Concept Artists come up with the earliest ideas for the design and look of the animation. They will produce the first sketches, which will help Animators, Background and Character Designers come up with their more finalised designs in the Pre-production stage. Concept Artists are able to produce work quickly under tight deadlines and sometimes their work can appear more sketchy or loose because of this. Concept Art will often be used to pitch ideas before entering the Pre-production stage.
Entry Level Positions Within Animation
By doing a quick search online on different job sites such as Creativepool, I was able to find job vacancies in the Animation Industry. Searching first for specific animation job roles, I was able to find a Runner job vacancy at Jellyfish Pictures. This would be the most junior position in the industry, but with time there is a high chance of moving up into a more specific job role depending on your strengths in the studio environment. Jellyfish Pictures have listed key responsibilities for the Runner and these include: opening and preparing the studio for the day, taking the initiative to manage stocks and supplies and managing post, among many other responsibilities. In terms of qualification requirements for the Runner, Jellyfish Pictures expect a degree in Film or Computer Animation Arts. The studio is looking for someone highly organised with great problem-solving skills. See listing below.
I was also able to find a few job vacancies at Dog Ears, and while I’m not sure if all of these are entry level, it was still interesting to look at for future reference. Dog Ears are hiring FX Animators, Animators and a Storyboard Artist. See listing below.
Searching specifically for Junior positions in the Animation field, I was able to find a job vacancy for a 3D Maya Rigger at Blue Zoo Animation Studio. This job consists mainly of collaborating with animators to create rigs that are pleasant to use, as well as troubleshooting issues if and when they arise. There is an essential requirement of knowledge of AutoDesk Maya, as well as Python. This studio is looking for someone who is reliable, self-motivated, detail-oriented and able to produce excellent work under pressure. See listing below.
In Week 7 we were given the brief for Assignment 2 – Organic Modelling. We were asked to model /sculpt, texture and presenta Cute Characterwithout exceeding40000 polygons.
I was really excited about this assignment as it gave me the perfect opportunity to create a 3D piece for my portfolio. I appreciated how broad the brief was, and was very impressed by the cute character examples shown to us in class. It was difficult for me to choose one character to model, so I decided to pick 6 favourite ideas and go from there. At this stage we were still learning the very basics of the software, Blender, so I was also taking my time with it and hoping that I could decide after seeing what I would feel would be the most enjoyable to sculpt in Blender. I quite enjoyed the modelling exercises we did in class, such as the apple and the pear. Doing them really helped me understand the importance of first blocking out your character before moving into details. Blocking out in 3D is similar to sketching in 2D. While watching Henry’s demo video of blocking out the Shiba Inu, I was inspired to explore the idea of sculpting a dog character (see all ideas below). It was a priority of mine to create a scene that would tell a simple story. I liked the thought of giving my character accessories that would bring the scene to life. I also thought about the way I wanted to present my character, I wanted it to look good when rotated in orbit mode in Sketchfab. After I was set on 6 different ideas, I created very quick thumbnails of them in Photoshop and wrote a list of pros and cons on a sheet of paper.
1. Mimi & Tutu (original characters)
+ Fits brief and portfolio, human character, style
– Too complex, needs to have motion
2. Three Puppies and A Butterfly’s Metamorphosis
+ Fits brief, details (keep it simple), story
– Too much going on, too large of a scene
3. Lulu & Beans (original characters)
+ Fits brief and portfolio, looks good in 3D, human character, style
– No story yet
4. Alligator bopping its head to music
+ Fits brief, character design, style, simple
– Too simple, needs more to it
5. Caramel the fancy pup, lying on cushion
+ Fits brief, interesting shapes, details
– Not very unique, no story
6. White Sheltie pup wearing strawberry hat, sleeping
+ Fits brief, interesting shapes
– No story, lacks detail
I was most excited about 1. Mimi & Tutu, because I was motivated by the idea of making a version of one of my illustrations in 3D.
Last year, I remember listening to an episode of a podcast about visual storytelling, which taught me that “small details can work as an extension to the character”. It can also sometimes be interesting as the viewer to know more than the characters themselves do (ie. dramatic irony), which is something I myself try to explore in my own illustrations. When creating the original artwork, I wanted to tell a simple story about a girl, Mimi, who struggles with her confidence as a beginner dancer, but when she finds the right environment to practise it helps her feel more confident and that confidence shines through her almost like magic. Mimi is unaware of “the magic”, but it appears because she finally believes in herself. Another example of something similar to this can be seen in Disney and Pixar’s Soul, when characters are In The Zone. Mimi is an original character of mine and I wanted to capture her the best I could in 3D. Tutu the elephant is also a character of mine, but the brief only asked for one character, so she would have to be labelled as a prop for now.
