Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Project Journal: RJDM Professional Brief - Week 4

This last week hasn't been such a great week for work, I wanted to get a start on modelling my character in Maya, which I just haven't done. The whole week has been very slow in the way of work. I have mostly been working on my sculpt, I decided to start this over modelling on Maya, because when I tried to start modelling earlier in the week I immediately had problems visualising my character in 3D, because drawing him in 2d has only really given me perspective of 3 or 4 angles, plus I needed to work out how his eye lids would look; in 2D he doesn't have any, I has just been drawing circles on his face for eyes, or certain circle based shaped to convey particular emotions.
So, I have been working on my sculpt for most of the week, it is going well so far, I have gotten to a point where I have done all the main facial details to a standard that I am happy with, I have bulked out the body and legs and smoothed them, all that is really left is to finish his bandana, and hair, then it will be almost complete. Everything I have done on it so far I am very pleased with and it makes sense in the 3D world, while still keeping true to the 2D sketches. I think I am ready to start modelling in Maya now, and if other problems arise when modelling I can go back to my sculpt and work on the bit I am having problems.

Despite the setback on modelling, I did manage to get my key poses and facial expression done in my sketchbook. Doing this helps me get an idea for how to block out my animation and what blend shapes I will need to create. I also drew out other standard expressions I may want to consider blend shaping, such as happy, sad, scared, and a scrunched up face. On top of that I also drew out the phonemes and visemes I will need blend shape.

I had also been thinking about the environment, because it is set in a back garden, but I do not want to have to model an entire garden, so what I was thinking was to have a small patch of grass, that fades out into a white or faded 'grass green' background. With certain sound effects I could get away with this and still make it feel like a back garden. I could probably accomplish this through render layers and using the opacity in post production.

Also this last week, on friday myself and two of my course mates, Jamie and Nick went to RJDM animation studios, which is just outside Northampton, to help out with their deadlines, as they had to get several animations to get completed for the next day. The animations where for Top Gear's live show, where they tour around the country.
The studio was very remote, in the middle of a field, literally, we arrived at the studio at about 11am, after getting lost in the nearby villages for about 45 minutes.
While we were there we had to help on one scene in particular, which was set in an underground car park. all the animation was in 2D, which involved 3 agents giving some blueprints to The Stig and a cat burglar then stealing them. What we had to do was put car models in the scene and set up the cameras ready for render. This sounds easy, but this took us all day, simply because when we arrived we weren't really told to do in full detail, it was kind of all slowly revealed to us throughout the day, as we completed the bit we were told to do, we would then be asked where is this bit, we would say what do you mean, then they would say we were meant to do such and such a bit too. And it went on like that throughout the day. Never the less it was a great day and a great way to get a feel for what its like to work in the industry, we were told however, that it was not usually like that on a normal day, because they were so busy with deadlines everything was very hectic, which was probably the reason why things weren't explained to us too well either.
In the end though we got everything we were meant to do, done, we had a few problems with lighting and textures at the end of the day, where we had to import the lights again from the original scene. Amongst other little jobs we made a lot of tea for the team there, which we didn't mind, anyway we could help we were happy to.
We also had to do some compositing work, as they were late on some of their scenes that needed compositing, but only one person was in who knew how to use combustion, so they needed all the help they could get. I'm not too hot on combustion myself, Jamie did most of the helping out on that side of things.

All in all is was a great day, and a great insight to the world of work, and what it can be like when deadlines approach, apparently pretty similarly hectic and when deadlines are approaching at uni, sleepless nights and no time to slow up and take a break :)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Project Journal: RJDM Professional Brief - Week 3

This week I have still been working on my research and development, I've been looking at 'art of' books, such as the art of Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs, art of The Incredibles and the art of Up.

The reason I've been looking at these was because I decided to re-design my character. As I said before, I felt like my character looked far too similar to the young Flint Lockwood from 'Cloudy'. I tried going through several other looks and styles, but I found myself attached to my old design. So what I decided to do was to keep the same style and feel to my character, but just change his head shape and face, make him slightly more detailed, to make him easier to work with in 3D.
After several pages of trial and error I came up with a design a really liked, and found it easier to draw than my previous design, it also felt a lot more original, and fit the profile I had written a week earlier much better. In essence it is still the same character as I had designed before, just tweaked, more appropriate for the project and my story, and easier and funner to work with.

This week I have also been finalising my story idea and script. After brain storming for a while I came up with all the bits that were missing from my pirate story, and tweaked the bits that I had already got so it will flow better when it comes to animating, and make more sense as a story. I will start drawing up thumbnails for this soon, to get an idea for poses and timing etc.

