Wednesday, 28 January 2015

From Script To Screen: Conception Progress

    I should have done this a little before but this is the content I have so far for for the project: Early thumbnails, a planned script and a good chunk of the storyboard done. I am starting to reach the end of my sketcbook and have taken on the habit of drawing thumbnails alongside jottings and practice drawings admittedly unrelated to the project as there are several pages where I have left a lot of white space.

    I have considered the prospect of blurring out these unrelated sketches so that viewers can focus on the intended drawings. But I am conflicted as apart from thumbnails and project-related drawings I do not show my sketchbook much. Which feels lsightly concerning as I was taught on the Level 3 Art and Design course I took they encouraged that our sketchbooks be windows into our minds. So I am unsure how to proceed with this matter regarding how to treat my sketchbook.

This is still unfinished. The remaining frames I have planned relate to the marionette floating away on the balloon and the scene in the airport departure lounge described in the script.

Wednesday 28/01/15

    Today was another character design lesson where the importance and significance of camera angles were discussed. Directors are to treat cameras as the viewer's eyes so the position has to flow with the story as if you were there, darting around. For the workshop task we were given a genre and a situation. In my case I was given the genre of "steampunk" and the situation of an aggressive powerplay or a bullying situation. Designing the characters was kind-of fun and a nice break fro mwhat I feel may be generic characters in my current Script To Screen project due to its contemporary setting. Who knows, maybe I'll come back to this genre in the second or third years?

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Maya: MEL Scripting and Batch Rendering

    A long-overdue tutorial that I meant ot upload. I had decided that for efficiency's sake I would upload evidence for both the MEL scripting and the batch rendering tutorials in the same session. Due to the time it was when I had originally done the vieos I had ot leave batch rendering for another day. But, finally, it is done. It also gave me the chance to try using Premiere Pro again. This software I feel more comfortable using for assembling videos tohether.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Maya Tutorials: More Camera Tricks

    I did not fully realise that I had not uploaded this video made for the pitch shot tutorial. It was quite a surprising method as while Superman looks like he's flying, in Maya he is in fact falling with the camera moving fast enough to catch his descent towards an unseen ground.

    It is interesting what kinds of effects that can be generated when a frame of reference (such as sky or clouds or the sun) are not included. Superman is in a blue void so he could have been going forwards, backwards, up or down, it's all to do with the camera.

    The major bit of video-making today was a multi-shot scene where the footage from five different cameras was playblasted (rendered as-seen in Maya's workspace) and then cut up up and sewn together in Adobe Premier Pro. I used recording sequences of the entire film but this is a technique I should probably keep to playblasting. When it ever comes to fully rendering I imagine it's best to know what clips you want so as to generate as little waste time and footage as possible, which I partially tried here as I made sure to include all five cameras.

    I was sorely tempted to find a way of including a caption of "Drive safe, drive careful" while slowly zooming towards the red car driver's face because of how long the camera focused on him staring at the viewer at the end.

   Here's another example of the camera playing tricks on the viewer: A dual combination of moving the camera forward and narrowing the focal length to give the impression that the corridor is extending backwards in some supernatural way.

    Last-off, today's progress log. I was hampered by a slight incident of Maya crashing when I was preparing to make a Quicktime movie of the crash-angle camera, and because I didn't save I had to rebuild the sequence. Fortunately this was after playblasting the distant cam in the first two log frames so there was only one sequence I truly lost with little record.

From Script To Screen: New Premise and Logline

A tale of a woman trying to cope with her son inevitably leaving the nest.

The prospect of your flesh and blood finally leaving home can be a difficult one, and some parents just don't want to let go. These feelings can manifest in odd ways but every parent must one day accept that their children must be allowed to spread their wings and take on the world.

Soundscape: Getting There But Not Perfect

    This morning I tried touching up my soundscape videos. While I was working I realised that the sound files for pictures 2 and 3 might fit better when swapped over and I think I was onto something. I still feel there is a bit more to do with these two before I am completely satisfied. They don't have that "punch" yet and 3 definitely needs something to pop but I think picture 2 is closer to being considered finished than picture 3.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Animation: First Followthough Sequence

    In Friday's animation class we were introduced to follow-through animation - the process where once a sequence has been created, other features are added. For my blob I decided to give it floppy bunny ears as these would have been the most interesting variation to see animated while the blob is flying though the air. At first I created a 12fps animation but I thought it was a little choppy so I tried 15 frames per second. I also used the time on Friday to convert my other two sequences into 15fps videos.

    My main complaint so far is the time-consuming nature of drawing each frame, which an expected thing within the industry. But the result afterwards often feels extremely satisfying even if it is a very brief sequence.

Friday, 23 January 2015

From Script to Screen: New idea

    Speaking with others on the matter I have looked into revising my story idea for the Script to Screen project. Phil largely gave the outline for the new idea but I'd feel like I's make no meaningful progress directly lifting the idea.

