Monday, 16 June 2014

The Life of a Student Animator - final film

Since university is over for me, this will be the end of this blog. I will now move back to and make that my home once again! So to finish off, here is the final product of everything this blog was for. :)

This was predominantly a character animation project, so the modelling, lighting etc. is minimal as I did not want that to consume my effort. The rig is 'Bonnie' by Josh Sobel. Full credits are on the Vimeo page.

I will always see things I would love to improve, but I will save that energy for whatever comes my way next. I learned so much from putting an animation like this together by myself and I now feel much better equipped to handle future projects. All that is left is to put my presence out there so that someone will consider me for a job!

Caitlin :)

Monday, 5 May 2014

End of university

Firstly I apologise for the long silence - the past two months couldn't have been busier if I tried!

I handed in this project on 21st March, and I haven't uploaded it yet because at the time I was too busy writing my report, and over the next week I want to improve a lot of the animation so I may as well wait until then and upload it completely finished.

In the meantime here is my current showreel which does show some of the work from this project:

ExpoTees is coming up on the 15th May - yay! - so I'm looking to have my animation to a better standard to show off then. I'm going to update my business cards, and I also designed this poster which is going to be printed about six-feet tall!

Regarding the title of this post, I have now finished university (apart from my project viva on Wednesday). I can't really believe it… My final assignment was handed in a few days ago, which was the group project that has been running alongside this individual one all year. We had several jam-packed weeks of animation and fixing rendering problems, and just about got it done in time!

So here is Inky Squid's final animation, All Is Fair In Love And Playtime.

And if you have red-cyan glasses, we also made an anaglyph 3D version!

I have done so much animating this year! It's been great to learn so much in a relatively short space of time. I have no idea yet what the next chapter holds, but I am excited.

Caitlin :)

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Story changes

Firstly I should mention that I got into ExpoTees! I'm so excited to be able to take part in that and show my work to industry in May.

Secondly, yesterday I sent off my application for a 12-week summer animation internship at Pixar Animation Studios. I have no idea how likely it is that I will get in, especially given that I am in a different country, but I put my all into every part of the application. Regardless of what happens, it was a great learning experience as I had never written a cover letter before (I learned a lot from Google), and had never made a demo reel (or written a demo reel breakdown to go with it). I hope they will see my enthusiasm - fingers crossed!

I mentioned in my last post that I got some valuable feedback from Ed Hooks on the storyline of my animation. I have spent the two weeks since then implementing some ideas to improve it. It seemed a little scary to be changing aspects of the story so far into the project, but I felt like I couldn't just ignore the flaws now that I knew how I could (mostly) fix them! I quickly drew up some very rough animatic panels to see if the new scenes fit, and asked friends and family what they thought. Since they all thought it was much better - and so did I! - I decided to go ahead with the changes.

Previously the aim of the student character, Phoebe, had been hazy. While we could see she was supposed to be working to complete some work, it wasn't a very defined goal. She also didn't have much conflict - partly because of the vagueness of the goal. I have now made the central idea of the piece that she is trying to finish for a deadline that is at midnight that night, with shots of a clock throughout the day to emphasise that time is passing and tension is building. I have made her look less cheerful while she is working out her poses and walk cycles. The main change is that the scene of her waiting on her bed - relaxed - for a render has now been replaced with her waiting at her desk, incredibly tense and impatient, with the time ticking on towards midnight. I have also changed the ending; watch and see...

If you had seen the previous versions, I think you'll agree that this carries much more weight! It allows for more empathy from the audience, which is crucial.

I obviously still have a fair bit of work to do on the scenes that are still not in linear, and then I am going to have to prioritise which scenes I want to polish up as I probably won't have time to make every one perfect. With the time I have left I have decided that my product hand-in is going to be in playblast form, meaning I can do all the fancy rendering and compositing in May, after the group project is finished and before ExpoTees.

Caitlin :)

Friday, 14 February 2014

Animex week 2014

It's the end of the fifth and last day of the Animex festival here in Teesside, and it's been a jam-packed week! I'm so tired from all that learning!

For those who don't know, Animex is an annual event held at Teesside University, though it's open to everyone. It's centred around animation/film, games and comics, and you can buy a ticket to attend any or all of those event categories. Industry professionals from all over come in to do talks about films/games/comics they've been working on and things they have learned in the industry. There are also networking events where you can talk to the speakers and ask questions or get feedback.

I went to Animex Game, which covered Monday and Tuesday, Animex Talk (the animation and film part), which covered Thursday and Friday, and a masterclass by Ed Hooks for the whole of Wednesday on 'acting for animators'. So it has been pretty full-on for me, being in all day every day! I have come away feeling so inspired, though, and it was good (if not a bit scary in a way) to get away from my work for a week.