Research / Inspiration
Before I dived into the modelling / sculpting stage, I went on Sketchfab and searched for models with a similar description to get some inspiration, but I couldn’t find very many. However, I have included some of the models that I did find below.
Ballerina – The Audition by ronsyl – I really enjoyed the sense of environment in this piece, in particular the floating particles scattered around the scene. I also liked the idea of creating a dome around the scene. However, the style of this model wasn’t suited for what I was hoping to create.
A little coffee in the evening by Tijerín Art – The style of this model was closer to what I wanted to create than the previous model of the ballerina. I think this character is very cute !
The Legend of Zelda The Twilight Princess by technoir – I found this model and fell in love with the idea of presenting my scene with a black background, because it makes all the glowing particles way more noticeable.
Updo by Heather Bea – Although I didn’t feel confident in my texturing skills to recreate a similar style to this model, I still found it very inspiring. This model was based on concept art created by Mike Henry.
I was very intrigued by the particle effects in some of these models and having no prior experience with particle effects, I took to Youtube and watched a few tutorials on how to create them. I was also considering creating a spiral of particles that would follow the path of a curve. After watching the tutorials, I added them to my Watch later playlist for later.
Sculpting in Blender
I quickly created a model sheet, because I knew it would help me with getting dimensions right in the block out stage. This was something that Henry recommended to us during class.
Before actually installing Blender, we were asked to watch a handful of videos to introduce us to the software. The video that was the most helpful to me was the one below. It was very easy to follow!
1. Blocking out
After completing the apple and pear modelling exercises, I had a better understanding of how all the sculpting tools work in Blender. I started blocking out my model with metaballs as a single object. After a while I realised that this wasn’t going to work very well, so I decided to scrap the file, start over and work on the character’s body, hair and dress as separate objects.
I made sure that none of the limbs were touching so that I could easily Mask them and use the Pose tool. This was very finnicky, but I was pleased with how I was able to pose the character’s arms and legs so similar to how they were in the concept. I also added a simple sphere and removed half of it to create a platform for my character.
I then blocked out the general shape of my character’s hair using a sphere and the Grab tool. I didn’t smooth it out yet, because I wasn’t sure about the style yet.
I had to straighten my character model quite a bit for it to be in a similar enough pose as in the concept, so I just again used the Mask tool and Pose tool for this.
I very quickly blocked out the character’s dress because my one-to-one tutorials were coming up and I didn’t want to present my character without the dress. I was happy with how my model was looking at this stage.
I had a one-to-one tutorial with Michael, which I was excited about because I know he worked on some models in Doc McStuffins. I was hoping to get some advice on how to sculpt the hair, eyelashes and the sheer cloth on top of the dress. He was able to give some great feedback and general tips even though I wasn’t very far in my model. He suggested I turn on Dyntopo and start working in some detail next.
I have to be honest, I didn’t touch the model for a few weeks after doing the block out. Working on another big project alongside was making my workload a lot more difficult, so I decided to just leave the model until the other assignment was handed in. This obviously raised the pressure for m, but I was confident that I could have it done. We were also very fortunate to get an extension. I feel like I developed my modelling skills while working on the other assignment, so I almost felt like this model would actually seem like a smaller assignment than I originally thought. All the brainstorming and planning was done, now it was time to execute it in practise!
I had another one-to-one session with Alec and I got great feedback on my progress, although I hadn’t done much work on the model since Michael’s tutorial. Alec recommended that I create the dress in Maya and showed me how to create the sheer cloth on top of the dress using a Ramp Shader. I found this very helpful as he was able to record his demo for me to watch later!
Continuing on the model after a few weeks break I started working in some detail and defining the shapes. I focused on Mimi’s base mesh (body) and used tools such as Grab, Draw Sharp, Clay Strips, Smooth, Flatten, Inflate, Snake Hook and Simplify. I found Draw Sharp tool to be very useful in creating specific details, Flatten tool helped me define the feet and hands and Snake Hook was very useful when creating the thumbs. I also really found all of these tools to be useful in very different ways when holding down ctrl.
I wanted to define the dress mesh more so I created simple shading on it with the Draw Sharp and Smooth tool.
Then I finally worked on detailing the hair. I still kept it quite simple due to the style I was going for, but I had fun detailing it with the Draw Sharp, Inflate, Simplify and Smooth tool.
