Friday, 30 September 2016

Major Project: Logo Refinement

  I spent some time today workin out an appropriate logo for Wessex Biowonders (which could work fine as its own company. I like the WX combination but I'd say my favourites of these are 4, 6 and 7. The main angle I was going for was something that reflected the aesthetics of the 1970s so I did some digging into 60s and 70s-era branding. Company brands like Motorola and Sony have been relatively unchanged since the 1950s while others like Renault adopted an aesthetic of clean parallel tramlines.

I might stick with 7, as it is one of the stronger outcomes. The least convoluted and possibly most echoing the period-appropriate trend of bold lines and clear imagery..

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Maya Workshop: Posing and Deforming

  Over the summer Autodesk unveiled a new set of tools with Maya 2017 and Arnold. While I will not be getting to grips with Arnold this year, I will get to try out Extension Pack 2's new tools. One I like particularly is the pose editor. Inspired by research I did wonder how I could include things like muscle twitching in my final animation. This updated posing tool I believe will give me the fidelity to create more lifelike muscle movements without needing hundreds of models for the deformations...

  As well as these deforming tools, another tutorial tied squash and stretch to programming nodes, which makes squash and stretch animation much easier to portray.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Major Project: More Logos More Creature Heads

  I got drawing more logos but I feel like I'm honing in on an idea. I was drawn to the W-X combinations like 29 and 37, but also the iconography of 25. I think I can make the W-X combo distinct. I tried playing around with alternatives all the while thinking of how other companies manage it. While the common theme is it's simple and straightforward, designs themselves vary wildly from monograms (Volkswagon,Uber, Virgin, AOL, First Great Western) to iconic (Monsanto, Lloyd's, Birdseye) to abstract (Amtrak,, Ubisoft, Legendary Pictures, Mercedes-Benz). Abstract icons are interesting as there is imagery in their logos. Maybe Smithston-Wessex could simply be something like "Wessex Frontiers" or "Wessex Frontier Interests".

  As suggested by Phil, I spent the afternoon watching Splice. I thought it was going ot be a standard Alien-esque haunted house film due to the marketing angle (the back of the jewel case for instance has such lines as "an uncontrollable mistake that's about to break loose and rip their world apart into tiny pieces"). But it wasn't, and chimed with my story much more closely than I expected. I might have taken inspiration as the creature in it started off quite alien, but over the course of the film developed into something much more human. Its almost a shame the creature developed the way it did as earlier instances such as its baby phase and the first creatures shown - the latter of which were practically blobby translucent slugs - were much more bizarre. But I can understand why it developed the way that it did, as the story had tones that related to parenthood and growing up.

  The themes were there, and I find myself likely to take inspiration away that will help a lot on this project to sell a convincing creature design.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Major Project: Initial Creature Design

  Today was my first minor project tutorial and the general gist was that while the script is getting there, it is coming up time to consider my world and my creature. While I had some early sketches, there was an issue that they all had some regality to them. Which is the opposite kind of response to the creature that I am after, as it is supposed to be only the scientist that admires it.

 Extending from the larval form, I looked into creatures like the Tardigrade or water bear. One of a number of micro-animals; creatures so small they can only be seen with a powerful microscope but this is to their benefit - they look incredibly alien and grotesque. As along with standard insect elements, the bodies of these creatures often feature large prominent hairs. The use of micro-animals also allows me to better explore any development of the grub phase as the grub elements can echo in the juvenile phase. I might be able to assemble a creature using bits of various micro-creatures, as they tend to be quite compact.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Major Project: Initial Influence Map

  With the script well underway I decided to assemble an influence map for it. I looked not just at visual influences, but story influences too. For the base itself I am tempted towards that 1970s moon-base vibe or maybe something a little more industrial. I'm still keeping away from the sterile iPhone-esque designs that are hallmarks of modern science fiction and felt the moon-base ideas of the 1960s and 1970s were an apt inspiration, as they echo the sort of enthusiasm for reaching away from Earth that Smithston-Wessex want to evoke with their goals.

  David's attitude towards the creature late in the story do echo how Ash from the 1979 film Alien felt about the alien creature brought aboard the Nostromo. Like David, Ash saw a beauty underneath the alien's horrific exterior. In Ash's case it was a twisted kind of appreciation (he considered the creature 'pure'; untainted by notions of morality). Though it feels coincidental David shares his name with the android from Prometheus (2012). For one thing the David in that film acted more like Pinocchio.