The story opens with a woman sitting on a bench, illuminated by a spotlight and surrounded by complete blackness. On her lap is a marionette of a young boy. A balloon drifts into area illuminated by the spotlight and is spotted by the marionette. The marionette tries desperately to reach for the balloon, each time it tries it either simply cannot reach or the woman - looking fearful more than angry - keeps tugging him back.

    The marionette becomes upset. Realising what she is doing, the woman then cuts the strings holding her up one by one, with the marionette stil ltrying to reach up. With every cut line the body part it was connected to goes limp and the marionette falls to the floor. The woman watches anxiously as the marionette struggles to stand, growing more confident. Once it stands up fully, it does it's best to reach for the balloon, finally grabbing it. It and the woman hold hands as it floats up and away. 

    As the marionette as trying to stand up and reach for the baloon, the light encapsulating the scene expanded outward. As the marionette drifts away the woman returns ot reality in which she is in an airport departure lounge. Her son - who resembles the marionette - has a passport in hand and planes can be heard along with various other ambient sounds of a busy airport. Standing in front of her looking happy and nervous. "i'll be fine mum. Don't worry" he says, she smiles, nods and says "I'm proud of you" and gives him a farewell hug.

    Phil initially suggested a father/daughter relationship but I considered a mother-son combination out of personal experience. The bond is still strong and I figured when writing about familial relationships, our own experiences can be the best references for early works. I had also considered the balloon being in the shape of a plane as that is how the woman is losing her son in real life and the mind has a reputation of creating analogies to real life obstacles, problems and situations in mental sequences such as dreams and hallucenations.

I feel like I'm getting there. I just need to persevere and keep thinking, keep things open.

Autodesk Sketchbook

Today I was acquainted with Autodesk Sketchbook, a piece of drawing software like Photoshop that Simon described as being like a sports car in that it only does one thing but does it well whilst Photoshop tries to be a very broad piece of kit.

As I normally do when I start off with a new drawing program I doodled and scribbled to get a feel for the tools. But in this case it was mainly to try out the different kinds of brushes available.
 My first attempt at actually drawing looks okay in my eyes, although one tool I love compared to Photoshop is the symmetry tool which allows my drawing to be reflected on the other half of the paper, which saves a fair amount of time. One thing I lament is the tools I have found so far don't blend the colours as well as I have understood Photoshop to do. So I may consider alternating between the two programs as I am still quite comfortable using Photoshop for drawing.

My third experiment with Autodesk Sketchbook was drawing blackouts. I managed to whip these up in under an hour and already I feel like I managed to get some very interesting character designs out of them. Most of them are robots but I may have a soft spot for the silhouette with the tail and the fanned extensions coming from her waist. So if I have time I might go further with her.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Review: Psycho

Figure 1: Theatrical Poster (Henisey, 2009)
  • Native Title: Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho
  • Primary Language: English
  • Format: Black and White
  • Year of Release: 1960
  • Budget: est. $807,000
  • Film Length: 108 minutes
  • Production Company: Shamley Productions
    Considered one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest productions and the godfather of the slasher movie, Psycho is a groundbreaking film that explores the idea that there are dangers within society as much as there are beyond it. Set primarily within California, a Phoenix realitor's assistant flees Arizona with $40,000 in order to escape her old life with her boyfriend. Her journey is cut short (quite literally) however after she is brutally murdered at the Bates motel in Fairview, California. The film then revolves around friends and family trying to discover how she disappeared and what the cause was, unearthing an unpleasant secret about the Bates Motel's owner.

Figure 2: Hitchcock does well both hiding and hinting that Norman Bates is in fact one screwed-up cookie. (unknown, 2014)
    Our leading role is Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), who from fairly early on we are given hints he is not entirely as friendly as he makes out. "Perkins shows us there is something fundamentally wrong with Norman, and yet he has a young man's likability, jamming his hands into his jeans pockets, skipping onto the porch, grinning" (Ebert, 1998). " but deceptively charming: A kind face, good features, he's gentle and considerate and that only hits harder about the truth behind him. "In Norman Bates, Anthony Perkins gives the role of many lifetimes. He is a great guy, nice, charming; a tad shy, but very polite." (Henisey, 2009) Hollywood has a long history of casting heroes as the beautiful people while the kind of villains to get the "beautiful people" treatment are often devious masterminds who ooze confidence and dominance of the situation;  For most of the film Bates is an outlier as he interacts in a very amicable way. Another divergance from the mold is unlike such distinguished villains as Loki, Khan, Ra's al Gul and Saruman, Bates is portrayed by an American actor. Although this could be to better-fit Bates being an American everyman (despite what that Art Nouveau manor suggests) and not a white-collar manipulator like his cinematic peers. In essence he straddles the line between our affable leading man and a soul with a dark secret to hide.

