Friday, 31 March 2017

Four: Texture Rework Phase One

  Some time was taken today building texture work for Four as well as creating a displacement map to simulate the texture. The greatest focus today was on her fins which graphically speaking required a complete rework. I based the design on butterfly wings, the intention of numerous patterns on such are to intimidate any larger predators but can also be used to attract a mate.

Her head fins are about done, and lay the foundation for how the tail fins work, the techniques I used ot create the textures on the head fins can easily be used to colour the tail fins.

Some work was also done on Thursday too refine the juvenile's animations to make her jump to the floor and her approach towards the incubator more animated.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Four: Refining First Sequence

The final steps are coming along with Four's adult model. With progress made on the model I returned to animating the juvenile. Focus today was on the table, where she jumps up, walks along and then jumps off. I discovered while animating that the sequence felt less jagged and jittery if the keyframes had room to breathe - expanding from a two-frame gap to a three-frame gap during the walking sequence appears to smooth out some of her animation.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Four: Weighting the Adult Fins

  Time was put aside today to work on the adult. All that needs doing so far is to get her fins working right.

  So far the current system has been to move control of the fins from the main body to another blendshape. Central controls that move the entire fin have been installed and the skin has been weighted so that any twist to the fins will be provided by the rotation of the body.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Four: Walk Cycle Development

Progress is coming along coding Four's walk cycle. Most of the bugs have been ironed out of a basic cycle that I might see about varying, the main good thing is she's coming to life. Finder details like her facial expressions will be something for later on when the bulk of the animations are down.

Indeed perhaps her tentacles could do with a bit of a bounce to them to make them appear flexible.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Four: Art Of Draft Page

I have started animating (more will some), basics but mindful of time I looked into creating a first draft master spread for the Art Of document.

The idea I have had discussed is that the Art Of resembles a dossier, a document on Four herself and the research on her, so I went with the idea of going for something that looked somewhat official. The stress David feels as the story progresses would manifest in this document as more hastily-constructed pages with more post-it notes, tilted images to reflect the pressure he is under.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Four: Juvenile On Display

  The adult is almost ready for her appearance in the pre-vis, while I worked on her I decided to create a quick turnaround for the juvenile state which textures aside is about finished. Lighting might take some playing around with as without an ambient occlusion node she appears quite dark but with some clever use of light-linking I am sure I can work around this as the model receives well-aimed directional lights very well. 

  I am quite happy with how the rig turned out. The controls around her eyes and for her tongue give some beautiful possibilities. I suppose while there is still some human-ness in her eyes, it works for her, that "glimmer of intelligence" as people say.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Four: Smithston Wessex Logos

Deciding on the font and logo image there was a slight thought. The central sphere is quite large and quite dominating so to offset the emptiness something was suggested as a 'spot' to draw the eye.


  While I was provided with a five-point start, I wondered about a four-point star. Which I choose (either 1 or 3), a more straightly-arranged star feels more appropriate. I have also considered shorthand formats featuring the company's initials. 
4                                                                                                                       5

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Four: Last Few Controls

  So far almost everything has been linked up. The last few elements required are the fins. As I found the IK control system quite handy, I decided that barring other suggestions I use that to make controlling the fins easier, as I had to get rid of a few controls for the old method when rebuilding the neck.

  There was some minor warping when I linked up the blendshapes to the model, but a loophole I found to reduce the severity was to reduce two of the shapes - one for the lips and around the eyes, one for the cheeks, are working at half-strength. While this does mean their controls need to be moved further for a better effect, it seems like a worthwhile compromise. 

The counter-roll for the spine's IK also works effectively. However since copying the rotation for the core joint overshoots the counter-rotation it might have to be controlled on a by-eye basis.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Four: Correction Sculpting Complete

  It's taking its time but the pose space corrections are about finished. The hard part was correcting the changes, now what remains are linking up the blendshapes above and creating splines for the tendrils on the head. Turning the head has proven tricky but I have a solution of tying the twist and/or roll parameters of the spine IKs into attributes on the body, allowing for easier correction when they twist the body out of shape.

