Specialisation Project Post-Mortem

And for the last of my blog posts this trimester, I give you the post-mortem for my Specialisation Project. I wish that this had been the main project for this trimester, and that the group project had held less sway on our learning outcomes, then I’d spend more time researching animation techniques then worrying about how much time I have to complete a shot for someone. Though I will conceed to the point that many of our learning outcomes are all about following the project brief, going from pre to post preduction, and working with a team towards the final deliverable. Anyway, onto what this blog post is actually meant to be about.

My specialisation project this trimester focused on improving my 2D animation skills, and broadening my understanding of different techniques so that my animation look more believable. So in the end I endevoured to make this:

Night Scare

And this:

Mr Amazing Invinci-ball UPDATED

What went well, and why?

I think, in the end, what went well was my research. I found websites, articles and books that were able to give me information and recommendations that I could use and that I could easily read over several times to make sure I understood what I was doing. There were also plenty of sources of information to cross reference. The most helpful source was “The Animator’s Survival Kit” by Richard Williams, and I say that because it is a book, that I can physically hold, and bookmark. I can keep it open on the same page and not change tabs on my computer while I am animating.

Another thing that went well was the actual animation. I had a few problems with my laptop maxing out it’s memory usage, but that is such an easily fixed problem that it was merely an inconvienence. For once I didn’t focus on the look of my drawings and just focused on getting the movement right.

What didn’t go well, and why?

To continue off the animation part of the last question, there were some animations that I did focus on the look and not the movement, and the quality of these animations was blocky and very flat. This would be a case of I need quantity over quality, where I need to make more sketchy animation with good movement, rather than a few nicely lined animation with horrible movement. At the same time as having bad animation, focusing on the detail slowed down my work progress and I wasn’t able to do as much work as I had planned to do.

What else didn’t go well? My time management. With the Meet the Team project running past the due date, as well as cross-discipline work and my elective subject, I had a lot to juggle around my timetable, and I should have been able to do so, I just haven’t been able to. I haven’t worked out the right way for me to manage my time yet. I should listen to everyone who gives me a way to try out. My time management skills cut the time I spent on all of my projects, not just my specialisation.

One last thing that didn’t really work, was the study group that our lecturer had set up. Nothing happened in it, no one spoke after the initial silly chat, it was just dead, which defeated the purpose of the study chat group.

What would I do differently next time?

Next time? I would definitely start this project sooner, as to have some work ready by the time that we are starting to talk about it in class.

I would also make sure that I try and write down a to-do list, and some semblance of a schedule to follow. This should hopefully get more work done. With this, I shouldn’t feel like I’m stuck in a web of assessment.

One last thing I would do differently next time is ask for the opinions of my peers more, good advice comes from them, and ideas to improve your work. At least, that is what I have seen. If the lecturer sets up a group chat then I shall use it, ask for help and opinions, offer opinions and advice, and share the knowledge that I have aquired.

What I learnt during the project?

I learnt a few things during this project, such as lip sync and the beginnings of cloth animation. I also learnt the beginnings of facial expressions in 2D animation. But I also learnt different ways of extending my animation and making it shorter or faster. Such as giving key frames longer periods on screen, deleting some key frames that slow the animation down and are unnessasary for the movement.

One thing that I discovered was the limitations of Adobe Animate, where there isn’t a way to change the opacity of a layer. Or perhaps there is and I haven’t discovered it yet. There is no soft brush either, meaning I am stuck with hard lines.

From this I learnt about animating in Adobe Photoshop, where every layer is a new frame of animation. I didn’t get to test this myself, however I did watch one of my classmates doing this. It was very interesting to watch. Adding new frames to the animation also allows you to choose which layer is being used, so the layers don’t need to be in order. The order just makes the layers easier to find.

Future goals for skill development

My goal for future skill development, is to get to a point where I can have a few frames of smooth, coloured and shaded, finished 2D animation. To do this, I will most likely have to move on from Adobe Animate and find more animation software that gives me a greater range of tools to use, such as Anime Studio. I also want to get better at lip sync. I might grab some voiced lines from movies or cartoons that I can animate a character’s mouth to.

One last thing I learnt was the dire need that I have to learn how to draw a character that isn’t facing front on, I had much trouble drawing any character from any side view other than profile. I should do more drawings with characters in three quarter or around there side posing. It will make my animation better.

That’s all I have for this blog post. I enjoyed this trimester, and I hope to learn much more next trimester. Thanks for taking the time to read this post, and I’ll see you all next time.

~Icetail~

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Specialisation Project: Research Blog Post

Hello everyone! I should have done this several weeks ago, but better late than never, right? Oh well, onto what I need to do.

An Indroduction to My Project

My specialisation project is focusing on improving my 2D animations, and to do this, I have decided to do many animation tests, and hopefully make at least one smooth animation loop, but also start animating more than just stick figures with basic attachments.

