Client Project Update 2

First off: following last week’s PRP lecture, where the research project being discussed was practically the same as mine with a different title, I’ve done a rethink of my current and upcoming artefacts and come up with a game plan – however, this did leave me with not as much time as I’d like to get responses for my current artefact, so I’m planning on proposing my presentation till next week. Also, I’ve caught a chest cold which has rendered it a bit difficult to talk for prolonged periods without getting wheezy and start coughing. I really want to get this right, and if that means pushing things back a week then so be it.

Onto Client, and I will admit it’s been a little neglected due to the PRP (my brain goes into a certain mode and doesn’t come out of it for a few days; it gets a little tiresome at times). But I am entering the final stages before sending them off to my client for a final once-over, so you’re getting a backlog update.

My client thought the second cover design was the strongest of the two, but was a little concerned about the religious imagery being a little too overt. So I went for the idea of it being a huge machine of some sort in a nebula billowing gas and creating new stars. I also added in a spacecraft to give a better sense of scale (i.e.: this thing is huge).

I always seem to lean towards to the surreal when it comes to things like this, and as I was sketching a design for the machine I decided to make its face resemble The Scream, with the open mouth having gas pouring from sort of like the “breath of life.”

I started blocking the shape in for the robot which is coming out really well. But at some point, I’m not sure when exactly, I looked at it and thought the composition was off, so I shrank everything so that it wasn’t taking up most of the frame. The colour of the robot is bothering me a lot though, and I think I need to make it blend into the colour of the nebula more since the idea is to have it mostly shrouded in gas.

For the other cover, my client was concerned that the two were too similar in theme (he was right; as previously mentioned my brain goes into a certain mode and refuses to come out of it), and gave a few suggestions to explore. One of them was “if dragons developed a society what would a member of a religious order look like?” There are no prizes for guessing what happened next – especially after I realised that I had already been playing with the same idea for the past few years in my spare time. I’ve been actively avoiding dragons in my work these past three years (not counting my Norse myth board game which had a couple), but by this point I’ve really begun to miss having the opportunity to paint huge “badass” dragons so I leapt at the chance and immediately sat down to work through the idea in my sketchbook:

It ought to be noted that when it comes to dragons I tend to avoid giving them armour and such – I’m rather logical with these kinds of things and the question keeps popping up as to how they would craft them in the first place seeing as they haven’t the hands for it. Also, much like a stag or gorilla, it makes sense that they would more likely grow any signs of status as part of their biology rather than use adornments.

I tend to have problems with foreshortening in my art (I’ve never been able to judge distance very well), so I make use of DAZ Studio to act as a reference model (no pun intended). The tie into the religion theme is that it’s pulling itself out of a temple (maybe it’s been stuck there, maybe it’s its cave with a fancy entrance; it could be either), hence the doorway visible at the back.

Also: DAZ Studio is the only program I have ever encountered that saves backwards. I’m not joking, the progress bar actually goes the wrong way at one point.

I was a bit annoyed with the pose I originally decided on, seeing as I’ve actually seen it a number of times in artwork. So I altered the angle (note: it is very hard to get any sort of sense of motion in these models). I did like the idea that it’s also using its wings to pull itself out of its hole, so that stayed in. Originally the mouth was closed because dragons with their mouths open are, to put it mildly, a bit overdone. But it just looked too passive, and passive isn’t a word I’d associate with a dragon of this design. So I did a reference with the mouth open as well.

The next 4 shots are various stages of the blocking (Wings 3D was used to create a rough horn as it was a pain to judge the perspective on it). The statues are very obviously a copy-and-paste job, but the head on the far one either needs reworking, or it gets hidden by the far wing (the latter is looking increasingly likely). The open mouth is still only half done as it’s rather tricky to sort out the angle of the bottom jaw. The neck needs reworking to add more tension into it, as does the far paw – I need to change it so it’s digging its claws into the step. I think I’ll also add in the remains of the head of the near statue as well to add something to the bottom of the image as it’s looking rather bare.

For the doorway, I’m currently looking these for reference:

The idea is to make the detail on the door look like it was carved with claws – meaning the detail isn’t as fine as the images here.

The Cat Piano

io9 is one of my favourite blogs but, occasionally, it takes me by surprise with what it posts. Last month, it posted an animated short that completely blew me away. Everything about it; the art style, the narrative, the animation, the sound; was utterly superb, and it left me wanting more in this world.

I firmly believe that everyone should see this at least once.

Final Animation post of the year.

Okay I admit it. This should have been up before now. In my defence I hit a sort of burnout after hand in and combined with me being scatterbrained it ended up low on the list.

