Final Year · Major Project · Semester Two

Introducing Pethood: Zara’s Story

 

Zara's Story Poster
‘Pethood: Zara’s Story.’ – Poster design by Jess Campbell

 

After a semester of intensive effort, ‘Pethood: Zara’s Story’ is finished – a declaration of the hard work the team has committed to creating an animated documentary. Whilst there are some minor ‘cosmetic’ issues that need to be rectified prior to the end of year show on June 2nd, I am delighted to finally see the fruits of our labour combine together to achieve such a fantastic result.

Figure 1.1 – Shown above, some stills from ‘Pethood: Zara’s Story.’ 

Whilst our film has only just been completed, we have been aware from the offset that our narrative and intentional output would be effective, due to the opportunities that we have had to user-test it in focus groups – both with our peers during our bi-monthly presentations, and at other times such as when external visitors have attended the campus.

Figure 1.2 – Shown above, just one of the opportunities that we have had to showcase our animatic and receive feedback.

We were opportunistic in some respects, such as when the vice-chancellor James Nesbitt attended the campus to host a talk on animation (and discussed his experience on the Hobbit – bonus!). After the formalities had been completed, the team set up our make-shift display on the hub tables and invited some of the pupils from the visiting school to talk to us about the course, and to let them see what our current project was about.

The setting was challenging  – noise levels were high, the space was packed, and due to the open plan nature of the hub, we were at a disadvantage for broadcasting the animatic. However, even with the less-than-optimal setup (seen in Figure 1.2), the story still communicated coherently; even if the audience could not hear the audiotrack.  In contrast with the feedback that Charlie had received regarding ‘Urban Myths’ – if it works as a radio play, it works as a story – ‘Pethood’ succeeds because the audience can follow the story without the need for audio cues. The narration is an additional quality that changes the premise of our piece from an animated short, to an animated documentary. The interview enhances the human element of the story, which makes it personable – as a result,  it evokes such a potent response of empathy and reflection from the audience.

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Figure 1.3 – Shown above, the emotion graph that Ryan created to exhibit the key points of responsive timing in relation to duration. 

 

The emotion was one of the greatest challenges for this project; the intention of acquiring a response from the audience is the primary incentive, but during the production stages it was often easy to forget that this story means something significant to Jess. At times, she found herself overwhelmed with by the strength of her love and bereavement of Zara. In my dissertation, I spoke about the role of art as a form of treatment in situations of loss, diagnosis and difficulties. One particular quote stood out to me;

“Once once takes the brush in hand, a calm descends, a concentration ensues, which makes the ‘listening’ possible” (Winnicott, 1971, p55.)

Everyone on the team has lost their pet at some stage in their lifetime – for myself, it was my Yorkshire terrier Whiskey. For Ryan, Lady, and For Katie, Paddy. The experiences were incredibly tough; working on this project has brought those memories back with full emotion, just as it had for Jess. It is the relatability of the experience that ensures its success – whilst the story itself is personal to her and her family, there are elements that resound within all of us who have had our lives enriched by the companionship of an animal. It is my hope that the experience of working on this project proved to be therapeutic for all of my team members and provided an opportunity to reflect on the happy memories, rather remain concealed beneath the sadness of loss.

The average life expectancy of a dog is roughly between 7-10 years; a minor time in the duration of a human, but for that animal,  their family is their entire existence. The statement is potent; a thought is often overseen in a society with tendencies for conceited behaviour. Pethood invites the audience to observe these experiences from another’s perspective – hope that they may be able to see something with a fresh eye and encourage them to think from a different perception.

Figure 1.4 – Shown above, the animated documentary, ‘Pethood: Zara’s Story.’ 

Pethood is more than a documentary; it is a platform for discussion, expression and exploration, voiced through the events of Zara’s Story.


Bibliography:

Winnet, D. W. (1971). Playing and reality. New York: Basic Books, 55.

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Design, Presentation and Report · Final Year · Major Project · Semester Two

End of Year Portfolio: How We Got to the Finish Line, Committee Efforts and other Acts of Self-Development

It has been a long semester, but at last, the end is here. I hadn’t expected quite so much work that would be involved in gathering materials together and creating a personal brand through which we take our first steps out from student life, into the world of industry employment.

In addition to the physical requirements for the end of year show, I have created a folder of assets to prepare for interviews, and to plug my skills and talents on platforms such as social media, and at networking events. It eclipses a similar task from second year – However, this time we had the added requirement of creating business cards for distribution and the challenge of arranging for our degree show display.

Prior to beginning these tasks, I decided to narrow down my personal branding so that each piece that I created has continuity, and can be easily identified in relation to myself. Within the past year, I have been using a logo that is in the shape of a crescent moon – with a star dangling from one of the edges as if on a fishing line. Whilst I loved the concept at the time,  it feels a bit too impersonal and ‘blah’.  I felt that it struggled to communicate ‘me’  – so rather than accept the design and use it for my materials, I decided to revisit the logo and brainstorm some concepts of how to improve.

Logo
Figure 1.1 – Shown above, the logo that I have been using for the past year or so.

Below is an image of the opening shot from my showreel, featuring the revised logo. I have made the shape chunkier and included the additional decal of a rose within the shape to represent my name. I feel that this is a more appropriate choice for me, my particular type of artistic technique prefers inclusion of detail rather than the stripped, minimalistic style.

Showreel 2017

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Figure 1.2 – Shown above, the black and white version of the branding that was featured on my business card. I wanted to have continuity across the portfolio work that would be viewed by the public.

My showreel was created as an opportunity to demonstrate my 3D generalist skills, in addition to my specialisation in layout, illustration and comics. The medium is not entirely appropriate given that the majority of my work is illustrative and two-dimensional, but that was compensated by camera movements that enabled flat paintings to be given a sense of movement through effects such as kens blur and panning.

Figure 1.3 – Shown above, my showreel for the degree show presentations. 

Portfolio Booklet

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Figure 1.4 – Shown above, the layout for the portfolio booklet that I have ordered in preparation for the end of year show. 

In addition to the showreel, the decision was made to combine my work into a 4×6 soft leather portfolio to place on the desk for the duration of the show, allowing visitors to browse through my work and receive some context to the images that are on my board. Unfortunately, the booklet itself will not be ready before Thursday 1st June at the earliest, so I have taken the liberty of printing out two A3 images with the sequence layout of the book.

Business Cards

Figure 1.5 – Shown above, the finalised design for my business cards. 

The business cards were perhaps the most challenging element of show preparation, as I had struggled for weeks to create an interesting design that communicated my aesthetic, without being over dramatic. After a range of different rough designs, I finally settled on the style shown in figure 1.5. I elected to use portrait rather than landscape for my card. At this current moment in time, I believe that I am the only one in the class to do so.

The style itself is contradictory – the back side is very busy with the illustration of Luna, my celestial character, in her royal gown. The front side is by contract pure white, with a minuscule use of gold to tie the two sides of the card together. I had used the business cards from last year as a reference during the design process – identifying elements which I liked and disliked about each card. The use of gold was intended originally to be created in gold foil. However, the logistics of implementing that within such a complex design would take too much time, as I required them for the 19th of May.

Figure 1.6 – Shown above, the sketched designs that I had in mind for the business card before settling for the finalised concept. 

CV

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Figure 1.7 – Shown above, the revised CV for Animate17 Show.

Originally the CV that I had prepared for this module consisted of two pages and contained slightly more detailed information than the one displayed in figure 1.7 – it had been prepared after conducting research into successful CV layouts and information (the notes of which may be found in my green notebook). However, the team decided that we should have size A4 plastic displays to contain our documents, which would then sit out on the table for the duration of the show. In result of that, I was required to reformat my own so that it could all fit on the one page.

Unlike my teammates, I felt uncomfortable trying to assess my experience using software. I did not wish to claim that I had four out of five-star proficiency in Photoshop, for example, only to be hired and realise that I knew less than first thought. Instead, it seemed like an appropriate choice to list how long that I have been using the software – that way, employers who are familiar with the packages may have an easier time gauging my experience.

Cover Letter 

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Figure 1.8 – Shown above, my cover letter to a fictional comic publishing company.

The cover letter was the most difficult writing task, as they are often addressed specifically to one company rather than applying to universal establishments. I decided to write the cover letter as if I were approaching a fictional company with the hope that they may have employment vacancies available, and demonstrate why I believe that I would be a great contribution to their company workforce – especially within a comic pipeline.