My before I started this project, my animations looked like this:

It’s blocky, and very simple, and there aren’t many attachments, like hair, clothes etc, and what attachments do exist are me guessing how they move and have no real research behind them. They are also very stiff.

By the end of this project I hope that my animations look something closer to this:

While chunky, it is spaced out really well. One of my favourite artists on DeviantArt is Aileen-Rose, who made the video, occassionally does a live stream, where we can ask her questions about her work. She also takes the time to respond to comments on her art and on her profile. The timing of this animation is great, and the expressions on the characters faces really emphasize the emotions and complement what is happening.

To reach these goals I needed to go back to the animation basics that I learnt back in my second trimester, and use the excercises that I was given then and work on my timing, my smooth in and smooth out, as well as my follow through. I also needed to research facial animation, and more to do with follow through. I also wished to start looking into lip sync and hair animation.

Ideas and Reference

The ideas that had at the start of this specialisation project were very ambitious and it was soon discouraged by my lecturer, who encouraged me to do something that would have been more obtainable. However, though I did listen to my lecturer, I shall share my original idea here.

My first idea was to try and animate a short scene from a book that has never been turned into a movie or tv series etc. And the book, well, books, that I turned my attention to for this were the “Black Magician Trilogy” by Trudi Canavan.

Black Magician Trilogy covers

I thought it would have been interesting to try, so I collected a few reference images to add to my pitch, as well as draw my own short concept.

BMT Ref Ideas

Black Magican Trilogy_The Novice_Arena Fight

However, with that idea being pushed aside, I had to find new ideas for my new project. So I found all the animation exercises that were given to me back in my second trimester and looked though those to see what I could attempt again, I also came up with a few new ideas that I could make.

exercisesSC

Ideas that I came up with were a small things like testing cloth animation, hair animation, and animating something from an old script that I wrote in Grade 10. I also wanted to test facial animation.

So I looked up reference for this. Here’s a few of them, so that I don’t fill up a scroll bar of images.

Workflow

All the artists that I have seen on DeviantArt have used the same workflow for their art, and I believe that I can convert that workflow from digital still images into animation. The artists that I have watched and asked will often draw the rough sketch, sometimes this is on paper, then sketch over that in a paint or photo manipulation program, such as PaintTool Sai or Adobe Photoshop. After they finish the sketch, if it is a commission for someone, then ocasionally send the sketch to their customer and ask their opinion. If the customer wants changes then the artist will do another sketch, then ask again, if not then they do the line art. I have seen some artists in their live streams colour the background before completing the line art. After the line art is finished then they will add the colour, then shading. Speedpaints on YouTube show this workflow well.

I use this workflow with my own images already, so I feel comfortable using it. I have improved on my workflow over the years by asking artists questions, watching speedpaints like the video above, and watching live streams where I can type questions and get them answered right away. Now I just have to translate it to work for animation. I believe it would look something like this:

– Block-out animation
– Rough animation
– Second rough animation
– Line-art animation
– Colour added
– Shading added

I do not think I will be able to complete the whole workflow, just the first few steps, during this project, but just as I did with my art workflow, I shall continue to improve upon my animation workflow.

Practices and Techniques

As suggested by my lecturer, I picked up “The Animator’s Survival Kit” by Richard Williams, and it has been my bible for animation for the past weeks. It has many tips and tricks in it that I have looked at and tried to follow, and others that haven’t really stuck yet. I’m sorry Mr. Williams, but I’m afraid that I am unable to work in the dead silence that plagues my house sometimes. I need that music, even if the volume is only at 4%.

This book shows numerous ways to do one movement in animation, such as three catagories of sneaks, a recipe to a walk animation, and the different key poses in a run animation. There is also four pages of the same two frames of animation with different breakdown poses inbetween to change the way the expression is interpreted.

One of the most useful pieces of information that I found in this book were the pages on flexibility. “A great way to get flexibility is WHERE we’re going to place the BREAKDOWN drawing.” (Williams, 2009) These pages include the four pages of the same two faces with different breakdowns. The journey from the face going from one expression to another is all dependant on what emotion the animator wishes to convey. Such as making the mouth flat and bringing it up closer to the nose is a gulp, showing fear or aprehension, or making the smile larger and turning the head up slightly before going to the sad expression would be a show of false confidence. “This ‘simple overlap’ gives us action WITHIN an action. More ‘change’ – more life.” (Williams, 2009)

Another page that helped was the page with the breakdown of the run cycle. It helped me block out my own run cycle, though it isn’t perfect yet, and it has shown me the positions that I needed to draw for my animation.

Run Cycle Test

I probably need to colour the arms to make their movement clearer.

This book has also helped my with my “Mr Amazing Invinci-Ball” skit.

