Progress Journal 18T1.2

Week 2

This week I mainly tried to focus on completing the bulk of the remaining pre-production work remaining for our current pipeline project, and to get the foundation of the animatic due in the following week. Whilst I was preoccupied for most of the week, when awaiting lecturer feedback for the final strides of my pre-production work, I was able to squeeze in some personal work at the end on the weekend.

What have you made this week?

Rapid Production Project

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Final round 3 concepts for the Rapid Production Project. Although I liked both designs equally, the feedback generally gravitated towards the left design; as it had a clearer silhouette and simpler design. In addition, this design had more uniform primitives, with emphasis on cylindrical and spherical form, rather than its blocky counterpart, which felt like an uneven blend of the two.

The second image was a lineless experiment to get a preview of the potential style used in the final sequence. Unfortunately, I found that I preferred the lined version over the experiment. Lecturer suggestions advised that I could perhaps change the lines to a lighter or “opaque” lining method, as the black lineart was too “blocky” and “overbearing.”

Miscellaneous sketches & expressions to get more of a “feel” for the character before diving into the animatic work.



Final character turnaround.

For the final round of environment concepts, I combined two previous environment concepts, and saturated the palette with deep reds and browns.

Although this was my staple for successive pre-production items, namely the layout map, I ended up doing another revision of my environment under lecturer suggestion. The values were too similar and made certain shapes hard to define from a distance.

I briefly changed the aesthetic of the scene with the addition of sharper primitives, particularly evident in the rock formations and addition of more stalagmites along the bottom foreground.

Whilst the left colour suits my intention of a fantasy-esque environment, it lacks the atmosphere generated by the second image. Perhaps with the accompaniment of foreboding music, or just by simply adding the audio, I will be able to achieve the proposed mood. Currently awaiting lecturer feedback to determine which environment will be used for the final product.

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Self-explanatory: layout maps! These were based on the final environment concept at the time. May be revised in the future, but for now I’m content with leaving them as is, as the environment, aside from a few rocks and stalagmite/stalactites isn’t as complex as other people’s projects. The “final” environment concept has enough detail to be picture the majority of the layout, and its key features.

The layout maps were separated by shots, with the addition of a plain map detailing the assets / characters.

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Based on lecturer feedback received, the storyboard was revised to include a different action and third shot. Rather than limiting the view with a single front-on shot for the majority of the last action, on the recoil and recovery, the camera will cut to a three quarter full / long shot to showcase the full form of the subject.


In addition, the last action was potentially too “mature” for the monster character. Instead of a hands-on-hip motion, the monster will scratch himself, perhaps with the new addition of a sound effect (although this may remain a desirable depending on availability of the SFX described).


When compiling the last legs of my art bible, and revisiting the brief, I realised I had neglected to include the 10+ silhouettes desired for the round 1 concepts, which I had instead done a number of sketches for. To avoid any complications, I went back, basing the silhouette thumbnails based on the concept 1 sketches, and the evolutionary sketches used later in round 2. Several sketches along the bottom line where simply experiments with shapes, form and existing animal anatomy, and whilst interesting, did not really suit the narrative. Might use them in a later project or for some original work, as I particularly like the bottom-most left two, as well as the middle.

To begin work on the animatic, I set up the necessary file structure for Premiere and After Effect projects (as they do not directly import files, rather only references of where they are), and worked on the timing in the Premiere file, capturing stills of the storyboard to work as stand-ins for what will eventually be replaced with animatic / final footage.

I additionally began work on stand-in rigs for the animatic:

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Workshop: Rigging

Despite being chiefly focused on 2D rigging and animation for the current project, the workshop for basic 3D facial rigging seemed worthwhile enough to attend during Thursday’s class. Rather than focusing specifically on the CAT rig, as we had done in previous classes and assessments, we looked at creating a skeleton from scratch, modifying the bone geometry, structure, length, etc. with the Bone Tools interface.

Although the CAT rig is a good option for starting out, I found that it lacked the freedom of creating a rig from scratch and is bound by weight and other artificial limitations which incur a lot of time when having to edit manually. Even with the issue of having to free-form when creating the skeleton, it is a more viable option in the long run and can be applied to just about any model.

Before the skinning process, the bones of the rig were bound to several control objects, which are the staple of effectively controlling the rig. Applying control objects to the bones opens the gateway for manipulation of the model, etc. as well as the applications of constraints, several of which we applied during the duration of this workshop.

Most notably, limit constraints were applied to control the degree to which the position / orientation of the bone may be changed, as well as a “Look at” constraint, which bound the eye mesh to a control object. Whilst the mesh was parented to the body mesh, and moved in accordance with it, the assigned constraint meant that it moved in place to “face” the control object, serving as an easy method to change the direction of a model’s eyes.  It is important to note that, when using this constraint, you must enable “initial offset” to preserve the eye’s original position prior to the addition of the constraint.

Unfortunately, due to an abrupt fire alarm practice, the workshop was cut short and we were unable to fully delve into the rigging of the mouth.

Specialisation Progress

During this week I intended to start working on my specialisation research, in order to prepare for the report due at the end of the following week. I spent several hours cataloguing research, as well as drafting up a research document for further topics to explore, potential experimentation, and preliminary research to include in the specialisation initiation report.


For this project, I found that, in particular, my environment and composition knowledge was sorely lacking, and thought it would be viable to delve into those areas before approaching a 2D animation project. This specialisation project will be split into two themes: composition, perspective and environment art, followed by After Effects experimentation, and other methods of 2D animation. This project will hopefully culminate in a small 2D animated product demonstrating knowledge of After Effects functions, the foundations of 2D animation and detailed environment compositions, achieving optimum visual interest.

Personal Art



The above character is fairly new to my roster — and whilst I’m happy with their overall design, as seen here:


I find myself regularly revisiting smaller details, particularly their face shape, and other small details. I scrapped several sketches during the process, but believe that the second doodle will probably be their finalised design. The pointed nose / greasy-looking hair really helps to solidify the “trickster” look I was hoping to achieve.