Website 

Figure 1.9 – A comparison between my website from second year (left) to the one I designed recently (right). 

I gained a lot of insight since the last time that I had to design a website, and I feel that my tastes have matured from that period in time also. The previous website was very dark, gloomy and, in my personal opinion, gave a rather masculine impression. Now with my current website (right), I elected to include the bare minimum of text and remove any other unnecessary features. The grey is clean but not as aggressive for visual stress, and the black text works in context with the tonal headshot. I feel that the website is now more welcoming and less aggressive towards the visitor – especially with the improved navigation and spaced interface.

End of Year Show Presentation 

Figure 2.0  – Shown above, fundraising events that we held in order to raise the money for much-needed essentials for the show.

To prepare for the end of year show, the degree show committee decided that it would be best to try and run some fundraising events to gather income to source boards (this was prior to us discovering that the tutors simply had to go to the department and request them for the class), as well as additional supplies such as paint and cleaning supplies to spruce up the room.

Figure 2.0 – Shown above, the tickets for the screening of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ that I created as proof that someone had spent the money to come to the event. 

The event of a book and bun sale was first suggested by Charlie Maxwell. That concept then developed to a screening of Guardians of the Galaxy in the Conor Lecture Theatre, the day before the release of the sequel. To drum up attention for the event, I donated two Funko Pops, a selection of comics and a cassette shaped necklace towards the raffle. Katie decided to donate a few of their own GotG related merchandise so that we would have additional prizes to give away.

The entire degree show committee volunteered on shifts to help run the bake sale, including myself. In total, I believe that we managed to raise over £500 towards the costs for the show, which is fantastic – hopefully, we can be a little bit creative with this money to design something unique for us.

Figure 2.1  – Shown above, the space in Carl Jr once the tables and chairs were removed in preparation for the boards to be installed. 

As the deadline grew closer and the first years completed their hand-in, Carl Jr was given to us in order to start preparing for the show. Over the weekend of the 13th and 14th of May, the majority of the degree show committee and class joined together over a two-day clearing spree – brushing up dust, painting down walls and polishing surfaces that appeared to have not been cleaned in nearly a year.

Figure 2.2 – Shown above, the space that my team intends to occupy for the end of year show. The diagram on the left was created by Niamh Cunningham and Hannah Turkington, which illustrates where each team is in correlation to one another. 

The process was long and time-consuming, but the room really started to polish once we mended the walls with a fresh coat of white and scrubbed everything else down. The boards arrived on Monday, and were quickly slotted into place. Compared to the set-up that the year before us had, the room looks like an entirely different space.

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Figure 2.3 – Shown above, an image that Tyrone had found during his research period into gallery exhibitions. It encapsulates the vision of a home location, with photo frames misaligned on the wall – connected together by one central flow in the middle of the space.  

The image in figure 2.3 was sourced by Tyrone as part of his research into gallery displays. It took the team some adjustment period to visualise the layout before it was decided that this was the look we intended to go with, as it demonstrated strong ties to the presentation format of the photo frames.

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Figure 2.4 – Shown above, the living room environment of Walter Perejoy’s painting for 101 Dalmatians. The asymmetrical layout of the photo frames was the original source of inspiration behind our display placement.

Below is the finalised display that the team worked collaboratively to organise. The project work is featured in a long line across the middle of the boards, with personal work rising above that line. The items are placed together with intricate lines between all Pethood related material, bleeding across the boards as a show of unison between us all.

Figure  2.5 – Shown above, the Casa Del Doggo space for the end of year show. 

The images in figure 2.6 demonstrate my dedicated space within the team lineup. Each one of us has a desktop and our business cards to the left, headshots contained within a frame in the middle, and a plastic display presenting our CV to the right. Additionally, each team member has a short bio placed before each of their headshots, in addition to any extra materials. I have placed two A3 sized images with the layout of my portfolio book by the front of my desk as a stand-in until it is printed for the 1st of June.

Figure 2.6 – Shown above, my personal space within the Animate17 show. 

Given how quickly the deadline seemed to creep up within the past couple weeks, I did not expect to be so thrilled with the outcome of the show. It seemed like a very touch-and-go process at times, but seeing it all come together looks fantastic. I think our team has managed to achieve a great balance between each person having their individual touches, yet maintaining a form of consistency across each display. Now that the final touches have been completed, it is a matter of keeping things clean and preparing to give the room one last scrub before the show opens to the public on Friday, 2nd of June.

ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTIONS 

The Degree Show Committee

Figure 2.7 – Shown above, Katie and I during our visit to Excite to seek solutions to the lack of boards. 

Alongside the other events and activities that I have participated in, I was also an active part of the degree show committee. I joined the group because I felt that it was important for both myself and my team to have a voice in the outcome of the show, since our work, and therefore the impression of us, would be subject to the success or failure of the execution.

With the issue of the boards not yet resolved, Katie had approached their dad to voice their concerns over the lack of progress in attaining a vital asset for the display of our work. To our benefit, their father once worked with a company who specialised in shell display boards and exhibitions – and arranged a meeting for Katie and I, along with another member of the degree show committee, to attend their facilities in Lisburn and discuss what we might requirements the class may need in order to host the show.

Unfortunately, another member of the committee had to back out of the meeting due to work commitments, so on the day it was just Katie, their father and I as we travelled towards the complex and met with Colin – who sat with us as I conversed about the topics and concerns expressed within the recent degree committee meetings. We spend roughly around two hours in total going over all the potential options before working out the most logistic layout, which is featured above in figure 2.7. That way, each person in the class would have their own dedicated board to display their work, and everything would be distributed equally amongst one another.

Figure 2.8 – Shown above, are some of the layout suggestions that I had created for the degree show. 

In a similar fashion to the way most of my suggestions for the degree show has gone, once I arrived at the meeting and caught everyone up to date on how the meeting went – I was quickly outvoted by the rest of the committee, with the comment that it would be easier and more convenient just to use the boards that had been located on campus for us to utilised. Unfortunately, throughout the five or so individual meetings where I have suggested options – be that decoration, layout or assets, they have not been successful.  The exception is the concept of putting the posters in a black frame, and hang them up in sequence along the wall, and the bulk buying of necessary items such as business card holders to cut down on individuals’ costs.

Edge Award

Figure 2.9 – Shown above, the Edge Award application submission. 

An employable benefit that I had not considered was the Ulster Edge Award, as I had suspected myself to be ineligible to apply for it due to not meeting the criteria of achieving four of the necessary tasks during my university career – However, a recent review of my documents indicated that I only had to apply for one more workshop in order to acquire the award – completing the steps to graduate CV.  I completed the workshop within a few days of being enrolled onto the programme, and have since submitted my application for the award. If everything goes to plan, I should receive the award

 I completed the workshop within a few days of being enrolled onto the programme, and have since submitted my application for the award. If everything goes to plan, I should receive the award on the day of graduation. The benefit of having this award is that it is recognised by the majority of employers as an example of extra-curricular activities and engagement; which could potentially mean the difference between acquiring or losing a job opportunity.

Life Drawing

Figure 3.0 – Shown above, some of the drawings that I have created as part of the life drawing workshops with Mike Bass. 

In addition to pushing ourselves to become more employable, I wanted to use this semester as an opportunity of self-development.  I wished to improve my technical abilities and gain a better understanding of the human form as it would be considered vital skills for my career prospects as a freelance/comic artist. I felt that during the four weeks that the programme ran, I could see an improvement in my ability to capture form and shape with increasing ease and accuracy. Unfortunately, once classes continued post-Easter, the demand of attending these classes became too difficult to manage in addition to the mountain of work that was still required in order to complete the animated documentary in time for the hand-in. It is hoped that once the excitement of graduation has passed, I may be able to commit myself to a long-term programme; that is when I expect to see the drastic improvements.

Final Year · Major Project · Semester Two

Creating the Parallax: Research, Rationality and Implementation

For our introduction to the animated documentary, the team wanted to create an opening that would offer the audience a unique element of visual approach to that of the rest of the piece. In our animation, there were five fully rendered environments to plan and design, in addition to the partially constructed elements such as the doorway that is featured in figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1 – Shown above, Jess’s paintover of the doorway scene on the left, and her render on the right. The doorway was subject to experimentation in the earlier stage of the project and was one of the first pieces of three-dimensional development.

