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:

darlarefvanrefwowowow

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

Capture1

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.

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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.


Workflow

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.

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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)

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(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.

wrow3

(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:

wrow4.png

(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:

Anatomy

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:

ok4.png

(original character model:)

vanrefwowowow.png

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:

ok5

(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.

ok6.png

ok7.png

(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.

okeehehe.PNG

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).

ok56656565.png

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.

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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.

wrowwwwww.png

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:

wrowwwwwwwwwwrowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

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.


 

References:

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 https://assist-software.net/blog/pipeline-behind-modeling-and-animating-game-character-zelgor

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

Pixologic (2017) Masking. Retrieved from http://docs.pixologic.com/user-guide/3d-modeling/modeling-basics/masking/

Pixologic (2017) Transpose. Retrieved from http://docs.pixologic.com/user-guide/3d-modeling/modeling-basics/transpose/

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

Sycra (2012) How to Draw Interesting Poses [Video] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1nxf5KQ2Js

 

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

1

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.

 

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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: https://unvalid.itch.io/team-5-chicken-flicker 

2

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

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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).

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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.

bugswalking

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.

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Retrieved from http://www.theugandatoday.com/life-hack/2016/12/10-master-principles-of-animation/

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).

Thumbnails:

Obstacle Course A:

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ooga booga2ooga booga3

Overall:

ooga booga4

Obstacle Course B:

oog1oog2.png

Overall:

oog3

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 https://books.google.com.au/books?id=tkEYAgAAQBAJ&dq=bugs+bunny+animation+technique&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Furniss, M. (2009) Animation: Art and Industry. Indiana University Press. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/saemulti/detail.action?docID=1977963

Other resources / videos:
Model Sheets / Stylistic guide:

 

Feedback:

  • 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.

Aftermath: Post Mortem

For this project, an assigned group were tasked with creating a small-time interactive environment, rendered in real-time, following the basis of the narrative; utilising an iterative, modular workflow as established in the bootcamp project previously undertaken. This environment, moderated and reiterated upon with the addition of lecturer feedback, takes into account an aesthetic established during the pre-production stages to maintain a recognizable style consistent throughout the entire project.


1     Personal Contribution

1.A     Pre-Production

As some team members were unavailable partially for the duration of the pre-production stage, I assembled the major aspects of this phase. This mainly included the outline of the Work Breakdown Structure, elements of the Operations document, the Work Breakdown Structure, the environment and story description, team ethos , risk management, updating the trello board with a few resources and preliminary project research (detailing modular asset/construction workflow, modelling techniques, whilst another team member researched the dimensions), in addition to compiling the visual influences that had been gathered by other team members into mood boards (all files with the prefix moodboard_.png).

Compiled mood boards

Other additions include environmental concept images, the presentation layout for the pitch meeting (and subsequent updates), first pass on the Gantt chart, more recent updates on the pre-production documents (e.g. Operations) and sole compiling of the art bible.

ooogoroogr.PNG

Environmental concept images.

For the layout iterations, the team decided to each do a first pass on their take of the environment space, before coming together and iterating on a final version to be incorporated into the final pre-production documents.

My first and second layout iterations.

For the final level layout, I iterated on my second bar layout and, combining the feedback from other group members, used this as the final pass, included in the art bible and presentation.

layout2

1.2     Production

For the beginning of the production stage, I sequenced and rendered the Pre-Vis Showcase video.

My primary contribution to the production stages were a series of assets that expanded on the modular kit first established by the pre-vis / greybox stages.

As adhering to the stylistic guide, we chose to implement a series of pipeworks distributed throughout the level. I made the base modular kit, including modelling, unwrapping and texturing.

Some implementation within the level; basic albedo texturing within 3Ds Max.

Other modular assets include the bar stools, tables, booth table and lights. For the bar stools in particular, we determined that their placement in the level was far too uniform for an aftermath scene, especially when considering the narrative put in place. To remedy this, I made several variations of the same model; bent out of shape.

For the light assets, I originally had planned to employ three lighting variants to the level. However, due to shifting priorities and time constraints, it was determined that my time would be better spent focused on the creation of other assets.

Modular kit kitchen used for the back room. Several assets (namely the shelving) were reused .

For smaller, more detailed assets, I contributed a series of “propaganda” posters to be distributed throughout the external area of the level, variants of an alpha graffiti plane and various iterations of bottle and glass assets used for the area behind the bar.

Several examples of the textured posters & their implementation within the level.

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Wireframe of several bottle and glass assets. As there was a pre-constructed glass master material, I did not need to texture the glass assets.

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Bottle assets. Modelled and textured.
Implementation within the level.

I implemented all the audio aspects of the level, and found all audio resources (bar the Jukebox music, which was an addition provided by an audio student). In addition to adjusting each attentuation radius and placement, I provided blueprints of several audio triggers which occur when a player overlaps the designated radius.

To prevent the heavy external fog from leaking into the building once the player has entered, I constructed a blueprint to reduce the fog density.