Figure 3: The wads of $40,000 that drive Marion acrosss
states are one example that Psyhco defies convention more times
than a Joss Wheadon serial. (Vannerman, 2000)
    Much of Psycho plays with the audeince's expectations, and not just the famous twist at the end. As well as Bates' uncharacteristic niceness, "the most celebrated star of the movie, Janet Leigh-- is killed in the first act" (Henisey, 2009). We spend the entirity of the first act with her in shot, tracking her actions, even when the focus of the narrative is on Norman. For this part, we are seeing it from her viewpoint. I mentioned the horror trope "the first person we see is the first to die" in my review of Alien and thinking about it this may have been where it started. What might differ is that even when viewed in an age where the trope is formally established, Hitchcock - though marketing and presentation - still manages to rope us into caring for her until she is killed off. Part of the reason could be how not only she but also the audience are made oblivious to how dangerous a situation she is in. And that she is treated cinematically like a genuine leading lady.

Figure 4: The dissonance between background lighting and the illumination of
the killer do well to disguise the truth. (Bayley, 2014)
    But it keeps up: "Hitchcock's mischievous genius for audience manipulation is everywhere: in the noirish angularity of the cinematography, in his use of Bernard Herrmann's stabbing string score, in the ornithological imagery that creates a bizarre sense of preying and being preyed upon." (Monahan, 2014) The shower scene is famous for a lack of blood and the connotatoins it gave - Marion Crane's lifeless body was free of scarring even after a dozen cuts with a butcher's knife. The frantic cuts between the killer and the knife blur the image leaving the brain open to cringing at the horrific yet illusionary damage being caused to her. The camera never shows us the face of Bates' mother even when her face should have been in the full light of the audience's perspective, all to hide the truth about her.

    The moment the true killer is caught in the act is shocking, bizarre and hilarious all in one go even without the exposition speak afterwards and the man we were led to think was largely normal all this time was in fact crazy from the start. Psycho set out to deliver a message that it's not just foreign countries that are strange and to be afraid of, but also the guy or girl you happen to live next door to. Perhaps it was more true back then when the film was released, where the threat of the Cold War and the USSR was in full swing and supporters of the opposing paradigm were almost indistinguishable from fellow countrymen.

Image References

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Revised story idea

In repsonse to some ocmments I have considered reworking my story idea.

A man arrives at an airport, joined by a controlling older sister who complains about him leaving. While on a private jet he daydreams outside a window, during turbulence an overhead compartment is forced open and a marionette owned by the man falls from it, but is left hanging from it's crossbar.

After a struggle it dislodges iself and chases the balloon around the cabin, with the strings connected to its limbs holding it back and catching on cabin furniture. (This bit might still need some work)

The marionette eventually grabs the balloon after several failed attempts and comes to relax in a seat. Focus returns to the man who checks into passport control of the airport he has arrived in with the marionette riding on top of the suitcase. The story ends with the man looking outside the departure lounge of the airport into the country he has arrived in with a really optimistic feel to the view outside

From Script To Screen: Online Greenlight

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Industry Exploration: The Story of Warcraft

    While browsing this morning I stumbled across this video posted by the staff at Blizzard Entertainment in November to celebrate ten years of World of Warcraft. The video charts the history of the game and includes accounts of the developers who recount fond memories while desigining the game.

    What intrigued me about this video and what drew me is the insight it gave into the game's continual pipeline: The developers go through the history of World of Warcraft's development including the pipeline of the game such as early concepts, level design, boss and character design and the building of the lore. It was interesting to discover that the designs of characters such as Illidan Stormrage and Uther the Lightbringer started from unused character designs that came from other (often cancelled) projects. It goes to show that some truly iconic things can come out of the most unlikely doodles. The Pandaren for instance; While many forum threads over the internet accuse the design of intentional pandering to the Chinese market, one developer recounts how it all started off with a custom christmas present for his daughter of a drawing of him and her as panda-people. It was adorable, charming and yet amazing how that one loving doodle turned into one of Warcraft's more iconic races.

    I say "continual" when referringto the pipeline because the resources shown includes content from the most recent expansion. I can empathise with the comment of "120 models later" regarding the outcome of the desire to recycle model assets for Garrisons, as while I'm not sure if there really are 120 new models ingame for garrisons alone, this definitely reminds me of the thumbnailing and production art process that I am becoming accustomed to doing for my course projects.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Maya Tutorials: Camera Rig

    The day seemed to come relatively quickly, as today was the tutorial of how to set up a camera rig. There were some rough patches as it was one of those lessons that involved familiarising myself with the locations of unfamiliar toolboxes in Maya but by the secong half I believe I had grasped the use of the required tools such as the connections editor.

    Still, this is a tutorial that I could probably consider with refershing myself with at some point to solidify my understanding.

Character Animation: Bouncy Blob

    A surprise update as I had neglected to post my previous work in Meg's animation lessons. So this is a compilation of the two lessons in one video. Unlike previous videos, thankfully, not much is lost as the camera used to take these photographs had a very high resolution to it.

