When it came to animation, I had already done all of the blocking, but everything needed tidying up into nicer animation. Shots 1- 13 were being done by me, and shots 14-16 were going to be done by Ben. When he got these shots back to me, unfortunately, the only complete shot was 16 so I ended up going over the shots and cleaning those up too.
I also decided to paint over the house for the exterior shot as there were things that needed adding such as the background and front door. I decided to do this in a stylised way as I didn’t feel that painting it in a realistic way would match the rest of my film.
There is a shot in the film that is from an upward angle to show the pet grave through the window. I made this by tying together small pieces of lolly sticks and scattering the fake grass I’d purchased in the same way in I did for the exterior shot, but I also added tiny broken up pieces of branches that I found along the beach.
I had also heard back from my brilliant musician, Jon Sims, with the music for this piece and so I put this over the updated version of the film.
The main jobs left now were the rendering and compositing, this was done by George Smith. He then passed this over to me in image sequences so I could edit this together with the music and sound effects to have my finished film.
With the editing, I had already set up the timing for the shots with the previs so it was mainly a case of updating those but also adding in the animated sky behind the window in most shots and the pet grave behind the window in one shot.
Unfortunately, there was a rendering issue with it not lining up in a certain shot, but I aim to fix this up before the London show. Other than that it turned out better than I was expecting in how the characters and the set come together.
Next, with my film, I wanted to have a look over the story since I hadn’t done so since my APME unit. I started this by rewatching the animatic that I produced for that unit. I decided I wanted to change the way the chick was introduced as it left too many questions having it hatch on the windowsill, especially as the chick is meant to be a poultry chick rather than a type of bird that can fly. I find storyboarding easiest when I do it really roughly as the ideas flow better when I’m not worrying about how they’ll look therefore I scribbled out some ideas onto sticky notes:
Then once I’d figured out my new beginning I simplified the story because all of the animation is being done by me and I knew that in the time I had left, it wasn’t possible to have a lot of technical shots. The animation isn’t what I wanted the focus of my film to be, I wanted to use it more to combine my 3D characters into a handmade world as seamlessly as I could, therefore, I was happy to simplify it.
Again, I worked roughly as the purpose of these storyboards was to think about the shot angle and what was happening in the shot, the art wasn’t important here.
The shots ended up changing slightly as I made my Previs, but not by much, I found going over the story in this way and laying it out simply really helped me as I animated the shots initially.
The next thing I worked on was texturing my characters and something I wanted to play about with was using traditional mediums within this process. Once I had UV unwrapped the characters in Maya, I exported the UV maps and printed them off, I then used these to trace the outline onto good quality paper and painted over this using acrylic paints.
Once I scanned these in and reapplied them I found that they worked in some ways but not in others. Therefore, I decided to use parts of these and also paint parts digitally. For the chick, I decided to paint him completely digitally as it worked best with his sculptural detail.
When it came to texturing the chick, I also needed to export his sculptural details so they could be projected on his lower mesh. I used Polypaint to texture my chick and then exported his normals and textures to be used in Maya.
My Rigger, George Smith, ended up only having enough time to rig Polly, therefore I ended up doing the rig for the chick, He doesn’t have any complex animation so it was just a matter of making his wings flap, his feet and toes more and his eyes open and close. Doing his rig did also mean doing his paint weights which is one of the more simple but tedious jobs, I managed to get this done to a working degree.
Now that my backgrounds and characters were all ready I could start on animating, I wanted to get everything blocked out into a previs as a first pass so I could give this to my composer, Jon Sims, who would then use that as solid timing for the music.
I also enlisted the help of first year, Ben Freir, for some of the shots, and to keep things organised I put together a shots list.
Due to time constraints and doing the majority of the project by myself, I’m not sure if I’ll manage to pull off all of the animation and rendering in time for the submission, but if I don’t, I plan to improve on it and finish it for the London Show.
Because of the changes to the narrative of my film, I didn’t feel I could call it The Hatch anymore since there is no form of hatching happening at all in it.
So from now on the film will be called Polly & Pip. (Pip being short for Pippin, the name of the chicken this film was originally inspired by).
When I first started to make my backgrounds, I used Maya and Zbrush. I had a clear vision of what I wanted this room to be but during APME my concepts stretched only as far as assets rather than full room designs. I spoke with a friend, Annie Bennett who helped me by doing a layout of the room as I described it to her:
When Modelling this I made a few minor alterations but this gave me a solid base to refer to.
I wanted the room to come across as quirky and sweet, and even though this wasn’t at a finished level yet, I could feel that this wasn’t heading where I wanted it to.
Something I was toying with was the possibility of making my sets physically. I started my doing some research into this, and put together some moodboards:
After also researching various methods within this I then did some tests to decide whether it would work.
First, one of how I might make the walls and the flooring- The foundation of the set. This test was done using lolly sticks for the floor and wall cladding, which I cut to size individually and glued together and then added patterned paper for the wallpaper.
I then thought about how I would fill this room, I played about with a lot of different materials, air-drying clay, cardboard, home-made paste, chipboard and fabrics. Some of the tests were successful but a lot of them showed me exactly how not to do it. I ended up deciding to go with chipboard for the furniture because it’s sturdy, although hard to cut out. Other parts I made, like the bear, I made was made out of silk clay. I hand sewed the mattress cover, quilt and pillow and the mattress itself was made out of a sponge.
I also did some tests for the exterior model of the house. This ended up being a large portion of the modelling. I started out by making a base from cardboard and then layering on top of it with lolly sticks and then painting on that. Each piece was glued on individually, and to make this I ended up using between 600 and 700 lolly sticks.
Here are some of the tests I did before I started making it:
I played about with using cardboard instead of lolly sticks because it would be quicker and easier but it just didn’t look as effective.
I also tried making texture with air-drying clay but that cracked as it dried so wouldn’t work for this.
Here are some process photos I took so you can see the development of the sets.
Overall I enjoyed making it all physically but it was a lot harder than I initially anticipated. I didn’t expect to need to use a saw for the lolly sticks, they were a lot tougher than I thought. I also didn’t anticipate burning myself countless times with the glue gun. As much as this was a long and difficult task, I found it to be an enjoyable one and I’m pleased with the overall outcome of it. I feel it has a lot more charm to it than it would have done had I made it all digitally.
I put together a turnaround of the house before painting it, so you can see the level of detail within it.
You can see the showreel for the house and assets below:
I also decided to do a quick test on keying out the space behind the window in the room and add an animated cloud movement.
I started by creating a photoshop file with a couple of layers and painting individual clouds. I took this into Adobe After Effects to make this into an animation. Shown below.
I then edited a photo I took of the set in photoshop, making it more vibrant and blocking out the part I wanted to key out.
Here is the test once I edited it in Premiere Pro.
It’s not quite perfect but that just comes down to me not colouring the green keys out cleanly enough. Other than that, the way I lit the photo, the cloud effect and the overall look of it really works and I plan to do this throughout my film.
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.