Tag Archives: compositing

There is no doubt in my mind that what I have learnt, more than anything else, during this project, is be confident about who you choose to work with. Any concerns or worries you may have about an individual’s ability, enthusiasm or productivity probably exist for a reason. If you choose to work with them, make sure you have a contingency plan in case things fall through. A project is only as good as the sum of its parts. If one, or more, of the collaborators is unreliable then the parts they are creating could well be unreliable too.

Working in a student environment differs from the workplace in one major respect, and that is your ability to replace team members. In the workplace, if an employee is not hitting their deadlines, or reaching their targets, the employer has several options. The employee must be warned and spoken to about the problem, but if their work does not improve, the employer can take action. They can shift the individual onto other, less important, projects and, where necessary, make more meaningful threats. At university, there is a limited pool of “employees” most of whom are already “employed” by someone else. You cannot remove someone from your project if things go wrong, all you can do is look for someone else to also do the work, and use the most successful version. If every other student is already working on other projects, then there is little you can do but try to encourage those you are working with to work harder and produce something better.

In the workplace, it is also very clear what level of authority an individual has. You know who your managers are, who you need to listen to and who you should respect. As a student director, you may be in charge of the project, but you have no more real authority than any of the students working with you. This makes it much harder to put any impact or strength behind the words of a verbal warning. There is very little that you can back it up with.

These lessons were, unfortunately, learnt through the unreliability of those I worked with this year. Trying to pull everything together has been extremely stressful. Last year I promised myself I would leave at least one project that wasn’t a collaborative effort, so that if anything went wrong I had a project I could drop in an emergency so that I could devote the time to whatever needed it the most. For some reason, I forgot that promise and once again, all four of my projects were collaborative. This meant that not only were other people relying on things from me before they could start working, but I was often waiting for work from them. When there is a personal project to work on, this eases the tension of waiting for work, because you still have something to devote your time to.

Some essential time was wasted on this project due to having to find new collaborators at such a late stage and I wasnt able to start rendering until May. This meant that many of my planned scenes had to be dropped and I cut down the advert to a more manageable format. Unfortunately, in the end, so much time was lost that even this shortened version was not achieved. All three shots were rendered and passed on to the compositor, but with only a week to try and complete everything, she didn’t stand a chance. This was made harder as the animation for the final shot did not match up with the movement of the bear. The new animator had been unable to get things any cleaner in the short amount of time I gave her and my compositor was unable to match move the bear without a lot more time, which we didn’t have.

I am disappointed that I was unable to pull the elephant project through to completion, but I believe that I did everything I could to get it as far as possible. If I were to do the project again, I would pick the team I worked with more carefully. I would respond more quickly to late work and give verbal warnings sooner. I would also be faster to look for alternative collaborators if my team ignored deadlines and feedback. However, this final option would be very dependant on other students having projects they could change/drop.

December 15, 2011

So it would appear a pair of 3rd year VFX students had their own project idea that involved compositing creature animation into live footage. They actually were aiming for a bit of a “His Dark Materials/Golden Compass” type theme but this still fits well with my original plan to try and composite some of my animation into the streets of Cardiff. However it appears they don’t have quite the numbers of animators/artists (so far at least) required to hit the scale of film they had been planning – which is a shame because it would have been awesome if this had turned out to be the big project of the year. Ho hum. Anyway, it looks like it may just be one 2nd year artists and myself doing the CG side of the work which rather limits the number of creatures they can have. In fact, Paul and I have agreed that we can only manage two creatures. While Paul handles the modelling and texturing, I will be rigging/skinning both models and then creating a walk and run cycle for both as well as a single non-cyclic animation (ie standing up from sitting or something similar). So, that covers 6 of my 12 weeks on the major project.

For the other 6 weeks I will be working alongside Elaine and a few others to help produce a short animation we have currently nicknamed “Project: Dragon”. It involves a rather silly chase between a hapless knight and an overly playful dragon. I’ve set myself the rather terrifying project of both modelling and rigging the dragon (eeep!). However, we have an artist who loves to draw who will be doing all the horrible design work of the characters. As such, he will hand me completed turn arounds so I dont have to do any of that nasty stuff involving pencil and paper. Or at least… not in designing the look of the dragon. I still need to work out the rig structure. The modelling of the dragon (and first attempt at rigging) will actually occur during our final advanced tech project. Three weeks to model, texture and rig (a week for each). I will then probably pass the model to Ruth who may tidy up any poor edge loops to aid with skinning the final rig. Jess will also completely re-do my textures. Once that is all complete, I will build a completely new rig, get the model all neatly skinned and set to work creating clever controllers so our animators can have a great (and easy) time of animating him. So that takes up another 3 weeks of major project time. The final 3 weeks will be devoted to doing some animation with the knight in the project – a run cycle, possibly a walk or jog and then some sort of non-cyclic animation.

Scarily, we are almost three weeks through our pre-production, and currently I feel as though all I really have is research. Will have to slave away at it all after Christmas.

December 2, 2011

So, the last two weeks involved learning about more complicated lighting within 3ds Max and how to composite CG objects within a real environment/photo. First there was a short afternoon class exercise to learn about the standard lighting in 3ds Max and how to replicate common phenomena by hand (ie place lots and lots of lights for reflected light etc) rather than with clever programming. We were given a room set up with 3 spheres, one of which we had to texture as metal, one as glass and one that was self illuminating. We also had one red wall and one blue wall and a light in the ceiling.

Next, we had to take our hand model from the previous advanced techniques project and create a “studio lighting” set up that would show our model as well as possible. This set up is extremely useful for any future projects as it provides us with a pre-made lighting set up for any renders to best show off our work.

Finally, we got to the main section of the project. This involved taking a couple of photos in very different lighting conditions and then placing a CG object within the scene and trying to make it look as realistic as possible. It was theoretically a very interesting project and the theory learnt will be incredibly useful. None the less, I can definitely say that I do not find lighting even remotely interesting or enjoyable. In fact, its spectacularly dull.

I think the desk scene with the pen was far less successful than the dice. I still haven’t really worked out why that was. I just struggled to get the lighting to work. Ho hum.