And the dust settles

•May 15, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It is done.

That’s right, the film is finally complete, and I am quite proud of the final result. It’s been a long three semesters, working tirelessly to get this little project complete, but it was entirely worth it. I premiered it on campus last night along with the rest of my classmates’ work, and it was a real blast. A huge congratulations to everyone involved at last night’s screening. I am proud to call you my friends.

My apologies to any reader who thought I might have abandoned the blog. Once it got down to the wire, it was pretty all-consuming. It’s a little surreal now that it’s finished though. It’s been a focus of mine for over a year, and to suddenly not need to work anymore is an adjustment that will take some getting used to. Still, there will hopefully be festivals/more exhibitions on the horizon, so this may not be the last post you see on this blog. I’ll be sure to update people on when and where they might be able to see the film.

And with that, I shall sign off for a little while. An enormous thank you to all of my friends, family, and everyone who had a hand in making this movie come to fruition. I will remember these times fondly. But now its time to look ahead and go explore this wonderful industry.

Thanks for reading!

Sound locked up tighter than Hannibal Lector

•April 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Ze tiredness…she strikes. I shall make my message brief.

Today was the last major deadline aside from turning in the final product! We had to have our sound locked by the 14th, meaning all sound effects are gathered and in place for mixing next week. I must say, with all of my sound finished, the film has been plus’d in a big way. It’s incredible how sound can draw you in, and make the imaginary world that much more tangible (which is ironic, because I’ve never held a sound ;_;). It’s that added illusory sheen that signals authenticity to your brain, selling the notion that Polly is a real being interacting with his environment. I’m looking forward to supervising my mix session. It’s something I haven’t had experience with yet, and I imagine I’ll learn a lot about the process. I’m hoping that by the end of it, there will be a mind-blowing level of professionalism audio-wise. 😀

While finalizing sound was the main focus this week, I didn’t actually find it that difficult. It was an involved process, no doubt, but all it required was patience. The only minor nuisance was that I had to adjust the sound effects audio to be mono, after putting it all in as stereo. One of the sound mixers mentioned that background noise and score are typically stereo, while you can get away with mono for FX. I needed to economize my time-line anyway, so I went through all 7 minutes and broke apart a good majority of the sounds and switched it.

And that’s about all the coverage I have in me for this week. As always, here’s a screen. Until next time!

Its all downhill from here :D

•April 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Hello, hello! Sorry I didn’t update last week. I bet you thought I didn’t survive picture lock.

 

Well you’d be wrong.

 

That’s right, it’s finally done. I’ve completed* the animation portion of my thesis film! *I still want to refine a little on each shot before I render

But let me tell you, the sun has never shone brighter than March 31st, 2011. It was the most beautiful of days. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. And that’s when I remembered rendering.

Since hitting picture lock, I’ve just been rendering, rendering, rendering. The most difficult part of the process is probably quality controlling everything before I set up for the complete pass. I’ll tinker and toy with an image, trying to get the best look I can, but then I try and do a test render of all key moments in the shot. If the lighting looks consistent and correct throughout them all, only then do I render the entire scene. As anyone with 3D experience will know, rendering is so expensive time-wise, that you really can’t afford to mess up a shot. It takes too much time and computing power. Every now and then, something slips through the cracks, and you just have to hope its not too difficult to fix. For example, I rendered one of my longer shots earlier this week, and only once it was done did I realized that I forgot to turn off the visibility of an object that was supposed to be hidden. Thankfully, it was a pretty small object, so I was able to clone it out in After Effects. The real downside though was that there was a camera move going on, and perspective was changing, so I couldn’t just do one clone and stretch it out. I had to go through frame after frame where the object was visible and brush it out. Yuck. That’s why it pays to check your renders closely.

As I render, the next big benchmark to hit is sound lock next week. I’m working on gathering all of my foley and final sound effects, and editing them into my Final Cut file. At the same time, my composer and I are getting pretty close to working out the final score. Our plan is to record musicians this Sunday, so it’s time to make executive decisions. We’ve both been really busy these past semesters, so our communication hasn’t been as regular as I would have liked, but the product is still coming out wonderfully. It was a good idea to contact him last semester to give adequate time to watch the film develop, so he could figure out how to best approach the score. I feel that if I had found someone recently, the product would feel rushed and ultimately hurt the final film.