Portrait of an original character, a mini-revamp. Mainly revised the structure of his face, colour palette and the shape of his horns. Experimented with colour overlays, as demonstrated by the two different versions.

What have you learned?

Viewed Resources

Workshop: Sub-division


  • Subdivision is applied to a model to either add detail, or to potentially “smooth it out” and achieve optimum topology in a high-poly method (Autodesk, 2018)
    • Although 3Ds Max offers three kinds of subdivision surfaces (OpenSubdiv modifier & HSDS modifier), the MeshSmooth modifier, or more commonly, Turbosmooth, are the most familiar and “easy” to work with. Turbosmooth
  • Skin modifier BELOW subdivision modifier. Saves time skinning, unwrapping, etc.
    • In order to attain sharp edges, add support loops near edges before applying TurboSmooth.
    • Triangles and poles have a strong tendency to cause “weird smoothing artefacts,” but can be hidden by minimising their effect; most often done so by making their surface flat (completely, if possible) or by including them in closed off / tight areas in the mesh. For organic, humanoid models, triangle polygons are commonly stashed away in the armpits, groin, joints or “anywhere with natural creases in the surface,” (Holden, 2011).

AUTODESK (2018) Subdivision Surfaces. Retrieved on 15 Feb. 18 from

Holden, D. (2011) Subdivision Modelling. Retrieved on 15 Feb. 18 from

Rigging Workshop functions


  • Animation –> Bone Tools
    • Skeleton: Create bones. Start from the bottom. Deselect
    • Bone edit mode. Zero out the bottom bone on the X axis.
  • Look at constraint. Click Enable initial offset




After Effects | Character Animating

Plaskow, R. (2013) How To Make a Cartoon | For Beginners – After Effects Tutorial | Ross Plaskow [Video]. Retrieved on 12 Feb. 18 from


When animating a character specific to After Effects, in order to rig the limbs and facial features effectively each separate asset needs to be specific to a single layer.

Using the .psd file format allows for easy transfer between Adobe Programs, and in this case, from Photoshop to After Effects. The file retains all layers and assorted effects.

When using this method, it is a good idea to create a separate .psd file for the mouths of the character. For ease of use, make sure it is to scale in relation to the main file. (Make a “mouth guide” layer just in case you need to scale the mouths).

  • Rotate the anchor point of each separate limb / etc. by pressing Y and dragging to a new area.
  • Parent all assorted layers to the body to avoid rotating, positioning, etc. each individual layer. Highlight layers and parent.
  • Alt + Right to shit keyframes and align them with ones on other layers.
  • “Easy Ease” F9
  • Anticipation movement.
  • Mouth stuff:
    • Put each mouth on its own frame so you can select whatever mouth you want by typing in the frame name.
    • Composition settings à x number of mouths = x number of frames
    • Highlight them all (alt + 1), then use the square bracket tool to make them one frame long individually.
    • Shift + Left then enter.
    • Enable time remapping (14:46)

Plaskow, R. (2013) How to Make a Cartoon | Character Animation – After Effects Tutorial [Basic Walk-cycle] [Video]. Retrieved on 12 Feb. 18 from

After Effects

Puppet Pin Tool

“The Puppet effect works by deforming part of an image according to the positions of pins that you place and move. These pins define what parts of the image should move, what parts should remain rigid, and what parts should be in front when parts overlap,” (Adobe, 2018).

Adobe (2018) Animating with Puppet Tools. Retrieved on 12 Feb. 18 from

Time-remapping (mentioned in this tutorial)

“Speeding up or slowing down an entire layer by the same factor throughout is known as time-stretching. When you time-stretch a layer, the audio and the original frames in the footage (and all keyframes that belong to the layer) are redistributed along the new duration,” (Adobe, 2018).

Adobe (2018) Time-stretching and time-remapping. Retrieved on 12 Feb. 18 from 

After Effects | 2.5D Camera/Layers

C.M. de la VEGA (2010) After Effects Tutorial – Create the 2.5D Effect [Video]. Retrieved on 17 Feb. 18 from


  • After Effects importing .psd file format: choose the composition option, merge layer styles into footage.
  • Make a copy of your psd layer in After Effects, name it “reference,” and the original a 3D layer, by activating the 3D switch. 
    (retrieved from )
  • P for position. Place it into Z depth, place it closer to the focal point of the camera. S for scale; and sale the layer to fit the same size as the composition. Repeat process with other layers as desire, pushing back or forward depending on the composition desirables.
  • New camera; 50 mm. New null object; named “Move Camera.” Parent the camera to the null object. P + Shift R to place key frames for the rotation and movement of the null object.
    • Make sure to apply “easy ease in.” Action path can be found at Animation menu, then by going to keyframe assistant. Make sure the key frames are selected before applying this function.
  • Blur a layer by heading to the Effects & Presets tab, search “fast blur,” put a value of 5 to blur a little bit of the background.

MrKlay (2014) Cartoon Animation Tutorial – Part 4: Make a Scene [Video]. Retrieved on 17 Feb. 18 from

  • Work with transparent .pngs when importing files into a scene if possible; as .psd files incur a larger file size.
  • Y to bring up and change the anchor point of a layer.



Rotoscoping 2D Animation from 3D Pre-Vis

Storytelling in Environment Composition

  • Adding in a hero element ( “an element in the painting that really sticks out and has a large focal attraction”) helps to add a storytelling component to a composition.
    • e.g. lines and subjects pointing into the painting and to important focal points helps to draw the eye of the viewer to a certain area, if not already accomplished by the composition, enhancing (Feghali, 2018).


Blender Guru (2014) Understanding Composition [Video]. Retrieved on 15 Feb. 18 from


  • Broken down into a hierarchy of needs: Focal element, structure, balance.


  • Focal point:
    • Something that the viewer is drawn to immediately; the focus of the entire composition. A strong focal point helps to “ground” the viewer.
    • Altered by contrast, saturation, scale, lens focus, motion blurring, lighting, etc.
  • Structure:
    • The organisation of elements, usually based on a rule
    • e.g. rule of thirds, golden ratio, pyramid, symmetry, full frame
  • Balance:
    • Ensuring the visual weight of the image is evenly distributed
    • Visual weight includes the size, contrasting elements, saturation and faces of figures of the image, usually dictated by a horizontal / vertical line. Must be weighted evenly on either side.