At this stage I had decided to bring in a second character in the scene, Mimi’s friend Tutu the elephant. I started working on her mesh by just adding a sphere and cylinder first and going from there. I used Snake Hook to create the limbs, ears and trunk. I kept this model extremely simple as it was just a prop in the final scene.
After I had created Mimi’s eyes and nose, I tried creating some simple eyelids on her. First I used Draw Sharp tool to create a crease, I then used Inflate tool to raise the eyelid and finally I just held down Shift to have the eyelid appear more smooth natural.
After some final touches, I was finished sculpting in Blender.
Modelling in Maya
I took the sculpture into Maya to add small details such as the bow in Mimi’s hair, which I created using the CV Curve tool. I also twisted the ribbon to make it look like it was flowing in the wind.
Because of the polycount being too high for the requirements for this assignment, I decided to retopologise Mimi’s base mesh and Tutu’s body as well. I used the Quad Draw tool and held down Shift every now and again to Relax the new mesh and pressed ctrl for more vertices.
Reducing Poly Count
To reduce triangles and vertices, I deleted Mimi’s body that is hidden under the dress.
I also used the Reduce Mesh tool on Mimi’s hair because I didn’t care about detail here. I did the same with her dress.
I tested the dress overlay and Ramp Shader Map in Sketchfab and tried to see how it would handle my test Ramp Map. It worked fine as long as I changed Alpha to Luminance and Inverted Texture. I feel like this might be because I created the opacity map the opposite way around. This article helped me understand how Opacity works in Sketchfab: https://help.sketchfab.com/hc/en-us/articles/202602073-Transparency-Opacity.
Working on Mimi’s base mesh UVs was fairly easy after having the retopology done. I just created new UVs using the Camera Based option and Split the arms, head and legs as separate maps.
Working on UVs for objects that I hadn’t retopologised such as the hair and dress was more difficult.
Textures in Substance Painter
I was scared to begin texturing as I felt it would be easy to mess it up. Due to this, I decided to start by texturing the platform and moon first, as I felt they would be the easiest. After texturing the rest however I felt the need to change the colours of those objects as I felt they didn’t match well with the rest of the scene. To make this easier in the future, I could create multiple colour variations so that I can switch between them if required. After making these small changes I was happy with the end result. My favourite part of the texturing process was definitely shading Mimi’s hair.
Once I was finished with textures I wanted to make the scene feel more alive by adding some of the elements my 2d illustration had as image planes.
I updated my Maya scene with these by just adding the PNG files as planes. Once I was happy with the composition I updated the model in Sketchfab and applied all the textures. At first it didn’t work because I hadn’t applied the Alpha maps correctly, so I just tried again with the same settings but applied Alpha maps in the Opacity section and chose Luminance instead of Alpha, which thankfully worked.
Here is my final model laid out in Sketchfab. I am very happy with the final product.
I really enjoy 3D modelling and sculpting. As I had an interest in sculpting with clay and painting physical 3D objects, working digitally was not all that different for me. If anything, it gave me a better grasp of shapes and forms. Learning new software is always daunting, but I was willing to try it and I feel like I did really well. I have a lot to improve on when it comes to the UV and texturing stages, but like I mentioned in an earlier blog post I plan on practising over the summer to gain more confidence in these areas for second year. It was really fun to compose a scene in 3D and bring some elements from the original illustration as 2D image planes. I enjoyed retopology as well, but I didn’t have time to completely retopologise my models. If I had done this, maybe the UVs would have been easier to do. I am proud of what I have created over the semester and although my final model isn’t perfect, I am happy to submit this as my first 3D sculpture created in Blender. In the future I will consider thinking of some of my pieces as 3D projects from the start, rather than adapting a completed 2D illustration.
On Week 3 – 11th Feb our class started working on a new group project to create a short 3D animation based on the theme of ‘Adventure’. We were advised by the tutors to organise ourselves in groups of 4-5 people, but our group just happened to form itself because all of us were without a group! I look back on this fondly, because the people I have gotten to know through this assignment I would now consider my friends. This animated short was created by Matthew, Jennifer, Dayna, Ben and myself, or Group 6.
When our group was all settled, Jennifer created a Discord group chat for us to use for communicating outside of class hours, Dayna set up a Miro board for us to use for planning and I created a Google Drive folder for us to share files between one another. We all got on very well with each other from the start, which helped me be more comfortable with sharing my own ideas. This was something I really struggled with during the last group animation project, so I believe a friendly atmosphere in a group helps a lot.