    The second half - where the blob jumps over the rock formation - was made by drawing the rock's emergence on a different set of frames those displaying the blob's movement. I found this technique a relief as it meant I did not have to draw the ground plane every frame (which is what I did for the blob's entry). I was worried it might look choppy in some places but overall I believe it has turned out very well.

    Presented here are the sheets and pages I drew up to conceptualize the character, his behavior, the way he moves and the paths he takes though the animation sequence. I enjoy getting ideas down like this to reflect over and I find that some doodling can help bolster my understanding of it's personality and it's composition. So far it has taken me one or two attempts each lesson to get the blob's composition right. He's quite squishy and prone to contorting himself, which I find came out most in his somersault over the rock. From the beginning I wanted him to be quite energetic and cheery to match the permanent look of excitement on his face.

Step Outline and Revised script

A revision of my proposed script as well as a step outline. The step outline felt surprisingly short compared to my actual script.
The guidelines on the Ucreative site suggest for each page to be representative of one minute of footage. While I have stepped slightly over this guideline I wonder if I have enough fluidity that I can fit it into one minute. If not I could always keep my intro brief, or perhaps splice it into an establishing panning shot of the plane's interior.

Soundscape Progress

    Today I made some modifications to my soundscapes to give them a bit more life and a bit more of a narrative. I realize now that the best way to retain the quality of the image of the final presentation would be to submit these to Vimeo - where the file sizes won't be so limited - and embed the video into my blog posts. But since what matters with these creations at the moment is the sound, I will continue uploading this way for the draft soundscapes.

    I also figured it would be prudent to present the multitrack makeups of each image in order to show what is happening in each soundscape. I figured it could also help convey what's going on when discussing the refinement of my soundscapes.
Multitrack for Picture 1

Multitrack for Picture 2

Multitrack for Picture 3

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Review: Rope

Figure 1: Theatrical Poster (IMDb)
  • Native Title: Rope
  • Primary Language: English
  • Format: Technicolour
  • Year of release: 1948
  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Budget: est. $1,500,000
  • Film Length: 90 minutes
  • Production Company: Warner Brothers

    One of Hitchcock's early films, Rope is an experimental murder-mystery film that uses camera tricks to get around the limitations of the day and create the illusion of the entire film taking the place over the span of one recording.

     The film itself is fairly limited in the locations it visits. While other contemporary films such as Black Narcissus take place in a number of rooms spread out across a large building; Rope primarily takes place in the living room of a well-to do Manhattan apartment with the camera occasionally moving to the hallway and the dining room. It does not go much further than that however. It revolves around the sense of pride that Manhattan socialite Brandon has when he and his partner Philip murder their prep-school classmate David, stuff him inside a chest and then host a dinner party in the same room as his corpse.
Figure 2: The crime would have been perfect had Brandon not given in to narcissism and
hosted a dinner party at the murder scene (Dellolio, 2005)
    The action was primarily within the living room and even when the bulk of the film's  partygoers go into the dining room for part of the film most of the the camera shots are within the living room. There may be merits to this confined series of shots, as "the coffin-chest is rarely out of shot, and the camera follows the actors around every square inch of the confined set. They're trapped, and so is the audience." (Hutchinson, 2012), the chest in which David's body was hidden in is always there, and like the key component in Edgar Allen Poe's The Telltate Heart it assaults the integrity of the audience and Philip - Brandon's partner both in-residence and in-crime to create tension as both Brandon and Philip could be found out and shunned at any moment.

Figure 3: Despite only murdering someone moments before, Brandon
was pretty good at hiding it by the way he talked with his guests.
(Snow, 2011)
    Hitchcock is a visionary director, and the way the story plays out shows that he "is more interested in examining the way violence erupts out of oppression than in using gays as convenient shorthand for boogeymen" (Croce, 2006). By way of making Brandon and Phillip sociable to friends, family and contacts through friendly conversations and polite (if occasionally heated) discussion, an image emerges from the darker recesses that these are perfectly functional and amicable members of society. And while Brandon does talk as if he is a protege of the infamous Friedrich Nietzsche with terms like "superior beings" and "good and evil are inventions of the common man", he is not treated by the other like a total creep or an outcast. At the very least his friends consider him a Machiavellian schemer, which given the background as a star prep school student is not too far from the common perception. But as the night progresses he does not let up in revelling in his accomplishment, dropping sly hints and comments that would pass over the heads of those not in the know, almost like he wants his guests to put the pieces together just so he can admit about what he accomplished.

Figure 4: The maid clears the "table", at any moment the truth
could have come out what was inside (the Liberal Ironist, 2011)
    Brandon's sly hints at David's presence come to a head "while the guests are discussing something of no great moment just off- screen, the camera, catlike, stares at the chest as the maid gets ready to put some books back into it, unaware, of course, that the chest is already fully occupied" (Canby, 1984). The build-up felt was terrifying as a mental image emerged of the Maid opening the chest to a scream to discover David's body inside. The way the scene was drawn out could be compared to being held at gunpoint and knowing the perp would shoot only for him to simply wait, the gun pointed at your chest with the threat of going off any minute. The ensuing relief washes down like a wave when David intervenes as she and Rupert are opening the lid to preserve the body's hidden status.

