Studio 3: Post Mortem

 

The initial idea for Project Celine has been developed from an evolution of a project idea that had been worked on in a schematic sense prior to the start of Studio 3. This planning pre Studio allowed the group members of project Celine to dive straight into the project work without hesitation. The development of the story world and character concepts had begun and it was decided that a short animation would be produced within Studio 3 based on these already partially developed creative concepts.

Another positive aspect of the initial planning stage of project Celine was the naturally well balanced team.  As we were all already familiar with the styles and fortes of the group members working on the project, division of roles was effortless, and the result was a balanced team in terms of specialties and abilities.

The forming of the group and confirmation of initial idea aside, the studio brief required a setup whereby Studio 3 students delegate tasks to Studio 1 students, however the assets the Studio 1 members were required to create needed to be environmental. This added  an absurd extra level to the planning stage in accordance with the brief we were set.

I myself was brought into the project management process as a liaison of sorts with the Studio 1 students as I would be the primary Studio 3 member to work on environments. At this point in time it was crucial to designate asset creation tasks to the Studio 1 students which would be appropriate for their experience level, as well as their own brief.

A few weeks into the pre-production phase it was determined that the short animation would revolve around the central character, Celine and her personal journey. The short animation would aim to encompass very short scenes which together would communicate an emotional story. Specifically the animation would show a glimpse into the emotional journey of a princess character towards a more fulfilling life with the gaining of personal freedom as a central idea. The animation was to have nuances of movement and storytelling.

As this was the aim of the project a large chunk of time was spent in refining the narrative of the short animation as well as the visual styles of the characters and the fictional world. This process had taken a much longer span of time than ideal, causing the project to fall behind on the timeline. Often many of the team members would be on standby for further instructions or would have to revise a portion of work repeatedly as the creative intent was tweaked.

In returning to the problem we have had in coordinating cross studio collaboration, this stall in the pre-production phase prevented a proper division of the environment creation to be given to the Studio 1 members. The details of what they would be designing as animation/film sets was also hazy, and visual style was still in the process of being developed.

Another issue which compounded our difficulty in refining our concept development phase was a lack of a unification through project management. In this scenario this was a  lack of decision making and instruction on how team members were to proceed in helping the current development. disagreements and misunderstandings would take up much of Studio time and discussions were messy. Vagueness of instruction for the team and a lack of management in a planning context as well as creative team work context cost a couple weeks of prime development time.

Project management has seen improvement throughout the entirety of Project Celine but for more than half the project length, the main problems were a lack of structure and detail in the project management and a failure to communicate effectively.

In the first few weeks of pre-production, time was focused on solidifying the scope. A Retrospective look at the scoping leads me to believe that this portion of planning was handled quite well and looked to the future scenarios which we could encounter.

Admittedly the original scope for the project was extremely large but risk management was implemented in the form of environment and scene segregation. The planning for scope ensured that the elaborate environment which was to be produced in one scene (a royal bedroom belonging to Celine), could be cut from the final animation without a problem in flow or narrative. Another set, (for an outdoor scene) would be kept priority and this was designated to the Studio 1 students.

It has been agreed during the week 7 TSMs that future projects would benefit from a willingness to focus on practicality of discussion rather than focus on the details of the many mistakes that were made during the early stages of group work.

In terms of project management, task allocation within our broader assigned roles ( my own designation was for environments both in the pre-production and production phases) was neglected. In future projects, a complete list of tasks which imbues the project with a more refined game plan should be solidified in this early stage. This is something which I firmly believe is necessary in the first few weeks and I believe to be true not only from my experience within Project Celine but another group project I am currently working on.

In regards to this mapping out of tasks and how they fit together, this problem has also reared its ugly head when planning was needed between the Studio 1 and Studio 3 group members. This cross studio partnership has been tedious at best, this is true for project management, development, scoping and quality assurance.

Moving into the production component of Project Celine, a few important group meetings were held to straighten out the communication problems, concern over project management structure and to smooth out the group dynamic in general.

This for the most part resulted in a noticeable improvement in a practical sense. The level of communication, especially via slack rose immediately. An aspect of management that was implemented was regular reports on task progress via slack. Despite the fact that there is never an instant fix for such scenarios group morale improved. During the rest of the production phase the diligence of this system has slipped in the sense that the communications have not been as structured as first designed but nevertheless people have gotten into more of a habit of working and communicating details during these work sessions. This has eliminated a lot of tension and  error due to miscommunication. This attitude towards changing the way the group interacts and this willingness to try and communicate well has been a positive element of working on Project Celine.

The practicalities and management of the project aside, retrospectively the development of the animation itself has gone comparatively well. In terms of my own role within this process my allocations have included environmental concept art and design, asset testing for environment and asset production for the environment. This process in the earlier pre-production phase as previously mentioned had some setbacks due to miscommunication and lag in conceptual decision making. The concept art phase required a testing of several art styles, and a back and forth between the art lead of the team. An example is the Victorian, Baroque, Tudor and royal Asian art styles I experimented with when doing concept art and research.

This is reflective of the development of the pre-production phase as a whole. Development was tedious at first and aesthetic style had be scrubbed and re-done until it fit. for the first 4 weeks or so this was the case. Next the refinement of the conceptual and planning phase saw improvement and through to production development has been steady but slower than we all would have deemed ideal. After working on a test asset I have been assigned design and production of a royal carriage, as of completing Project Celine the interior has been passed around between several team members, with myself doing a quick job of texturing.

As of finishing Project Celine the scenes within Celine’s room have been dropped, and parts of the priority tier have been animated so that the length of the final product is approximately a minute and a half of run time.

The previous decisions to import the animations into the game engine Unreal have proved to be fruitful in a post production sense. In many ways the lighting and environment in engine animation has added a sense of polish and given the animation an atmosphere matching the original creative intent. I believe this to be the result of the willingness improve communication, as declensions to implement this tactic were the result of proper group conversation during group meetings.

Overall Project Celine has been a steep learning curve on the subject of team work. I have fairly satisfied with my efforts to improve as a team player. A running theme has been attempts to improve despite the many mistakes we have made. The factor which has been affected the most would be the amount of the original scope which could be realised but the quality of what has been produced has been pleasing to witness at this last stage of the project and this has made the struggles as a team worthwhile.

 

 

 

 

 

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