Friday, June 27, 2014

Production Overview: Part 6 - Layout\Animatic

Hey everyone!

This time we are happy to discuss a process which took us the longest time and in a way was the most important step in the entire production - the animatic.

Creating the animatic took quite some time, a few months from basic to completion, because we tried to force several different steps on it. 

First, let us make a few terms clear:

Storyboard - A series of still images placed in order, which shows the feel of the story, the development of characters and their emotions, and gives us a basic idea to how cameras will be placed and moved. (see this entry for further details)

Animatic - The images from the story board placed on a time line. This step gives us an idea
 about timing actions and movement (of characters, camera, shots' duration, etc). It usually comes with dialogues and a soundtrack which further helps timing.

Layout - The illustrated images from the animatic are replaced with 3D environments. characters and props filling the environments are in a basic pose, just indicating position relative to the camera. In this step we make sure the cameras are placed correctly, that the general composition of shots translate well from 2D to 3D and that the characters' movements' timing works well in 3D space.

Posing - Characters are now placed in basic poses indicating their general movement, mental state and acting.
After posing, shots are sent to animators for blocking, breakdown, smoothing and refining the animation, but we'll get to this later on.

Getting lost in the process
After completing the first animatic, we felt the project has reached a halt and felt like we needed to do something to push forward. We've decided to recreate the animatic in 3D, basically turning it into a layout.
After doing so, we felt the animatic was not convincing enough. The character in layout didn't have expressions and felt very stiff in their T-poses (see image), so we've posed the characters and added movement to make up for new shots that were not originally designed in story board. we kept making changes to the animatic and added shots we never planned, posing characters in 3D along the way.
And so it came to be that after a while, our animatic performed the role of storyboard, layout and a draft for posing as well.

This WAS NOT a healthy process. posing characters in front of a camera in 3D and sometimes moving it takes (approx. 10~min.) a lot longer then sketching a draft in photoshop (approx. 2~min.). So whenever possible, separate different stages of work.
We've previously mentioned that it is important to advance to the next step and not fixate on minor details, since corrections and changes will be needed even later on. However, it is important that you don't rush things that are not yet ready for the next step. 

Our lack of experience made us think that the animatic in its first stages was complete, when in reality there was still a lot of work to be done on it in order for the story to work. This was a good lesson though, and while the process was not "traditional" we've managed to get the results we've striven for, even if they took longer to achieve.

Next entry will be all about Rigs and moving the characters. please continue to follow, like, share and comment. 

You are all great :)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Production Overview: Part 5 - Models

Hello again dear followers!

This time we want to discuss the modeling process, that technical step where you take your drawn concepts and translate them to a digital object in 3D. (well, it's not all technical, it actually has a strong creative side to it).

Some of you may not be familiar with the process of 3D modeling, we might go over the basics in an article in the future. 

Our modelling process took place in Blender, an open source 3D software. it has great sculpting, modeling and UV unwrapping tools which really suited our needs and workflow.

Modelling principals
When it came to modelling, we knew there were a few basic guidelines we had to follow:
* Keep your wire frame simple. add as few subdivisions as you can to capture the shape you need.
* Stick as close as you can to the concept
* Place your poles wisely, and your triangles discretely.
* Be consistent with your shapes.
* When it comes to characters - know your anatomy.  How you model determines how your character moves.

Modelling the characters
Modelling the characters had an additional step which was sculpting. During sculpting we looked for the general shape of the character and refined its shape. Then, while doing retopology, we made sure to create a wire frame that supports the model. 

Separating the creative process (finding shapes and forms) from the technical process (creating a model that will be able to move well) allowed for more accurate, and eventually better, results.

While modelling, we looked at many references to understand how 2D can translate well to 3D, how to create a model that is appealing from numerous angles, how to create a wire frame that can transform nicely and more.

There were times when we got sucked into work and drifted away from our primary vision, that it became necessary to restart certain areas, which eventually paid off.

Modelling the props and sets
Modelling the props and sets was a more simple task, as we didn't have to think about rigging. however, there were still some challenges. 
We wanted individual models to look detailed while having less subdivisions. As for the sets, we wanted to create many models fast, and so we relied on duplications and minor modifications to create variety and richness.

That's all for now, next time we will go over the animatic and layout process and see how story and storyboard translates into actual 3d space. still lots of interesting production materials to share, so stay tuned :)