Friday, 29 August 2014

Owl: Material

I apologise for the lack of updates, as among other things summer related things, I've been away from the computer while I enjoyed a week away from home. You'll be glad to know I'm still here and  I will endeavour to post some more behind-the-scenes nuggets as I go along, but it's all go from here on out as I push on with final animation. Though, to be honest, anything I haven't explained already is is actually very simple, mostly achieved by extracting what I can from the very basic toolset within Maya. The material I'm using a is good example of this approach.

Everything in Owl uses the same base material but with variations to the: colour, bump, reflection, rim light and glow depending on what the scene requires to work. The 'texture' is actually the reflection of a tiled environment sphere which you never seen in the animation itself. All really simple stuff. I've never been one for over complicating things in Maya, because when it goes wrong it's that much harder to fix. 

I think with this project I've always tried to utilise all the disparate elements, without compromising their natural properties. Neither one nor the other is trying to be imitative of the other: the models aren't trying to be photos and the photos aren't trying to be CG. From that point of view, I would say it's the most unique thing about the art style. Will it be it successful? I hope so!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Photography: Colour Holiday Snaps

Lots of sea and a fair few rocks accurately sums up the short getaway break I took recently. It's funny how even being away from scenery I'm very used to, I'm still drawn towards photographing the things which elicit the same sort of emotions and responses. Sadly I didn't find any deceased creatures other than a few rotten crabs too small to photograph, then it really would of been home from home...

All shot on cheapest 35mm colour negative film I could find. I did attempt some more serious black and white photography as well, but those will be uploaded when I can get around to developing them. They're probably rubbish though so don't hold your breath. 50 points if you can guess the exact GPS coordinates for the locations of where all these pictures were taken.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Photography: Vivitar Ulta Wide Test Shots

It's been a long time since colour film graced this blog page. I recently acquired a natty Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim: a tiny plastic toy camera, with an incredibly short focal length. It's a cute little camera and has the potential to take some really interesting lofi pictures due to the plastic lens and the very wide lens. I took it for a spin on a dingy day. Not the best photos, but always interesting results!

A good example of the properties of the UWS lens. This pylon is huge but it's able to fit into the frame quite comfortably, even from a close distance. However, you get a lot of distortion towards the edges of the frame but I find all of it quite desirable . There's also some nice natural vignetting.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Owl: Test Rendering Continued

I wanted to push the rendering a bit. The last one was a 'one size fits all' kind of set up, but this one is a more refined. I'm not aiming for super-realism but I've also given the objects some texture to remove some of the CG-ness. I am however, going to keep the dramatic rim-lighting because it helps distinguish the model from the IR background.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Owl: Test Render

It's coming together. A still image can only show so much as it looks much more dynamic when moving. There's still a few bits I'd like to refine but it's all heading in the right direction.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Owl: Static Match Scenes

It's been a hectic round here lately and what with not wanting to reveal too much, blog posts have been a bit scarce. One of the more time consuming tasks I've had to do is set up the photographs so that they're 'CG-ready.' This can be very simple such as only roughly positioning a 3D camera to fake a bit of perspective, or more complex scenes where I have to model certain elements of the photographs making sure the perspective is more accurate. The objects in these scenes are only placeholder and should be noted that because of the lack film grain, they look a bit too clean. I'll be working on reducing the CG-ness of them in production and post-production.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Owl: An Update

It's been a little while since any updates as I've been sorting out a few loose ends. Firstly, I've finished up the modelling I need for the animation. At most I'll probably end up using 14 models, so that leaves a few spare. It's always good to have too many than too few and I can also squeeze in a couple more if needed, but honestly, there aren't too many more sketches which will translate well for use in 3D.

Following this I've been doing material tests as all the previous lighting and materials have been placeholder. My aim is to give the models an otherworldly, mercury-like quality which can work alongside the infrared photographs.

Eventually looking something like this if you subtract the spheres and replace them with the models above: 

The animatic is 95% complete. This has been a bit of a thorn in my side, but all the main cuts are now in place and there's a definite structure to the way the animation plays out. At this point I can just drop in sequences and not have to worry too much, which is always a good feeling.

I haven't found a reasonably quick but convincing method of making foliage move, but I have a good method of giving clouds some subtle movement. Overall, it might be enough considering the longest shot in the whole animation is three seconds. 

I've noticed in films which use still photographs there's a slight 'jitter' where the film frames are fractionally moving side to side and up and down. This isn't a shakey-cam effect, but an actual property of the film transfer. You can see it quite dramatically in La Jetee. Playing around in After Effects and Premier Pro it becomes clear if the image stays perfectly still, then it ends up looking like a Powerpoint slideshow. Without this jittering, the frame looks far too clean and certainly not like film would normally look. I'll be applying a very subtle jitter in post. You can see the cloud effect and jitter in the video below:

That's it for now. From here on out, it's all about the making of the final animation and I apologise if updates relating to this project aren't as regular as they usually are. At the end though, there will be a brand new short film (of some sort) to enjoy. 

Please stay tuned! 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Owl: Infrared Photography Part 10

The last infrared for a while. I feel like I've probably got enough, but won't know for sure until I starting piecing together the animation sequences.

(One proven fact. Sheep turds do not reflect much infrared light. Fascinating.)

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Owl: Ink Animation Tests

These worked out better than the marker pens, and also much more cost effective.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Owl: Short Animation Tests Using Marker Pens

Owl is going to include some short hand-painted animated sequences. These tests were done using marker pens, but I won't be continuing down this route, mostly because they ate up marker pens like nobody's buisness, and quite frankly, I'm not made of marker pens! However, I think can achieve as interesting effect and twice the mess using ink on paper instead. Ink on film may also be an option in the future.

Owl: Editing Progress

Over the last month or so, I've been chipping away at the animatic using placeholder video to establish the editing structure. It's taken a while, but I think it's really benefited from a long gestation period, because I've been able to come at it with fresh eyes almost every time I return to it; a luxury rarely afforded with these sorts of things. I would say the main cuts are in the place, but it's a matter of figuring out how to fill the space with enough differing content so that it feels like the animation doesn't drag on or feel one-dimensional. The opening minute is much more refined now and is starting to feel complete as far as the editing goes. I'm trying to strike an interesting balance between it being a music video and a full on animated short since the whole animation is going to be about dramatic shifts and distortion. I'm sure you'd like to see a video, but at this point, the visuals in this edit are almost totally unrepresentative of what's going to be in the animation, so it's going to be a little while longer yet! 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Owl: Marker Pen Sketches on Behance