Mr Amazing Inviciball

Though it has no squash and stretch on it yet, it works in the stage that it is in now. I will get the squash and stretch finished on this one before my next blog post.

“The Animator’s Survival Kit” has been very useful to me so far, and I’m glad I was able to borrow it from SAE’s library.

Another source of information that I used for this project was the old lessons back from my second trimester at SAE, going back over all the principles of animation. It was very useful going back over the basics again. I don’t know how to reference the lessons, but I can reference the the YouTube playlist that each lesson was focused on.

The “12 Principles of Animation” video series by Alan Becker is a very good series to watch if you want to understand these principles quickly. The videos are only a few minutes long, but explain the topic well and get the point across easily.

I made animation tests that explored more into the principles, looking more into follow through and arcs.

Falling Person

I was looking at follow through here, trying to imagine the way that long hair would flow if someone was falling. It seems to have worked somewhat. Perhaps it would flap more wildly. I’m not in a position to ask someone to freefall safely however, so other animations, such as anime or cartoons will have to do for future research.

When looking at arcs, I tried my hand at a head turn again, going for a creature this time.

Kukuri Headturn

I think I made it a bit too fast, I could extend the two ends of the head turn so that there is a nice pause, breaking up the speed a bit. That would make this animation better.

There was a bit of research done into little details as well, I looked into cloth animation, to see how to animate cloth movement around a body. For this I found this tutorial on YouTube, that showed how to draw out the frames so that the cloth followed through more naturally.

When I tried to replicate this tutorial I tried on flatter cloth, just to get a feel for it first, and not have to worry about folds.

Cloth Test

I don’t think I really succeeded here. It’s a bit stiff, and very unnatural. This requires a lot more research into the topic before I will be entirely happy. Though this is a good first attempt, it seems very surreal. I might have been restricted by having two separate animations in the same loop, hence limiting the fames I had to work with, since they had to match in length to make a complete cycle.

Another thing I looked at was facial animation, and I looked up several clips from different anime such as “Sword Art Online” and “Assassination Classroom”, where the characters faces are very expressive.

I also went onto Pinterest and found a board full of different expressions for animation. So with the help of a reflective surface, I found one of the expressions on the Pinterest board and twisted my face to look like it, then tried to animate the expression in a suitable fashion.

Crying Test

There’s something off about this animation that I can’t place my finger on, I think that generally in animation tears aren’t looped, and just run down once and stay, signifying an endless stream of tears.

Looking into expressions also closely ties into lip sync which I researched a bit. The expression on the character’s face can change the meaning behind a sentence, just as the tone of voice that is used. The “Animation Notes #9” page of the Center of Animation and Interactive Media website explains the importance of body language in a character as well, the unnamed author says ‘give your character something to do during the dialogue sequence.’ (“Lip Sync Animation”, n.d.) Even the smallest guesture can show something about the character’s personality while they are talking, accenting details that give life to the character. The author of this webpage also states that ‘the delivery of the dialogue during recording will often dictate where these accents should fall.’ As such, you wouldn’t give furiously spoken dialogue to a depressed expression, just as a cheerful grin doesn’t match dead toned lines.

One article that has really helped was “10 best animation tips & tricks” by Kenny Roy on the CreativeBloq website. These are very useful points, some of them I discovered first hand how useful they were, such as ‘a mirror is a dangerous thing’. Roy states that it is very dangerous to use in lip sync, but in any animation, I have discovered, it is dangerous, as when you slow down your movement to try and capture it, you are far more likely to overexagerate the movement or even underexagerate it, making it less natural.

The last tip on this list is ‘do more of less’. And it suggests doing more shorter shots for practice, and to practice the length of shot that you are most likely to encounter in the industry, which Roy says “will rarely be more than 10 seconds.” I find this is a very good piece of advice that I believe my lecturers and old teachers have been trying to teach me for quite a while. My apologies to them.

Different Animating Software

During this project I also started looking at different animation software that I could use, other than Adobe Animate, to work around some of the limitations in Animate, such as brushes with very few size options and no opacity on layers. The first thing I researched in this was animating in Adobe Photoshop, which is what Aileen-Rose uses to create her animations. I found a tutorial on YouTube that explained the basics to animating in Photoshop. Hamilton Cline, the video’s author, goes into detail about video layers in Photoshop. I did manage to find the timeline window in Photoshop, while experimenting with one of my images that I have many layers on.

Timeline Window

I haven’t experimented further with this however, choosing instead to look for more software that I could use, but since I already own Photoshop, this seems to be the most viable option.