I’ll say this: modelling and rigging characters = piece of cake. Wiring parameters also equals piece of cake. Cameras and x-referencing scenes to avoid a program crash (I hit double figures during this. You do NOT want to know how visualisation went in that regard) equals a pain up the arse. I also learnt to next time not model anything in excess of 100 units tall because this makes the sets you need to build ridiculously huge. Once you’re hitting 4 digits in the XYZ coordinates it starts getting unbelievably silly.

The best thing I ever learnt during this project was just how damn useful hiding stuff is. Even if you’re reaching stupid amounts of polygons, hiding stuff you don’t need is a lot less taxing on the processor. The best thing I learnt though on top of that was that you can hide some of the polygons of an object. It was an absolute godsend when using morph targets let me tell you.

Anyway, here are screengrabs, in order, of the three featured characters’ rigs, one character that never made it into the final animation (the proportions are considerably off on that one), a couple of the two ‘sets’ and finally stills from the animation itself, where it becomes obvious that the lighting went bonkers.

The final animation has no sound effects (except for a couple of “voices”), instead I used royalty-free music from this site. I think I’ve also “Gainaxed” the ending (meaning that it doesn’t really make sense – “Gainaxed” refers to Studio Gainax’s ultra-confusing ending to Neon Genesis Evangelion). Also, I swear the shadows were turned on for the lights. *checks* Yep, they were on. They just refused to work how I would expect them to work (like, you know, actually cast a shadow on the other objects!). Also, can I just say that rigging and animation a 4-legged creature is very tricky? I may know a lot about animal biology, but trying to get it to walk right was still a serious effort. Anyway…

After The End is set in a world where humans are long gone, leaving being a myriad of weird creatures, which are constantly menaced by these robotic “angels” (I never figured a name). In this, it all starts when a strange wraith-like creature called Dormin happens across a broken piece of horn…

Couple of fun facts – 1) The reversed dialogue I used for the Angel is part of the Zagreus poem from the Doctor Who audio of the same name (yes, I am a total geek) and 2) Dormin’s arm does a rather bizarre 360 at one point (the bit when he reaches his hand out in the tunnel). It’s hard to spot due to the lighting, but it’s the only time it does that in the whole thing (I didn’t know how to get the elbow to work with a look-at constraint).

Scatter-brain’s back again

OK, I’ve kinda forgot to post during the weekend. It’s not that I’m goofing off or anything, the opposite really. I get so absorbed in whatever I set out to do that everything else kinda flies out of the window (I was doing some fantasy world building and I spent a good 4 hours working out the scale the other day, and now I’m trying to figure out time lines). Also, we finally got our hands on a Wii, so we spent a fair bit of time testing it on Friday before putting it away for Xmas (ok, so I sneaked in a bit of Wii Sports Tennis while I was at it – can you blame me?). So I was a bit distracted. Although you could say I was investigating the interactivity of the control system – I just forgot to take notes (granted, it consisted mainly of making the cursor go 360 degrees by tilting the wii-mote).

Learnt a bit about the next module in Tutorial. The Identity project is about representing yourself. That’s going to be interesting.

We’re on an individual project for Narrative now, which if I’m honest I’m very¬†happy about. Running around to meet up with your group is a pain when you have to take an hour’s bus ride there and back. In the lecture (where the pc was still being stubborn – the only one on campus without Google SketchUp btw) we were discussing what is narrative, and whilst there was a bit of confusion over it (I’m still not sure what ‘agency’ is) it kinda made sense. Funny coincidence that I’d been reading about the Three Act Structure recently as I’m working on writing a story, although my info was different to what Jools said. This was the page I was looking at.

We’re having to a interactive piece consisting of still images where the user is required to make decisions – a bit like those Pick Your Own Adventure books which I read a fair few of at school. And I’ve been kinda stumped how to go about it. Then I had an eureka moment while reading a book I brought recently: John Howe Fantasy Art Workshop. There’s a couple of instances where he mentions narrative, and one sentence in particular about a painting of Beowulf’s funeral for me sums up the whole narrative.

Beowulf’s Funeral

“The rest is left to the imagination.”

And that’s precisely it. Narrative is the same as Story, but Story is not the same as Plot. Think of it like a journey. Plot would be the roadmap, it gets you from A to B with minimal fuss and total understanding. Story, and indeed Narrative is more akin to setting off in the general direction of your destination and using your own knowledge and understanding (and in some cases imagination) to arrive at it, and maybe if you’re lucky happen across a few extra things that you normally wouldn’t have considered doing so. With Story, you could have a roadmap, but there’s always the option of taking a detour to look at something not on the main route.

Look at most fantasy art and you’ll find a narrative just below the surface, which is why I love it.