Sunday, 20 May 2012

Shot 1 - Walk Cycle against live action backdrop

The last piece of animation that I did for Synaesthesia was a walk cycle which happens at the very beginning of the film.  This is the shot in which our character, Alex is introduced, as well as her condition.

The scene starts with a low angle shot of the sky, which pans down to the house of our protagonist, Alex. Alex is standing outside her house, looking over her shoulder; she eventually looks in front of her and proceeds to walk in to the house.  This scene will involve the CG Alex rig, but will take place against a live action backdrop.

To do this, we recorded to pieces of footage, one with Arpit walking through the front door and one that was just a POV shot going through the front door.  The footage with Arpit would be used as reference for the poses in the walk cycle and also the pace at which the character would need to work.  The POV shot footage would actually serve as the live action scenery for the final piece.  Both of these pieces of footage were tracked by Valentino using a piece of software called PFTrack.  These were then exported to Maya files for me to animate Alex against.

I started with the Maya file that had the tracked footage of Arpit, so that I could animate her walking correctly.  The walk needed to start with her looking over her shoulder at the camera and making the connection with the audience.  She was required to hold this pose for around 60 frames, before turning around and starting her walk.

As you will see, I have animated both the looking over the shoulder movement and the subsequent walk cycle against Arpit's movement; both Alex and Arpit move at exactly the same time.  I could not entirely work out where the inbetween frames should fall, so I just placed them evenly between each keyframe and breakdown.

video

Once I got the walk cycle movement worked out, I added a slight rotating movement to the looking around pose to create a sense of life in Alex, as well as some arm movement and facial expression.  I initially had her turning quite far around to look at the camera, but upon the wish of the director, I slightly reduced the amount of rotation, just to make it more subtle.

The next stage was to put this animation in the tracked Maya file of the second piece of footage, which would serve as the backdrop for the final render.  I imported the walk cycle into the scene file and then I keyframed the translation of the master control to create the illusion that she moves through this live action space.

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I was actually pretty impressed that when I look at this footage through the camera, that she appears to be walking through the front garden and eventually through the front door; what will really be needed to increase the illusion that she is actually part of the scene would be carefully placed lighting and rendering.

As of now, the animation for the Synaesthesia project is finished.  As you will see from my personal schedule, I have completed all 10 shots that I was given to produce character animation for, in just under 5 weeks.  This means that we now have one week left for rendering and compositing; the majority of which is complete.  Synaesthesia is well on the way for being completed before the deadline of 28th May (was extended from 25th) and I can gladly say that I am going to have my name on at least one complete final film, which will be screened at the degree show.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

A recap on the order of the scenes and shots as they are now

Since I have been doing the animating for the Synaesthesia project, we added some new camera shots and camera movements into the scenes for greater effect.  As a result some of the shots that come up later in the film now have a different numbering.

For example, the shot in which Alex approaches the piano was originally called Shot 8 and was referred to as Shot 8 in some of my previous blog posts; however, this shot is now to referred by the team as Shot 11, primarily because we have added some more camera shots to the scenes that come before, thus making this shot the eleventh shot chronologically, and no longer the eighth.

I have therefore decided to post up this document which Valentino wrote up and that clarifies what happens in each shot, the shot number and which scene each shot belongs to.



This list will also give a clear indication how I will be referring to each shot in the video that I am making for my Portfolio that will show the blockouts, rough tests and final animation for each shot I worked on.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Piano Animation

Today, I have just finished the piano scene, which consists of a POV shot and a side shot of Alex playing the piano.  This follows on from shot 8, in which I animated Alex approaching the piano and sitting down, and will involve her playing notes on the piano, which causes colours to fill the room.

This piece of animation has been one of my most involved that I have worked on for this project.  Since beginning the degree, I have worked with animating against sound and music before, but I have not actually had to animate a musical instrument being played accurately.  This required me to really make use of both my wide knowledge of animation and somewhat hazy knowledge of musical theory that I acquired from playing guitar for 8 years.  There was a huge amount of trial and error involved before I had this sequence animated in a way that was convincing and appealing.

To work out how hands should move on a piano, Valentino got the composer for the film to record this reference.
video

The thing that is immediately noticeable in this reference footage are the rotations of the hand.  The left and is very much a straight arc as the hand move between two notes.  The right hand has a slightly more complex movement; the wrist moves in a clockwise direction as each note is played with this hand.