  Some of the controls have already been tied in but not all. That is something I am currently working on. I may also need a new system for controlling the that I have fewer controls along the creature's spine.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Palace In The Mountains

  I find myself working on the same models for the past year now. In an attempt to refresh my mind for further work, I spent a couple of hours this weekend building something that has been on my mind for months now. Just something to change the pace for at least a brief moment.

  It came up during a visit to Rome but palaces, castles, fortresses, cities and the like forever fascinate me. These monuments and achievements in architecture are one of the things that drew me to a potential career in architecture and are perhaps one of the things that drew me to my current course in 3D animation.

  Most likely however this will be put off now until summer, as with the last two months come crunch time and pressure to get everything done. The model itself is satisfying even at this level and anything more (except maybe the bridge) and I might find myself getting lost in tiny details and minute adjustments.

  Still it was a nice exercise in design and architectural planning as I had found myself recently listening to video analyses of how realistic various fictional castles are and it is always nice to put fresh knowledge to good use. And served as a healthy break from pose correction.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Four: Presenting Play and A New Adult

Written into the script, one idea was for Four to knock over the phone as Amelia is talking. This scene should be more interesting than Four simply wandering into David's office and giving the camera puppy-eyes.

Anyone with a pet cat knows they love playing with inanimate objects by giving them pokes, jabs and pushes to see what they do or how they fall over. As a creature of predatory heritage, Four might have similar instincts so this might be entirely in-character for her.

Preparing for the third act I went back to the adult model. While installing the spine to simplify control over Four, a slight problem came out in that when installing a curve to a spine, the joints will contract to fit the CV curve, which would make reattaching the blendshapes problematic. The solution so far (which has given freedom in correcting the skeleton) has been to essentially fix the skeleton then rebind the skin and paint the weights back on. 

As I had done this before a couple of times now I might be able to re-paint the skin weights fairly promptly. That is the plan, as the deadline of mid-May is coming and I have to reserve a week or two for export to a render farm and post-processing.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Four: Pre-Vis Progress

I believe I am making good progress with creating the basic elements of my animation. There isn't much movement yet but my plan is to go over and create more refined movements after all the animation is in place and the recordings have been synchronised and sequenced. There might be a slight delay as I believe I have to rework the pose space corrections on the adult model. Hopefully this shouldn't take too long now that I have more familiarity with the system.

I had a feeling that what might help the scene is while Amelia is talking, the attention is on Four. At this point in the story, David might have shut her out and stopped talking, too enamored by the creature that hatched from the cocoon. She's offering him one last chance to communicate but Four has come to dominate his perception of life.

While Four does look pitch-black in the pre-vis, that's more of a side-effect of the mila shader as it is rendered in the workspace, where it renders a shade-colour version of the the top (quite dark) texture map, which would be the monochrome specularity. It am quite confident that it won't come out like that in polished renders.

To test out posing I created a small quick "tester" animation. Far from perfect but it does give me a few animations to start off with and a proof that the model for the juvenile functions reasonably smoothly.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Four: Animation Buildup

A rework of David's lines are in the works, for now I felt it was worth my time to continue the animation, and then re-synchronise the footage to the new lines once a full reading of the script comes back to me.

There was one benefit - while it looks like the movement of Four has errors, these gave me the opportunity to go back and make some corrections to the model, fixing a few errors (the bending of the neck turned out to be an off-zeroed curve, once the values were all reset the spine worked correctly) and attaching some of the finer controls.

Four's initial movements in the animation, that of just sliding round on the ice, will be the foundation. With the grub complete, I can add that one in to better ground the camera and its focus.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Four: Signing Off The Grub

  The grub is almost ready to sign off. Controls are in place and tied to their bones while a basic skin has been added, and a texture map is to be in the works. With time in mind, it is fair to say that I am ready to start animating with this model.

  What is slightly jarring that might be coming from the glossy reflection is the skin appears to be reflecting the body around it, something that I've noticed skin to not really do. Turning off the model's ability to be seen in reflections does appear to remove this mirror effect however this is likely to make the creature's  invisible in the reflections any of the chrome surfaces in the lab (such as the floor of its incubation unit).

