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

 

 

 

 

 

VFX – Final Idea Pt.4

To catch up from last time I now have colour corrected, sky replaced footage and an animated ball of light travelling down a road. Time for further alterations! Now it has been a while since I posted and a lot has been updated, so apologies but I’m going to run through a lot quite quickly.

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Edits Made

  1. Made use of chroma keyed wind turbine footage found online, these were scaled, colour corrected and set in place.
  2. Added a farmhouse shack in the background from pre-keyed footage found online, scaled colour corrected and placed.
  3. Simulated the light passing the storage crate and the actor using blue masks and animating the outline.
  4. Added a stock lens flare from footage crate and boosted the intensity of its colour, also changed the hue to be more blue.
  5. Added a tail to the energy ball using a Particle CC World effect, getting it to follow the light was a massive pain which required some expression code (found online).
  6. A CC Drizzle and CC Rainfall effect were added, honestly this wasn’t part of my original planning but felt like adding it anyway. I currently still want this checked out by a lecturer if I have time for some feedback.

Again apologies all of that is a blur with little explanation, time is of the essence at the moment and I have to continue on with my second scene (which is actually the first). While I had tutorials to run from before I was now running solo and hadn’t yet put much thought into how I would achieve the meteor/energy ball descent from the sky. Time to get creative!

To kick off I had a dig around footage crate and youtube to see if there was anything pre-made and free that may be of help. While youtube did have a couple of pre-keyed meteors I thought this may be more appropriate:

After gathering a selection of shockwaves and electrical static from footagecrate I began some quick experiments to see what looked good. Given how short of a time the above energy beam was on screen for, the long tail made it look ridiculous and I ended up masking most of it out, parenting a new light to the front and adding another hidden solid into the clouds to show some of this light.

I added some electrical static effects to the clouds before the appearance of the energy ball, and a few layered shockwaves upon it entering. I did most of this in an hour during down time after finishing up the game jam assessment, I’ll give myself a pat on the back for that! After receiving some feedback, Gary suggested a couple of things:

  1. There needs to be some kind of reflection or highlight on the waters surface as this moves across the sky.
  2. The shockwaves need to have more impact.
  3. While the static electric is a nice touch the scene could either do with some actual lightning or lighting effects within the clouds to suggest the storm is above the cloud layer. I was directed to some recently posted video co-pilot tutorials to help me with this.

So problem one, masked a new light blue solid, feathered it and animated it across the water. Check one! Increased the size, opacity and exposure of the layered shockwaves. Check two! The next one not so easy, I followed portions of this:

Here is the end result:

 

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As you can see I copied over the rain effects from the other scene, changed the rain direction and although its minor, added a floor plane on the road to catch the CC Drizzle.

At least in its current form before getting feedback here is the ‘finished’ piece.

 

VFX – Final Idea Pt.3

I’ve had a bit of a break since my last posting, so quick update. I shot both scenes over the Easter break, sat on the footage for two weeks and then tried to key it. This didn’t end well, the day was so overcast and grey that so much out of the scene was being keyed out when removing the sky (I’ve opted to attempt a full weather replacement for extra detail). Thankfully due to starting the project early I had plenty of time, so recently ran out to re-shoot and the new footage is working a treat!

I’d originally planned to do a blow by blow of the process, but after getting involved in the project I realised I’d be here forever doing that. This wasn’t like the quick half an hour class tutorials, this was a far larger endeavor. So I’ll summarise the major parts.

Here are two stills from each of the camera changes in my scenes, as you can see they mirror the storyboard almost spot on (even if it took a bit of location scouting).

As I’ve already mentioned the new footage has keyed much easier thanks to a lovely bright sky that day, so I’ll skip over that process and show the sky replacement with colour adjustments.