Another program that I found was Moho (Anime Studio), for $69.99. This program, in the Debut 12 version, allows for 2D bone rigging, contains a window that shows every variation of a body part so that they can be changed between quickly between the different poses, and tools that assist in the freehand drawing. Anime Studio also has a setting to do automatic lip syncing. This feature apparently lets you load in a sound file and Anime Studio calculates the rest. Anime Studio has a review on the Top Ten Reviews webpage, where it praised for having both beginner and pro programs. “The beginner program has a collection of tools that are tailored to novice animators. It covers the basics and gives you what you need to build a foundation in the art of animation.” (“The Best 2D Animation Software | Top Ten Reviews”, 2017)

Top Ten Reviews’ second listed animation software is Toon Boom. “Toon Boom has a huge and versatile toolbox for animators that provides many choices to customize the look and feel of your project.” (“The Best 2D Animation Software | Top Ten Reviews”, 2017)

Toon Boom Harmony

Toon Boom Harmony has many different animation tools to use, and looks like it is a great program for animators. It has a 21 day free trial, which is a tad strange, since most free trials are either 7 or 30 days. Toon Boom, like Adobe, is a subscription based program, starting at $15 per month for the Essentials pack, $38 for the Advanced pack, and $73 for the Premium. In comparison to Anime Studio, Toon Boom has a much neater appearance and appears to be easier to navigate.

Of these programs, Photoshop still seems to be the easiest to learn, mainly because I already have it, and am paying for it. Though in future, these other programs will be good to look at, even recommend to others looking for animation software.

This has been a very long blog post, perhaps not my longest, but still long. I hope I haven’t killed your interest. I’m sorry that this is so late and so long, this blog was meant to be in two parts, but I chose to place both parts in one post due to it being so late. So I thank-you for reading this long post, and I’ll see you all tomorrow.

~Icetail~

Reference
 – Aileen-Rose. (2017). Survive the Shadows – Welcome to the Shadows Rough Animation. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p96PcnvFYe0
Aileen-Rose on DeviantArt. (2017). DeviantArt. https://aileen-rose.deviantart.com/
GIPHY Studios Originals GIF – Find & Share on GIPHY. (2017). GIPHY. https://giphy.com/gifs/studiosoriginals-3o7TKoHNJTWWLgljYQ
Scream. (2017). DeviantArt. https://fantasyheart.deviantart.com/art/Scream-26675995
– WalkingMelonsAAA. (2017). Ultimate Undertale Speedpaint – (Full compilation) True Pacifist ((special info in description)). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WTkeNGtfYw
– Williams, R. (2009). The animator’s survival kit. London: Faber and Faber.
– Windy hair animation. (2017). DeviantArt. https://watchtehtail.deviantart.com/art/Windy-hair-animation-408051019
– Emotions & Expressions Animation. (2017). Pinterest. https://au.pinterest.com/blind3ddd/emotions-expressions-animation/
– How to Animate Cloth (Keyframe Animation Tutorial). (2017). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHuzPA6a0Uw
– Roy, K. (2017). 10 best animation tips & tricks. Creative Bloq. http://www.creativebloq.com/10-best-animation-tips-tricks-6113065/3
– Lip Sync Animation. Minyos.its.rmit.edu.au. http://minyos.its.rmit.edu.au/aim/a_notes/anim_lipsync.html
– Cline, H. (2017). Hamilton Draws Episode 5: Animating in Photoshop CS6. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAb-URz6qvA&spfreload=5
– Moho (Anime Studio) Debut 12. (2017). My.smithmicro.com. http://my.smithmicro.com/anime-studio-debut.html
– The Best 2D Animation Software | Top Ten Reviews. (2017). TopTenReviews. http://www.toptenreviews.com/software/multimedia/best-2d-animation-software/
– Toon Boom Harmony. (2017). Toon Boom Animation. https://www.toonboom.com/products/harmony

Meet the Team Project: Post-Mortem

(The video shall be embedded into this post as soon as I can get it here.)

Hey to my readers! This blog post is to recount everything and analyse how well my group’s Samurai Jack Meet the Team Project ran. In this post I must do two things; reflect on my team and how well we worked together, and reflect on the roles in the animation process. As such I will appropriately title the sections of this blog post. Thanks all for sticking with me this trimester!

Part 1

Reflect on how you (and your team) have performed with regards to behaviour, collaboration and the major events/issues that occurred during the project.

To start off with, I shall note important events and/or issues in the project. The first one that I believe I can identify, was at the beginning during our project planning. We were discussing the risks that could affect our project, and I had filled in solutions for all the risks that I had identified, having done a bit of research to find these strategies to minimalise the affect of these problems, however I was told that I should have asked before changing anything on the document because confirmation hadn’t been given on it. This small conflict was caused by lack of communication on both our parts, where I wasn’t aware that we were waiting on confirmation, because it had never been mentioned before, and I should have told the team that I was updating the project plan document.

