Monday, 31 October 2016

Major Project: Adult Form Orthographic Template

  With the concepts given the sign-off I moved on to creating orthographic templates to use as measurements for building Four in Maya. There are a few places where the orthographic layout makes Four look thinner than the concept (below) but it was at the orthographic stage where I think I've nailed the feet. I also considered adding ribbon-like tendrils, which would flow and sway with the head. In the wild these could be used to detect air particles, much like the whiskers of numerous mammals, as she lacks nostrils on the front of her snout. If these don't turn out to be worthwhile, then they could easily be left out in theory.

  I looked at otters to see how their feet were built for both land and water. And while Four's feet might be a bit shorter than a typical otter's, looking at the two images I find that what I came up with as a bottom-up view has closely matched the feet that came out in the concept design.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Major Project: Four Solid Concept

  Looking to catch up after a couple of slow days I set myself the task of drawing up a final concept piece for Four herself. In hindsight I could have drawn her at different angles but the addition of a few expression poses (1-7) I figure help a lot as I considered she could communicate her mood using her fins, much in the same way dogs, cats, rabbits and horses will direct their ears to indicate attention or mood. A little flexibility could be useful in these instances as they'd allow for a much more living performance when on the screen. All that remains are understanding the colour of her fins (as the colour pattern, while attractive is mostly a placeholder) but more importantly I need orthographic drawings. The colour and pattern of her fins can come in-between modeling. Especially since by January my aim is to have a fully developed set. for filmmaking

  Regarding which, I now have my three primary voices. They still need a little processing so they will come in a later post.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Major Project: Final Designs In Sight

  Today's priority was getting a final idea for what Four looks like I looked back on fighting fish and, entranced by the draping silk-like tails they had looked into giving something like that to Four. As can be seen, there are shades of dilophosaurus in some of the drawings which I want to avoid (this is mostly due to possessing similar frilled crests.) the main difference I think is Four's is a lot more swept back. It would give her an edge in swimming. I don't want ot go too overboard with the frills - these will likely be animated as ncloth materials in the animation (so lots and lots of flow!). Too many frills and she might lose her shape in the action. But I believe the most successful adult form is 78. 83 and 85 I believe were fairly successful bust shots.

  Perhaps she can retract these sails. We see this shape in its full glory during her escape. It makes perfect sense that she escapes from captivity when she is in her most impressive. She is at her most beautiful and David sees this. As well as this, I looked at the juvenile, which will be a much dumpier and less attractive look. While the adult is inspired by Asian fish, otters and ferrets, the juvenile was strongly inspired by naked mole rats and axolotls.

What is probably needed now is a final concept piece. I have plenty of thumbnail material, now would be an extremely good time to set to work on the final design.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Major Project: Progress on the Adult

  Following considerations, I considered the shapes Four's body could take. The start however was maybe a little slow. I put a lot of attention to Four's head, thinking of axolotls but after some thought I may have been going too directly. I feel it also started looking a little too like Colo Colo. I'm also considering avoiding horns, though the frills add a charming touch to Four's appeal.

  So I took a step back, looking at the two most successful colour thumbnails and building on them after the Maya workshop. There's still a lot of room for refinement however. I was looking at ferrets, otters, and Siamese fighting fish for possible features. The fighting fish direction I think brought back a lot of the sense of otherworldness to Four's design. Although utilising the fins is going to be an interesting prospect to consider.

Maya Tutorials: Soft Body Workshops

  Today's Maya workshop was all about soft bodies. Geometry that can be deformed though motion and influence from other objects. It is a useful tool to give objects that feeling of looseness like clothing, sand, snow or loose skin.

  It was the first time in a while I have been scripting, but I am more comfortable with the process than I was when I started last year.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Major Project: Developing the Alien Forms

  Looking to get back into my stride, I have set to work on the finer points of Four's design. As well along with a contact sheet which explores the larva's anatomy, its skin folds and what could be done for the eyes and mouth, I also looked at some possible cocoon forms 

  Designing Four's adult form I have decided to splice the marine creature and the brown lizard creature from the previous thumbnails, I'm playing about with fronds however at the moment they look a little like dragon horns. This is a hurdle I have encountered due to the axolotl inspiration. It may pass when I look into drawing heads to get an idea of head structure and facial expressions.