During our first voice call meeting outside of class hours, on Sunday at around 7 (which is the usual time we all met … for about 2-5h lol), we all pitched ideas for the story (which we had a lot of) and proceeded to vote on our favourite ones. We each picked the ideas we liked the best and decided that we should create storyboards for the ones that got the most votes. During this meeting I had brought up a little idea about an alien meeting a giraffe and believing that it is their mother. Coincidentally we had two alien ideas, because Dayna had come up with a more solid story idea about Aliens abducting a soldier to play a game of poker with. I decided to see what I could do with the ideas and created storyboards for them both. I found that I felt quite attached to my own idea, so I spent more time on it because I wanted to see if anyone liked the sound of it. My group met again on the next Sunday, and I showed them my storyboards along with a sketch of the characters. They liked it, but we were left in a difficult situation: we would have to vote yet again. This was quite a difficult process, but after looking at the pros and cons of each story idea, we were left with the two alien stories. While the alien and giraffe story had a much more simple concept, the poker aliens story may have presented a variety of other challenges. After a final discussion about which idea we would all be happiest to work on, we ultimately settled on the alien and giraffe story.
For inspiration for our project we all gathered some references from media, such as Pokémon, Super Mario Galaxy and Lion King among many others pictured in the reference sheets below.
Before we had written a finalised story for the idea we chose, I went ahead and created a simple storyboard based off of a rough sketch. I learned that this wasn’t the best way to go about this, because we should have fully written the story before any storyboards were made. However, we wanted to give a rough idea of what our story would be about in a pre-production presentation we gave to the class. After the presentation, we got some great feedback on how to improve our story to make it feel more structured. The tutors suggested that we have the alien land on the planet, but provide an establishing shot of the surroundings. They also suggested we show the alien getting scared of their surroundings, perhaps have a scene in some scary woods. The tutors also suggested we consider having the giraffe appear scary at first, to create some more tension. They also suggested that we show a better shot of the giraffe’s antennae to make the plot point stronger. After our group had a discussion about the feedback, I applied some of it to my second pass at the storyboard.
After getting feedback from the tutors, we realised that we needed to focus on creating a more structured plot for our story. Taking into consideration the feedback, and sharing our own ideas, we were able to write up a full script for our story in a shared Google Doc. The title “Antennae Met You”, had popped into my head around this time and I was really glad my group wanted to go with it. Our story went from too simple to simple but structured, and that is something that each of us contributed to with wonderful ideas and honest feedback. The updated story has three distinct acts. It begins with the alien landing on a planet and encountering a butterfly (act 1), the alien then proceeds to enter a dark and scary forest before running away from a strange shadow (act 2) and bumping into what turns out to be a friendly giraffe (act 3).
Below are two animatics I made in After Effects, the first one was made before we had finalised the story structure and the second one after. This highlights the importance of refining the story before moving on to production. Many ideas from the second animatic were later implemented in the 3D previs.
Before starting to work on the previs, we created a very messy shot list on our Miro board. This actually turned out to be a useful reference to me even later on in the production stage. For the previs, I worked on shots 6 and 7, which were the shots in the scarier part of the forest. I enjoyed testing out the camera movements and was glad to be able to practise creating playblasts in Maya. When everyone’s playblasts were uploaded to our shared Google Drive, I edited them together in Premiere Pro with some sound effects we had gathered by this stage. Dayna had created the rough models for us all to use in the previs, which was a huge help! Having access to Dayna’s character models, I really wanted to try animating the giraffe lowering her neck and the alien wagging their tail, so I made the simple animation test seen below.
Finished 3D previs:
After all this planning it was time for us to move onto the production stage. To make the planning of our workflow easier, we decided to make a Trelloboard. This helped us assign tasks and stay on top of our personal deadlines. We created a list of jobs and assets during one of our group meetings, and each of us picked a handful of different tasks to work on during the production stage. I put my name down for Animation, Modelling/Texturing, Rigging and Rendering. We decided to split the workload between us, so that all of us could do a bit of everything. At this stage we didn’t have a final turnaround sheet for our character models yet, so I put my name down for that as well. In terms of assets, I was keen to work on the giraffe character model, bush models and some tree models if possible.
I created the final 2D turnaround sheets for both the Alien and the Giraffe, which helped both Matthew and I whenever it was time for us to model and texturise the main characters for our 3D animation. I wanted to stay true to my original designs, while changing the designs slightly based on how my group members had drawn them in their concept art. The alien was originally quadruped like the giraffe (as seen in Jennifer’s early character concepts), but we all thought that a snail-like body would work better because it would be a lot easier to rig and animate (see Dayna’s character concepts below). I also changed the tail to three orbs instead of one to add more appeal to the tail animation. I tried my best to combine all of these design elements and we were all happy with the new Alien design and Matthew was ready to start 3D modelling the character in Maya. For the giraffe’s design, I kept it quite similar to some of Jennifer’s early giraffe character concepts because I really liked the shapes she had used in her drawings.