The next issue that arose was during the design process when we were deciding what kind of characters we would be making for this project. Before this project began, I knew nothing about Samurai Jack, where as my teammates did. They had experience with the world that had been selected, where I had to catch up. Unfortunatly the only videos I could find were short segments from from various episodes. There were the few clips that my teammates sent me to watch as well. They gave me an idea on the diversity of the characters at lest. With much trial and error I was able to create a character that my teammates and I could work with. The character I created however didn’t have a nice backstory like my teammates had given their characters. I should have asked my teammates for assistance for a better story to have come out of my character.

One final issue that is sitting at the forefront of my mind is ongoing currently, and that is the lack of informed updates. What communication we had has now almost completely died, and the inquires as to progress or looking for assets have come up empty. We do not seem to have planned out our risks well enough, or perhaps we have lost motivation towards the end of trimester as the project drags out. We underestimated how much time we had left to do things, and how much personal life and other commitments would push us back, nor did we properly plan around this. We could have discussed this potential risks in more depth to have avoided this problem. We could have also made sure that our chat didn’t die out in the first place, to keep a constant feed of information and updates.

Our project plan documents weren’t too effective, when we completed it we didn’t really look at them after we had finished. Our Kanbanchi board wasn’t used effectively either until later in the project when we finally worked out how to use the program properly. While we didn’t really look at our project plan documents, we did, however, manage to follow what was written on our Kanbanchi board.We didn’t diverge too much from this plan, but some tasks did get put off and completed later than we had negotiated.

Our communication at the start of the project was very active, we were discussing different ideas, and how to go about doing our project. I believe that our pitches for the project went well. As the project progressed though, periods of silence started to appear, where nothing would be said for a few days. This slowly became almost complete silence, which I noted earlier. The progress on our work seemed to coincide with the decrease in our chat, and less happened to the final product as we communicated less.

Part 2

Reflect on the roles within the animation production process.
On Transferable Skills:

I improved some of my own transferable skills during the course of this project, my ablility to work with others, and perhaps some analytical skills, however, let me be the first to acknowledge that I am quite antisocial and I sometimes find it hard to communicate, and quite often I am quite happy to let others do the talking. This doesn’t mean that I won’t participate however, and I do try my hardest not to remain silent during project work. I do however need to work more on this, become more comfortable with talking with the group, asking for opinions and giving my opinions. To improve on this all I can really do is continually force myself away from my comfort zone, and participate more actively in discussions amongst my peers.

On The Final Deliverable:

In the brief to this post-mortem blog I have been told to comment on the overall “ownership of responsiblities”. I’m not entierly sure what that means, but I assume that it would be discussing how our tasks were divided. With the animating of our Meet the Team video my group agreed that each person would be responsible for animating the shots that held their characters. As I had the least amount of shots to complete, I offered to hold the main Adobe Premiere Pro file and compile all the exported shots in order, ensure that they were the right length and ensure that the audio lined up with what was happening on screen. I enjoyed compiling our shots and adding the audio, I was able to tell my teammates if their shots went over the timing that had originally been planned and I could ask them what they thought the best solution would be, either cutting the end of the shot, speeding up the shot, or moving everything behind the shot back and making the video longer.

 

Well this has been a slightly long post, I’m not sure if I answered everything that I was meant to properly, however if there is anything missing this blog post will be updated soon enough. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and I’ll see you all next time.

~Icetail~

Meet the Team Project: Animation Research

In the first week of this trimester at SAE, in my Studio 2 class, we were told that our main assignment was to be a Meet the Team video that was to introduce new characters into am existing franchise. We were split into teams based on whether we had chosen to do 2D or 3D animation, and then we decided on a franchise to create these original characters for. My team elected the cartoon “Samurai Jack” as our franchise.

This blog post has been made to discuss how I am to be going about animating the shots I’ve been assigned, however to do that, I should first show and explain my character.

Samurai Jack MTT character model sheet FIXED

This is my character, she is an ice mage. Of our characters, she actually has the shortest screen time. In the video she will be the apparent villain. And though I have designed four different views, she will only ever be seen from front on.

One of the requirements of the brief is that we rig our characters so the group had to then research 2D rigging, or puppet animation. That required to break my character a bit, so that she could be rigged. Here is her sprite model sheet.

Samurai Jack MTT ice mage sprite sheet

Now she can be rigged. Currently, she is rigged in accordance to Robin Fuller’s video on puppet rigging, using the second technique mentioned; parenting.

It works for me, and is easy enough to use, and makes the most sense. The set up is easy to. At least, in my opinion, it is so. It does everything I need it to do for this animation. It most likely wouldn’t be the technique I would use if I had more scenes to do with my character, or if I needed to animate some more complex movements, however, and there are more efficient ways of setting up a 2D character rig. Like the Duik tool add on for Adobe After Effects, which contains many advanced tools to make for easy animating.

