For this unit, I decided to work on improving my character sculpting for animation. I started off by looking for a fun and unusual concept to base a character off of, I found this piece on ArtStation by someone called Jeorg Scholonies. When recreating this character I made some alterations which I felt worked well when transferring it from 2D to 3D. For example, I made his hat appear as if knitted.
For my next piece, I worked from my own rough concept sketch for an idea to make something look completely handmade. This was something I thoroughly enjoyed and felt I understood well, as I’ve always enjoyed making things by hand, be it sewing, needle felting or sculpting with clay. I also aimed to create this model for use in animation, therefore I added a rig and did a test idle animation which I think was successful because it brought life to my character.
For my final model, I decided to leap into something that felt daunting to me, which was to test my skills in realistic sculpting. My subject for this was my dad, who kindly sat still while I shined a torch into his eyes and bombarded him with hundreds of photos for my reference. Considering this was the first sculpt I’d ever attempted at a realism standard, I am really pleased with the outcome, although I did underestimate the difficulty of this task.
Knowing what my film was going to be, I was eager to jump into production so I started with my character creation. Knowing that my girl character was going to be more time consuming and more complex I decided to start with her, this turned out to be even more challenging than I expected. I first made a simple block shape in Maya that resembled a basic body, then imported that as an obj into Zbrush.
When I’d got to this point I was happy with how my character was looking, but looking back on this now I am so glad that the feedback I received helped me to change this as it improved dramatically.
Initially upon feedback I struggled to find how I wanted my character to look so she went through a few changes:
Thankfully I carried on working on her features and style and this is how the finished sculpted character looks:
Next, the task that felt slightly avoided, after spending 7 weeks on my first character I found that creating the chick felt a little daunting. I had no idea what style it would follow and I didn’t have many concepts of my chick to reference back to, my main issue to begin with was aiming to make it too realistic in it’s form, it had no charm because of this, and then when I realised this I went the complete opposite way and tried something too stylised that didn’t match my girl character.
I drew up some more concepts, got some feedback and advice and slowly found a good balance for this character:
Character sculpting took me a long time, but this is one of the main focus’ of this film for me, I wanted them to have some charm and personality.
Next, I went about retopologising them ready for UV unwrapping and baking down the textures for projection.
I want to get a kick start on my backgrounds and environments so I’ll be putting my characters on hold for a while, I’ll come back to texturing them once they have been rigged by my rigger George Smith.
For the final weeks of this project, I decided to not post weekly as it would be nicer to post all of the more finished pieces together. Unfortunately, in these last weeks George and I decided not to work together on this project after all as we both wanted different this for it, but working together for part of it has definitely been beneficial to the work as a whole.
Here is the presentation that I pitched for week 12.
I decided that for this pitch I’d keep to the same theme as the first presentation that I pitched back in week 1 because the overall construct of my film hasn’t changed a huge amount, there has been development, but the main feature of it is still a girl hatching an egg. So again in this pitch, I spoke about how my own experiences of hatching a chicken was the influence of this idea. Then, I felt it was important to explain my choice of colour in this as I feel it will shape how the viewer is made to feel by the film. I then went on to show the designs created in the past weeks of the character and some assets, I also included house designs done by George that I felt were something I wanted to be expanding on in my own work as they are close to what I wanted for the film. I also used the same last image in this presentation as I had in the first presentation that I pitched except I’d played about with it to develop it with my new colour scheme.
To finish off the pitch I showed my newest animatic that I had at the time, shown below:
In this version of my animatic, I had decided to add in that the girl had just lost a pet, as I wanted to try and portray that in her finding and hatching this chicken, it helped her to move past her loss.
After the pitch and receiving some highly valued feedback I decided to work on the backgrounds, stripping it back to a more modest house, first I sketched out some simple house exteriors, some based on past reference and some just experimental.
Then, I took one that I felt worked well and decided to take it into photoshop and add a little more to it.
After I did this, I really like the style I started to see developing in it and decided to refine the piece further. I worked on assets for the piece for some parts so I could play about with what might work.
Then I went about taking away the outlines and refining it with texture.
I enjoyed making this piece so much that it ended up being a finished piece when I had no plans for it to, I’m really happy with how it turned out and I like the style that I found in it.
Completing this background also sparked an idea for me, seeing it in this stylized way, I envisioned it being handmade, so I decided to try doing so.
First I used what I had in terms of cardboard and tried to make the house, I drew it out flat trying to figure out how it would fit together and used hot glue to connect the pieces.
Unfortunately, it isn’t quite correct in proportion to the original concept as it is a little taller and not as wide but I feel this could have partially been due to me not planning ahead properly and having enough cardboard to use, but if I was to do it again I’d know what to change, I could also try making it in Maya and unwrapping the UV’s, and printing them to use as a base.
