joined I wanted to focus on modelling and texturing. That isn’t to say I’ve not picked up new things I have an interest in over the year, I’ve really enjoyed my After Effects from the more motion graphic kind of work to compositing and matte painting. I don’t want to lose or ignore these new skills but will likely continue them as a sideline/hobby and continue to focus on modelling.

I’ve gotten to grips with Maya, had great success with Substance Painter and am looking to purchase ZBrush over the summer to include it into my workflow. I’ve also had some great texturing success using curvature maps and generators to weather and age models. Over the summer I plan to get much better use out of my paid for training materials (Pluralsight) and brush up further on all of these tools. Hopefully I should return for the synoptic project ready to produce something the industry would be proud of! My time left to succeed is limited so if I don’t kick it up a notch now, I’m only hurting myself.

Year One – Contents Summary


This is a post bringing together all of my submissions to allow teaching staff easy access for marking. I’ll categorise to each module.

3D Modelling

3D Room – Feedback Re-submission

Low Poly Project – Submission

High Poly Pirates – Wk 4&5(unfinished)

Concept Art

Robot Concept Brief -Developed Design

Dystopian Vehicle – Final


Animation Ident – Final

Break the Cycle – Animation Project Submission

(Optional Animation Post/VFX)

After Effects Rigging – Animation with Expressions (Pt.3)


VFX – Final Idea Pt.4

(Optional VFX Posts)

VFX – Skin Replace/Glow

VFX – Matte Painting

After Effects – All Star Credits (Pt.2)

Game Design

Analysis of Game Design Pt.1

Analysis of Game Design Pt.2

Analysis of Game Design Pt.3

The Maze Game

Xmas Game – Submission

Another Xmas Game – WIP

Programming (Yeah I know the grade isn’t based on posts but it keeps my mind organised)

Exam Prep – Individual Game (Pt.3)

Walking Sim – Unity Asset Creation

Walking Sim – Adding Scene Interactivity

Walking Sim – Polish & Peer Review


Global Game Jam 2017






High Poly Pirates – Wk 4&5

Yes I admit somewhere within half term, week four of this post didn’t surface. I shall attempt to get you all up to speed this week.

Last week aside from some minor cleanup I mostly focused on trying to get the old hand holds into the door that is now the top of the desk. I knew this would end up becoming a boolean operation and was worried at what damage it would do to the mesh. As it turned out, not much when you’re getting pretty good at cleanup. Sadly I don’t have screenshots from the moment, just what remains in old save files.

Most of the issues were restoring edge flow that included the new boolean geometry which mostly boiled down to cutting away a section of tabletop and stitching it back together from scratch using the new edges from the boolean. Once this was in place a simple extrude and bevel later and our new hole had a handle.


Fast forward a week and I needed to crease all my hard edges to prepare the mesh for Mudbox, this would prevent edges that needed to stay hard from being warped. I vastly underestimated how much time this would take, thinking oh ten, fifteen minutes? It took most of a three hour session to achieve something ideal. New ngons were discovered which consumed some of this time, jumping up and down the quick smoothing views highlighted shading errors which usually meant an ngon somewhere. So this isn’t the most interesting or detailed blog post as I spent most of the day creasing and jumping up and down the quick smoothing views. Here is how it looks.


As a visual test to prove the creasing works, here is the finished low poly with a mesh smooth applied. Seems to be working just fine!


Sitting back I mulled over the UVs after doing an automatic unwrap and with some input from Matt decided that space could be saved on the map by stacking shells for the legs. This would mean both leg textures would be identical and I’d rely on variation in the tabletop to distract the eye. Now….this technique is another old nemesis of mine I’ve never managed to crack since the early days of the spaceships/room project. I know I need to take a half, layout the UVs and then mirroring geometry should stack the shells automatically, just a case of testing it. If I’m not entirely keen on the results I may just break the legs onto a seperate texture all together.

To kick off this process, I’ve detached the geometry of the legs from the tabletop and will work on unwrapping and mirroring one of them.


Till next week!


High Poly Pirates Wk.3

I’ve started on the low poly build of my table this week. Progress has been made but attempting to get a low poly skull onto the side of a table while not adding much geometry has been something of a challenge. However for the moment, time to rewind a couple of hours.

To kick things off I threw all my hand drawn side, front and top sketches into Photoshop and resized them all by eye so they matched each other in terms of scale. I know this could have been done on paper with a more accurate drawing but this felt like an easier method that wouldn’t slow down the workflow.

Once these were all attached to image planes in Maya I set about blocking in the top of the table, being the easiest piece of geometry to start with. Once I extruded a leg down and began shaping the skull it became obvious I couldn’t follow the less than symmetrical drawing and had to free hand some of it. Getting slightly overwhelmed by doing two halves at once I cut the model down to a quarter and reset its pivot (so it could be mirrored in Z and X later).

