Friday, November 21, 2008


Rending for submission has been very rushed due to the tight schedule and as such a lot of mistakes have been made. This is partly due to lack of organization and the computers that I'm using to render content on.

The main problem is setting something to render only to find that there is a small glitch within the scene, like a tree is missing, or the sky isn't rendering properly. These problems arise in the first place because everything isn't rendered together. The background and foreground are seperated so that more control can be achieved over them. In addition render passes are done to gain control over shadows, occlusion, reflections etc so objects have to be set accordingly.

In hind sight I think that if I had spent more time organising the renders I was going to do then I would have save time in the long run.

I've been rendering a lot of it on the computers up in pa601, and while they're quite new they have trouble keeping up with the files I'm working with. This has made them tiresome to work with.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Preparing to Render

So I'm almost ready to render some of the animation. Just a bit more refinement of the animation and then tweaking the lighting setup. Below gives a better idea of how the front of the house will be lit, trying to achieve an afternoon/evening light.

Drawing from Reference

Part of the animation process is planning. While I'm stretched for time I still need to find time to plan out the basic animation before laying down keyframes. Without planning the animation can quickly become unnatural and you can spend a lot of time tweaking it before you realise you need to just start fresh.

The planning process usually consists of looking at live footage and drawing out the main poses and taking note of times between them. This creates a base to begin animating from.

It's not simply a matter of copying from real life, but referencing it and then building on it to achieve the desired look and feel for the character. Below are some examples of the planning process.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Refining the Animation

So at the moment I'm refining the animation in Cicada. Below is a screen grab of what I'm working with. The graph editor features every keyframe set for the character and draws out the path it will take. It's with this feature that I'm able to really smooth out the animation and make it look more natural. This is the most time consuming part of the animation process as it requires a lot of tweaking, watching, tweaking, re-watching and so on until the animation looks natural.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Post Production Workflow / Damage Control

Below is the latest post production workflow for the project. It also serves as a bit of a guide as to where we are at. Unfortunately we're at a point where we are approaching submission and are not in a good position to deliver the whole thing.

As a result we are looking to cut down the amount we deliver and just complete the first 6 scenes, which is pretty much the first act. This will give us something more realistic to work towards and reduce the risks of nervous/mental breakdown. This will still amount to about 5 minutes of animation and will still be a challenge.

So how did it come to this? Well despite careful planning throughout the year and regular reviews of our progress it just comes down to it being too much work for 1 animator, 1 producer and 1 sound guy. Because despite something looking good on paper, it didn't play out that way in real life. Freelance work commitments cropping up, software errors and glitches causing back tracking, the need for revisions and sleep to name a few things. Basically there wasn't enough time given to things going wrong, which was inevitable.

What started out as a little snowball gradually grew into one of considerable size that has finally caught up to us.

Another reason we decided to continue with the project despite its length was our belief in the story. Unfortunately my pre-production side was not very sympathetic to my production side. At the beginning of the year the focus was purely on the story, and while planning was done for production, in retrospect it was a little optimistic. And while I'm not making excuses, the course is centered around film so while concerns were raised about the length they were not enforced.

As a point of comparison a prominent animation school in France for its last year has a major project of creating a short animation. Most of the projects run between 2-3 minutes and have groups of 5-6 students trained in all areas of animation. Projects can be seen at the Gobelins Animation page.

Interior Renders

Thought I'd just chuck up a render of each of the rooms of the house!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Keeping things moving

I'm currently having to juggle a few things for the project, today we re-recorded some lines with Amy, just because earlier we had some technical issues. I'm animating the scenes! which is good, they're starting out as being blocked out and then slowly getting polished over time. Then finally I'm getting the shaders/textures onto the sets and trying to get a nice colour scheme happening.

Below is a render of outside the house that took about 10 minutes to render. Luckily a lot of the shots in the animation are static so backgrounds can be separated from the action and rendered once as just 1 frame.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Below are some renders of the characters clothes. In this animation i'm going to be using a feature within Maya called nCloth. It basically allows me to turn 3d meshes into cloth objects and have them drape over the characters.

Because the clothes have to be simulated over the characters they won't be added until the end when the animation has been done. It's then a matter of "caching" the simulation so I can render!

I've also included some of the sketches that came from research into different types of clothes. I wanted the clothes to reflect a bit of nostalgic quality, what I mean but this is as if they're from the early 90's / before now :P

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Title Sequence Animatic + Mood Board

Here's the title sequence animatic that I recently completed for James' class. It builds on the concept that was explored earlier in a mood board.

The concept is basically that a cicada is coming to the ground after burrowing for its growth period and the title sequence tracks up the burrow to reveal the cicada and the house from the film. Titles are overlaid with childish illustrations introducing the actors and giving some hints about the story. I've kept the title sequence quite slow to help establish the tone of the piece.

- kudos to Pete G for the sound fx!

Intro Animatic from Pete on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

More Rigging

Below are the rigs for the Cicada and Myna bird. I've included a side by side pic with the viewport in maya to give an idea of how the controls are set up. These guys were a lot easier to rig as they have simpler movement, unlike the characters which require full facial rigging.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rigging & Weighting

Possibly the most tedious and arduous exercise in 3D, rigging is the process of making it possible for your character to move. It involves giving your character bones and then hooking them up to a system of controls so you can easily animate the character.

Luckily I was helped by a few plug-ins for Maya that enabled me to rig my characters in several days, rather than several weeks. I've included some quick renders below showing off their facial capabilities.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Set Models

More set models! some still need a few details added but this is pretty much it!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Timelines, Extensions?

We may be looking at going for an extension as we're currently running a bit behind schedule. This is due mainly to me not getting as much work done over the holidays as I had scheduled. Anyways we'll see how it goes, there's a current and proposed version of the timeline.


Here are the storyboards for Cicada in all their entirety, they are subject to change as these are the first batch. I'm lucky enough to have a meeting with a professional storyboard artist tomorrow to get her feedback so we'll see how that goes.

I've formatted and annotated them in a zip file for easier viewing. Otherwise you can see them below in their raw unedited form!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Voice Recording - Gully & Zen

Yesterday we did our first recordings for the animation. Everything went reasonably smoothly and we managed to get all the lines recorded. It was definitely a new experience working with kids and trying to communicate at their level. I've included a pic below with Gully (Josh), Zen (Aden) and the family.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Updated Timeline

Well I've fallen a bit behind from what I had planned earlier in the year due to a little trip overseas so I've had to adjust the timeline. Things have been pushed back meaning that there will be more crunch at 'crunch time'.

The good news is that I haven't taken any time away from the animated, it still sits at 8 weeks. The bad news is that I'll be animating almost all the way to the deadline, giving me less time for compositing and editing.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

House Model

The 3D model for the house without textures applied.

The Family!

Current 3D models for Aden, Josh and the Mum. Still with basic shaders applied.

Myna Birds and Cicadas

The 3D models of the myna birds and cicadas. Note that at the moment they just have default shaders on at the moment.

I've also included a myna bird head sketch to show you how something is modeled in 3D and the sort of planning one might do before starting.