Next, I made a tree, I used a polystyrene ball for the base of the top, again using hot glue, I added a long wire and then needle-felted around it with various colours and techniques to create the desired shape and effect of the tree. I also added a 1p piece to the base of the trunk to level it out so it can stand on its own.
I feel that the tree was more successful than the house in terms of it looking more as I planned and I’m happy with the outcome of this.
Next I took one of the images into photoshop and worked over it to see how it might look if I were to work on this further, for example, I thought about making tiles out of polymer clay and adding those on, but this, of course, would be quite time consuming so I wanted to test how it might look first.
Overall, I like the direction this is going in and I think this style is something that could really work well with my film so going forward when creating the establishing shot I might look at combining these techniques, perhaps making the house in Maya and then giving it these rougher, hand-made looking textures.
And finally, I updated my animatic after receiving feedback on my last one and overviewing what I thought of it myself after some time away from it, the story has changed slightly since but not dramatically. Something that needed work was showing the girl’s emotions more and I felt a better way to do this was to show her holding and treasuring a picture of her and her cat as she glances out of the window to reveal that it’s dead. The story now follows the simplicity of the chick helping her through this tough time.
In conclusion, I am pleased with how this project developed, it went through a time of changing completely but I stripped parts of it back and I found that what worked best was some of the simplicity from the first idea. Through this journey, I found that many of the experimental process’ I tried, helped this project develop in its style and that was something that helped me keep pushing it. If I were to revisit this project or start again completely something I would change is the way I went about creating the narrative, for a lot of the project I was blind in seeing that simplicity can work brilliantly so I spent a lot of time trying to over complicate the story and that’s why I struggled to develop storyboards and animatics, but as a whole I feel that going into production I have a solid set of pre-production work to base my film on and it should make production a straight-forward process.
I laid this out in a way that might seem intensive but I was aiming for it to work so that I can focus solely on each thing per week, rather than doing small parts of many different things as I work best when I can work on one thing solidly and give my full attention to that thing.
This week has been a slow one for me, as you can probably tell from my posting this week later than usual. Unfortunately, it’s been a difficult week so work hasn’t been as much as usual. These things happen and I’ll persevere in the ongoing weeks to boost my output.
As our story is still lacking and it’s changing week by week, we decided that George would currently work primarily on the storyboarding with the ideas that we discussed as splitting a storyboard can just make it confusing for us both and complicate the narrative further. With that in mind, I worked on some more character concepts based on some of the ideas that we’ve recently discussed:
First some more general concepts of our girl character that show her preparing to decorate her room and warming up to the chicken.
Next, The idea that at the beginning perhaps there is a hint within the character that she likes the princess Rapunzel story, in the way that she wears a tiara and a princess dress, thus a hint at an explanation as to why she might like the idea of having a bedroom in the tower of the house, before the realisation that it isn’t what she expected it to be. But as the story develops and her love for the chicken grows she turns into more of a country girl with less of an obsession of being a princess.
Something else I wanted to look at was some asset design, with the idea that the girl is obsessed with chickens/country life by the end of the film and her bedroom becomes filled with things that reflect this, so I looked at children’s rucksacks and drew up some concepts of this that could work for the film:
With the narrative now being based on the idea that the girl learns to love the chicken while decorating her room I thought about how her room might look in the end as a completed room, so I started designing the type of bed a young exploratory child might have that also reflects the countryside:
This week I started by adding more frames to the storyboard we had started, I only got as far as introducing our characters when I realised that it was too long, so George compiled these together as an animatic so we could take a look at the timing of it.
after seeing it all timed out we had a long discussion regarding where we want our story to go, initially while doing these storyboards we were heading more towards the story of the girl and her chicken already having a close bond but this coming into question by another animal she finds, although establishing their strong relationship, putting it into question and resolving it all felt too much for our short film as we didn’t want it to become a story that felt rushed. This storyboard, as much as we will be discontinuing it, I feel helped us a lot in establishing our characters traits and personalities, and what direction the film would work better in.
After more discussions, more sketches and more rough storyboards we have decided that the film will take place in the rural countryside where a family has just moved into a large house that needs renovation, the young girl in the family is used to the city life and reflects this in the way she behaves and looks, she is also quite lonely due to her parents working a lot and having just moved away from all of her friends. To start with her clothes are left on the moving van that has already gone, so her mum goes to the local shops/ markets to buy her some new clothes, when she also passes a poultry market stall, eggs and chicken is being sold, as well as live chickens in cages, her mum decides to buy one as a companion for her daughter. When the mum presents the girl with her new chicken and country-style clothes, she rejects both. The film will follow the girl in her bedroom as she redecorates it as well as develops a strong connection to her chicken.
