Thursday, 30 September 2010

I've moved!

The blog on this page is no longer being updated.
I've now got a wordpress site so I've imported previous posts and will update if from there from now on.

Find me at laurennewman.co.uk

Friday, 11 June 2010

Climate Cat Final Film



Half resolution for internet streaming

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Website

I looked at a variety of different websites which similar climate change themes. Most climate change websites are fairly serious, here aren't too many out there that are entertaining too.

I want to try and present the information and tips in an entertaining way. One idea was to have an interactive website where the user discovers the tips for themselves by exploring the interface. It could be accomplished in flash but I'd need to know the coding/ get somebody else to code for me. Also it would be fairly difficult to update, regular content adds more interest and returning users so I want to be able to add new content with relative ease.

I decided then that a blog format would be best suited to what I want to achieve. I could update and archive occasional tips, combining the serious stuff with video's, games and funny images to keep the audience entertained.

Looking back on this video I thought it might be fun to talk about climate change from the point of view of a cat, adding humor through the cat's take on things. There are plenty of examples where a made up character has an online presence, such as the meercat in the compare the market adverts (has its own facebook page). Of course I'd have to make sure that the humour and entertainment come from a variety of other sources too and not just the fact that it's a cat, that type of humor works well for a first impression but can easily get old and is unlikely to attract regular users.

Hopefully, coming from a cat, the tips wouldn't appear as preachy as if a human were giving them. It's a different perspective and not a completely serious one. Through the tips would be completely valid, they wouldn't be a strict set of rules. For example for travel tips Climate cat could evaluate all the different modes of human transport (even the ridiculous ones) and decide on the best according to his own view on the world (which would also happen to be the view of official climate change organisations such as Act on CO2).

Logo design



Website working progress

I commissioned the L5's to produce short (10-15 second), entertaining animations for use on the website under the categories Water, Energy, Waste, Travel and Diet/Lifestyle. I wrote them a brief so that they were clear on what they had to do.

I achieved mixed results, some were more entertaining than others. Some told the information in a plain way, others had a humorous twist. A few were great too look at, others not so much so I will have to pick and choose which to display and which to leave out.

The content will be from a variety of sources, found links and resources, climate change news, fun games that I come across, other climate change films that I find. I will commission some content and make some myself, the rest will be found from elsewhere on the Internet. Eventually I'd like to get to the point where people come to me asking for their film/ game to go on the site rather than me asking them if I could use it.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Floating Cat

More work in progress...



I'm pretty happy with the timing of the animation and most of the acting. I like the man's double take, the motion of the cat floating on the waves and all of the camera angles. I just need to improve the ending a little, have the man stand up a little sooner and smoother, and show a bit of anticipation before the movement.

I've begun rendering some of my scenes, refining the lighting before doing so. Lighting my scenes properly has been an interesting learning process, especially when it comes to light linking as I'd not used it before. It allows me to set up or remove the light links for specific lights and geometry. I used it on the light responsible for the underwater caustics, making sure it only lit up the sea bed and nothing else.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Kitty wants fishy

I like the cat's reaction to the fish and the way his eyes follow it. I also like his poses and the way he moves his tail as it looks very cat like. I'm not too sure about the final camera angle, it could probably do with being a bit closer to the action, then again I like that the cat looks towards the camera as if asking to go out.



If anybody reads this, let me know what you think :)

Friday, 21 May 2010

Work in progress

Here's my current work in progress, I'm still to animate the last scene (where the cat's inside looking out) and make a few improvements to the other scenes but its looking good so far.

Reference videos

video

video



Adding sounds, even if they're rough really helps to see how the final composition might feel. I think the man's shocked reaction could be exaggerated a bit more, perhaps by having him do a double take.

I veered slightly from my original storyboard where the cat is on the other side of the glass looking scared and trying to get in, by having the cat come in through the window. This was mainly because after modelling the house, I realised the shot couldn't quite work in that way without having the cat stand on something, only there was nothing for him to stand on, only water.

After watching this though my tutors gave me the idea of having the cat float by on something- a bin lid perhaps looking pretty scared. The next scene could still show the cat inside, without the need for actually showing him jump inside.

Another suggestion was to (between the scenes of chucking the cat out and waking up) have the man dream of water or fish, something to hint at the ending without giving it away completely.

