Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Advanced Animation and VFX Week 11-1

I've changed my script up a bit now, because with what actually shows on screen, I can really get into the commentator character! I've been thinking of going for a classic WWF commentator voice, like along the lines of Good Old JR, Jim Ross.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Advanced Animation and VFX Week 10-2

Lighting completed with cameras and clean up.
I need to correct one of the lights which is shining very harsh on the character.

Nearly at the end! I have a little bit of animation to tidy up, but that will be it, I think! Then it's just focusing on the Breakdown!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Advanced Animation and VFX Week 10-1

I've been looking at lighting in the scene. As the characters are moving around, I don't want the lights to be moving around, as this could cause some very strange lighting effects, which I would like to avoid.
One of the best resources in easy to understand cinematography in my opinion is Film Riot on Youtube. I have been using their tips and tricks for a couple years now and I love how they break everything down to be very understandable for the average viewer. I used this Film Riot video to learn tips on how to light moving characters

I sketched out the placements in the scene. Using different pens, I would draw where the characters were, where the camera would be and this would give me an idea of where I could place lights to give the best coverage, as too many lights would slow down rendering if they aren't needed. If characters are in the same area twice, I will only need to use 3 lights to give the best lighting coverage, as I use 3 point lighting in my scenes, as I find they give the best results. I look at my scenes as a stage and employ techniques used in theatre to get the best quality of image. Theatre often uses three-point lighting to excellent effect, Where it differs from theatre is that I can easily have the lights move through the scene with the camera, whereas in theatre, the audience are effectively the camera.

The three lights are referred to as Back light (obviously behind the subject), this separates them from the background when used in conjunction with the Key light which shines directly on the subject and the Fill light, which is placed relative to the Key light and shone from a lower angle.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

L6 Production Project - Alien Assault

As embedded videos do not save in Archived Pages, I have provided direct links to each video

The final piece for the Production Project.

The Storyboard for the sequence

I ended up dropping sections of this storyboard (Page 3- Panel 3 onwards), as I simply did not have time to get everything together. What I do have for the final piece I feel is pretty accurate to the storyboard.

Getting this project finished was... a nightmare for me. Drowning in stress and errors was the most terrifying experience I've had. My presentation for the piece could not have gone worse, really. I was exhausted and defeated. The feedback I was given, however was priceless. After taking that day to just de-stress and get my head back together, I was ready to get my nose back to the grindstone. I redid the opening sequence partially to remove the bizarre camera moves and lip sync, plus fixing the "zombie eyes" that plagued the initial video.
Night of the Living Headache - Part of my presentation video with errors.

Whilst presenting, my computer was rendering a scene out for the final product. When checking that batch render, I discovered yet more problems which were not in the frame render I did. The aliens seemed to be black, no texture on them, just floating eyes. Upon further tests, it turned out they were rendering as alpha channels.  (See below)

How the alien should have looked

I ended up re rendering this scene (plus another I had rendered by a friend, as it had the same problem). This time, however, I rendered as .png (and at  HD720 to quicken the render process. I had no time to waste.)
Problem solved!

Thankfully, this fixed the "Stealth Alien" problem, as I came to call it. I also fixed some camera work in this scene.

Alien Shooting

After Effects layers for alien shooting

The alien shooting sequence comes from a test I had done through the Summer from Video Copilot.
What I had made following Video Copilot's tutorial

After I had made that, I knew that I wanted to do more with it. It was a fun effect and relatively simple to make (and let's be fair, after all is done with this project, ANYTHING is simple!). As the aliens in my piece were not using conventional weapons, the Sci-Fi gunshot was a clear option. Making this effect used VC's Shockwave assets and for this project, I added a Sparks asset from Action Essentials 2 (also from VC) and added a Polar Coordinates effect so I could have the sparks move in a circle, rather than flat. The weapon fires several elements, from the directional light from the muzzle flash, the shockwave flash and the shockwave projectile which is launched towards the camera, then the sparks which follow.  In the screenshot of the After Effects layers, the White Solids are the muzzle flashes which are single frames of a flash, starting with just the barrel being filled with light to two flashes which are slightly altered and give a green flash which fills the screen.

This clip is a 1st person shot of the alien's round being fired.

I used this in my presentation to show an effect I was going to have in the final piece, but it was eventually dropped.
Unused Scene 01

So I dropped this scene, as I would have had to render some extra frames at the end. Simply freezing the last frame would keep the soldier in shot and would look off. I was also just not impressed with the effect overall. It was confusing and just didn't work. The explosion and sound effect are both from Action Essentials 2
Part of the explosion had to be masked out, so it didn't show over the soldier, who was in front of the blast.

Unused Scene 02

I dropped this scene for two reasons, the scene previous was dropped (the 1st person shot where you see the soldier sliding into cover) and the scene following it was not rendered due to time constraints. The following scene was to show the alien being shot off of the car. The above clip does not have sound.
I had even researched the recoil of the weapon (P90) and the movement in the scene features that.

