Thursday, 9 June 2011

Personal Evaluation

I don't even know where to start when talking about this year, our project has gone from great, to good, to average to dead. I honestly did not expect our film to crash and burn like it did, and it's just bums me out that despite our best efforts it couldn't be prevented. First I will talk about my own experience and then I will discuss our group performance.

Personally I feel that I developed a lot over the year and learnt a lot of new skills and gained much knowledge and understanding in a variety of different areas. My primary roles were texture artist, UV mapper and modeller for the environments. I successfully completed the majority of my tasks although fell short of time at the ned and couldn't finish the texturing. I think in a way I had given myself too much work to handle on my own which is why in the end we had to get help from a couple of others, but given the circumstances I think I have achieved a lot this year and I finally have a clear cut understanding of what I want to do within the industry which has taken me a good 3 years to figure out, so I'm very pleased that I have a path to follow and a goal to reach now.

At the start of they year my knowledge of texturing and UV mapping was very limited and could just about be considered basic, but I have gradually built upon my knowledge week by week and am now very competent in each role, however I still have a lot to learn as I have only scratched the surface on what is possible, especially with texturing as I still need to learn about different types of maps such as normal maps and specular maps which will help make even better textures. Now that it's the end of the year I wish I had pushed myself a lot harder still, I think I could have definitely done a lot more than I did and learnt more to improve my own skills.

Our group performance has been pretty good on a whole, especially at the start, but I feel as time went on it started to divide a little bit so that it was me and Karen on one side and Karl on the other. I think this is because me and Karen were always doing lots of different roles and being completely overwhelmed with tasks but Karl only stuck with modelling throughout the whole year until being forced to do some lighting in the last term, I think along the course we started to get a bit annoyed because we felt that we were putting in the most effort whereas Karl didn't have the commitment that we did, he even gave up his role of being the rigger for the group because he couldn't be bothered to learn it properly so we had to find someone else last minute. I'm not saying that Karl didn't do any good work because he did some great modelling and provided a lot of good input and perspective into the design process and overall production work, but his unwillingness to push himself or stay motivated made a big impact on the work that we produced as me and Karen had to pick up tasks that he didn't complete or start making things harder for us.

The character rigging stage slowed us down a lot as there was a lot of back and forth with exchanging the characters for tweaking and adjustments as well as correcting UV's and textures, but Laura was confident she could get it done for us because she said she had done it before. However towards the end we were running out of time and when we finally got the rigged characters back they were not to a standard that could be used in a film, especially Summer. Summer had the most problems with geometry tearing and incomplete blendshapes which made the facial expressions look quite strange and bumpy so in the end we had to use a downloaded rig to do our animation. I understand that Laura had her own work to do, but she assured us that she could do our rigs, even when we suggested getting someone else to do the blendshapes so she could focus on her own stuff, she told us not to worry and that she would get it done for us; so we felt a little let down there as we could have got someone else to do it for us which would have worked out better for all of us in the end.

In the end i think our group was too small and that given the size of the production we were doing, which in itself was quite small, we could have used at least two more permanent team members to assist with modelling, texturing, animating and many other tasks. If we had an extra term I think we would have been safe to finish the film, but given the time we had and all of the problems that hit us in the last term, it just wasn't possible. It's a shame that we didn't achieve what we set out to do, and it's disheartening that we didn't get to see any finished animation, but we can all feel happy with the work that we did manage to produce.

If I were to work on this again or on a similar project I would like to try my hand at being a team leader/director to see how I would handle the pressures and cope with the stressful situations, it's something I've been eager to try for a while now but have never had the opportunity to do; maybe one day I'll get to manage my own production, I just hope things turn out better than they did for us.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Animation and Compositing

Throughout this year I have done no animation whatsoever, I was initially tasked to do some prop or environment animation but it was gradually given to James and Karen as they had no animation to do and I was busy doing modelling and texturing as well as other tasks. I had a bit of a panic because my animation folder is completely empty at the moment and there is very little time left to make anything worthwhile or decent looking for it, especially since I'm not even an animator by trade so I find it quite hard to get things looking right.

The animation is from shot 04 of our film, it's very basic and is nothing more than a 1st pass, my skill alone will not allow me to do anything greater than what would be expected from a 1st pass as I don't have the experience or knowledge in how to make interesting character animation, so at best I could place key frames...but when it comes to finessing or using the graph editor it just doesn't work for me.

I composited our end shot which Karen had animated, lighted and rendered. I used Adobe After Effects and imported all of the different render layers into it as an image sequence. I used the diffuse layer as teh base layer in the composite, I then layered the other renders on top using different blending methods such as multiply, screen and overlay to get the desired effect. Some of the layers such as the 'ambient occlusion' and the 'depth' ones needed the opacity adjusted as they were washing out too much of the colour, apart from that it was all straight forward and didn't require much work in the end. There were five render layers in total including Diffuse, Shadow Raw, Depth, Ambient Occlusion and Specular.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Final Texture Bits...

It's come to the end of the term and I can't fit in any more time to texture props or anything else, so here I am posting the final pieces that I have been working on including some unfinished bits as well. 

These are some pillows that Karen modelled and Dean UV'd, they were easy to texture as they didn't require much detail at all so I managed to get them finished nice and quick. Karen wanted a stitched looking material for the pillows so I used a photograph of a cleaning cloth belonging to my mum as the base for the texture and coloured it pink as requested.

This shelf was modelled by Karl and again UV'd by Dean. Because of it not being directly in any of our shots I gave it a simple wood texture and nothing more, I felt that any more time spent adding details would be a waste as it wouldn't be seen so I kept it as it is.