Image References

Saturday, 17 January 2015

FstS update: Extremity of the Marionette's Treatment

    Looking at the Thompson advert of the bear that Jackie provided me I wonder about the extent of the abuse I should indicate in the marionette. The bear in the advert does have it hard but in regards to the abuse he suffers I wouldn't call it malevolent behaviour. Careless definitely but I understand that is typical at the sort of age we saw. And things like being stuffed into the washing machine or being hung to dry be the ear happens regardless of the child's age.

    The amount of abuse displayed will directly correlate with how positively or negatively the child is percieved. If the abuse is too extreme, the girl could fall right into the realms of a nightmarish unlikeable characature. If the portrayed abuse is too soft however the marionette may seem ungrateful for envisioning freedom or trying to physically get away from her.

    I might go slightly beyond the Thompson angle; the marionette gets his knocks and blows, but not ot the point where it is effectively a chew-toy for a callous little terror.

Review: La Jetée

Figure 1: Theatrical poster (Curry, 2012)
  • Native Title: La Jetée (The Pier)
  • Primary Language: French (English narration)
  • Format: Black and White
  • Year of Release: 1966
  • Director: Chris Marker
  • Film Length: 29 minutes
  • Production Company: Argos Films

    A dark film that was released in the height of the swinging sixties. La Jetée is a French film set in the aftermath of a third world war that is told though a distanced narrator, who charts the life of an anonymous man as he pursues a woman he had known since his childhood.

    While Repulsion had the explosion of sexual liberation as a backdrop to tell it's story, La Jetée is set to the tune of the other side to the sixties: The Cold War and fears of a nuclear holocaust. The film itself only lightly touches on the matter of the war, mentioning the outbreak and using the theme of "World war III only end with losers losers" to set up a world similar to used futures such as in Dmitri Glukovsky's novel Metro 2033 where the survivors of the world war live their lives underground. In this instance, the basement of Paris's premiere art gallery.

Figure 2: Looks painful but at least he can get back
easily. (Shiz, 2012)
    Setting up the other pretense of the film's story is a group of mad scientists who discover a method of time travel. The result is "a 27-minute fantasy that speculates on probing the subconscious with a blending of metaphysical and scientific conceits" (Crowther 1967) setting it nicely in line with the fringe popularity of the new-age science movementof the period that attempted to combine the physical and spiritual spheres of understanding. The film never really explains just how the use of memories or dreaming can project a person into the past or future beyond fonning a cotton eyemask with electrical wires taped over where the eyes owuld be and subjugating them to some form of excrutiating pain.

     As is traditional in stories involving mad science experiments, our protagonist (in this film an unnamed soldier captured during the war) is the latest subject intended to succeed where others had failed. After undergoing excruciating pain for an extended period, he finds himself in Paris before the great war in order to woo the woman he was smitten with as a child.
Figure 3: The gentleman mad scientist: Slicked hair, nice suit and fancy eyewear of
indeterminate purpose.
    The film is arranged as a photo montage rather than a full video sequence, made up of still images that link into each other to create a slideshow that is narrated. "In the film, travelling to the past is more an act of remembering it, fashioning a scenario out of incidental remembered ephemera. Memory is not constant; it is neccessarily fragmented. This concept is invariably mended to the manner in which it is sued in the film" (Taylor, 2004). The only full-motion scene lasts for less than a second and is brought to the fold by a condensed slideshow, looking more fluid as the film approaches this one point "the fluid montage leads the viewer into the sensation of watching moving images. Until, that is an extradordinary epiphany when an image genuinely does move" (Andrew, 2004). The beauty of Porridge and Pasta (a theory I noticed in previous films where a long stretch of the mild can make a specific change more pronounced and effective) comes from sparsity and the buildup to it. And if done right it can make even the most average or unassuming thing - in this film's case a camera recording of a woman opening her eyes - hit with an immense rush of emotion.

Image References

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Possible Logline and Premise

     There could be refinement in these but for now here are my initial thoughts on a premise and a logline.

To those heavily burdened by rules and constraints, the promise of freedom is alluring and a goal they would do anything to get. But there is always something tugging them back.

Trapped on an airplane with an owner who mistreats him, a marionette sees freedom in a simple balloon and endeavors to catch it in order to embrace the freedom it promises. All the while he must battle with the strings of control that deny him freedom.

Life Drawing 14/01/15

    I feel a little guilty that three out of these six images are unfinished (and two I could count as just-about finished). This guilt however is offset by the interesting shapes that came about drawing the subject. It was odd but interestingly different as I was tasked to draw a body shape quite unlike the two previous models. There were some points that look odd or unbalancing but at the same time some beautiful shapes came out of the curves.