It was whilst in a team meeting that the concept of a parallax had first been addressed – the process would enable us to exploit the illustrative, expressive style of the animation visuals whilst complementing the format of storytelling, and as a tribute to the key source of inspiration, Walt Peregoy.

Pragmatically, the decision to create our opening scene using alpha planes and a multi-camera style approach would allow the team to be ambitious with the narrative. In the audio, there is a period of time from 0:19 to 0:29 in which we have no descriptive information, only background noise that was captured from the interview.  It is during that timeframe that the parallax would occur.

In addition to that ten seconds, there is an opportunity to extend it that bit further and acquire another five seconds so that there is sufficient time for the audience to become immersed within the story – if the pacing is too fast, the animation may lose its captivation. Timing was going to be one of the elements that would present itself as a challenge for this method of visual presentation.

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Figure 1.2 – Shown above, the full rendition of the parallax landscape. It demonstrates the transition from Newcastle, to Kilkeel, before the pan finishes on the image of pupper mountain. 

Shown in figure 1.2 is the landscape that I quickly roughed up for the purposes of exploring multiplane camera techniques within the Maya interface. I used images that Ryan and Jess had gathered during their time in Newcastle to conduct the interview, and some images of Kilkeel captured by others. Whilst I was familiar with the location, I wanted to get a better impression of the environment and village characteristics that accentuate their charm.

Figure 1.3 – Shown above, some stills captured from the footage that Jess and Ryan took of the road into Newcastle, and the Mourne Mountains backdrop.

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(A view of Kilkeel harbour and fishing fleet taken in 2002., 2002)

Figure 1.4 – Shown above, a selection of the images that I referred to during the design for the parallax environment. 

Key aspects of appeal were the seafront and Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle, and the prestigious fishing and boating community of Kilkeel. I felt that accentuating those elements within the scene would provide a subtle context to the audience, and create depth that alludes to the perception of gentleness and serenity that Attracta, Jess’s grandmother, communicates through her tone of speech and her exterior decorum.

I referred to these images when creating assets for the parallax, exploiting creative liberties to stylise them appropriately. The approach was first tested in early March, a few weeks previous to the visual style to be fully established – that is why the sketchy style feels disconnected from the work that we have been exhibiting recently. However, in spite of this, the ‘sketchy’ lined approach has a particular appeal, which is what ultimately persuaded the team to agree to it.

Figure 1.5 – Shown above, the stills are taken from the parallax render test which demonstrates the result of applying lined, transparent images onto planes and layering them over one another before introducing a panning camera into the scene

In total, the test mutli-plane amounted to roughly sixty different individual frames that required placement and adjustment in order to achieve the result, which can be viewed in figure 1.6. The individual frames were challenging to export as their own separate layer, despite the option to do so in Adobe Photoshop. Although I talk about this issue in greater detail in my notebook, it must be noted that the solution was to separately save each asset one-by-one, which was agonisingly long for an expectedly simple process.

Figure 1.6 – Shown above, the parallax video in practice. This playblast demonstrates the concept that I had regarding the environment, and how it would move amongst one another to give the impression of a ‘constructed’ memory. 

The purpose of the parallax had two objectives – one was a pragmatic choice. The use of alpha-planes would spare the team time and energy that would have otherwise been restricted towards creating these assets through the usual method of model – uv unwrap – texture. Taking into consideration how quickly each member of the team works, and their delegated tasks in other areas of the production pipeline, not doing so has saved us over a week of production time that can be spent on the more important tasks, such as rigging and character animation.

The second choice was driven by psychological reasoning – the construction of a memory. According to research conducted by Jesseril Surianwinata (n.d.), there is a discussion regarding the reliability of the human mind, and how that which is perceived may be influenced by aspects such as schemas.

A schema, as discussed in a recent conversation with a psychologist (Davies, 2016), is an external belief that influences the way that we absorb and process information. Whilst everyone in the population implements this form of cognitive behaviour in some method or another, it must be noted that schemas may change vastly from one end of the spectrum to the other. As Surianwinata describes, memories have the potential to be reliable if they are in some form connected to an active schema. In contrast, a negative schema has the power to influence the encoding and retrieval of that memory.

In Attracta’s account of the family acquiring Zara, she hesitates in her action of remembrance. Reviewing her interview, and the pacing and tone through which she speaks, the bittersweet ring in her voice is likely influenced by this notion. Whilst it is a positive memory and one that played a significant role in their lives for the foreseen future, the sadness is still evident. This is a behavioural trait that can be linked to a hypothesis of reconstruction that was first experimented by Loftus and Palmer (1974) regarding transport destruction.  Whilst the context of the study and the animated documentary are entirely different, the question is identical – does the language of the interview influence Attracta’s account of the experience of pet ownership?

It is to be believed that Attracta understood why she was being interviewed and that the inevitable topic of Zara’s demise would occur at some point during the proceedings. A person may suggest that interviews contain their own language which is designed in such a way to evoke an emotional response from their candidate. The concern is that Attracta’s hesitancy and difficulty in recalling events at the beginning of the interview may be caused by more than the perceived fear of unfamiliarity with the clause of being interviewed.

The predicament provided an interesting challenge – how do you make an environment that the candidate resides in, one that they are extremely familiar with,  allude to the impression of hesitancy? How do we present the concept of memory as an unreliable source, yet so clear and concise in our conscious?

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Figure 1.7 – Shown Above, the original concept that I considered for the introduction to the animated documentary, and transition into the environment parallax.

The answer is trial and error – the initial structure of the parallax and the locations involved had luckily been addressed in the experiment. The next stage was polishing the work and reinforcing the concept of the objectives.

This presented itself through the evolution of decisions that have been made during the production stages of the parallax. The original concept, as shown in figure 1.7, was for the implementation of two-dimensional animation as unidentifiable feet cross into the frame, then walking the width from left to right before transitioning into the outline of a vehicle. This would be at which point a simplified, lined version of the country road scene would slip into the shot (as demonstrated in figure 1.8), before finally proceeding through the landscape of Newcastle and Kilkeel.

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Figure 1.8 – Shown above, the original concept of the parallax image which would have featured a two-dimensional animation of feet approaching a vehicle before the travel commenced. Due to time restraints, this sequence was removed.

The process was not without difficulty, nor faults. Once again, I followed the same procedure that I had implemented for the parallax experiment a few weeks prior – individual assets in their own layers, then applied to an alpha plane. The task proved more demanding now that we were rendering in Arnold; my previous method of applying lambert to plane and being able to view the effect was now not sustainable. In addition, the process resulted in duplicate planes being created for the lines, enabling the colour to remain in its isolated plane, as well as the alphas for each asset. The process was incredibly tedious, and consumed more time than I had originally scheduled. An example of a number of versions required is illustrated below, in figure 1.9.

Figure 1.9 – Shown above, the process that each asset within the parallax folder required in order to operate accordingly once plugged into an alpha plane. 

In addition to being a meticulous process, the alpha planes were not without faulty presentation. In figure 2.0,  the issues that occurred during the apply – render – adjust – render methodology are distinctly evident. In Arnold renderview port, the planes presented themselves as a very dulled version of the vibrancy and depth. Additionally, other frames were presenting themselves as solid black spaces in spite of the fact that the textures had been applied in the exact same process as those that are demonstrated to have worked. Furthermore, adjusting the render settings to try and discover the issue addressed showed that other settings were causing textures to appear white-washed and bleached, almost as if they had been exposed to sunlight. The skydome light that was within the scene had a set intensity of below 2.0, the standard to which the rest of the scenes within the documentary have been rendered. Frustratingly, the technical faults delayed the process of completing the parallax and rendering the entire sequence and due to the proximity to the deadline, this was an unexpected nightmare.

Figure 2.0 – Shown above, some of the technical malfunctions that occurred during the process of setting up the parallax in Autodesk Maya. 

Presenting the piece so far to the team and informing them of the difficulties that were occurring led Katie (thank you!) to remind me of a comment from a time when the parallax experimentation was presented for feedback – the fewer layers, the less mess of trying to implement the technique. It was then that I realised that my current process was unsuitable and that if I proceeded the way that I had spent the past few long days fighting over fidgety details, I would be putting myself and my team in a very difficult position.

I felt that it was important to revisit the information that was gained during the research stage for the first experimentation; investigating mutli-plane camera set-ups. The technical difficulties were distracting me from achieving the intended purpose of exploring the parallax technique, and as a result that I was not witnessing a benefit from adapting this process in comparison to placing a flat image within the scene and animating a panning camera.