The skys are all stock footage from the internet with a few speed alterations to keep them believable. I lost some minor parts of the original footage doing the key but layered sections back in to gap these holes. All of the footage was then hit with the same colour LUT I found online which was pretty good at stripping out the warmth from whatever it touched, along with this there was some manual tweaking using levels, curves and exposure on certain layers. Overall I’m pretty confident it now looks like a dark miserable day, perfect for layering some lights onto! As for flipping the second scene footage, it was a choice made to more closely reflect the Video Co-Pilot tutorial to make following along later a little easier.

For now I decided to take a break from staring at my footage and decided to start following along the VCP tutorial on making my energy ball. Gary had said we could use any assets we find online and while there are energy balls online from footagecrate that I could easily attach a light to, I wanted to make my own just to say I could. After an hour following instructions, I had this rendered out.

I continued following instructions afterwards given my footage was no ready to use. This involved setting up a new solid as a 3D layer and trying to layer it over the road so the perspectives matched. This was achieved by using a camera rather than moving the solid as it was easier to manipulate, the solid was then set to accept lights and its blend mode changed to classic colour dodge. The layer now blends into the road and gives the illusion that the light is being cast on the road itself.

The energy ball was imported to the composition with a hue edit, a new point light was created and the energy ball comp parented to it. Finally this was animated along the path of the road.

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I’d show the video but I’ll leave that until the end when I’ll upload the completed project. Why spoil the surprise early, right? I shall return soon with further updates!

VFX – Final Idea Pt.2

I’ve had some time to consider ideas. After focusing on the deliverable of making the end result believable but wanting a sci-fi/magical effect I settled on this for inspiration:

To summarise it for you without watching the clip, an energy ball floats along the surface of a road but a fake floor is layed on top of the footage to allow the light of the ball to cast light onto the road in the footage. Thus grounding the effect into the scene. I thought this may help with my predicament. I quizzed Gary on using the effect and the feedback was that it would require a narrative for being used in a scene, simply having a glowing light move along a surface wouldn’t be enough for the brief without context. So I began to consider scenarios I could cook up. Gary suggested the old trope of lights in the sky, which we can all quickly associate with aliens or an other worldly force.

My initial thoughts were multiple lights coming down from the sky slowly, settling for a brief moment and then dashing off into the distance using the above technique. However I thought having an effect on screen for too long would draw attention to it, making it look more fake the longer the scene went on. Instead I opted for a quick establishing shot that would hopefully have a little more impact. Here it is:

office-lens-20170524-200108.jpg

In storyboard order:

  1. An establishing shot showing the audience the scene and the person/actor involved. The person filmed will be waiting for something or simply doing some sort of idle action. This will last a couple of seconds to set the scene.
  2. The sky in the background will begin to show some electrical disturbance, maybe lightning to give indication of something on its way. 1-2 seconds.
  3. The clouds will break in the form of a shockwave and a light/energy ball or maybe even meteor will descend from above on a trajectory to the left of the shot. 2 seconds.
  4. The camera will switch to a closer shot of the person/actor but also showing down the path,road etc that they’re standing near. The previously mentioned ball will be a mere speck in the distance. *
  5. The ball continues to move towards camera while the actor is still unaware of any goings on. *
  6. The energy ball picks up speed and flies past the camera, illuminating the nearby area. * (*this entire sequence will be around 4-5 seconds).
  7. The actor will have a delayed reaction to the events due to the speed at which the ball passed. 1-2 seconds.

Exact timings will depend on the footage and how the effects work out but I’m hoping it’ll be no longer than ten seconds. I don’t wish to go over the recommended time allowed or have too much footage where very little is happening.

I’ll begin to film the footage for this over the Easter break and hopefully have results soon.

 

VFX – Final Idea Pt.1

Gary has now delivered the brief that will make up our end of year project for VFX. The goal is to shoot our own footage (around 5-10 seconds) that will be altered using After Effects using all the tools we’ve learnt about thus far. The higher grades will come from making a piece good enough to convince an audience that your edits are seamless with the original footage. That…is a tall order for how inexperienced we all are and more of a worry that I want to attempt something bordering on magical/sci-fi effects.

