Discipline of Choice

So for my discipline of choice I wanted to try something new with the environments I create, usually I stick to hard surface modelling creating interior environments and stone structures. This time however I wanted to create something with fluid in it as well an organic creature. Recently the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean came out and it got me thinking about 2nd movie with the Kraken attack. This lead me to planning a dynamic kraken scene based on Dead Man’s Chest.

My main concern was the water, at first I thought of creating the water in maya using bifrost but I found that that lead to complications with importing it to marmoset which is the program I use for rendering my models. So I ruled that out, instead my cousin Michael told me about a program called Cinema4D. I used a plugin called Hot4D for Cinema4D that allows you to create realistic water and texture it. It wasn’t a difficult process as there are tonnes of online tutorials for it. The hard part was bringing it into marmoset and getting a luminance shader for marmoset. It was a challenge getting it to work but it worked really well. It was a little trouble finding the balance between blue and the green hue that the sea emits.

For the tentacles of the Kraken I originally used some curve tools in maya and then extruded a cylinder along the curve. After that I exported them in zbrush, after sculpting the suckers and such in zbrush I then zremeshed it so it was a low poly mesh and baked it. After that I brought it into substance painter and exported it into marmoset.

Here you can see some renders of the final product as well as some earlier versions. I will also include a link to my artstation so you can see the marmoset viewer. It is lower quality since I don’t have a pro subscription but it still shows it off quite well.

This project was a challenge, it brought me out of my comfort zone in terms of creating an interesting scene but it’s nice to do something different. Up until now I have been creating environments and assets with not real story to them, they are just environments. However with this piece of work there is so much going on and I think I did well achieving a dynamic scene which is what I was aiming for. I wanted to make it seem like the scene was in motion.

I can still however pick flaws with, the most notably being the water and the lack of foam. With the water breaking on the ship and the tentacles there should be water lapping up against them rather than the objects just sitting in the middle of the water. Sadly I haven’t figured out how to do this in Hot4D, I know you use a vertex map to create the foam but I haven’t learned how to put it into practice but I will eventually. However I have been working on this for a month on and off and there comes a point where you have to say it’s done.

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30 Second Animation – Initial Ideas to Final Story

So for our initial ideas we had to look at opposites like hard and soft. So once we were set the assignment we sat together and wrote out as many opposites as we could think of and we thought of a lot. After that was done, we picked some of these that we liked or that we thought would be interesting enough to create a story out of. From this we went away and each came up with a few stories to start inspiring a few short stories for the animation to get the ball rolling. Below are two stories I came up with. The first depicts a person working on his computer at night, the computer crahses and he slams his head on the desk in despair. The second shows a tall pencil and a short rubber. The pencil gloating at the short rubber who is angry about being short. a hand grabs the pencil and pulls it off screen. Pencil shavings fly onto screen. the pencil is placed back on the table now short. The rubber smiles down at him in a superior way. It cuts to the shadow of a hand coming into view over the rubber as it looks up in horror.

Everyone brought their own ideas forward, Meabh was particularly taken with the idea of a mystery/film noir style story. One thing that kept coming back was the use of a thriller or horror element. So we ran with it. At the start of first year when working with Paul McGrath, Matthew Hamill and Fiona McLaughlin they showed me and Rebecca Blair a process of coming up with a narrative. each person writes down a line of a story and passes it to the next person and they continue the story. Once you get to the first person you read the story out. We had a go at this to see what we could come up with. We got kinda carried away but it did get our creative abilities going. We also had a look at some creepy pasta short stories and other 2 line short stories to see what they would be like. This is what spawned our first idea of a creature in the mirror.

short story inspiration

From this we made a story. A man hears a knock at the mirror, it becomes louder and more violent, man runs from room into bathroom, bathroom mirror begins to knock. This was the starting point on our creation of our final story. There was a lot of mishaps and developments between this story and the final. From this first draft we went on to create a very complicated story involving the characters reflection being ripped from the inside of the mirror as the character reacts in horror before meeting a similar demise himself. As time passed and we started modelling and rigging we realised that this would kill us in the process so in the end we narrowed it down and simplified the story. However in the process we learned a lot of valuable lessons. Make risks but don’t try and create something that will be out of your set time. Good stories don’t need to be complicated. When you are in first year animation stick to your guns, yes experiment and reach for the stars but don’t pull an Icarus and fly to close to sun and crash and burn. I don’t regret any part of the creation of our story and I think we learned a lot from what we did and did not do.

At the start we wanted to have it scare people, send a chill down the back of their necks as they watched but soon did we realise that that was a very difficult task to pull off in 30 seconds. We had been told numerous times by Michael and Conánn to add a twist like the character is actually scary or the monster does something funny but we carried on doing what we were doing and we paid for it. As our story went on and after numerous re-scripts, re-shoots with the animatic we were drained and had hit a lot of bumps and dead ends. At this point we decided to finally take Michael’s advice and it paid off greatly. We made the story better, we cut one of the hardest parts of our story out so it made life a lot easier for us. We changed the story entirely basically, we made it into more of a kisch comedy paying a bit of a homage to Tim Burton with the expressionist architecture and design and the quirky, weird characters. We changed the monster to be opposed to the characters design with a tall, hard body and wide gaping mouth and long, wavy, uncontrollable arms. The story now features the monster heavily whereas before it did not and instead of creating an actual scare it has became more of a comedy with the monster laughing and the character being scared in the end. We went for this because even though we wanted to create a horror we couldn’t and a joke is something that can be told in seconds whereas horror needs build up and suspense.

The final story for our animation is as follows. Character polishing face in front of mirror. Flash of lightening shows silhouetted monster in mirror against window. Character turns to see nothing and turns back to mirror. Another flash and the monster appears again closer, but this time the character turns around and catches the monster, the monster shouts and scares the character. The character shows fear then quickly recovers as the monster laughs at the character getting scared. With this new story it allowed us to narrow down our cinematography and allow us to move past our issues with the storytelling and the confusion that came with it. Overall I think that the decision to make it a comedy in the end was a good one due to the time and animation constraints that we had. It simplified our story and work which greatly helped with our other work and helped us stay on track with our time management on asana.