Monday, 10 December 2012

Year 4, Semester 1 summary - Krokodi - New Orleans town environment

My specialist skills are rigging, blendshapes and animation, however, due to a forced reschedule of production at the beginning of 4th year, I have not yet had an opportunity to put them into practice on Krokodi. I have researched these skills as much as possible as a parallel task so that when I do put them into practice I will be prepared to carry them out efficiently, creatively and to a high standard. My primary task this semester has been to work on the New Orleans ‘town’ environment for Krokodi – as I did most of the research for this environment last semester, I was the most suited to be working on it. Even though this task does not involve any of my chosen specialist skills, it has allowed me to evolve my generalist skills, including 3D modelling, UV mapping, texturing, lighting, rendering and compositing. 

Here is a summary of the production process I have gone through this Semester to create the New Orleans town environment which features in the first half of the 'Krokodi' film.

3D Modelling

To begin, I started off by blocking out the layout of the town:
I tried to add in a quirkiness, off-balance and uneven quality to the models to add a bit more character to the buildings:
I used my original concept artwork I did for the environment as a guide to the style/design of the buildings. Mainly though, I used a bank of reference photos I had gathered as a guide for extra detail specific to New Orleans:

I added in lots of railings, balcony's and window shutters to make sure the town had a New Orleans feel to it:

 The buildings surround the "picnic area" where most of the action will  be going on:

UV-mapping and Texturing

These are the props for the town that 'Krokodi' group member Ben modelled. I learned how to UV-map and apply textures by doing these first before the environment buildings:

 As I realized there were going to be many UV-maps and texture-maps to keep track of, I produced a layout key. Each building has a colour and a number, which I have used as part of all naming conventions for files relating to the environment:
I used my concept artwork and research from last year to determine the colours I used for the buildings:

Examples of textured UV-maps for the walls of two of the buildings, I digitally painted the textures in Photoshop;  applying a base colour, then adding paint strokes on to it to add some more detail:

Final textures applied to the buildings:

I had initial trouble with the UV-mapping process, however I now have a firm understanding of it and UV-mapped the whole environment, ready for texturing. To begin with I was taking one building at a time, UV-mapping it then texturing it, and I found that this was a slow process. Therefore I changed my approach and done all of the UV-mapping first before the texturing, which was a a much faster process. The texturing is still in progress as I was just concentrating on getting the part of the town done that was needed done by the Christmas review.

Lighting for a 3D environment was a relatively new thing for me to learn. First I read up on the basics of lighting and the best types of light for different purposes. The time of day during the town scenes is early evening. I took some pictures from the windows of my house of the sky at this time of day for reference:
Looked awesome! But the colours are too lava-like for 'Krokodi's' town environment

These colours work much better, hints of pinks and oranges hitting the edges of the clouds
Here is a screenshot of the lights I added into the environment:
I used a Spotlight to shine over the buildings and hit the top of the orange building like the sun would do when   setting in the evening in an urban environment. I also added in a digital painting of the sky in the background. I used Area lights sparingly, to added highlights on the roof of the orange building, and to add in evening purple hues to the front of the buildings in the foreground. I also added a few Directional lights for overall lighting of the scene.
I also started to make use of Light-Linking, a process of adjusting what objects in a scene a light is affecting, to allow for a more creative and customisable shot. Learning how to use Light-linking also reminded me of the importance of having a tidy Outliner, in which all objects and geometry in the scene are named properly, as the Outliner is used to select the objects that are affected by an individual light.


I learned through tutorials and trial and error how to create and render out an Ambient Occlusion pass using Mental Ray, which adds shadow to the models:

I then rendered out the Master Layer using Maya Software. I took both passes into Photoshop. Made the AO pass into an overlay and adjust the opacity to create the image below. I think the AO pass has really helped add form and presence to my 3D environment:

I tested out creating this colourful ID pass, which can help in the compositing stage, as it allows you to select separate areas of the shot to edit:

Now that I had tested out the rendering and compositing process with my shot of the environment, I asked Carlo to send me the current Burger Van model he has been working on, and I also had Ben send me the most up-to-date rigged character 'Dee'. I imported them into the environment, scaled them to the right size within the environment and posed Dee to how she would be in shot 1 of 'Krokodi'. The weight painting is still not final which is why for example her shoulder has gone through the shoulder strap of her vest top.
 I rendered out the Ambient Occlusion layer. The AO pass made the interior of the van quite dark.

 I composited the AO and master layer together to produce this final image. More lighting will be needed to light the interior of the van to light our main character. Also learning how to add a depth pass to create blurring in the distance and focus on the action in the scene:

The next step for the environment is to finish the textures of the other buildings which have already been UV-mapped, set up cameras for all the shots in the environment and light each of these shots as if it is its own film set, to achieve the right lighting and look for each shot.

Year 4, Semester 1 summary - Krokodi - rigging and animation

Rigging and Animation research
To begin researching animation for the 'Hunter' character I looked back at animated films that had originally been an influence and inspiration for 'Krokodi'. I picked out screenshots that showed character expressions that reminded me of how the Hunter might look in a certain situation.