I still need to find someone to do the voice over 'Don't let climate change take you by surprise' and 'Find out more at Climatecat.co.uk'. I don't think I'll have time to actually make the website before the deadline, but its on the books, I'll design a few sample pages to how it could look.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Kitty gets dropped

Here's a playblast of the first few scenes. The man kicks the cat but the cat doesn't budge and instead tries to sneak back inside. The man picks the cat up and drops it into the wet outdoors.

Reference videos

video

video

Story wise, I've followed Ed hooks, each character acts to achieve an objective, overcoming an obsticle. The cats objective at first is to go outside, its obsticle is the door. When he sees the rain, that becomes his new obsticle, new conflict with the situation. His objective changes to going back inside and his obsticle is now the man, who he has to sneak around. The man's objective is to put the cat out, his conflict/ obsticle is with the cat itself, who doesn't want to.

For this one I really tried to get across the mood of the cat, cats swish their tails for lots of reasons but mainly when they're angry. I also tried to represent the weight of the cat when picked up and dropped. I've noticed that when picked up around their belly they tend to just go fairly limp and not struggle. And obviously when dropped, cats always land steadily on their feet.



I like the movement of the cat, and the weight of it, I think the drop could be sped up a little though, at the moment its a little feather-like. After showing it to my tutors they also made a few suggestions including have the cat turn around more before cutting for continuity.

No cats were harmed in the making of this animation, a few people were though...

video

Friday, 14 May 2010

Kitty says no

Seeing the rain outside, the cat decides against going outside. The man, having just opened the door for the cat, looks exasperated.

reference video:

video

Its hard to see in the small video below but I like the man's expressions and the way the cat sits down and looks up at the man.
I've retained a very useful piece of information about blinking from somewhere, So important I don't even remember where I learned it originally but it's been very useful. I recently had a top up in this article, but not before I was subconsciously following the advice while animating.

The most useful use of a blink is to show a characters thinking process. When they have an idea, switch from one emotion to another or when they realise something, a person will always blink.

Blinks in random places can look unnatural, people blink for a reason.
Rapid blinks make the character feel shy, uncomfortable, nervous, relieved or like they're just about to cry. No blinks at all give your character an angry or intense feel or can make them look dead.

video

I like how you can almost see the thought process of the cat, he looks at the rain then blinks (when he changes his mind about going outside), then sits down. Equally the man blinks when his emotion changes from apathetic to annoyed.

It has been said that 90% of acting is in the eyes, I think that's very true.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Kitty wants out

I've started animating, starting with the hardest scenes, though the first couple of scenes are some of the hardest. I took reference videos a couple of days ago for the man's movement. Getting reference videos for the cat was harder, as animals tend to be less cooperative than boyfriends, but I found just observing my own cat has helped.


video


video

I think the cat could jump up a little faster, and his tail twitches when it's not supposed to. The man's movement also needs a lot of work, as i was focusing more on the cat to start with. The timing is ok, he just looks a bit robotic as his hips don't move much yet. I think the cat should also move away from the door faster, as at the current rate he's due to get hit by it.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

More Scenery and Render Tests

For my work experience with the Sikh Channel I experimented with creating water for use in a small stream. I went over the different settings available from simulating the flow of water to creating ripples and wakes to vast oceans and small ponds. Maya has settings for ocean and ponds, the pond is a small body of water suitable for swimming pools, ponds and the like. Ocean stretches out to the horizon with regular adjustable waves.

It was clear that Maya's Ocean was ideal for my use. When I tried it, the default settings on their own needed only small colour adjustments to create the effect that I wanted above water...



It was just underwater that was the problem, the water surface looked good, but there was no sense of depth to the environment. Normally when things are far away underwater, they appear slightly faded as they are obscured by dissolved material.



In typical underwater scenes, the distance fades into a mass of blue.





I added a cube fog to try and replicate the effect.



It's looking better but it still needs some underwater caustics (like you see on the dolphins above) where light shines through rippling waves. At the moment the house looks a bit like its floating in space, the caustics should highlight the ground and make it look more like a sea bed.

I mapped a sequence of caustic images onto the sunlight directional light to give me the effect I was after.



Unfortunately the caustics also appear above water on the house so I had to break the light links on the house's geometry and add a separate directional light for the house.



I'm pretty happy with this result.

I wanted to see if I could recreate light rays passing through the water like this:



So I added a spotlight with a light fog mapped with the caustic texture to recreate rays passing through the water. Its a nice effect but I think its more suitable for deeper water.