PerspectivePaolo Uccello, Chalice,1450

Paolo Uccello 
Perspective Study of a Chalice

circa. 1450
Pen on Paper, 29 x 24 .5 cm,
Uffizzi Gallery, Florence

  • “The Italian master, Paolo Uccello, epitomizes the rebirth of pictorial space that took place during the Renaissance through the use of perspective illusionism. Uccello and his fellows incorporated the math of perspective vanishing points to render the third dimension into their art works.”

Retrieved from on 17 Feb. 2018.\

Catalogued Resources


Schleifer, J. (2011) Animator Friendly Rigging: Creating rigs that don’t bite. Retrieved from 

  1. Feghali, W. (2017) The Keys to Great Compositions in Digital Painting: Understanding & Improving Your Compositions. Retrieved on 13 Feb. 18 from
  2. Izzo, R. (2018) Mastering Storytelling: With artwork by Disney artist Luca Pisanu. Retrieved on 13 Feb. 18 from
  3. Feghali, W. (2018) Painting Environment Concepts in No Time. Retrieved on 13 Feb. 18 from
  4. Feghali, W. (2016) A Tip On Painting Massive Environments. Retrieved from
  5. Greyson, E. (2017) PAINTING Studio Ghibli Backgrounds – Digital Painting Process [Video]. Retrieved on 10 February 2018 from
  6. Feghali, W. (2016) Digital Painting Basics – Introduction to Speed Painting – Concept Art Tutorial [Video]. Retrieved on 10 February 2018 from
  7. Ward, P. (2002) Picture Composition. Taylor and Francis. Retrieved via
  8. Glebas, F. (2013) The Animator’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Animation. CRC Press. Retrieved via
Toggl Report


Progress Journal 18T1.1

Week 1

What have you made this week?

Rapid Production Project Work

The beginnings of our first studio project!

Objective: Design, draft, and produce an animation sequence (approximately 5 – 10 seconds long) driven by a chosen audio track, featuring a simple character, with emphasis on 2D rigging and visual effects in After Effects, adhering to the 2D production pipeline.

Overall goals:

  1. Focus on learning new skills and features related to After Effects, particularly exploring rigging and VFX, as I have often neglected technical skills in favor of creative ones.
  2. Follow the time management system closer than in previous projects, most notably the Gantt chart. With the addition of the “SPRINT” system at the beginning of every week, it would be useful to have the chart as a way to examine the entirety of the project. Make sure to update it accordingly.
  3. Make an effort to secure approximately 6 hours of work per day for five days of the week. Accommodate extra hours when available. 30 hours work minimum.


Storyboards, which were mainly dedicated to capturing the narrative, rather than to present as a final version. I started work on more refined storyboards to be included in the art bible later on:


Preliminary conceptual work. Mainly attempted to nail down the correct atmosphere whilst preserving the false sense of dread needed to keep the flow of the narrative planned.


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Round 1 concepts! These were mainly focused on gathering a more solidified idea of the character I wished to portray. I discarded the dragon-centric designs in favour of a bipedal / more monster-like creature.

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Round 2 concepts. Kept many reoccurring traits that I liked from my previous experimentation, particularly the large eyes, under/overbite with accompanying teeth, large arms and claws. Spines, etc. would be easy to animate rather than something more complex such as wings or multiple tails. Might potentially cut the tail out altogether.


With the feedback of a lecturer, I delved into evolutionary concept territory with a secondary round of wave two concepts. Mostly consisted of bipedal creatures with smaller bodies, larger limbs / head (which would work particularly well at the beginning of the second shot, as the head is meant to look menacing, etc.).


Two particular designs I liked I expanded upon and did some additional doodles. Depending on the feedback gathered during next class I may alter or disregard them altogether.


I found this cyclops design to be of particular note. The anatomy is familiar, easy to draw, and its design is simplistic enough to replicate easily. The lack of a tail and back spines, etc. will also make animation easier.

Expanding on the background concepts I did earlier, I did some quick background speedpaints / experiments in order to prepare for the final background needed for the project. These were done without reference, and next week I hope to gather more background and assorted resources to use and improve upon my knowledge.  First background / landscape attempts in years… 😲


More assorted experiments. I followed along to this tutorial discussed below.

Theory work:

  • Initial Pitch
  • Gathered moodboard images. Can be found on Pinterest.
  • Art bible set-up
  • Completed Project Plan, most notably:
    • Gantt Chart
    • Work Breakdown Structure

Personal Work

A character from a personal comic project. Attempted a “mock” chapter cover. Whilst I did plan to paint it originally, I ended up scrapping it in favour for what will eventually become lineart, as this is the planned format. Need to adjust the hand and make some facial tweaks before continuing.


Lineart progress on a fanart piece I started approx. a week ago. Making slow progress. Planning to rework the face and restart the lineart as I’m not entirely satisfied.

Commission Work

Assorted commission work. Characters (c) their respective owners, Vainwin and MatticusTrolls.

What have you learned?

Viewed Resources

Character design basics. Retrieved from

Character Design references | Pinterest. Retrieved from

FZD School of Design (2010, December 2). Design Cinema – EP 30 – Character Silhouettes Part 01 [Video file]. Retrieved from


A strong silhouette is the foundation of a compelling character design. Rather than focusing on the evolutionary method of silhouetting, first pass designs should be characterised by dramatic, different silhouettes (although this may depend on the context of the project and/or brief provided), with an emphasis on variating the primitive shapes characterising their forms. The evolutionary method should be used after a client has decided on key designs they would like to further explore, typically changing 10-25% of the design per variation.

In professional work, concept artists rarely turn in plain block-out silhouettes. The internal details on the silhouette usually come naturally with a strong silhouette, but will occasionally need to be defined in things such as overlapping or very simplistic designs (e.g. a vehicle). This can be achieved by simply painting in the silhouette; outlining major points that could easily be missed otherwise. By filling out the silhouette the design could potentially be used in produced (passed onto a 3D artist) in the event of a limited budget and/or time.