I won’t get into modelling technicalities as I’m now way past explaining every extrude for my own benefit. So here is the current progress, mirrored in Z to show you more of a full face:


There is a lot of cleanup/re-topology to be done. I used a lot of bevels to shape the harsh edges of the skull which has given me a lot of tris. The advice given to me was to reduce these as much as possible and to keep all quads on the face around the same size, once this is brought into Mudbox for further sculpting we want all the quads to sub-divide equally.

I feel like some further shaping needs to be done around the nose cavity and the hand holds aren’t in the top of the table yet either. So still plenty of work to be done before I consider going anywhere near the high poly. Solid progress for one lesson though. I’m rather pleased with myself!

Pirate High Poly Wk.2

This will be a short update this week, mostly covering the finished concept and a normal mapping proposal. Continuing on from last week, I finished my sketching.

Office Lens 20170328-104820

Cramming everything onto the right hand side of the page I finalised the design and created a front, side and top view. After last week I knew I wanted to run with the skull legs design and use a ships hold door as the top of the table, this just needed fleshing out so I could figure out how all the parts fit together. I tried to include wooden braces where required along with brackets and turned two of the teeth on either side into small stabilising legs. I’ve built enough furniture over the years to keep the design fairly well grounded in terms of construction.

I added plenty of notes regarding materials, location of pieces and design tit-bits. For example I want the end of the planks on the top of the desk to have seen some heavy wear and damage. The issue with a table is it’s highly symmetrical and will need a lot of detailing to make it look interesting, I also plan to wear down some of the hard edges. As the top of the desk will be a much older chunk of wood it’ll require much heavier weathering than the base.

The other important part of the notes is the plan for my normal mapping. I had to figure out what details would require geometry and what would be faked. Having limited experience in doing this outside of the class exercise the other week, the plan had to be passed by Matt before it was approved. I had suggested the following as normal details:

  • Gaps between planks
  • Rivets/Screws
  • The skull on the side of the table
  • Surface scratches / gouges
  • Edge bevelling

All of these passed okay except doing the whole skull. It was suggested that I try and add some surface geometry or risk making the side of the table look too flat and boring. So my plan is to try and add geometry around the cheekbones and other prominent features of the skull (thanks to Tony for his concept lessons!).

So next week I’ll be importing my profile images into Maya and begin working on the low poly version.

High Poly Brief – Pirates

The end of the year is drawing near and we have been given one last modelling project to keep us occupied until then. We’ll be teaming up into larger teams of around 7-8, each creating a hero piece based around a theme. These pieces will then be combined to make a small high poly scene of exceptional detail.

Team leaders were picked (hi, thats me this time) and c0-workers were picked at random. I feel like the team assembled has a lot of potential and drive and look forward to the end results. To begin with we needed the following:

  • A theme
  • Mind Map based around the theme
  • Research images (group and individual)
  • An asset list to keep track of what everybody is doing

Right off the bat, Michael suggested pirates as a theme and nobody had any objection. I’d wanted to get away from doing something sci-fi for once and was pleased for the change of scenery. We refined the idea down to the captains quarters only, so we didn’t end up with a mis-matched collection of pirate ship parts that didn’t fit together.

Once group research was complete we all picked an idea from the mind map that would become our hero piece, initial concept sketches were drawn up and I’ll be choosing the final design from one of these. However first some catch up in image form.

Our final mind map with chosen hero assets highlighted.
The group mood board full of other captain’s quarters.


The asset list was discussed and divided into high priority hero asset jobs, for anyone that finished these ahead of time we also assigned medium and low priority objects that would also look great in the scene. No harm in planning extra.

My individual research into old ship tables and old tables in general.

It was difficult to find anything definitive when looking for old sailing ship tables/furniture, however I came across many examples of old desks that had been converted from ship hold doors and I am rather fond of the hand holds and steel braces that were never removed. It adds a lot of detail and character to an otherwise bland functional object. Otherwise I mostly went looking for variation in leg styles.

While I’m not finished drawing or settling on an idea yet, here are my sketches so far.

Office Lens 20170324-164836

I know I’d like to replicate the hold door for the desk top, it gives a lot of opportunity for weathering and having the shape a little more rough as the hunk of wood has seen service elsewhere before. Maybe battered by storms, chipped by great pirate battles etc etc. Therefore I mostly doodled leg designs looking for something interesting. Matt had demonstrated how to easily make the lathed legs using the revolve tool in Maya, however I don’t think they’d match the very practical/salvaged aspect of the rest of the desk. So I’m currently hovering between the heavy riveted look or the single leg carved like a skull idea, the skull details could be normal mapped in and give a custom look without being too ornate.

I’ll have to make a decision and finish this up soon as I also need finalised concept sketches, a front view, side view and 3/4 view to help with modelling.

