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.