Below is a beginning sequence idea I have drawn up which I plan to develop.
And some more concepts I drew up of ideas I had envisioned and wanted to explore:
I also felt that as we’re going to be developing a connection with such an unusual choice of animal I should observe them a little more, I sketched my own chickens and also spent a little time looking up breeds of chicken that might come across as more characteristic.
One breed of chicken that I looked at that I feel could be something to consider when designing the chicken character was the Frizzle breed.
This is because they’re such a clumsy, goofy looking breed that I believe we could use to make it endearing to the audience.
For this project I am working with George Smith and Jordan Rutter, we all work primarily on 3D, therefore, we felt we would all work well together.
As soon as this project of an animated documentary was presented to us, we had a friend approach us and ask us if we’d like to tell her story of sexual abuse. It is, of course, a very heavy subject but we decided we wanted to do it.
The first thing we needed to do was the interview, we felt it best that I interview her myself as the only female in the group and we wanted to make the interview as comfortable for her as possible. As a group, we worked on what questions we wanted to ask her and wrote them down, but when it came to the interview I ended up asking additional questions relating to the things she had told me. I came away with recordings of nearly two hours altogether.
Editing this down is something we struggled with as there is just so much in that interview that we wanted to include but of course, we’re limited to 1 1/2 – 2 minutes.
I edited this down to 5 minutes and then handed this over to Jordan who managed to edit this down to 2 1/2 minutes, and after some feedback, we had a discussion amongst ourselves and realised that there were parts that needed to be reworked but there are definitely parts that are working. George then took it upon himself to finalise this but worked closely alongside us so we could all have an input.
We also value our friends input as it is her story, and after editing we had a discussion and realised that what we had focused on in our version of the edit wasn’t what she wanted her story to portray so we ended up having to restart editing this, it was a huge setback but was important to the success of the film in that we wanted everyone involved to be happy with all aspects of it.
While this has all been going on we have all been working on concepts for possible character designs and general concepts to get an idea of style. Something we are looking at is low-poly styles and abstract work.
Here are some of my concepts:
Doing concepts in this way has definitely helped us to find the start of a direction for our film, something else I thought about is the setting, most of what took place did in her grandparents house so I wanted to explore a possibility of what that might look like, I was aiming for something that would come across as daunting to a child:
Once we eventually had an edit that everyone was happy with we got onto making our animatic, I started the initial animatic, with some shots based off of other peoples ideas from our group, and produced up to 1:09 and then Jordan did some more to it which I edited onto the end of mine and we got to 1:38.
After completing this we could instantly realise what we liked and didn’t like about it, what we wanted to use and what we wanted to change, so it was a helpful process, although the deadline was fast approaching, and with the project being 3D we wanted to work on finishing the character designs so we could get into making them as soon as possible, therefore I focused on finishing the designs for our girl character.
I also started worked a 3D sculpt of this character that George had started, but it was later scrapped as the team didn’t feel like it was working.
Here is the model after I had done some work to it after being given this by George to work on.
I also started working on a character for the abuser but we later decided not to have him in it as a full character at all, and simply just hands, so this was also scrapped. Below shows the unfinished sculpt I had been working on in Zbrush.
It felt a little confusing to me as we didn’t seem to have a solid art direction as a group so after a long discussion altogether on that I then went away and made a mood-board for us all to follow in terms of style.
Once we had decided on our main character being portrayed as a doll and that our style was to be low-poly, George went ahead and completely made our character, from modelling and texturing through to rigging. We developed a shot list dividing them evenly between ourselves and got onto animating, below shows the shots that I animated, I also created the assets, backgrounds and textures for these shots as well as organised the lighting in the scenes for them:
I found myself working a lot on textures for this project so below are the textures for the unwrapped UVs I created for my scenes:
One particular scene that included additional modelling and texturing was one set in an oversized bedroom, this was used in the film but the entirety of it was not shown as the shot ended up being closer up than initially planned, shown below:
And finally, here is the finished animated documentary:
Overall, as a team, we had some difficulties which we worked through, such as falling behind due to our poor time management and our disagreements on the overall message portrayed through the audio. We worked through these by simple communication, it is important to have a strong, open and honest dialogue within a group if you are to work well together. In conclusion, I am happy with the outcome of this film, its stylised step-tangent animation portrays a sense of stop motion which is exactly the look we were aiming for, therefore I am pleased with that, also, I believe that our film does its job well in portraying the story of our friend and our visuals fit well alongside the dialogue.