EDIT 23/09/2016: I moved one or two of the influences. I felt the way BioShock (2007) dressed its sets was more of an influence on my direction than sharks at the London Aquarium.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Smithston Wessex Logo Experiments

  This morning one thing cycled though my mind: I started wondering about a logo for Smithston-Wessex (Theme-wise I suppose it makes some sense the art-of document looks a bit like a corporate brochure or report document. So this logo would appear on the corners of pages.

  There is a lot of experimentation with the W because David works more specifically for Wessex Biowonders. But I wonder if a renaming is in order as there's perhaps too much of a Weyland-Yutani vibe from the branding (1, 7 and 12 especially). Though I may keep the horizon line.

Major Project: Some Script Improvements

  With a script I feel is on the right track I decided to streamline some of it so that the text flows better and the actions sound like directions. The two pages above have the most major alternations to them as I also wanted to keep in mind the possibility that I would leave out human characters for the final presentation.

  I also made some modifications to the scene where David hears the news about having his funding being cut back. I believe this scene could be better conveyed with David's voice getting increasingly hostile rather than shouting "no no no!" repeatedly like a maniac. This more muted, tone-focused approach is a feature in when the third stage of the creature hatches from the cocoon. Like in the office, I'm inclined towards moving away from "no-no-no" type reactions.

Character Bio: Alfonse

Name: Dr. Edward Alfonse
Age: Early thirties
Occupation: Junior biotechnician, Outpost Wessex-Choris
Marital status: Single

A junior scientist for Wessex Biowonders and one of David's assistant scientists at Wessex-Choris, Edward Alfonse is a graduate of the Mars academy of organic sciences. But unlike David, Edward signed up to the Wessex-Choris posting out of enthusiasm for the pursuit of science. He is young, enthusiastic, hardworking but forever irritated by David's abrasive and work-centric attitude.

Edward is quietly resented by David. Relatively fresh out of university, Edward impressed his lecturers with his talent in bacterial genetic engineering and gene vectors. Edward's work won him the posting after developing a bacterial strain that could make alien atmospheres more breathable, which impressed visiting representatives of Wessex Biowonders. Despite this breakthrough, Edward's career on the outpost has been to run errands or act as an assistant for David; setting up testing apparatus and maintaining communication with the outpost's engineering team much to Edward's irritation while David focuses on his own projects.

In-between David's errands, Edward has made headway in finding other uses for the planet's local microbe life that he quietly passes to the outpost administrator. As much as Edward resents David bossing him around, Edward keeps his head down and avoids actively trying to irritate David. The only exceptions have been when Edward is called to perform a task while he's engrossed in his research.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Project Proposal (Version Two)

What I propose for a year-long project is:

  • One animated Short. Est. 3-4 minutes.
  • The animation will be a showcase of:
    • Creature design
    • Creature animation
    • Organic modelling
    • Environment design
  • Subjects such as creature movement and anatomy will be deeply researched.
Synopsis: Resigned to a lone outpost far from civilisation, a jaded scientist finds a new lease of life. His efforts to escape old feelings of personal guilt and responsibility result in a discovery that gradually heals him, at the risk of his loyalty to the company.

Human characters will not be the focus, but two are planned in order to sell the outpost as a living place.

By the minor project submission date I plan to have ready:
  • Production art
  • Assembled set geometry
  • Completed script
  • Completed animatic
  • Voice recordings

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Major Project Script: Draft Three Version Two

  After discussing development with Phil and developing the key characters (Alfonse's bio is under construction), I might have with me a more cohesive and gripping script. It's longer if we go by a rule of thumb that one page lasts a minute, but the true length will come from a measured recording. I'd like to aim for three or possibly four minutes of animation. This seems like an apt amount of time for the story as it is a fairly long-term project and series of events.

I'm tempted to make an alternative where only the voices of the human characters are heard. But the creature still walks and wanders the halls. Much of the dialogue would remain, acting more as ghosts. Any interaction with objects (the thrown mug, the computers) could be  done by invisible people (e.g. we see the mug hitting the wall, we don't see anyone throwing it). And this version could act as a guide for tone.