  At some point during the week, once I have a better idea for Four's body, I will consider a contact sheet of colour tones. I've started getting ideas for the juvenile form from designs made today. But I feel the grub/larval form is at a state it can be signed off after a few other orthographic sheets are made for the other potential angles.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Major Project: Four is the Priority

  Nulla dies sine linea was what I was telling myself this time last year. After a discussion with Phil on the current direction, I feel confident at present that a lot of the prepatory work for the environment and the story is done. The script is ready, the world has been crystallised. What remains now is the beast in question. I had the chance to do a bit of drawing after the discussion but my evening was busy as I soon found myself off to London for the night.

  So to uphold my personal promise, H took the chance to use my sketchbook on the train with the drawings above. Phil and I discussed that a touch of axolotl could be investigated. Dumpy body, alien features and a thick tails, it seemed useful. While on the train I sort of realised that giving the tail some kind of sail may restrict its movement. So I played with a vertical and a horizontal arrangement. As well as sails, I considered the sails could form a prong, and that maybe instead of big bulges of fat, the larva could have its eyes covered in a thin membrane (which on reflection may look creepy but this larva's adapted burrowing though soil, it'll need to protect its eyes somehow). Experiments, ideas, it was a better use of my time than waiting an hour or browsing the internet while I sat on the train.

  With the larva's body, I'm inclined towards the fatty consistency of 29 and 31. It seems more in line with the overall idea for the body than the direct segmentation of 28 and 30. The page above however is currently a work in progress. The intention is to create an orthographic sheet for the two grub/larva phases and the cocoon phase.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Major Project: Back Into The Thumbnails

  Recovering well, I endeavored ot get back to work, having missed half a week's worth of progress. I believe I am getting closer to a final shape for Four. I attempted more refined shapes but continued with a few experimental designs (as much as I like the head of 39, the neck seems just wrong). What I am leaning towards is the otter-like body shape as I'm excited at the challenge of animating such an agile creature. Adding colour using a vivid light filter I think really brings these creatures out. 38, 41 and 43 I think came out really well (though 41 might be a different direction to where I could go)

  As well as Four I looked into some further exploration for the key rooms. I was planning ot explore colour with these as well but that could be something for tomorrow barring other tasks.

  These black and white thumbnails are starting to seem a little on the drab side but it is all experimentation. I was mostly inspired after discovering an Iamag page displaying 70 environment concept art pieces from Zootopia. Some being polished and others being quite flat (looking at it the flat-colours are primarily for depth of field), but it was inspiration nonetheless.

  Though I also want to train myself to increase my output, spend less time on the tiny details that just eat up time which is largely why these might look a little less polished than the last images.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Major Project: Some Primary Research

  I've been mostly out of commission today after a bit of a bug. Regretting that a sudden bout of illness might stop me from watching Alien with the First-years on Tuesday I booted up Alien: Isolation this evening in order ot perform a photo-gathering opportunity. Because it's a computer game it's not a perfect rendition of the interiors of the 1978 classic, but it comes close. ANd it has still given me ideas of how to build my base.

  I gathered several dozen screenshots ingame, I chose Alien: Isolationn as it has been critically hailed as an extremely authentic replication of the original Alien universe. The ship you use to arrive at the space station where most of the game takes place is even said to be the same model as the Nostromo - complete with an authentic medlab, hypersleep chamber, and mess hall.

When I walked in she said "I feel like death". Creative Assembly you're doing a bang-up job.

I'm not spoiling but I think I figured this guy out after about thirty seconds talking with him.

  I also did some corridor snapping because that's one of the areas I haven't built up as much as the rest of the base. The downside is the environments within the game are very dark. Tweaking the brightness-contrast filters is a definite priority for any reference images.

  My plan for my condition is to get as much rest as possible. The sooner I feel like I am in a condition to work, the sooner I can get back to the concept art and the camera work. Fortunately I have had some thinking time so once my head stops spinning for long enough I could pull out my sketchbook.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Major Project: Inventory

Looking over my inventory list I decided to break it down into three parts ordered by how critical they are for the story to progress. Key objects are objects that have a story-relevant part to play, Priority objects are anything that helps considerably to sell the world, and clutter is items that serve as set-dressing to make the world feel more real.