Normal, Displacement & Bump Maps

We have been asked to research into normal, displacement and bump maps. Hopefully in this post I’ll point out the differences and what each are used for. All of these maps do something akin to adding detail on the surface of geometry without an increase in geometry.

Bump Maps

A bump map is now an older type of map, I remember using them when I was first learning 3D many moons ago. They create the illusion of depth on a surface using lighting tricks using a greyscale image. Differences in white and black values (8-bit 256 colour choices) tell the software package up or down faking depth.


White details are raised, black are lowered. They’re great for creating small surface details such as pores and relatively easy to make. I used to throw them together back in the pre-historic days of Photoshop 4. The weakness of bump maps is they break pretty easily if viewed from the wrong angle. Since all detail is fake, the silhouette of the geometry will never change.

Displacement Maps

Displacement maps don’t fake additional detail, as long as the source mesh has enough subdivisions a map will displace geometry. They can be created from a high poly model and baked or painted by hand like bump maps of old, better results can be found using 16-32bit greyscale maps rather than 8-bit.


However unlike the fake detail of other maps, displacement takes a lot of rendering power and therefore time consuming. Therefore most applications only calculate displacement maps at render time and not in the viewport. It’s hard to beat the results of displacement maps but the end quality should always be weighed against the extra rendering time to see if its required.

Normal Maps

Normal maps are the newer better replacement for bump maps, they work in the same fashion, faking surface detail by light tricks. The maps they use are RGB rather than 256 bit greyscale and this changes the way they work over traditional bumps. While bump maps can only represent an up and down value, the RGB corresponds to the X,Y,Z axis in 3D space. This allows the map to tell the software the direction each normal is facing, allowing for more complex light shading.


There are two types of normal map:

  • Tangent Space Maps – A mix of purples and blues, work great for meshes that have to deform during animation. Great for characters.
  • Object Space Maps – Rainbow assortment of colours, improved performance. Works best for meshes that won’t deform at all.

Normal maps are very difficult to create by hand and are usually generated by software packages. Most often baked out from a high poly mesh to use on a lower poly mesh. Which brings me onto today’s exercise.

Maya High to Low Baking

The exercise we were given was to create some form of crate, first modelling a low poly version, duplicating this and then going to town on it for the high poly version. This would then be baked down to the low poly to demonstrate the technique.

We had around an hour to create both models. Since this was a learning exercise I simply tried to copy the design of one of the crates in the demonstration slides.


I knew what ridges I wanted on the box and after some advice that these would still be required on the low poly, I made sure to sculpt as much as possible of the core shape without adding detail. The high poly was achieved through a combination of adding new meshes and boolean operators, it seems that when making a high poly for baking that mesh neatness isn’t too much of an issue as long as there aren’t any ngons. The low poly was auto unwrapped and the two were placed sharing the same co-ordinates. Time to bake!

Following Matt’s powerpoint slides I baked out the normal map. The process doesn’t appear too complicated however there is a lot that can go wrong. In Maya’s rendering menu, go to Lighting/Shading > Transfer Maps, assign your low poly to target mesh, your high poly to source mesh. Choose normal map, tangent space normals, image format and quality settings, hit bake and go make a cup of tea while it creates your normal map.



For a first attempt it succeeded quite well, especially considering all the warnings we were given of things that can go wrong.

Here is the model on sketchfab too: with wireframe and textures turned on so its easy to see the difference.

Brilliant stuff and although I already knew of their purpose, they’re as essential tool especially for making games. The illusion of extra detail rather than having to render extra polygons reduces the amount of draw calls needed and keeps a game engine running happily and efficiently. I look forward jumping into this more in future lessons, it’ll be a valuable skill.

Low Poly Project – Submission

This short little group project has come to its end and I’m thrilled with what the team managed to achieve in such a short space of time. If any of you are reading this, pat on the back!

Links to past posts:

Low Poly – Wacky Races Project

Low Poly – Wacky Races Project Pt.II

Low Poly – Wacky Races Project – Pt.III


The final lesson was spent importing some last remaining bits and pieces, roadside barriers from Dan and an adorable rabbit from Sophie (which quickly turned into a whole family of rabbits). A few shaders were also edited, Dan had used a lot of Blinns which are absolutely fine in Maya Software however in Turtle which is what we’d planned to use, they all became mirror reflective. These had their reflective and specular values turned to zero. Lastly all the old lights were removed and a new lighting system was put in from scratch.

We opted for a dusk lighting setup, thinking the warmer colours of a low evening sun would compliment the reds and oranges of the volcano. It helps blend the magma colours with the rest of the scene.

A finished render applied to a background for some added flourish!

Here are a collection of other renders from the finished piece.

