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.

Portfolio/Showreel

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

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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

Animation Ident – Final

Break the Cycle – Animation Project Submission

(Optional Animation Post/VFX)

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

VFX

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

Other

Global Game Jam 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Break the Cycle – Animation Project Submission

The In-Progress posts can be located here:

Break the Cycle – Animation Project (Pt.1)

Break the Cycle – Animation Project (Pt.2)

Honestly I was dreading this exercise after the keyframing issues that plagued the ident exercise, however it wasn’t anywhere near as bad. A combination of pre-planning, research material and fully functional rigs (that I didn’t make and break myself) made this far less frustrating. This allowed me to focus on the animation rather than a never ending battle of technical issues, therefore I feel like I’ve learnt a lot more in terms of animation in this exercise than I did in the previous one.

While I felt the walk cycle was a very theoretical exercise, understanding such terminology as contact pose, passing pose, etc and putting these into practice while understanding how the timings for these poses work, the end of the process became more organic as the basic poses were refined into something with a little more life.

Thanks to the aid of a lecture from Pluralsight I began to see the importance of things like hip movement, chest rotation, minor follow through in the hands and so on. While the basics may boil down to five frames, this is just the tip of the iceberg and giving it some realism and believability is far more involved. It took me two whole days, non-stop to get the end result of this cycle and while some of that time is due to being a novice with the toolset, there is still an element of complexity I wasn’t expecting. While animating isn’t my favourite thing in the world I’m pleased with the end result and hope the quality is good enough for the module.

As previously mentioned the wave (later evolved to a hop and wave) was more of an organic process than the walk cycle. While I did try and find research, examples and even straight up tutorials on making something similar, nothing existed. I get the feeling it may be considered too simple an action to have any learning material. Therefore I had to rely on finding my own reference and had my wife waving her arms around the office to figure out how it should look.

I followed the same blocking process I did for the walk cycle and put in keyframes for the extremes of the hop and the wave. The initial blocking pass was a little short and had a few extra keyframes for the wave copied and pasted, from there I turned splined back on and sat refining the movement. Getting Kelly to occasionally wave again for reference. The hardest part by far was getting minor movements on the body caused by waving, the end result really is a combination of minor rotation and a side to side wiggle down the chest/spine. The other fine detail that had to be nailed down was follow through on the hands, having done a little bit of this during the walk cycle I was already getting used to the kind of arcs required to achieve this.

Fingers crossed for some good feedback and then these two Bonys may take a place in my showreel for the end of year presentation!

 

Break the Cycle – Animation Project (Pt.2)

Continuing from the previous post, I made a few timing tweaks to the existing five frames and put the keys back into splined to see how the overall feel changed before deciding whether I could safely move on or not, here is the result:

Changing the timing in my opinion looks a hell of a lot better and I’ll continue to plod on from here. Here a list of things need that consideration:

  • More feeling of weight
  • Follow through in the arms/hands
  • A little bit of rotation in the chest/shoulders

Honestly these are the types of things that as an inexperienced animator I would never even consider. I’d take one look at the current progress and think, job done, move on. Thankfully following the guide I’m using on Pluralsight, gives hints and tips for things to correct/consider on each pass of animation. A lot of these are usually very subtle in terms of movement but seem to make a big difference to the end result. So at this point I’m going to vanish, spend some time following their advice and return to post the results.

UPDATE

So here I am a day later with what I consider to be an end result. The Pluralsight lecture began to derail into more complex tools so I closed it all down, refined what I had thus far and here we are.

The weight issue was fixed by shortening the time it took for the feet to come down, rolling the toe and making the down position just a little bit more…down, for lack of a better description. Again it REALLY helped having a guide otherwise I’d have wrapped this up a day ago thinking it was perfect. The chest was animated with a minor rotation value which resets on the contact positions, the arms go backwards a little bit quicker than they come forwards and the wrists do have some minor follow through now, continuing on once the arm stops. So much to consider even doing something as simple as this but I’m pleased with the end result, I don’t know how successful the next animation will be (with less aid) but I just need to take the lessons learnt from this and keep them in mind. Subtle movements make a world of difference!

I’ll post a better loop of the cycles in the completed renders at the end.

Animation 2 – Character Waving

Yet again, keeping with the keep it simple stupid mentality and picking an achievable animation with the aim to make it look as good as possible. I didn’t want to make the most simple of waves however and thought I’d try something a little more energetic to add a bit of complexity.

After digging through the Survival Guide I couldn’t find anything on waves (maybe its considered too simple) so reference material seemed a little slim. Therefore I continued to tire out my dearest wife and had her standing on the spot waving in the office repeatedly, I probably should have recorded it for convenience but this seemed funnier.