There is no theme for the brief and we’re completely open to do anything we use, so nailing down an idea is going to take some time and research. Next week we’ll be looking at some magical effects as a class tutorial so I’ll be waiting to take that into account before fully finishing this post.

As a sideline, there are some things to accomplish before shooting even takes place:

  • A synopsis of the project
  • Storyboards based on the synopsis
  • Use correct terminology for your camera shots
  • Consider what VFX you want to achieve, do your research
  • Search for reference material to help with the above

Since I don’t have a formed idea yet, here is a list of the shot terminologies given to us by Gary:

  • Long shot – this is sometimes called a full shot or a wide shot – it will show the “entire object or human figure and is usually intended to place it in relation to its surroundings”
    • Wide shot (WS) – subject is comfortably in the frame
    • Very wide shot (VWS) – subject is just visible in the location
    • Extreme wide shot (EWS) – shot is so far the subject is no longer visible
    • Establishing shot (ES) – used to display the location and is usually the first shot of a new scene
    • Master shot (MS) – similar to ES, but all relevant characters are in frame (usually for the duration of the scene)

 

  • Medium shot – this is usually used when there is dialogue in the scene or a smaller group of people as the focus – gives a partial view of the background, but focuses on the actors, their expressions and body language, etc.
    • Singles – this medium shot would be waist-high of one actor
    • Group shots – would consist of three or more actors
    • Over-the-shoulders – taken from the perspective of the shoulder of a person in the scene, with the back of the head and shoulder still visible in frame
    • Two-shots – this would feature two people; a good example of this would be an on-air interview with the two people facing one another sitting in chairs

 

  • Close-up shot – this will tightly frame a person or object and show the most detail, but don’t show the broader scene – the subject shouldn’t actually be in the exact middle of the frame, but rather use the “law of golden section” to be placed
    • Medium close-up (MCU) – halfway between a mid-shot and a close-up, including the subject’s head and shoulders
    • Close-up (CU) – a certain part of the subject (such as a person’s head) takes up the entirety of the frame
    • Extreme close-up (ECU or XCU) – a very tight shot that focuses on an extreme detail of the subject (such as a person’s eyes)

Also mentioned were:

  • Panning – this is when the camera is rotating or pivoting horizontally from a fixed position – it’s actually short for panorama, which would mean it’s an expansive view that goes beyond the viewer’s gaze and they would have to turn their head to take it all in, this shouldn’t be confused with tracking, where the camera pivots as well as follows the subject, so it’s physically moved in relation to the subject’s position
  • Tilting – very similar to panning, except the camera is moved vertically from a fixed position
  • Zoom in/out – this is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s when a camera lens is used to magnify or de-magnify the center of the shot – it could make the subject more or less prominent in the frame

To end this week I began digging through videocopilot, productioncrate and youtube to look at tutorials for inspiration.

 

 

After Effects – All Star Credits (Pt.2)

As the last week floated on by I slowly began to juggle two ideas for this project. It would either be based on Rocky Balboa or John Rambo, a friend of mine put Stallone in my head and the idea grew from there. Eventually I settled on Rambo, wanting to have the name shot full of bullets left to right along with some fire or explosions.

A few weeks ago I wouldn’t have dared tackle something like this, however after finding the wonders of footagecrate.com from Gary, I knew I could find some pre-composed gunshot assets that could assist me (more on these later). My initial concern was trying to find the font used on the movie posters, it turns out its a licensed font and cost $30, however I know the internet well and with enough digging found a similar but legally distinct version of the font for free.