    The two coloured images were created by smudging in red, yellow and brown soft pastels. The brown worked very well for bringing out dark folds or bold contours, and I was partially worried that the red areas would end up making the subject look like they were suffering a terrible rash at the time. To alleviate this feel I focused on balancing out the reds with yellows to create a more sun-kissed orange that gives the subject a beautiful bronzed tone.

FStS: Script proposal

I have yet to create a premise or a logline so I will see about doing those before the week is out. ut here is what I have considered for a script. In hindsight I may have jumped the gun a little.

Maya Tutorials: Tracking and Crane shots

Close shot

Medium Shot

Fat Shot

    I wonder if I am being sluggish lately but here are the three tracking shots created last night in Maya. I had a little trouble with leveling out bumps in the graph editor as it seemed like trial and error, but by default Maya links both manipulator arms and things got a lot easier after unlinking them. The close shot isn't a perfect playblast as there is still some camera wobble but I believe my camera control improves with later sequences. In some of my experimentation I found that adding a key frame in the middle of the first half of the sequence kept at least half of the tracking smooth. I primarily selected this midpoint by judging the location of the point where the camera and the target were out of phase the most.

   The day before that I created the footage for the crane shot. The most I had to get used to I think was the use of two extenders which came off as slightly confusing. I will have to look into that to see which extender is which but my current understanding is extension 2 is the lower half and extension 1 is the upper half and both work like two hydraulic pistons one on top of the other.

    other than that I am feeling confident with how to perform basic yet fluid movements with the camera. I have also learned that AVI files are often too large to upload to blogger (which appears to only accept files up to 100mb in size).

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Maya tutorials: Camera tricks 1


Had first experimentation with different types of camera shot yesterday. It was only after I had made the video that I realised the footage came out a little blurry but the gist of the camerawork is still readable.

I'd say the largest mistake I had made with these was upon initially uploading I discovered that for the roll shot I had labelled the 540 degree roll sequence "360 degree roll", so the result was two clips labelled "360 degree roll". I rectified this with a second upload which id the clip displayed.

FStS: Idea assistance

    I had a talk with Jackie about my story ideas and question did arise as to how or why a helium balloon would be on board, a first thought being that the marionette is on a trip back from a holiday and the child who owns the marionette wanted a balloon they gained brought home.

    There is some concern as to whether a helium balloon would fit or perhaps the key prop could be represented another way such as the oxygen masks designed to drop when a cabin de-pressurises (which would be automatically deployed when the marionette opens the door to escape the plane).

    One slight problem with this idea is that while these bags do inflate, they require a central oxygen supply to do so and are designed for short-term use. Being an animation I wonder if I can get away with using the oxygen mask as a balloon substitute or would it just look silly or unbelievable.

    I remain confident with the jet idea, and to show that the marionette is unhappy with it's current owner I was told about Thompson's current advert that had a teddy bear going though a period of abuse (dragged in the mud and put in a washing machine for instance). Because this is a one-minute animation I wonder if it would work to show abuse though a series of photographs at the beginning that show the marionette being abused or improperly treated, perhaps not looking very happy. Perhaps it could link in with the bulk of the scene by either the last photographs - or perhaps all of them - looking like they were taken at the event where the plane took off from.

    One possible portrayal idea for the girl is to keep her face hidden. The technique of the cropped or hidden face has been used in films, traditional animation, television and games to add mystery to the character for a variety of reasons. One being to leave who they are open to interpretation or possibly translation; someone watching the animation is more open to imagining the character with someone they know fit's a character's behaviour because when the brain has no choice but to guess what the most important area to display emotion looks like, it is most likely going to attach a face from memory.

  Key examples where the technique was used to generate this particular effect include Andy in the original Toy Story, the Once-ler from the 1972 Lorax TV special, Tom's owners in the Tom and Jerry cartoons and the adults in the Peanuts comics and cartoons.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Soundscape: First Creations

    The first drafts for my Soundscape audio are complete. It was interesting tweaking sound files to make new sounds but I am unsure about the final feel. I suppose partially because this project was quite brief - 3 30-second videos that portray some kind of ambient or active sound. So overall the outcomes were not that complicated. I probably had the most fun making 1 and 3. I had to compress the renders a lot in order to upload them to the blog as at full resolution (1440 x 1080 pixels) the video files measured 1GB in size on my hard drive. I made half a dozen test renders in order to find out what settings I could compress my videos down to although I wonder if I could have simply reduced the number of frames as I learned from mu Maya classes that the 1GB file at 25 frames per second contains 750 instances of the same image repeated over the video.

