Sunday, 29 April 2012

Love Hate, girly skate and no more 3D animate.

So Kernel's animation is all done.
This is quite a major milestone.
That's not entirely true, there are still some tweaks to be done to certain shots and I'm still adding the beautiful details in Kernel's final shot, such as floating debris, flapping fabric and organic growth. I'm actually pretty proud of the shot's animation, so I can only wait to see it rendered once it's finished.
I'm also going to be playing a part in Kernel's sound design now that my place as Animation Director is no longer needed. This will include not only foley but the grunts and groans of Leonard himself. That's right. I will BE Leonard.
Pictured: Me.

Now that my animation 'talents' are no longer needed on Kernel, I'm helping other projects with their animation as well.
One of these is Alice's Love Hate, which is VoxPop short film, similar in principle to Aardman's Creature Comforts, only in 2D.

This bit is of an interview with a young boy who hates everything. I drew these lines in flash, but after animating I was told that they are too clean, and didn't fit Love Hate's more sketchy cut-out look. In an attempt to save time, I tried Photoshop's batch process action to apply a filter to the whole image sequence.
These are the most qualifying filters

The batch process is actually pretty useful, and I also discovered how Actions work, and seems like a great way to give multiple images the same 'feel' with ease. I'll definitely be trying it out in the future. Here are the 'Splatter' and 'Cutout' filters applied to the animation:

Turn it up to 1080 HD and fullscreen, please.

The 'cutout' filter makes it look like the frames have been drawn with a heavy ink pen, wheres the 'splatter' filter makes it looks like it's crawling with spiders.
I feel that the filters will end up not working, and I'll have to just draw over the original lines which won't be difficult, but I will definitely be tedious. This is what interns are for.

In conjunction with our 'professional practice', I have been working on marketing and self promotion.
I've already got a basic website up and running, but lately I've been working on two other approaches. One is a basic idea for my business card:


I decided to not have a definite front or back to the design (hence the 'quotation marks') because to me it just makes sense to have information on both sides. Why would you have information squished up in tiny font on only one side and leave the other blank? The basic design philosophy for these is that I create very graphic designs such as logos and layouts, but inside the white space there is also the weird organic stuff I doodle and draw. It gets my point across before they've even read anything. I'm still refining it, and I don't want to go for this first design because that feels too easy .

The other piece of advertising is printed Tshirts:

This is a test I ordered from CafePress. It cost £20, which isn't too bad seeing as that includes shipping and it's a good quality T-shirt, not some paper thin transparent sliver of cotton. It's a print of this drawing:

Considering I didn't change anything to make printing easier, such as adding halftone-dots for shadows or playing with contrast, the design came out perfectly. Much better than I expected. I also have my logo and website address on the back collar (so people know where to find other things like this).

I have a similar drawing on the way, and I'm definitely considering making it into a T-shirt. This one:

There won't be any watermarks on the final design, plus the colouring isn't finished.

Woo Yeah is going to be coloured and shaded with halftone dots and other things that work better with screen printing. The best advice is to avoid gradients, which can make the shadows look a bit blurry and add colour noise where the colour should be completely flat. For some reason the halftone dot filter in Photoshop uses a gradient as opposed to smaller dots, which I need to figure out how to fix.
Finally I am doing some animation for Insa Burch's 1890, a documentary about the plight of Female skaters. The film features live-action footage with composited animation integrated into the scenes.
These are just stand-ins for position and scale. The final designs will be closer to Insa's hand-drawn, almost woodcut drawing style.

I'm only doing this one shot for the moment, as I'm still unsure of my availability and I don't want to promise work I can't do.

That's all for now. Back to busy work.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

HexMap and Happenings

After working non-stop on a big block of animation for Kernel, I decided to take the weekend working on other projects, ready for Kernel first thing on Monday.

This film is looking goooooood

One under-attended project is Jackson Tayler's projection system, HexMap .
I decided to make a couple of loops for the project, all of which with a running thing of cubes/voxels due to the nature of the system.
These loops are inspired by three main sources:


This is a fun Indie game made by developers Lexaloffle

Voxatron is a simple twin-stick-style shooter rendered in beautiful voxels. The environments are even destructible, crumbling into voxel rubble if the player removes their foundations. One of my favourite things about Voxatron is that if an enemy or object clips off the lower edge of the screen, their fully fleshed out interior is visible. I feel like this mechanic could have been exploited more thoroughly, because it's not a mechanic the most games can pull off with their silly polygons.


A game that re-imagines old-school RPG's in both visual style, gameplay and difficulty. The entire game is made of voxels, and has some lovely lighting effects.

And finally there's Pixels by Patrick Jean.

This beautiful piece of post-production speaks for itself. Just watch it if you haven't already. I love the glassy/waxy effect on the pixels, and how the Earth becomes a lower and lower resolution block.
Now back to Hexmap. The first Loop I managed to finish was a swimming Voxel Shark. Here's the work in progress:

After finding some reference, I made the shark's profile.

