Studio Two: Post Mortem

When reflecting about the things I have learnt, and things I will do differently in future projects during Studio Two, the list feels never ending.

The largest factor however, and  the umbrella over a lot of the elements of my project that I have taken valuable lessons from is my  project management strategy, from beginning to end. I feel that from time management, to creating a reasonable scope, having a plan for the intricacies of each step of the pipeline can reduce the likeliness of long troubleshooting sessions and having a lack of time for important parts of the production pipeline in the later portions in the project.

The pre-production phase has now changed in my mind as I understand more of the realities of what this phase should entail. One thing is tests, tests and more tests. After Studio One and now Studio Two this is still a component to my project management which must change to become more efficient and allow more time to complete and polish my end product. Essentially I now feel that pre-production should be used to steam roll over the unknown factors that will arise during production phase. One should take notes for procedure that should be followed  later in the pipeline so major decisions do not cause un-predictable scenarios.

On reflection my time management on one level has been decent, I would reflect that the way in which I had made my plans allowed efficient workflow in the earlier stages but did not allow enough safety nets for inevitable issues.

Specifically testing of a hard surface character rig system would have helped move my progress towards animation, as when I had implemented my rig and skinning I had to spend time undoing and re-doing several times, as I was not aware of a few pieces of knowledge such as where in an interface to delete stacked constraints and how the hierarchy system causes objects and controllers to interact with each other.

In terms of the deliverables of my Studio Two Project, the produced content has not reached my original aims for scope. The 3D component of my project has a chunk animated but time has not allowed for any polish and essentially only produced to the equivalent of a draft. The 2D component I have treated as an experience which I have learnt from, and I have received a lot of feedback in terms of the principles of animation. The small amount of 2D that I have managed to produce has also been an opportunity to experiment with animation style and play around with the animation style I had originally intended to use in my project. An example of this is the 3 frame static “shake” look which I wanted to implement. I had at least had an chance to try this out with my 2D component.

Something which has been a highlight in the later phase of my project has been the discovery of lighting techniques, and specifically 3-point lighting. Using editing software to enhance the 1950’s theme of my animation has also worked well.

Overall, there are many things that I recognise could be changed in my strategies and planning to greatly improve future projects. A tactic which I plan to implement is implementing specific plans for testing during the pre-production phase. This would be implemented through project management tools such as using a Gantt chart.

A positive that I will carry with me from this experience during Studio 2 are the upgrades to my skills in asset production, and the animation principles I now i understand to a deeper level, despite not having the opportunity to implement these new levels of understandings and skills within this Studio.

 

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Studio Two: Entry 4

Delegation of time has become a weighty consideration in the last few weeks, as the end of my project timeline draws near. My main aim has been to arrive at the animation component of the pipeline as quickly as possible. With each troubleshooting session that arises I make a conscious effort to keep a calm thought process and continue.

Dramatic thoughts aside, I have only just reached the animation phase, and I am currently chipping away at the first few seconds of my animation. In preparation for my animation, myself, a classmate and my lecturer have spent a considerable chunk of time shooting reference footage. This has been my first enjoyable experience with creating animation references, of course there was still the un-enjoyable aspect of having my likeness recorded while I act out awkward movements.

Well, the important part of this experience has been the ability to now use the references to my advantage. it has been repeated countless time during my animation education so far that references are essential for good animation.

Previously I quite detested the idea of using animation references. This is not through doubt but because of imaginings about the tediousness of such a process. Shooting the reference, staring at the reference, translating the reference painstakingly from video to animation timeline. I am happy to say I have come around on this process. I also now find that it is is preferable experience to the guestimation method I have used in previous projects. While I have very little experience with animation, I can already tell that references will be a monumental part of future animation undertakings.

With the specific references I have shot, I am translating the footage to be used for my robot character Georgio. I have designed Georgio to be slightly stumpy and oddly proportioned.  This obviously will mean that his movements are not only mechanical but awkward. For the most part as he is bipedal and still moves the way a human would, translation into animation has been unhampered by his character design. I can certainly now appreciate the additional difficulty in animating characters of invented biology and movement mechanics. Surely the references for such creations would come from real-life sources and would then be adjusted with general bio-mechanical principles in mind, however any resultant animation is clearly a feat nonetheless.

