Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Sorry. I've been busy, alright!? Here, it's a big'n.

There's a lot of ground to cover.

Fentil: Another Life

So after the sweatbox, I have found out that Fentil: Another Life wasn't picked for production.
Sort of.

Instead of green lighting the entire film, we've been okay'd to produce one shot - one extremely realistic, detailed shot. The issue now is to decide which shot will be the most profound.

Fentil: Another Life - Production Bible

While I understand that Another Life was probably too ambitious, due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to add to the animatic (using feedback from James Henry, a helpful script writer who came to talk to us). These additions would have added the much needed drama and tension to make the 'baby needs to eat' story tangible.
While they may not be used, here are those extra frames in context.

This would probably have been a much more ambitious project, and the production bible includes the spear dropper and octopoid information.
As for deciding which shot to choose, I really like the Spear Dropper swooping down. The problem is that we have none of those aliens rigged or even modelled. From a realistic standpoint, it has to be one of the Platehead shots.

Oh well.

I've lately been following a guy named Greg Broadmore, who does lots of cool art and works for Weta. He has worked on concept art for District 9, King Kong and other films.

He's basically amazing.
He also has a project called Dr Grordbort's Which is a steampunk vision of old-timey hunters going to other planets to hunt for trophies. Recently, Media Design School in New Zealand has taken on his world and designs and have made a short film of it.
"The Deadliest Game" poster
An 'Aether Oscillator' used by the huntsmen
This is probably my favourite of his aliens. Look for it at OO:16. I really like its legs.

Here's the teaser.
This is what I want Another Life's shot to be like. Pretty.


On the same topic of work, I've been doing some rigging for Olly's project: Kernel. I only really have one character to rig (Leonard, the old man) so I can really focus on making him spectacular.

So far we have:
  • Leg IK's
  • Heel Peel
  • Tip Toe
  • Heel pivot
  • Toe Pivot
  • Toe Tap
  • Back rotation controls
I'm also planning on putting in foot roll (side to side) and toe splay (as Leonard is barefoot). I'll also be implementing my lovely eyelid flicky mechanism.
I'll also be looking into rigging his luscious beard.

This is what I'll be working on until I go back to the parents' place for christmas, where I have no access to fancy animation software. Then it'll be more dissertation work.

Dissertation Business

Somewhat under-represented on this blog (and I suppose many other animator's blogs) is my Dissertation research (the capital 'D' shows how fearful I am of that word).
My basic topic is horror, and my argument is something like "Video games are the perfect medium for Horror, and are much more capable at scaring us than Film."

Rolls off the tongue, I know.

So that's the basic premise, and my goal is to try and prove that video games have the capacity to scare us in ways which film never can and never will. I'll be addressing topics such as immersion, the psychology of horror, why we love to be scared, and the history of Horror as a genre. I will be analysing various horror films and games to get a decent scope. My major case studies, however, will be Silent Hill 2, Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Dead Space 2, as I feel that combined, these games cover most of the horror spectrum. They are also pretty scary.

The most recent book I've been reading is "Projected Fears: Horror Films and American Culture" by Kendall R. Phillips.

It discusses how Horror is very much a contemporary genre, feeding on the fears and unrest in the society it is born from. Be it immigration of Eastern Europeans during Dracula's theatrical release in the '30s, or the fear of advanced military flying machines during the '50s, where most alien invasion movies were born.
The Dead Space series also has this cultural resonance, as it deals with the repercussions of the separation of church and state, a fairly big issue in America at the moment.

Unfortunately, I've been neglecting this written work up until now, so I'll have to work my buns off over the holidays to get this under control.
Wish me luck.

Pictured: Buns

Demmy's Doodles

Despite being busy with all this work, I have also got some nice doodles to show:

Evil Butterfly


Just Hanging Out


Tree Face

King Giblets

Shankbat Taxonomy

I haven't really had time to do any digital work lately.


Watch things:

Story of Genki???
Fun nonsense from the amazing David O'Reilly.

Destructo Box
Destructo Box is my new favourite series. It's clever and funny. Watch it.

First Contact

First Contact from Media Design School on Vimeo.

These are the same guys making/made the 'The Deadliest Game'short.

Now I am back off to swim. Splash.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Dinosaurs, Directing and D-ayne Darlowe...?