This mostly seemed to break down to the arcs of the arms, minor follow through in the hands and some upper body rotation (or possibly just wobble) as a side effect of rigorous waving. Before I got ahead of myself though, some basic blocking.

In the moment I tried to add an excited little hop as Bony begins to wave, it hasn’t worked out too well (needs more keyframes) so far and the wave is a little short (will be copying and pasting some extra keyframes to pad it out) but I figured it didn’t hurt to show this rather than refine it first. We do have to document the process and sometimes I get a little bit…protective over showing rough unpolished work.

At this stage I fell into the guilty trap of dashing to the end with no progress snapshots (as per usual when I’m on holiday). However the process was simply knocking the blocking pass back into splined and slowly adding the principles I mentioned two paragraphs ago. Being as simple as this is there isn’t much else to elaborate on. Here is the end result:

After some holiday relaxation time, I’ll return shortly and post higher quality final renders to submit and wrap up this short project.

 

Break the Cycle – Animation Project (Pt.1)

As a home project we were tasked with a couple of short character animations, such as a walk cycle, jumping etc. Much shorter animations than our idents but potentially more complex. The option was there to refine our idents too, however given I was lucky to piece together what I did last time after weeks of broken keyframes on badly setup rigs I’m happy to keep my current grade. Refining the ident would mean starting from scratch and there are other areas of this course I would rather give that time too, such as programming revision!

Breaking down the task looks like this:

animationtasks

  • Pick two animation tasks from the above table depending on how you feel about your own ability. Focus on quality over length.
  • Work in progress blog posts, showing animation blocking.
  • A final submission post with animations professionally rendered using three point lighting and soft shadows.

Given the issues I had with my ident, I opted to take the KISS approach (keep it simple stupid). I know animation isn’t my strongest area and would rather have some refined animations from the achievable list than terrible animations from the expert list. Given this will very much be an in the dark exercise as there has been no class time dedicated to learning the ropes of cycles and no theory in regards to things like ‘passing poses’ or ‘down positions’ (thanks Animator’s Survival Guide) I’m content in the decision not to push my luck too much.

Gary gave us a few recommendations on interesting pre-rigged characters and uploaded a bunch of them to the college shared drive to use. Matt also provided the Moom rig, however given nearly everyone would be using that I wanted something a little different. The controls on both rigs were almost identical so that didn’t factor in. So welcome to the star of this exercise, Bony!

Ultimate-Bony1

Deciding on a walk cycle to begin with, I spent some time digging up some research. First port of all (as already mentioned) The Animator’s Survival Guide.  Here is what I picked up, a walk cycle consists of:

  • Contact positons – The two points at which each foot make contact with the ground, these two frames will be mirror images of each other. Left foot forward with a straight leg, right arm back and right foot forward (straight leg), left arm back.
  • Passing position – This is the exact mid point between the two contact positions.
  • Down position – The leg takes the weight of the body, therefore bending before pushing off.
  • Up position – Pushing off briefly lifts the whole body and the other leg begins to come forward.

walkacyle

Now theory is all grand but putting it into practice is always the hard part, to give myself a kick start at this point I sat through a tutorial on Pluralsight that helped explain the timing in terms of frames and some of the more subtle nuances to implement (more on this later).

For now I just needed to get these give basic frames into Maya and to see what that looked like. After some positioning, subsequent issues of certain parts not moving, the realisation I didn’t have a character set and then further positioning, I had this to show for it:

There is still a long way to go, there doesn’t seem to be too much difference between the contact positions and the up and down which need to be fixed. I have tried adding a little bit of hip movement and head bob which was recommended from Pluralsight.

Many moons ago when I was doing similar things on a lightbox it was so easy to just copy what you say in a book and ‘think’ you understood what was going on. Doing this in 3D with no handy guide outside of theory is a whole different ball game and surprisingly difficult. Fingers crossed I come back with some positive results next time!

After Effects – Puppet Tool Animation (Pt.1)

Chris, our game design teacher has been out of action due to illness since October. The module has sadly been on ice since and the time used for blog catch up. As a paying student I’ve been irked by this for quite some time, losing out on delivered content and tuition. Thankfully the course has brought back Peter to stand in for these sessions on a temporary basis, while it doesn’t bring back the games design module, I am more than happy to have a teacher and content of any variety.

So to kick this new format Friday off, we would be looking at animating characters using After Effects. I had absolutely no idea AE had this ability, as a package it keeps surprising me with how flexible it can be. Peter mentioned DUIK hardware, a free plug in package for AE used for rigging and animating, along with the links to download it and documentation. I’ll have to install it at home and take a look, the show reel was quite impressive.

