Final Evaluation

So I will be completing my final hand in for the year later today when I submit the work for this project. This has been the most difficult project by far this year and I have really struggled with it at times due to my complete lack of 3d knowledge. I honestly still feel like a beginner but everyone has to start somewhere I guess so I'll just keep working at it. 


The final project turned out ok I think and unlike last year I managed to finish the animation and hand in a completely animated film which is good. I mainly stuck to my storyboard, only changing the composition of shots where I saw fit. Another positive was that although my character rigs weren't great I managed to figure out how best to manipulate them to get as good a performance as I could. It was something that I was stressing about when I started animating as I couldn't work it out but I was quickly able to make the best of it. 


The biggest negative is that I wasn't able to add a facial rig to either character which somewhat limited the performance I was able to out of them I did try to convey the story through their actions and body language. I would also have liked to have been able to add textures and fully render with lighting but I ran out of time and it would have been a long process as, again, I don't really know a lot. I needed to have spent more time learning to rig the characters myself as I ended up having to use a site called Mixamo to rig the girl and a plug in called AdvancedSkeleton for the dragon. Both of these did still require some work on my part but they didn't end up being the best rigs to work with, although that could have been partly down to the modelling which I think was responsible  for the deformations. It also caused the body of the girl character to appear through the clothing and the hair to deform when the arms were moved. 


I've still got tons to learn when it comes to 3d animation but like I said earlier in the post I think this project turned out ok. I will be putting more time in over the summer to work on areas in 3d like animation, modelling, lighting, texturing and how they relate to each other in the pipeline. I also need to spend more time in Maya learning the tools and techniques that are available.


Final Project Evaluation

Tomorrow marks the end of this project and overall I am very pleased with how it went. The final animation came out better than expected and developed a lot from the original storyboard to the final product. My storyboarding skills aren't great and, as was the case with my 2d project, better ideas started to come to me once I started animating. During the animation stage I managed to have a Skype meeting with the clients which was very helpful as I was able to talk to them about the different direction I decided to go in with the animation and they were really into it. They gave me a few really good suggestions like putting a shine effect on the sword and to have 'Salmon Canon', which is another episode of the podcast, be on the newspaper at the end. They also suggested creating a title card to set the animation up like they do in shows like 'Adventure Time' and to have a short end credits both of which were really fun to create in Photoshop. 

As with any project there were pros and cons. For instance, one of the cons was that, as the clients live in America, I was only able to have one Skype meeting with them and it was difficult at times to get a response from them via email due to this and the fact that they are both busy people that do this podcast as a side project. This meant that I had to try my best to steer the project into the right directions on my own. This wasn't always a bad thing, it meant that I had a lot of creative freedom to do what I wanted and to try different things out but I would have really liked a little bit more input from the clients and at times it felt like there wasn't enough professional engagement for this project. There was then a problem when I sent them the finished animation at the end as it seemed like they weren't receiving my emails and as a result I didn't get a reply.

So I decided to tweet it to them in the hope that they would see it there and it worked, Jeff gave a positive reaction and seemed to like it. 


Final Film Evaluation

Overall I am delighted with how my final movie has turned out. It is a massive step up in quality from my year one animation and I feel like I have learned a lot throughout this year. The final movie is slightly different from what I set out in my animatic, mainly because I decided to cut a portion out of the final third because it was quite messy and would have left me with too much to do before the deadline but I think it actually works better as a simpler story. This change also improved the pacing when compared to the animatic, which had a lot of action happening very quickly thus making it harder to follow, allowing the viewer get a better understanding of what is happening.

Also quite a lot of the shot compositions changed as I looked at more animation and got more ideas of how to stage a shot, this culminated in a much more visually appealing film. I would have liked to have been able to colour the whole film for hand in but ran out of time and I'd have liked to have better sound design to go along with the film. 

The main thing I would like to have improved and want to work on with future projects is to create fully fleshed out characters with emotional arcs and to create a story that is more personal and has more meaning. This project was a really fun one and the aim was to make my own 'Tom & Jerry' style short, which to a degree, I think I succeeded but looking back I'd like to have given the boy more character and something that the audience can connect with. 