First Version Major Project Proposal

My proposed project is a year-long narrative project that showcases my ability to create fantastic creatures and place them in a world they know or can explore and discover. This will involve looking at a wide variety of creatures of all shapes and sizes. How they move, how they behave and react and the foundations for those behaviours and movements, and what they say about the personality. The way certain creatures think and how they live within their environments. But also what happens when such creatures live an environment alien to the one they evolved in.

The goal I have for this project is to create a short animation, showcasing my skills in creature design, creature and character animation and selling a world. I want to challenge myself in storytelling, a skill I have been developing more off-campus that I am eager to further develop to help bring to life creatures and the world around them.

The primary idea that I have considered building is a scientist, initially jaded with all but a functional interest in science lost. High in his field but low in confidence to make a mark, and scars that encouraged him to hide from his guilt by running to a distant part of the world where his scars could not follow him. An event happens however that makes him rethink his career, what he's done, until he eventually sacrifices himself in a bid for redemption.

I believe that by January I can have an environment that will be the world to explore. Once I have scripts, bios and profile backgrounds, I can build the concepts.

Major Project: Initial Character Concepts


Hundred and ten year old company
Formed from merger of two companies - Wessex Organic Technologies and Smithston Frontiers.

Wessex Biowonders is a subsidiary company of Wessex Organic Technologies specialising in biotechnology and genetic engineering. Its stake on the planet is the creation of various biotechnical products from local plant and wildlife that can be used to enhance terraforming efforts on the planet. While it is a company with a strong public image, even appearing enthusiastic about establishing mankind in deep space, Smithston-Wessex is a public company whose board of directors are dedicated to the bottom line and appeasing their shareholders. This puts them at odds with their science staff as the board's demands can be unreasonable at times.

Despite a popular public image, Smithston-Wessex's board are aware of several rising deep-space companies that could surpass them. Some of its board are deeply worried that if things start becoming problematic, the terraforming project could potentially remove Smithston-Wessex from the top spot of the deep space development industry.

The base itself was developed by Smithston Frontiers subsidiary Grayston Frontier Engineering, who specialise in constructing offworld habitats. Grayston also run the base's engineering department. During the story, Grayston take an interest in the material of Four's cocoon. Its lightweight but rigid composition make it a material of interest for construction, body armour and vehicle assembly. Grayston engineers would be fascinated in analysing the creature and how it produces this compound for hibernation.


Name: David
Age: mid-fifties
Occupation: Lead biotechnician, Outpost Wessex-Choris
Marital status: Married, but relation estranged

A senior biotechnician working for Wessex Biowonders, David Stensson is the lead biotechnician for Smithston-Wessex's efforts to exploit the features of the planet for terraforming. David has worked with Wessex since being offered an apprenticeship after graduating from university. Initially a talented researcher who developed a number of organic petrochemical compounds.

In his later years however his career has fallen into stagnancy. A few years prior to the story, David was working late when his child passed away in hospital. David had been kept at work throughout the period his child was in hospital and after they passed away he took up an opening for a senior position at Wessex's Choria outpost on the far-off planet. He felt that he was not suitable for caring for a child due to company pressure and decided to fully dedicate himself to company efforts.

Although he was a man passionate about the possibilities nature provides for new technologies when he graduated with his doctorate, David has become more jaded as the excitement of his earlier projects become a more distant memory and his reality is of projects he might never gai nrecognition for. He is wholly professional in his behaviour. He is cold, focused and indifferent to the problems of people around him, but approaches his efforts with a cold enthusiasm. Never smiling until his paternal instincts are awakened in his care and excitement for Four.


Name: Amelia
Age: late forties
Occupation: Senior researcher, Orton Nanotech
Marital status: Married, but relation estranged

The wife of David, Amelia is a senior materials researcher for Orton Nanotech, a partner of Smithston-Wessex. She met David at a conference on the use of micro-scale technologies for exploring and colonising outer space.

Amelia raised a child with David when she was in her thirties. When the child fell ill, she attended it in hospital, comforting it while David was working on a project for Wessex. She has felt mild resentment for David abandoning his responsibilities as a husband and father by moving to the outpost. By the time of the story she has planned a divorce, falling for a colleague at Orton.

Unlike her husband, Amelia has a more positive outlook on life. She still enjoys her career but feels uneasy talking to her increasingly distant husband. By the time of the story, she is following though with a divorce, something she feels uncomfortable doing as it is as she is well aware of the pain it could cause, but hides these feelings aside as David's distance from her eases the pain.