I began 3D modelling the giraffe in Maya, starting with cylinders for the neck, body and legs. I made the head from a cube and extruded the muzzle, some ears and the antennae from it. Once I had the basic shapes down, I used the multi-cut tool and created enough vertices to adjust each part to make the shapes more smoother looking. I extruded the tail shape along a curve by using the CV curve tool. I kept it all quite low-poly, and I feel like the end result could have been a lot better if I had just spent a little more time on it.
Before I started rigging the character, I wanted to first try and retopologise the giraffe’s neck and the legs, for a more smoother model. I spent hours doing this and it did look great in the end, but I had too many issues with the skin weights in the rigging stage that I decided to scrap the new retopologised giraffe model. However, I feel more confident in retopology for my next 3D modelling assignment, so it wasn’t all bad.
I was dreading this stage to be honest! I was planning on creating a full rig for the giraffe, but as it would only be me who would need to animate the giraffe I felt that the joints alone would do the job. I do wish that I had just pushed through the difficult phase (or at least asked for some help) so we would have had a full rig for the giraffe, but like I said I was happy enough. I found the video below very helpful and informative and I have included screenshots below of me following the tutorial.
This video helped later when creating the eye blink animations as blend shapes:
Once I was finished modelling, UV unwrapping and rigging the giraffe model, I exported it as an .FBX file and uploaded it into Substance Painter for texturing. I wasn’t confident in my texturing skills, but I tried to create an almost “plush” looking texture with the Calf Skin material for the coat, and the Fabric Soft Denim material for the hooves, mane and eyes. I used the Artistic Heavy Sponge brush for the patches on the coat. I still really struggle with the UVs, but I plan on taking on some personal modelling projects during the summer to get a better hang of it at my own pace.
I also created a very simple ground texture for the savannah scenes. I wanted to keep the colours similar to Dayna’s colour palettes so I just used the eyedropper tool in Substance Painter and had the colour palettes open in a separate window so I could easily pick the right colours.
Taking inspiration from environments Matthew found on Sketchfab, most notably Forest Kindness by Ani Est and VR Alien Forest by FDU_oficial, I decided to use image planes for the leaves and flowers on my bush models. I had also spotted something very similar while playing Super Mario Odyssey during a break from Uni work. At first I wasn’t entirely sure how to go about this, because I didn’t know which material to assign to my planes, but after asking Alec about this during a class tutorial we got the answer. He shared this article with us: https://docs.arnoldrenderer.com/display/A5AF3DSUG/Transmission+and+Opacity. It helped me understand better about why image planes need alpha maps, but I still didn’t how to apply those alpha maps to my image planes. Dayna shared the video below and it was very helpful and easy to follow. After applying the aiStandardSurface material and the alpha maps to each of my image planes a handful of times, I feel like this is now something that I would have no bother remembering how to do in the future.
I painted all the bush components separately in Photoshop, I used Dayna’s grass planes as reference for the colours to keep them consistent in each scene. To create the alpha maps, I followed the tutorial below as this was not something I had done in Photoshop before.
It all worked really well and I was pleased with the end result! I liked how the sharpness in the leaves represents the fear the little alien is feeling in each scene. After assembling the bush models, I uploaded them as separate models in the Google Drive folder for my other group members to use in their scenes.
We split the animation into four major environments: the space, landing, forest and savannah. I worked primarily on the savannah scenes, so this meant that I created the environment layout for all of the shots set in the savannah. Once I had all the assets required (ground plane, savannah trees, grass and bushes) I created the environment layout. This was very simple, as our environment design for the savannah was very plain. I placed the ground plane down and kept everything to Alien model’s scale ratio. I added the savannah trees Dayna modelled, as well as the grass planes she had made specifically for the savannah scenes. I then added some of the savannah bush models I had modelled and I was done! Now it was time to bring our main characters in and animate.
Matthew had created a beautiful model and rig (+ textures) for our Alien character and I was excited to try it out, so I made a simple emotion test with the rig. I was really happy with how it turned out, and it gave me a better idea of how our Alien would move and express themselves. We had discussed that the Alien could wag its tail like a dog when they are happy, and its ears would go down when they are sad. After this, I went right into animating the final shots. Matthew also sent us a video of how the rig works, which helped me a lot at the animating stage. There was a control at the Alien’s back which helped me get some squash and stretch at the right moments. It was the most fun to animate the tail, ears and the antennae, but I also quite enjoyed making the Alien blink! I was easily able to recreate many of the expressions we had planned in our 2D storyboards, like the Alien cowering in Shot 9 (also seen below).