However, for this project, I shall just stick with my parent rigging, where I have attached all the pieces of my ice mage, in a hierachy, starting from the torso, working outwards to her hands.

Here we have some of my reference images of my own hand in the position that I was drawing my casting hand in. Twenty photos and two videos got me the movement and poses that I needed, to have the ice mage casing magic. I can’t embed my own video’s to my blog post however, so I can’t show you the video reference.

Another piece of reference I used, was Khadgar, from Warcraft, in the Warcraft movie, when the main characters have their first altercation with the Orcs.

khadgar-as-seen-in-the-warcraft-movie

Now that’s magic. It is a good example of the hand movements in casting, although with magic, it’s hard to come up with an exact casting stance, since it would rely on the character’s personality and the situation that which they are in.

And now that all of that has been adressed, I’d like to leave off here by sharing some of my thumbnails for a few of my shots that I will be animating. The order is up down, left to right.

MTT Thumbs

I didn’t feel like drawing the mage again, so I took her model sheet and reconstructed her in each frame. With the arrows, I think I’m going to have to discover a better way of representing the movement through the air.

Well that’s all I have to say on this. Thanks for reading! And I’ll see you all in my next post!

~Icetail~

Reference
Blackburn R. FrostieHeart on DeviantArt. DeviantArt. 2015. Available at: http://frostieheart.deviantart.com/
Duik – Rainbox. Rainboxprodcoop. Available at: https://rainboxprod.coop/en/tools/duik/
Fuller R. After Effects puppet rigging tutorial. YouTube. 2013. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsuOXXEo9qI 
Jones D. Warcraft. Universal Studios, Blizzard Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Legendary Entertainment; 2016

ANI210 – Aftermath Post-Mortem

For the whole trimester, my teammates and I have been working on our Aftermath project. The brief for this project asked us to create a game environment in Unreal Engine that showed the aftermath of some event. My team chose to create the aftermath of a bar brawl (come on guys! What’s wrong with the aftermath of an office Nerf war?) set in the Wild West.

Plans & Pitches

First; let me show you my concepts.

thumbnails

Wow, it has been so long since I looked at these images, it’s almost jarring to see. These images were born from much research into Wild Western saloons. As you can see, I was quite bad at perspective at certain angles, but I do like to believe that my perspective skills have improved.

The research process felt a little chaotic, as if we were just collecting images without actually knowing if they fit with the style and time period we were going for. But we managed to figure out the style we wanted for our saloon, and our group leader told us the year that we were looking for and we were able to start piecing together our style guide.

We wanted – note; wanted – to create and texture our assets in an Overwatch style so we got a whole lot of images of the Overwatch map ‘Hollywood’. (For those who don’t know; Overwatch is a game made by Blizzard Entertainment.) This map has wild western buildings that we could use as reference, and we grabbed images of other Overwatch maps to get a feel of the style.

With the rest of the images on our style guide/mood board, we collected images of the interior of saloons from the time period and other small props that lay around the saloon, such as bottles, barrels, spitoons, wanted posters etc. From these we could keep concepting and finish pre-production.

We typed up a project plan we continued to draw concepts and/or started modelling. However during our project, we never looked at the project plan, it just sat in our Google Drive, not being touched and we progressed. We should have followed this plan closely, perhaps then we would not have handed the environment in so late. Without the project plan, it is most likely safe to compare our progress during the project to a blocked up funnel. We needed better planning for this project and we needed to stick to it.

Creative Work & Processes Used

From there we went onto modelling. One of the main problems faced was backwards compatibility between 3dsMax 2017 and 3dsMax 2016, for when we were modelling at home and at uni. I, personally, kept forgetting to save my files in a format that could be opened in 2016 version of Max, which really impacted how quickly I could finish assets. I also discovered that an asset you create in 2016 doesn’t stay in the 2016 format once you save a new version of the asset in 2017, that caught me up a few times while I was working.

There’s a few of my assets. It was interesting trying to work out how to make the round tables (I made a small and large one), and chairs. It was also interesting trying to work out how to break the crate. I didn’t have many problems with the modelling part of this project, and my favourite asset that I made was this one:

Saloon_model

For some reason, I just really love this model, it’s so amazing! *hem hem* Enough self praise. From modelling come texturing, and well… you’ve seen a few on my models, so I’ll show you some of my texture maps.

I enjoy texturing a lot, and the floor, dartboard and the texture for the saloon sign were some of my best this time around. The yellow texture in the corner there is for some gold bars that were in the environment. The floor was the hardest out of all my textures to make, the dartboard being the second hardest, as I had to determine the length of the floor plank, however, once I had worked that out it was a simple matter of copy and past to get the rest of the planks there.