In order to animate the piano, I decided to animate the piano keys first and then animate the hands, as once I had the keyframes for each note laid down, I would then know how the fingers and wrist had to move at each keyframe.  I initially made a test animation directly against this piece of footage; I did not get around to the animating the fingers but I did animate the keys accurately.

video

I worked out how to animate the keys fairly quickly.  I simply used linear curves and I set a keyframe for each note, when the key went down and then two frames either side of the keyframe in which the key was in its upward position.  It was also fairly easy to visualise when each note played and which one it followed, as the only channel the I was animating to was the Rotate X and the motion was simply linear.

As you see here, I have selected two piano notes and I can see how when one note is played, the other follows straight after.  This would make cleaning up this animation much easier and would allow me to animate against the tune accurately.


However, I needed to redo this animation as the piece of music played in the reference was not the same as the piece of music that was actually in the animatic and that I needed to animate against for the final cut; it was actually at a faster tempo and a higher key.  The left hand plays more or less the same set of notes in the final animatic, but the notes that the right hand should play in the animatic are actually different to what I initially animated and what the composer plays in the reference video.

In order to reanimate the left hand music accurately and in time with the actual notes in Maya, I got the help of Valentino's girlfriend, who is also called Alex and who plays the piano.  She worked out the notes for both the left hand and right hand and wrote out each of the notes on the actual sheet music, as pictured below.


Essentially, these four lines can be split into two parts; the top line is showing the notes that should be played by the right hand and the second line is showing the notes that should be played by the left hand at the same time as the right hand notes.  Equally, the third and fourth line represent the next set of bars in this piece of music.  The third line shows what notes the right hand should play and the fourth line show what notes should be played at the same time.

So for example, for the first two bars of D through to B flat, the keys F and C should be animated to play at the same time as each of the notes.  For the second lot of bars, the notes of C and G must be animated.  The second line of notes must play at exactly the same time and tempo as the first line of notes.

In order to do this, I animated the keys for F and C eight times, followed by the keys of C and G and then B flat and F so that they were roughly in time with the progression of D through to B flat and then D through to A.

In order to make sure that these notes were animated in sync, I decided to tweak the animation using the Dope Sheet.  Firstly, I gave all of the keys that needed to be animated meaningful names (in other words, the names of the notes that they represent), so I could see where each left hand note was falling in relation to the right hand note.

For example, when I clicked on the keys for D and F, the first two notes of the piece and studied the frames on the dope sheet, it was apparent that they were out of sync with one another.


Each downward movement of a key is represented by three frames, two in which the key is in the upward position and one in between them in which the key is pressed down.  All three frames for the notes of F and D, had to be aligned.  The same is true for the next two sets of notes in the bar, C and E and so on.

Here is how the notes should look on the dope sheet.  Completely in line with one another.


I went through each set of notes in each bar until the left hand keys and right hand keys were in sync with the soundtrack, as illustrated in this video below.

video

The next layer of animation for this shot was the movement of the hands.  The keys had been synced up with the notes in this shot, now I needed to animate the hands so that they were synced with the movement of the keys.

As you see in the video reference, the left hand is more of a straight arc movement, whereas the right hand has a slower arc movement in the wrist, alongside a more linear movement in the fingers.  The movement of the fingers was done in much the same way as the keys; as each of the fingers has its own individual channel for driving the bending, I could keyframe the bend of the fingers in time with the key movement.  Each key frame of a finger going down needed to fall with the key frame of a key going down.

Due to practical reasons, such as the distance at which the fingers could actually spread, I had to have a slight jump movement in between the D which is played with the thumb and the F, G and A which are played with the next three fingers.  I could sort this out simply by increasing the rotation on the X axis and then smoothening it out to create a natural arc.  

I had to create this animation manually (i.e. without cycling the curves), as I needed to keep the finger movement in time and with the music and key movement.  

As for the left hand, this was very much a single rotation back and forth of the wrist, which is accompanied either by an increase in the thumb tap or an increase in the Pinky channel.  This too had to be aligned with the keys that were being played.