I also took advantage of, and thoroughly enjoyed, the two networking evenings, which I didn't do the last two years because I stood around being timid and question-less. My confidence has grown a lot since then, and there were questions I genuinely wanted answered, which helped a great deal:

  • Austin Wintory, a brilliant games score composer, helped me with a method for coming up with appropriate music for my project. He said to find different pieces of music, of different moods, styles and speeds, and just shove them in with an edit of my film to see what effect they have - effectively a sound moodboard. Once I have figured out what styles fit where, I can then go about creating my own (original) music that matches that style or mood.
  • Dan Lund of Walt Disney Animation Studios answered my question on how they keep everything so consistent across a film like Frozen when they have so many people working on it. They have a 'style guide', which was something I'd never heard of, which is a document of pictures and notes that show what characters move in certain ways, including which mouth shapes you should not use for specific characters, and what points in the film call for harsh shapes or soft shapes, etc.
  • Ed Hooks, an acting teacher, I largely corresponded with over email. I sent him the latest cut of my animation for feedback on the flow and story and he gave me some good pointers, highlighting where there were discrepancies and what could be made much stronger and more compelling. I will write about these things as I come to address them, but first I have to plan and work out what I can change realistically in the time I have left.
  • Liam Russell from Framestore described to me what kind of animation work there is in the visual effects industry, as I said I didn't necessarily want to limit myself to feature animation. As I expected, they mostly use creature work, and depending on the job there may be some character work involved (but not very likely). He said that really I just need to make a decision on where I want to be because that will affect what I produce to put on my showreel and the way I work.
  • Shelley Page from DreamWorks and Victoria Long from Double Negative answered my question about how interested they were in 'creative CVs': it isn't worth spending time doing as the showreel should do the talking, and if anything is going to be done to one's CV it should definitely not be full of bright, painful colours or be white text on black so it won't scan properly!

I have a lot to mull over now, especially regarding where I can make my project miles better before I delve into the last stage of animation and commit completely to what I have.


Caitlin :)

Monday, 27 January 2014

Breakdowns are (pretty much) complete

While I still have not tackled the shots involving lip sync (due to needing to splice my audio clips up into usable segments) and the housemate character, I think the bulk of the breakdowns are done. For some shots where the character, Phoebe, is not moving very much, this does not involve much or any change from the blocking stage. The walk is in progress at a linear stage at the moment (as blocking walks does not really work), but due to the nature of the shot a useful playblast is not yet available.

I am at a point now where I think things need to start moving from stepped animation to linear, but I know this is a difficult, time-consuming and often just depressing step - because it requires the animation to get worse before it gets better - so I want to review everything before I jump in. So, as I did when the blocking was done, I have compiled the latest versions of all my playblasts into one video file so that I can see more easily which shots are weaker/less developed.

As I have been working I have also been making notes of things I have figured out, remembered or read that I can include in my report - for example, only realising last week that I could switch Bonnie's arms to IK so her hands wouldn't slide around the desk when she moved... I have also been reading some of Keith Lango's animation tutorials to help me remember to keep an eye on how my arcs and poses are looking.

Caitlin :)

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Today's progress - the happy celebration dance

I have largely been avoiding tackling the dance shot in my animation (the celebratory dance that comes late at night after successfully finishing an animation) since I first blocked it out because I always seemed to end up leaving it until too late in the day when I couldn't concentrate on something so complex. But today I seized the morning, and with good results! Her dance was looking too choreographed, so I went back to my original reference footage, in which I had been dancing spontaneously, for inspiration. Based on what I saw I edited the poses for Phoebe's first two dance moves. It completely changed it for the better, making her look a lot more relaxed and a fair bit less scary... I then went on to finish doing the breakdowns.

This is the result - before and after:

She suddenly looks so much more human in the latest version - I think because she looks less poised. I am now excited for how this shot will look when finished instead of dreading doing it. :D

I am otherwise powering diligently through the numerous shots, heading towards a stage when I can receive more detailed feedback and start fine-tuning. I plan to show my work to some of the speakers at Animex so I can get feedback from them, too.

Caitlin :)

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Blocking is complete

The first of five stages of my animation is now complete (bar her dancing shot - I still need to add in a few groovy moves)! Hooray! I am now well underway with the second stage - breakdowns - which is a more exciting stage because the more keyframes there are the better it looks!

There are obviously some props missing, but never fear - I will remember to add them at least before the final render!

I'm really excited to be moving into the more detailed stages of animation; it becomes a lot more fun when you see the movement becoming more fluid and really coming to life. It always amazes me how much of a difference just a few more keyframes makes!

I have made a video using some shots that I have been adding breakdowns to, playing the initial blocked versions first, as an example of this:

I aim to have another video ready for the first half of next week that shows the full piece through again with updated playblasts.

Caitlin :)