Final underwater effect



As seen from the window

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Scenery and L5 Contribution

I wanted the house to be 2 storey, an upstairs bedroom would have more of an impact if the waterline ends up under the window. I wasn't sure how realistic I wanded the house to be and what sort of shape. I did a quick test on a tall cartoony building.



Even though the height of the rooms is in proportion, it makes the house look too tall. I began to look into roof dormers to bring the needed height down a little.

Something like the house in family guy, but not quite as big.



Or like the house in UP but not quite as old.



This is my result, the textured version.



I created a simple scene file for the first couple of scenes where the owner chucks the cat out into the rain. For the sky I just mapped a sphere with a stock image of a 360 degree cloudy sky. For the rain I used paint effects for a simple 3D rain effect. I could add rain in after effects later on but I think this rain looks fine for my purposes.



I decided to make the top windows a little wider



I rigged the curtains with a blendshape so that they would appear to open just by moving a controller. I had experimented with maya's nCloth for this but it made the scene far too heavy.

Curtains test

video

Modelling the bed with a box modelling technique and beveling the edges.
The curved head board of the bed was made bt extruding a face along a curve and mirroring it to the other side.




For the bed cover I used Maya's nCloth to simulate draping material but then frose it in place so its just a polygon mesh.



Will from the L5 class moddled this bedside table setup for me.



I put textures on the objects to match the bed. The picture frame holds a picture of the cat in a sitting pose.



Another L5 moddled a lamp for me too, but I found it too high poly to use in my scene.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Fishy

The fish body started off as a lofted surface, converted to polygons.



I then split and extruded faces to make the fins, tail and eye socket.



The texture reference is this fish.





I added a sine deformer and a nurbs controller.



I attatched the controls of the sine deformer to new attributes on the controller, making sure to give 'offset' an unlimited maximum value so the fish can keep swimming.


video

To animate, I attatched the controller to a motion path and set keys for the sine offset at the start and end, careful not to key anything else.



I'm very happy with the result, the fish movement is realistic. The rig makes animating the fish along any path a lot easier.

Rendered fish

Friday, 23 April 2010

Rigging- Man

For the man, there were settings to automatically create a bipedal character without the need to add separate parts, it was just a matter of scaling and positioning it to my character.



Finished rig, the only weight painting I had to do for this one was for the bathrobe, to make it move with the legs.



With the face rig widget it was similar, just a matter of positioning curves instead of objects.



The rig worked in all areas apart from the eye, it was just a matter of the weights being where they shouldn't be.



Painting out the weights fixed the problem.



Finished face rig



With the hair I applied a slight jiggle deformer to the ends so that they would shake a little when the man moves his head quickly.

video

Quick face test

video

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Rigging- Cat

I followed the manual that came with the Setup machine to rig the cat. Each body section (colour coded) was added one by one, the front legs as one and the back legs as another. When first added, the proportions, rotations and shapes were set to match a humanoid character but it didn't take long to match them to my cat character.



Once the parts are set up to match your character you can rig it in a couple of clicks.


For the eyes I followed this tutorial, the eyeballs are connected to the controller with aim constraints and the eyelids to the eyelid controllers also with aim constraints.



For the mouth I added an extra joint, added the influence to the mesh, parented the joint to the head and painted the weights so that only the bottom part of the mouth is influenced when the jaw is opened.



Some of the weights needed altering on the belly and the legs.




I decided I needed a few more edge loops around the stomach, after adding them and altering the weights, the deformation of the stomach is much better.



I added joints inside the ears and connected them the same way I connected the jaw. I then just displayed the selection handles so that the joints could be easily selected and rotated.



When testing the rig I found that the eyelids played up when rotating the head, I realised that it had something to do with the constraints I'd put on them. Though I'd followed the tutorial, the setup was obviously unsuitable if i couldn't have my cat blink wile his head is rotated.

video

I fixed the problem by creating driven keys, with the controllers as the drivers (y axis) and the eyelid rotate (x axis) as the driven. The result is much better.

video

Monday, 19 April 2010

Sea Life Centre!

To get reference images and videos for fish, I visited the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham. A lot of the fish there are tropical and exotic varieties, perfect for animation with their bright colours and interesting shapes. It was also a good reference for lighting and rendering for the underwater scenes.





























Video references were very useful too, I can't upload them all here but here is one of the best when it comes to both fish movement and underwater caustics.


video

Observing fish I've realised that they move almost their whole bodies from side to side- not just their tail, to propell themselves forward. I will need to be able to replicate this when I rig and animate any fish that I model.