Saturday, 31 December 2011

rigging up a storm...

After a long, hard fought battle with rigging I've emerged victorious. I've finally completed the second of our two character rigs. It was a long and at many times frustrating process but we got there.

The whole process of rigging two characters to a level at which they can move realistically was a challenge. It was the first time I'd attempted such a level of rigging, previously I'd rigged very simple cartoony characters. I didn't appreciate the amount of work involved, particularly in skinning. I was introduced to a few new things along the process, namely Pose Space Deformers (PSDs). These are essentially corrective blend shapes but are easier and quicker to produce using Michael Comet's scripts and plug-ins. Although the PSDs do the job on the rigs, I am curious as to how well muscle systems would've worked on our characters. The characters aren't very muscular, but they do have areas of loose clothing and I think that muscles would've been very useful to get a nice roll over and around the skin in the absence of nCloth. I've never used muscle systems but I'd love at some point to look into them when rigging, I think it's a very interesting area.

I am overall pretty happy with how the rigs work, if any issues crop up during animation then I'm sure I can go back and tweak the rigs suitably. So without further a due, here is the walk cycle rig test for the sick man:

This is just the rigged model. The displacement maps have yet to be added. I will post the final version up soon.


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

rigging the sick man...

So for the past 2 day I've been working (almost) solidly on the sick man rig for our major project. It's had it's up and downs but I'm back on track now. There's a lot more work to be done, but for now this is how it looks:

Unfortunately due to my lack of concentration on the first day I have spent the second day going back through the rig and fixing things. It's my own fault, I should have made a plan like it did for the Doctor rig, however I thought I could just breeze through this as it's pretty much the same. Alas it's never that easy, and by missing one little step I've managed to lose a day of productivity. At least I now know in the future not to be so keen and take the time to make a plan, especially for rigging, but also other things. The time it takes to make the plan will be more than made up for in the time saved from avoiding mistakes.

The rig is working pretty well now though, and is almost identical to the doctor's rig, except for a few spine alterations to allow us to hunch this guys back. I still need to do the hands and the face, and of course skin the damn thing, which is by no means the most exciting thing to do. However skinning is made a lot easier by Michael Comet's scripts and plug-ins, I don't think I'd be so keen on rigging if it wasn't for them, they save so much time.

Ah well, live and learn I guess. At least I can crack on and make some progress tomorrow (with a plan!).


Monday, 19 December 2011

all quiet on the front...

Hello again, I spent this weekend moving back home for Christmas and playing bowls, hence the lack of posting. It's been a pretty hectic weekend overall, but now everything is settled I can relax back in to my steady pile of work. I haven't forgotten about my post-it per day, I did draw them, just couldn't find the time to post them what with my computer being packed up in a box. But fear not, here are Saturday, Sunday and Monday's drawings!

So these two cheeky chappies are Trulop and Zingo, they're wanted for something, I don't know what yet. But I really like these guys. They're a little clich├ęd however I think we might see more of them in the future. I imagine them being like a corrupt Penn & Teller.

This cute little guy I think would be the kid who foiled Trulop and Zingo's master plan (whatever it might be).

As for everything else, not much has moved on, the next step for me is rigging the old man character for the major project, but I'm sure you'll see some of that soon enough.


Friday, 16 December 2011

major progress...

Today I'm packing to go home for Christmas tomorrow evening. But me and Lewis have found some time to finish up the exterior environments for our major project. Here they are:

This is the first scene street

Second scene street

So our project has two exterior scenes, both streets however both need to have different vibes. The first one is meant to be a posher more up market street, it has bigger houses and is where our doctor character will live. The second is set at night and is where the murder will take place. It's supposed to be a poorer street and feel more claustrophobic and intimidating.

I think these streets have come out really well, I modelled all of the houses and laid out the streets, then Lewis come along with his TD hat on and procedurally generated the cobbles and curbs for the streets. I think we've really managed to capture the feeling of each street, and even though the second street isn't lit correctly it already has the feel of being close and a little bit uncomfortable. Also what helps is that there are few straight lines leading down the street, we originally had the curbs of the street straight down the middle and it just looked too CG and perfect, so with a quick lattice deformer we managed to give the street a much more organic feel. If I had more time I think I would add more detail to some of the houses, but ultimately they're not the centrepiece of the animation and they don't have to be perfect, I'm confident that they'll do the job as they are.