An artist still has some control over a client’s choices, mainly through influencing / guiding their eyes to favourable designs. Pulling the view can be achieved already by dramatic design variations, but can be enhanced with the addition of tone and colour. Overlaying colours onto the painting, adjusting contrast, etc. all helps with visual appeal.

Real world references, particularly in monster / alien designs should be used to help ground the design in reality. Anatomical knowledge, based on real-world creatures, etc. should be a staple of any fantasy / mythological animal. Pre-conceptions based on their real-world counterparts help to establish preliminary understanding of the creature.

Greyson, E. (2017) PAINTING Studio Ghibli Backgrounds – Digital Painting Process [Video]. Retrieved on 10 February 2018 from


For multi-“layered” large-scope backgrounds embrace digital layers for each major portion of the background. Clipping groups are useful for layering colors, shadows, etc. on top of a specific part of the painting. Additionally, using a transparency lock to prevent drawing outside the silhouette of the layer tends to save time instead of repainting over areas already rendered.

Utilise custom brushes to achieve the look you desire. Don’t be tied down by default brush settings, experiment. Try to stick with the same preliminary textured brushes, and don’t get bogged down by the sheer scope of huge brush packs, etc.

Be mindful of the entire painting during the beginning stages. Pay attention to local colours, composition, etc. rather than jumping into the shading too fast. When establishing the opening palette, one technique is to turn off brush transparency, so you are forced to block out all the colours initially.

Don’t be afraid to sketch out the entirety of the background prior to rendering. Many established concept artists draw thumbnails, etc. before heading into the background and building up form without the aid of a sketch, but be mindful that their techniques are not absolute and they have garnered many years of experience and training prior.

Feghali, W. (2016) Digital Painting Basics – Introduction to Speed Painting – Concept Art Tutorial [Video]. Retrieved on 10 February 2018 from


Refer back to the navigator / preview pane whenever possible, working zoomed out. When focusing on small details it is easy to lose scope of the entire painting, and miss glaring issues, such as those concerning the composition, idea and mood.

It is a good idea to approach the blockout and colours first, as establishing tone is one of the foundations of a good piece. The lasso tool is a good for blocking out preliminary shapes, etc. Pay attention to the foreground, use those elements to bring the whole piece out.

When first painting, avoid painting directly on white. Tone it down with a darker grey, or colour (if decided prior).

  • Photoshop tools
    • For changing around contrast, shadow depth and intensity: Levels tool. Achieved by pressing Control + L on Windows.
    • For changing around the colour balance of shadows, mid-tones and highlights: Colour balance. Achieved by pressing Control + B on Windows.
    • Unsharp mask: used for a bit of clarity / stylisation for speedpaints. Applied at the end typically.

Feghali, W. (2016) A Tip On Painting Massive Environments. Retrieved from


Atmospheric Haze

  • Haze that covers everything as the distances from the viewer increases, particularly evident in large-scope backgrounds.
  • Different to mists, fogs, and the like. Fogs tend to be “exaggerated atmospheric hazes,” and are more akin to clouds than the haze. The blue effect created by atmospheric haze is “more how the molecules of the air absorb and scatter certain frequencies of light. This is the same reason the sky is blue! And since huge things are so far away, they get affected by this scattering light of the air and becomes really blue – just like the sky itself.”
  • Great technique in large-scale backgrounds to add depth, etc. The haze itself doesn’t have to always be blue – change it depending on the colour scheme of the piece.

Feghali, W. (2016) Rock Painting Tutorial – Digital Painting Basics – Concept Art [Video]. Retrieved on 10 Feb. 18 from

Analyse and be mindful of reference. Real-world counterparts are essential to painting believable landscapes, etc. Take note of the texture, colour variation, grain of the rock. What does their texture and colours tell you about their respective environments? (Smoothà water-based environment, etc.)

Catalogued Resources

duikDuik: After Effects plugin. “The comprehensive rigging and animation tool set for After Effects!” Retrieved from 

FZD School of Design (2011, December 30). Design Cinema – EP 50 – Bug Silhouettes [Video file]. Retrieved from 

FZD School of Design (2015, June 26). Design Cinema – EP 83 – Designing with Silhouettes [Video file]. Retrieved from 

FZD School of Design (2010, December 2). Design Cinema – EP 30 – Character Silhouettes Part 01 [Video file]. Retrieved from

After Effects | 2D / 3D Projection Mapping

Flat Pack FX (2017, September 28). 2D to 3D Projection mapping Tutorial for Adobe After Effects [Video file]. Retrieved from

Motion Science (2016, November 26). After Effects 3D Camera Techniques [Video file]. Retrieved from

After Effects | Lighting

After Effects | 2D Rigging


Paint Tool Sai Resources

Toggl Report

Specialisation: Post Mortem

Over the course of the Studio I module, we were required to undertake a research / specialisation project of our own choosing, mainly to gather and apply knowledge and research gathered on that area to a final product. For my specialisation project, I devoted the majority of my practical work to sculpting in Zbrush, some of my theory work was catered towards learning more-in depth anatomy and application of figure sculpting in this line of work.

As many industry-standard professionals know, Zbrush, although a highly capable and diverse program, has a convoluted interface and functions so numerous that it is unlikely I will ever be able to learn them all. For the practical part of this specialisation project, much of my time was committed to learning the interface of the program, as well as assorted brushed to use during my sculpting process. During the primary stages, with a peer’s recommendation, I followed an overview tutorial catered to new players on the sculpting scene. Unfortunately, even with this guide, I found that I had to run through it multiple times, even through the experimentation process, in order to retain all the information. It took many sticky notes with shortcuts scribbled on them to even get started properly sculpting, which ate away at my time significantly. Even with theory research backing me up, I felt it hard to ease into the program.

