Continuing on from my previous post, we move on to my second year of university collating all of the work I have completed.
Cinematography: Troll 2 in Film Noir
The objective this assignment was to take a scene from any existing feature length film we wish and re-interpret it into an entirely different genre, for example we can take a comedy sketch scene from a sitcom show and re-interpreted into the horror genre by using camera techniques and acting queues related to the genre. I took the dinner scene from the cult classic horror film ‘Troll 2’ and re-enacted the scene into the style of Film Noir.
The assignment was a stark contrast to all of the past assignments as we had to record a live action sequence with no CG involved. Since live action filming and films in general isn’t one of my strengths I wasn’t that fond of this assignment at al. Regardless, if I were to do this again I would definitely make more refined planning because I loosely planned for the camera shots meaning I wasted a lot of time during filming how I would want a particular shot framed. Regardless I have learned a lot about the aesthetics and the fundamentals of film-making and what makes a movie a Film Noir and I actually had quite a bit of fun doing this assignment!
Game Jam: A Fox’s Tail
Me and eight other friends on the the Computer Animation course entered a 48-hour Game Jam arranged by the BU Games Development Society, an event where teams create a game based on the same theme with a 2-day time limit. The theme for this game jam was ‘Animal Warfare’ and we were free to interpret in any way we wanted. This ended up turning into a side-scrolling platform game called ‘A Fox’s Tail’, with a message concerning the fox hunting controversy. The game was created using Unreal Engine 4 as our team members had experience with the game engine.
I was in charge of rigging and animating some actions for the playable Fox character. Rigging the fox was fairly straightforward because the game is 2D-based meaning I am only working within two dimensions, however due to certain requirements from the Unreal Engine my friend who was in charge of programming the game had to alter the rig in-order to make it compatible.
The game is by no means complete as after the game jam we only managed to get the gameplay running with controls implemented. But we have gained much experience of working together as a team and the importance of working together in the same room, as enables us to get instant-feedback and communication and so increases productivity and morale.
Group Project: A Little Tea Dance
Over the course of four months we were placed into groups of five or six to produce either a short CG animation or an interactive game based on ideas students have pitched at the start of the year. I was put into a group to produce a minute-long short animation piece titled “A Little Tea Dance”, a narrative short about an explorer whos legs start to uncontrollably dance on their accord to the audio playing in the background; dissuading the explorer from drinking his cup of tea. The character is based off the real-life steam-punk artist Prof. Elemental. I was responsible for the environment design of the camper van’s interior as well as the character rigging.
It was a challenging experience doing character rigging as this was essentially my first go at it, however after crunching through countless tutorial videos and receiving help from demonstrators, it’s a little rough in some areas but I was able to pull through with a really nice character rig!
Character Design: Queen Bee
Taking an excerpt from a range of classic story books as a starting point and inspiration we were tasked to design an original character. I took an excerpt from ‘The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees’ (2011), written by E. Lily Yu, a short story about the uprising of an army of wasps and a small village after a boy destroyed their nest.
“She had spent weeks tramping through the countryside, questioning beekeepers and villagers’ children, peering up into trees and into hives, before she found the last wasps from Yiwei. Then she had had to wait for winter and the anesthetizing cold. But now, back in the warmth of her own room, she broke open the soft pages of the nest and pushed aside the heaps of glistening wasps until she found the foundress herself, stumbling on uncertain legs.”
I took the story in a literal sense and aimed my character design at the concept of a Queen Bee. I refined my character and wanted it to be of the humanoid type, and while humanoid Queen Bee concepts do exists on the net; I wanted to design a character that looked fresh and not just another rehashed representation.
The assignment deadline couldn’t have been placed in a more awkward time towards the end of January; meaning I had to deal with three assignments and one exam at the same time. My work I did towards the end of the assignment felt a little rushed as I tried to get it done to concentrate on the rest of my assignments, however I am happy with the overall result as I believe I have accomplished my design objective of creating a fresh design concept of a Queen Bee.
We were given a compositing examination to test our knowledge on the fundamentals of compositing we learnt from our compositing workshops. From pulling mattes, luminance and add mixes to multiply, pre-multiply and ‘The Zero Alpha Pixel Problem’, the test was fairly straight forward given it was multiple choice. Since the test was done on computers we received our scores straight after the test concluded and thankfully I did really well!
Essay: Peirce’s Theory of Sign
Discuss the so-called ‘animated documentary’ form in light of Peirce’s Index, and theoretical ontologies of documentary film-making.
Developing from the essay assignment from the preceding year we were again tasked to answer one of three essay questions. I decided to respond to the question concerning Peirce’s Theory of Sign while exploring implications of sign in live action and animated documentary as well as the genre as a whole.
I enjoyed reading about how we interpret signs and icons and how we subconsciously link signs and icons to real life subjects or concepts. It also made me think again about the legitimacy of documentary as a genre and think deeply if there really is such a thing as a ‘genuine’ and ‘real’ documentary, because ultimately we all act differently if there is a camera pointed directly at us; obstructing the ‘window to reality’.
Using an existing character rig found online we were tasked to animate a performance sequence based on a sound byte from any existing form media of our choice. My choice was the character Abe Simpson’s line from the Simpsons Movie where he screams “horrible things are going to happen!” as dialogue from live action are often difficult to animate the lip movements to due to the limiting frame rate.
I wish I could’ve worked more on the arms shaking towards the end the sequence, which feels the weakest out of the whole performance. The lip syncing could also do with a little work but for my first attempt at a full character animation; overall I think I did a very good job!
Specialist Project: Cel-shading
As a way to look into specialist areas in computer animation, this assignment lets us choose what specialised practice we would like to do for our pseudo-dissertation assignment. For my specialist project I decided to look into non-photorealistic rendering in terms of toon-shading for use in animated productions while attempting to achieve the 2D hand-drawn cartoon aesthetic in 3D. I decided to use my previous Homura model I did back in first year, which had to be slightly re-modelled and UV unwrapped to be able to cel-shade and textured.
Compositing: Still Life
Looking into a variety of modern and historic artists we were tasked to either composite a live action sequence into a backplate using green screen techniques or to create a still life image; where real life and integrated CG objects must work together to create a realistic image in the style of our chosen artists. I decided to create a still life image in the style of ex-Pixar Lighting Artist Jeremy Vickery, where everyday objects are placed on a table with a single artificial light source illuminating the scene.
While the compositing process was straight forward I had a difficult time looking for good quality but free 3D assets online, because CG objects were required to integrate into the scene. I could have created my own objects but that would have taken a lot more time to model, texture and shade which was not the point of the assignment. In the end I managed to find a nicely modelled and textured apple on Turbo Squid for free and an acceptable knife model, which feels to be the weakest point of the piece. I tried many compositing techniques to make it fit in more with the scene, but it can only go so far due to the poor texture files.
With 8 assignments and 1 exam completed I have successfully passed the second year!
A lot has happened over the year and while it was rather a underwhelming year assignment-wise with a lot of thought deciding which specialised area in computer animation I want to go into, I feel I have developed more skills both academically and practically, and most importantly as a person.
Onwards towards the final year…