Key Objects

isolation units, x-ray/MRI pictures, coffee mug, phone, computer terminal

Priority Objects

Lab tables, stools, executive desk, scientific reports, office chair


Newspapers, pens, centrifuges, test tube racks, grant certificate, executive chair, bed, chairs, cupboards, base map, food tins, wires

With a better idea of what props to use I can understand which props must be made first and foremost, going though the list as time and resources allow.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Major Project: Developing Ceti 821

  I've been nursing a minor cold lately which I believe has slowed me down a little. When I got around to work, my focus was on the base, now that Four has come along quite nicely. I looked back on the various themes I had collected, the main thing I wanted to take away when designign the three primary rooms was that each one had to feel distinct. Each room required its own atmosphere, its own feel. The biolab (2) and office (4) are empty mainly because I wanted to pace myself and not get bogged down in the detail.

  I also want each room to feel part of a greater whole: Sterile and mechanical for the biolab, comfortable and oozing importance for the adminsitrator's office, and familiar for David's room (I realised today and yesterday that as a senior scientist, David's quarters on the station would be more luxurious than the small "bed and a desk" rooms I was drawing initially. Given David's personality however, at least at the animation's beginning it would still be quite a stark and aescetic home. There would be little clutter with everything organised, which would become less so as the story moves on.

  To help understand what I need to build, I looked into creating an inventory list. Most of it is small props; pens, mugs, sheets of paper with some larger props like chairs and tables.


  • Test tubes
  • Computers
  • X-ray photographs
  • MRI photographs
  • Centrifuge
  • Pens
  • Experiment reports
  • Computers
  • Stools
  • Tables
  • Coffee mugs 


  • Desk 
  • Table
  • Computer terminal
  • Phone
  • Pens
  • Rug?
  • Coffee mug
  • Photograph


  • Executive desk
  • Executive chair
  • Office chairs
  • Pens
  • Computer terminals
  • Rug
  • Computer banks?
  • Financial reports
  • Mug?

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Major Project: Refining Concepts

  With some progress in finding voices for the project, and with the concepts for the base gradually crystallising, progress can be made on the finer details. Looking at floor plans from Space 1999 and 2001: A Space Odyssey I gained an impression that the 1970s were a period of open spaces and neatly organised furniture. Everything in the future was tidy and organised, with strong lines and an emphasis on comfort. I was told one fashion of the 70s in science fiction was padded leather panels. In hindsight a rather peculiar material to coat your walls in but then again the modern perception of the future promises walls made of either glass or plastic so I suppose it was a quirk of the times.

  Four's adult forms are coming along mentally but one priority is to work out what the grub looks like. I had considered there could be a degree of translucency to Four's body so I had a bit of fun working out where all her organs could go. It was then I struck a few ideas for a few anatomical elements to make Four alien. She could have her nostrils on her back or on the back of her neck while her skull has a bulbousness to it that could extend into a crest.

  Four's grub form got me thinking on the juvenile and adult anatomies. I'm thinking a touch of fox and a touch of otter into her genetics, so to speak: An elongated but bouncy hunter of small animals with a nice fat tail and plenty of agility. This is something I could explore with silhouettes as I develop the other forms. My primary goal with these drawings was to work out the simpler of Four's forms. The cocoon I realised could be more shaped by Four curling up.

  Researching an influence for Four's larval state I came across beetle grubs. Two things caught my attention. The first is that ground-dwelling species like the Goliath beetle and the Japanese beetle lay their larvae in the soil, where they live curled up until they mature. Once they develop into adults, they crawl out of the soil. The second is that some species, like the aforementioned beetle grow enormous as grubs. Some can be large enough to require both hands when being held.


Maya Tutorials: Dynamic Animation

  This week and last week there were classes in using dynamic rigging, which provides a more organic flow to moving objects like tails and cloth. After working with it, I have felt this kind of work would be very useful when reworking Colo Colo.or future projects that involve a more flowing body.

An Unexpected Surprise

  Yesterday I received an email out of the blue from Feedspot's founder Anuj Agarwal. Feedspot's been one of the fastest-growing replacements for Google Reader as of late and so I got excited when received an email telling me I had made it to the site's list of Top 100 Animation Blogs.

I'm only no. 91 on the list but I still feel grateful and I feel happy to help Anuj out in spreading awareness over a very useful resource. I don't post non-art stuff like this often and I was reluctant to add the award he presented on my site. But I am someone who is happy to respect the wishes of others and in this instance the decision felt mutually beneficial.