When everything was textured we then began to place it all together in Unreal Engine, though in all honesty, we should have started this step sooner, while we were modelling and texturing. I had a problem with my broken crate pointed out to me, in which the inside of the crate was invisible due to the way I rendered out the image. Unfortunately I did not know how to fix this until yesterday, when our lecturer showed me the settings that were incorrect, as such, it was not fixed in the environment.

We discussed what triggered events we would add to the environment, and at the beginning of the project we had a lot of triggers, unfortunately, due to us running out of time, and a lack of assets, the only trigger we ended up adding was a proximity trigger on the piano that would begin playing “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin when the player moved near the piano.

From the screenshots above, you can see that we didn’t end up sticking to our planned style of Overwatch. This is because when we began texturing, some of us tried to stick to the style, whereas others went with a more realistic style, so our textures ended up being mixed matched. However I think our environment turned out alright anyway.

Project Management & Teamwork

Our project was handed in well past its due date. This happened, first, because we overestimated how much work we needed to do to create the environment, and then later, because we all decided to focus more on the next project; our obstacle courses, over finishing our environment.

While working on this, we never realized how close the due date was or how long it would take to put the environment together in Unreal. All the weeks up to the due date were filled with modelling and texturing, and a week to import it into Unreal, then export and upload. Our project was almost too ambitious. We should have noticed the amount of backlog in assets that was happening and cut less important assets from our list.

Another problem was communication and misunderstanding. Using Slack to communicate is both harder and easier than talking face to face. While, yes, it was easier than waiting till we could meet up to discuss the project; over the internet, you lack everything you use to communicate except your words. The group would discuss details in the group chat on Slack, trying to explain their ideas, but since we were unable to gesture to images effectively, these discussions grew more heated. We should have organised to meet up at uni more often to have group meetings so that these details could have been sorted out properly.

Near the time when we were meant to hand in our environment three of us were discussing the possibility of asking out team leader to step down as it was felt that she wasn’t doing her job to the best of her abilities. I had noted that it was far to late to be considering a change in leadership, and while my teammates conceded to my point, it was easy to see that they still wanted to press the point further. Any problems with leadership should have been dealt with in the first weeks of of the project, not talking about it towards the end of it.

But aside from this, I enjoyed working with them, and I am happy with the end result of the project. I hope I have more chance in the future to work with an amazing team.

~Icetail~

Updated: 9th of May, 2017, 11.45am. 1.15pm. 4.12pm

Character Creation: The Design

Vague descriptions be gone with my newest character: Seraphina. She is a dancing elf with many styles of dance in her repertoire. Her design wasn’t easy to nail down but in the end I think I did pretty good.

So meet Seraphina:

Seraphina Ref

This wasn’t just improving my character creation skills, it was also me working on my proportions (what are those?) and hands (I can’t draw hands, I know).

Sera’s design was based around the blood elves of World of Warcraft, the belly dancers of the middle eastern countries, and the Shuvani Romani Kumpania whom I have seen at the Abbey Medieval Festival here in Australia. Her pose is a mix between Celtic river dancing and ballet.

ThumbsWhen I was thumbnailing Sera, I found myself leaning more into the ballet, ballroom and the long flowing skirt style of romani dance. They worked more with what I need for my story. I liked the way the skirts would flare out as well, creating opportunities for great dynamic poses. I played more with skirts than pants in my sketchings as well. Thought in the end I went with the poofy genie style pants. In the sketches you can see below, I also played around with the star design, trying to make it a part of her. I’m not entirely sure if I succeeded in doing so, but I tried hard to make it a part of Sera.

Sketches

A major design reference that I used during this stage was Olivia from Fire Emblem Awakening. I was inspired by Olivia’s outfit, and the way it fits the character perfectly, showing her personality and is a good representation of her role in game.

When I was typing Sera’s backstory, I was trying to think of something that was interesting but not cliché. I tried to get it to a point where I could continue in a story with a good reference to personality, who she is, and what she values. I hope that I did a good job.

Name: Seraphina
Nicknames: Sera, Nina
Stage Name: Starlight Seraph
Age: 18
Occupation: Travelling dancer/Master Dancer

Race: Elf/Álfur
Eye Colour: Cyan
Skin Colour: Golden Brown
Hair Colour: Dark Red
Height: 159cm
Weight: 56 kg

Seraphina grew up surrounded by the dancers and musicians of her father’s travelling group of entertainers. There she learnt and mastered many different styles of dance, her favourite style being Ballet. When her father retired, Sera took over as leader of the group, where she continues her family legacy in front of audiences everywhere.

In Seraphina’s group, your stage name is always given to you by your audience. When performing, she earned the name ‘Starlight Seraph’ from a band of pirates who described her as being as elegant as her namesake, the angels. This name became official when Sera was performing and the same band of pirates called her that, causing the other patrons to start calling her ‘Starlight Seraph’ as well.

