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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Studio 3: Entry 03

TSM

The format of the TSM during week 7 departs slightly from the format of previous Studios. A focus was made during my meeting on the dynamic of the group and how the project managment has beenn handled. The change of structure I personally find helped in fascilitating the thoughts of all group members and determine our resolve for future team meetings.

Within my written response I have addressed the usual components of the transferrable skills list. I feel that in looking reflectively over my previous responses and the way i have changed and grown as a student professional, the elements I am most satisfied with in terms of mastery level, and conversely less satisfied with remain the same despite an overall improvement in all areas. A specific focus has been the the transferrable skills that relate to my role in a group and how i interact with team members. I feel that this has been a result of the intense re-planning and decision making that has been necessary during the early pre-production process of Project Celine.

The overall creative vision has changed and as it has been pointed out, as individuals our collective team members function in a very different way to the group dynamic we have in Studio 3. Translating this into a practical decoding which we can use moving forward, it is crucial for every person with Project Celine to recognise our differences and leave any previous mistakes the group has made, leave blame to one side and plan out our current attack through group meetings, taking meetings, general increase in communication and a willingness to adapt to the ever-changing scenario of task allocation. Task allocation specifically has been an aspect of project management which has seen many issues. These issues have been addressed in the form of a resolve for increased frequency of meetings and frequent check-ups on task progress through slack.

Returning to the TSM meeting, an important section of the conversation has been receiving the feedback that the capabilities of every team member is not an issue but rather collboration. The focus is on the coordiantion of effort rather than ability to complete our individual tasks.

In one way this has been taken as a compliment by the team as it would seem we have the potentional to achieve our project goals and in general support each other as creative professionals. As time has marched on after the TSM, the decisions that affect my task allocation within the environment production are ones I have disagreed with. As I have made my case in group meeting with the TSM feedback in mind, I have decided that the best course of action to be a team player will be to accomodate for the project management which we are going ahead with. Specifically the decision has been to continue production of Celine’s room.

My own estimates and course of action would be to leave this section of the environment design. Communication skills and acting as a team player as Transferrable skills I believe I have upskilled  through much practice. In putting the environment production decisions into practice I have continued to coordinate with one other team member who has been split between character and environment tasks.

Currently I am working on room layout, concepts for aspects of the room such as the arched windows and the interior architecture. I am coordinating with my environment team mate on creating this as a pre-viz model. Proportions and level of details for assets is being determined. In the near future I will be constructing a test asset for the environment, I am currently conducting research into this including texturing techniques and style as this asset will act as a master asset for reference when creating consistency throughout environment production.

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Test Asset_Model-sheet
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Test Asset_Model and Uv

 

Studio 3: Entry 02

Environmental Design

Environmental design for Project Celine comprises of a set that is to be used as Celine’s room as well as a set with an outside setting, an open field. My specific task allocation will be Celine’s room, with a a overseeing role for the open field allocated to the two Studio One team members.

As of a few weeks in this role has been quite difficult. The coordination of the project alone has proven to be messy. The narrative, aesthetics and how everything is to coordinate and be congruent has seen a lot of changes in direction.

My first tasks have been to research the various architectural styles that we can encorporate into the designs for Celine’s room. Our first resolve for our design style was victorian to reflect the opulent nature of the character and the context of the environment. The victorian design markers were also chosen to communicate the elaborate environments appropriate for our fantasy theming. The concept art which I had produced as a result aimed to find not only an appropriate level of opulance but reflect the magic culture, elegance and delicate nature of Celine’s character design and  Stellettia as a nation. The resultant designs also needed to take into consideration that the room be easily identifiable as royal and palatial. The first iteration of the environment concept art which I produced was deemed a little fussy and a more research was needed. The character design of Celine incorporates a sleek and minimal but refined dress with the fox-like features.

A large component of the research and concept art phase for Celine’s room has been finding a good balance between the whimsy of the fantasy genre we are aiming to create a project within and a sense of believability for elements such as the royal nature of the character and the specific markers within the story world that the animation takes place in. Moving from an originally Victorian inpired aesthetic, then next to baroque and tudor, a mixture of the origanl victorian with flourishes of Classical Asian palatial design has chiaved the balance needed to reflect the development of the fictional world of Project Celine.

In terms of designing the exterior of the carriage I have decided to upskill for not only the current project in Studio 3 but for future production of model sheets, character design and general 2D elements. This has involved some online tutorials as well as informal tutoring from a fellow team member. Using vector tools within Illustrator has resulted in a more precise model-sheet and has made my modelling process in so far relatively more comfortable.

During production of the test asset for the environment production I have for the first time used the Nurms tool within 3DSmax. This at first was a very awkward tool for me to use. The technique which needs to be employed forces the model to have a different topology. As the tool adds extra loops within the existing poly structure, the spacing and way edges are placed effects the final effect. An example is creating curves on a model, if a sharp corner or crease is needed then loops are added closely on perpendicular sides.

Once adjusting to the way one models when using nurms I am happy with the very smooth gentle curves I have achieved within the test asset. Another very pleasing aspect is the way in which a model can be made high resolution, with correct topology quite instantly. One thing to keep in mind is the dependency of proper toplogy planning prior to adding the nurms iteration effect. Now that I am currently modelling the carriage exterior, learning this new tool for my modelling process is proving useful.

 

Links:

 

Learn Illustrator in 5 minutes! Beginner Tutorial 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GzumUieDPY

Illustrator Tutorials – Pen Tools beginner’s guide

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j69a3-shkGE

 

 

ANC230_Preprod_Environ_Concepts_001_WYLD_Alex
Image 01_Concept Art_Celine’s Room_Iteration 01
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Image 02_Concept art_pendant
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Image 03_Concept Art_ light fixture
Project Celine_Preprod_Environ_Concept Art_002
Image 04_Concept Art_Celine’s Room_Iteration 02

 

Studio 3: Entry 01

Project Start

 

The first week of Trimester saw the beginnings of the necessary organisational and project initiation tasks. There has been the expected shuffling around during informal project pitch conversations, as people consider what project they would like to be working on for the duration of Studio 3. During this time I myself had considered a few factors. In considering what I would like to gain from Studio 3 I had come to the conclusion that collaborating with students I have not yet worked with, and pushing myself to work on an idea I would not be likely to consider in a solo project would be two priorities among other practical considerations.

Within the very first Studio session, my interest had been peaked by two projects, one involving a noir style crime solving video game. The other is an anime-esque fantasy genre short animation. At the end of my deliberating I have chosen the latter.

Myself and one other have been inducted into a founding group of 4 for this project. We have also been informed that students from Studio One will be added to our Studio 3 cohort. This has been something of a controversial topic as the details are explained to us and we begin to understand how they will be collaborating with us. As the students from Studio One will be working on production of the environments needed within the Studio 3 projects there has to be a lot of extra project management accommodations. On a positive notes, role allocations within our project (dubbed Project Celine) has been a breeze. A nice balance of specialties and interests between our team has allowed a clean division of assigned tasks. Predominantly I will be working on the design and creation of the environment.

This will be in tandem with the Studio One members and so I have been assigned the role of being a liaison of sorts. The role also requires coordination and decision making. This has been a tricky job as I am to translate the overall aesthetic, and creative intent of the project and instill these elements into the environment design. This must be also carried into the designs and asset creation that is to be produced by our Studio 1 team members.