A native to the planet outpost Wessex-Choris is established on, Four is raised within the base overseen by David. As a creature growing up in an alien environment, Four resents his confinement, becoming bitter at the staff until David starts being kinder to him.

As a creature growing up in an alien environment, Four is highly observant of his surroundings, and becomes known for staring at new things and people to understand them. While still a beast, Four is intelligent, good at solving puzzles as the researchers discover, but always longing for the chance to explore the outside.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Major Project Draft Script: Pacing Presented Work

  Considering ways to streamline demonstrating developments in the scripts to make it easier to present what has been done while work is being developed.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

@Phil Major Project Ending Scenes Rethink.

  After giving it some thought, I'm keeping with "Four" living as he escapes to freedom. One of the things I talked with Alan was a freedom-imprisonment scale that the handler and Four simultaneously travel during the story. The more free Four becomes, the less free the handler gets until both of them are at opposite ends by the end of the story.

  Earlier today I had a chance to experience the remastered version of Bioshock. It is one of those games (Bethesda Softworks being a big fan of this) filled with macabre little set-pieces that have their own narratives to them. Scattered across the game there are all sorts of peculiar arrangements like a man slumped in a corner hugging a rocket launcher, a couple dead in a hotel room with the wife hugging her husband, An accompanying tape that had the wife talking about seeing their young daughter as one of the game's "Little Sisters". One level was filled with crates marked "contraband" full of Bibles, outside newspapers and wooden crosses. One set-piece involved an audiotape on a park bench surrounded by four wine bottles. These weren't used to tell the main story but did lean to tell their own stories. Some had no verbal explanation, others had a tape recorders lying next to them.

  These set-pieces helped me understand the power of telling a story without words. Depending on where it is for instance, a bottle of wine can indicate a character was being romantic, or drinking away their sorrows. I tried to apply this kind of set-piece placement into the office scene.

Friday, 16 September 2016

@Alan Major Project Ending Ideas

  After a discussion with Alan I considered that I might need to go back to the essential components. So in order to get an idea of what the story is about, I decided to focus on what the ending should be. While I have a fairly solid idea for the general ending - a creature/animal that attempts to flee imprisonment. The nuances are what these four proposals are trying to explore. How does this scene develop? What is the conclusion? I'm tempted, as shown by the first three being similar, to have 'Four' escape and find freedom.

  The fourth and fifth idea however, play on emotion. It's much less optimistic than the previous three and is primarily based on how in initial drafts the creature was found dead. They hit more emotionally, as we see Four not finding freedom. But I'm considering the value of keeping up in the air if he dies or if the guards take him away - these implications could be indicated in the story itself but it feels too comforting to say whether he dies or not.

  An alternative is one of the guards says something along the lines of "Target secure. Bag him." Again this could be open to interpretation as to whether Four is being bagged for transport or if he's going in a body-bag. Though I suppose 'bag him' could strongly imply the latter.

  The important matter is how to explain this kind of story in a pitch. In the case of these endings, we have "Four runs to freedom, chased by guards" and then either "he gets out as they charge to stop him" or "they find him and subdue him. Following orders."

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Breaking Out and Settling In

  With some of the workload at Butch Auntie lifted, I found I had a little time to tweak Colo Colo - I figured if I was going to specialise in CG modeling I'd need practice. The UVs still need a little more work but other than I have considered that the model is just about ready to take into Mudbox for texturing and normal mapping. The only areas that still need tweaking are the toes and the inside of the mouth.

While working on the UVs I gave the crotch a little tweak to smooth hings out where the thigh meets the hip. However this retion I am concerned might be a little stretched.

  During a break at lunchtime, I decided I'd see if I could add to my sketching ability .However by the time I was done with 2 I realised I might be in a rut drawing the same musculature and body types over and over. 3 was an attempt at an unconventional creature that I tried with 7-10, where I would draw a random set of lines and decipher a being from them. I feel like 8 and 10 were the most successful as they're less human-like than 7 and 9. Though I did like the way 9's lower half came out. This could be a technique I could practice further in future sketching sessions.