Next up - rigging the old man. I'll let you know how it goes.


Thursday, 15 December 2011

yet more animation...

So all of the projects I've talked about so far involve animation for me, which is great because I want to be a character animator. I was intrigued to know what our last project (AAT2) would be. Turns out... it's animation. I couldn't be happier that all I have to do this year is animate stuff (and write and exam, but we won't talk about that). Its a bit daunting, there's a lot of animating to be done, but it's what I love, so it won't be a chore.

Anyhow, more on the AAT2 project. It's a combination of an animation assignment which we don't know any more about and an exam at the end of the year. This is a great unit as we have 3 lots of visiting practitioners teaching us for this project:

Campbell McAllister and Susannah Shaw - Cambell was Animation Director at Red Kite,
Animation Director at Axis and FX Animator at Aardman. Susannah is Director of ‘Animated Exeter’ and Director of the Bristol Animation Course supported by Aardman.

Kevan and Robyn Shorey -Kevan is an NCCA graduate and senior animator at Dreamworks. Robyn  is Department Manager for Layout, with prior experience in Lighting, Surfacing, Paint Fix and Animation from the Production Management side.

Ed Hooks - author of ‘Acting for Animators’. He presents master classes in acting theory for professional animators internationally.

We had a really good week with Campbell and Susannah a few weeks ago, and the others will be coming early next year, which I can't wait for.

For this unit we have to keep a blog/journal about what we do and how we work, and also critically evaluate our own work, both in this project and in all our other projects. This is the main reason I've set-up this blog so I can put my thoughts down somewhere. I'm looking forward to the rest of this project as it is an amazing chance to learn from and work with truly great professionals.

In other news I've recently found some of my old drawings from my foundation and first year at uni. This has inspired me to start a new sketchbook in which I will keep scribblings and thoughts for this blog. I have also decided to do a drawing a day on a stack of post-it notes it have. It's not a new idea, but it means I can practice my drawing skills and maybe come up with some new ideas and characters. I might post them up here everyday or maybe do a series and post them at the end of the week. Either way here is number 1. Enjoy!


Wednesday, 14 December 2011


The next project I have for this year is innovations. It's a bit of a daunting project at first, it suggests we have to be innovative in the world of CG, and although it is partially marked based on your innovativeness, we don't have to be innovative in the world of CG, we just have to justify how what we're doing is innovative to us personally.

So for this project I have chosen to do fantasy creature animation. I found it hard to come up with anything really innovative in the field of animation, so I've decided to push myself and try something new for me. I've done a bit of quadruped animation before, but I stuck strictly to reference, it looks good and still needs some tweaking, but it is purely a motion reference project. You can check it out here.

As the name suggests i am going to animate a completely fictional creature. This is where the challenge lies. I cannot just go out and find it's real world equivalent, study it, and more or less copy its movements. I have to think outside the box, study the fantasy creature's anatomy and compare it to similar real world creatures, then piece together how the beast will move and act etc. I am looking forward to this project as I have some scope to really explore the area. My project will focus on combining elements of real world creatures, so for example the fantasy beast might move like a spider but have the mentality and aggressive streak of  of a lion, this is what I am going to look into.

Here is the rig I will be using (I did not model or rig this):

This is the project I have barely started on, however I have some basic initial research. I started where most people do and googled creature animation and a few other similar searches. This was very unsuccessful and annoying, as all the results were for creature animation schools and I couldn't find anything on the process or techniques involved in creature animation. So I decided to take a chance and I emailed MPC asking if one of their animators could help me by answering a few questions. Thankfully (and a little surprisingly) they replied and i managed to get my questions answered. I'm glad I took the chance as the answers to the questions will help inform my research and allow me to plan my project similar to the professionals.

