Culmination, sort of

Below is a video that culminates the end of the semester and the Dreamscape Project created by myself and my classmate Joanna Nawn.  You can see her blog here and her portfolio here.

There is much to talk about regarding to production of this animation namely the amount of planning required to make a successful animation.  On my end, storyboarding was an integral part of planning the scenes and helping me make decisions as far as pacing, action and camera angles.

Many of the shortcomings and hiccups can be chalked up to inexperience and getting acquainted with a newer version of Maya and incidental issues with the recently severed relationship between Autodesk and Nvidia and procuring a full license for rendering with mental ray.  Despite this and ultimately being unable to render before the deadline, this has been a valuable learning experience that I’ll take with me to future projects.  We plan on rendering the animation after ironing a couple of minor issues, so please come back in the future.

 

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Project Update – Nov. 02

As for the last few weeks,  I have been concentrating on a particular object of interest for the upcoming animation and sequentially an upcoming TransMedia Narratives project.  This object of  interest is a manhole cover. It came about in a discussion about how it may be used as a narrative device and took off as its own kind of beast, requiring a lot of thought in modeling one as three interlocking pieces that can in theory, be milled out or 3d printed.

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Transparent side view of the cover.

How the pieces fit together.

When planning out the object, I drew up some illustrations to help me plan how it may fit together and some designs inspired by the Voynich Manuscript. that I want to implement on the surface through the use of a displacement map.

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Moving forward, I plan on using a displacement map to sculpt the final design onto the surface and prepare the model for use in fabrication.

Storyboards and Camera Tricks

In preparation for the ongoing collaborative project with Joanna Nawn,  I came to the conclusion that I needed to learn some basic cinematography techniques and a plan for the first scene.  It was tempting to just dive right into Maya and start animating away, but I knew that I’d likely find myself  either stuck deciding what to do or getting lost in some direction outside of my vision.  To order keep myself grounded and to emulate the professional planning process, I knew that I had to draw up some storyboards.

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The storyboards were a helpful tool that allowed me to get my ideas on paper and make some creative decisions that would ultimately save me time in production.

 

Coming into the project I had very little background knowledge with using the camera as a storytelling device besides some basic still photography techniques, so I had to refer to a few sources to educate myself.  The best sources that I was able to utilize was a tutorial on Lynda.com, an extremely helpful video on Vimeo, A Guide to Basic Cinematography, and a wonderful YouTube channel, Every Frame a Painting. Below is a video from that channel that inspired me with the first scene.

The Lateral Tracking Shot was instrumental in the conception of my first scene.

 

With the knowledge I gained, I proceeded to tackle the test shot for the first scene:

As you can see, I utilized a renderable camera to create the tracking shot while having some secondary animations occur in the background.  As the camera stops and centers on the picture above the bed, I used a Push-In, simultaneously changing the focal length from 55 mm to 2.5 mm to achieve the vertigo effect, kinda opposite of the famous Hitchcock Pull.  The final intent of the shot is to have the girl literally fly into the scene, transitioning to the dream state.

Back to the Thesis: Return to 415

I return to 415 this time around to collaborate with my classmate and fellow animation enthusiast, Joanna Nawn.  The aim of this collaboration to create an animated short while strengthening our understanding of the roles that environment and camera manipulation have in enhancing storytelling.  To have a better understanding of our aim, please see our combined thesis below:

 

THESIS

Films both animated and live-action alike rely upon a balance of dynamic storytelling and cinematic techniques to provide their audience with meaningful entertainment. This balance is often elusive, as many films fall short of this balance, over-reliant on gimmicks, star power or special effects, while an exemplary few, e.g. Disney’s Moana and The Shining, excel and become instant classics.  It’s the masterful use of setting, camerawork and great storytelling is what earns these films distinction. Our intention is to capture that balance and create an animated short that showcases how visual effects and the camera can become characters in their own right.

 

Semiotic Square

We will be creating the short based off of the semiotic square shown below.  A semiotic square helps artists to figure out their ideas for a project and become the beginnings of a thesis.  Together this semester we will work to create a short which will include a rig, nhair, ncloth, a water simulation and an environment along with camera manipulation.

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First Real Steps

Here is my attempt at a true walk cycle using a pre -rigged character: Dumbu.  My objective was to learn about the different mechanisms utilized in a more or less complete rig and begin animating  the character to understand how they work and learn of any limitations I may run across.

 

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At first glance, the outliner seemed very intimidating, but I was able to quickly navigate the different groups and determine which nodes I were able to manipulate by clicking on the various control geometry and using either the rotate or move tools.

My approach was to work from the ground up and refine as I go, being mindful of basic walk cycle concepts from traditional animation such as contact, recoil, passing and highpoint, the center of gravity, and secondary animation.

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Here’s a look at the graph editor, which I used to refine the animation, each color representing a range of motion, either in rotation or translation, across the x, y, and z axes.

The appearance of the sine wave represents smooth motion which us desired for a successful walk cycle.

There were a few mistakes I’ve made that would’ve been alleviated by being more mindful of the number of frames in my animation; the basic cycle was created in 60 frames and should have been created in 48, which would have made the walk a little more natural in speed.  Overall, I and happy with the result for a first go.