In my research, I discovered a video-based short media study that discussed the origins of the multi-plane storytelling approach in ‘The Adventures of Prince Achmed’ (1926), in which the story processed through a series of silhouettes that created the illusion of a character. The film featured a number of influential Avant-Garde artists, due to the unusual approach to storytelling that the director explored for the premise. In a similar fashion to the German Expressionist art movement, it was to be expected that the West would adapt the technique once artists immigrated;  a result of the economic and social factors within the country at that time.

The most known use of the multi-plane technique was featured in productions from the Walt Disney ‘Mouse House’. The first appearance occurred during a sequence in Bambi (1942), implemented as an iconic woodland scene in which the character resides.  The technique continued to be used into the 1990s, most notably in the pride rock scene from ‘The Lion King’ (1994).

Figure 2.1 – Shown above – Disney In Honesty (2016) – the short video study on the multiplane effect. 

In the video featured in 2.1, the main prerogative of the parallax process is stated – immersing the audience within an environment. The primary objective is to create the impression of depth, as this enables the audience to understand the visuals as a mimic of natural form. In similar frustration to the fact that people look very different in photographs as opposed to real life, the environment can also fall victim to the focal length of a camera lens.

Depth invites curiosity, as the audience may find themselves captivated by the different elements that move on alternative timings and pace. The impact of a layered setting has the potential to make the audience feel like a voyeur within a private moment.

Whilst that may appear as a negativity, it is my intention to create this impression. The interview with Attracta is a very personal reflection; a result of an invasive process. The audience should not immediately sink within the piece – instead, they should be held at a personal distance. It is only once puppy Zara interacts with the camera (and by extension, the audience) that full immersion may occur – peak too early, and the integrity of the piece could be compromised.

Figure 1.9 contains what was present in the finalised version prior to being rendered.

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Figure 2.2 – Shown above, the completed (flattened) illustration of the parallax.

Similarly, maintaining a balance between audience interaction and artistic exhibition, compromises had to be made during the production stages. In response to the feedback that I had received (and forgotten about!) regarding the reduction in the layers,  I revisited the approach entirely.

The photoshop document containing the individual assets was now the source file from which I would take the individual assets, and compile them together to create four different layers – a background, a midground, a centre, and a foreground. The centre layer – the road that cuts through the entire scene – was isolated with the intention of creating a depth of field, but after reviewing this with the rest of the team it was decided that doing such an action would negatively impact our production schedule and the resulting payoff would not be worth the pressure.

In figure 2.2 the entire landscape of the parallax can be reviewed. The scene was adapted in order to confine to the time restrictions and optimise the scene for rendering. The scene does feel less engaging than the one that was created for the experiment, but after witnessing how crammed the effect had at particular points in the timeline, I feel that this decision will lead to improvement in the natural flow and procession of the landscape.

The difficulty with the transition was the flow into ‘pupper mountain’, as it is the pivotal point where the medium of storytelling changes. To ensure smooth flow, it was a constant cycle of movement  – camera – render – adjustment. The hills contain a solid colour, whereas the pups have a mixture of cream toned fur with brown patches, which was an added element of difficulty within the piece. In response to this, I have placed the background layer (featuring the hills) behind the pile, and the foreground layer (with a blanket and hill) closest to the camera. This effectively encased the puppies within the environment, and from what could be witnessed by scrubbing through the Arnold renderview, appears to have been successful, reinforcing the concept of the mountain becoming integrated within the landscape.

Figure 2.2 – Shown above, some stills from the test render in order to check the effectiveness of the technique. 

Figure 2.2 illustrates the first test with the four layer process. The stills demonstrate that the colour and lineart are now working effectively – much to my relief, as previous attempts of layering the colour and line separately provided to produce less than satisfactory results (Figure 2.3). Unfortunately I was an idiot who rendered in .exe files, and as a result, cannot compile the images together for an accurate playback. However, scrolling down the individual images in quick succession gave the impression of how it looked, which gave me some ideas for adjustment. I could see that whilst everything was working as intended, the benefit of the multi-plane camera was not being utilised as effectively and the image seemed rather flat. It was lacking that unreliable and constructed, jigsaw-esque quality that had made the technique appealing.

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 23.34.39
Figure 2.3 – shown above, a rendered example of how the parallax looked at an earlier stage when the lineart and coloured underlay were on individual layers.

With this knowledge, I returned to the Maya scene in order to plan the adjustment. The stationary positions of the layers worked rather well with the camera, as everything appeared on screen as expected and there was no evidence of malfunction within the scene. In that respect, the layers were in an optimal state for some subtle panning animations to be implemented onto the scenery. The background panel received the least bit of animation; panning to the left as the camera arrives on the image of ‘pupper mountain.’ The middle ground and road received the most editing, with panning animation occurring in both the left and right direction. The foreground, with its close proximity to the camera lens, was more subtle to give the illusion that assets were moving at different speeds; an example that had been predicated in Bambi (1942) to achieve that depth within the landscape.

The unfortunate drawback with Arnold rendering and AIstandard materials is that within the user interface, the alpha-planes are a distorted mess. Whilst the Arnold renderview port permits some form of preview, the full formation of the piece is never cohesively clear until a render is completed.

Figure 2.4 – Shown above, the introduction to Pethood, featuring the Parallax and transition. 

Figure 2.4 is the completed render for the introduction sequence to Pethood. Whilst there are some adjustments to the animated pacing that I would love to have made, I feel that the piece is entirely sufficient for the purpose of the hand-in. My intention is to return to the piece post-deadline, and make changes to the timing in preparation for the final year show.

In spite of those small amendments, I am pretty delighted with the outcome. The result achieved my intentions, and in my personal opinion, evokes the psychological reconstruction that I have discussed in my research. The challenge for the piece was executing the concept that Attracta, despite living and being familiar with the area, would have difficulty with immediately recalling the memory. The use of colour within the sequence introduces vibrancy, which was intended as an expression of happiness and good connotations; it illustrates to familiarity within uncertainty. The movement of the panels was to signify the process of cognitive memory as the experience is brought back to the forefront of Attracta’s mind – this construct approach representing the secondary details that tend to resurface after the primary focus; Zara, in this case, changes those visuals significantly.

It is my personal belief that the representation of cognitive thought was greatly suited by the parallax because of that evolution. The animated documentary has three significant forms of media; live action, two-dimensional illustration, and the three-dimensional environment. The flow of the story is not only driven by the narrative given by Attracta, but also by the changes within the medium of choice. The further the audience is separated from the live action footage, the less the story focuses on the human perception of the piece; it becomes Zara’s story.


Bibliography:

A view of Kilkeel harbour and fishing fleet taken in 2002. (2002). [image] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/yourplaceandmine/down/A721757.shtml [Accessed 17 May 2017].

Bambi. (1942). [film] Directed by D. Hand. RKO Radio Pictures, United States: Walt Disney.

Davies, M. (2016).

Disney In Honesty (2016). Bambi: The Multiplane Effect. Available at: https://youtu.be/x66_BSGEeYY [Accessed 18 May 2017].

Loftus, E. and Palmer, J. (1974). Reconstruction of Automobile Destruction: An Example of Interaction Between Language and Memory. University of Washington, pp.585-589.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed. (1926). [film] Directed by L. Reiniger. Germany: Comenius Film.

The Lion King. (1994). [film] Directed by R. Allers and R. Minkoff. Buena Vista Pictures, United States: Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Feature Animation.Surianwinata, J. (n.d.).

Surianwinata, J. (n.d.). To What Extent is the Memory A Reliable Process?. International Baccalaureate.

Final Year · Major Project · Semester Two

It’s a Long Way (It’s a Hallway)

The process of environment design has not been without challenge. In an unexpected predicament, I had not expected time-consuming to be one. However, as the weeks proceeded on in an alarmingly fast fashion, I found myself consumed by the task of creating environment concepts that I was unable to actually model any of them.

Figure 1.1 – Shown above, the storyboards that Jess created for the animatic. They demonstrate the actions that occur within the environment.

The last environment to be designed was the hallway. The role that it plays within the animation serves as a transitional stage in the narrative, when Attracta discusses Zara’s behaviour as excitable and happy within the comforts of her home. The scenario is a pleasant experience; a lot of positive emotion is evident her voice as she recalls the playful nature Zara exuded and even causes an exchange of laughter between Jess and her grandmother as they share in reflection.

