Click this image to view an online 3D-Preview:
For this task we were assigned groups and asked to create a short animated film around 40 seconds long with the theme of Bravery. My team consisted of Myself, Viola, Tobias, Molly and Emma.
At the beginning, we were stuck between deciding between two ideas. The first idea was the tale of a Sci-Fi group of soldiers that were infiltrating an alien base to retrieve their fallen comrade (a teddy bear). In order to escape, one of them had to sacrifice themselves do destroy the base and allow the others to escape. In the end, it would be revealed that they were actually just children playing in a park.
Initially I was against this idea for several reasons. Firstly, having so many characters to create and animate would have been a large workload. Secondly, having such a complicated plot to fit in to roughly 40 seconds would be quite a challenge. And lastly, I’d already made an extremely similar animation during A-Level and didn’t feel like taking on the same idea twice.
Regardless of this, some of the group was for the idea and so we contributed seperate chunks of a storyboard and I edited together a rough animatic, seen below:
After we gave a brief presentation with the class, got some feedback and had another meeting, we had decided that the Scientist idea might have been more viable.
The plot was this:
A lone scientist in a desolate, radioactive city is the only remaining life in the area. It had claimed the lives of all he knew and cherished, and he vowed to dedicate his remaining time to inventing a machine that would bring the area back to a liveable form.
After a large number of failed tests, he is angry; frustrated. He slams his desk and fumbles a picture of a young girl which he then picks up to put back on his desk. Upon placing it back, he discovers a small part on his desk that he believes may be the answer to fixing his machine. But in order to do this, he must venture outdoors in to the wasteland in order to repair the machine. In the end the effort takes its toll as he collapses and dies from the exposure. Beside his still hand, sprouts a small plant; his bravery was not in vain.
For visuals and plot devices it fell under influence of films such as Wall-E and I am Legend.
Here was the initial animatic I had done. This animatic served several functions; it helped us iron out the story, gave us a sense of timing and my scribbles functioned as a rough concept for locations within the scene. Here was the result:
My Role – Creating the Character
This character was sculpted by 3D Character Artist Josh Singh. He hosted a panel at the ZBrush summit one year and performed a demonstration of how he makes these characters which I found to be extremely helpful:
I had previously purchased a tutorial from Marc Brunet about modelling a 3D character and the pipeline he follows, however he begins by using a humanoid template with retopology he’d already made so rather than beginning in Maya I wanted to start in Zbrush to allow myself more freedom while sculpting. The only downside to this would be having to spend time retopologizing later on, but oh well.
I started by stretching some clay in to a rough body shape, even though it looked lumpy. I then kept adding subtools and sculpting further details until I got to a stage I was happy with. Here was the step-by-step:
Sculpting the moustache was fun, and I tried a few different versions with varying degrees of bushiness. We had decided the plainer looking one to be the most effective.
So here’s a closeup of the finished sculpt:
Next stage was the topology. I tried looking at a bunch of references to see how it should be done properly.
As with most of my projects I wanted to shoot for as low poly as I could, and rely heavily on texture for the detail. I used ZRemesher for the head and boots since they would not be moving much, and Jack had informed me of the “curve” tool you could use to define some sort of structure of ZRemesher to follow. The main body and hands were done manually. Here’s a look at the finished version:
Obviously I had an unnecessary volume of mesh in the boots, which would have been fixed had I done it manually, but I wanted to get the character finished at this stage. Also, even though I prefer to work for real-time rendering, since this would be done in Arnold I had to add supporting edge loops for harsh edges where I had some more excess. In spite of this, I still kept the character at roughly 7k polys which I am pretty happy with.
Here is a comparison between the Sculpt (right) and the Low Poly (Left):
So the next stage involved using a few steps from the tutorial I had mentioned earlier. This also served as practice for when I was making my Deer Project where I use similar techniques. I hope to keep practicing this pipeline and making it my regular workflow.
I’m not gonna go in to detail about the process since I already discussed this in the Deer project post so check that out if you’re interested. I learned from John Hannon about a program called xNormals which was good for baking maps and decided to get it. Although it looks like it was made in the 1980s, it does a pretty damn efficient job. Here was the tutorial I checked out on how to use it:
Here was the Ambient Occlusion bake I created as well as a look in to my UV Map layout:
I also had a Bent Normals bake but I lost it.. it was used for top-down lighting.
