Tuesday, 15 August 2017

YPGTTO: First Tasks on a New Role

In the past couple of weeks I've been brought on to a design team to help with creating an animation sequence for a film that will play alongside a performance of Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, which for development has been abbreviated to YPGTTO and at present is entering the sequence animation phases of construction.

My first task has been simple so far: Six animations for the two commuter types that have been designed to act as members of crowds. Nothing too complex so far but so far the work has been engaging, and more could easily come very soon.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Building Planets

Today I had some fun with some rather literal worldbuilding. Using the free visualisation Space Engine offers an immense variety and some very powerful procedural generation software. Seeing the rendering power of this engine I decided to experiment with Maya, taking some of its possibilities further, as although effective with natural phenomena, I wondered about using it as a springboard for some science fiction models.

After extracting the procedural generation of a particular planet into bump and diffuse maps, I took them into Maya and built a model out of three spheres - the base planet, a cloud layer, and a faux atmosphere with a transparency determined by its facing ratio to the camera.

Space Engine tended to crash when exporting a Mercator projection larger than 4096 x 2048 pixels, but offered a box projection option as an alternative where it would export a file into six smaller images. A box projection allowed for the construction of a more high-definition model and could be useful for close-up shots.

The world I used was rather dead, so using Mudbox I painted on bands of colour that would mimic foliage.

The night map - intended to show signs of civiliseation - was the most bespoke part of the project,.as Space Engine has no way of building this on its own. It had to be created from scratch and was used as an illumination map.

The techniques used to build the shaders and the textures could - with further practice - be built more from scratch, allowing for more custom-designed planets that can be built in the span of an afternoon.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

New Designers: Final Submission

Year 3 Major Project: Four from Mark Stamp on Vimeo.

A bereaved scientist finds love again far from home, but as he comes to connect with this new lease of life the company's plans must force him to let go.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Four: New Designers Approaching

New Designers is but a few days away, but this blog has been quiet so to alleviate that I present a few stills that I have prepared.

  Rendered in full HD quality, and what I have has been tested in a video sequence. Getting everything right and keeping everything clean well however has been nothing short of a monolithic task. This project started a long way, back, as far back as September and to see the outcome now feels exhilarating as the home stretch presents itself.

I also took some time to build a business card. Nothing too flashy, gets the job done rather nicely though.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Four: An Adult With Polish

  With progress done om the environment model I went back to the animation sequences. With the time that I have available I feel I can definitely push out some much cleaner and more lifelike animations. Currently building a library along the way. It won't translate easily into the juvenile - who has a very different style of movement - but the groundwork should speed up the pace.

 A rather diligent cutting of the animation down to four minutes has been a struggle, as there is always that question of what to keep and what to remove. But after some thorough examination, and the sacrificing of a few details here and there which in a number of cases could be supplemented by visual information, the video flows a little more succinctly and fits within that alotted time frame.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Four: Animation and a New Laboratory

I've been working to improve the animations for my project. Feedback has it that where the most improvement is needed in when Four runs or walks. However one of the larger complications has been that in order to smooth out the way hands moved about, the control around the wrist was re-parented so that it moves with the base and not the torso.

This has the added advantage that she can more easily grasp things, and the hand stays in position better when Four is stationary, but it does mean that all the hand positions need readjusting.

  One update that might have slipped is an improvement to the scale of the rooms. Everything was a little large and off-scale so one of the challenges has been to compress a few things so the environment feels less cavernous. This may have a knock on effect in that Four would need to be smaller. Part of what I learned while researching for the project is that grubs can be much larger than the insect they grow into, likely because the fat and material they store up is also what keeps them alive during the energy-intensive metamorphosis project. It might be a simple case of not making the size differences as drastic but at the same time, Four isn't a low-level predator, and animals whose shoulders may reach the waist when on all fours can stretch taller than an adult human when they try standing on their hind legs.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Four: More Prop Progress

  I've spent the last week building a number of props that will be scattered about the laboratory. While they add to render times, they are necessary components to sell the world.