The robot animation, as well as its assorted blueprint. This animation, after being exported alongside the skeletal mesh, was linked to a blueprint and box trigger for when the player entered the last area of the level. As the animation was completed prior to the addition of sound, the audio cue was matched after its implementation. (Detailed in the final product showcase; ending sequence; 1:36).

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Although I had originally planned to create refined particle systems for steam bursts, the bar tap “flow” and a steady drip for the sink in the backroom. As I discovered earlier on, (using a modified drip particle system) dense particles tend to look a bit tacky. tapparticles

As another team member was also receiving errors with their end of the task (unable to import bar tap animations) we scrapped that idea and focused on other areas of the project.

The hero asset that I focused on throughout the duration of this project was the Jukebox. A blueprint was assigned to this asset so that distorted audio played once the player entered a certain radius.

A modified instance of the hologram material was used to create the “error” screen on the jukebox and the trim; which was placed around the lowered ceiling on the bar (detailed below)

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2     Reflection

2.1     Project Management and Teamwork

The majority of the production stages were of the positive sort. Bar one team member, we all communicated regularly and effectively on the Slack channel, with various status updates. The bulk of the project was a smooth experience, with multiple daily updates between team members, during and outside of class time. The high level of communication allowed for changing circumstances to be noted and accommodated for as per requirements.

Assets and other tasks were completed to a high standard, mirrored by the three main group members. We were able to reallocate and change the duration of tasks as necessitated, and group members were happy to accept new tasks.  The dedication demonstrated by team members meant that, even with later complications, the level was completed to a very high standard.

The primary obstacle during this process was being restricted to singular use of the master file, particularly during the later stages of the project. Although we had the luxury of simply having one member importing then-assets and uploading the project during their allocated time, as we progressed, more important aspects (e.g. lighting; triggers; audio) were assigned to specific members and could only be completed once the member with the most current version of the file had uploaded the file. With the complications mentioned above, and being pressed for time, the last few days of the project prior to the final test were hectic, and did not reflect well on the time management skills of the group. Although the time management of the first few weeks was of a high standard, it did waver towards the end of the project. If we had maintained the same ethic throughout, it is possible that many of the intense final days would have been less so. In the future, we will endeavour to plan more elements in advance, as well as allowing for fallback / additional times if the circumstances arise.

At one point there was an error regarding the upload / download of the master file, and after I had passed the most updated version onto the next team member so they could handle the lighting, we unfortunately found that all my implemented audio had been erased from the level. To stay on schedule for the incoming final presentation, I stayed up reimporting all the sounds, etc. We have not yet determined what error caused this (unlikely to be a user error, as the member made an effort to redownload the entirety of the master file) but it is assumed to be an error with Google Drive, as we have had similar, smaller incidents mirroring it in the past. It would be possible to remedy this by using an alternate method of uploading / downloading files, perhaps an alternate site, etc., but, as it was a requirement to use Google Drive, it is unlikely we would have been able to.

Another flaw in the organization of the project was poor management of where the bulk of our energy was directed towards. Although everything required was completed, certain desirables of the project were not implemented in time (namely the bar tap trigger, implementation of first person mode). This level had a stark amount of attention-to-detail, particularly regarding the numerous variations of bottles, etc. which were all textured separately. It could be argued that the time spent on these meticulous tasks could have been better spent working on other areas of the project (most notably FP view). Once again, this could have been remedied by allowing for more fallback time.

Unfortunately, due to some technical errors (associated with the packaging of the .exe file, and receiving unknown errors (later fixed with the help of a lecturer)) the team member with the most current copy of the master file was unable to package the project and upload it where other team members could access it (mainly due to slow internet and uploads being interrupted).

One concern for the project was the lack of solid contribution by a particular group member. Unfortunately, even with the assigned assets, many aspects rendered the models unusable within the level (improperly scaled, unable to be unwrapped due to overlapping / complex UVs, textures not on par with the rest of the assets). Even when assigned alternate tasks, such as texturing (as modelling was not their strong point) textures were exported using the wrong format and could not be used, in addition to poor textures that were not appropriate for the assets provided. Other group members, including myself, had to remodel and retexture these assets, which put a strain on time that could have been used to complete other tasks.

Aside from that one hiccup, the other group members contributed an enormous amount to the product. Although I contributed many assets and tasks, there is always room for improvement, and it is likely that I could have maintained a larger workload than already allocated.

2.2     Plans and Pitches

The project management system was a primary aspect of keeping a consistent approach throughout the duration of the project. This structured method proved an effectual way of keeping track of current tasks, as well as being able to look at the bulk of the project from afar to determine which elements of the project needed attention. The Trello board app was a step up from the previous Kanbanchi app, with more accessibility, etc. The app allowed for team members to track and update their current status on tasks, etc. in real time, which not only helped to track personal progress but also allowed other members to note what stages they were at.

