Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Educating Myself

Whilst drawing sketches and pieces of concept for the treehouse I have also been researching into how wooden structures are constructed, the reason for this is because I want to make sure that everything looks believable, even down to the small details. To help me with this i've had plenty of reference images of treehouses by my side to help keep things accurate and grounded in re

ality which is important for us, even though we're doing a stylised film it's important to keep realistic elements in the film so things seem that bit more real.

On this image I particularly like the wooden support planks which help support the house in the tree, I would love to incorporate it into the modelling to give it a bit more life and character. 

I have also been reading through a book which I luckily found and decided to buy when the book stall came to the college, the book is called 'The New Wood House' which documents a very wide variety of wooden structures from all over the world, these range from eco homes, treehouses to mountain lodges and forest cabins. I found the book to be very helpful and also a little bit too inspiring as it has put many crazy ideas and designs in my head which are far too complex and elaborate for our project.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Further Concept

We have all been working really hard as we have to present our work in an end of term formative assessment presentation in front of our class and tutors, for this we have to make sure that we have a script, storyboard, concept art and plenty of other visual material to communicate our ideas to everyone else. We're also aiming to have started modelling and possibly have some render tests to show how we want our film to look. However this isn't until December in the week that we finish for christmas break. For now i've been trying to develop how the interior of the treehouse could possibly look. Below are some of my initial rough sketches I did in photoshop.

Karens original treehouse concept has lots of drawings covering the back wall, so this is something I want to continue throughout all of the designs as the wall is almost like a collage of all of Summers drawings. I have included the tree trunk taking up part of the corner of the room so it looks like the treehouse was built around it.

I played around with black and white as well as colour for the two above images. This is where I realised that there is going to be a lot of different wooden objects in the animation and each one has to have it's own unique look and feel, if they all shared the same wood type for their texture it would look very boring so I have to make sure I use a mixture of wood types, colours and different grains as well as a mix in the quality of the wood, whether it is fine and clean or dirty and old and if so what type goes on what object, there is still so much to figure out and plan.

The image above is from the perspective of where the character Pandy will be standing in one of the shots, his shadow will be cast along the floor into the corner where the tree and the drawers are as that will be where Summer is hiding in one of the shots.

One of the problems that we may encounter at a later stage in production is to do with lighting as there will be light coming in from the window and the door, this could cause problems when we try to create silhouettes and shadows stretching along the floor as there will be conflicting light sources. The image above however shows where there would generally be the most shadow and light in the treehouse if we were to go with the general layout that has been shown here. Karen and Karl feel pretty optimistic about what I've showed them so far and have requested a more detailed floor plan and layout for the treehouse which I plan to get to them as soon as possible. This way karl will be able to plan more on the sorts of props that he needs to model and where they can be placed in the space that is given to him.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Tree and Treehouse Development

I went away after we talked about the tree shapes and designs to try to figure out some more ideas which may be a lot more practical for us. The thing that I have to keep in mind is that the tree and the treehouse are only going to be seen in the opening shot for approximately 5 seconds, so I need to make sure that I dont focus too much time on this one design as I need to start conceptualizing the interior of the treehouse as well so I can start modelling it all as soon as possible. Below are some more coloured sketches which show more detail in terms of the tree and and the possible exterior design of the treehouse itself.
I wanted to give the tree a really curvey and organic look to help emphasise the natural element in the film, I felt this would be important because the whole animation excluding the short establishing shot takes place inside the treehouse which is filled primarily with sharp straight edges everywhere because of the woodplanks and most of the props; so for the first 5 seconds I want to push the organic feeling of the tree to it's absolute max to help make sure that it doesn't look like a boring straight standing tree with no life or character to it. The actual treehouse in this image has quite a refined ornate design which gives it a more girly look to the design to show that it isn't just a rough, boys-only treehouse, but almost like a friendly home/playhouse for the girl to spend her time in. Also note how the tree trunk is broken through the treehouse, this is a feature that we have all agreed that we want to include in the design, this is so that the feature of the tree is present throughout the whole animation rather than being in it for just a few seconds and then forgotten.

You can also see the shape of the treehouse is very warped and curved, this is an idea that we discussed so that the architecture almost matches the extreme exaggeration of the tree, however the curves of the treehouse in these images are a little too much and as a group it was decided that it should be toned down a little bit so that it's not too "in your face".

Access to the treehouse is important, there has to be a way for the character to enter the location, even if we don't see her actually do it, the reason for this is to add credibility and accuracy to the scene. I've tried a rope ladder in these images but I later suggested earlier today that a sturdy wooden ladder might be more appropriate and show a better sense of safety for the girl Summer as she is only a little girl and should be in a safe environment; this means that a railing of some sort needs to be added around the treehouse so that there is no risk of falling off.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Style and Concept

Karen has a very particular visual style that she wants to achieve with this film, and at the moment I'm not sure whether it's going to be easy or difficult. I think in terms of modelling it will be a challenge because everything needs to stay consistent with the design otherwise the audience will see that certain things look different from each other. However the texturing should be a lot easier and faster on my end as the objects and characters will require a lot less detail because of the stylised look we're now aiming for. Our main reference for the style is the game 'Fairytale Fights' by Playlogic Game Factory.