 

 

 

Studio Two: Entry 3

Well into the production stage, after modelling and UV unwrap I have undertaken the rigging and skinning of my robot character. Unlike both my previous experiences (which are few), and my current notions of this process, the process will rely on a hirearchy and link system.

One common aspect however is the need for controllers. As has been repeated many times in the past, I have been instructed never to animate mesh. The reason for this

Aside from this controller system it was important for my process to first understand the major difference between an organic rig and skin pipeline and one of a hard-surface modelled character. The major difference stems from the deformation of an organic character as opposed to the rigidity of a hard surface character, in this case my robot character Georgio.

This difference is obvious but research was required as to how I would go about Georgio’s animation setup. In practice this setup has involved pivots, a hierarchy of scene objects and lastly animation constraints.

In principle this is a simple method, and results in a system whereby all parts of Georgio have a 100% weighting during the skinning phase. This of course eliminates the need to creat realistic bends and deformations of body parts. In-experience in rigging and skinning therefore should logically have less impact on the ease to which the final setup can be animated. Specifically Georgio’s range of movements should not be restricted by any areas that were not skinned to an optimum level.

The rigging and skinning of Georgio has however taken longer than expected. Along the way the consequences of such things as neglected xform reset has reared its ugly head.

In order to start this rigging/skinning workflow the model must be separated into the individual parts which will be rotated during animation. For Georgio this meant seperate objects for head, torso, leg and arm segments, finger joints and foot with ankle.

Once independant of each other it has to be decided where would be appropriate for rotation for each indepdenent piece. This involves affecting each objects pivot and placing in the correct point which allows correct rotation of joints.

After this it is now possible to create controllers, and using the align tool, match a controllers pivot with the object pivot. This essentially means that during the animation phase rotation of a controller will cause rotation around the designated point on the object. This also means that the controllers pivot does not need to sit in the centre of the object in order for rotation to occur in the correct location.  After spending much time placing these pivot points in their correct position i am now more familiar with using the pivot adjustment functions within 3DSMax.

I have also reached a point of understanding that during the modelling phase it is important to model in a way which accommodates for the alteration of pivot location. This is particularly important for finding centre points within an object for rotation. A mistake which I had made is neglecting to have a symmetrical line down the torso, making it more of a tedious task to accurately re-position pivots to their needed spots.

The model could have benefited from foresight and planning in this way in other areas, such as creating the neck as a cylinder not tube, not only to make the object more contiguous but also to be able to find and place the pivot at the centre point of one end with ease.

Perhaps it would seem a little insignificant to model edge loops etc into a model for the sake of easy pivot adjustment, but even for the cases where it wouldn’t also benefit other aspects of the pipeline production, at this point in time I believe it is worth implementing modifications for pivot adjustment alone (at least when this rigging system is used).

As I have never had to manipulate pivot points in this way for this purpose I doubt that my mistakes could be avoided completely, however I have taken notes for future reference of considerations during the modelling phase. In fact, the importance of beginning these considerations during the character design phase is now something I am beginning to understand in not only a theoretical sense but also practical.

Despite the obviousness of my limitations of technical aptitude and lack of experience, I anticipate that planning ahead for not only technical capability limitations but also time factors is something I will require and be refining infinitely.

Reflecting on this process, one would need to assess the final production in all its practical intricacies of a character from its creative conception. The struggle of creating a character with appeal and polish is already a feat, but how much compromise should be made in order for an efficient pipeline, and easy (in relative terms) to complete project?

I realise that such a musing sounds dramatic, and my intention of such a reflection is more of a hyperbole than anything else but the ramifications of not considering this at all seem to be even more drastic.

Returning to Georgio’s progress in the rigging and skinning portion of the pipeline, the algniment of the pivots was followed by a painful process of discovering the various effects of hierarchy and constraints that compete with each other.