Even though the Gantt chart was a requirement of the pre-production stage, we found that the Trello board was all that was needed to keep track of the assigned tasks. We allowed for “back-log” columns, and in many cases, planned the estimated completion of tasks ahead of time (though not officially recorded).

During the first pitch, although we had a solid foundation of the intentions of the project, as well as an extensive pre-production document assortment, it is possible that it could have been communicated better. Although well-prepared, many aspects of the presentation (mainly speaking elements) were spontaneous and could have been approached with more care had we been provided with more time to review changes & assign speaking roles.

Because of this solid foundation, the team did not venture too much from the original vision of the project, rather adding and modifying the level when given feedback, etc. to create a more completed version by the end of the project duration. We maintained stylistic consistencies and narrative, only adding to what was already planned.

The play-testing stage, however, proved a much better “pitch.” With the actual level constructed, volunteers were given the ability to play through the level and assess its current status and provide feedback. The majority of the feedback received was positive, and most players could understand elements of the narrative. Other feedback, particularly related to the design and atmosphere were taken into account and later implemented during the production stages.

Due to an external error, we did not have enough time to set up the VR, and thus we had to simulate the environment and fly around in the Unreal Engine. It is likely that the level might have had a better reception had we allocated time to set up. The showcase method also unfortunately did not allow for triggers (mainly audio) to be displayed (as this was a solely VR project, we could not simulate the environment in first person).

3     Conclusion

Even with setbacks and time constraints, the team collaborated to a high enough standard that we were able to produce a level adhering to the majority of project requirements. The project management system, which was expanded upon from the previous trimester, allowed for a structured, efficient approach to many tasks. In hindsight, certain aspects of the project could have been improved upon / implemented had we allowed for more time or had an additional team member. Overall, given the circumstances, most team members collaborated efficiently to produce the final product.

Aftermath Bootcamp Project

For this project, we were required, in addition to establishing the basics of an iterative, modular workflow, to create and moderate a simple environment in Unreal Engine to familiarise ourselves with the basics of our future Studio project.

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The modular workflow for environment modelling and construction is to maximise usability of minimum amounts of assets and textures. This pipeline relies heavily on working in iterations and prefabrication options so that a variety of ideas can be explored before the final construction during level assembly (Mader, 2005).

Much of this workflow is dedicated to pre-production, with categories of textures and assets decided during this stage. This is to ensure that pieces can be repeated and prevents errors further on in the pipeline.
Pieces of the pre-fab kit are regularly exported to the editor early on in the workflow, before texturing etc.,  to ensure aspects such as composition, overall form, ease of use and repetition comply to the project brief (Klafke, n.d.). These pieces consist of modular assets that can be repeated and may be accompanied by accessory or “hero” assets later on in the pipeline.

For ease of use, projects must adhere to a specified file structure. For this Bootcamp project, we adhered to the following:

    • _FBX Exports
    • _Modular Kit Working
    • _References
      • Pureref File
      • Other images as required
    • _Textures
      • Working
      • Finished
    • _UE4 Project

The master material technique allows the “master” shader to cover a variety of shader attributes (most commonly normal, albedo, ambient occlusion, metalness, roughness, and allows the user to swap out maps in material instances rather than recreating similar materials everytime a new one is required.

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Example of a master material and common shader attributes.

In complex projects, a number of master shaders may need to be created for materials instances needing new functions.

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Additional master material for more complex objects.

Albedo, more commonly referred to as a colour or diffuse map, defines the colour of diffused light, and is commonly paired with an ambient occulsion map (Wilson, 2015) (which dictates the intensity of light shining on a particular surface).

Normal mapping is almost universal in the 3D modelling scene, particularly for projects made specifically for game engines. Rather than relying on a high-poly count for resolution, normal map creates the illusion of extra detail on the surface of an object. The surface normals provide the application with shading information conveyed using RBG information (Pluralsight, 2014).

In addition to the most common shader attributes, I incorporated an emissive material as an alternative to area lights. Emissive materials emit light across the surface area of static geometry within the scene; which suited my current project, since the majority of the geometry within the Bootcamp scene was also static. Emmissive materials serve as an alternative to area lights, contributing to bounced light accorss the entire scene (Unity, 2017).

Works Cited

Klafke, T. (n.d.) Creating Modular Environments in UDK. Retrieved from http://www.thiagoklafke.com/modularenvironments.html

Pluralsight (2014) Eliminate Texture Confusion: Bump, Normal and Displacement Maps. Retrieved from https://www.pluralsight.com/blog/film-games/bump-normal-and-displacement-maps

Mader, P. (2005) Creating Modular Game Art For Fast Level Design. Retrieved from https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/130885/creating_modular_game_art_for_fast_.php

Unity (2017) Emissive Materials. Retrieved from https://unity3d.com/learn/tutorials/topics/graphics/emissive-materials

Wilson, J. (2015) Physically-Based Rendering, And You Can Too! Retrieved from https://www.marmoset.co/posts/physically-based-rendering-and-you-can-too/