  Also to sell the world are some features to dial back some of the sterility of the locations. Interest elements like pipes and a new feature to the ceiling were installed to make the place feel less eascetic. One of the intentions for a final pass is a layer of dirt and grime, partially achieved by the ambient occlusion from the pipes and tables but more still needs to be added to make the whole thing convincing.

  Also to sell the world: Some experimentation with photogrammetry and more general texture maps to sell a convincing texture for the world being built. This experimentation has so far been interesting, I was surprised at some of the difference it makes to making an object convincing.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Four: Making Clutter and Props

  The last few days the design priority has been in prop-making.to give the biolab a lived-in look.

  There are still some props that need making - binders, dossier folders, perhaps a camera, Alfonse's experiment, post-it notes, perhaps items like used TV dinner trays or cups of soup. Built into the coffee cup is a particle emitter that when rendered would resemble steam. One of the rops I've entertained is an ash tray in David's office; this could be used as a means to convey that David is overworked, having to take cigarette breaks to get though the day. However, the idea of the decontamination unit that connects the lab to the corridor was to imply that the lab needed to be sterile and clean of foreign contaminants. Food might be passable but smoking in his room also feels like a stretch.

Making food to actually go on these trays might be too much. It might be that all I need to do to convey that the scientists have been eating is empty TV trays that have been stained by what was on them while they were eaten.

  Looking at the time period, what might have best suited the lab in terms of lighting fixtures is a tube of flourescent light that circles the room. This differing setup shoudl contrast the room nicely with the corridor outside.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Lab Toys

Playing about with some techniques to represent glass mostly, but after a pause, things are moving along.

For the prop department, one of the things needed was some lab equipment, so to work my way back int oa routine I started simple: Test tubes, petri dishes, pipettes, tube racks and finally a microscope (though while the base is finished, the model still needs some serious shader work). Other device considerations planned but yet to be designed include a crucible and some scales, which will be scattered about the workspace.

It was exciting designing these as I was reminded of science classes back in school, an interest in science has been part of the inspiration for Four overall so it was good fun designing some of the equipment that I've conducted experiments with..

Monday, 15 May 2017

Major Project Reflective Statement

The past year was nothing short of challenging, but it was a challenge that overall I came to enjoy. It was exciting to explore new areas and investigate new techniques, developing the skills I had gained. Over the project I definitely felt like I was getting faster as I got better accustomed to the techniques I had picked up, techniques I had learned though trial and error allowed for faster and smoother operation, The intensity of the project as well was a positive as it allowed for an immediate application of my improving skills.

I was ambitious in my goal for the project, three characters and a scene included in a full animation . In some areas I felt I was highly successful, in others there could still be areas for improvement. Although this project was a struggle, at times looking like the goalposts were miles away, and while there were days that taking my mind off the project was very appealing, there were few times where I spent significant periods dwelling on whether I could have done something else. There were indeed times where moving to a different project was enticing, in these cases I learned I was able to solve these feelings by moving to a different aspect of the project (i.e. if model making was taking too long I would spend a few hours either painting or sound compositing). In later stages, afternoon projects unrelated  to the main project provided a similar sense of relief. There were times when a smaller project was more inviting, or a different idea entirely, these feelings were often satisfied by the afternoon relief projects.

Being mindful of mental fatigue was one of the more significant lessons I learned over the project. When exhausted, it is not just work quality that slips but unless maintained, mental fatigue can create more significant problems that can build up over weeks and months. As much as I felt the urge to continue working, even on the most productive of days I had my limits. To balance sleep, diet and workload has given more productive results than maximizing my work hours at the cost of other needs.

The project gave me a better understanding of workflow and work practice. I gained a refreshed appreciation for the process it takes to turn a story idea into a visual reality. The project - particularly the search for the right voice artists to go with the project's characters - has given me a strong amount of confidence in the various skills and processes required to make a film a reality.