It is important to place the controllers and objects in hierarchical levels which they will be animated by, with the root of the character at the top. It is also important however to ensure that the objects that comprise the body are part of a separate hierarchy tree to the controllers, with each level in both hierarchies mirroring the corresponding components. This would mean the torso would be at the top of one hierarchy, and the torso controller at the top of another. After some accidents I have seen how this directly affects the intended movements of the character.

I have also learnt that constraints can be stacked, and it is easy to constrain an object multiple times without realisation due to little interface feedback. The model may show odd characteristics of movement but it necessary to open up link info and examine to confirm any new constraint additions in order to delete the unintended additions.

All in all I am satisfied with the new knowledge I take from this new rig and skin experience. in a sense it solidifies what I have previously learnt when rigging and skinning an organic model.

 

Studio Two: Entry 1

The onset of Studio Two has introduced new possibilities in the form of bespoke projects. While I am not free to run completely rampant and attempt any creative project idea I wish, within reason myself and my peers now have freedoms to tailor our projects towards more personal goals and interests.

My initial reaction to this has been a ridiculous tug of war between a dream project brief and a more modest and practical project plan (especially one which would be suitable for Studio Two parameters). A lot of time in my first week has been spent pondering  how much I am willing to scale down, water down and in general compromise any creative vision i have for projects in order to get them made during my student career as opposed to the possibility they aren’t made at all (or at least delayed for what I imagine would feel an eternity).

For a week I also attempted to test this in a tangible way. This meant going ahead with concept development and project planning as well as pitching my idea for feedback.

Concept development and planning revolved around an idea for a VR video game. It would be a mix of a narrative driven experience as well as have elements from the FPS genre. The scope and complexity of the project was quite sizeable and immediately recognising this, a more modest version was conceptualised, and at this point I pitched my project concept to seek feedback.

My initial reaction to feedback was dismay. Despite my efforts to scale down my project appropriately and alter my goals where needed, I was made aware of a long list of factors i had yet to understand myself. Unknown factors leaves a lot to be desired in terms of certainty. This would mean a lack of certainty that I will have the skills and ability to complete my project (with or without help from others), as well as the time management factor as its own worry.

One final element of my thought process has led to the abandonment of my initial project idea and brief. This was consideration of what my personal goals for Studio Two would be. Apart from the obvious goals set within the studio unit, my personal goals for knowledge, experience and skill set became a focus for my project decision making. My initial project idea would tick off a long list of desirables as a learning experience. I would however be in danger of being spread too thin, and to what degree would I gain anything if I was to try and learn too many things.

And so, I decided on a completely different project idea, one which would result in an animation as the deliverable and also stick to the supplied default brief. This brief asked for an approximately 1 minute long animation containing both 2D and 3D methods, and my response was the idea to produce an animated 1950s style commercial.

My aims for this project will also allow me to achieve certain goals I am eager to add to my repertoire for the future. Improving my general animation skills for both 2D and 3D mediums is an obvious one but I am also looking forward to learning the conventions used in TV ad production. As an added bonus I am exploring 1950s TV as a theme and aesthetic style which is quite a novelty.

During the first week, while brainstorming and researching, I had stumbled across an interview with Ridley Scott (On storyboarding), which has lead me further down the path of contemplation about creative compromise and the creative professional in general. His comments on the matter, I greatly expect to pop up again and again in my mind during the course of the coming project.

In terms of progress, the art bible phase in pre-production is underway. I am paying particular attention to 1950s aesthetics, including colour palette, with a plethora of era accurate advertisements informing my character and environment designs.

 

Link 1. The art of story-boarding with Ridley Scott. (Eyes on Cinema, September 27th, 2014).

 

 

 

environment design
figure 1. Environment Design. (Wyld, 2017)

 

obsidian logo
figure 2. Obsidian Logo Design. (Wyld, 2017) 
colour palettes.jpg
figure 3. 1950s Colour Palette Experimentation. (Wyld, 2017).
Georgio
figure 4. Georgio Character Design. (Wyld, 2017).

 

 

 

Studio Two: Entry 2 (TSM)

The TSM which has been conducted in week six has been a chance for reflection and feedback. This has been a great opportunity to gather information that assists in my understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses. The process involved a discussion with lecturers and a run through of my self evaluation. As I expect is the experience of most students, I found this TSM to be slightly anxiety inducing.