This was a fantastic resource to have for planning. The hallway, unlike the other environments that I had designed, was not a room for functionality or rest. The hallways and stairways of a home are purely for a transition from one area to the next. However, they are also areas that contain the most personalised decoration; often filled with an array of pictures, decorative plants and other dress furniture that give the space personality.

hall_shot
Figure 1.2 – Shown above, the tonal concept piece for the hallway environment.

The feedback that has been received for the work that we have presented during our bi-monthly meeting has remain directed on one particularly interesting note; showing a progression of time. Zara lived with Jess’s family for a few years – finding a way of communicating that aspect of the experience would be difficult.

Reviewing all of the locations that had been designed, including the ones that were in the stages of being modelled, it was not immediately clear where the best location would be to demonstrate a progression of time. This was disappointing, as the team felt that it would be a nice touch to implement within the animation, if it could be done subtly.

Hall_Revised_Lineart_ColourCode
Figure 1.3 – Shown above, the time-transition stages of the hallway. Whilst most material remained consistent, items such as the arrangement of photographs and other furniture elude to the perception of change.

It was whilst creating the concept art that it occurred to me that the hallway may in be the better-suited environment to achieve this task. The actions occurring within the scene were of transition, so it seemed reasonable that the hallway could evolve in a similar fashion. In figure 1.3, I explore the idea of a dual environment, listed as partial and full construction.

In figure 1.3, I explore the idea of a dual environment; listed as partial and full construction. The concept that I had was influenced by our discussions as a team regarding the implementing transparency within the scenes. I wanted to create the impression that the early rendition of the hallway – ‘partial construct’ – was a hazed memory. The environment was secondary to Zara;  it was a logical choice to make the assets within the scene appear unfinished, with only their black outlines visible rather than texture and lines. I talk about the challenge of design that implements psychological representation in the Parallax blog post, located here.

Hallway_Blueprint
Figure 1.4 – Shown above, the floorplan for the hallway environment. 

 

The blueprint plan for the hallway can be seen in figure 1.4. The plan lays out each asset in correlation to the camera, in addition to the positioning and movement within the scene. The plan was beneficial due to the fact that it enabled me to see exactly what may be on screen, and where to spend the most effort during the modelling and texturing process; leave the detail to the areas where the audience can see and appreciate it.

Figure 1.5 – Shown above, the transition of time shown through rotational camera movement in ‘The Twilight Saga: New Moon’ (2009).

The secondary benefit of the blueprint was that I could see when a pause occurs within the timeline, and work with that to create the distinction of a time lapse. The intention is for the environment to change around Zara as she occupies the space; filling it with her presence. In the example shown in Figure 1.5, the audience is aware of the spiralling depression that the protagonist, Bella, has fallen into as a result of heartbreak. The movement – a rotation around her as she sits, unmoved, as the seasons and environment change around her. The movement is very appropriate for this scene, as the character expresses the endless cycle of her emotions, thoughts and difficulties. The colour was another subtle touch that complimented the perception of the emotion and tone during this scene. The exterior environment gradually becomes more barren as the seasons change from autumn to winter, and the colour drains from vibrant green, red and oranges to cold, harsh blues and white. Additionally, the lighting gradually darkens too, creating a jarring impact as its impact becomes more prevalent on the screen.

However, it is not the intention to create such a bleak outcome within the hallway scene; figure 1.5 gives an insight into the effectiveness and demonstrates how the concept communicates on screen. Whilst it is only one of likely hundreds of methods of achieving the intention, I felt that the example had a strong impact in achieving the transition of time while also communicating the decline of emotional wellbeing.

For Pethood, it is unnecessary to have such a potent result; creating such a jarring transition would be unsuitable for the tone, contrasting the flow of the narrative and potentially distracting the viewer from the main focus – Zara. Nevertheless, the camera movement within the scene does have more significance than to simply follow the character and ensure that she remains on the screen; it can compliment the communication of reminiscent memory.

Figure 1.6 – Shown above, the continuous shot from the opening of Spectre (2015). The scene proceeded without a cut for nearly four minutes. 

The majority of the animated documentary is considered as one continuous shot (also known as a long shot). It is a lesser used technique in filmography, due to the technical demands of camera operations and strict choreography. It has been used in film and television shows such as Birdman (2014), and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005).

Figure 1.6 demonstrates the use of the continuous shot in the opening sequence of Spectre,  with a range of different camera shots such as an establishing, close up, and mid shots. Considering the logistics of such undertaking such a shot, the sequence is a complement to the scale and ambition of the concept. The various adjustments to the movements enable the audience to appreciate the scale of the scene, the location of the events, and the sense of humour that is often depicted within the Bond franchise.

However, as Pethood is an animated documentary that has been configured entirely for a three-dimensional medium. Given the nature of our project, it was within reason that we could replicate this shot with less logistical nightmare than that of a live action film. It is a benefit that the team has chosen to have a consistent camera throughout the entire piece – the panning from left to right, and the lack of distinct cuts within the edit keep the flow running smoothly. The continuity shot and panning movements will replicate the reminiscent nature of a memory, which is what the team hope to achieve. The pass from side to side is an imitation of the change from past – to the left, and right, to a more current memory.

Figure 1.7 – Shown above, stills from 101 Dalmatians (1996) that illustrate Walt Peregoy’s artistic influence. 

The hallway, with a natural space of longevity, is a perfect opportunity to experiment with our intentions. I referred to the interior paintings of Walt Peregoy to gain a sense of his placement and decorum choices that are present within his work, in addition to his choice of colour and line.

1280px-Scheherazade_(Rimsky-Korsakov)_02_by_L._Bakst_2
Figure 1.8 – Shown above, the set design for ‘Scheherazade’ (1910), by Leon Bakst.

 

In my personal opinion, the choice of medium and style is reminiscent of the geometric patterns seen within the Art Deco movement that was heavily prevalent in the 1920s and 30s. In figure 1.8 (Shown above), the correlation of shape, space, colour and line are corresponding of one another. In particular, there is a heavy influence in the choice of colour palettes within both pieces; the warm tonal depth of the primary yellow group, balanced by the grounding tones of green and blue. It creates a harmonious balance between the two statements; cold colours are muted, whereas the warm colours allude to excitement and energy.

Hall_Revised_Lineart_ColourCode
Figure 1.9 – Shown above, the concept pieces for the hallway. In addition, the colour choices and symbolism is listed as additional information. 

 

In the coloured concepts featured above in figure 1.9, my intention was to use artistic freedom to explore a design that suggested to the influential styling of Peregoy, such as the linework and de-saturated tonal range, fused with a personalised touch that was a representant of the team. Regarding colour association with our project, the shade that stands amongst the rest is a pastel shade of blue. Secondary to that is brown; it is within almost every environment and on Zara’s fur. It stands for security and solidarity – an important element within an animated documentary that addresses memory and experience.

The partial construct stage is overwhelmed by the tone of green – representing the hope and nurturing experience. In the respect of the animation, those idealisms are in the newfound relationship between Jess’s family and Zara, as an establishment is made within the confines of the family home. There is a minor flux of orange for excitement, balanced by the solid nature of the brown to ground emotions and prevent overexcitement.

The full construct shows the development in tone, as the hope and gentleness of a new relationship have blossomed into happiness and joy. That minor flux of energy has increased somewhat, but is subtle in comparison to the excitable nature of Zara as she enters the scene.

Figure 2.0 – Shown above, some progress shots from the hallway. This was after all assets had been created, and texture maps were being tested on their designated pieces of furniture. 

The modelling stage was a pretty standard process. This has only been my second attempt at three-dimensional set design, with the first being the Berlin scene from second year (here). I feel a lot more confident in my abilities than I had during that time, and after a slightly frustrating start, I quickly managed to get into a productive rhythm. For the assets within the scene, I adopted characteristics from the Art Deco movement;  balancing square and rectangular shapes, and offsetting those harsh lines with curved edges. In the bottom row of figure 2.0, the examples demonstrate an adoption of the layout influence that was exhibited in Peregoy’s work; the off-centre arrangement of photo frames upon the wall. The asymmetrical placement gives an endearing, interesting impression that would elude to playful and eccentric nature within the environment. However, this layout was changed at a later stage in the texturing process due to pragmatic decisions.