I relied a lot on limited animation and being clever with camera placement. If it wasn't in shot, it doesn't get moved, simple as that. This saved a lot of time on the running of the character. You don't see his feet or legs, so I didn't have to move them. This isn't a new idea, however. It's one of the greatest time saving techniques going. That and 2's. Or 3's if you're making anime. 

Live action reference footage was a godsend, too. A lot of what I have will come in handy for the future, and I'd like to think I'd redo this project one day (just for fun! I don't plan on resitting this!) Possibly even do it in 2D. As I do love 2D! 

Rendering was the bane of my life! I was rendering at 1080 with a decent quality, so I could give a good looking product. However, render times were MASSIVE. The Presentation video took over 30 hours to render. This alone destroyed my plans. I had begun rendering later than I wanted, as I was encountering issues with animation and lip sync. I resorted to rendering at HD 720 to speed up render times, but I also went back to the main scene which I was referencing in Maya. I cut the scene up to create more of a film set. This massively reduced the data Maya was working with and helped with rendering even further.
I had made a huge mistake with the modelling. I spent a lot of time making a beautiful scene, where I was not really needing such detail. My thinking of it was Jack of all trade. Be a generalist, I can model environments, I can animate characters and lip sync. However, with all of these areas, I was backing myself into a corner when problems arose. As seen in earlier posts, my scene began self destructing which required troubleshooting. But on the flip side, I did learn how to troubleshoot effectively!
Martin Bell of Yes, Commissioner!  helping with Troubleshooting

When compositing my footage, I had to fix the Gamma settings on the OpenEXR files. After Effects was applying it's own Gamma to the files, which was having them far too bright and destroyed the colours on the weapons, especially the P90. The magazine on the top of the weapon had it's colours distorted so much. Gamma correction fixed the issues.

Hindsight is 20-20. When I look back on this project, I see so many things that I would have done differently. The main thing is changing my entire idea. Instead of an action sequence with speech, just focussing on speech!
If it needs a background, just do a simple one! Focus on the facial animation! 

Creating sounds! Sound effects in the sequence range from a "Pulse Grenade" for the Alien gun, war background noise which has it's decibel level dropped, my voice, me making gutteral, throat noises for the alien shouting and just setting the microphone in front of my cat Tippy while stroking him for a purring which became the noise of the aliens. When the alien jumps onto the front of the Humvee, I took the sound of someone sliding over a car bonnet and matched it to the impact of the feet and hands of the alien hitting the vehicle. As the alien is a skinny creature, I assumed the creature is light, so the sound is very subdued, but without the sound, you can tell it's missing. 

I have learned so much in the course of this project, from modelling techniques, skinning and rigging in Maya, creating custom attributes for the skeleton (like the hand controls where I can control the fingers from sliders) to taking the Morph Target process from my dissertation further and having the blendshapes of just the head being applied to a whole model. What I am taking away from this most, though, is "Work Smarter, Not Harder", "Keep It Simple, Stupid". Don't be a scope creep, meaning, if I have to say to myself, it's a lot, but I can do it, that should be throwing up red flags so go back to the drawing board. And to trust in my ability. For a while, it felt like I was never going to get it done, but here I am! Yeah, it's not how I wanted it to be, but that goes into my previous point. 

Advanced Animation and VFX Week 9-2

Second section cleaned up, too!
Again, I'll go back through these and clean them up further

Back on track, now. Production Project, for the most part, is over. It's just the review for it, which is fine. My time can really be spent on this project, now. I have a lot of catching up to do!
Status: It's looking up!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Advanced Animation and VFX Week 9-1

I've done all the clean up for the first section! I still want to go back through it, though for another Clean Up.
But second clean up will be a shorter process.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

BONUS WEEK! Advanced Animation and VFX - Easter Holiday Edition

Well, I wanted to get a good week of working on this project done, but it's kind of just fell to only doing a couple hours on it. Yep, it's that bad for the other project. But it's getting there! I'm actually looking a bit more hopeful for this one as a result! I did a little more Clean up and with hand in being next week for Production Project, the rest of my time will be a solid effort!

I've also been looking at the camera techniques used in action sequences.
As wrestling is filmed live, the camera operators are getting shots as and when they can. In film, the cameras are strategically placed to give the audience the best shots possible. The same is with the lighting. I was originally going to mimic the lighting set up in the WWE, but this doesn't give the best lighting effects, especially when digitally, I can do ANYTHING with lighting.

Fight scenes in films will be an invaluable source of camera reference. Wide angle shots and in close tight shots for certain moments, like the pin. A couple great examples follow
Hulkbuster scene - Avengers: Age of Ultron
Narrator vs Angel Face - Fight Club
The Ram Vs Ayatolah - The Wrestler
Jackie Chan's fighting and comedy - EXCELLENT
Jean Claude Van Damme - Frankie Dux vs Chong Li final fight - Bloodsport

Jackie Chan brings up an excellent point about filming fighting scenes. The camera changes on the hit, as the actors cannot fight, whereas he can, so the camera doesn't switch. In animation, there's no need for stunt doubles or anything like that. Because of this, I can keep the camera in a good position and show the character getting smacked around!