Playblasts of all the shots I animated:
It was quite challenging to get a consistency with the lighting between Dayna’s shots and mine. I had chosen a .HDR image far too yellow at the beginning and it didn’t flow well at all. I tried to come up with a solution and tried a multiple of different lighting options seen below, but I feel like I fixated on this far too much and decided to go with the one that lit the scenes best in my opinion (Rooitou Park). I used
I made a simple shot list based on the list on our Miro board. Shot 8 would be an “OH” (overhead shot, tennis terms …) with the Giraffe casting a shadow on the Alien (see Jennifer and Dayna’s storyboards below) and a simple zoom out. Shot 9 would be an “SS” (Side Shot) with very simple camera movement, but enough to help build some anticipation. Shot 10 would be a “POV” (Point of View Shot) with the camera placed in the Alien’s perspective (see image below). Shot 11 (SS Cam) would have a more complicated camera movement with a zoom out and an additional blur to focus on the butterfly in the shot. I had the idea to bring back the butterfly, as it would be a sweet way to bookend the story. It was Jennifer’s idea to have the camera follow the butterfly and pan up to the sky, which I though created a nice parallel with her spaceship shot at the beginning. I created the camera blur effect using the tutorial below. I found it very fascinating how different yet similar the cameras work in Maya and real life.
I had a lot of fun working with the cameras, but as it was my first time creating a 3D animation like this, I had a lot of issues with keeping the shots consistent with Shot 7. After some feedback, it was brought to my attention that Shot 8 was a little jarring after Dayna’s shot (Shot 7), as the characters switched places between scenes. The composition was nice though, so they suggested I just mirror the frames. I decided to make the shot more similar to Shot 7 by changing the environment layout slightly, as well as changing the direction of the camera. I feel like this definitely helped and fixed any issues with the flow between Shot 7 and 8.
Rendering was clearly the most time consuming part of this project, that’s all I’ll say about that.
We found that when working from home, creating short video tutorials helped us explain to each other how to do certain things, like turning image sequences into a video in After Effects (see my video below). It was nice that other group members took the time to do this and I always appreciated it!
After our final group presentations, we had gotten some feedback from Yuan. She suggested we brought the butterfly back in the final frame and have it land on the title card. We all really liked this idea, but Matthew suggested that we create it in 2D instead, to match the illustration style in our credits, and I loved that idea! After deciding on which letter the butterfly would land on, I created a simple 2D animation of the butterfly in Photoshop and After Effects. I also created the text that appears on screen during the POV shots (Font). It was made in After Effects also, and I just animated the Character Offset feature of the text to get the slight effect of a HUD interface. I used the video tutorial below when exporting the final 2D animations and effects.
Having some spare time, we all decided to create some little sketches for our credits, like we had originally planned. I felt that this added a nice personal touch, as we could all draw the characters in our own style and be able to explore ideas that didn’t make it into this particular story.
Below is the link to our final animation. I am so pleased with how it all turned out. We all worked very hard on this project and I can say that it turned out to be exactly as I envisioned in the pre-production stage. I hope you like it! <3
During this year of studying Animation I feel that I have improved my existing skills as well as learning many totally new ones. I thoroughly enjoyed the structure of the course and found the classes and lectures very engaging. The staff at all stages were approachable and helpful and despite everything being online the group projects helped me get to know a lot of my classmates very well. I am looking forward to building on the skills I have developed over the summer and in second year.
For this assignment we were asked to do an animation study in conveying emotion / personality of a character using either the Monty Rig or Ultimate Walker Rig. This study consists of animating an emotive movement, for example sadness or curiosity. I decided to study confusion using the Monty Rig.
Artist Influence / Reference – Eric Larson
I was inspired by Disney’s Eric Larson’s work. He animated a lot of characters that did not speak, therefore putting more emphasis on the character’s emotional presence through gestures and physical expressions, which I found very interesting for this study. I looked into how he made his characters expressive and tried to apply this into 3D. A few of the character examples I looked at were Dinah, Mr. Toad, Figaro and Pongo. I settled with Dinah, as I was most interested in animating a confused character.
Animation Practice with Rigs
Before beginning to work on my final animation, I completed two class exercises (seen below) with both the Monty Rig and Blob Rig. These especially helped me understand how to work with the Dope Sheet and the Graph Editor in Maya. They also introduced me to animating with pre-made rigs.
I also made a simple test animation with the Monty Rig, practising primarily with his eye and leg controls.
