The hardest challenge of this semester is admitting acceptance of the reality. For the team, and for myself personally, we have spent months dedicating our hearts and souls into a project that has seen us be pushed so far from our comfort zones, providing us with social challenges, as well as the technical ones.
The team worked their damn hardest to see this vision succeed, and each stage – from environmental design, to character creation, animating and rendering – presented difficulties that a team of three people, even with the assistance of our peers and tutors, could not overcome within the time that was given to us this semester.
The team is incredibly disheartened by the outcome that we have. Personally, I am proud of the work that we have achieved this semester. It is with a heavy heart that the video below is all that we have to present, as it does not reflect the copious amounts of work and dedication that was poured into this task. However, the execution is only part of the entire production, and it is the asset creation that reflects a true representation of the team’s passion and commitment.
The timing is a bit off here, so I have also included the 3D previs animatic/render hybrid so that you can get a better understanding for the pacing of the animation.
As it can be seen from the video featured above, the outcome is a frankenstein’isque production that includes a mixture of 2D and 3D animatic elements, playblasts, and rendered scenes. Despite the disappointment, there was some relief throughout the team at being able to produce some rendered shots so that we are able to provide a visual cue to what we had aimed to achieve.
Within the few weeks approaching the deadline, the team were faced with a lot of technical challenges as the animation process began. Once the models began to move, the faults began to present themselves through a series of different issues.
For Katie and Rachel, the bear – which after initial testing had appeared to function perfectly – began to deform in areas around the limbs, and the blend shapes that had been produced simultaneously to the weight painting could not be applied onto the mesh. Katie spent days attempting to correct the problem, but as we approached the last few hours before the deadline it was discovered that despite the numerous attempts to correct the issue, the blend shapes were still not working as expected. The team had to accept that there was nothing else that could be done at such a late stage, as there were other priorities that required our immediate attention. Knowing how many hours had been spent trying to correct the blend shapes, only to discover such a frustration fault, was very disheartening for Katie. I felt for them, as we had both spent days working into the small hours to produce facial expressions for the characters.
As mentioned above, blend shapes had also become the last minute challenge to tackle for me as well. To quote Tony Stark when he was questioned about becoming an expert in thermonuclear astrophysics, it was definitely a, “last night” (2012) situation. During their animation process, both Anna and Charlie had discovered some little flaws with the boy rig that Scott had very promptly corrected. However, the original blend shapes that he had created somehow had disappeared during the correction period. As it was close to the deadline, and Scott had his own personal work that required attention, it was my task to create some fresh expressions for the boy instead. I talk about that in more detail in my post, here.
After much prompting, we were provided with the therapist room file on December 23rd. Contained within that file was a lot of time consuming issues, such as floating geometry, incomplete UV mapping and lighting issues. Rachel took on the responsibility of correcting these problems and performing render tests to examine the visual presentation, which reduced the time that she had available to make adjustments to the environment based on the feedback received during the end of term presentations on December 16th. Unfortunately, things were still being adjusted within the final hours approaching the deadline as a result of the additional tasks that had been presented to the team.
Other, smaller incidents closer towards the deadline also contributed to the lack of a fully rendered, completed outcome. Within the past two weeks, we were grateful to receive the help of fellow students – Anna McCraith and Charlie Maxwell – to assist with animation scenes. The work that they created for us was fantastic, but unfortunately, due to some technical issues, we were unable to import Anna’s work within the forest environment to complete some renders in time for the deadline. Whilst the task of additional member management was dedicated to me, the responsibility meant that I would do whatever possible to correct and fix issues that were occurring for them. As a result, I was unable to achieve any progress in sound design for the deadline, which is why no soundtrack is featured in the video shown above.
The positive experience for the team was that, with the help and support of others, we were finally able to produce a few renders that illustrated our project close to what we had originally imagined. Whilst a fully animated piece was no longer achievable, we were delighted to present a few short second clips.
(Shown above, still images taken from the rendered shots.)
Whilst a finished animation did not come into fruition as an outcome of the project, the team did gain some positive experiences through the process of innovation and risk taking. The situation occurred as a result of ambitious plans, without the technical ability to produce them within such a short time frame. However, the stress and desire to create something meaningful were the driving motivator for each of us to learn new skills in order to achieve that outcome, which is clearly evident on the production side of the project.
Ultimately, we failed to reach our intended goal in time for the deadline. Does that mean that the entire project was a failure? In my personal opinion, I would have to respectfully disagree with that suggestion. Whilst we did not complete a full-length feature animation, we worked as hard as possible towards that goal, and have acquired a plethora of new skills and abilities along the way. The unfortunate reality is that not only was the project hindered by our lack of technical knowledge and ability, but the social element was a very significant barrier that impacted the entire team more substantially than first realised. Reviewing the outcome, I do not feel that the team could have taken any alternative action that would have brought us closer towards our goal. We had made various plans and revisions that should have enabled us to produce an animation, but the progress was hindered by exterior issues impacting the production schedule.
Reviewing the outcome, I do not feel that the team could have taken any alternative action that would have brought us closer towards our goal. We had made various plans and revisions that should have enabled us to produce an animation, but the progress was hindered by exterior issues impacting the production schedule.
If we were to start the semester over, knowing the information that had occurred throughout the past few months, I feel that the very nature of the project would likely have been directed away from an animation heavy project. Neither Katie, Rachel or myself were keen on specialising in animation, but it was the diplomatic choice that stirred us away from our desire to create something targetted closer towards narrative games. Honest communication was strongly encouraged throughout this project, and a lot of uncomfortable conversations occurred between all members of the team – but it was this honesty that enabled us to struggle through the difficult times to work for as hard and as long as we did, facing emotional humiliation, frustration, bullying, and mental health issues. I am proud of my fellow team members – Katie and Rachel – for committing to the project, even until the final hours, despite the inevitability that we would not achieve our goal. In a technical sense, I feel that the nature of our animation severely reduced the freedom we had to the control of length, and tone of the piece.
In a technical sense, I feel that the nature of our animation severely reduced the freedom we had to the control of length, and tone of the piece. We wanted to present a convincing relationship between a boy and his bear, through which the process of child therapy could be communicated in a method which had not been produced before. The topic was a serious one, which demanded that the visual and narrative style reflect that. Whilst we could have made the decision to produce something lighthearted and entertaining, the team decided that they wanted to use the tools available to create an outcome that meant so much more – in that sense, I do not feel that we would have made a different decision. It was the desire to help that encouraged us to proceed down the path which guided us to here, and despite our achievements, we hope that the genuineness of our intentions are communicated within the work that we have managed to produce. It is disheartening to accept that the project will never be what we had envisioned, but that is an unfortunate consequence of taking risks and following our ambition until the very end.
The avengers assemble. (2012). [DVD] United States: Joss Whedon.