    Presumably since the images are there for visual association I might be able to escape with cutting down the mumber of frames. Experiences with framerate lulls in video games have taught me that sound and visuals can potentially run separate to each other; for example I have noticed when framerates hit 20 or 15fps for a game designed to run on at least 30, animation and sound for in-engine cutscenes would desync, leading to characters mouthing silently for a second or two after they should have finished speaking as even when framerates drop t oas low as ten per second, the span of the sound file being played does not change..
    I think what I loved about the work on the audio for picture 1 was the vividness I had in my head, so it was one of the easiest to visualise. The moment I saw it I instantly imagined this underwater world. So my head was swimming with bloops, churns and that general echoing ambience you have whenever you submerge yourself in water. It was very fun to make. I was pleasantly surprised with myself that the echoing noise heard thoughout came from recording the overhead ventilation on the lower 3rd floor. Admittedly I didn't exactly go too far out with this one; the "gloop"ing and the sloshing heartbeat came from me messing about with a water bottle.

    As I mentioned in a previous post, this one was made bu trying out various bristling noises. I got an interesting sound from sorting dried spaghetti and I also tried rubbing the bristles of a toothbrush. with my finger to see what sound came out. Perhaps this one could do a bit of improvement with the scratchign being more gradual.

    The final soundscape was another interesting creation. I recognised these as viruses so I had no idea what sound could be associated with them. I had thought about pollen so I considered brushing noises. The ambient hum was acquired from another ventilation system, this time an extractor fan behind a door. I thought it gave a nice spacey echo as at the scale of viruses water and space become less distinguishable (if that makes any sense, viruses are measured in nanometres and can be as small as being only twice the width of a single DNA sequence). It was drowned out by the hum but I had also managed to include a stationary bus engine as an initial ambient noise before including the louder hum.

    Overall, despite a few hiccups I have enjoyed this project. But there must be more to do as it feels very brief. Perhaps trying to improve these soundtracks.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Script-To-Screen project 1: More story ideas

    I spoke to a relative last night abut my current story and while it appears the current concepts are a good start, she was willing to offer a little more.

    One of the hurdles was that while planes are varied in their size and use, there is a question of what kind of plane to use (the alternative is I interpret it as "plane" in the sense this is a different dimension but that would only make planning more complicated as I have only upped the scale and would have to ask "how did the marionette end up in this plane of reality").

    We hit upon the idea of perhaps a private jet, which would be more practical compared to my original thoughts of an airliner because I can create a more personal and customized space and I can worry less about filling the cabin with people who would question this living, jumping marionette running around. Simon liked the idea as well. I also discussed with him how the marionette could be on the plane because it is being transported to the home of the millionaire owner of the jet, who I figured could be wanted by a spoilt brat of a child in order to have a business jet fly many miles just to deliver a doll. There's also the oportunity to keep the action in the airline cabin, although Simon did put forward the suggestion that perhaps near the end the marionette, with balloon in hand, opens a door and gets pulled out by depressurisation to float gently to Earth and freedom.

    It could also tie into the idea of oppression and a desire for freedom if the marionette's owner is s spoiled child, as it would give sympathy to the marionette (who might not want to spend its life with someone as bratty as her) either though empathy or by virtue of the child (who for now I might leave as a ghost character) being compeltely unlikeable.

    The discussion reminded me of one clip shown on Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe some time ago around the TV show My super-sweet 16. One piece of footage had a girl throw a temper-tantrum at her mother after getting a Lexus of all things worth $67,000 as a birthday present. The girl threw a fit because she was shown the car the day before her birthday party when she wanted it given to her on the day. (Brooker, 2007). Even if this scenario was staged, it could serve as an inspiration for the behaviour of the millionaire's daughter and a source of motivation for the marionette.

Brooker, C., 2007; Charlie Brooker on My Sweet 16; Screenwipe; 1:27-1:50; available at (last accessed 9th Janary 2015)

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Thursday update 08/01/15: Sounds And Sound Connections

    Since Tuesday I have been exploring Rochester and the UCA campus looking for sounds to record and potentially use either in the current Soundscape or future projects. As of uploading this post I have gathered a total of 41 files of recordings that vary between 8 seconds and one minute that includes the following sources:
  • Bus engines
  • touching/poking/bouncing a balloon
  • Lower 2nd and 3rd campus floor ambience
  • footsteps
  • materials in contact with wood
  • sloshing water
  • an extractor fam
  • car engines
  • a zipper
  • fabric rubbing
     Several of them are of better quality than others and some are repeat attempts, but so far I have really enjoyed looking for sounds and for coming-on two days' exploration I feel I have built up a basic but solid sound library to work from.

    I managed to work out a way to upload my soundfiles to the blog. Blogger's video player does not appear to accept sounds on their own, so I experimented with what happens if I combined the audio files with a placeholder picture (in this case an open-source image of a P-47 Thunderbolt) to allow for a successful upload.

    However after listening to the recording several times I realise now that the propellor noise I had created using what I think was the sound of a toy lawnmower is a bit tinny. And I myself interpret it as either something that sounds more authentic to a 1940s recorder than a modern one, or that the engine is dying even before the alarm sound I created starts sounding off.

    For the pictures provided to me in the soundscape project I have had a few thoughts on what associated sounds could be present. From further examination I get the feeling I'm going to need to keep searching for all the sounds I need.