I wish the best of luck to Feedspot and a thank you to them for this honour.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Major Project: A Bit More Base Design

  I looked at more base designs. I went back to my concepts and looked at the city featured in the film Logan's Run. Using the primary shapes that the city features, I looked into possible alternative layouts. The reason I am so focused on the exterior is to get an idea of the shapes that will determine the interior rooms. I might go with an arched layout for the biolab and the corridors, as these are large structures that will take up a sizable part of the base. Curved corners on the various squares was a popular design element of the late 60s and the 1970s. Colour-wise

In terms of base design my next task is looking into room layouts and working out the arrangement of props. In terms of colour palette, many sets are white with bands of bold colour such as orange, red or green. Colour banding could provide some advantage as certain installations colour-code their different departments for easy navigation.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Major Project: Updated Bios

With a more confirmed script I went back and updated the character bios I have written


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

Wessex Biowonders is a subsidiary company 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.

David Easton

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. Five years prior to the events of 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 Ceti-821 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 gain recognition 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.

Amelia Easton

Name: Amelia
Age: late forties
Occupation: Professor, Tharsis University
Marital status: Married, but relation estranged

The wife of David, Amelia is a professor of exoplanetary studies at the Tharsis University on Mars. 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 contemplated a divorce, falling for a colleague at the university but still tries to keep in contact with David.

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 considering 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 Ceti-821 is established on, Four is raised within the base's biological studies department overseen by David. As a creature growing up in an alien environment, Four resents her confinement, becoming bitter at the staff until David starts being kinder to her.

As a creature growing up in an alien environment, Four is highly observant of her 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.

Although David comes to refer to the creature as 'her', the alien physiology potentially blurs as to whether she really is female or if the affectation of 'her' is something David used subconsciously to recall his lost child.

Wessex Representative

Name: [Pending]
Age: Late twenties
Occupation: Liaison-Officer for Wessex-Chlorin colony

A rising star in Smithston Wessex's executive boardrooms. This representative assumed the responsibility of chief liaison opfficer for Wessex's Chlorin colony, which includes overseeing the activities of Ceti post 821. A smooth and charismatic conversationalist, he found himself in regular contact with Dr. Easton due to the latter's reputation as a loyal and dedicated scientist.

His life isn't all parties and coffee chats however. As a senior liaison, he has a direct connection to the Board of Directors. And it is his job to relay policies and and requests from the board to stations and branches in the region. When David's affections for Four start jeopardizing the work done on Ceti 821, this representative is the first to hear what the board has to say about it. As charismatic as he is, attempts at resisting the board because of the erratic behaviour of one man is a danger to his promising career.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Major Project: Outpost Concept Ideas

  Along with a script and looking for voice-over actors, I've been looking at possible designs for the base in which the story will be set. I looked at various science fiction shows of the 1960s and 1970s for inspiration, taking ideas from various themes from this artistic period from productions such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Space 1999 and Frank Herbert's Dune.

  While inspired by moonbase designs of the 1970s, I am tempted to move away from the design of Moonbase Alpha. Although its design is quite ubiquitous which might make things tricky. There have been moon-base designs that feature a donut ring around a central core, much like the station in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Other moonbase ideas involve tunnels and prefabricated structures. Though a permanent construction makes the whole thing feel established as David mentioned he's been on the project for five years. I have considered that later in the story David will become less of a neat-freak, his workstation and dormitory will be progressively overcome with clutter.

Major Project: Final Draft Script

  After a considerable amount of back-and-forth between myself and Phil. Mainly on the monologues, I have a version of the script I am confident with. This past week I have been looking at potential voice-over artists to speak the lines for David, Amelia and the Wessex representative.

  I estimate this to be a 3 or 4 minute long narrative despite the number of pages (the original MS Word document is six rather than nine pages long) but in fairness there is a fair amount of space in places.

  I have also discussed with Phil that the animatic might be better suited to being made in 3D, which speeds up the process of working out space within the animation.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Major Project: Third Time Is The Charm

  Confident after some initial drawings (below) I tried refining some ideas, going into more outlandish designs that could come from the puffy juvenile form I'm keeping with. I kind of like the amphibian forms - they relate to the swampy environment, they're somewhat bizarre and it's a form that could develop from the pudgy mass Four emerges from its cocoon as. They could also have some translucency to them (something I might need to practice drawing) to add that alien feel. I think I've hit the start of something that I could explore further.

These below were from a previous post today but I'm including them for context. 9-21 were I think when I started getting into my stride with this.