I had set a key frame of the wrist which falls in between each key of the bar which did slow the wrist movement and make it stiff, so i simply deleted the rotation channels for these keyframes (but kept the channels for the fingers as these needed to maintain an up and down movement).  I also flattened everything out to create a smooth movement in between each keyframe.


After playing two bars of F and C, she switches to playing two bars of C and G, and then ultimately playing two bars of B flat and F.  In order for her to make this transition, I simply key framed the elbow control to rotate and move the wrist to the correct set of notes.  I also keyframed and extended the finger spread for a small amount of frames to make it look as though her fingers are stretching to move to each set of notes, as they do in the reference video.

To tidy up the hand movement, I went through each note in to the graph editor to check the rotate X channel of the relevant keys was aligned with the relevant finger channel.  For example, this image displays the note of F being played by the ring finger.


In the graph editor, I can see that the ring finger comes down slightly before the F key comes down.  Therefore, the timing is slightly off.  I resolved this by moving the keyframe in the Pinky channel (which is in white on the graph editor) forward so that it was perfectly aligned with the keyframe of the F key coming down (which is red on the graph editor).


In this image, the Pinky and the Rotate X channels are now perfectly aligned.  I can tell that the pinky will come down and tap on the F key when it goes down and that both the finger and key will be in time with the note of F in the soundtrack.

I went through each note on both hands a I did this check until all of the finger movements were aligned with the respective notes.  Here is the final outcome of this piece of animation.

video

The camera shot changes at around frame 163 from a POV to a mid to close up shot that slowly zooms in.  This shows Alex playing the piano; I simply added a smiling face with some head movement to show her concentrating on the piano playing and the colours that erupt around her.  I also added some slow shoulder and elbow movement to maintain that she is playing this piano.   

This entire piece of animation took me three days straight; there was a huge amount of trial and error involved, along with constantly having to redo animation from scratch but I eventually got it fixed.  This is one of the shots that I am most pleased with in this film as it had taken the longest to do, but I also learnt a new way of animating.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Shot 11 - The Canvas Painting

In this next shot which I just finished animating, Alex is painting a picture of a parrot and the room fills up with colours and patterns.  For this shot, I also went through the camera movement with Valentino and we came up with a long shot which pans around Alex and eventually zooms into a mid shot of Alex, which in turn zooms in to an extreme close-up of Alex's eye.

This particular shot, I was very anxious about animating as I knew that I had to get it perfect, because her movement needed to be free and natural when she was painting. When painting, she needed to have very free, loose and organic movement.  In order to work out what kind of brush strokes she could do and also to work out the speed, angle and movement of the camera.

video

As you will see in this video, I directed Valentino to mimic a wide range of brush strokes from very precise, small brush strokes to big and free brush strokes.  I then used the movement that Valentino makes in this piece to inform the movement and the range of brush strokes that Alex makes when doing her canvas painting.

For the planning of this animation, there was not very much that I could do as far as working out each pose, but I decided to be somewhat spontaneous with the animating of her painting.  I decided to use several of the brush movements that Valentino illustrates in this reference video; but I largely chose to be free and improvisational with the movement that Alex displays, much like an abstract expressionist painter would be with their work.

video

Once I got the right arm movement in, I needed to animated the fully body movement around this right arm movement.  At first, I made it very exaggerated and included a huge amount of hip sway, but this made it look ridiculous and as though she was dancing, so I toned it down a bit more and here is the final result.

video

I managed to finish this piece of animation in the space of a few nights.  I actually thought it would take much longer and that I would struggle with it, but I decided to approach this as creatively as possible, so I improvised much of the animation work up to the point that she looks up to the camera.  I think this  approach definitely helped to express a freedom of movement in the character, while she is painting.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Another last minute job for the Technical folder

For the piano shot, which I am currently animating, the Alex rig needed full freedom of movement in her fingers so she could stretch to her fingers to reach certain notes.  Initially, the fingers could bend, but they could not spread out.  Equally, the thumb could bend in but could not tap.  To resolve this I quickly created two drivers in each of the wrist controls, Thumb Tap and Finger Spread.  These attributes were set to drive the rotation of the joints in the fingers.

video

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Dying dog scene

I have just finished animating the scene in which Alex approaches her dog and strokes the dog, before the dog dies.  The animation of the dog here is very minimal as the dog is unwell and slowly dying.  One of the requirements of this scene was for the dog to fade away as she dies; I created this effect simply by keyframing the transparency of the lambert that contained the dog's texture.