Picture One looks quite fluid. So I have considered using sections and moments of my recordings of moving water to simulate an aquatic atmosphere. I could alter the pitch  with what I have to make the sound file sound closer to what someone often hears when submerged underwater.

Picture Two looks fairly dry but the fibrous bristles that dominate the lower half of the picture could be one inspiration. I am tempted to investigate what sound comes from rustling spaghetti/pasta and disturbing the bristles on a toothbrush or the teeth of a comb to see what sound comes form these.

Picture Three I remmeber from my years of science in school: These are likely viruses. Again pasta or toothbrushes are two options for a source of the sound of hard collisions or I could try some sort of echo  as a really "out there" ambience. Maybe I record combing or rustling hair.
    As well as soundscaping I did spend a little time further trying to refine the story iea with a few idea-jogging phrases and images. It has helped me somewhat as I am building a more solid picture for an initial storyboard which I should see to doing within the next few days. The like-for-like practice on Tron Legacy has given me a better idea of how many sotryboard panels I may need.

Image references
  • (Video Image): US Air Force Photo, 2006; 140530-F-RN211-002; available at (last accessed 8th January 2015)
  • The three images footed by extensive captions were provided as the source material for the Soundscape project.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Like-For-Like Stoyboard: Tron Legacy

    For my like-for-like storyboard I looked at 30 seconds from Sam Flynn's experience at the End of Line Club. The segment I chose was just after Zuse comes up with a plan to smuggle Sam Flynn out of Grid City and to the gate back home. Just as he finishes, four of CLU's paratroopers smash though the ceiling.

    One thing that drew me was that this film in general is an anomoly in that for a Disney production it's pretty dark. In the space of 30 seconds we see two clear on-screen deaths, one implied death (I'm presuming the guy in panel 28 doesn't last much longer) and in the three seconds after the storyboard window, two more people would die onscreen. The fact Programs in Tron shatter into voxels when they are killed seems like a loophole to the protrayal of carnage as in panel 3, an extra is killed off by a paratrooper landing on his head. Any other film that death would have been horribly gruesome.

The BBFC granted this film a PG rating.

    Although the other thing I liked about this scene was that in a rare moment in cinema, the film's soundtrack is from an in-universe source. When the paratroopers land, the entire club is hit with silence. In panel 7, the DJs communicate silently to each other and as the lead paratrooper prepares himself, the next soundtrack plays as he draws and slams his batons together with the body of the music playing over the rest of the fight. Around panel 10 the DJs headbang in tune to the beat.

New term: Character design and Life Drawing

    In this term's first character design lesson we were taught about characteristic shapes, colours and their meanings along with touching a little on posing when it comes to character design. The day before the lesson we were asked to bring in a picture of a character we liked. I was not sure on who to choose but my mind quickly set on Arcturus Mengsk from the Starcraft franchise.

    The task we were given was to take our picture, discern the style of the character (styles being a spectrum of realism with Mickey-Mouse level iconic at one end and fine art level realistic at the other) and draw them differenty. I discerned that Mengsk's portrayal wobbled between realistic and heroic (a style where the character does not look very far from reality save for one or two features) as he was a character from a franchise that aims to resemble our own reality. I also exaggerated some of his features into a more cartoony look. Desptie aiming for an appearance closer to a disney villain, I was surpised how much I could retain on his outfit.

    It was convenient as the second exersise was on shapes used to distinguish characters, the three primary shapes and their connotations being:
  • Circles: typically used to connotate friendliness or safety.
  • Squares: Typically used to connotate strength and sturdyness
  • Triangles: Typically used to connotate danger or a threat, generally something undesireable.
     In the second half we were given two options for the task of drawing a character differently based on the shapes involved: Draw our character again but changing or exaggerating the shapes, or draw a character from a randomly-given piece of paper. Since I had already done something like what was asked with Mengsk, I accepted the luck of the draw and was given Daffy Duck.

    I quickly realised that Daffy's characteristic cynicism, snark and lack of empathy are visually shown by having a very pointy body; his head, eyes and eyebrows are triangles, even the way he's standing with triangular legs create a triangle in the negative space. At first I tried making him more circle-filled, rounding off many features. Problem was, as was discussed in the lesson, that's really not Daffy. And I ended up with something that wasn't exactly amazing. So I went the other way and "sharpened him up" to create "Evil Daffy"; a pointier head, fingers, shoulder and beak. Compared to making Daffy cuter, making him more sinister was incredibly fun. Andy (who for the first half drew Goku and for the second half drew Dangermouse) gave me the idea of giving him a frown, which is another triangle - it works. I think I have created a scary Daffy.

     We had a new model for life-drawing classes today which is always interesting. This model has some great muscle defenition to him and on several poses I loved some of the shapes that came out, which can be seen especially on the chalk-and-charcoal drawings below. He stood next to a heating unit for each shot so his body was always highlighted with this warm orange glow which brought out an amazing, powerful look to him - which in hindsight I could have considered showing with coloured pencils or maybe watercolour pastels.