I would blame this on the awkwardness that comes with the subjective nature of self-evaluation. I was however pleased that for the most part I have been able to identify many of both my stronger and weaker suits.

In general during my studies within animation the weaknesses that require the most improvement have always been clear cut and easy to recognise. I have also realised after this most recent reflection that they have remained fairly consistent. Within my reflection for Studio 2 specifically, I feel that my application of most categories belong in the successful bandwidth. I do not believe however that any of these skills listed in the TSM form I have “mastered”. The skill that I have placed in the un-successful category, and needs the most improvement is self confidence.

For the most part my responses within the TSM form in approximation, aligned with verbal feedback in the meeting. Leading up to the meeting, as I have experienced in the past, the feeling of doubt as to the accuracy of my self reflections became a nagging sensation. Despite my anxieties the meeting was indeed useful in the way both confirmation and even contradiction of my  perceptions came to light.

Within the meeting it was discussed how my time management skills are successful, and I explained my TSM form response in regard to how I feel I could improve. Along with my own reflection, it was also commented that allocation or ratio of time for various tasks could be optimised. An example was explained to me of script writing during the pre-production phase. Much time labouring over versions of the script minimised time spent on other tasks and interrupted my production pipeline workflow. I will keep this in mind, and implement in future projects.

Other important points within the meeting involved discussing my problem solving skills and working well under pressure. The nature of what would constitute good problem solving skills was discussed. Sometimes it is more useful to find an alternate path to a goal then to try and overcome a roadblock which presents an ever-growing list of problems. This idea is one which I will remind myself when any future problems develop during a project. I have noticed that I have a tendency to attack a problem as though there is a single solution. I am aware that if I am to step back and re-assess my  options I could possibly find a plethora of strategies. Personally, this applies most of all to use of software. While struggling to force a program to do as I wish, I forget there may be another way to achieve my aim.

During the course of the weeks leading up to the TSM, it is fair to say that I had handled roadblocks to my progress. Despite this, changing my attitude and opening myself up to the idea of multiple solutions I understand will benefit my workflow greatly in the future.

On the subject of working well under pressure, on reflection I am decently satisfied, and the feedback I have received has been a boost to my morale. While I have not been entirely satisfied with my responses under pressure it has been pointed out that I have carried on with my project steadily and with an evolving plan. At this point in the TSM I have shared my internal thought process when working well under pressure, and I am confident after discussion that I will be able to further my abilities under pressure. After the TSM it is still clear that continuing to use and improve my project management strategies will support my improvement of this skill.

Overall, the process has confirmed many of my own reflections, this in itself has given me satisfaction in knowing my own analysis of my application of the listed skills, and my own plans for future projects are accurate enough to be useful. It is also a relief to have confirmation that my self reflection is not full of delusions. The specifics have also further illuminated the subject of improvement. Knowing that there were areas in my application and having feedback specifically on these areas has moved me closer to a clear plan for the future.

Studio One, Week Ten

At the end of week nine we had the opportunity to make use of the HTC Vive (HTC,2016) and try out some VR games. This has been my first VR experience, and it was far more entertaining than I had expected. Before trying VR I assumed that the infancy of the technology would create a feeling of gimmick. I had expected to enjoy the experience but did not expect the environments in games to be immersive and such a short amount of time, addictive. This VR experience has made me eager to see the collaboration between our studio and the games students in it’s completed form.

I have also thought more about my recent enquiries about the role of a game artist. The opportunity to take a look at VR firsthand has made me eager to further work in projects that would make use of VR. I have also spoken to one of the game students about the game students side to our collaborations. Their own games which will be combined with our game environment requires texturing, which I would like to contribute to. Sadly, I don’t think this is a possibility with our current schedule, but I shall be seeking out collaborations with game students in the future to develop my texturing skills for video-game production.

VR aside, glass textures have caused some problems in sketchfab (sketchfab,2016). When first starting to use sketchfab I have noticed that there are two system for texturing display settings. These are “classic”and “PBR”. I had looked into which would be better when seeing this for the first time. For most circumstances it is best to use PBR. This was confirmed with one of my group members who had also looked into it.