The UV unwrapping and texturing tasks followed in a similar fashion. Despite having only gained the knowledge for the process last semester by creating the boy model, it did not take long for me to adapt that information in order to apply it to an environment. I found the process to be quite meticulous, but the repetitive pattern made the work theurapeutic. The difficulty began to present itself during the texturing process for the picture frames, as there had been some sort of misunderstanding; I had believed that we were going to be using real photographs of Jess and her family to occupy that space (with a filter to distort the realism). However, Jess made it aware that she would not be able to accommodate that as she did not have access to those images. To compromise, the number of picture frames within the environment were reduced and the images used are a mixture of concept art and ‘painted’ photographs.

Figure 2.1 – Shown above, most of the photo textures depicting the paintings I created for the photo frames. I insisted on creating these images as I felt it gave the environment a homely and personable element that otherwise may have been lost. 

Figure 2.2 – Shown above, the photo textures with artwork created by Jess; including the concept art from the pre-production stage of the project. 

Once the texturing process was complete, it was time to focus on the line art aesthetic that Jess had been creating through her experimentation with texturing and the Arnold render. The process was initially very challenging, and I found myself struggling to imagine the object with the intended look from painting blindly along the edges of the UV snapshot.

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Figure 2.3 – Shown above, the page from the style guide that Jess created depicting the line art style and best approach to achieve the look. 

 

Applying the texture and getting it to work as intended in Maya was another challenge entirely. I had been aware of the required process; creating a duplicated mesh of the object in question, applying an AIstandard of the line texture with transparency, and voila!

Figure 2.4 – Shown above, the three-dimensional look development that Jess created during the experimentation process of achieving the intended art style. 

Unfortunately, it did not run as smoothly as that; despite consulting the Solid Angle website tutorial on refraction and opacity, I found it difficult to understand the exact procedure, and struggled to identify where I had been going wrong.

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 23.44.24
Figure 2.5 – Shown above, a screenshot of the process of gaining opacity in the Arnold render; taken from the Solid Angle Website.

 

Fortunately, a quick consultation with Jess resulted in the identification of the issue. I had completely misunderstood the alpha map requirement, which was essential in getting the line-art texture to display transparency. Once that knowledge was gained, the rest of the lined process followed in a similar methodical fashion to that of the coloured texturing task. However, the line-art required a lot more additional render tests in order to ensure that the style was working correctly and compliment to the aesthetic.  Textures such as the doors and side cabinet did require retexturing, but otherwise, it was a straightforward process. I had some difficulty in achieving the transparency for the coloured textures, and for the purpose of creating an impression of the transparent, faded approach that we wanted to create, using white as a stand-in replacement. Katie later assisted in rectifying the issue, explaining that incorrect alpha-mapping had been the cause. In creating the transparency map, I was not aware that transparency maps are required to be in black and white – an easy mistake to make, but luckily,  also an easy correction.

Figure 2.6 – Shown above, the renders of the dual-aspect hallway environment. 

In summary, I am very happy with the outcome of my task, as it has remained true to the concept – with the exception of minor adjustments. It has been an interesting challenge and has given me an opportunity to develop my three-dimensional modelling abilities. By placing it amongst the other environments for the film, it reassures me that I am able to match the quality and detail set by the other members of my team; my confidence with Maya has not always been great – that reassurance inspires me to experiment and further develop my skills so that I may continue to create work of this standard and appeal.

 


Bibliography:

Bakst, L. (1910). Sheherazade. [Oil] Russia.

Birdman. (2014). [film] Directed by A. Inarritu. United States: Regency Enterprises.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, (2005). [TV programme] 240: FXX.

Support.solidangle.com. (n.d.). Refraction And Opacity – Arnold for Maya User Guide 4 – Solid Angle. [online] Available at: http://Solid Angle [Accessed 11 May 2017].

Spectre. (2015). [film] Directed by S. Mendes. United Kingdom, United States: Columbia Pictures.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon. (2009). [film] Directed by C. Weitz. United States: Summit Entertainment.

Walt Peregoy (n.d.). Walt Peregoy – 101 Dalmatians. [image] Available at: http://ollyfisk.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/inspiration-why-thanks-walt-peregoy.html [Accessed 11 May 2017].

Final Year · Major Project · Semester Two

Presentation Five: Progress, Playblasts and Renders

The past few weeks of production have been intense, and the team has begun to feel the pressure of achieving quality and quantity that has been set by our own ambitions.

In the period of time that has passed between our presentation this morning and that prior to Easter, we have been joined by a fifth member of the team – Aimee KP. Aimee has been a God-send for our team, and her work with Tyrone to address the bulk of the animation together has really pushed the standard of quality higher than what has been shown to-date.

Figure 1.1 – Shown above, the playblast animatic that contains the entirety of our work that has been produced so far. It is a mixture of fully-animated scenes, blocked out posing and other elements that require polishing prior to render. 

Figure 1.1,  displays the compilation of work that has been produced to date. The team made the decision to use our animatic as a timing drop – replacing the two-dimensional substitutes for the three-dimensional pieces. The playblast animation provided us with an opportunity to see all the work that has been created so far brought into one space, which will have been the first time that it has occurred since we began the project at the end of January. It removed the necessity of working on blind faith and gave us a boost of morale that we were in fact on the right track for achieving our original intentions – both in the visual and narrative qualities of the animated documentary.

Figure 1.2 – Shown above, the testing of a sequence using Arnold to achieve the rendered style.

Figure 1.2 provides a good example that alludes to how the final piece should look once we have acquired the ‘exact’ look – it will require some adjustment and experimentation until then. Likewise, due to the different approaches of achieving the visual style the render tests enabled us to see how the duplicated geometry and ‘over-sized’ lineart would work with the dog model, that has their lines painted directly over their coloured fur texture.

In terms of our approach to the workload – the team has focused on dividing and conquering the tasks in large chunks, a process which has seen most members of the team change their type of task depending on which element required greater priority. My focus has been entirely on the environment – in particular, the hallway scene.

Figure 1.3 contains the concept design for both iterations of the hallway environment – the first is shown when Zara first appears within that space. The green-coloured hallway cross-dissolve transitions and matures as the dog is contained within the bedroom space. The purpose of a dual-style environment was to be utilised as a subtle visual cue in order for the audience to understand that a progression of time has occurred during Zara’s experience with the environment.

The process of modelling and texturing an entire scene from scratch has been a significant learning experience. Whilst I have modelled an environment before, UV unwrapping and texture creation had been an entirely new area of knowledge that I gained during the first semester. However, the approach taken for the hallway environment was a new challenge – something manufactured, rather than the organic nature of the boy character.

The medium of work by Walt Peregoy was a fantastic asset to have during the texturing stage, as I frequently referenced his visual style and colour palette whilst creating the assets for the hallway. The piece of concept art that I had created previously was another beneficial asset, enabling me to cross reference between the three-dimensional product with the two-dimensional guide.

Hall_Revised_Lineart_ColourCode
Figure 1.3 – Shown above, the environment concept piece that illustrates the two versions of the Hallway, and their colour associations.

It was whilst in the process of asset creation that the decision was made to reduce particular elements, using time pragmatically in order to divate efforts towards other elements of the project that require attention. For the hallway scene, assets such as the rug, umbrella stand and picture frames were removed from the design, and other assets such as the wall frames and mirror remained for both stages of the environment.

The entirety of changes can be viewed in figure 1.4, where individual elements have been removed. In addition, some of the furniture received adjustments to the colour of their textures after reviewing how they appeared in render view. The most prevalent colour of the animated documentary is brown – regarded with colour theory as the signifiance of strength and solidness. The choice to have it within every scene is a subtle cue to associate those connotations with Zara – the focus of the piece. However, there was a concern with overusing the colour and ruining the subtlety, which resulted in my decision to create a range of shades within the piece. The tonal range creates depth to the environment and reinforces the homely, ‘rustic’ country atmosphere that I was trying to replicate within a three-dimensional space.

Figure 1.4 shown above – Render passes of the two versions of the hallway environment, demonstrating the minor changes between the concept piece and what was ultimately modelled.

The feedback (or lackthereof!) from our final presentation was encouraging – just keep proceeding as we are and take necessary steps to ensure that we can finish our product in time for the deadline. The positive comments were overwhelming – especially the comment that our approach to an animated documentary was ‘innovative’. In my opinion, that term compliments the intention of creating a film with an Avante Garde flare, so receiving that response from the audience is a phenomenal advantage of user testing experience – and reassuring for us, the filmmakers.

The team is aware of the amount of work that we are required to do in order to achieve the deadline of the 19th – whilst that mountain of production is a daunting aspect, it is my perception that the team will pull out all stops to complete a fantastic product.

