Even before we had received the “what” brief we had already decided that we wanted to work using 3d animation. We initially started brainstorming ideas, we worked a lot harder on this initial stage than our previous projects, so that we could get a strong and creative idea that would be fun to create but push us in our abilities and stretch our knowledge of Maya. I came up with the base idea of our project of a character being taken off into a fantasy world, in which we expanded on, ending up with the idea of a cleaner dubbed “CARL” working in an abandoned building, who then starts hearing noises so decided to investigate, he then would proceed to get taken into a fantasy Forrest to never return.
The prospect of creating and animation with no limits and no time limit excited me and I could not wait to start, however 6 weeks seemed a very short time for the animation we had in mind, but we didn’t let this stop us.
One of my roles within the animation was to be the Director as the initial idea was my brainchild. I had to explain to my team, composed of Liam Fraser, Luke Jefferson and Grethe Hoyer how I saw each scene in my head and the overall style of how I wanted the animation. I decided that we should try create a horror style theme to the first half of the animation, trying to create tension. Which is an almost impossible task with in animation. To do this we would have to create a character in which we and the audience could empathise with, feeling sorry for what is happening to him.
I then assigned the rest of the team their roles. With in the project we knew we would need a full moving character which I would have to rig, however I had no idea how to rig a character as we had not been taught it, so I began researching in to the process of rigging. We all pitched in the model the first character and after I had made a basic rig for it we decided the design was not strong enough, with the character being to generic which meant the audience could not empathise with the character, this would have made the whole idea of feeling sorry for the character and the tension we wanted to build within the animation redundant, therefore I had to go back to the drawing board.
I then proceeded to sketch out character designs until we had a strong idea which would reflect in the style of animation we wanted. I finally had a character with strong features in which his face could look terrified.
Once we had a strong design, Luke, Liam and I started to model the character, with Luke and Liam working on the Face and me working on modelling the arms, hands and legs then adding the tweaks needed once it was finished. I then proceeded to model the hair using alpha matte hair and doing the same for the eyebrows. After we had modelled the character and were happy with the look of him I began the rigging process all over again, this time doing more in depth research of how to create the rig.
Getting the rig to move right was one of my hardest tasks, as I said before I had no experience rigging therefore this being the first full moving rig I created. I started off by creating the skeleton which was a fairly simple task then moved on to adding inverse kimatics for the arms and legs, although deciding that I could get better movement from the arms if I stuck with forward kimatics. Another problem I had to over come with the skeleton was to make the feet stick to the floor when I moved the centre of gravity down. For the head I created a joint for his jaw, as we had to lip sync him saying “what” I also added a joint in for the glasses he was wearing this way I could make his face look less static and it allowed me to add in secondary animation. Once the skeleton was created I then had to proceed to weighting the character, one of the most difficult parts of the rigging process, which caused me hours and hours of frustration. Every time I thought I had it completed there would always be a few vertices which would deform for no reason, they had no weight painted to them and I could not figure out what I was doing wrong, there fore starting the weighting over and over again until I had it just right. I then added in the eye movement controls using an aim constraint to move both pupils at the same time, again I had a few problems with this, as they worked fine when the head was in the original pose but as soon as I rotated the head joint then tried to move the eye controls the eyes would come out of place. I finally managed to sort this out with a simple solution suggested by Georg.
I wanted to add full facial controls onto the character so I started with the blink in which I used a set driven key to create the movement however I could not rig other facial controls due to the lack of time we had and the lack of knowledge on my part of how to do so. I did however create movement for the eyebrows which worked fine when I connected them and rotated fine with the head but as soon as I bound the skin to the eyebrow joint it started to deform my character really badly, so after a few days I gave up on this as we were running out of time and I needed to get it animated. I also tried texturing the character (which is one area of cg which I need to work on) but as soon as I got the texture right then started moving the character around the textures would all deform, we decided to leave this out as again we had little time and we wanted to carry on with the animating.
As I created the rig and knew how to work it I opted to animate almost every scene with the exception of the opening scene and the last scene which contained no character. I started off by creating a walk cycle for the character which proved harder than I expected as his legs were so short, he would cover very little distance over a long period of time, I didn’t let this phase me though and I started animating. As I have done little character animation in the year I was eager to start. I had to animate a lot of walking which proved to be quite tedious but I really enjoyed the task of creating the animation for different movements and making him look scared. A lot of my time was taken up with animating and I was surprised how much I was able to do within the time period we had. My most difficult task was to make him get out of the ditch, the rig just didn’t seem to want to move properly and after Liam and Luke both had a go at it I was able to make him get out, although cheating a little bit by cutting out the parts where his hands move through the floor ect.
I had other little tasks to create props for the Forrest and the other scenes like a bit of the first room and the broom. However I let Liam do basically all of the modelling.
Liam, Luke and I recorded the sounds that we were using for the soundtrack, however as we are not composers we had to download some copy write free ambient sounds, where Luke composited it together.
I am extremely proud of the animation we managed to create with in the 6 weeks we had and have ended up with roughly 5 1\2 minutes of animation. Liam, Luke and I managed to set up a mini studio in my room to work from and throughout the 6 weeks of working we have barely slept and have been working from morning until at least 4am every single day, which in all fairness I have enjoyed thoroughly. There has not been a single day from start to finish where we haven’t worked to our hardest. Whilst the sun has been shining we have been working and have been dedicated to the work, which is why I think we make such a good team. There are however small bits we could have improved on after watching it time and time again some of the animation could have been touched up, although it was impractical to do so after rendering which would have forced us to miss our deadline. I feel we have done extremely well to create a completely CG animation within the short time we were given.
I will upload the animation asap when my internet will allow me to do so.