From the image above you can see that the style is very simplistic with bold flat colours, whereas the environment in the background has an almost pastel/watercolour look to it which I feel I will easily be able to replicate due to my background with fine art which involved the use of a lot of mixed materials for painting. Another thing to take into consideration is the type of shapes and how they are used in the environments and on the characters, for example, a lot of proportions are exaggerated in size such as the eyes and head, whereas the trees in the environment will be one block shape rather than have lots of different branches and hundreds of leaves on them.

As the environment concept artist for the group I've been thinking about the possible shape for the tree which is a lot harder than I initially thought, this is because the tree has to look like it is strong enough to hold the weight of the treehouse but also retain the visual style that we are trying to achieve, to do this I have had to experiment with the shape of the treehouse as well as the tree to make sure that they can fit together properly without looking odd.
The sketches above were for us as a group to help identify the style of tree that we wanted. We found out a lot about what twe wanted from these sketches, firstly we realised that the treehouse couldn't be too high off the ground, so the tree had to be a medium height but thick and strong enough to support the treehouse; secondly I realised that the shape of the tree that is shown is too highly influenced by the shapes of the trees from Fairytale Fights and in reality wouldn't be able to hold a treehouse due to the incorrect branch structuring. After some quick research I found that treehouses are usually built in mature  grown trees which are sturdy and strong, also they must have a branch structure where the branches grow outwards to the side from the centre of the tree so that wooden planks can be layed down on them for the foundation.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


As I was writing up the script and going through it with karen, I was also thumbnailing some of the shots to help show the type of camera shots that we could use in the animation. I used a lot of these thumbnails as the basis for some of the shots in the storyboard which is shown below.

From the storyboard we can now see that our animation will be broken down into 29 different shots, a lot of them are closeups on the characters faces so as the texture artist I have to make sure that the textures are working correctly and look detailed enough for the camera. From this we can also see what props in the environment will be in shot so we can prioritize what needs to be done first and in higher quality than less important objects. It also tells me which objects need the highest quality textures on them and which ones can get away with lower resolution ones due to camera shots, distance from the camera or even the lighting/darkness within our scenes.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Script..

I worked closely with Karen today so that we could pin down the story and get a finished script so that I could go away and do our storyboards. Because we are using Karens characters as well as the story to some extent, it's important that she feels happy with the story and the way in which the characters interact with each other and the environment to help keep everything grounded in Karens original vision.  The main challenge we faced was figuring out how many shots was needed to tell our story, figuring out what was important and what could be discarded was difficult as we both had certain ideas that we wanted to include but in the end had to sacrifice due to the complexity of them in our scene as well as the time limit of 30-60 seconds. We managed to get our first draft of the script finished which turned out pretty solid and flows very well in my opinion, it's definitely a good starting point for us and I can now start the storyboards and animatic which will give us a much better Idea of how it all flows together while in motion. Below is the first draft of our script:


Long Shot establishing the scene, shows a tree and a treehouse which is illuminated when lightning flashes.
Close-Up shot of the treehouse, outside window looking in. A small girl is sitting inside on the floor with a torch.

Medium shot of girl from the front whilst she’s holding the torch. She looks scared and worried due to the storm going on outside. Her torch starts to flicker, the batteries are running low! The torch completely dies.
Close-Up of girls face. A loud of crash of thunder makes her jump.  Wide Shot of her quickly scurrying into a corner next to a set of draws. She huddles her knees into her chest to try and hide herself.
Mid Shot of her trying to hide herself away.
Birds-eye view, wide shot. Lightning flashes reveal a creepy shadow of someone standing in the doorway, it casts across the floor in the direction towards the girl.
Wide Shot. Creepy silhouette of the figure standing in the doorway of the treehouse. Figure is only visible when the lightning flashes. Object falls off of the shelf and rolls in front of the figure.
Mid Shot of the girl. She has her hands over her eyes so she can’t see anything scary that’s happening.
Point Of View shot. Girls perspective. She opens her fingers so she can see what’s going on. She sees the silhouette of the figure standing in the treehouse now.
Close Up on the girls face, she is scared and worried about everything.
Extreme Close Up on the figure. Shot of one of it’s eyes which has a very evil/dangerous look to it.
Mid Shot of the girl. She’s trying her best to curl up and hide herself away.
Extreme Close Up of the figure’s hand. From the side. The figure’s hand slowly raises up, it has a torch in it’s hand but it’s not turned on.
Close Up of the girls face, she is starting to get very distressed.
Low Angle Mid Shot from the girls POV looking up at the figure. The figure is almost towering over her.
Close Up of the girl, wide shot. Side angle. She is gradually reaching breaking point.
Extreme Close Up on the figure. Side shot of the mouth doing a scary grin/smile.
Extreme Close Up on the girl. Side shot showing her eye and nose, She is very scared.
Medium Close Up of the figure. The figure has turned the torch on and is pulling an extremely scary face! The figure turns out to be some sort of panda teddy bear.
Close Up of the girls face. She is screaming in fear.
Close Up. Sound of the storm has disappeared. Girl suddenly sits up very quickly, she looks very distressed. She has just woken up from what appears to have been a nightmare.
Medium Close Up. Side angle. The girl turns her head and looks down towards something.
Close up. Of the girls hand reaching and grabbing a nearby torch.
Mid Shot. Front angle. The girl turns on the torch and quickly shines it to see what is next to her.
Close Up of a teddy bear laying on its back. It turns out to be the same scary teddy bear from her nightmare.
Medium Close Up. A look of relief calms her face….A crack of thunder is heard way off in the distance. The girl jumps with fright and drops the torch.
Close up on torch as it lands on the floor. It rolls in a half circle shining light at the camera before rolling away from the screen illuminating the title ‘Summers Treehouse’ before fading to black.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Job Roles and Specialisations