We do not have our environment with all its textures uploaded as yet but we have been testing various assets. The first thing I have uploaded is my biopod. In our group we had discussed whether the assets should be uploaded as a single or two objects with seperate textures. I have already tried one object with one corrusponding texture and it currently works.

Something I was surprised by is the difference in texture appearance between setchfab and 3dsmax. Specular levels dont seem to control very precisely. Using metalness and gloss levels in PBR settings, I  can achieve an approximate on what i would like, but the metal caps on the biopod asset have a laminated look which is disappointing. The scratch details i have added on the glass of the biopod are also very subtle on sketchfab in comparison to 3dsmax. As we have been warned, the appearance of textures in sketchfab is

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Studio One, Week Nine

This week we present our projects to the game students. The purpose of the presentation is to share our progress and to familiarise the game students with our game assets. This group of students are mixed between a programming and design specialisation.  As I understand it, there will be a collaboration whereby our game environments will be used within the upcoming projects in the games studio unit. This collaboration will result in a collection of mini games to be (possibly) assembled into a VR package. This is, as I have previously mentioned very exciting as video games and specifically VR is something I would like to become involved in.

On reflection of our presentation, our group provided too much information on aspects of our project that would not be of help or interest to the games students, and it become obvious where our focus should have been. It has definitely been something we have learnt from as it was glaringly obvious where our presentation content could have been chosen more appropriately. Feedback from one of the games students also help, and we have been told that the main thing is to include as much content and info about the game assets themselves. What the assets look like, poly count, style choices and how they should function within a game.

While we had focused too much on pre-production, we had spent little time displaying our models, texturing and previz.

The presentation was daunting but I believe that the next time we would be able to have a more concise and relevant presentation at the ready, one which would be more useful in a professional setting.

After this presentation I have focused my time on my allocated texturing. This specifically includes architectural surface textures, decals, and  shared base textures, as well as my assigned assets. I will also ensure that there is a consistent aesthetic in the textures created by my group members.

Apart from tweaking the shared base textures, and creating a blood splatter decal, I have also been working on the first pass of the diffuse texture for the bio hatch. My original goal as texture arbiter was to aim for a style close to Goldeneye Source. I have questioned whether this is a recent enough example to use, and whether or not it is a suitable benchmark. As I feel unsure still I will seek feedback.

The process of texturing the hatch has involved using one of the base metal textures i have created and made seamless. The base textures are sized at 2048 x 2048 pixels. I have then placed a caution label onto the hatch. The aim for this texture has been to create a asset which looks like it belongs not only in a science lab but also in a larger facility which crosses several industries. The fictional Xentium Laboratories and the treatment continue to inform my decisions. The overall look should communicate a functional robustness. I have also had to consider where and how to include general wear, scratches and dirt. As it has been stressed many times in studio this should follow a logic, or the illusion of being believable will be broken. This logical wear and tear can be difficult to create and it is obvious that there will be iterations to come before I am satisfied.

biohatch-image
(wyld,2016). Exo (working title). “Biohatch” model screenshot.
biolift-image
(wyld,2016). Exo (working title). “biolift”model screenshot.
curved-table-image
(wyld,2016). Exo (working title). “curved table”model screenshot.
pillar-image
(wyld,2016). Exo (working title). “concrete pillar”model screenshot.
spot-light-image
(wyld,2016). Exo (working title). “spot light fixture” model screenshot.
strip-light-image
(wyld, 2016). Exo (working title). “strip light fixture”model screenshot.

 

References

Wyld,A (2016). Exo (working title). “Biohatch” model screenshot.

Wyld,A (2016). Exo (working title). “biolift”model screenshot.

Wyld,A (2016). Exo (working title). “curved table”model screenshot.

Wyld,A (2016). Exo (working title). “concrete pillar”model screenshot.

Wyld,A (2016). Exo (working title). “spot light fixture” model screenshot.

Wyld,A ( 2016). Exo (working title). “strip light fixture”model screenshot.