One of the first examples was the cook and van driver in the short animated film 'Oktapodi'. The whole style of the film was very stylized, fun and lively - something we are aiming for with Krokodi.
'Oktapodi' - Gobelins 2007
 the look of evil determination on the restaurant cook's face as he tries to deliver an octopus (and it tries to escape from him) reminded me of the same look the Hunter would have at seeing 'Dee' for the time and realizing that he has found the creature he's been on the hunt for. Also as he thinks he is about to succeed at hunting her while firing the crossbow at her:

The Annecy 2012 Partner's Trailer includes a Caveman character with the similar motivations to our 'Hunter' character - hunting! There is also a similar scene to when the 'Hunter' finds a crossbow in the swamp, where the caveman finds an extra stick in the forest ground, and they both put these new finds into use. The Caveman's facial expressions show off the reaction to discovering the new found object, from initial surprise and wonder, thinking and realizing what he can use it for, then taking the action to use it:

 Other characters I researched in the same way were, Loony Tunes 'Elmer Fudd', and Tadeo Jones and Max Mordon from the movie 'Tadeo Jones':

 Another part of my research was looking at real footage of Hunters, explorers and nature presenters. I have watched video footage to observe Nature Presenters including ‘The Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin and ‘Deadly 60’ presenter Stephen Backshall. I also have some relevant programs recorded such as ‘Swimming with Crocodiles’, ‘Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild’, clips from ‘I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!’ and ‘The Real Man’s Road Trip: Sean and Jon Go West’ episode in which they travel to Louisiana swamps infested with alligators. I plan to watch these again to sketch from while I observe the behaviour, expressions and movement of the presenters. Through this research I will be able to see if there are any common behavioural traits or mannerisms that can be seen and that I can translate onto Krokodi’s ‘Hunter’ character.
Acting and drama theory is another area I would like to research further to help bring out the best performance possible with animation for Krokodi.

As part of my research for rigging the 'Hunter' character in 'Krokodi', I looked in armature for stop motion puppets. The ball and socket joints in a stop motion armature act in very similar similar ways to how real human joints move, and the same thing can be replicated in 3D character rigs with parent and child joints. I also found through reading up about stop motion armatures that they are made specific to what the puppet is required to do and animate. This is also the same for 3D, therefore I will be applying this to building the rig for the 'Hunter', using the research for animating him, and by looking back at the animatic, figuring out what action he is required to act out; and making a rig (or more than one rig if a specific action is required) that is able to achieve these actions. Here are some pages from my sketchbook:

The plan for Semester 2 is to put into practice what I have researched and learned to create a rig and blend-shapes for the 'Hunter' that will therefore allow me to create expressive, charismatic and entertaining animation.

Year 4, Semester 1 - 'Crab on a Beach' project

The second project I have been working on for my specialist skill, animation, is Sarah Rettie's visual effects project 'Crab on a Beach'. ( Integrating a 3D model of a crab, that has been rigged, textured and animated, into a live action plate of a sandy beach. The crab should blend into the environment and look part of the original footage. I will be animating this crab, therefore I have been researching the movement and behaviour of crabs, from real-life to animated film.

The type of crab that will be integrated into the footage is the Green Crab, therefore my research started there:

I then began to look at the anatomy of a crab, how the legs and claws move, their leg joints only have 1 degree of movement, much like a hinge:

Expanding on my research of how a crab walks, I watched and analysed some footage of their walk cycles. This video here shows the crab walk cycle through the amusing use of a treadmill:

The notes I took from this, and other such videos of real footage of Green crabs, are that they do not walk on the tips of their legs (much like a spider walks), but rather the leg folds under. The video above shows the crab walking underwater. Whereas the one I will be animating walks on the beach. This lead me to investigate the differences between walking underwater and on dry land. The main difference being that there is much more bouncy steps in the walk cycle when underwater due to the water density - almost mimicking a lack of gravity:

Watching a clip from The Little Mermaid's 'The Great Sebastian', I found that the walk cycle of 'Sebastian' was not very accurate. However this was not really a surprise as he is a very cartoon-y character that needs to have a lot of expression and exaggerated movement:

I started to examine other crab characters from film. I began to think of other behaviours that I could animate the crab doing. The original plan of Sarah's project was to have the crab just walking about on the beach. However through the research of different behaviours crabs have, it might be interesting to include some of these behavioural traits. One was the defensive/aggressive stance it takes when it feels threatened by something, it raises its front claws into the air to both ward off predators and be the aggressor. An example I found of this are the crabs from 'Finding Nemo', who mimic this behaviour while protecting their food source:

The Pirates of the Caribbean pebble crab was another reference for the walk cycle:

Another way I looked into for analyzing the movement of crabs was researching robotic crab and spider-like characters from film. I found this very useful being able to see the joints of the legs:

My brother recommended I research the Corpser from the 'Gears of War' video game.

I have also done some primary research by going to St Andrews Aquarium. The only crab that I was able to see there was the Hermit crab. However, I found looking at other crustaceans such as Lobsters and Crawfish was very useful, as the Hermit crab didn't move very much, however the Crawfish were very lively:

The plan for next Semester is to put this research into practice and have a finished realistic crab animation. I will be establishing with the director of the project, Sarah, exactly what the crab will be doing in the beach environment.  I feel that this is a good project to work on as it is a contrast to the 'Krokodi' project I have been working on, which is a much more cartoon-y styled animation and therefore these two projects will be enhancing my animation skills further.