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
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CIU211 – Self-Refection of Creative Project

The following is a critical self-reflection of my creative project in the module CIU211 in my Animation Bachelor’s Degree. I am not criticizing the work of my teammates of this project, and should they be mentioned, it is only to add to the reflection of the project and choices I made during it.

poster_ciu_by_frostieheart-db7djm9

The major project in CIU211 was to propose, and then create, a piece of media, that would then be shared online. The topic of this piece of media had to be related to one of the weekly topics in class, and we could chose any form of media to present it.

I proposed a poster, challenging stereotypes and self-image, having read the lecture on mainstream media. My teammates liked the idea, and we began writing out the proposal for this task. When it was first submitted, our lecturer told us that the plan was vague and needed to be fleshed out, with facts, not just ideas. I had trouble finding the information that I was told I needed from scholarly websites and other reliable sources, I simply had no idea what to search for. My lecturer did however send useful texts that helped a lot.

When it came to creating the actual project, I, as the one who originally proposed the idea, became the project lead of sorts, and I delegated jobs. One of my teammates offered to make the poster, and so I gave her that job whilst myself and our other team member would do whatever other research was needed as well as find images to be placed in our poster. On paper, this was a well thought out plan, however this didn’t work in practice.

I, and I’ve been told that my teammates as well, prioritized Studio 1 (ANI210) over CIU. The studio unit was the bigger one, where there was teammates relying on me for assets, lecturers reminding us of our learning outcomes that we needed to have completed, and the emphasis on doing our mini-specialization projects. As a consequence, there wasn’t as much effort being put into the poster, it had been pushed to the side for assessment in another class. Because of lack of effort, the poster was not as good as it most definitely could have been.

In the last lesson of trimester, the class presented all the projects made, and we all marked each others works. Common comments on this poster were about the lines being too thick, the text not being necessary, the subcultures that we were trying to show not being clear enough. And to this, I completely agree, the lines were too thick, we, my group and I, acknowledged this when it was first posted into our slack channel, but my teammate who was making it said that she couldn’t fix it. I also agree that we probably didn’t need the text there, and it covered up a fair chunk of the image that could have been used as more of the image to help in bringing forth the point. And yes, I agree that the subcultures, and subsequently our main idea, were too hard to make out, there should have been more diversity and difference in each image that was placed in the broken mirror.

One idea suggested in that last class was to create a series of images to help convey our message better. This idea intrigued me, and I believe that it is a good idea, and if we had of had the time, we could have created a series of posters, a set promoting the question of “who do you think you are?” instead of just the single image.

In future I shall try not to present forward half-formed ideas and try to have a more solid idea to work from, or help someone else with their idea and leave my half formed ideas for a later date, at which time they would be better developed.

This ends my critical reflection of my creative project this trimester in CIU211. I hope I didn’t bore you all with this.

~Icetail~

http://frostieheart.deviantart.com/art/Who-Do-You-Think-You-Are-677517201
Also here: http://missjiav.deviantart.com/art/Identity-677532164

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

Character Creation: Research

I need a character for a story I’m writing, but I haven’t been the greatest at character creation, I’ve just made vague descriptions, never really ironing out details and making it up as I go along. This isn’t a very efficient way of designing characters. So, some research is needed to improve my skill, and, as conscequence, improve my characters.

IllidanA most of the sources I have looked at tell me one thing consistently: make your characters unique. In the words of Andra who wrote ‘10 Quick Tips to Help You Design Characters Like a Pro‘, “ideally, you should design your character so you can recognize them even if they were naked and bald.” Hmm… lets apply this to my Original Character that I am using in a fanfiction at the moment. Lythia Balfour is blonde, wears a military uniform similar to the character Jade Curtiss, has violet eyes, and is technically blind. Not that unique, I haven’t ever mentioned her having scars of any kind, though being in the military she is bound to have some. I haven’t even drawn her once. Okay, well lets compare Lythia to another character, already designed, completely unrelated; Illidan Stormrage from World of Warcraft. No need to look far, I have him as this paragraph’s image. Lets see, discounting purple skin, since that is a Night Elf trait, he has black hair, unique to him (for his race), his tattoos are unique to him. Horns, wings that are always present? Definitely unique. A tad less unique since the release of World of Warcraft: Legion, but the edition of Demon Hunters into the game, hasn’t subtracted much from the unique appearance of Illidan, as the character customization screen doesn’t allow customization that looks like Illidan (really, any unique character is impossible to replicate without mods).