The goal today would be to understand the Puppet Tool and its three controls (Pin, Overlap & Starch).

pintoolmenu

 

Peter had kindly provided a backplate scene for us to use, along with a character he had drawn himself, Jed. The first task was to use the Pin Tool and add anchor points for joint locations. Simple stuff and works relatively well but does leave the movement in certain areas looking a little rubbery.

meshdeformshow

To solve this issue we would progress onto the next tool, the Starch Tool. This effectively freezes certain areas of the image/puppet so they aren’t affected by the deformation of other areas. Using the mesh shown above you can see what areas will be frozen by the tool. I froze the heads and upper arms.

jedmesh

Now onto animation. If you hover over a pin anchor point and hold down Ctrl, the cursor will change to that of the familiar clock in AE. Once you click and hold it’ll record any movements you make in real time, showing an outline of the motion you’re creating. After playing with this for a while I wanted to end the animation with Jed scratching the back of his head and this is where the last tool ‘ Overlap’ comes into play. It uses a similar method to the Starch Tool, painting areas you want to affect but instead lets you determine a layering order. Allowing you to pass certain areas in front of or behind of others by using the In Front value.

Jed along with the animation key frames was then pre-composed, this allowed us to then animate transform & scale values as puppet tool keys can’t be manipulated/moved. This allowed us to animate Jed along the path in the backplate. Finally a CC Snowfall effect was added to the scene on a black solid.

jedscene

While this was a quick exercise to demonstrate the tools, with some care and attention these functions could be used to far greater effect. Knowing AE has base tools like these I now appreciate why developers would make a more advanced plug-in to expand it’s capabilities. Next week we’ll be expanding on this knowledge and I’m looking forward to making good use of Fridays again.

Animation Ident – Final

This class project may have been my biggest bane since starting this course, however like all difficult challenges it has also taught me a lot of do’s and don’ts.

Feel free to flip back through previous related posts to see some of these issues in depth. This submission post will be more of a quick overview of the run up to the end of the project and final thoughts.

If you remember my character rigs were only recently fixed, which was a miraculous moment where I was finally able to get most of my work done. The animation project ended up being five weeks of modelling, rigging and related issues and then two weeks animating. Not exactly the time management I’d have liked, missing the focus of the exercise.

I fixed what was possible in the time frame, however I had keys scattered across the character rigs, individual handles and bits of geometry (from when the rigs were broken) and this all proved to create a complicated twister of chaos leaving me to choose between deleting a large percentage of the work so far or persisting and making the most of the situation, especially so close to submission. I chose the latter, leaving certain sections difficult to edit without causing further issues. Many frames seemed to exist without having a keyframe anywhere I could decipher.

I’m a little disappointed I couldn’t do more but fingers crossed I know plenty of pit falls to avoid for next time around. Being a weaker area of mine to begin with I was hoping to jump both feet in and remedy this, however jumping into the deep end first may earn me points for eagerness, but was likely a bad move. I should have started with somebody elses pre-made rig and focused on the principles of animation.

So enough of me beating myself up over this, here is the animation ident.

Contrary to most of my comments thus far I’m not entirely unhappy with it. I still liked the idea, in the end the robots themselves looked great and there are a few small sections of animation that worked that I really liked. When the red robot first arrives on set, there is a little bit of follow through on the arms, upon returning the letter the police robot slows down and gently places the letter back on the ground, I just wish more of the animation felt like these two bits and not floaty tweening in Maya.

Like all things it’ll take further learning, practise and new projects to get better. With all the trails this time, fingers crossed a second time will go much smoother!

Here is the link to my original post containing pre-production materials.

Animation Ident Brief

Ident Animation – Finally Progress!!

Praise the deity of character rigging if there is one! This has been the first lesson in weeks where I feel like I’ve overcome problems and made some progress, my robots ARE FIXED! All limbs are now keying within a character set and it’s going to make finishing this a thousand times easier.

The character sets had been checked and checked again in the past, however despite all limbs being accounted for in the set, all it took for them to become functional is to go through the process of adding them again. By now I’ve seen enough of Maya’s little oddities and should have tried something like this weeks ago.

seteditor
Always ALWAYS just triple check your character set editor!

The only downside to today was we had a group peer review before my issues were fixed, leaving only a rough blocking pass to be looked at by other students.

Peer Review

Before the class got settled into work, we participated in some peer review. I had a combination of Dan and later Owen (King) looking over my work so far. While there wasn’t much available to be able to critique certain animation principles they still provided useful feedback.

  1. The timing for the two robots leaving off stage left together happened too fast even in blocking, leaving them wondering what exactly had just happened (on my way to fixing this).
  2. They both loved the robots themselves so I guess I gained points for appeal, however they pointed out I had moments where the models were obscured by them carrying letters. They have a very good point, while some of this is set in stone now I’ll try my best to maximise whats seen of the models through the rest of the animation.
  3. I pointed out I had concerns over placing the letter exactly back in its original place, the guys pointed out why not just it returned in the general location maybe leaning against the other letters or placed on the floor. I rolled with this and already incorporated the idea. Thanks guys!