Sera is bound by a marriage contract with one of the pirates whom are regular audience members. This contract guarantees the protection of Sera’s travelling group. Sera likes her betrothed, but refuses to show it, often giving her suitor cold glares as he tries increasingly extravagant ways of winning her over.

Seraphina’s sister, Rhapsody, chose music over dance, and often accompanies Sera as a master musician.

In this I also tried to iron out several story points that I will use. Such as Seraphina’s relationships, and who she works for/what she works as.

All up this was a fun experience, and I hope to continue improving my work and that I finally manage to finish a story. I shall do it! I will succeed.

Please leave a comment to tell me what you think! See you all next time!

~Icetail~

Research Blog
Seraphina Ref

2D Obstacle Course Assignment – Part 2

About a month ago, I wrote a blog post about this assessment, detailing my research into the movement of Papyrus from Undertale and Obelix from Asterix and Obelix. During that month I have sketched, lined, blocked out, and finalized my obstacle course animation. It was not a simple task to complete, and there are parts that I wish were different, as well as the several mistakes that I have come to notice.

In the thumbnailing process I first was just simply sketching the characters on a blank photoshop document, trying to work out who would be the easiest for me to draw, and it became clear, quite quickly, that one character was simply impossible for me to draw.

Papyrus and Obelix sketches 01

As you can see, I was unable to draw Obelix, and as much as I would have loved to animate him, I simply didn’t have the time left in the trimester to work out how to draw him, so I had to abandon that idea. I moved onto trying to make the supplied rig work with Papyrus.

Papyrus and Obelix sketches 02

There’s what I managed to come up with. I am inspired to draw Papyrus now. Before I do that however, I shall finish this post. When I was interpreting Papyrus onto the Normi_ *hemhem* Norman rig, I tried to find the perfect blend between the two. In the end, I just kept the scarf. Had I of had the time, I would have most certainly made the animation solely Papyrus with no sign of the supplied reference.

After the sketches came the thumbnailing of Papyrus across the course. We were supplied with two courses and told to do both. So here they are:

Rebekah B Obstacle course papyrus 1

Rebekah B Obstacle course papyrus 2

This consisted of a lot of copy and paste of the march frames. Ultimately I chose the first one, I felt that I could do more with it, and there were more unique actions in it. From this came the block out of my animation. A few differences from the planned course, but still mostly the same.

MyAnimation2

I particularly like his start/end pose, and his jump animation. They are quite cute. My lecturers told me that Papyrus couldn’t clear obstacles with his bones as elevators because that was almost the same as him clearing the course by jumping over it and bypassing everything. Well Papyrus would hate to be that lazy! So I made him climb the wall instead. My father also suggested that Papyrus slide down the slope on his butt instead of surfer like, and it did make more sense.

Papyrus Line

Next we have the lines. He’s climbing up bones now, isn’t it cool! Anyway, there are a few timing issues in this, mainly the fall down after he hits the wall and then when he’s sliding down the slope. If you can notice the other mistake I made, I will applaud you, as I am told that it isn’t actually that noticeable.

Papyrus Finished

And here is the final gif. Yes, I forgot to colour parts of Papyrus on some frames. It is hard to fill colour when the colour you are filling is almost the same colour as the workspace behind the character you are animating. In this gif, Papyrus’ fall after he hits the wall is faster and his slide flows more smoothly into the stand-up and crouch for his first jump onto the poles. When I coloured Papyrus, I didn’t want to make him pure white, but I was restricted by the colour swatches of Adobe Fla_ *hemhem* Animate, so he is cream instead. And his scarf, of course, had to be bright red.

Next time I do something like this, I want to make the character likeness more accurate, make it look more like the character I am animating and less like the images of the supplied rig. If I had more time on this project, I probably would have gone and fixed the frames of the march cycle so that he is marching a full cycle instead of a half cycle.

What I learnt about animation during this assignment was a new way of animating a character. Instead of making each moving part a separate layer in the Animate document, I animated Papyrus on one layer as solid line. This was really hard to do, but also easier for me. It was hard because I couldn’t erase lines madly when I made a mistake or when I was getting rid of guides, so this made my progress slower. However less layers meant that I didn’t have to scroll through the list of layers to find the layer I was working on, and I didn’t have to pull my timeline up to see all my layers giving me a larger workspace on my laptop’s screen.

While doing this animation I learnt that copying all required frames is important, lest you make a cycle only half complete, that there are several different ways for different characters to traverse their terrain depending on their abilities and personality, and that there are no bones in bananas.

Okay, that last point was a joke.

I really enjoyed animating Papyrus’ scarf, and working out how it would flow behind Papyrus as he moved. It was certainly easier than animating the folded wings of my walk cycle in my second trimester, but still hard, none the less. This was a fun endevour, and I’m happy with the way this turned out.

See you all in my next blog post.

~Icetail~

Link to Part 1