Major Project: Script Ideas And World Investment

  With work at the internship doen for now, I had a chance this week to devleo pmy major project. Looking back  I felt the last script required much improvement. So looking over and reading though I attempted to make things more fluid. To help me I called my father, a senior scientist, to understand what it was like to work in the industry. While he studies a field that is different to this scientist, there was still a worthwhile discussion that helped me understand how they get along with their colleagues, some things that can happen in the workplace, and the relationships between scientists, their support teams, and any attached engineering department.

  Shortly before working on the revised script, I watched an editorial by internet personality Doug Walker. Who discussed how recent shows like Bojack Horseman, Steven Universe, and even My Little Pony draw such interest from older audiences. One key suggestion was to provide an avenue to invest in the show. Before they could go into much deeper subjects, the audience first needed to form a connection to the world. These however are long-running series, but tackled this by starting simple. Steven Universe's first episode, long before all the exploration the show is famous for, was about Steven trying to get a popular ice lolly with his friends.

  Inspired, I considered making an advert for the company who built this base. True, this will add to the workload as it means another voice artist, more 3D assets and more render time, but I could theoretically cut the load down by providing an 'idealised' view of the outpost, before the camera explores the true base in the film itself, and most importantly keeping the advert to the point. The idea is that it's an introduction to the world. But might also say something about advertising in general in how we are shown elegance, but the reality is rarely as elegant, cheerful or glorious as the aadvert makes out..
I might trim some of the first paragraph as it feels a little too expositionary. Or I could take influences from television adverts. The aim is the base is trying to be sold - the company wants eager pioneers and researchers for it's ambitious multi-billion-dollar project.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

@Phil Second Draft and Possible Draft Rework

  I have worked a little o nthe script. However some way through working on a version of the script with directions I realised the visual cues didn't quite fit neatly into what I had already written. Rather than try and rework the dialogue I considered starting again, the new version being below. I got into thinking that along with views in screens the shadow of the creature could haunt the environment. Only fully seen right near the very end.

  Another possibility is rather than a recording, the monologue could be some sort of host voice, replaying discussionsfrom before everything fell to ruin. So some of them will sound more like conversations than speaking into an audio journal.

  One current obstacle is some of the outside stuff (like messages from the scientist's family and the company) are largely shown via emails and messages. I wonder if there might be a way to convey the message with arrangement from the clutter. Or responses on post-it notes or white boards. For instance rather than an email, the scientist could have written on a board "wasting company time? Focus on the initial mission? You suits are not taking Four!"

  These are things that could be investigated in further drafts.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

@Phil Major Project Logline Synopsis and First Draft Script

On a distant research outpost, a tired scientist rediscovers his drive as he nurtures an alien specimen brought to his lab. 

  The story begins as the scientist in an audio diary introduces himself and the project. Begins by talking about how he got the initial sample. He is however, bored with the sample: a moss the lab managed to splice to breathe Earth air. After a month and a half the specimen starts getting interesting, emerging from the soil as a group and later forming a cocoon. As things get exciting however, the executives at the company get impatient as research drags on and it becomes difficult to find practical applications for the creature. Scattered around the lab however are clues that the story the scientist paints in the audio diary is only half the picture. His fate, his life and the company are much more sinister than what he makes out.

All the names - the company, the creature and the project - are still a work in progress. Placeholders essentially. The animation itself might be around the 3m 40s - 4m mark.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Major Project: Crystallising the Creature

  Butch Auntie has kept me busy, and helped me brush up on my modeling and animation skills. But I've had to balance that with considerations over what I'm going to be doing for the coming year. I feel confident with the scientist and will look into script drafts before returning to university. While out I still felt deeply inspired by the London Aquaruium and ended up considering the creature to be some kind of aquatic creature. However I may be getting ahead of myself

  This made me realise I need to consider the environment this base is going to be in, the planet this creature will come from. Is it barrren? Is it lush? Is it full of alien flora? Is it cold? Is it hot? These questions would help determine what the creature may look like as it has to fit the world it comes from. And that led on to question if the research station would be in orbit or an outpost on the planet (where we might be able to see outside). The decision of ground or orbit will also influence the interior. It could be like the space base in Ridley Scott's The Martian with polytunnels and a prefab assembly. It could be like the inside of the International Space Station. These will help build what the lab could look like inside but I've kept to suggestions and decided to avoid the iPod feel. I am however tempted to include overhead pipes, which gives the environment a slight industrial feel.

  Working out a script might help considerably in understanding the world. Both the one the creature comes from and the one the scientist makes his livelihood in.