3D Animation Evaluation

3D, 3D Animation, 3D Design, Animation, Computer, Evaluation, U8_U52

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.

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Lumi Lightbringer – 3D Animated Game Trailer

3D, 3D Animation, 3D Design, Animation, Camera, Cinema4D, Computer, Editing, Film, U8_U52

Here’s my final game trailer that I created for my college project.

3D Animated Game Trailer Process

3D, 3D Animation, 3D Design, Animation, Camera, Cinema4D, Computer, design, Digital Art, U8_U52

I drew up a final design and imported it into Cinema 4D to use as a basis for my model. I used the Spline tool to create the separate parts of my character and then lathed, extruded and manually edited (via points and edges,) the parts until they were right. I then rigged, weight painted and animated the scenes.

TURNAROUND.png

Lumi’s final character turnaround.

After I (painstakingly) rendered, edited and re-rendered all of the scenes it was time to put it all together in After Effects! I imported all of the files and started compositing the shots accordingly, using my storyboard and the chosen audio as my base.

 

3D Animated Game Trailer Moodboard and Idea Development

3D, 3D Animation, 3D Design, Animation, design, Research, U8_U52

For my 3D animated trailer project, I decided to create a character based game trailer for a game that I’ve had in mind for a long time. I’ve created moodboards and researched many existing game trailers in seek of inspiration and ideas to help develop my trailer.

DSC00451

The first sketch I ever drew of Lightbulb Girl which eventually became the basis for my character Lumi.

The idea for my game stemmed from a drawing that I made last year of a character called ‘Lightbulb Girl’. She was named that mainly because of the light bulbs on her head. This design came into mind after I discovered a popular art trend online for ‘object-head characters’ – humanoid characters who had their heads replaced with objects, commonly electronic. I was in Amsterdam at the time when I drew Lightbulb Girl, and as I was visiting the various art exhibitions there I noticed a lot of modern exhibits where utilising light and digital displays. I saw some really interesting shapes and forms not just at museums, but at cafés and shops too. Twisting wires and huge light bulbs and occasionally the odd ceiling fan. These were the main elements I took to create Lightbulb Girl.

What inspired me to turn ‘Lightbulb Girl’ – the character – into ‘Lumi Lightbringer’ – the character with a game – was the simple, singular idea of her ceiling fan-inspired propeller skirt. I thought it would be great fun in a game as a flying element! So with that in mind, I developed a world around her which could be used for a game.

Development was going fine for the most part, but I was lacking a certain mood, a tone. Without a tone to go by, I couldn’t come up with a fitting colour scheme for Lumi and everything halted because of that. So I decided to create a mood board to help brings things together. I took the character designs and minimalism from the game Journey and the atmosphere and lighting from the game Ori and The Blind Forest. Thrown in with some electronics and light inspired objects, interesting geometric forms and another ceiling fan (for good measure,) I eventually watered down the main elements that help inspired my animation.

moodboard

My moodboard.

I eventually settled on an orange and blue colour scheme for the entire project. I liked how the character in Journey contrasted really well against the environment, and also the lighting in Ori and The Blind Forest so I tried to emulate that contrast with this colour scheme. The majority of Lumi is coloured in rather plain, muted colours except for her propeller skirt and visors which are neon orange. The environment that she interacts in is all blue, so she really stands out nicely.

Journey Game Trailer Analysis

3D, 3D Animation, advertising, Animation, U8_U52, U_5

 

The game Journey has been a favourite of mine ever since I saw the trailer for it in 2012. The visuals were just so stunning and it was so beautifully atmospheric. It inspired me with my own 3D animation – not so much in mood and tone, but in style and visuals. Although my trailer would be more up-beat in terms of editing due to it’s duration, I think the design and cinematography still holds some visual similarities to that of Journey’s.

The trailer begins with a very gradual reveal of the desert sand, building up the mood and setting up the overall pacing of the game to the audience – it’s slow, yet purposefully so to fully take in exactly what your seeing; rich cinematography. The intro of the cello is low and mysterious, adding curiosity and keeping the interest going until the rest of the music queues in and the scene changes. The cuts in-between the opening credits of the sun slowly move out really set up well for the first establishing shot of the desert. In the distance, a small figure is seen slowly moving towards the sun. Then there’s a cut to a slightly closer long shot of said figure, and we see that this is the main character who we play in the game. The transition from the cut beforehand that helped introduce this character ever so slightly really flows naturally into this scene, and really helps establish clearly to the viewer who this figure is whilst maintaining the ambiance perfectly.

As the trailer continues, we see the character going through the game, revealing bit by bit certain elements and levels. The beautifully minimalistic visuals and composition maintain their standards and peak in quality as certain parts of the game are shown. Game play elements such as multiplayer mode are suggested as the character meets another character of the same design in a very cinematic over-the-shoulder shot. The two are then shown to walk through the game together as a possible team or duo. What I really like about this trailer is how it presents the nature of the game’s style. Blending heavily muted and suggestive game play with a feature film’s cinematography so naturally makes for a really captivating viewing experience.

The main focus of the trailer is not so much on the players themselves, but much more on the environment and scenery in which that player is playing in. The majority of the shots (save for the opening few,) are long, wide establishing shots that boast the game’s world building. And good thing it does – because it’s really, really breathtaking. And that’s arguably the selling point of this game, so the fact that the editors have taken every opportunity to show it off was a good move in my opinion. And of course, at the very end the title is seamlessly blended in with the pre-existing shot, ending the introduction of Journey fittingly and smoothly.