For the POV walk, we were originally keyframing the rotation of the camera in order to create a bounce and the feeling of a handheld camera shot, but it looked terrible, so we settled with a smooth zooming in shot instead.  The only way we could really produce a convincing handheld shot with CGI is if we had technology much like The Third Floor use for their pre-visualisation.


There is now a close-up shot of Alex, which conveys the transition to a sad, worried expression, when she realises something is wrong.  It was my idea to include this camera shot as I felt that it would allow the audience to make a connection with her when she realises, and eventually we realise that the dog is dying.

This shot then ends with a walk cycle in which Alex walks away from the dying dog and into the piano room of shot 8.  I had to make sure that her right foot is forward and her left foot is back for the final pose of this shot, to match with the first pose of shot 8.  Here is a playblast of the finished Dying dog scene.
video

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Last minute rigging

For the dying dog scene in Synaesthesia, we were going to use a dog that we downloaded from the internet.  However, while we were testing this dog rig, we found that it was a very poor rig; it was badly weighted, much of the history of the mesh was still present and it had no blend shapes.  We could not put in any blend shapes because of these problems.  As it would take more work just to tidy up this problematic rig, we decided to use a dog that Perri Wheeler modelled and to rig this ourselves.

As we have very little time left and this dog has very little movement, given that she is dying, I made the rig as simple as possible, with only a few drivers put in.  I rigged this dog but I received help from Arpit with the weighting and the parenting of the master controller to the joints, controls and IKs.  This should be the last rig that I make for my Portfolio and indeed this year.

video

Monday, 30 April 2012

Revisions of Shot 2 and Shot 8

I have recently redone some of the animating for two shots of the Synaestheisa film for several reasons.  These are shot 2; in which she approaches the cooker and looks at the kettle and shot 8; in which she approaches the piano and sits down.  Shot 8 has seemed to take the longest to do out of any shot as it has a range of different types of animation.

Shot 2

This shot was reanimated to have more shoulder movement in her steps because in the first version of this animation, she was gliding along and her movement was incredibly upright.  Our tutor, Dan said that she needed to have much more rotational movement in her upper body and that I should focus less on the vertical movement of her body for this shot.

Furthermore, her focus needed to be more on the kettle; I initially animated her head looking up at the particles that would eventually be present, but we decided that her focus should at least start at the source of these particles; the kettle.  Once Amelie has created the Dynamics for this kettle, I may perhaps add some upward head movement as then, there will be something to animate the head against.

In order to work out how she should approach this kettle, I decided to record myself in Valentino and Arpit's kitchen approaching a cooker with a kettle on it to figure out how one would make 1 or 2 slow steps towards the cooker.

video

As you can see, this movement is very much driven by the rotation in the shoulders; as Alex's legs are not visible in this shot, the main way that I will be able to convey a walking forward movement is through the shoulders and arms.  In this video, my shoulders start off aligned, but then when I make the breakdown movement, my right shoulder come forwards and then my left shoulder eventually snaps back into alignment.

I have incorporated that movement into Alex's movement as this is a very short and slight movement, yet effective in conveying a walk.  You will also notice that Alex now focuses more on the kettle, but that she slightly moves her head up and smiles.  When I first joined this project, I initially imagined that this Synesthete is "suffering" from her condition and possibly timid as a result of her Synaesthesia, and she was therefore animated by me in a way that conveys this.  However, when I had a listen to her recorded dialogue, I found that she has actually adapted very well to her condition and is content with her condition and herself.  As I will elaborate on when I talk through shot 8, I have reanimated these parts to present a more confident and joyful character.

video

You will also notice that there is a brand new shot that has been added to this scene, which is a close-up shor of the kettle, which will eventually have some Dynamics applied to it.  We added this extra shot mainly because we found that the previous shot was going on for too long and we could not come up with enough poses or variety in the poses to last that long.  We got the inspiration for this shot when we were filming reference for Alex to approach the cooker and we tried different angles; one of the angle we came up with was an extreme close-up of the kettle, which you will see in the video below.  We decided that this extreme close-up would make a good climaxing shot to this scene.

video

Shot 8

Most of the animation for shot 8 has been redone to accomodate this more confident character that I now know I need to portray.  The previous animation was very rigid and had a lot of anticipation which indicated that Alex was perhaps unconfident, hesitant and maybe even reluctant to play the piano.  First, she approached the piano and stood for a few seconds and then she awkwardly pulls herself on to the stool before moving up and waiting a few more seconds before she plays.

