3D animation has been something I’ve been meaning to try for the longest time. So as daunting as it was at first to receive this brief, I was also very excited as I really like working with Cinema 4D in the past and was very much on board with creating a short animated trailer.
I started out with thinking of ideas for the trailer, but it didn’t take me long to settle on one. I decided to animate a character that I had created for a game a while back originally called ‘Lightbulb Girl’. The idea for the game I had in mind was an adventure puzzle platformer with occassional high-speed platforming elements in. The player would play as Lumi and illuminate the levels as she went along, collecting white blocks to solve puzzles and reach checkpoints. The grand scale of the game was quite expansive actually – I had plans in mind for electricity circuit based levels and a whole cast of side characters with quests to complete. But, the task was to animate a trailer for a game, not make a game. And in the time I was given to make it all, I could only just about animate one character, let alone a whole game’s worth of characters!
I took the sketches that I drew previously and used that as my basis for developing the visuals of my game. I modified and simplified Lumi’s final character design to fit realistic standards and meet my rather basic modelling abilities. And even then, the task of modelling, rigging and weight painting was still rather hellish. I was taught how to rig basic objects and forms, but it was a real challenge to teach myself how to fully weight paint and animate a humanoid character. For example, I completely forgot to model Lumi in the tea-pose position originally so I had to go back and fix that once I realised that the weight painting wasn’t working! I spent the majority of my project doing just that actually which in hindsight was quite taxing and straining. But I persevered regardless and eventually after many all-nighters and hour-long tutorial marathons, I just about managed to rig the model. The weight painting was still rather abysmal, but it was good enough to animate with. It was rough spending an entire Friday night weight painting Lumi’s hips and legs, but it definitely paid off when I got round to animating her run cycle!
The animating itself was probably one of the most enjoyable parts of the project. As someone who loves to animate, finally having a rigged and working model to use was so relieving. Animating in 3D was a fairly new experience to me – I had done very basic 3D animations in the past with fairly simple camera movement, so moving onto something more advanced was exciting. Rotating the joints and key-framing them was a lot easier compared to hand drawn, 2D animation. I couldn’t nail too much detail in the movement, but I animated enough to get the flow that I wanted which was great. For example, I purposefully rigged her thumbs and fingers so that I could get the hand gestures that I wanted whereas if I really wanted to, I could have just left those joints out.
Editing the rendered scenes in After Effects was just a joy really. I’ve always like post editing, so when it came to creating the title credits for my trailer, I really stepped out with the radial fast blur effect. I was actually going to go even further and have blue smoke and shadows integrated in, but in the end I decided to leave those out in favour of the simplistic yet effective outcome of the radial fast blur and lens flare. It looked much cleaner and more suitable to the tone of the overall trailer, plus I didn’t have much time to drag out long, fancy effects (unfortunately.). The trailer lacked any explicit narration or text, keeping to the muted storytelling like how Journey‘s trailer did. This way, the trailer could communicate solely through the visuals (besides the ending credits,) and thus crossing borders and reaching out to anyone on a more international level.
I’d say that compared to my previous animation brief, this one has had a lot more hurdles. Seeing as I wasn’t as comfortable animating in 3D than I was in 2D, this whole brief had a lot of challenges and issues to overcome. The two main ones being weight painting and rendering. I spent the majority of time doing at least one of the two to an arduous extent and I’m pretty sure the amount of all nighters spent doing working on those things has definitely not been healthy for me. Thankfully I managed to resolve them – I finally got used to weight painting effectively after struggling to familiarise myself with how the 3D polygons worked. And the rendering issues was solved once I finally found the ‘Do Not Sleep’ setting on my laptop – but even so, I’d say that it certainly wasn’t easy. Overall however, I am mighty pleased with the final outcome and to be honest, am quite shocked with how much I’ve achieved despite the setbacks.
As for how I worked safely at my station, I can confirm that there were no chainsaws or sharp objects nearby my desk and that food and drinks were kept under heavy surveillance at all times. (My laptop at home is on a levelled shelf separate to my desk to avoid any accidental water spillage. And I wasn’t allowed to eat in the college computer rooms, so my hygiene wasn’t sabotaged much.) I took breaks regularly and exercised my wrists often to avoid any pains or aches that could have negatively affected my work flow. I also stretched regularly to keep my back condition monitored. My desk is a hybrid-sitting and standing desk, so I can easily switch between the two positions to promote flexibility and good circulation. I shared the IT suite with my colleagues at college and offered available computers to anyone that needed it in the odd case that their one wouldn’t start up properly and also lent out the scanners and printers to those who needed it once I wasn’t using them.