There was some problem with the texture leaking and so that needed to be fixed, as well as a bunch of areas where the shadows crunched due to mesh collisions in the baking.
Here was my first stab at creating the texture which went through a ton of drafts before the final version.
So obviously this was just some flat colours and some minor shading on top, after a bunch of edits, changes and paintovers, this was the final texture:
There were a lot of things to clean up, smooth and correct. I tried to bring out the colours in the jumpsuit and accent the wrinkles. I actually learned a bit more about colour theory from doing this and feel like these exercises have improved my knowledge of colour.
There are still somethings that require cleaning up, and I would have liked to add a few more details to add complexity to the design but for now this functioned as I wanted it to.
Here is a turntable of the finished character:
I also did his Geiger Counter in a similar way, only I started in Maya.
I was very pleased with the Geiger Counter in particular, as it had a very stylized vibe to it, similar to Blizzard’s aesthetic.
Now, it wouldn’t have been a project I’d worked on unless I tried my hand at some VFX. I kept it simple, just a little radioactive barrel with a glowy green cloud emanating from it. The pose was done using the rig Viola had done which worked very well. I’ll just post a screenshot as I’m sure you’ll get the jist of the movement just from it:
I had also created some land for the surrounding exterior, just something rough in ZBrush to simulate terrain. This ended up not getting used in favour of a more built-up background Viola created.
Setting the Mood
After the character and other assets were finished off and finalised, the next stage was to address the issue that our scenes had no textures. I wanted to try and do a few of the main objects in the scene closest to the scientist. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances we were down 3 Team members at this stage of the process. Viola had taken on the task of completing the 3D Previs which she did a fantastic job of with some very interesting VFX.
Viola had arranged the assets provided by the others in to the interior scene which looked good. None of the objects in the scene had been UV Mapped yet so I began to do that so I could apply some textures using the same method from earlier. These maps weren’t done correctly due to time constraints and as a result they only function as I needed them to; they don’t look pretty or organised but they work.
Here was a shot of some of the models I had textured:
For the rest of most objects I used simple AiStandard shaders with tweaked values. At this stage I wanted to try a render. We knew we weren’t going to have time to render this animation and so I rendered a frame to replicate the vision of the giant orange monitor from the beginning. I am very pleased with the result:
Here is a side by side comparison of before and after photoshop (Is this what compositing is?):
And here was the finished Pre-Vis by Viola:
Reflection on this module:
This module was surely a step up from last year’s work. I feel like I’ve really found the area I enjoy and hope to continue to develop this over the next semester while I begin to search for a placement. I’ll do this in order of projects:
3D Environment Task – Space Vikings:
For this Task were allowed to choose our own teams. I was in a team with Dermott, Jack and Glenn and they were great to work with. This project in general is a very fun assignment as we don’t have to worry about several stages of pipeline and can focus mainly on concept and modelling. It’s also great to have complete creative freedom over our choice, and although I would say I specialise more in characters, this task was still enjoyable for me since I was a part of a good team with good workers.
Walk Cycle/Body Mechanics Task:
This task was personally less enjoyable for me since it was a little more technical than creative. I don’t dislike animation, and if I’d placed more of a focus on the task I feel my results would have turned out a little better but I would say I was more focused on the environment task at this stage. I still believe it is a good project and teaches key skills, but it was probably more beneficial to others than myself.
Personal Project – Mythical Deer Sculpt:
This was by far my favourite part of the semester, and I’m just sad I didn’t get to spend longer on it. I feel like I learned so much by getting to explore something I was passionate about and it was of great benefit to me. I’m going to try and put some of my passion from this project in to future projects and also produce other works like it in order to bolster my portfolio.
Animated Short – The Scientist:
The good part about this project is that I was able to work on the main character and help develop the plot and idea. And I know this assignment would have been very enjoyable under different circumstances, however due to circumstances with different team members we ended up with a larger workload dispersed over a smaller team so ultimately the final result suffered blows to quality. In saying this, I feel like I learned what I needed from the project and to bring it to a more polished stage would be more of a nuisance than productive and so I’m satisfied with the work I have done and will possibly find the time to polish a shot or two for showreel purposes. In short; Good Assignment – Unfortunate circumstances.
Really excited for Semester Two!