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.

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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.

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