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.