linaren_darkshard_by_frostieheart-d9n643qAnother tip that I have read consistently? Colour. Choose your colours wisely. Colour is important for characters, you want to use the right colours, and you don’t want to use too many colours. “Typically, dark colours such as black, purples and greys depict baddies with malevolent intentions. Light colours such as white, blues, pinks and yellows express innocence, good and purity. Comic-book reds, yellows and blues might go some way to giving hero qualities to a character design,” as stated in the article ‘20 top character design tips‘ written by the staff of Creative Bloq. Seems easy right? Well, not really, lets look at another one of my characters; Linaren Darkshard. (This paragraph’s image). As can be seen, she is exhibiting colours that are highly saturated and clash as a consequence of this. While I acknowledge that I created Linaren for a high school surrealism art assignment, I can’t do much more with her than that, and that somewhat bugs me. I might end up redesigning Linaren eventually.

One particular article shared dos and don’ts for character creation. The one ‘don’t’ that I noted the most was “Inconsistency in your characters will jar your readers mightily.” Well… to the guys at Reader’s Digest…. I humbly apologise. I have noted inconsistencies in many of my characters, no matter how much I avoid them. I have failed you all. The main inconsistency… in my OC Lythia. Recently in her story, I revealed that she is blind, but I didn’t really explain how she could see very well. The explanation was flakey and I’m sorry to admit that I am probably never going to fix that. HOWEVER! I will take note of this fact for future reference. Planning is important. I should probably learn to stop writing half baked ideas and fully flesh them out before beginning my plan ((But… It works with drawing!! Why can’t I do the same for writing??”)).

So with all these tips, written here, and unmentioned, but on the articles, what should I do?

Well, lets start simple, outline what kind of character I’m looking for:

  • Female
  • Dancer or Musician
  • Traveller

Okay, so with that, I can start designing. So I should ask myself these questions:

  • Who is she?
  • What’s her story?
  • What’s ethnicity does she belong to?
  • What colours does she wear the most?
  • What style of clothing does she like wearing?
  • What’s her name?
  • Personality?
  • What are her goals?

And with that, I can start drawing ideas. Perhaps I’ll end up with a pink skinned alien girl wearing a lime green tutu. Hehehe, as fun as that sounds, I suppose we shall see. It’s been a long week. See you all next time~

~Icetail~

Reference List
10 Quick Tips to Help You Design Characters Like a Pro. (2017). PiXEL77. Retrieved 31 March 2017, from https://www.pixel77.com/10-tips-design-characters-pro/
Staff, C. (2017). 20 top character design tips. Creative Bloq. Retrieved 31 March 2017, from http://www.creativebloq.com/character-design/tips-5132643
Marks, C.S. (2017). Five Traps and Tips for Character Development. Liferichpublishing.com. Retrieved 31 March 2017, from http://www.liferichpublishing.com/AuthorResources/Fiction/Five-Traps-and-Tips-for-Character-Development.aspx

First Game Environment

Let it be said that I am a 2D animator and have no joy for 3D modeling or animating. However, messing around inside Unreal Engine is fun, especially when I can test whatever I piece together by shooting it with the default gun supplied by the program. For the past week and a bit I have been working on a game environment at the prompting of my lecturer as a “Bootcamp” to teach us the basics of Unreal Engine so we can use the skills in later projects this trimester (and in our following trimesters).