With the hallway environment completed, my final significant task for this project will be creating the parallax for the opening sequence and ensuring the smooth integration between the two-dimensional illustrations and the three-dimensional model of the pupper pile. I will develop the concept from the experimentation piece that was presented a few weeks previously. It can be viewed here.

Management Plan 


Team Roles and Responsibilities: 

Ryan – Production Director: Rigging the adult and puppy version of Zara, creating the blendshapes, and any fixing issues with the model that have occurred during the animation process. In addition, he re-topologised the adult version of Zara. He was also tasked with rendering the scenes that have been animated so far – ensuring that they are processing correctly.

Jess – Art Director: Has been texturing the country road environment, and created the textures for both the adult and puppy versions of Zara. She has also provided direction on the artistic direction on how to achieve the lined appearance, and has also textured the lines for the veterinary clinic.

Tyrone – Lead Animator: Modelled the veterinary exterior and the bedroom environment, and created some textured assets for the vet. In addition, he has been animating some of the scenes – including the conservatory and doorway. He has been working collaboratively with Aimee KP.

Aimee KP – Animator: Aimee has been a fantastic asset to our team, assisting us with the animation of Zara the dog. She has been animating the hallway, bedroom and country road scenes.

Katie – Character Designer: Katie modelled the puppy and adult version of Zara, and created the normal maps for both models, and the puppy mountain. In addition, they textured the conservatory and bedroom environments, and corrected some assets contained within the bedroom scene so that they were suitable for the UV unwrapping process.

Nadine (me) – Environment Artist: Modelled two versions of the hallway, UV unwrapped the assets, textures – both material and the lineart, lighting, and render-tests.

Bi-Monthly Deadlines:

6th February – Pitch Project

Process Stage: Completed. Review link can be accessed here.

20th February –  Presentation One: Research, Animatic & Plan.

Process Stage: Completed. Review link can be accessed here.

6th March – Presentation Two: Final Design, Updated Animatic, Tests & Updated Plan.

Process Stage: Complete. Review link can be accessed here.

27th March – Presentation Three: Animation, Render Tests, and Production Update.

Process Stage: Complete. Review Link can be accessed here.

24th April – Presentation Five: Research, Animatic and Production Plan.

Process Stage: Complete. Review can be found within this post.

19th May – Presentation Six: The Final Deadline – Fully-Rendered Animatic.

Process Stage: In-Progress. 

Final Year · Major Project · Semester Two

Presentation Four: Animation, Render Tests and Production Schedule

Asset List Directory_Veterinary_Clinic

Figure 1.1 – Shown above, The Vet Exterior concepts and design layout.

The past few weeks have been witness to a drastic push in order to get the environments for the animated documentary blocked out and established. In total, there are five fully rendered sets that are required for the purposes of the narrative. Jess has been focusing on experimentation with the artistic style, exploring the different styles of modelling and texturing to achieve an illustrated aesthetic – using the backroad concept as the focus for the render testing.

Jess has been focusing on experimentation with the artistic style, exploring the different styles of modelling and texturing to achieve an illustrated aesthetic – using the backroad concept as the focus for the render testing. Whilst it has already been addressed in the previous update, I would like to reiterate that Ryan modelled the conservatory.

Within the past week and a half, I have been working collaboratively with Tyrone on the layout design for two different environments. In the recent weeks, Ryan has been working dedicatedly to create the rig for the Zara dog model. Katie has their attention focused on the puppy model; capturing the youthful essence of young Zara in her smaller form.

Figure 1.2  -Shown above, the blueprint plan and tonal concept, compared with Jess’s render test. It was during the modelling process that Jess elected to reduce the amount of material that was contained within the scene.

In other words, things have been following rather chaotically – in a good eway. The team are constantly making progress, and that momentum that is pacing us steadily through the mass mountain of work that is stacking upon us. Each of the environments recieved the same basic set-ups; a tonal concept art piece, a layout plan and an asset list. By doing so, each environment has the tools required to come to fluition; regardless of what teammate was available model it.

The information shown below in figure 1.3 was what I provided Tyrone with in order to begin the process of modelling the bedroom environment. he seemed content in his knowledge not to model anything regarding the exterior wall, as this would be the area that the hallway and the bedroom connect together to strengthen the ability to execute the contineous shot.

Asset_List_Directory_Bedroom

Figure 1.3 – Shown above, the concept piece and layout design for the bedroom environment. 

With the rest of the team members content in their tasks, I turned my attention to the last environment; the hallway.

Asset_List_Directory_Hallway

Figure 1.4 – Shown above, the hallway concepts and layouts that had been created as part of the pre-production process.  

The hallway was a peculiar environment to work with, due to the dual aspect nature of the space. In recent feedback given during our previous presentation, the tutors suggested using the environment in some way to give the illusion of time passing throughout the home as Zara remains the same; the most suitable location to showcase this was the hallway, due to the longevity of the design and because of the panning shot from left to right. The challenging part would be the transitional stage between the two, as we would not like for the audience to be taken out of the narrative flow due to the jarring transitional stages and cuts occuring around the protagonist.

Figure 1.5 – Shown above, the current modelling stages for the hallway. 

As much as I have wanted to explore environment design for the past few months, admittedly, this is only the second time that I’ve had to model something as large as an entire scene – especially one with a dual aspect purpose. My process is a little slow as I need to refresh myself on how to proceed with certain objects, and ensure that the models look good on hard surface mode. So far, it appears to be going pretty well – I just need to continue my processs and begin the second version (the full construct) within the next few days.

‘Urban Myths’

In other developments of the week – I was finally able to give Charlie a complete rendered concept piece of her living room environment for ‘Urban Myths’. The step by step process can be witnessed in figure 1.6, shown below. I first presented her with the rough lined version to get some feedback, then based on her critic and suggestions, returned to the piece to do the clean lineart.

Figure 1.6 – Shown above, the original concept from Problematic Mythical Hipsters, clean line art,  and the rendered piece.

Once that stage was complete, the next challenge was creating the colour palette mix that Charlie had expressed her desire to have. I talk about this in greater detail within the post, ‘Urban Myths.’ Despite the difficulties in trying to get the two very conflicting colour palettes to become compilmentary, I really do like the piece. My hope is that Charlie is content with it once I show it to her in the next few days.

Management Plan 


Team Roles and Responsibilities: 

Ryan – Production Director: Working in collaboration with Katie to rig the dog character, create blend shapes and review other pre-animation properties.

Jess – Art Director: Modelling the backroad environment and exploring the approach to executing foliage in the intended art style.

Tyrone – Lead Animator: Exploring character animation and testing the dog character rig in order to assess that it is suitable for the intended animation.

Katie – Character Designer:  Finish the three-dimensional model for the adult version of Zara, begin the youthful pup version of her, and apply the basic skeleton rig to both models.

Nadine (me) – Environment Artist: Execute the environment concepts in artistic style, complete the asset directories, and contribute to environment modelling.

Bi-Monthly Deadlines:

6th February – Pitch Project

Process Stage: Completed. Review link can be accessed here.

20th February –  Presentation One: Research, Animatic & Plan.

Process Stage: Completed. Review link can be accessed here.

The team presented on Tuesday the 21st of February, and have begun to adjust amendments based in relation to feedback from tutors, classmates and other team members.

6th March – Presentation Two: Final Design, Updated Animatic, Tests & Updated Plan.

Process Stage: Complete. The team has their delegated roles in each area of the pre-production process. We shall spend the next two weeks focusing on nailing down the elements that we need in order to be prepared for the production stages.

27th March – Presentation Three: Animation, Render Tests, and Production Update.

Process Stage: In-Progress. The team continues to manage their delegated roles in order to complete the preproduction process. The team will commit to the pipeline schedule for the production stage of the project, which can be accessed here.

3rd April – Presentation Four: Rough Animation, Render Tests implemented within the Animatic, and updated Production Plan.

Process Stage: To be Completed. 

24th April – Presentation Five: Research, Animatic and Production Plan.

Process Stage: To be Completed. 

15th May – Presentation Six: The Final Deadline – Fully-Rendered Animatic.

Process Stage: To be Completed. 