3D Animated Game Trailer Treatment

3D, 3D Animation, U8_U52

As the music queues, a flicker of light is seen before zooming out to reveal two bright light bulbs sitting atop of Lumi’s head. Continuing to zoom out, we pan round to see the back of her silhouette against the game’s first level environment in a medium-long shot. Cut to the next scene where Lumi is running along one of the platforms, her propeller skirt glowing orange like her visor and spinning. From here, we pan round into a long shot, where a glance of a a distant beacon can be seen, indicating the goal checkpoint in the game. We then cut to Lumi centred in a long shot, speckled blue blocks falling past her as she flies upwards. It’s a partial 360 turn-around to display her flying abilities in the game, before cutting to the next scene. She’s now surfing on a bright, glowing path that winds and turns like a mini roller-coaster. In the background, large cubic objects with glowing paths projecting from them indicate that this could be a high speed platformer element in the game. Switching to a third person long shot of Lumi’s perspective, we have confirmation that such elements are present in the game when we see the heads-up display on screen, suggesting that this shot is a quick look at the in-game footage. It’s exciting and fast as Lumi surfs along, collecting white cubes that adds interest to a possible point system. As the music gradually builds up, we have one last glimpse of Lumi running up some illuminated spiral steps around the final tower before cutting to a medium shot of her releasing a bright white cube in her hands into the sky. It shines brightly and the screen quickly fades into white before cutting to the title animation, ‘Lumi Lightbringer’.

Paperman – 3D/2D Animation

3D, 3D Animation, Animation, Research, U8_U52, U_5

Disney’s 2012 Paperman animation was the first animation to be publicly released using the pseudo-3D/2D animation software Meander developed by Disney’s software engineer, Brian Whited. The program took about 3 years to develop, and was an attempt to get paper animators to switch to digital animation by giving them a tool that could accurately capture a handmade curve through a drawing tablet. It combines both 2D and 3D animation, utilising vector graphics and automatically generating in-betweens. This revolutionary piece of software has become one of the first steps towards combining the two distinct disciplines of animation into one, changing the potential future of animation drastically.

In the beginning, there was traditional hand-drawn animation. Animators used animation cells and paint to create frame-by-frame movement, carefully layering components onto animation pegs and photographing each frame manually. This method of animating went on for many, many years and was used to produce many television shows and movies.

As technology evolved over time, computers eventually developed the capability to code animation. 3D animation rapidly developed, taking over traditional methods and dominating the animation industry. Studios like Dreamworks and Disney eventually scrapped their traditional 2D animation departments and decided to go full CG in favour of the superior production efficiency. But there were certain characteristics and nuances in the 2D hand-drawn style that never quite carried out into 3D, as much as animators tried. The freedom of being able to exaggerate forms and perspective to whatever extent the artist wanted to and to bend time and movement so loosely was difficult to portray in 3D without coming across a number of technical problems.

“So using the expertise I had in both geometry and using modern hardware, I was just trying to come up with ideas, and I would iterate back and forth with artists. I would make a little demo, and I would go to an artist and ask them to draw curves, over and over again and say, ‘Does that feel right?” and they’d say “Oh, that’s a little off, that’s not exactly what I wanted.” That was probably the first six months of development.” – Brian Whited

Not much is known about the program Meander, as limited information has been uploaded to the public domain. However, there are a number of videos posted by Disney that show the in-program development of their short Paperman which uses Meander. It can predictively draw the motions of characters to speed up the animation process, whilst still maintaining the rich style of the artistic hand. Once the lines are captured correctly, they can be made dynamic. The computer is able to nudges the hand-drawn lines into the right positions for the next frame in a process called Final Line Advection. However, this technique can cuase difficulties when a multitude of lines are needed to be animated together in a piece of fabric. It was issues like these that kept the Disney programmers busy bug-fixing and developing.

Meander is a program that has finally broken the line between 2D and 3D animation, allowing animators to use the best of both mediums to the fullest. To be able to efficiently animate and smooth away 3D motions whilst keeping the spontaneous, organic nature of hand-drawn frames, it’s unique combination of functions has the ability to produce some truly special work.

 

Cinema4D Animation – Chase

3D, 3D Animation, 3D Design, Animation, Camera, Cinema4D, Film, Film Studies, U8_U52

Here’s a short animation experimenting with cameras in Cinema4D. I was told to create a chase scene using the different types of camera shots and angles. I’ve included shots like the pedestal shot, pan shot, trucking and tracking.

CG Animation Through the Years

3D, Animation, Research, U8_U52, U_5

One of the earliest computer animated films was Hummingbird made in 1967 by Charles Csuri and James Shaffer. The movement of the hummingbird drawing was created by code and consisted of over 30,000 images, each comprising of some 25 motion sequences that were generated by the computer. It was a short ten minutes of a distorted black-and-white drawing in motion, but it was more than enough to demonstrate the state of the early CGI progression back then.

Another example of an early CGI animation similar to the Hummingbird sequence, was MetaData made by Peter Foldes in 1971. The animation was drawn onto a data tablet using the world’s first key frame animation software invented by Nestor Burtnyk and Marceli Wein. The animation sequence was also coded just like Hummingbird, albeit more complex and consisting of various colours.

In 1968, a program called BESM-4 was made for the computer. A group of Russian mathematicians and physicists lead by N. Konstantinov developed a mathematical model of a moving cat using this software, which the computer then printed hundreds of frames to convert into film.

Westworld was the first entertainment feature film to use 2D computer animated raster graphics. The first television series to use CGI in the intro was The Six Million Dollar Man in 1974. It included early use of wire-frame model rendering.

The first full-length 3D CG animated feature film ever made was Toy Story in 1995 by Disney Pixar.

In 2010 the film ‘Tangled’ was the most expensive 3D animated film ever made, and the second most expensive film ever made costing approximately $260 million. The film took six years to make – a large part of it being focused on developing the program to control and simulate perfect hair movement and dynamics.