Thursday, 28 April 2011

Character Design: The Writer

Weerawat's been really kind and done some more stylised designs for the writer character. It's definitely got me thinking about a slightly different route for the design:

Look Development: Paper World

I've UV'd my model so now onto texturing and lighting.

Getting the UV's working took much longer than I expected. I'm still at a stage with Maya where everything's going swimmingly then I hit a button, everything suddenly looks totally different and I've no idea how to get back to where I was. In the end I used automatic UVing with 6 planes which was perfect for a simple model like this where most faces are parallel to one of those planes.

I think that I need to get my head around how Maya wants me to think if that makes any sense at all! It's a steep learning curve but there's definitely light at the end of the tunnel and I'm really enjoying learning. I particularly like being able to work in 3D and I'm glad I made the choice to go down this route.


Animation is everywhere at the moment!

From CGI films like Pixar's Up to the traditional approach of Sylvain Chomet in The Illusionist there appears to be an ongoing and increasing demand for animation in all it's forms.

TV advertising is also following suit. Different types of animation are being used to sell us anything from from insurance to pints (see below).

The enduring strength of animation which comes through in all of these examples is its ability to create a mood or convey a message in a way that's perhaps more heightened or exagerated than through live action. As techniques for digital animation get more sophisticated, the ways in which this can be achieved become ever more diverse.

I'm interested in how stylised animation (whatever the technique) can be used to convey a message more effectively than a different medium would, and specifically in using CGI to do this. Hopefully, this new understanding coupled with specific CGI technical skills, will allow me to join the growing ranks of people already working to bring the unique potential of animation to fields as diverse as games, commercials, broadcast and feature films.

Program of Study

My program of study has shifted a little as I've worked through the first stage of the Masters course.

Initially I was interested in looking techniques in animation that could best elicit an emotional response from a viewer. However, as I began to research the existing work in the field I realised that there was a common theme emerging.

All the films that I thought had a real emotional impact used their medium as an intrinsic part of telling their story: whether it was claymation depicting bodies merging in a passionate embrace or sophisticated CGI used to create a fantastical dystopian alternative world the strengths of the medium were married with the message and that's what made these animations stand out for me.

Based on this my focus has shifted slightly: I realise that I'm particularly interesting in exploring what makes for successful visual storytelling and, within that, how the strengths of animation as a medium can be used to underscore the key story themes.

I'm particularly interested in learning 3D software in greater depth so I will focus on developing skills in Maya and my aim over the duration of the masters course is to create a short piece of narrative animation with a style that compliments the themes of the story.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Look Development: Paper World

Inspired by Su Blackwell's work (here's her 'Snow Queen') I decided to start testing out some shapes with paper textures in maya.

I've modelled a stag so the next step is to start playing around with lights and textures.

Look Development: Asics Ad

I was taking a break from working to watch Real Madrid vs Barcelona in the Champion's League (incidentally the sending off was a disgrace!) and saw a really interesting Asics advert. A quick you tube search didn't bring it up, but I did find the ad below instead.

This is really interesting with reference to the paper world in my script that Margarita creates for herself and the writer. The stop motion approach isn't really relevant but the style could influence how I think about modelling my paper environment. Also, some of the environments are beautifully lit and framed. I've still not really locked down a look for my environments yet so it's good to have images like these ones to think about.

Paper Art - Characters

My Margarita character will be made from the pages of books so I've started looking at some real paper sculpture in order to get some ideas for both the style of character design and also for how to get this effect working in 3D.

The two artists shown have very different approachs. ....

Bert Simons uses photography to create eerily realistic heads from paper. This is almost the opposite of what I want to do: he's making paper look like skin where I'm aiming to make skin look like paper.