So apparently there's a new dinosaur CG series out there. It comes from Discovery Channel in the US, and I'm sure this one will be different than all of their other action-oriented, over the top CG documentaries on animals...


This makes no sense.

The skull-faced Tyrannosaur says it all,really. This isn't even slightly aimed to educate. It's just for the action. The bizarrely directed, convoluted action.

So, Dinosaur Revolution is essentially Discovery Channel's answer to Planet Dinosaur.
Watching clips of Dinosaur Revolution has put Another Life into some perspective in terms of animation quality and performance, and has almost guaranteed that Another Life will be cut down, to ensure that the footage we make doesn't look like this - their animations are too cartoony and/or weighless and/or bad, and the dinosaurs act more like characters than creatures. This is an issue that will need to be kept in check with Another Life. Also it has taught me a lesson in shooting - Dinosaur Revolution is quite cinematic in its choice of camera angles - and falls flat as a documentary because of it. I have learned. Although, the models and compositing look lovely.
The problem with cutting the film down to a manageable length is difficult - as the current narrative is already compressed enough. I may have to re-write the storyboard, removing the original story arc of "Poor Plateahead, that bright-eye is evil. Oh wait, no it isn't, it's just feeding its baby" and replace it with something more shallow, focusing more on the action. Perhaps beginning with the slow establishing landscape shots, and cutting right to the chase. (No pun intended, but you can laugh if you like).
I have a newer idea for a shorter intro.

Fentil orbiting slowly in front of Olympus, Slow zoom into the mediterranean continent.

Cut - A closer, satellite-esque shot of the continent as the Fentil rolls slowly underneath. Slow zoom.

Cut - A high, helicopter-like shot flying towards the Tile Top plain.

Cut - Closer shot of Tile Top plain showing grazing Plateheads.

Doing these long, slow shots can save animation time while filling screen time. I was told in the production meeting earlier this week that these filler shots can be a life saver. As I said earlier, I may have to re-write the entire storyboard.

Speaking of Plateheads, I have received feedback from CG coach on their design.
This is the newest reference sheet I'm working on for the Platehead.

I always get caught up in making it look pretty.

Apparently model needs more definition of muscles and skeletal system visible through the skin, which is a fair criticism. I'm grateful for the feedback, but I'm worried that I might get too caught up in their suggestions and alter the original designs.

The visual feedback

One of the comments seemed to be that the proportions weren't T-rex enough - which is most likely because they probably aren't as educated on TailFeeder anatomy as I am (how could they be) so I will probably be spending a decent portion of my feedback discussions explaining how they work. It feels silly, but I think I'd rather they know that I chose to make certain parts a certain way, and not that I just don't understand anatomy.
I also don't think that sentence makes too much sense.

Finally, on the topic of aliens, I recently discovered that Wayne Barlowe (very good artist) has a Wordpress website. I'm pretty sure this is new, but people on the internet tell me otherwise. Not only does he have great, strange designs, but the way he renders them with pencil is just beautiful and tangible.

Anyway, so this website has some of his best work, including some of the concept art for AVATAR (Which I had no idea was actually in capitals)

As well as some concepts for Dante's Inferno

And also some useful drawings of some of his Expedition Aliens.

THIS one in particular would have been useful about a year ago when I modeled this Arrowtongue, using a reference sheet I made by studying various other drawings from the book

Shameless plug

Now then, back to writing a narrator script.
Oh yeah, I'm definitely having a narrator now. It'll help convey what's going while also saving time.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Fleshed out. Delicious flesh.

I have been doing more modeling on the Platehead. I had also forgotten to take a screenshot of my making of the head - which I had to make twice.

I still need to add the spiracles (nostrils) along the back, but this rough model is mostly complete, ready to be scupted in Mudbox to add lovely details and wrinkles etc. Then to Mari to texture the horrid thing.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Prey on its way

I haven't done modeling in quite some time, so this is going to be a bit of a challenge to complete.

The challenge being, of course, to model one of Another Life's stars, the herbivorous PlateHead.

So far I have almost completed a rough model (although apparently is too detailed) just to get the shape.
I imagine this is the level of detail for an initial model, as opposed to my more detailed one:

Modeling really isn't my forte, so if I'm not happy with my creation, then I may pass it along to a more competant modeler who wants to be part of the project.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Bitchin' Pitchin'

It's over.
It's finally over.