Playblast

PASSWORD – nextgen

Here is the current progress. When I dropped the keyframes out of stepped back to spline everything turned into chaos, it had become apparent that while using my broken character set certain movements were never keyed. This required some cleanup and in certain sections I found it easier to erase all keyframes and block it again, the process was much faster now that I could key the whole set at once. This consumed the remaining chunk of class time left for today.

Time is running short for this project, so I’ll be continuing on this at home as well as class from now on to try and make up for lost time. All class idents are to be shown in two weeks time and while I accept animation isn’t my strongest ability (hence I transferred out of it in my first year of university) I’d rather not be the worst if I can help it.

Batch Rendering & Ident

In conjunction with our animation project we were introduced to batch rendering this morning. In essence the process is to render out each individual frame of an animation and then stitching them together in sequence using a video editing package. In our case we’d be using Adobe Premiere. These are the settings that were recommended to plug into the batch render. the default renderer wasn’t changed but this was more about start and end frames, resolution and production quality settings.

Since a batch render could potentially be hundreds if not thousands of individual frames, it’s important to make sure you’re set to the correct project folder in Maya. If you aren’t then good luck finding where it has decided to save them all.

To initiate the batch render, go to Render > Batch Render and click on the options box.

batchrenderoptions

The above options are default and fine for our use (I imagine on an actual render farm you may want to divide its workload and not use all of its processors), so click Batch render and close. While this is working you may want to leave Maya alone, it can be prone to crashing if you attempt to do anything else in the software during the rendering process.

This can be a lengthy process. Say with all of your fancy raytracing and mapping it takes 5 seconds a frame to render and your animation is 480 frames long. it’ll take 40 minutes to render the whole thing.

Now we just needed to import the images into Premiere and it’ll do the rest of the work more or less automatically. Opening a new project in Premiere here are the recommended settings given to us.

sequencesettings

Now simply import the first image of your sequence into Premiere, the software is smart enough to realise it is part of an image sequence and will proceed to bring in all frames and then stitch them together onto the timelime. It’s then a case of exporting it to the video codec of your choice!

Ident Update

A brief update this week, I spent most of the class time fighting with the fact that my rigs aren’t working as expected. I created a character set for both rigs but sadly the arms and head of the rig will not key with the character set, unable to find a solution I’ve taken to keying them separately. This is adding some levels of confusion when it comes to understanding what is going on in the timeline but I’m hoping this will be a quicker option than going back to the drawing board with the models/rigs. I’ve already lost too much time on this project dealing with them. On reflection I’m beginning to wish I’d chosen an existing rig of Matts and focused on learning animation rather than throwing myself into rigging and thus far had very little focus on animating.

So with some added time outside of class today I’ve began to block out the animation, the timing isn’t representative of the end thing, I’ve mostly been trying to get the poses right with the broken character sets. Password: nextgen

 

Principles Analysis

Usual intro to most of our classes is taking a seat, watching a short animation on a projector and noting down as many principles as we spot to discuss after. This time we’re simply doing it personally as a blog post. So off we go, I’ll add a time code stamp for the above video for every principle I’m referring to, similar to how I did it for my Loony Tunes analysis some months ago.

00:24 – Staging – Immediately staging is setup as we wonder what surprise Mike has for Sully, shown by Sully being led and covering his eyes. The audience waits for what the surprise is.

00:40 – Arc – Used in the walking animation as Mike moves around to the drivers side of the car.

00:46 – Squash & Stretch – As the seat is too high when Sully enters the car he is squashed into the roof and his head lowers below his shoulders.

00:48 – Follow through – Sullys hair scrapes along the car window as he lowers the seat and then eventually returns to resting position.

01:43 – Anticipation – We are given a moment of anticipation as Sully ponders inside the car which button he needs to press to help out Mike.

01:48 – Squash & Stretch & Exaggeration – Sully slamming the bonnet on Mike causes quite an alarmed and exaggerated reaction, lifting him off the ground and causing a large degree of squash and stretch.

01:50 – Exaggeration and secondary action – Mike is thrown up in the air when the car bonnet is released.

01:54 – Exaggeration and Squash & Stretch – Mike is trapped under the bonnet of the car and while fighting to escape he deforms the bonnet but then it returns to normal.

02:11 – Exaggeration – Mike is still singed and burning when walking back in the car.

02:45 – Exaggeration & Squash & Stretch – Mike and Sully are hurled around inside of the car.

Every moment – Appeal – Come on Monsters Inc would never have been a success if these two weren’t loved by absolutely everyone.

I could likely find more if I went through repeated viewings, however this was just meant as a warm up exercise to shake off the cob webs of the Christmas break!