His approach is interesting though: it has parallels with CG modelling in that he's used connected 2D polygons to create a 3D shape. If I think carefully about where 'seams' would occur perhaps I can use a more stylised version of this technique when creating Margarita

Sher Christopher takes a totally different approach. Her lovely characters are very stylised, and the characteristics of paper as a material have a huge influence on the structure and appearance of her sculptures. I'm very keen to avoid either of my characters looking like toys so I'd steer away from anything so schematic but the particular way that Sher uses her material has really got me thinking

Paper Art - Environment

Su Blackwell:

Chatsworth, Derbyshure ‘A Guide to’


St Pauls

Su Blackwell

The Old House

Su Blackwell

Wuthering Heights

I love these examples of paper art by Su Blackwell and Elodole and this is the kind of look that I'd like to capture in CG.

Whilst quite intricate there's still a simplicity to the forms with the detail and beauty coming from the material itself.

Also, these show how beautifully light and paper can interact. The slight translucency of paper means that lovely effects are created when it's back-lit.

From a practical point of view I think this means that I'll need to investigate sub-surface scattering to get the look of back-lit paper to work.

Finally, Su Blackwell's work tends to incorporate books themselves into the artwork. Having looked at her work I'm thinking about whether this is something to include in my environment concepts in some form.

Life Drawing

I feel that to express some of the images in my mind better I need to do some work on my draftsmanship so I've been doing some life drawing to try to refresh my long neglected drawing skills. I've found a drop-in class in Edinburgh ( and it's been really good fun trying to get my head around form again. To begin with the learning curve was really steep (I was embarrassingly bad at first!) That's leveled off a bit now though so I've signed up for some taught classes starting at the beginning of May - hopefully this will keep my progression going. (Sorry for the cropping - my scanner's not big enough!)

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Research Poster

I've had fun making this poster


I wasn't completely happy with my previous script, I felt as though I was trying to get too much in for a short animation and it tailed off a bit towards the end, so here's the new version: a shorter more streamlined tale with a magical ending!

There is a man made from wood whose fingers take the form of pencils. 
He is a novelist.

In the past books used to be very popular, but now these have been replaced by 
TV and film, bookshops are closing as fewer and fewer books are sold.

Unfortunately our hero knows nothing but writing, books are his life's work 
so he continues to write: but with no-one to read them the stories never truly come to life.

Then one day, in the library where he works, a woman named Margarita picks up one his discarded pages. 
Margarita, of all people, appreciates a good story . . for she's made from the pages of books.

Under her hands the stories quite literally come to life: with a few deft folds 
the sheet is transformed into a bird which flies towards the writer.

The novelist is entranced by the way Margarita breathes life into his written words 
and begins working at a furious pace. Finally, when the novel is finished 
Margarita shows him what they've created: she has transformed his words 
into a magical landscape, all made from paper.

They take hands and step over the threshold into the world of the novel, 
shut the door behind them and are gone!

Character Design: Margarita - reference

Here are some reference images for the design for the character Margarita who will be made from the pages of books.

The question now is whether she will have the  organic look of the landscape and fashion models above, or the more structured look of the aeroplane passengers.

Character Design: Margarita

Here are some initial sketches for the character Margarita.

I think the next step is to figure out exactly how her paper texture is going to work. The key thing to explore is whether she is modeled in quite a smooth way and then has the paper texture applied - or whether the modeling reflects the material more, with crinkles, hard folds etc.

Maybe I'll try building a maquette from paper to see what would be physically possible and then apply those results to the CG model.

Character Design: The Writer - reference

Here's a reference sheet for the Writer character - drawing on a combo of Marouane Fellaini's strong craggy features and Chaplin's disheveled outfit.

Character Design: The Writer

Getting a bit further with the design for my hero character

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Friday, 8 April 2011

Sketches 01

I've been doing some sketching to get more practice in figurative drawing. Sources include life, photos and drawn characters.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Character Sketch: The Writer

Here's a first attempt at a sketch of my hero character.

Maya Modeling: Stylised Head

The two main characters in my script will be modeled and animated in 3D so I need to get some practice in Maya. So far I've managed half a head!

This is from a Digital Tutors tutorial - the character is more stylised than the characters in the script, but it's probably best to start with something simple.