On a personal note, I found that Zbrush’s sheer size and functions were a bit intimidating. I held off on practical sculpting work for a number of weeks before I finally applied it to my project. My apprehension likely meant that the total number of hours and sculpting test pieces shadow in comparison to what I could have achieved had I been more disciplined and open to a new program.

With time dwindling, I decided to change my practical focus, and cut scope from the overall anatomy of the human form to focus on a few key specifics that I prioritised: facial and bust features. This allowed me to explore detailing and more delicate areas of the sculpting process rather than focusing on the larger elements of the workflow. This decision, coupled with a growing grip on Zbrush’s functions turned out to be a good decision. Once I had a grasp on Zbrush, sculpting faces was almost effortless, and I spent much less time refining my sculpts than I had originally planned. Unfortunately, with time running out and already a series of tests taking up most of my specialisation hours, I concluded it would be a better idea to aim for quantity over quality; particularly when it came to the final deliverable. Instead of a single bust, I opted to try out a series of busts with varying facial features to submit. I found that working with a diverse range of features allowed me to explore variations and different methods of sculpting either feminine or masculine faces.

One positive aspect of this project was my ability to cut scope and adapt to the changing circumstances (difficulty learning the program, dwindling timeframe). My main focus was quantity of experiments, to familiarise, rather than quality.

Originally, I had planned to model either one of these two character concepts I had created; but once again, I had to cut scope, and they simply remained a desirable for future endeavours:


My preliminary experiments mainly consisted of attempting to define features I was uncertain of, namely noses / the cheekbone / neck areas of the bust.


This experiment was one of my first “full” face sculpts. I modified the material to see the topology and imperfections, particularly with the smoothing, of her overall face. The primary difficulty with this sculpt was her lips, which were eventually just smoothed over. I attempted to add details far too early in the sculpt, and it was almost comically detailed in comparison the rest of the face. In addition, I found it difficult to add eyes without the aid of subtools. Hopefully in the future I will be able to look into adding a sphere subtool to this model and make adjustments as needed. Unfortunately for this model, I neglected to use a reference, which is often a fundamental of sculpting.

This experiment was one of my first “full” face sculpts. I modified the material to see the topology and imperfections, particularly with the smoothing, of her overall face. The primary difficulty with this sculpt was her lips, which were eventually just smoothed over. I attempted to add details far too early in the sculpt, and it was almost comically detailed in comparison the rest of the face. In addition, I found it difficult to add eyes without the aid of subtools. Hopefully in the future I will be able to look into adding a sphere subtool to this model and make adjustments as needed. Unfortunately for this model, I neglected to use a reference, which is often a fundamental of sculpting.

During this specialisation project, I learned the fundamentals of Zbrush and the key functions applicable to the sculpting pipeline. In particular, the overall workflow (detailed in the research report) as well as alternate pipelines wherein a sculptor exports a low-poly model into Zbrush created in another program and major features of the program such as Dynamesh, Transpose, sub-tools, sub-objects and masking, all of which are highly relevant to the sculpting workflow. Sculpting most notably consists of sculpting, smoothing and detail (using the Alpha function), masking specific components for ease of access, and if applicable, using the transpose tool to transform the mesh surface, and overall deformation, commonly known as the “push and pull” sculpting method.

Overall, although I eventually learned the fundamentals of Zbrush and were able to apply them in a practical sense, my apprehension to use the program tied with a dwindling time frame meant that I was not able to achieve the best of my potential, particularly when examining both the quantity and quality of my work.

Over the holidays and, if applicable, during the next Studio module, I aim to create a full-body sculpt using one of the aforementioned pipelines, perhaps of one of the drafted character sheets. It would also be useful to look into more applying detailed Zbrush functions rather than just researching the theory of it, namely: alphas and sub-tools / sub-geometry, which are particularly relevant to a full-body sculpting pipeline. I should additionally look into creating more delicate pieces of a full body sculpt, such as clothing or hairstyles, as well as intricate details which are often a major part of character design.

Specialisation: Research Report

For this report, I aimed to cover the topics of: the sculpting workflow, primary functions and overview of the Zbrush program, prominent areas of anatomy that I have previously struggled with (mainly mid-upper torso and upper back anatomy) and presentation techniques, such as figure posing, and apply them to my previous and current work.


As described by Vaughan, using the sculpting package provided (most commonly ZBrush; or Mudbox for amateurs) a primitive shape is used as a base for pulling into an “armature” (basic sculpting structure, which is iterated upon throughout the sculpting process)(2012, pg. 282). An alternate pipeline is suggested by Tironeac (2013), wherein the first pass sculpt is created using a low-poly base model; defined by good starting topology, etc. before being expanded upon with higher-poly sculpting. If concepted prior to this stage, image planes within 3Ds Max can be used for referencing. It is crucial to continually check the silhouette of the model in different perspective modes during this stage, to maintain desired character proportions and plan any major changes to be made to the model topology during these early stages. The mesh is then imported into a program, and after converted into polymeshes, is sculpted; as only meshes of this kind can be sculpted in Zbrush.

For models sculpted solely within Zbrush, functions such as a the curve or tube tools can be used to quickly add volume, or sub-object tools can add rough primitives, which are then remeshed using Dynamesh.


Example of the curve tool used to add primitive “limbs” to a model. Experiment conducted in Zbrush.

To help define the silhouette in Zbrush, Vaughan recommends using the silhouette function (V key) to view the model from multiple angles without respect to the details; mainly to aid in spotting major flaws, e.g. areas needing volume or muscle groups with odd definition (2012, pg. 286). It is recommended to do this several times during the modelling process.

These early stages are almost primarily concentrated on creating the basic anatomy of the model before moving onto other aspects such as proportions and form; with arts pulling out geometry to form limbs, etc. before adding details in an iterative manner (Vaughan, 2012, pg. 285). The main sculpting method is confined two a few key functions, namely sculpting, smoothing and detail, with the aid of alphas (3D brushes), masking for details and mesh subcomponents, and deformation; commonly known as the “move” tool in Zbrush (Tironeac, 2013).