And that’s what’s happening in the wonderful world of Polly this week. The end is near folks. The FINAL FINAL due date is just barely a month away, and then it’s on to the great mysterious void that is life. Can’t wait. 😀

Here are some recent renders for you to stare at. With your eyeballs.

 

 

Brace for impact

•March 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Shots left: 11

Weeks until picture lock: 1

Animation complete: ~92%

Animation left: ~36 seconds (~8%)

 

I’m so close I can taste it.

 

It has been a crazy two weeks, but I’ve been working full force trying to get this done in time. 2 weeks ago I had spring break, which actually turned out to be really beneficial for getting work done. I started with all of the longest outstanding shots, and worked backwards, because I knew that once school was to resume, the amount of time to work each day would disappear. I think in two days over break, I animated about 32 seconds worth of material. I think that may be the last time that ever happens for the rest of my career.

The most exciting thing through these last two weeks is that I’ve really stepped up my animation quality. I feel like I keep saying that from week to week, but I REALLY MEAN IT NOW. I’ve been using the software long enough with such consistency, that I’m becoming quite good at being able to identify what’s wrong with the motion, and how I should fix it. Also, I’ve been with these characters long enough now, that I think I finally understand their capabilities and have been focusing on the performance more than anything. I’m getting a life and vitality out of them that they just didn’t have before. I’m quite thrilled with how it’s going. The problem is, there is plenty of animation from earlier shots that just don’t feel up to quality. My plan is to do some quick polish to shots before I render them. Because the overall timing is already blocked out, I don’t think it should be too much of a hassle to improve the animation. I don’t want to reinvent their actions, just finesse them.

The most challenging aspect of these past few weeks has obviously been just staying on schedule. I’ve fallen behind on my “shot-a-day” schedule, which is a bit misleading, because I had those fractions of shots per week that honestly weren’t finished. I have literally done one shot a day now for about a month though, so I’m giving myself a pat on the back for that one. I’ll have to pump out several shots a day on a few occasions this week, but considering most of the remaining shots are between 2 and 3 seconds, it shouldn’t be so bad.

I apologize, but I’m afraid I don’t have a screen shot for you this week, mostly because I haven’t been rendering. I’ve been so set  on working out the animation and the timing, that rendering has taken a bit of a backseat. But after this next week, rendering is all I’ll be doing, so hopefully I should have some sweet stuff to show off. Until then, wish me luck. It’s now or never.

21 days ’til I can breathe

•March 10, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Wednesday again? Oy vey… Where does the time go?

Shots left: 25

Weeks until picture lock: 3

Necessary shots per week: 8.3

Animation complete: ~74%

Animation left: ~26%

It may look like I’m slightly behind this week, but it actually isn’t so bad. While I didn’t COMPLETE the animation for all 7 shots, I have the animation underway/almost complete on several shots. If I play my cards right, one of said shots can actually serve as two. So when I get to finishing up these few scenes, in addition to my daily shot, my schedule should be right as rain in no time.

The most difficult thing this week was by far having one of my shots get corrupted. I had finished 95% of the animation too. ;____; I was able to redo it, but it still cost me a day, which is NOT acceptable. I can’t afford to have things like that happening at such a crucial time. I’m pretty sure it was due to an accidental unplugging of my external hard-drive before “safely removing” the hardware, so I will be extra careful to not repeat the incident.

In more positive news, I’m really liking my animation as of late. I think I’ve started to hit my stride, and I’m really trying to bring out as much character as I can. Two of my shots this week have what I consider to be some of my best 3D character animation yet, and I hope to continue improving with each scene. If by some miracle I can find time to polish some of the shots I made months ago, I can only imagine how much the film will benefit. I consider those shots warm-ups, and they just aren’t satisfying now. I’m sure in two weeks I’ll feel the same about the shots I’m producing now. Vicious cycle.