I had many inspirations and influences throughout this project that helped me to achieve the final movie. Tom & Jerry is the most obvious one but I also took inspiration from other cartoons of the 1940/50's such as Looney Tunes shorts, specifically Wile E. Coyote & The Roadrunner, for the look and feel of the rat & dog characters as well as the action. For the boy character I tried to make him slightly different stylistically, to show that he was in the 'real' world where as the rat & dog characters were cartoons in that world. To do this I looked at current animation to influence the look of the character and world but also for shot choices. The boy character is inspired by the work of stop motion animation masters, Laika, who create really beautiful looking characters and worlds. I also looked at a lot of short films from the students at Gobelins school of animation in France, particularly the film 'One Day' by Bung Nguyen, Thomas Reteuna, Laurent Rossi and Bernard Som, which gave me better ideas of how to compose shots to tell a more visually appealing story.

There are also a few people that I have been taking a lot of inspiration from this year and they are Aaron Blaise (www.youtube.com/channel/UC0lLeNdvLrFozQRsQ1TQiAw) & Toniko Pantoja (www.youtube.com/channel/UCRTRqkhrehrY9hJJcLVUeRQ) who both have great Youtube channels where they share their animation knowledge. Both of these men have really helped me to improve my animating and given me a clearer understanding of the processes of animating such as how to use timing charts, which I was really struggling to get the grips with, and how to break a scene down into keys, breakdowns and in-betweens. They have also helped me to understand and think more about the principles of animation when animating, which I will continue to work on over the summer and beyond. 

And finally there were another couple of shows that didn't necessarily influence the movie per say but more the way I now think about animation and those shows are 'Cowboy Bebop' & 'Avatar: The Last Airbender'. Since I started this course I've been obsessed with trying to get the look of my animation right and although both of these shows do look great it's not what makes them stand out, it's the stories that they tell and the characters that drive those stories that are the best thing about them. So for future projects I'm committed to focussing more on creating characters and a story that I really care about and that people can connect with. 


I have already animated one walk cycle segment with the dragon but it looks a bit rough so I decided to have a look for some tutorials to help me and I found this. It breaks the walk cycle down into stages and makes it really manageable to get an effective walk cycle. I will definitely be using this technique in all future quadruped walk cycles.


Shot 11

This is another shot that I got some really good feedback on. In the first iteration the dog flies across screen, with the dog stretching in the final frame before he hits the wall but Katie made the suggestion to make it more of a smear frame by blurring it.

It's such a simple effect but really helps to make the action look quicker and the impact into the wall stronger. I got the idea for this shot from watching Richard Williams' The animated Survival Kit which is jam packed with information.

How to do a strong hit - 2 mins 18 seconds 


Shot 7

To create this shot I did some research, looking for reference images to form the hand that grabs the rat. I went back to my main source of inspiration, 'Tom & Jerry' and found a few separate images that I pulled together to create the one gesture. This is the first real sequence that creates the feeling of a 'Tom & Jerry' cartoon and ended up pretty similar to what i'd planning in the animatic. 


Shot 5 & 6

Shot 5 was a very simple one as there isn't very much animation involved at all. This is something that I previously tried to avoid as I felt there always had to be something going on in a given shot. But I very recently watched the anime series 'Cowboy Bebop' and it completely changed my attitude toward animation in the way that there are a lot of shots in the show where there isn't very much animation happening but it doesn't detract from the show at all. The stillness actually enhances the show by focusing the attention of the viewer on the thing that matters and ultimately services the story.  

Shot 6 was fun to animate as it was nice to do something from a first person perspective. I had a bit of trouble with the logo as I used a 'shape tween' which messed with the line and colour of the logo.


Just before I start animating I decided to look at some showreels from professionals working in the industry and student that have had the opportunity to intern at Pixar, Disney, Blue Sky etc. The animation that I found was of a really high standard but it gave me hope and motivation because I feel that if I work hard that I can get to that level. I also looked at an article that goes into how to create an effective demo reel with tons of tips and a Sony Animation video series that also contains tips and interviews.

http://www.skwigly.co.uk/create-great-animation-show-reel/ - Twelve rules for a successful demo reel.

http://www.cgmeetup.net/home/animation-reel-demo-reel-tips/ - Three short videos on animation, lighting and visual development tips.



Shot 3 & 4

Shot 3 has stayed the same since the first iteration because it was a very simple shot that I didn't feel needed developing much further. Shot 4 was much more complicated to achieve because of the movement involved. I used a couple of videos I found on Youtube as a reference for the basis of this shot, I've really embraced the use of reference this year which has helped me to take my animation up a level from last year. The two references gave me a better sense of how to stage the shot and of the positioning the character would take. 