  The grub, compared to the others, is quite a simple design. Only one key control is needed for opening and closing the mouth. I might need to devise some teeth to provide something for inside the mouth, although it might not be as easy to see as other 

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Four: Shaping the Grub

  Today the primary goal was to establish pose space corrections for the grub's model to allow for smoother animation. This was hampered slightly by a couple of design choices. Rather than being mirrored, the joints for the limbs and mouth were constructed through direct placement of joints on both sides. This turned out to be a hindrance as it meant I could not smoothly mirror the pose corrections. Movements on the Y and Z axes would be reversed on the other side so these poses had to be built manually.

  The process today took a little longer than I had hoped but it is almost complete and controls can be installed after that. The insectoid nature has a benefit that the face can be relatively immobile compared to later forms, though it seems I might have to build a set of teeth to go inside the mouth so there's something inside in case the camera catches a moment where the inside can be seen.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Four: Branding, Fonts and Scripts

  Taking a small break from modelling I took some time to try and refine the other elements of the project, particularly the art-of. For this, I needed a better logo for Smithston-Wessex.

  I'm still trying ot decide but I am leaning to the likes of 20, 22 and 11, but one thing I am definitely certain so far is the logo is better off without any text in the graphic. Logos need ot be simple ,but meaningful, something that can be drawn quickly or recognised at a glance so I kept the graphics bold and simple, but not too simple to be too generic. the list just needs some narrowing down.

  To accompany the logo I needed a suitably sci-fi title font. I looked on line for a few retro fonts (on the left) along with some that came with Windows (on the right). THe ones I like so far are 2, 4, 5, 9 and 12. Possibly 8, others like 6 are too horrid (the 'esse' section in 6 just blurs into one repeated letter due to the extreme stylisation).

The search for a new David continues. One thing the current voice helped with was that some of the lines David posessed were perhaps repeating themselves in some instances (such as David observing that the tubers ocntai nan egg, the moss providing nutrients that feed the egg as an embryo develops), while this might not have shortened the piece by any overall measure, I think it has halped improve the flow of the dialogue nonetheless, as there were a few moutgfuls that David was delivering.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Four: Something Grubby

  I started work on a grub form the Sunday after I returned from my break, today I made considerable progress on it, crafting the rest of the body, adding definition and then rigging and skinning. As it is quite a simple shape compared to the other forms, the skinning process did not take long.

Aside from the legs, already the grub is about ready for controls. Like with the juvenile, it will require a spline IK in the spine, as it is quite a flexible creature and attempts at bones serving two segments did not work out particularly well.

It might need pose space corrections to give solidity to the segments. So when the segments compress they push upwards for that fatty "squidgyness" the grub will have.

I have considered that it might be best if there would only be one grub due to time constraints, There's no drastic change for the two considered forms apart from maybe the grub getting fatter, which could be achieved either with a blendshape or controlling the scale of certain bones. Or the talk of scale mentioned in one scene could simply be represented by the camera looking at what is simply a bigger grub in the tank. David's shock could easily come from simply how gigantic a little bug like this gets - growing from 5-10cm to almost a metre across the months it is studied.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Four: A Return to Work and Development

Returning from a hiatus refreshed and ready to continue, I'm moving along with the essentials of the project. UV maps have been cleaned up and most importantly for the model, the walls and floor have been separated from each other.

  Together they felt too much like one combined structure, separating it out made it easier to define where they met. After a discussion that it might be inappropriate for Four to be raised in the same room as plants were studied, I set up a system that would effectively 'switch' between a plant lab and an animal biolab. To control the switch, a control was added over the room, in later stages this might be used to switch between the stages of progression. Multiple states would exist on one spot that can be set using this control.

  Separating out the walls, ceiling and floor also allowed me to develop cleaner geometries for these large surfaces. Much of the more dense geometry was due to the edges used to hold the geometry around windows and doorways in place. With these more separate, the layouts for the floors and ceilings could breathe more.

With the rooms set up and the distinctions made, I also set about reworking the camera to make better use of the new layout and serve as a foundation for what objects to place and where, and where in the lab might be seen. At present, only David's first recording and Amelia's first message have been matched to a camera but I'm sure more will quickly come over the coming week or so.