JOHNRAMBO

As Peter’s sage advice always goes, make sure your source assets are as good as they can be, no amount of work in AE will make them any better. So I took a step back and considered what I wanted from the end product. The original movie font was red and I still wanted to retain some of that, however I also wanted the bullet impacts to have some pzazz and was worried they wouldn’t show too well on pure red. That was when I found this:

bulletgif

I loved the debris from the cement impact and had an idea straight away. Rather than do anything graphic with blood, I’d render the text with a cement texture and hopefully be reminiscent of Rambo shooting up the town in First Blood. This would help the bullet decals blend in. Not wanting to lose the red colour of the original font I backed the cement text with a duplicated layer and used the red to highlight the front layer. Personally I think it worked well.

The rest of the exercise, I admit was a bit of a blur. From start to finish it blazed by in about three hours. After bringing all the assets into AE and making a new composition based on the Harrison Ford template from last week I realised my first hurdle. I wanted a wiggle on the text when it was shot with a bullet, I realised quickly that adding this directly to the text layer affecting it over the duration of the whole composition. I needed a new plan.

Thankfully the TiX exercise the other week introduced us to Slider Controls, we used them to control expressions before, I’m sure they could be used for this. After some Google-Fu it turned out I was right, so setup a Null with the slider control for the wiggle and parented the text layer to the null. Immediately I had keyframe control over the wiggle value. The rest of the time was spent duplicating these keyframes, adding and aligning a bullet, rinse and repeat.

Sadly another issue stood in my way. The duration of the bullet videos were ending before my composition duration finished, this caused the decals to slowly vanish. Cue more Google-Fu! This handy tip is genius and will come in handy in the future. I could go to the last frame in the video, split the layer and time freeze the final frame over whatever duration I needed! Problem solved!

Add one explosion from Footage Crate later and voila, one finished credit roller ready for assembly into the bigger project next week.

 

VFX – Jedi or Magician?

This week was one I’ve been waiting for, to hopefully give me some idea if I want to run with magical type effects in my final piece for the year (turns out I probably will). We had the choice of creating a Mandala effect from Doctor Strange or a force push from Star Wars (both effects would be layered on top of footage from Star Wars, specifically Yoda).

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I opted to do the mandala from Doctor Strange, having seen other tutorials for the same effect online it was already an idea I had toyed with for a final project. I might as well see if its something I could bulk out into a quality piece.

We were given the option to get the mandala effect from footagecrate.com and then spend the time making it look good but I approached the tutorial from scratch and made my own. I won’t cover this part as it’s not really the point of the exercise, but it was cool and I’m happy with how it turned out. Animating some details clockwise and some counter clockwise really helped give it some visual interest. It would have been nice if I could have found a suitable font, but have no access

mandalapersonal

So first things first, I made a new composition out of the yoda footage, and brought in the mandala as a new pre-composition. The mandala was dragged to the correct place on the timeline where Yoda begins to raise his hand. I ticked the 3D space option for the mandala and was then presented with two choices, motion track Yoda’s hand for a few frames to align the mandala or key it by eye for a couple of frames. I did it by eye, it seemed quicker.

The next step was adding a Fractal Noise (love it, most useful effect) to the Mandala pre-comp and a Roughen Edges effect. These both helped to remove the pristine vector image look and ground the effect into the scene further. The individual settings were tinkered with until I achieved something that looked and felt right. I need to get in the habit of not posting every numerical setting when reviewing exercises, it will always differ from project to project.

Continuing the barrage of added effects, next was an Add Glow. A&B colours were added and set as the in-use colours. I chose an orange and a red and tinkered with the settings to mimic the colours of the original Doctor Strange mandala. To add to this new colour palette a new solid was created (in the colour of choice, orange), masked out roughly around the mandala and heavily feathered to simulate an area of glow. This had its opacity animated from 0-75% during the 5 frames it takes the mandala to fully materialise.

mandala

You may also notice a new eye has been added onto Yoda. I did this as a second exercise using existing tools and knowledge. To run through it briefly, his eye was tracked and then track points edited manually (as I couldn’t get a clean and correct track). As always this tracking information was pasted onto a new Null. A black solid was created, the eye masked around on frame 1 and parented to the null. The time consuming part was animating the mask frame by frame to match the eye.