This animation has a lot of character that comes across through expressive action using arcs, anticipation and squash & stretch. 


Shot 2

This shot developed a lot over time from what was originally three separate shots in the animatic to just one shot and this change has made it much more visually appealing. I got the idea for the composition for this shot from a Gobelins student short called 'One Day'. Below is the main bulk of what the final shot ended up being and stayed in this state for quite a while until I realised that there was too much of a jump from the boy being in bed to walking down the stairs.

I added a bit of action where the boy gets up from bed, it's nothing overly elaborate but I think it gets the message across. As well as adding this I also experimented with focus pulling and I achieved the final results by converting individual frames into symbols and then adding a blur effect. I also made a few minor adjustments and finishing touches like adding colour, the poster in the background and a little bit of camera movement.  


Rigging the dragon proved to be the most difficult task so far. I had a look at some tutorials and begun trying to rig my dragon but seemed to be going nowhere fast and really needed to move the process on. 

I did a search and came upon an auto rigging plugin for Maya called Advanced Skeleton and this ended up being my saviour. At least I thought so. I found a tutorial showing me how to use AS and followed it to the tee, came to moving the newly generated rig and the mesh didn't move. I retried the process about four times, thinking I might have missed something, and every time the mesh didn't move with the rig. I showed it to Fernando, who figured out it hadn't skinned the mesh to the rig. So he walked me through it step by step and it finally worked.


I can now show the update to my earlier head turn post, in which I was struggling to get the breakdowns looking right. The shape of the face was all wrong but I couldn't figure out what specifically to change so I decided to just start the pose from scratch. I did some research and found a head turn from Scott Petersen to use as reference. It's a really clear and well executed head turn that has a lot of character to it. 

I studied the structure of the face and the way it moves from frame to frame to figure out how my characters face would change. It was really difficult for me to try to see the face in a sort of three dimensional way but I ended up feeling very pleased with how it has turned out.  I also noticed that the right eyebrow leads the movement and I tried to incorporate that into my animation.  

The first image is the before drawing, which was really bad, and the following four are what replaced it. The structure just looks right and natural when still but when in motion becomes almost invisible which is great because the wrong drawing stuck out instantly.   


I have begun animating and am enjoying the process so far. Animating spiders has been quite a challenge but with the help of timing charts I have managed to make it work so far. I wasn't always clear on why timing charts were necessary and was confused as to how to use them properly but I went back to the tutorials that I found last week from Toniko Pantoja that help me understand why timing charts are such a useful tool. 

I email the first couple of shots to the clients for approval and got a short but positive response from Jeff. The short responses so far came be a little frustrating as I would really like some more input from them but it's also encouraging because it feels like they trust me to get on with the project and to keep it going in the right direction.


Last week I was having a bit of a mental blank when I came to doing some 2d work. I was really struggling to get motivated so I took an hour or two to do some research, looking at a bunch of behind the scenes videos from various Cartoon Network shows like 'The Amazing World of Gumball' and 'Steven Universe'. I also looked at some Disney pencil tests and an BTS video of 'Ethel & Ernest', all of which were very informative and motivational. It was great to hear and see how these animation projects get made and why.

This is great to see the process from storyboarding through to compositing on a professional project. I had never heard of 'We Bare Bears' before doing this research and to begin with I really like the art style, it's simple and clean but after digging deeper I realised that the show is all about these bears just trying to find their place in the world and make friends, which is an Important message for kids.

I find this process fascinating. The amount of work that goes into creating the world is amazing. I also love that they mix different styles of animation, with real world backgrounds, to create a unique final image.

This BTS video is great because it shows how individual animators work and I also like being able to see the entire screen that they're working on (i.e. timeline, layers) and not just the animation itself. 

Interesting interview with the creator of 'The Amazing World of Gumball' talking about how a childhood experience inspired an episode of the show.

I love videos like this that have creators talking about their work and why they created it. It gets me thinking creatively and gets me motivated. To be able to see so many processes like pitching & character/world design in a high level professional environment is great.

And finally I watched another tutorial from Toniko Pantoja on timing charts and spacing. This one was an hour long demo in which he showed how he animates. It's really interesting to see his process and to get some tips off of him. I did notice though that during this animation his character never blinks, which I'm guessing he just forgot about, but it gives off this unnatural feeling even though the rest of the animation is amazing.