I actually feel like the pitch for Another Life went pretty well, I certainly got some good feedback from the panel, as well as from fellow students. It feels good to have all that stress and worry behind us. There were some other good pitches that day, and some not so good. We'll have to wait for tomorrow to see.

For the pitch I pretended I was a XenoBiologist called Adden Mesa (my favourite pseudonym) and I was representing Triple Dash, the film company to be producing the alien wildlife documentary. Here's the covers of their 'previous work' which I used for the pitch...

Okay, so that last one wasn't fresh for the pitch, it's an older piece I made a while ago for a similar idea, but for Titan. Behind Titan's Amber Veil may still be a reality, though it'll be a spare time venture.

I also tried using a lovely turnaround of a Tile Top plant:

However, something went wrong on the day and I had to use a still frame, instead. One of my favourite slides was the final frame, which has a page of 'sponsors' of the documentary.

With reputable companies such as ExoSkin - top manufacturers of EVA suits, and Genevieve Robotics - leading specialists in AI and robotics, the expedition was already very well supported. I like this frame because it let me really get embedded in the fiction.

Now, nothing to do with the pitch, but a while ago I stayed up all night/morning and did some doodles with biro. These were fun, as I abandoned my usual graphic, clean lines and got to draw in a much looser, scribbly style.


Crazy Face

Four Portraits Of Dark Men

That's all for now. Back to working.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


Wit the Pitch hurtling its way towards us, I have a completed 'wow' image, which will hopefully get across what I'm planning for the Fentil: Another Life film. For those interest in how I did it, here's the Work In Progress(es)
And the finished piece.

I also have a fairly decent draft of my "script" for my pitch:
Good afternoon/morning, my name is Adden Mesa, I am a xeno-biologist and I am here to represent Triple Dash, a company which specializes in non-terran filming and documentaries.
We have a very successful film history, with 2 Europa dives under our belt and we are soon to be releasing our documentary on the Saturnine moon, Titan. And with award winning documentaries - such as "Mars' Red Fossils" and "Europa: The Frozen Ocean", we are certainly capable of taking on another challenge.

---Strange Sounds---

These are the sounds of yet another alien world. Our newest project, which we call "Fentil: Another Life" , marks a milestone as the first alien wildlife documentary not filmed in our Solar System - documenting a new specimen of complex life in the universe around us. This is an tremendous opportunity.

Discovered in 2253, Fentil is one of 5 larger-than-Earth moons orbiting a huge rocky planet tentatively called Olympus. Fentil has gravity stronger than that of Earth, a thicker atmosphere, and once roughly every 4 Earth-months, it is eclipsed by Olympus, shrouding the moon in total darkness for weeks. Scientists have been studying Fentil for almost half a decade and still the public know very little about this strange place. Like all of the great documentarians before us, our film aims to educate the public about the weird and wonderful things that nature can produce.
We are particularly interested in the mediterranean continent, studying the predatory behaviours of a ubiquitous 6-legged hunter that scientists have dubbed the "Bright-Eye", due to the two luminous spots on its head. We believe that these strange hunters lack jaws, instead using two tube-like probosces to 'core' flesh from its prey.
The entire area is covered in plants named by xeno-botanists as "Tile Tops" . Tile Tops have a hollow lattice trunk and a flat, drumskin-like blue cap. These plants are so strong that they support communities of grazers which feed on the photosynthetic cap. One of the most common groups of animals feeding here are the herbivorous "Platehead", named so because of its flat, circular head.

We wish to document the predator-prey relationship between the BrightEye and the Platehead. So far, all footage from Fentil has been classified for research, but we have been able to disclose a single photograph of these animals from a geologists' probe, and this image showing stalking behavior is what peaked our interest in these animals in particular.
As well as this photograph, I have personally drawn some field sketches of these aliens and other Fentil wildlife from one of the first human-borne expeditions to the moon.
In a similar manner to our previous documentary films, we will be aiming for entry to Film Festivals, with our target being the general public with an interest in seeing wildlife.

Our goal with 'Another Life' is to show the parallels between life on Fentil and that of Earth, and that despite the visual, anatomical and biomechanical differences, the same patterns of nature are universal.
Despite backing by many reputable companies, we are still hoping to gain additional funding to ensure that our expedition is successful and completed safely.

What do you think? I'll also be dressed up in what hopefully will be a suit - I want to look convincing as...something. It'll be fun to pretend, and hopefully it'll make my pitch more memorable.

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