The original footage was then duplicated, placed under the black solid and set to alpha matte. An exposure effect was applied to the duped footage, tinkered with, feathered and then the colour edited using a Hue/Saturation effect. Absolutely no new tools but all used for a totally different effect, proof that most tricks in AE build on top of a core knowledge.

 

 

 

 

After Effects – All Stars Credits (pt.1)

Now that Tix the robot has been completed and put to one side, Peter explained what we’d be getting involved with next *drum roll please*. With the skills we would learn today, we’d all create our own personal credit roll for an actor, a character etc, between 3 and 9 seconds long. Peter will then edit all of these together into a class wide credits roll. Cool project, I just need an idea! The inspiration came from something that Turner Classic Movies did while Peter worked for them, here is the example gif:

All_Stars_Ref

I love some of the references and humour in this, I feel like it may have been lost on some of the younger members of the class though.

It easily demonstrates the direction Peter wants us to take this project and for practice we’d be replicating the animation for Harrison Ford’s name with a little more pzazz! As always Peter provided all the illustrator files needed for the exercise.

I won’t cover the process in too much detail this week because its all tools and processes we’ve used bother, just used in a different way. We kicked off by setting keyframes to animate the roll rolling across the scene, also setting for rotation to get the speed of the rolling just right. We’d use this rolling motion as timing to animate the letters and hat being crushed.

The process of animating each letter had an order that needed to be followed. You couldn’t puppet pin the whole thing at once, as it would set keyframes for everything at the point you were. Letters had to be pinned and the bases starched, the frame before the boulder would pass by them. Then frame by frame, manipulate the pins to crush down the letter. Rinse and repeat until the end. We were meant to keep the mesh size down and number of pins to a minimum, however I took a risk and pushed the Mac a little hard to get extra movement out of the letters. Doing this I managed to get them all to buckle to the right first, before getting crushed. This process was then repeated for the hat, this was required twice as the hat had a front and back layer.

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Keyframes were then copied from earlier in the timeline to get all objects to revert back to their original shape and size. We wanted this to have a bounce action, springing back from being squashed, enter our inertial bounce code used on Tix last week (great stuff). Due to observing a few problems other students had with the bounce scaling from the top and bottom, I remembered the pan behind tool and set the pivot points for the text and hat at the bottom, making sure a change in scale would only scale them up.

The finished piece looks great, however now I really need to sit down and have a think who I’d like to use as a reference to make my own and what assets that would require. Once I do I’ll post again

 

 

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

This post comes a week late (apologies), I didn’t want to discuss last weeks lesson (which was purely spent animating) without anything to show for it. So mid week I knuckled down and finished the exercise.

There isn’t much to discuss about the process, all the technical aspects of the setup were covered in the previous blog post. It was just a matter of using all of the Expressions to keyframe the animation, turn on all of Pete’s added bells and whistles and then render it out. I’ll admit the rendering part took a good two hours at home, it was a brilliant excuse to put my feet up briefly!

We had a few guidelines from Pete for where to start the animation and where to end it, based around the timings of his bells and whistles, which consisted of some rather snazzy light effects and a title fade in towards the end. Following these guides, I did my best to tell the story of poor Tix malfunctioning, losing his head but then everything being fine in the end.

The hardest part of this was purely timing, which is the case for all animation, I had a few issues getting Tix’s head to roll down his arm and towards the end I had to tweak a few keyframes due to the head automatically moving with the body due to the hierarchy. I wasn’t sure if there was a way to correct for this, so just corrected by eye frame by frame.

It isn’t perfect by any means, but given other work on my plate at the moment I don’t think the end result is bad having fit it around a couple of days. It has demonstrated rigging in AE with perfect clarity and I can only imagine how elegant a solution DUIK is, given this is considered the hard way to do it.

We’ll be continuing to address AE animation in this weeks lesson, using puppet pins to animate text. Till then!