I've been working on a head turn for the end of my film where the boy will come back to the living room and find it trashed. He was originally just going to be going from very happy to shocked but I decided to have that change happen within a head turn. So the first set of images is the initial keys and then the one below that is with the updated head turn keys.

I'm still trying to get the second key of the head turn right. I'm finding it hard to keep the proportions right but talking to Katie today, I think we have figured out where I was going wrong. I've brought down the eyebrows and eyes to the right position but haven't done so with the nose and mouth, also the cheek and hair needs to slightly come round the other side. I've drawn a guide to help me work on it later.

Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 2.58.05 PM.png

I've also been working on a shot where the boy comes running down the stairs toward the beginning of the film. It's only at the keying stage so far and I'm not sure just yet if I will scrap some of it and go in a slightly different direction because my approach has changed a bit since I started this shot due to the tutorials I have spoken about below.

I've been watching some tutorials from an animator called Toniko Pantoja at his Youtube page and they have really helped me think about animating in a different way and have made me feel better about the whole process. I was having some issues with timing charts and inbetweening but his videos have helped clear those issues up and has taken my animation up a level. 

This is Toniko Pantoja's timing chart tutorial that has helped me a lot.


I've updated this shot a little bit from my last post. In that post I mentioned that we had a screening and a classmate suggested to add a little to the arc to the rat's leg when it stretches. It was something that I didn't really think of but I think it looks a lot better since it no longer looks like the rat just stretches his leg from nowhere.  

In this new version he brings his leg up in anticipation of the stretch. It's only a subtle difference but it does help sell the action. 


I've been progressing well over the last couple of weeks, improving on the first shot and also well into shot two. This project is definitely a step up from last year as I'm pushing myself to animate in a completely different way from that first project but in doing this I've found that I'm enjoying it a lot more. I wasn't happy with my project or my progress last year but this year I feel I have improved a lot. 

So here you'll see the improved version of my first shot in which I've made the poses are a lot clearer and the movement a lot smoother. I've also roughly animated the next stage of the shot where the dog run toward camera, incorporating arcs to make it look springy. I've had a really good suggestion from a classmate, from the recent screening of work, to add an anticipation movement when the rat extends his leg out and I've also noticed that I could create some overlapping action in the rat's ears when he slides. And finally, with the update in Animate, I've been able to add some camera movement using the vcam which I think works really nicely. 

This shot is shaping up well, I've got the key poses in and have started breaking it down. In the storyboard this was originally broken into three boring shots, one of the boy asleep, then one of the alarm clock and then one of the boy waking up but I was watching a favourite Gobelins short of mine called 'One Day' and it gave me this great shot idea, which is a lot more appealing. 


I've completed the storyboard, as well as some more character designs and sent them to the clients. I got a short response and am pleased that they have seen it and are happy with it but was hoping for some more input from them, maybe some suggestions or changes but I do realise that they are busy people. I've tried to keep the storyboard simple and concise like 'The Ricky Gervais Show' and 'The Co-Optional Podcast' animated shows.


Even though I don't need to have an environment modelled for this module I decided that I'd create a rough environment just to give myself something to feed the animation off of visually, instead of having to imagine it. So I set about building a small, basic forest set and once it was finished I brought my character into the space and experimented a little with lighting. 

I looked at a few tutorials to get a better understanding of lighting as I haven't delved into it very much even though it's one of the areas of 3d I'm most interested in, as well as modelling and animation. I'm really interested in cinematography and the way that the look and lighting can influence the mood and tone of a film.


Been doing a ton of research today for 'Early Mornin Brawlin'. I started by doing some research into quadruped run cycles for the dog character that will be running toward camera in the scene from my previous post and came across this run cycle pose sheet that is going to be really helpful. I will carry out a test to see how the quadruped run works and will then decide if I will go with it or do the run on two feet.

I then looked at some 'Scooby Doo' clips to see how Scooby moves. There is a lot of squash & stretch, overlapping action and arcing going on in this run cycle that I will keep in mind for my animation.

I also looked at '101 Dalmatians' which has a lot of great movement to study of dogs moving in different ways. The clip below shows many variations of dog walk cycles to analyse, all of which are a lot more realistic than the Scooby Doo run. I will ultimately be doing more unrealistic movement in my short but the '101 Dalmatians' animation has still be useful to look at for the fundementals of a run cycle.