Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Production: Evaluation

Over the course of this project I've had a lot of issues, some of them caused by my own negligence or lack of knowledge, and some beyond my control. However I feel that I've learnt a lot over the course of this module and a lot of the mistakes I've made I've learnt from and hopefully won't have to repeat in the future. Overall I wish I'd pushed myself more at the beginning of the project to get work done rather than leaving huge chunks of work until the wrong side of Easter. I also felt some of the projects could have been managed better, although I think in the end the collaborative projects I was working on were a success.

Echoes: Animations

For two projects worth of my production module I produced 40+ seconds of animation for the third year game project titled Echoes. I felt that a lot of my animations for this project suffered due to lack of planning and reference. As dragons don't exist I had to resort to footage of bats for reference, as their anatomy most closely matched Ruth's dragon design. The animations that were required of me also changed several times over the course of the project, depending on what we though we needed for the game, and this resulted in me not having enough time or reference for some of my animations.

Despite starting many of my game animations early on in the project I struggled to get a lot of them out of the blocking phase and as a result many of them don't seem to have improved much, or have only improved slightly between this pass and the final animations that I handed in. I could have avoided this by finding more reference or by re-animating from scratch some of my cycles to see if I found a better way of doing things the second time around.

In the end I did do this with some of my animations, such as the centaur turn on the spot. I had to redo this particular animation due to a problem in the rig, when rotating the body the mesh doesn't follow the spine correctly, resulting in a crumpled mesh. To get around this I set up a camera and rotated that instead of the character so that it appeared to be rotating on the spot. As the global movements and rotations on the rigs are removed in order to be taken into the game engine this didn't present a problem to the unity team. I had a few other issues with this rig, the lack of FK arms weakened some of my animations, however apart from these issues this rig and the others I had to use for the project worked well.

The project was managed well overall as the final result was a working game. In terms of the animation team though, I felt as though we could have benefited from having somebody take on a more active role as an animation director, as the artists seemed to receive more guidance and deadlines than we did. We did however hold weekly meetings where we looked at each others work and made suggestions for improvements, and I found that this helped improve my work a lot.

At the end of the project I only feel confident in half of the animations I produced for the game, the others I still feel need a fair bit of work done to them. In addition to struggling at getting out of the blocking phase I also found it difficult when it came to giving my animations a final polish, I was being too precious in some areas and not breaking some aspects of the animations in order to fix more pressing problems.

Echoes: Lighting

My lighting project consisted of lighting and rendering two cinematics for use in the Echoes game. The art assets used in the cinematics are the same as the ones used in game and the animations and cameras were provided to me by Hollie. The main problem I encountered with this project was the fact that I'd never done any form of lighting in Maya before, and it had been a year since I had done a similar project in 3ds Max. As a result a lot of my time for this project was taken up with learning how to light a scene in Maya based off of my previous knowledge and tutorials that I found online.

After I'd watched a sufficient amount of tutorials I lit my scenes using a combination of the techniques I'd learnt. I had a few issues concerning the use of certain settings within Maya, such as having to turn on alpha is luminescence to use opacity maps properly and setting bump maps to tangent space normals. Most of these problems were solved via googling for a solution, however at several points in the project my progress was hampered on several occasions when key software on my computer failed to work and I spent several hours fixing problems with Maya, Photoshop and After Effects on seperate occasions.

I am fairly happy with the outcome of my lighting project, however if I had starting researching the area earlier on in the project then I might have been able to use some more advanced techniques and fix some of the problems I had, as I noticed after rendering out all of my files that some of my render passes had minor errors caused by the alpha planes in the scene or the use of incorrect settings.

As far as getting assets for my final renders went I had some difficulty getting animations and textures from the people I was working with. The animations in the cinematics are not the final ones due to a scheduling conflict that could have been avoided if the project were planned better. I also did not receive a texture for one of the characters until very late in the last week. This caused an issue when I came to render out my passes, as it was so close to the deadline a lot of other people were using the render farm, and even though as a third year I was supposed to receive priority, I received my files too late to composite the entire sequence. I could have avoided this by trying to finish off my scene and submitting my files earlier, however this would have been difficult without the final texture as I would have needed to make changes to the lighting set up and redo a section of my work anyway.

Personal project

In my opinion my personal project is the weakest area of my submission. It was my intention to finish this part of the project first, however I got caught up doing extra work for pre-production and then bogged down with working on my dissertation, and as a result I started this part of the project much later than planned.

I liked the sound clip I chose as it gave me a lot of freedom with what I could do with it, and I don't feel as though I fully took advantage of this. Like my game animations, I feel as though this project could have benefited from better planning and more exploration of ideas early on. Acted pieces with dialogue are an area I've always struggled with, and in hindsight it might have been more beneficial for me to work on more body mechanics pieces in order to improve my understanding of the basic fundamentals of animation.

Looking back on it now it's clear I need to spend a lot more time on this piece of work. The lip-syncing mostly matched up in Maya, however upon rendering it out I've noticed that it's all of the place, and I could have avoided this by doing regular playblasts. Another issue I noticed is the camera, the silent character is meant to be cut off so that there wasn't a need to spend as much time animating him, however in the shot I handed in he can be clearly seen sitting still and unmoving.

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