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 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.