For other purposes than simple visual display, artists are commonly required to retopologize the model. The underlying polygon count is usually not a worry for sculpting artists, and once the high detail sculpt is made (sometimes with millions of polygons) artists retopologise the mesh for better polygon flow, typically in a separate 3D program such as 3Ds max (Vaughan, 2012, pg. 283), or by using the Remesh subtools in Zbrush; although the results may not be as refined as manually doing it. Texture baking is a key part of the process when it comes to retaining the visual detail of the high poly model. Programs such as Zbrush, 3Ds Max, Maya and Substance have options to bake high-poly details onto the low-poly model; which is an idea technique for game engine organic models with high levels of facial detail.

Zbrush Overview

The most common file format within Zbrush is referred to as a Zbrush document, and is saved using the ZPR file format; very similar to scenes in other 3D animation packages such as 3Ds Max or Maya, tracking the current state of tools, lighting, materials and other elements to avoid altering prior settings (Keller, 2012, pg. 21)


(Keller, 2012, pg. 20)

The Zbrush lightbox is a “visual display of files within the Pixologic directory structure of the PC’s hard drive,” the primary function of which is so serve as a navigation port (Keller, 2012, pg. 21). The headings will individually link to different asset folders within this directory, most notably to ZBrushes, ZTools, ZAlphas, ZMaterials, ZTextures and ZProjects folders. The brush library contains all the presets for brushes which are then further organised into subfolders, as Zbrush could not store the vast amount in the fly-out brush library.

Dynamesh is a function unique to Zbrush that re-meshes the models as it is being sculpted with a shortcut located in the toolbar. This means that even as the mesh topology becomes further distorted, this software will redistribute polygons evenly across the model without sacrificing its shape (Vaughan, 2012, pg. 285).

Masking an area in Zbrush means that any sculpting or brushing done to the model will only affect the non-masked area. This function can only be applied when in 3D edit mode, and the intensity of the mask determines the sculpting results on the affected area (Pixologic, 2017). Masks are most commonly cleared by holding control and dragging an area far away from the model within the viewport. Masks appear on the model as dark areas.


(Pixologic, 2017)

  • Masks can be painted directly onto the model using the Control key or by dragging an area close to the model holding the same key.
  • The lasso mask tool is activated by pressing Control and clicking on the large brush thumbnail; and then drawing a lasso selection after clicking the canvas.
  • Blurring a mask can be achieved by holding Control and clicking on a masked area. This function “spreads” the mask out further along the boundary between the masked and unmasked area, decreasing the intensity and increasing affected area.
  • Clearing a mask is activated by simply holding control and dragging outside the model onto the canvas. A small box, labelled “clear canvas” should appear in the dragged area, and disappear alongside the mask when the mouse is released.
  • Inverting a mask is accomplished by holding down control whilst clicking outside the model, in the viewport, once.

Transpose is the method of reposition, rotating and scaling parts of the model and assorted sub-objects within Zbrush. Using a combination of transpose and masking tools, areas of the mesh can be toggled to the effects of this function (Vaughan, 2012, pg. 290). When selected, this function can be snapped to the model by using the Shift key. Centre on selection can be used to position the transpose line to centre on the unmasked region / current polygroup (this is achieved by clicking the white ring at the end of the transpose line) (Pixologic, 2017).

An example of the transpose function is its deformation properties:


(Pixologic, 2017)

Transpose, when combined with a masked area, can also add more topology to a model by extruding a surface. The move mode can be activated by turning on the action line, and “holding the control key when clicking the lines centre circle,” which will extrude all non-masked parts of the model (Pixologic, 2017). It is important to note that this operation will only work on a model that does not have subdivision levels.

ZBrush tests:


The most common defining points of an organic model are the prominent protrusions, called “bony landmarks,” which serve as “important proportional measuring points of the body,” and are key to understanding the position of the of the rest of the skeleton in relation to the position of these landmarks (Zarins & Kondrats, 2014, pg. 10). Common landmarks on the upper torso, primarily focused on the chest and back areas, can be seen in the following:

(pg. 10-12)

I applied this study to a previous character model that I had intended to sculpt, paying attention to the location under the fatty tissue areas:


(original character model:)


The male shoulder blade in its most common form is covered by a thick layer of muscles, and is harder to locate when compared to its feminine counterpart. This is most commonly identified in stylised drawings as a triangular line, such as in the following:


(Zarins & Kondrats, 2014, pg. 11).

The main landmarks of the frontal torso are defined by the sharp curve of the bottom ribcage, the collarbones and the asis of the hips, which are more prominent in feminine anatomy.



(pg. 12)

In many of my previous studies / drawings, the visible ribcage is more “curved” than what is natural, and is more raised than what is considered realistic, and needs to be “pinched” up towards the centre. Although these drawings are stylised, it is important to draw from realistic anatomy in order to further improvement in the realm of character design.


Torso / arm anatomy study application to drawings.

Figure Sculpting

Within the realm of figure sculpting, the silhouette is one of the primary elements that help to distinguish a sculpt as an individual character. An unclear silhouette is one of the “silent killers” of design, as asserted by Zarins & Kondrats (2014, pg. 16).


The most common result of a symmetric pose is appearing lifeless and boring; especially when compared to asymmetry.

In the following video, “How to draw interesting poses” Sycra covers the basics of asymmetrical posing, etc. similar to the diagram below.


An easy way to vary a pose is to alternate the direction of both the hips and shoulders, particularly if the pose is weighed in one direction.

Take care to ensure that the centre of gravity is consistent between poses. May need to alter the weight of the pose if the model is off-balance.


Contrapposto is a term, used to describe “the position of a figure in which the hips and legs are turned in a different direction from that of the shoulders and the head; the figure twists on its own vertical axis…” and is a good tactic for pose variation, in which the figure’s posture is depicted in a “sinuous or serpentine ‘S’ shape,” (Zarin & Kondrats, 2014, pg. 17). Some further details below:


For example, a previous character drawing compared to a later version. Despite only being bust-up shots, differentiating the pose by changing the position of the hips and collarbones to juxtapose each other leads to a more dynamic and overall interesting piece.



