The beginning stages of the assignments consisted of mainly research, where we investigated various animation techniques, tools, and software packages. Tying in with those topics was research regarding the production pipeline of animated films and the jobs thereof, as well as a Pixar short film.
The analysis of the Pixar short film ‘Piper’, and the comparison to another one of their short films (‘For The Birds’), formed a basis for aforementioned research. Investigation into this topic was conducted both through online sources and a more traditional approach; book-based research.
Once the research had been completed we moved onto Development, where we began to plan and develop our animation, as well as the traits our character would possess. Initially, the intended character was meant to be the Fuse model we had modelled after ourselves, dressed in whatever attire we wished. However, the document we were provided with did not support the rig it was imported with and a replacement character was provided for us to use.
Before animating, storyboards and blocking sheets were created in my sketchbook, ensuring that I had a clear understanding of the main keyframes and movements within the obstacle course. Supplementing this are sketches detailing and expanding upon the Fuse character and his traits, of which were to influence his navigation of the course. Filmed references were also gathered and used to help create accurate animations.
For the animation we had to set the frame rate to 25 (Television output), with renders exported at 1280×720.
Regarding the actual animating of the character through the course, I made use of various tools and techniques. For the manipulation of the character I used various movement and rotation tools, selecting areas on the rig/skeleton and moving them through space. Once I was happy with the placement and where it sat on the timeline (paying attention to the current frame in relation to the previous, in the context of the set framerate) I set a Keyframe using the shortcut ‘S’.
The Graph Editor allowed me to view the differences in position of the various joints on the character, allowing me a degree of manipulation over the timing of the movements even after keyframing them. However, there are diminishing returns regarding this functionality, especially once the graph editor becomes ‘crowded’ and ‘noisy’ due to the multitude of lines and keyframes present.
To ensure naturalistic movement, I made use of filmed reference, as well as acting out the movements in my room as I was animating them. Fine-tuning and careful manipulations of the joints helped to create more natural movement, with the character seemingly balancing themselves as they move through space.
The animation quality improved as the time went on, with the beginning containing many errors that I was unable to fix later due to the graph editor containing a plethora of keyframes, all of which would have needed to be edited. Looking back, I could have vastly improved the animation quality if I had spent more time reviewing each movement and set of keyframes before moving onto the next.
To up the production quality, I found a free lava texture online (of which is referenced below), applying that to the ground. In addition, I added several light sources of varying warm colours, as well as adding a more metallic material (via editing the material properties of a Blinn shader) to the obstacles.
For the tracking camera I added it via this method; ‘Create’ -> ‘Cameras’ -> ‘Camera and Aim’ -> ‘Create’ -> ‘Three Point Circular Arc’ -> ‘Constrain’ -> Attach camera to arc via ‘Attach to Motion Path’ -> ‘Constrain’ -> ‘Parent’ or ‘Point’ Camera’s Aim with character -> manually position Camera Aim on character using keyframes, utilising the graph editor to ensure the camera moved at a pace that matched the character’s movement.
I initially used a regular Camera and a manually drawn Motion Path, however, the method described above was more efficient.
When rendering I ensured that the ‘Renderable Camera’ was set to the one attached to the Motion Path, as well as changing the Frame/Animation extension to ‘name.#.ext’. After applying all the relevant settings, I moved onto exporting, trying out different export types before settling on Targa (tga). Before rendering all the frames, I rendered the first 10, ensuring time was not wasted. I then used FCheck to determine whether the frames were exported correctly, once satisfied I moved onto rendering the entire animation. To get these frames into a proper video format, I imported them into Adobe Premiere as an ‘Image Sequence’, and then finally exporting the final video before uploading to Youtube.
Ideally, I would have spent more time on the overall animation, as well as experimented with each movement individually within a separate document to perfect them before moving onto the final animation. However, time was a constraint as the brief had been delivered late. Regardless, I managed to complete the animation in time for the intended deadline. We were then notified of us receiving an extension, however, as mentioned earlier editing of the completed animation would of taken up too much time and other assignments became priorities.
Area by Autodesk. (2007). Lava Shader Effect | Tutorials | AREA by Autodesk. [online] Available at: https://area.autodesk.com/tutorials/lava_shader_effect/ [Accessed 20 Jan. 2018].