First I staged the character in a neutral sitting position. The Monty Rig has simple controls that are quite easy to understand for a beginner 3D animator. I followed Larson’s animation of Dinah as a reference quite closely and was able to move Monty’s brow in a way that made him look confused and surprised. I applied squash and stretch at the stage where Monty looks surprised to further convey that emotion. When I animated Monty shaking his head in confusion, his feet follow through in an overlapping action and are slightly late in the motion. I also had him blink his eyes which I feel helped to convey his confusion even further.
Once I had the animation polished, I added a light source to make it look like Monty was watching the TV to add some narrative context. I also created a very simple scene around him to help strengthen the visuals.
I am pleased with how this animation study turned out. It was interesting to try to apply 2D references to a 3D project. My favourite part to animate was the motion of his head shaking. I also enjoyed animating his facial expressions even though this was quite difficult due to his simple features. This study gave me a greater appreciation of how much of an impact such a short animation can have on characterisation.
For this assignment we were asked to do a study in weight of motion / body mechanics of a character using either the Monty Rig or Ultimate Walker Rig. This study consists of animating an action that involves the whole body moving. I decided to study the act of balancing on a ball using the Ultimate Walker Rig.
References from Life
I decided to take the approach to look at a real life video reference when researching for my animation. For me, this involved doing the action myself first to get a better feel of how it would pan out. I also got my partner to record a video of me (seen below) doing the action so I could use it as a physical reference. I had been to the location before and actually balanced on one of these stone balls a couple years ago. I was keen to animate the act of balancing in some form, so that’s where that idea came from. I found that it was good to improvise a little to get a more unique result as opposed to looking at second-hand references.
Below is an image of the car park where the reference video was captured.
Animation Practice with Rigs
I had previously completed two animation exercises using the Ultimate Ball Bounce and Ultimate Walker Rig. This helped me get an idea of how animating in Maya works, and how to get a simple sense of timing and spacing. I feel that these exercises contributed towards my ability to create a full action animation in Maya using a rig.
With the Ultimate Walker Rig exercise I was introduced to the possibility of sketching out the key poses using the Grease Pencil as well as blocking out the movement using the form of a simple sphere. I found both of these approaches quite helpful at the time, however I decided not to use them for this assignment as I found that sketching out the poses in a separate file was more useful than the Grease Pencil tool as I found that it slowed Maya down too much. However, I do believe that blocking out the movement with a sphere would be very helpful in the future.
Rough Pose Sketches
After looking at my video references I took to Photoshop and sketched out two very rough outlines for my animation. The first one helped me figure out how I wanted the character to step on the ball, I considered the possibility of having them run towards the ball instead of just stepping on it without any momentum and decided to follow through with this idea.
In my second attempt sketching out the animation, I focused more on the act of balancing and for this I had to also look up references to understand the physics of gravity. At this time I considered having the character fall off and try again, however I later decided to scrap that and have the character balance on one leg at the end.
I looked at the article below to help me understand the physics of this action and how to portray it believably:
After gathering enough references I was ready to start animating. Having done some animation exercises in class, I roughly understood the animation pipeline in Maya. This consists of blocking the animation, creating the inbetweens and polishing the full animation. I used my thumbnail sketches as reference when blocking the animation, as the sketches represented the possible key poses of the character. For the inbetweens, I mainly used my video reference as it naturally captured the movement that I was hoping to achieve with the rig.
The Dope Sheet helped me fix the timing of the run and the initial step onto the ball.
I didn’t feel the need to adjust any of the movements in the Graph Editor, but I did have a quick look at it in the polishing stage. That was mainly for me to get used to how it works and seeing how it would be helpful in future projects.
Overall I am happy with the final animation seen below. I feel like I did a good job with the actual balancing motion on the ball and that it looks believable. I struggled most with the running approach as it was difficult to time and position correctly to give it a sense of weight.
Below is the same animation from a different camera angle.
Before this module I had no experience with 3D modelling at all, but through this past month I have gained the knowledge to successfully complete my first 3D model based on 2D concept art. Whenever I was struggling with anything, I would turn back to the class material. I found the videos very helpful and easier to follow than other tutorials available online. I learned best by trying different things for myself in the software. The most important lesson I learned was to be patient with myself and not be afraid to try out techniques that I did not yet fully understand. For example I was anxious about the UV unwrapping stage, but I found that after trying it for myself it was not as complicated as it first seemed. By the end I had a better understanding of the general workflow between Autodesk Maya, Substance Painter and Sketchfab. I feel like I have gained a foundation of 3D modelling skills and now have more confidence in my ability to work on 3D projects in the future. I am looking forward to trying more complex projects and using other 3D modelling programs in the second half of the module.