  Additionally, for the base I have taken to examining the original television show Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, which was broadcast in 1967. It's not 1970s but there are possible signs of the trends that would mark the 1970s within the show. It's more mature and serious than it's predecessor Thunderbirds, for one.

@Phil: Major Project: Reworking Four

  After some consideration that I need to be more experimental with Four's design. I studied some of the techniques of Feng Zhu and a few more bizarre creatures to get some inspiration. I feel that creatures 7 and 13 are my strongest designs but they could definitely do with a lot of work.

  I tried further to develop some more ideas but these don't feel as strong as the previous designs. 16 and 21 might be an exception though 16 veers into genericism. 19 may work as it is a bit more outlandish and less Earth-like though it is a rather drastic change from other designs, which could be good or bad.

Maya Tutorials: Squash, stretch, IKs and FKs

  These tutorials I found useful, especially the IK-FK switching tutorial as the possibility exists that the creature I am designing will have front limbs that switch from using them for hands to using them for feet. Even if this might not be the case, I found both tutorials useful in terms of how to set up a model to do something specific using certain parameters.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Major Project: Early Base Thumbnails

  With the design of Four underway I decided to turn to the other key element - the base in which much of the story would take place in. To get an idea I kept to items rather than diving in and drawing rooms - chairs, tables, desks, computers, then moving on to doors and corridors.

  I was inspired by Moonbase designs of the 1970s and one inspiration that cropped up was Space 1999, A British science fiction show about a research station on the moon. Near to the end of the sketching session I came to a realisation about the moonbase shots I was looking at: They were all very clean. But they all felt a little too clean for a base that was supposed to away from Earth (the plot mentions a nuclear explosion sent the moon out into deep space); there was no clutter, no wear-and-tear, no panels kept loose for convenience, it was like the very white base was scrubbed and cleaned daily despite an omnipresence of huge panel lights.that dominated all the walls and the lack of regular supplies from Earth (The USS Voyager at least turned its cargohold into a greenhouse).

  One of the things that will occur early in the story is the viewer will receive a guided tour of the base, which could be when we see the showroom-clean version. But the base that we see throughout the story has a bit more of a lived-in look. Clutter, post-it notes, coffee stains, mugs, loose pens, whatever I can think of to give it a sense that people have stuff and that this place is their (at the very least temporary) home.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Major Project: Further Ideas for Adult Form

  After a minor course correction I investigated forms for the adult and in some instances juvenile Four. For this, I looked at sphinx cats, naked mole rats and babies. I'd like to keep the mouth, inspired by the hydrothermal worm, because I think it makes the creature look a bit more alien, and could influence the reveal of the eyes. As before it opens its eyes it'll be puffy, pink, generally unsettling just moments before David realises it has a beauty to it.

  I might switch out some features as I don't want this to look too much like a rat. I might tweak the ears so they could be embedded on the side of the head. From discussion, this creature will get less saggy as it matures and grows into its skin

  I used image referencing to try and paint what Four's skin could look like. It's rough but I plan to do more refined concepts later which hopefully should properly convey the creature's appearance in regards to whether it's cute or grotesque. This sort of drawing also makes it easier to show if it's translucent or not.

  After discussing with Phil there could be a beauty to the creature. The above sketches focus on movement because that's where I think this stage of the creature will come to life the most. This creature evolved in a marshy environment, it would likely be a hunter that could bound off trees or sprint through hills. This might be contrary to its previous forms which are a lot more bulky and cumbersone. But one thing that Phil and I discussed was that this creature had to be built as a survivor. Four is established as a hunter as in its grub state it eats moss and small insects. So in its adult form it could have evolved to hunt something larger, which requires it to be a bit more of an ace than the flabby thing that would emerge from the cocoon.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Major Project: Bug Thumbnails

  Today's been mostly about my bug. I had this though after discovering a scanning electron microscope (SEM) photograph of a hydrothermal worm. These seep-sea worms are tiny, the size of bacterium but the thing that intrigued me most was they had jaws and teeth. So I wondered, to add to the chill factor, if Four could have this kind of mouth, that opens to reveal another mouth.

Figure 1: A hydrothermal worm (Crassous)
  Beyond this, I want to refine the adult form so I can get a good sense of the larval form. I'm leaning towards the blobby slugs Ginger and Fred from Splice as inspiration for when Four first emerges from the soil.

Figure 2: Perhaps the definition of ugly-cute (That Was A Bit Mental, 2015)

Image References