This texture map is for the shelf, it was layed out neat enough however the large amount of lines and UV's made it difficult to work on as I didn't know what lines represented the sides of the shelf or the underneath, so it was a bit of a guessing game at first. A lot of the other props in the treehouse were taken care of by Karen who used different shader materials to represent the types of plastics the toys and other props are made from which was also a great help to me and definitely lightened my work load towards the end here.

I started UV mapping the toy chest that Karl made in the hopes that I would be able to texture if given the opportunity. This was going smoothly at first until my Maya quit unexpectedly so I had to restart from scratch which was very frustrating because I can't afford to waste any time at this stage. I used my usual method of separating the object into different pieces using the 'extract' tool so I could do each part more easily and accurately.

I managed to finish it without any further hitches and I have to say it is probably my best piece of UV mapping i have done, the checker pattern is layed out perfectly all over the model and there are no abnormalities such as stretching anywhere so I feel quite proud of myself, it's just going to be a bummer if I don't get to texture it as I feel it would have almost been a waste.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Crayon Texturing

I'm slowly running out of time and I don't think I'm going to be able to finish all of my work before the deadline, plus with all the problems that we've been having with our characters and Karens access to working hardware it doesn't look like we will even be able to get a partially finished film. I based the textures for the crayons off of some cheap crayons I saw in the pound shop and made them to a basic looking level as they will most likely not even be seen in the film anyway.

I made approximately six different coloured versions and applied them to the geometry as seen below, thankfully these only took a few hours to complete which is the best thing about props which are not in shot as they don't require as much effort as the major important ones. 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Rigging a Tree...Oh boy....

For the opening shot of our film there is wind picking up and rain as the storm gets closer and closer to the treehouse, to make the opening shot look that bit more believable we will need to have movement in the tree and the leaves. Even though I'm completely overloaded with work at the moment it's been left to me to rig the tree and animate it. So not only do I have to learn how to rig in one day, I also have to apply it to the tree and then animate it all myself.....great....

In terms of rigging I had no idea where to start, I searched for the most basic tutorials I could but even they were too complex for me to fully grasp so in the end I was doing a mix match of different tutorials picking out the parts that worked for me. Unfortunately we are too late in the term to ask for someone else to this for us as everyone is too busy on their own films. I started the rig by placing joints along the branches of the tree, for the leaves I had to imagine where there would be branches on the tree spread out so I had to place the joints accordingly, I also used images of trees without leaves to plan out where to put the joints. 

Once I finished placing the joints I had to make sure that the tree was prepared properly, I turned it into a 'Soft Body' so that once I attached the rig joints to it the tree would bend and move as I moved the joints. At this stage it was causing my Maya to start lagging and slowing down because of the large amount of faces for the leaves being moved at the same time, this has made working on this part of the project extremely long and frustrating as every little movement or click I do lags the software.

This is a playblast of the first animation test I done on part of the leaves, generally the movement looks pretty good and the timing is quite good as well, but I've noticed that the leaves are stretching in some areas which is going to look very wrong in a rendered shot. To be honest I'm not even sure if this is the best way to animate the tree but nobody seems to know how to do it any other way and from what I found online, a rig is the best way to do it.

This playblast shows the stretching of the leaves a lot more clearly as I exaggerated the movements in the animation to make it look like the wind is a lot more fiercer. To be honest, if I were to fix the stretching, the only way to do it would be to animate each and every individual joint of the tree rig so it flows smoothly, however given the time constraints I have and the lagging of Maya it will not be possible, as it is, I feel that the rig has failed and that another method may be needed to animate the leaves. I considered the use of dynamics and tried it out but I kept having error messages because the tree and leaves are too complex in terms of geometry for the Dynamic fields to apply to. I tried changing the tree to an 'active rigid body' so that I could apply a turbulence field to simulate the wind blowing into it but again I had similar error messages for the same problem.

I tried a ditch-last effort again with the tree rig but found it impossible to use, maybe if I was more experienced I could've made a more complient and easier to use rig set-up for the tree, but with my knowledge I did the best that I could and consequently failed due to pressing time constraints and software issues, it doesn't help that Karen hasn't been able to use her laptop for a while now either so I feel that the group has fallen behind, I wish Karl would be more willing to help out and assist with problems as well but he's only interested in doing his own tasks leaving the problems to me and Karen to sort out.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Bouncy Ball Texture

The ball was easy enough to UV map, I tried using Spherical Mapping which I thought would work well on an object that is a sphere, but it was throwing the UV's all over the place so in the end I had to do a Planar Projection which made it a challenge to accurately unfold the UV's.

I used a phong material to apply the texture to, this helps it have a more rubbery plastic feel to it which is common in childrens balls.

When it came to the texturing I had to do the stars different sizes with the smallest in the middle and the biggest on the outside because of the way the UV's had to be made. I kept the style of the ball the same as the other objects I have textured, making it look worn and used with scratches and scuff marks spread about.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Rocking Horse UV Mapping and Texturing

I'm not entirely sure why but I've been quite scared about UV mapping the rocking horse that Karen made, I think it may be because of the horse body and it's shape which I'm worried may cause some problems. 

I started the UV mapping by using the same process I used on the character Pandy where I separate different parts of the object by selecting the faces and using the 'extract' tool. This made it easier to break the model down into more manageable parts for when I was doing the Planar Projections, the object itself was separated into the horse, the seat, the handles and the base.

The image above shows when I first tested the textures I made in photoshop, I usually find that once I apply a texture to the object that there will be a problem that needs to be changed in photoshop so I have to keep going back and forth, however I didn't have to do that this time. I used a similar process to the drawers where I identified areas of the object where there would be damage to the wood such as dents, chipped paint and dirt to create a texture which makes the object look like it actually has been used and is  in a slowly deteriorating condition.

The finished texture for the rocking horse ready to be placed into the scene.