Overall I am proud of what I have accomplished. I set out on an ambitious goal, and at times this goal felt very far away, but to reach it despite the magnitude of the challenge that was before me has felt like an enormous accomplishment.

Four: Major Project Final Submossion

Four: Final Animation from Mark Stamp on Vimeo.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Four: Lighting Continues

  Lighting setup for the main room is almost done. I plan to transfer the setups that have been created  (as well as a few of the assets that needed their UVs improving) to the other scene files in order to save time as the rooms do not change that much.

  To save on materials, some texture files were combined using a layered texture plugin that with some alteration to the UV layouts allow for multiple models to use one material easily, saving on using repeat materials and repeat colours. Getting a better handle on the surface shader also made its installation much handier, and the effect I can get out of it feels much more natural.

  Like with other assets, the lights will need to be grouped with the model, so that when the scale of the model changes, they change to remain in place. What I'll still need to keep in mind is how much will the various lights change as they are re-positioned and re-scaled. A final outcome is close, just a little more time and attention needed and I should be ready to start on final compositions.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Four: Corridor Lighting

  Much of yesterday was spent on animating some of the final scenes, which means that to an extent, act 3 (where we see the adult) has a functional set of animations.

  So today's priority was lighting. This however turned into more work than I initially anticipated as in order to shave off render times I considered looking where I could optimise my scene. Presently my shaders were monochromatic - I would create a single shader for a specific colour, but this proved inflexible and I ended up building up a number of shaders with the same settings just different shades.

  I was able to replace some of the shaders using maps created in Photoshop, which I am considering fleshing out with textures to make the materials feel more like real materials and less like plastic. While other materials use a blinn, the white panels use a mila shader textured to come across more as leather, using similar properties to Four's skin due to leather's properties.

A warmer grey for the bulk material of the corridor appears to work more with the aesthetic I am aiming for. Aside from a number of hot-spots, the lighting in place (area lights positioned opposite each other) works to fill out the scene.

Strangely the frame above took considerably longer to render than the corridors, Four's teeth also appear to be reflecting the light of the surface shader used to represent the sunlight. I could disable it for when the camera switches to this shot as the effect is almost obliterating the sight of her teeth.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Four: Polished Pre-Vis In Progress

 The last couple of days have been busy ones. With the bulk of animations ready I took several hours to re-compose all the audio recordings I had into a more flowing picture, with some additional sounds gathered on Freesound.

  The tunnel segments were added so as to build the scene for the final composition, as there is one moment where Four leaps off a wall, it was vital to get the position of the wall and Four's feet right, requiring the full geometry.

  A re-synced animation is currently in the works, but should not take much longer than a couple of days to construct ready to send off for batch rendering. As of this post, the animations I have more closely fit with the soundscape, all that is really required is for some of the last animations to be built, some expressions added and to finish off some of the textures.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Four: Early Demo Ready for Display

  I am at a stage where most of the animation is in a decent state. There are still some gaps left but the majority of what I had in mind is in a good place for an early update. This also provides a good chance to see the piece in its entirety in current its current state of production.

  One challenge now is to sync the animation with the soundscape. This will extend the piece slightly as there are areas where breaks in the monologues might be worthwhile.and areas where a soundscape could fill in some of the blanks.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Four: Adjusting Cameras, the Grub is Live

  For the past couple of days I have primarily been working on creating animations for the creature to move about the world. 

  More significantly, the camera's focal length has been changed to provide a more natural look. Looking back and forth the previous camera angle felt a little wide, exaggerating the distance between the foreground and the background which made the rooms look enormous. So far it is only the sequences before and with the grub and with the adult form that the camera angle has been adjusted. The camera angles for the juvenile form will need to be updated and that is on my list.

Most of the camera angles have remained the same save for the distance the camera is from the subject, save for one or two minor changes to improve flow and keep interest. Some of the angles had to be re-tilted as they pointed towards the floor but the improvement does feel significant.