So we all agreed to work on the idea that I came up with, however it still needs a clear structure and script before we can move ahead on the production. We decided to use this idea because we all felt that it would be exciting to create a scary and dramatic short film with all this intense weather and lighting setting the atmosphere, at the same time though we realise it's going to be a big challenge to get it to work the way that we want, but all three of us are strongly motivated and i'm definitely eager to crack on with production.

As a group we each had to highlight our own strengths and weaknesses to help figure out the roles that we will fulfill within the group. For myself I have identified my strengths in pre-production tasks such as concept art and storyboarding, for production I am comfortable with modelling and texturing, however my texturing knowledge still needs a lot of development especially in terms of UV mapping which is very tricky, I am positive that I will be able to texture all of the assets for our project. I'm also confident with post production techniques and compositing so I will be cutting together all of our final shots and combining all of the elements into one final animation.

Summers Treehouse

Karens original pitch entitled 'Summers Playground' was in itself an ambitious project for a six man team, but with just the 3 of us it would be very impractical to even attempt doing the original idea; however we all agreed that we still wanted to continue working using the characters, environment and style that Karen had created for her story, the only problem we had was to find a way to cut down the story and narrative into a much smaller timescale but still keeping the animation interesting and engaging with a limited timescale.

We all went away by ourselves and came back the next day with brainstorms which outlined possible story ideas or elements that could be used in our animation.

The following are the ideas which I came up with, the top one being the one we used in the end and the rest in order of how much they were liked by the rest of the group:

- (CHOSEN IDEA) There is  a storm outside at night, it's making everything seem scary in the treehouse. Summer has a torch which runs out of battery life. Pandy is creeping around trying to scare Summer.

- Pandy is sleeping, but is soon woken by a firefly that lands on his nose. He gets up and follows it all around the treehouse and eventually over to the window, he climbs up to it but falls out of the window.

- Pandy keeps trying to find ways to get up to a toy plane hanging from he ceiling so that he can pretend to fly. He finally gets up there and the string holding up the plane snaps causing Pandy and the plane to fall.

These ideas are very simple but I feel they could be made very well and appeal to a young audience because of the content in them, that sense of exploration and following the unknown is something we can all relate to and young people may find fascinating.

Friday, 5 November 2010

What Happened?!?!

So I pitched my idea like everyone else in front of the class and tutors. Overall I'd say my pitch was a failure! I didn't have enough visual materials to fully sell my idea and the overall quality of my presentation was pretty weak compared to others in my class. Although I knew the potential of my idea, I didn't sell it very well to everyone so I pretty much kicked myself in the balls there. I was quite excited about my idea and the way it was visualised in my head had me dying to get started on it, however my indecisiveness and and constant changes of ideas wasted a lot of my time so in the end I simply didn't have enough materials prepared to convince anyone that my idea was worthwhile.

Was I disappointed? I was a little, but I completely understood why my idea wasn't chosen, I didn't give anyone a good reason why working on my idea would benefit them in developing their speciality skills and increasing their overall knowledge and ultimately helping them get a job. On the plus side I was relieved because I don't think I would have been suitable in leading a team project for a whole year, I feel I would've been fine for the first month or two but I knew after that I would've struggled in keeping everyone on track and making sure the project was moving forward on schedule, in the end I feel the group might've broken down a bit under the pressure and the final result of work would not be up to scratch.

The next step....the pitches that were chosen were announced to the class and everyone ended up getting into their groups. Because of the large number of students in the class it was not possible for everyone to join a group so we were allowed to get into smaller groups of 3-4 and make a shorter, smaller scale animation of 30-60 seconds. I joined Karen and Karl and we formed a 3 man team to work on a modified version of Karen's original pitch, 'Summers Playground'.