I originally intended to do an exploded diagram of all of the shark's voxelly innards. I abandoned the idea soon after realizing how long it would take. I may consider it once I finish some sort of shark loop.

And here is the finished product - All rendered to perfection.

And here it is swimming. hand animated voxel by voxel.
This shark came out much much MUCH better than I was expecting. I'm genuinely impressed and surprised with how it looks. Hooray for me.

for this task I was tempted to use a piece of voxelising software to convert regular polygon mesh into voxels.

I heard however, that voxelising software can be buggy. I haven't had the chance to give the software a go, so it could potentially be brilliant. I like doing it by hand, though, it feels more 'crafted'.
I am still yet to immerse the shark in a HexMap template due to some issues with Maya crashing when saving - but I plan on making the shark move around the Z-X axis to make the swimming a bit more animated. Also adding some bubbles moving through the water would make the shark look like it's travelling. Also, potentially, a sea floor with an animated pixel texture to synthesize the appearance of movement. That will be a mission for either what remains of the evening or tomorrow morning.

Another loop I produced is a beating cube heart.
I initially began a few months ago with these tests (and their nauseating moving lights):

But I had forgotten about them whilst working on Kernel. This weekend, however, I re-rendered the heart and made it HD, brighter and more intense:

Focusing mostly on animation means that I very rarely render anything, so these two short loops provided some challenges and learning experiences (I still have to look up how to render an ambient occlusion pass). Also playing around with the colour correction in After Effects led tho this other render of the heart:

 I quite like it, but I don't think it'll be as popular as the red heart. I've never really played around with post-processing because back in my youth animating in Flash, I'd do all of the colours in Flash itself (making uploading to sites like Newgrounds much easier) so tinkering with effects like bloom and motion blur in post doesn't really occur to me.

I've been doing a lot more pen/biro/marker work lately (mostly to fill the time made by play-blasting animation) but I'm getting more confident with blending and shading with them. Take a look:

Blue Page

Posing Lady

More Markers

Woman and Friend

Woo Yeah!

Other, non-paper experiments include some mock ads for fictional companies as an exercise in designing logos:

Spyleaf Ads [1]

Once piece of feedback described the Henbeck Medical company's logo as 'too busy'. I can see where they're coming from, but the aim of the logo was to convey careful intricacy, and the black 'pixels' overlaying the white heart is meant to reflect the company's devotion and development of prosthetics and artificial implants. One of which being AG NODES, which I will discuss in a later blog post.

Another flight of fancy is this fictional method of providing artificial meat and muscle for prosthetics, which I spent a weekend creating in Maya.
Jackfruit Inc. Muscle Packet

To avoid the assaults and accusations of Animal Rights activists, several companies turned to other ways to provide meat. Some tried producing non-meat alternatives, which while financially viable, never really caught on as the replacement meat. Others grew designer animals which lacked capacity for pain and produced large quantities of muscle. There is, however, issues with hormones contained within the meat.
Jackfruit inc, a biotech company, took the approach of stretching muscle tissue across two bars and using electrical pulses to cause it to contract. An extension of this technology resulted in small meat 'packets', which are fastened to an elasticated conveyor belt and take a matter of weeks to grow to an edible food source.

The company is also collaborating with prosthetics industries to provide natural muscle for basic artificial limbs and synthetic pets.

The company founder Whilton Jack - an eccentric man - uses these packets in his prosthetic leg, and was quoted as saying:
"Sometimes I like to take the pack from my prosthetic and use it for dinner. I like to eat my leg"

Another quick Maya experiment was to model some potential aliens for another speculative biology project alongside Fentil (remember that?) which explores the life that may be inhabiting Saturn's amber-veiled moon, Titan with its thick atmosphere and methane lakes.
So here is a Titan 'Fish'.

They swim through the water by spinning their bodies and modifying the shape, size and angle of the small paddles on their sides.

They are the origin of the body plan for Titan amphibians such as this purple studded lemon thing.

And finally I have a website up and running (sort of).
That's right, is up and running. Even though it's just an HTML skeleton at the moment, I finally have a place to direct potential clients and anyone who is interested in my work, instead of having to direct them to YouTube and explain/apologise for my various internet aliases. Over the coming weeks I'll be improving the look of the site. Initially I was going to use Wordpress to build the site, but the famous '5 minute instillation' is a bit misleading, as it doesn't include getting database management software nonsense to simple install the Wordpress builder in the first place. So for now, HTML will do fine. I feel a little gutted that I no longer have Dreamweaver (I couldn't exchange it for a new OS copy when I got my new computer) so all my HTML and CSS is going to have to be re-learned. I'm still looking for a decent (free) replacement, but for the moment I'm using sites like to learn the basics once more. It has an HTML preview window used for individual lessons it teaches you, but it works with any HTML so you can just enter your website's code to see how it looks and tweak it as necessary.
Feel free to go to my website and click the links - I promise they'll be interesting.

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