Final Year · Major Project · Semester Two

Urban Myths (Formally known as Problematic Mythical Hipsters)

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Figure 1.1 – Shown above, A still image taken from Charlie Maxell’s animatic for ‘Urban Myths’)

Last semester, my previous team were privileged to have the assistance of Charlie to aid us in animating the therapist scene for ‘the Boy and the Bear.’ Her help was one of the saving graces that enabled us to render some scenes and have something to show for an entire semester of work.

This semester, Charlie has decided to undertake a project on a solo basis – creating a pitch bible for her original concept, ‘Urban Myths.’ Her intention is to create the artistic assets and script work to pitch the idea to potential investors and has been in talks with various people for advice and expertise.

On Tuesday 21st February, Charlie had her presentation succeeding our own, to which she was given the advice to focus on her script and the business elements of her project – leaving the art assets until she had nailed down getting her script to read successfully as a radio play. Conann assured her that once it worked well as audio alone, then the rest of the elements that made up her project would piece together more fluidly.

Within the last few weeks, Charlie had approached Katie and myself to create some imagery of her characters that could be used for potential merchandise opportunities. From that initial request, it has bee revealed that she only required us to do one character – Cerberus. When the request was initially pitched we had presumed that she wanted to have one for each character, so it was a lot less work than we had expected to produce.

As Charlie required a lot less than what we had expected her to ask for and as she was undertaking such an immense task on her own,  I offered my assistance to help her with environment design – if that was something that she required help with. Charlie expressed relief that someone wanted to assist her with the task and invited me to her desk in order to have a discussion about the project in greater depth.

From what was apparent in her animatic, the main environment of the pilot encompasses the living room area which is featured in figure one. Charlie informed me that the environment was composed specifically for the animatic presentation, but it was not the finalised design that she intended to use for the design bible, or for visual concepts that would be intended for use during a pitching process.

It was revealed that Charlie wanted a room that was, for all intensive purposes, a blank canvas through which the characters could infuse their own personalities and traits into space. For a particular decorative influence, she informed me that she had been looking into the Bohemian furniture and decorum; contrasted by the harsh dark woods and masculine tones of an environment that would be better suited in a gentlemen’s clubhouse. Charlie liked the style of hard edges being softened by rounded corners and additional dressings such as candles and lights.

The balancing of the colour palettes would be a difficult task to achieve; deep, dark masculine colours of navy and dark leathers that represent Hades would have to be complimented by the pastel shades and hoarder-esque style of decorating that represents Persephone.

Figure 1.2 – Shown above, the moodboards that Charlie provided for me. They illustrate the decorum and accessories that she felt represented the divergent personalities of Persephone and Hades. 

Before settling down to draw the environment concept art for Charlie, I felt that it would be best to sit with her and really get to know her project, her intentions, her characters, and any other form of information that she could provide me. It benefits the design process when I am able to establish the tone and personality of the characters that occupy the space; from that, I can get a sense of their personalities, make assumptions on their preferred tastes, and learn a bit more about their behaviourisms and quirks – aiding my interpretation of that within the concept art.

Figure 1.3 – Shown above, some of the concept art that Charlie created which gives the impression of the shape and scale of the town in which the characters live. 

From my conversation with Charlie, I gathered the main points: The living room is the location of the pilot episode, and is pivotal to the other events that occur throughout the duration, she intends to have a static camera with no cuts or drastic camera movement (although that is subject to discretion), the apartment in which they live is spread across one level, with neighbours above and below them; she hinted that these could be Gods from other religions and mythology, and that she wants there to be fantastical elements within the design that present the world as something more than first perceptions.

Charlie described her desire to infuse fantasy into the furniture of the room, such as using a phoenix for an overhead light – and wanted to push that concept further. I advised her to edit this, recommending that for the entirety of the room it would be suitable for a tenth of that to be related to fantasy design. Her excitement was evident as she spoke to me, which brought me joy to know that she had the motivation and drive to really commit to her intuition; however, I couldn’t help but express concern that it may overshadow her ability to edit, and had potential to be overzealous. I reassured her that I would find a subtle and appropriate way to integrate her wishes within the design.

My final step of preparation was to investigate some of the influences that Charlie had spoken about as her main inspiration for ‘Urban Myths’ – In particular, comedy sitcoms from the 90s and 00s. Whilst ‘Friends’ (1994) is the most prevalent of series from that time period, it was surprisingly rather difficult to source any information regarding the set design – other than a Buzzfeed article containing trivial information about minor adjustments that had been made during the ten series.

Figure 1.4 – Shown above, layout plans by the interior designer, Inaki Aliste LIzarralde. 

Not dissuaded by the lack of content, I widened the area of research; later discovering an article discussing the work of Inaki Aliste Lizarralde, the artist responsible for the apartment layouts within ‘Friends’, ‘Frasier’ (1993), ‘Two and a Half Men’ (2003), and ‘How I Met your Mother’ (2005).

The article sheds light on Lizarralde’s creation process, stating that, “he prefers having the entire series run on hand, in order to access as much information as possible while drawing” (Berkowitz, n.d.). That tidbit of information provided me with reassurance, as I felt myself to be a little bit obsessive about minor details; as someone who has only recently begun to focus sights within the layout design, it is insightful to see the methodology through which others process their work.

Lizarralde creates three variations of each floorplan; the first being the basic version that he uses to annotate and refine, the second being a completed floor plan with scaled furniture made to accurate dimensions and proportions, and thirdly, a coloured concept of the completed floor plan that includes shades, textures and fabric materials. This seems rather excessive for Charlie’s requirements, as she would like to have one concept piece that is viewed from the lens of the static camera, this enabling her to see everything contained within the frame of her perspective. However, the information is still valuable as it has empowered me to consider alternative processes for elaborate sets or backgrounds that I may be creating in future.

Figure 1.5 – Shown above, an interview with ‘Frasier’ Art Director Roy Christopher. 

Another asset of information I discovered was an interview with Roy Christopher, Art Director for shows such as ‘Fraiser’. Christopher describes that the flow of the sitcoms, as well as the development of the characters and a focused script, provides the designer with an easier task as the information gives them the insight that they need in order to piece together the scene around them.

Figure 1.6 – Shown above, the rough and coloured line art for the living room interior. 

I feel that knowing this validates the processes that I have been conducting so far. By sitting down with Charlie and discussing her ideas with her, I got a clearer picture of the concept that she was trying to communicate. After that, it was simply a case of sketching out a rough, have her approve it and make changes, then clean up the light art and finish the render with the colouring process.

Problematic_Mythical_Hipsters_Room_Colour
Figure 1.7 – Shown above, the coloured concept art piece for ‘Urban Myths’.

Shown above is the completed render of the living room environment for Charlie’s animated pilot. I am very happy with the outcome because it appears as if I have (somehow) managed to successfully integrated the soft, pastel tones within the masculine shades contained within the environment. Additionally, I chose to focus on creating subtle fantastical elements; designing items such as the soul containers – for extra special celebrity deaths, the soul stool, and the fire salamanders that live within the basket by the harth.

Unfortunately, not long after completing this concept Conann and Charlie had a feedback session, during which he advised her to change the floor plan of her layout. While she approached me to make some amendments, I was tied down trying to execute my own tasks for the Pethood project – meaning that I was unable to create any new concept pieces. I believe that within the final film, the design work that I created has been placed within the scene.

Figure 1.8 – Shown above, stills from the animatic ‘Urban Myths,’ containing design work that I had created. Charlie did not inform me that my designs would be used in this fashion. 

Ultimately, I am glad that Charlie had loved my designs enough to incorporate them within her finalised product. However, she had not informed me of the case – thus, dealing with an image that was likely to be poorly compressed by Facebook. Unfortunately, during the process Charlie has failed to credit my work at any stage within the past weeks – which concerns me as it could be misconstrued as trying to take credit for the environmental design. Hopefully, this will not put a black mark adorned to my contributions. [UPDATE: Since the blog post has been written, Charlie has contacted myself and another to rectify the artistic crediting – which was really appreciated. I commend her on her ability to rectify a problem.]


Bibliography:

Berkowitz, J. (2013). An Interior Designer Explains The Unlikely Apartments Of “Friends,” “How I Met Your Mother,” And More. [online] Fast Company. Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/1682531/an-interior-designer-explains-the-unlikely-apartments-of-friends-how-i-met-your-mother-and-m?show_rev_content [Accessed 16 May 2017].

Frasier @ Extras @ A conversation with Art Director Roy Christopher. (2017). Available at: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5bwglq_frasier-extras-a-conversation-with-art-director-roy-christopher_fun [Accessed 19 May 2017].