Keller, E. (2012) Introducing Zbrush. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

Tironeac, G. (2013) The Pipeline Behind Modelling and Animating a Game Character in Zelgor. Retrieved from

Vaughan, W. (2012) [digital] Modeling. California: Pearson Education, Inc.

Pixologic (2017) Masking. Retrieved from

Pixologic (2017) Transpose. Retrieved from

Zarins, U. & Kondrats, S., (2014) Anatomy for Sculptors: Understanding the Human Form. Exonicus LLC

Sycra (2012) How to Draw Interesting Poses [Video] Retrieved from


Obstacle Course: Post Mortem

In this project, we were tasked with animating a 2D character navigating a set obstacle course, applying both the mechanics of physics and the personality and thoughts of characters through the movement of their bodies.

During the pre-production / research stages of this project, I developed a strong foundation of the nature and characteristics of Bugs Bunny’s movements, accompanied by visual examples from the classic cartoons themselves. This helped to establish what movements that I desired to implement, particularly with the feedback of lecturers.

However, as the project progressed, I found that a lack of skill and growing time constraints left me unable to implement these changes, which mainly included: Bugs dancing on one of the centre poles, an idle animation (such as eating a carrot), a further extension of the obstacle course so he would have more room to run, and a more flamboyant / dramatic exit at the end of the course as he dives into the rabbit hole.

If given the opportunity to re-do this project, it would be worthwhile to design a more detailed block-out, featuring the movements mentioned above. Whilst it may have impacted the presentation of the final product, it would have been more valuable to include them in the scope at first instead of leaving them as an “if I have time” afterthought as I did.

One of the main weaknesses in this animation is overall inconsistencies with the pacing and character itself. In many of the frames Bugs is missing his arms; or they are just simply not drawn with consistency or refinement. This was a result of wanting to add them during a later stage, but then not having enough time to do so.
The action in this sequence has similar problems with discrepancy and comes to a rather dull end after Bugs Bunny reaches the top of the first major obstacle point. His frantic run transitions into a walk, and it almost seems leisurely by the time he reaches the end of the course. This, of course, does not mirror the action in the defining first sequence or the audio being played. It doesn’t make sense with the narrative at the beginning–“I’m hunting rabbits!”; nor does it particularly pertain to his character, which poorly reflects on the amount of research I did during the early stages.

A strong aspect of this animation is its presentation, the background in particular, which was created from scratch, bar the mailbox at the end of the course. One weak point in the presentation would have to be the audio transition from the Looney Tunes introduction and the ‘action’ music, as I was unable to find an isolated audio track of the background Warner Brothers music that was free. I ended up using the Benny Hill theme, which served as an adequate substitute, although not entirely suiting the presentation. If given more time, I would have liked to go back and find a different instrumental action theme that had a smoother transition.

Using my own workflow, I drew the character and animation in a separate program before exporting it in Adobe © Animate. Although this did mean that certain movement sequences were drawn using the straight-ahead method, I was able to use pen pressure and easily colour the frames in a program I was very familiar with. It is likely that using Paint Tool Sai to colour reduced time, as the method for colouring / painting in Animate can be convoluted at best. Despite perhaps reducing the quality of some of the sequences, I believe the pros outweighed the cons, and since I had already experimented with it (although to a lesser degree) in a previous assessment, I followed it throughout.

It may have been advisable to approach this workflow by instead using separate symbols to dictate the movements of the limbs, such as head, torso, legs and arms, as I previously experimented with in the walkcycle assessment, rather than importing separate frames as an entirely separate image. This would have allowed for edited movement, etc. with Animate rather than having to switch between programs, editing and re-importing. The main problem with this approach is that positioning each individual image can also be time consuming in itself.

Overall, although I believe that given the time available and my skill level with other 2D products, if I had dedicated more time to refining the animation (perhaps lining, as I did with my previous assessment) and adding more features I would have achieved a more polished version of this animation, and it was not my best work.

Cross Discipline: Post Mortem


Within this project, the Animation cross-collaborators were mainly assigned to creating the working assets (and animations, if necessitated, or if time allowed) for a small android-based game whose development was implemented and designed by Game students of the same year. This environment was iterated upon; replacing placeholder assets, etc. with the ones provided by Animation students, which were made in an external program called MagicaVoxel. The game designers took the primary reigns of the visual direction, whilst animators were given an art bible guide in the creation of assets.

1.1      Contribution

Unfortunately, due to team complications later on within the project, the group I was originally assigned to was disbanded; leading to me being reassigned to an already-existing group. As many of the assets were already assigned and completed, I had a limited amount of assets to create.

The main contributions I made were several variations of grass (as I feel it required for more than one grass layer) which served to populate the level, and a puddle which served as an obstacle for the player to avoid.



Project files (.vox format) found here. 

1.2      Communication

The part of the project I was involved in was populated with a high level of communication between the lead game designer and other notable animators within the group. Although there was a Slack Channel (as it was a platform all animators had used prior) it served as a secondary means of communication, with a discord server being the primary. A channel was reserved for the design elements of this project, and although it was necessary to sometimes alternate between Slack and Discord for sharing resources, the communication was efficient enough for our part in this project.


The games students shared a different method of project management, and animators mainly relied on an “asset list” spreadsheet available through a shared Google Docs folder. Although it was not as consistently updated as preferred, the communication (both outside and during class) of a fellow animator on the project allowed for updates that were reliable enough to complete our assigned parts of the project.

1.3      Reflection

The program used to create assets was an easy-to-learn program that was straightforward, simple and effective, meaning that time constraints on my end were not an issue, despite arriving late to the project, as mentioned above. After some brief tutorial viewing and an overview of the functions, it was easy to wrap my head around the project and continue moving forward to the creation of the assets.

There were two primary setbacks within this project. The first one, largely unavoidable, was the result of my first assigned group being disbanded due to a project leader deferring the course. As this occurred during the production stages of the project, I was assigned an assumed smaller amount of assets than my fellow animators. Of course, whilst this made the workload easier for me, it may reflect poorly on my overall contribution to the project.