After giving the audio a proper listen, I found that she is not awkward about her condition and she is in fact confident in her ability.  In this scene, we will see that she knows how to play notes on the piano to orchestrate the patterns and colours that she sees.  Her movement in this sequence would need to involve her approaching and sitting at the piano more swiftly, with any anticipation added just to emphasise the natural movement.

The shot originally had a few technical errors which needed to be amended.  Firstly, there was not enough rotation in her shoulders and chest during the walk cycle.  In addition to this, when she sat at the piano and put her hands towards the piano, her hands make a strange circular movement in which the rotate around the keyboard before touching the keys.  In reality, this would be a more diagonal movement.

With these points in mind, I decided to film myself approaching and sitting down at the piano in Valentino and Arpit's house to figure out how one would sit at a piano naturally, so I could apply the same to the Alex character rig.

video

Several pieces of movement in this clip caught my eye and helped inform the animation work; first of all, rather than pulling myself onto the stool or focusing to lean on the stool, I make the rather simpler movement of stand in front of the stool, which I approach by putting one leg forward and then simply sliding the other into position.  Secondly, I do not use my arms to aid myself in sitting down, I look to see where the stool is and I just rest my weight down on it; my arms move to rest my lap during this piece of movement.

As I mentioned, the movement of my hands from my lap to the piano keyboard is simple and diagonal rather than the circular motion I came up with previously.  I used these aspects of my movement very strongly in the revision of the shot 8 animation, which made for a much more natural and relaxed piece of animation.

video

This walk cycle and sitting animation is far simpler than what I had come up with in the previous post, but then again, it is a simple set of movements.  There is still anticipation in this animation sequence, when she looks down at the seat, but this is merely for the character to calculate where the seat is and therefore where she should aim to rest her weight; her focus is very much fixed on the piano itself.  Interestingly, Arpit and Valentino both really liked this looking down action before she takes her seat.

The shoulders in this walk cycle sequence are more animated now and do move forward with the weight of the body.  Lastly, her hand move in a more diagonal direction towards the piano keyboard; in order for the hand to not go through the keyboard, I broke the tangent right at the end of the Translate Z  channel in the Graph Editor and rotated it to accommodate for of a curve.


As these two shots have been redone or tweaked and shots 3, 4 and 5 have also been finalised, this now means that I have completed a total of 5 shots and that I now have 5 shots left to animate.  I am halfway towards finishing now.  Next, I need to start working on the dog scene in which Alex strokes her dog, shortly before it dies and fades away.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Playblast for Shots 3, 4 & 5

These are another set of shots which had quite a lot of revision.  This scene originally consisted of an over the shoulder track shot to the book room and a POV of the book, with words coming out.  We decided to make this more succinct by transitioning from the previous scene to a long shot that pans slowly from left to right of Alex sitting at the table reading a book, with the cup of tea that she made in the previous scene (probably with a small amount of Dynamics omitting from the cup to follow on from that scene).  The shot then cuts to an over the shoulder shot in which we see the words coming out of the book.

This then cuts to a POV so we can get a better look of the words leaving the book.  In an interesting twist,  she puts the book down and then we suddenly see her walk out of shot.  This means that shot 5 functions as both a POV shot of what Alex sees but then seamlessly becomes a long shot of her walking to the next room.  This is where I animated a walk cycle of her walking to the next room to have the next experience.

video

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Shot 8 Final Playblast

Shot 8 is finally done; Valentino wanted me to increase the overall speed of the walk.  I initially made it a lot faster than I originally had it, but then Valentino asked me to make it a little slower again.  He also wanted each step to be slower than the last.

As for the sitting movement, they liked it, but they wanted a little more anticipation when she approaches the stool before she sits down.  As for the part when she moves up the stool and into the correct position, they thought her behind went too far up in the air, so I took that down and made it flatter in the Graph Editor.