To start off with we modeled a wall section, a roof section and a floor section. We were also supplied with boring, but somewhat interesting textures that showed how big each asset was in square metres.

grey_box_1mgrey_box_orange_1m

These textures graced the models that were made for a while and we moved onto building the environment in Unreal. This was interesting, dragging all the assets around to create a game level of sorts, no matter how weird and incomplete it looked. It was also fun discovering how high the default player character could jump and experimenting with my different assets to create platforms and stairs.

bootcamp-screenhcaps-001bootcamp-screenhcaps-003
bootcamp-screenhcaps-004bootcamp-screenhcaps-005bootcamp-screenhcaps-002

As can be noted in the images above… I might or might not have messed with the light colour and made it a blood coloured tint.

After we finished blocking out the environment we were told to create our own textures for the blocks we used. I was unable to work out how to attach the different maps to materials in the material editor in Unreal, that will require some extra research in the future. These are two of the texture maps I created, however they are not present in the final itteration of this environment.

wall-texture-colourwall-texture-normal

They are meant to be wall panels, however I preferred the supplied textures in Unreal, and because of due dates, I didn’t have the time to mess around in Photoshop to create my own. So instead – this is what my final environment looked like:

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EDIT: I forgot to add this when I first typed this, so I shall add it now. Continuing on about textures, the most common texture properties used in material shaders in Unreal Engine are the diffuse, roughness, normal and metallic maps. The diffuse map controls the colours of the asset and this works alongside the normal map, which governs how light reacts when it hits the object. The roughness and metallic maps control how shiny an asset is and whether or not the asset is meant to be made of metal or not. Roughness and metallic maps are either black, white or a shade of grey. Normal maps are usually a blue, with darker blue and purple patches that show depth.

This modular approach to building game environments is interesting, I’d love to see what my group and I manage to create with Unreal for our Wild West themed “Aftermath” project. This Bootcamp to making game environments is useful, and I’m glad to say that I learnt much.

See you all in my next post!

~Icetail~

Animation Bachelor Update + New Projects

Okay, so I’ve been wondering for a while how to post this, which do I talk about first? My animation degree or a new personal project I’m planning (and have started). Well I decided to start with my degree.

So hello everyone!

First off: my Bachelor in Animation. I am now in my fourth trimester and I have two classes, one of which is my first Production unit. I am required to post progress updates of all projects I do in this module on my blog, so you will be seeing some more of that soon. Another thing I am meant to do for this class is refining and developing my own skills, so I’m going do be working on my drawing skills, such as anatomy and character development. Leading of from this, I now have an excuse to continue a 100 theme challenge I started a while back where I restricted myself to one of my OC’s as to develop her character. So that’s what’s happening this trimester.

Now onto my own project, somewhat unrelated, but still somewhat relevant to my degree. I had this idea a few weeks ago to make a Hunger Games and Tales of Series crossover. So I did it basically. I used a Hunger Games generator to reap selected characters from the Tales of Series and then I just generated the events that happened and screencapped them.

Here is my reaping:
tales-of-hunger-games-reaping

First I’ll be drawing just an image with all my tributes. Personally; I’m rooting for District 1 or 6 here. I will post the arena events when I get up to drawing them. Here is the progress of my first image:
the-tributes-wip

To link you to their wiki pages, from left to right we have: Giselle Oslo, Jade Curtis, Zelos Wilder, Raine Sage, Rita Mordio, Yuri Lowell, Alfred Svent, Elize Lutus, Fylk Zadeya, Alisha Diphda, Uphim Welkps, Velvet Crowe, Leon Magnus, Ilene Remembrant, Reid Hershel, Farah Oersted, Cress Albane, Arche Klein, Saleh, Claire Bennett, Emil Castagnier, Marta Lualdi, Asbel Lhant and Pascal.

In future blog posts I will be using the names that are most said in-game, not their full names (or in the case of Seraphim/Malakim, true names). Comment below to tell me who your hoping to win.

That’s all I have for now, I will post again soon when I have more of the image above complete. See you all soon!

~Icetail~