Also me and two course mates, Jamie and Nick have been working on a questionnaire to send out to local primary schools for the children to answer.
We wanted to make a questionnaire that would spark children's imaginations, so we could have some sort of insight as to how children see and think about the world, and what their priorities are in life at this young age (4-7).
After an evening of brain storming we came up with many questions, but decided we wanted to keep it to around 10 questions, so to not bore the children. We also decided it would be a great idea for the last question to ask them to draw something, so once the previous 9 questions have sparked their imagination, then they can put something down on paper that shows there imagination in a visual form, rather than just text.
It took us another evening of brainstorming to decide on a drawing question, we had thought to ask them to draw an invention they would like to see, but we decided it was too broad of a question, and children may struggle to think of anything original, we also thought about asking to draw something from a dream they have had, but again, we thought it may be too deep.
In the end we agreed on asking them to draw what they think they will look like in 20 years time and what they will be doing.
Our thinking for this was that we thought it would be interesting to see what the children think of themselves and where they think their lives are heading while they are till in primary school.
We are yet to write up the final questionnaire, we have all the questions finalised, it just needs putting together. I hope to have this done by the end of this week and have contacted several schools.

This next week I am starting to model my character in Maya, as well as start on a clay sculpt of him. I am also going to do Facial expressions, and key poses for my animation, which will help me with storyboarding.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Project Journal: RJDM Professional Brief - Week 1 & 2

Week 1:
During my first week I focused mainly on research on other child characters in animation and other media. My initial idea for a character design, is to create a very cartoony character, as that is what I am interested in doing this year with my major project. So the usual cartoony characteristics for a child, like big head with big eyes and a cute nose.
I looked at characters from 'Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends', and the lead character from 'Lost and Found'. I also looked at the children from 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' as they are all very generic and fit the bill.
I also considered designing a girl character, just to give me a challenge. After seeing Toy Story 3 and seeing how cute a little girl character can be (Bonnie). It would also be interesting to see if I can pull it off.
I also brainstormed on what kind of child I want to create. Ever since I read the brief I have had it in my head that I would either want to create a child who is like Andy, from Toy Story, the playful child who runs around with a cape and a cardboard sword, or the messy child, who plays with mud and has pet worms, and is never without grass stains on his clothes and plasters on his knees.

Also during my first week I made a project plan, which essentially is a production schedule, but in written form rather than in a table. I had never made a project plan before, so I wasn't sure if I was doing it right. But when I uploaded it on, (a website I am using to upload and discuss my work with Ricky O'Donnell; creative director of RJDM studios, who also set us the brief) Ricky said it was good and well detailed. I tried to be realistic with the timing of things, and based it on the speed I worked at last year on each part of the production. But I also took into account the fact I only have this project to think about this term, so I can be completely focused on it.

Week 2:
During week 2 I started getting drawing initial sketches for my character, I still hadn't decided completely what personality I wanted my child to have, but the more I thought about it the more I couldn't decide, so I thought to just have it somewhere in between the two personalities I liked. Playful and imaginative, but still the kind of kid who plays in the mud, and who likes to draw on the walls and skid everywhere :)
I had a few pages of character designs before I came up with one I really liked. However, now, by the end of week 2, I have been feeling like I came up with him too fast, he is too simple, and he too closely resembles the child version of Flint Lockwood from 'Cloudy'. So over the next week, even though I am quite attached the my character, I will take him back to the drawing board, but still keep my original design in mind.
This week I have also been thinking about story ideas, amongst several half thought up ideas, I came up with 2 strong and quite promising ones.
Now before I start I should say that the story has to be 30 seconds long and must involve and child being asked what they would track if they could. After reading this in the brief I wanted to focus on the imagination of a child, and the worlds it can take them to.
So, My first idea was about a kid who wants to send his goldfish on a mission, by strapping a tracking device to him and flushing him down the toilet. We would then follow the kid, and what is actually a very mundane adventure, and who eventually just ends up with some fishy friends in the ocean/lake/pond. But in the kids imagination he imagines he goes off and fights an evil race of alien sharks. I liked this idea, but it would require a lot of modelling work, and sets, which I really don't think I have time for if I want to concentrate on good animation.
My other idea, which is the one I am currently pursuing, is about a little boy, dressed up in makeshift pirate gear, and is playing in his back garden, with a makeshift pirate ship (made from a cardboard box, broom for the mast, and pair of pants, for the flag) and he wants to track hims 'treasure' (his favourite toy, or some Monopoly money). He then trots over to his sandbox and buries it with a plastic spade. Then we would cut to the child, either hiding in the bushes of his garden, or in his house watching over the sandbox with a toy telescope, and explaining if he could track his 'booty' he wouldn't have to always keep a watch over it.
This is the idea I have chosen to develop further until it is at a point I can start storyboarding and scripting.

Later in the week I drew a picture of my character I really liked, so I scanned it in and coloured it in, in Adobe Illustrator, also put him in different coloured clothes to imagine what he would look like, and give myself an idea of the colour scheme I want to go for. I also uploaded those onto 'monster' ( and am currently waiting on feedback from Ricky. I also created and uploaded a mood board of all the things that have inspired and swayed my designs over the past couple of weeks. I was hoping to cut up the Argos catalogue for all the cool kids Toys but my house mate has thrown it out. I am going to go back to my mood board once I have a new one and put other things on it too such as textures, scenery and lighting moods.

Oh yeah, I also created my production schedule today, which will guide me with my time frames, I have also posted that up on monster for Ricky to view, and I am currently waiting on feedback for that also.

Well I think thats it for now, I hope to check in again next week.