With all the relevant changes made, here is the unrendered playblast of shot 8.
video
I am back in line with my personal schedule for the Synaesthesia project and I am intending to start work on shot 3 and shot 4, in which Alex sits at a table with a book and words start to move around.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Shot 2 Playblast

Shot 8 is not yet finished, but just needs a little cleaning up; however, I have been working with Arpit and Valentino and in that space of time, I have got all the main poses done for shot 2 of the film (technically shot 2 and 3).  This shot consists of a POV shot of Alex walking through her hall and is eventually followed by a cut to a Mid Shot of the kettle boiling; in this shot, Alex approaches the kettle and sees patterns omit from the kettle, a phenomenon that she describes as a "heat mirage".

This is a very simple shot which consists of her taking one slow step towards the cooker, looking at the kettle and then looking at the colours that emerge from the kettle.  This shot has been altered from its original form, which originally consisted on an over the shoulder shot of Alex approaching the cooker, after being tracked all the way through the hall and simply standing and staring at the kettle, before it transitions to the next shot.

Here is a playblast of the whole shot and Alex's actions as she approaches this kettle.  This is accompanied by her dialogue.
video
This shot was altered mainly because Arpit and Val had words with Dan, who helped them out with cutting it down and only including necessary shots.  When Valentino was putting together the camera shots for this scene, I helped him out and suggested possible transitions between each shot, such as with the transition from the POV shot to the Mid shot, where I suggested a straight cut, rather than camera movement which moves away from Alex's perspective and to the Mid Shot.

It is not yet apparent in this playblast but we have come to the conclusion together that the first piece of dialogue ("Every frequency is a different colour...") coincides with the POV shot and the second piece of dialogue, where she talks about her "heat mirage"should be placed over the Mid shot in which she approaches the kettle.  As for the final piece of dialogue ("It's like seeing that, but coming out like a huge plume..."), this come over the transition from this mid shot, just as the scene is flooded with Dynamics, to the next shot which we decided would be a Slow Panning Mid-to-Long shot of Alex sitting at the table with her cup of tea and a book, ready for the next piece of action.

As she displays very little movement, I decided that in order for it to still look alive, I included a slight swing of her arm, which would continue very slightly after she had finished her walk.  The only thing in this animation that is not quite finalised is her head movement; the plan is for her to look down at the kettle and as the patterns start to omit, she looks up at them.  This piece of movement cannot be done properly until the dynamics for this shot are completed by our Dynamics Artist, Amelie Lim.  Once this is in place, I will be able to animate her head (and chest movement if necessary) to follow the movement of these patterns.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Blend Shaping for Alex

I am still working on the walking to piano shot, but I can say that it is nearly done and ready to be sent to Arpit and Valentino; I just need to smoothen one or two hip tangents and also feminise the walk a little more (probably with the aid of a Digital Tutors tutorial).  Towards the beginning of this process, I was chronically stressed over it, but as it has gone on, I have become more relaxed; mainly because I feel as though I have been reacquainted with the Graph Editor and I have remembered what I useful tool it is and that it I can become easily confident just with continuous practice.  The animation for this has taken a while to perfect primarily because the animation must look realistic and natural, as opposed the the exaggerated cartoon effect that we have done several times in the past few years.

In the mean time, Arpit and Valentino have asked me to do some blend shapes for Alex's face.  I have created separate sets of blend shapes for the eyebrows, eyes and mouth.  The eyebrows can be raised or lowered separately or together, the eyes can blink and can also be creased, which is particularly useful for creating a realistic and convincing smile.  In order for her eyebrows to raise, I set the drivers that control her brow blend shapes to also drive the eyebrows that have been modelled in either direction.

Her mouth can be widened or narrowed and her upper and lower lips can be raised.  I have also set the drivers that control the movement of the lips to also drive the Translate Y axis of the jaws in the relevant directions.  I have also created a special driver and respective set of blend shapes called "Mood", which if the user sets in the +20 direction, she smiles whereas if the user sets it in the -20 direction, she frowns.  This mood driver can bring the smile or frown pretty far and exaggerated, so I suggest keeping the Mood to a minimum on either side of the scale for more subtle and natural results.  Doing the smile and frown blend shapes took me the longest to perfect until I could make convincing smile and frown shapes without making her look like The Joker.