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I wish I’d had more personal renders, but I mostly worked on the island, assembly and lighting. I do have the traffic cone but it was made in two minutes during a break and really isn’t worth dedicated screen time. So I put in some Photoshop hours to make the individual island renders have some spit and polish. Ideally I need to do this kind of thing for more of my work, Matt gave a few instructions on wireframe rendering and some presentation tips which all came in handy.



Having a few reflections on the whole process, my only wish would have been another week or two worth of time. I had plans for a secondary smaller island, with a few maintenance huts and race pits. I may have tried using ramp shaders for certain objects, but we had around 80% of all assets finished by the time we learnt about them.

I started the post with it and I’ll end the same. Thanks to all my teammates for putting in the hours they did, I’d work with you all again in a heartbeat!

3D Room – Feedback Re-submission

Using the feedback given for the 3D room back in November, I made a few updates and changes. I didn’t manage to act on all feedback just yet, but I feel like the changes I did make were the major ones ruining the overall look of the scene. I’ll quickly list some of the recommendations given to me rather than posting the entire feedback.

  • Work on lighting techniques, specifically bounced light. Edges of spotlights are clearly visible and need to be softened.
  • The purple backlight to the scene colour clashed with other objects and needed to be a more appropriate complimentary colour.
  • If similar objects are given variations of the same texture it would bring more life to the scene as currently everything is identical.
  • More scratches, dirt and imperfections on the floor.
  • Intricate details such as screws on objects (once normal mapping has been covered in class).
  • Crosses on crates are irregular and off putting, try to make this more regular.

The things I have managed to fix are both points for the lighting, some texture variation and more weathering (but currently not on the floor).

Tackling the lighting was approached as a fresh slate, this wasn’t deliberate, both of my backups loaded up an error and all lights were missing. After setting things up similar to what they were before, I started with two big changes. All lights were given quadratic decay rather than no decay and the drop off on spotlights was ramped up to around 4-5. I took some time to look at renders and see where the cones were still visible and then began to use very low intensity ambient lights to help paint out the harsh edges (usually around intensity 0.05 – 0.1). Finally I set the area backlight back up and this time changed it to red rather than purple to compliment the green crates.

Even I’ll admit this makes a big difference when compared to the old render.

The old render, spotlight edges can be clearly seen.
The new render. Spotlight edges are gone and the lighting is softer overall.

The other edit I made which is obvious between these two renders is that I fed the sky box texture to the incandescence channel rather than the diffuse. I had read that this was a quick and dirty method of having the texture be unaffected by lights in the scene, I believe there was also a surface shader which did a similar job.

Finally I decided to add some variation in the crates and more obvious weather from a distance. This was all courtesy of Substance.


Now there is an obvious difference between the weathered crates and the ‘new’ crates.

I do however need to learn what channels require which maps. I didn’t bring in the metallic map to Maya, so the crates lost some of their under sheen. I know Maya has a plug in to accept PBR shaders from Substance and need to get around to installing it, maybe that would help importing textures a little easier.

Sadly I didn’t get around to doing a similar thing for the railings or scuffing up the floor. As the room itself is comprised of 8 UV sets which still seem highly unstable, importing it into Substance would never work. The floor is also a repeated tile so any scuffing I did to the original texture would end up repeating a lot and might make the repetition seem more obvious. So that feedback was back benched until I can think of a better approach. It would have been so much easier if I’d broken up the room geometry into separate models, it would require a complete rebuild but from here may be the only way forward for improvements.

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I will admit to having removed the spaceship. It was such an early model and in terms of quality brought the rest of the room down. Ideally it needs replacing with something else. More than anything though I’m just pleased I had a second attempt at the lighting, it really has made the biggest improvement.



Low Poly – Wacky Races Project – Pt.III

This was our second to last lesson before this little project wraps up and I feel like the team made great progress. I didn’t actually model anything new today, instead began collecting assets from the team and started incorporating them into the island.

There was a great lesson learned during all of this, ‘name everything’. We had a number of assets in FBX format that after import were breaking existing assets in the scene. Turns out this was down to naming conflicts, the mesh being imported shared a name with a mesh already in the scene. This is why you don’t have polySphere1-40+ and no naming convention. So a good chunk of time was used up renaming everything.

One at a time (so as not to disturb work going on) I brought team members over to discuss placement of their assets. Three hours later here is the current progress, a mix of renders and screen captures taken at various points in the process.

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The lighting isn’t ideal in some of the renders, originally it had been setup as a three point system just to show off the island itself in early renders. Now that doesn’t work anymore with the amount of models crying for attention, so next week we’ll likely bash heads and try and simulate something closer to sunshine.

There are still a few more bits and pieces on the go, Dan is trying to make more road side signs to decorate the road and Sophie is working on a family of cute bunnies to add some wildlife to the forested areas. A nice little addition I hadn’t considered before.