That's my innovations project so far, I'm sure I'll put some more up about this over christmas. That only leaves one more project for me to introduce.


the big one...

The second of my projects for this year is THE major project. The culmination of 3 years at uni, the thing you have to show for your efforts. It's big.

So for my major I'm in a group with three of my friends; Nesta Smith, Agatha Gomes and Lewis Haley. Our project is set in the 17th century and is centred around a plague doctor and a sick man and it's called 'His Cure'. I'm not sure you want me to explain it all, if you want to know more then head over to Aggie's director's blog, which can be found on the right of my blog.

My contribution to the group is rigging and animation, and I also happen to have modelled the Tudor houses for the streets in our piece.

These are the houses, the cobbles are generated procedurally by our TD Lewis. This isn't the final layout for the houses, but I think it gives a good feel for the scene.

The rigging for the Doctor character is done and the man will be done soon. The only animation I've done so far is simple walk cycle and rig test for the Doctor.

It's not come out exactly how I would hope, I'm happy with the mechanics, I think they work fine. But the walk lacks any real character, you get no sense of who this guy is, or what his demeanour is. The one thing I'm really going to have to think carefully about and work on before I get into full swing animation is acting. Getting into character and really thinking about what their motivation is etc. I know I've got the ability to animate well, I just need to stop being so cocky sometimes and rushing into it, I need to take a step back and plan my animations, take time to really get into the moment.

But that will be the focus over the christmas holidays, for now I have to rig the sick man.


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A class from the masters...

The first project I'm writing about is the masterclass project set by Blue-zoo. As a course we had a choice of briefs covering different areas of CG, each set by a different studio including MPC and Framestore. As I want to be an animator, I chose the character animation brief set by Mike Wyatt at Blue-zoo.

For the interim deadline tomorrow we had to block out 4 animations. One 2D animation which would be a sting/ident for the NCCA, and three 3D animations based on a given scenario. I chose the going over a fence scenario. The interim deadline is so that we can get feedback from the professionals, sort of like getting a shot approved by the director.

This is a great project and having contact with professionals in the big studios we hope to work at one day is invaluable.

Anyway, that's the project, and these are my efforts for tomorrows deadline. Enjoy!

2D Animation (geeking out with a clone trooper)

Angry Guy

Sad Guy

Sneaky Guy

Overall I'm pretty happy with all four of them. I'm not sure what Mike will think about the fact that I've used 3D assets in the 2D animation. This was more of an aesthetic choice as the Lego blocks at the end weren't really reading as Lego in 2D. But we'll see what he says, it's easily changeable.

As for the 3D animations, I'm pleased with how they look in blocking, and I think most of the timing works. The sneaky guy was really hard to get right, and definitely gave me the most frustration. I did consider changing the idea completely to something else, but I decided to stick with it and I'm glad I did. The issue was that I took reference of me being sneaky, and when animating I stuck too rigidly to real life and didn't push any of the poses, so the animation looked dull and also the timing was off as it turns out I'm not very good at being sneaky.

The sneaky animation was the only one of the animations I made a proper plan for. I took reference, drew key poses and the animated around that. I'm glad I did it, and i wish i had done it for the others, it certainly sped up the process of animating, even with the initial set backs i encountered. It meant I could go back to my plan and drawings and assess what it was i didn't like and change that. Without this plan I fear I may have changed my idea.

So that's the masterclass project.

I know this post is a bit long, but I'm getting into the habit of assessing my own work and practices for my Advanced Aesthetics and Techniques 2 (AAT2) exam. I'm still a bit unsure of what exactly the tutors are looking for, but hopefully I'm on the right track.

See you next time,


a new day, a new blog...

I started a blog a few months ago on my website, it did the job, but it wasn't amazing and I got a bit lazy with it. Now I'm starting a proper blog, because it's easier to use, it looks better and I wanted a fresh start so I can document my major project and keep a journal about everything.

I'm going to keep this brief as I will add some more posts introducing you to all the projects I'm working on in my final year at Bournemouth, some in full swing, some still in planning stages. Keep your eyes peeled for those.