Here is a video demonstrating the range of expressions that Alex can now convey.

video

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Female Walk Cycle + References

I have been working on the walk cycle part of shot 8, but while I was animating the walk cycle, using the methodology that I adapted in the first year (two central points, keyframes, breakdown, inbetweens, etc.), I did find that the walk cycle had a huge amount of gravity; particularly for a teenage girl who was just supposed to be strolling.

Observe.
video
This makes Alex look as though she is almost trying to force herself through the atmosphere of the scene; it also makes the character seem more manly.

In order to create a younger, more serene and ultimately more feminine character, I started to look for references that would help me in creating a convincing walk cycle.

Synaesthesia director, Val gave this link which features a woman walking.  Her walk here is very elegant, and furthermore, I notice that one of her arms sways considerably more than the other; the other arm is even completely still at times.  Her hip movement is also very prominent in this walk.



In addition to this, it is apparent that females tend not to lift their legs from the ground as far as males and that the movement between each foot is far more slight.  This is a theory that is demonstrated very vividly and humoursly by good old Richard Williams in this video below.





















This video also has a good example of a female walk cycle being animated in the newly released Maya 2013.



In all honesty, it has been a little while since I animated a pure walk cycle so I have decided that there is no shame in once and a while, reading over various manuals and notes that I have acquired over the past 3 years just so I can brush up on what I already know.

For extra reference in producing a walk cycle I have used this image on the break down of a single walk to create the poses for my own walk.  This is taken from the blog of James Dunford, which was sent to me by Valentino.

I have also been reading this tutorial that I downloaded from Erik Westund's site just to make sure I have not left anything out.

Here is a video of the walk cycle that I animated and smoothened in the graph editor.  She has a very slight walk to establish her femininity and youth and also that she is strolling at a very leisurely pace.

video

Monday, 16 April 2012

Shot 8 - Block out

Here is a playblast of the block out for shot 8 of the film Synaesthesia so far; where she approaches and then sits at the piano.  I have not yet animated her walk cycle.  I have decided to animate her approaching the seat and then leaning on it as she sits down.
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I think I will need to have a little more bounce when she moves up the chair and adapts the posture for playing the piano.  For reference on how she should sit at the piano, I have been looking at correct posture  for sitting at a piano.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Dog Rig in demonstration

Here is a video demonstrating the fully skinned and weighted dog for the film Fools Gold.  The skeleton, controls and drivers were all constructed by me, whereas the weighting was done by Richard Eglinton.

video

Friday, 13 April 2012

News regarding Cat & Rat + Fools Gold Dog rig

As I stated in my last blog post, I have recently got work on two new projects in the past 2 days alone.  Unfortunately, also in that space of time, the Cat and Rat project that we have been working on for the past few months has now been shut down.  The reasons for this were that we had experienced too many technical issues over the second term and into the Easter Holidays, which severely hindered our productivity and creativity and caused a massive delay in our schedule by about 8 weeks.  These ranged from software failure to needing to redo certain tasks (sometimes more than twice) because they may have been left undone for too long.

After having a word with our tutors, they were very honest in telling us that we will not be able to complete this film in 7 weeks to a standard that industry would like and they stated that we had three options:
  1.  either to have a massive (and rather unrealistic) turnaround in the space of a week
  2. find other projects to work on and focus on creating work that displays our specialism(s)
  3. use the models and rigs to create a much shorter and simpler piece of work that is to the point and displays each of our abilities
I am going with the second option anyway, as I already got some more rigging work and finally a huge chunk of Animation work which I had been longing for, so I can fill up the Animation folder of my portfolio and include more recent animation on my showreel.  So far, my Animation folder is the most important one out of my three folders as I am an Animator first and foremost, but as of yet, it is the smallest folder.  However, this term, I am expecting that to change and I am expecting to have a lot more focus on animation this term.

As for the group that I was working with on Cat and Rat, we have unanimously decided that although the "Legend of the Chinese Zodiac" concept has now been dissolved, we will remain together as a group and try to use the rigs and models that we built to create a shorter and snappier concept and build up our portfolios.

So far, I have been working on a rig for a dog character as part of the Fools Gold project.  The plan is that I build the skeleton, controls and drivers for the rig, whereas Richard will paint the weights.  Here is a demonstration of the skeleton rig.  At the moment, it is not bound to the dog model.

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