In the event of another cross-disciplinary project, it would be much more beneficial to my collaborative group and myself if we could avoid a disbanding of the project during the bulk (production stages) of the project. It is hardly the fault of the team who disbanded, but would be an improvement if corrected in the future.

Similar to other pipelines employed in the creative industry, the games students followed a basic version of: pre-production, production, post-production; albeit utilising different methods. Likewise, they implemented a series of plans and pitches and iterated upon the project with the addition of lecturer feedback. Their art bible was a staple of the project’s visual direction, but was less populated with references than previous animation projects.

Unlike the animation cohort, they used a different method of tracking tasks and communication, using Discord as a preference over Slack and spreadsheets that were updated as work was completed. Project management was primarily divided between Google Docs (for documentation) and hackNPlan for tracking (although animators did not come to use this feature much). They additionally utilised a repository to store and iterate upon game files, as a substitute to storing on the drive. GitHub, a code hosting platform, was used for both collaboration between multiple people and to control differing versions of the master file; accomplished by “branches” that keep different versions of the file separate from the master, allowing for separation and back-up in the case of an error.

Final .exe: 


2.1      Contribution

During the pre-production stages of this project, I was provided with an asset list, diagram of its implementation within the level and a simplified representation / preliminary idea of the intended vision, in addition to two visual examples which could be likened to a stylistic guide.


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To more clearly gather a solidified view of what I wanted to create for this project, I drafted up a moodboard of visual and stylistic references to influence a more detailed concept of the assets that I drafted up later.

moodboard thing.png


These concepts were met with positive feedback, and with no need to iterate / improve upon them, I took them to the board and used them as a final reference for asset creation.


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Project files available here.
2.2      Communication

Similar to the previous project, the main form of communication was over a discord messenger. As I was only communicating with one member of the project, (assumed to be the head of design) we occasionally conversed through private messages rather than creating a separate server for only two people.

The other students involved in the project had a separate method of tracking their progress. As I only had the assets in the game to create, I tracked my own progress personally using a private Trello board and set loose dates for prominent stages (e.g. modelling, UV mapping, texturing, etc.). I was given a loose final date, which was used as a guide for the other stages of the asset creation.

2.3      Reflection

The project itself was a fairly smooth experience, with regular communication between the aforementioned student and I, and a steady workload to manage with my other projects at the time. I was fortunately given some artistic freedom, which allowed some of my own creative input for the assets, albeit still sticking to the guide provided.

The only “setback” encountered in this project was having to change the presets of my texture maps to accommodate for the Unity Engine, which uses different map functions to the standard Unreal Engine metallic, roughness and albedo maps. After some quick research, I was able to implement my findings and change the texture maps according to my preference and the feedback of the collaborator.

It is possible that if I had undergone better time management with my other studio projects, that I would have been able to complete this cross-discipline venture more quickly and freed up time, but given the circumstances I was overall effective in submitting the finished assets before the due date.

Unfortunately, as of yet, the game students in question have not released an .exe of the final product, and thus I am unable to embedd it within this post mortem.

Obstance Course: Project Initiation / Research

Chosen character: Bugs Bunny


Evolution of BUGS BUNNY (1940-1990). Retrieved from

Early era Bugs Bunny was delineated by the cartoon styles of the 30’s and 40’s age, reminiscent of the walk cycles of the then-defining Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in the late 30’s (1937). Barrier writes, “His Disney pedigree was evident in his contour, an awkward merger of the lean and streamlined Max Hare of The Tortoise and the Hare and the round, soft bunnies that Thorson had drawn for Little Hiawatha,” (2003, pg. 361).


With the release of A Wild Hare in the July of 1940, the iconic style and movement of Bugs Bunny finally solidified as the precursor for the modern version seen in revamped versions of the Looney Toons franchise.


Porky’s Hare Hunt (1938) is noted as one of the first iterations of Bugs Bunny, then-nameless. Whilst the rabbit in this film is “a rural buffoon: very loud and oppressively zany…He is somewhat magical, as if he were a magician’s white rabbit: he pulls himself out of a hat…” (Barrier, M., 2003, pg. 359), he evolves into a much cooler, graceful and controlled character, other “far more insinuating,” (pg. 360), “stand[ing] more nearly straight and is sleeker and trimmer,” (pg. 361).

His upright saunter, run and walk is a stark contrast from the swagger present in his older iterations. His running cycle mimics the following walk cycle demo; although with variants to his arm position depending on the cinematic and situation Bugs is presented in.


Retrieved from

In most examples, his arms remain upright and outstretched when being pursued by an adversary. It could be possible to incorporate this into the project; to give Bugs a “reason” to be running / escaping through the obstacle course.

Wells (2013) writes of several iconic Bugs Bunny gestures:

Bugs Bunny’s laconic sense of superiority is established by his carrot-munching proposition, ‘What’s up, doc?’, or his call-to-arms when his current adversary temporarily gains the upper hand and he confirms: ‘You realise, this means war!’ (pg. 39)

It could also be possible to incorporate Bugs’ tendency to “break the fourth wall,” as many of his sequences play “directly to the audience, wink[ing] at them, and call[ing] them to witness his embarrassment, but does not shrink from asides,” (Bazin, A. as cited in Furniss, M., 2009, pg. 67).

Other potential movements aside from typical running and walk cycles can include:

  • Jumping into a rabbit hole
  • Saunter / slow dance cycle
  • Sliding (particularly down the “ramp” area of the obstacle course
  • Idle motions (e.g. classic chewing of the carrot).


Obstacle Course A:

ooga booga.png

ooga booga2ooga booga3


ooga booga4

Obstacle Course B:




References used:

Barrier, M. (2003) Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from

Wells, P. (2013) Understanding Animation (Second Ed.). Routledge. Retrieved from

Furniss, M. (2009) Animation: Art and Industry. Indiana University Press. Retrieved from

Other resources / videos:
Model Sheets / Stylistic guide:



  • Improved idle animations (e.g. thinking, tapping feet, chewing on carrot)
  • Delay more before acting
  • Exaggerate animation (particularly jumping sequence at the end)

Will most likely be using obstacle course A for the final animation.