For this assignment I chose to 3D model a mantel clock. It appealed to me the most because of the possibility of creating a scene within an object.
References and Concept Art
I looked at a lot of references for my design, but decided to base it around four styles of a mantel clock. Firstly I wanted the clock to appear handmade, something like you would see in an antique shop. The first clock that came to mind was that of Whisper of The Heart’s (seen on the right), where there are moving characters and scenes within the clock. I took that idea, along with some of the others and created the concept art for the mantel clock design. Looking at the shapes of the mantel clocks in my reference photo, I got the idea to combine them all together somehow. I got the base, the cave, and the rough shape of the clock body. When deciding on the details I was inspired by Finnish nature, hence the sleeping bear and wild strawberries.
3D Modelling in Maya
Sadly I don’t have any screenshots of my early process here, but I started out by creating a basic cylinder shape for my clock base and then eventually two cubes for the bear, two cylinders for the birds and so on. I took my time at this phase, as I am new to learning this software. I got great tips during my meeting with Michael, which was a little before I had started modelling the clock. He encouraged me not to simplify my design and to stick with my concept as there is very little you cannot do in 3D modelling.
I was not a huge fan of the low-poly “blocky” look of the bear and the birds, so I decided to smooth the mesh of these models. I did however keep the original mesh of the clock base, as well as some of the other details, because I felt that the smooth mesh made the models look less defined.
After my meeting with Alec, I got more advice on how to go about modelling the stems included the concept art for my design. I had found several problems when trying to extrude along a curve in Maya, one of them being that whenever I selected the faces of the model I could not also select the curve. I managed to do it in the end, and I think it helped having the Outliner window open so I could better select the curve. Here is one the tutorials that helped me understand how this technique works:
After the stems were done, I added the details of the strawberries, flowers and leaves. A lot of it involved copying and pasting, but I think I got it looking organic enough by just tweaking the size and position of each detail. The modelling stage was definitely the most time-consuming, so I found that having a video playing in a pop-up window helped make it more enjoyable. I feel like this is very common in the class, although I know the better use for this function would be when following a tutorial.
UV Unwrapping in Maya
When my model was complete, it was time to attempt what I had been dreading the most about this assignment: UV unwrapping. Despite looking at tutorials on YouTube (below is one that I tried to follow), and looking through the class content again, I found that the best way for me to understand and learn this was just trying and failing over and over until I finally figured it out. Most of my UV maps I created using the Automatic option, but for the more complex models like the clock base I used the Planar option. I have a feeling that I still don’t quite get it, and that the maps are “incorrect”, but at this time I was confident enough to move on and export my 3D model.
This video really helped me when it was time to export my 3D model from Maya into Substance Painter. The video is straight-forward and concise.
Texturing in Substance Painter
The textures for my 3D model were inspired by hand-painted porcelain animals and Belleek style gold accents.
Experimenting with different materials in Substance Painter, I found the “Gouache Paint” material the most suitable for what I had in mind when it came to texturing my model. I used the “Gold Pure” material for all of the gold accents. Below is my first attempt at texturing, which I later decided to scrap due to a problem I ran into.
During the UV unwrapping stage I had not remembered to use the Layout tool for individual material groups, but had instead arranged them all together as a whole. This resulted in a lot of wasted resolution and although I tried to work with it, it started to frustrate me when working in Substance Painter. I went back to Maya and used the Layout tool on my model groups, decided to scrap my first attempt at texturing and started it over with a blank canvas.
Things went a lot smoother the second time around. I found that since the UV maps were considerably larger, I could also work a lot faster. This also meant that I could add a lot more detail without any hassle. I continued with the same materials I had used earlier, but I chose slightly different colours because I was not entirely happy with my first attempt.
At this stage, I had decided to leave out the glass dome part of the design. I know it would have made the final product look more appealing, but I had not done enough research when it came to creating glass materials and textures. I believe once I look into it more, I will learn how to do it for my next project.
Once I was finished painting on the textures, I exported all of the texture maps into their own folder so that they would be easy to find when it was time to import them inside Sketchfab. I would say that this is the last part where not naming your materials and grouping models together would come back to haunt you, so even though I had a whole pile of texture maps I found it relatively easy to find which one was which just based on their names.
Real-time Rendering in Sketchfab
I uploaded my finished 3D model onto Sketchfab in .FBX file format. I then applied all the texture maps for each individual material group. I found this process quite fun as I could see my model come to life as I applied each texture. Finally, I tweaked the lighting, shadows and background settings until I was happy with how it looked.