In other news, I CANNOT WAIT FOR SPRING BREAK. Sure, I’ll be working the whole time, but I’ll be back home in glorious Northern California. The change of scenery will do wonders. And the sleep. OH, THE SLEEP! I’m starting to drool just thinking about it.

Anyway, I should keep this post short. It’s cutting into my animating time. 😛

Here’s your present for checking in.

I know what you’re thinking, and yes. This shot is sexy in motion.

Hangin’ in there

•March 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It has been tough, but I have managed to avoid collapsing so far.  Just one more month to go. I’m still on track, but walking a fine line. There are a few shots that are actually underway, that haven’t been counted as complete, but when I get around to those, that should serve as a little surplus of finished shots for one of these future weeks.  I’m thinking spring break will be a great time to get a lot done. I keep forgetting we have a holiday coming up, so every time I remember, it’s like both christmas and my birthday have come early in one joyous, amorphous blob of relief and excitement.

As far as animation is concerned, I’ve definitely start hitting the more complex, sophisticated shots, which is both exciting and nerve-wracking. I always look forward to stretching myself and get better, but at the same time I worry that Polly’s rig might not be able to handle it, on top of the fear that the shots are going to take more and more time to complete. So far, I’ve been able to do a really quick shot one day, begin work on a complex shot, then finish it over 2 days, averaging out the necessary shot a day. Hopefully I can keep it up. I was able to finish the very last shot in the movie, (which is also the longest) and I’m quite pleased with the results. Here’s a screenshot:

One difficulty that is starting to arise is that I’ve been noticing the occasional continuity error popping up in my film. One case is the position of an arm, which shouldn’t be too hard to fix. There is a more challenging one where literally there is an entire action missing, from one shot to another, which will call for some additional animation. To avoid any future instances, I’m going to have to pay closer attention to the flow of everything in the animatic before I work on shots. I really can’t afford to waste time fixing these kinds of errors.

And that’s what’s new this week in Thesis-land. I’ll leave you with one more screen-shot. Until next time!

Shots left: 30

Weeks until picture lock: 4

Necessary shots per week: 7.5

Animation complete: ~68%

Animation left: ~32%

The countdown continues

•February 24, 2011 • 2 Comments

Shots left: 37

Weeks until picture lock: 5

Necessary shots per week: 7.4

Animation complete: ~54%

Animation left: 46%

I think I’ll keep posting these stats from here on out. Helps give perspective for others, but especially myself. I like having the math there so I can organize around it. It’s also a good motivator to see the “percentage left” start to dwindle. But anyway, a personal pat on the back for keeping the pace up. The “necessary average shots per week” actually went down a bit! Hoorah! Hoorah forever!

As I’ve been animating throughout the week, I’ve found that I put too much attention towards Polly’s face, while not really giving enough attention to the rest of his body. This isn’t to say I’ll be putting any less attention into what his face is doing, but not all communication can be summed up in one’s expression. The way a character carries his entire self is crucial. Granted, a lot of the shots have been fairly close up, so the audience will be paying close attention to Polly’s face, but I definitely need more practice studying the body and how things move in relation to one another. As far as Polly’s build goes, he’s pretty much a  pudgy little ball, but I think I could get a lot of mileage out of his shoulders. The way his shoulders are cocked could tell a lot about how he is feeling/what he might be thinking. I’ve started to look more at reference material, film myself, etc. and I’ll really try and study motion/acting outside of the facial features.

In other news, I finished the 2D portion of my film! I know it’s actually one shot, but still! MILESTONE ACHIEVED. And it looks SO cool. I’d show it, but I think you should see it in the context of the film. Hopefully, I’ve shown enough intriguing stuff already that you want to see the movie. 😀 But it’s really quite striking how it unfolds if I may say so myself. Exceeded my expectations.

The more I animate, the more I feel like it’s a profession that requires knowledge of EVERYTHING. Whatever you’re faced with animating, you have to really know that object inside and out to create realistic, believable motion. It is certainly a career for the curious; those who like to learn more and more. I like to believe I’m one of those folks. 😛

And on that nice meditative note, here are some screenshots!