Family Holiday One Page RPG

So this past week I have been on holiday with my family. It was a really great time with my parents and sister (and bro-in-law). We ate some amazing food, drank some amazing wine and saw some amazing sights.

And, like all family vacations, it had it’s fare share of conflict.

It’s true to say that every family member has their pros and their cons, their quirks and their virtues – I am no exception. I am sure I annoyed my sister as much as she annoyed me.

So I made a game about it.

DOWNLOAD BELOW

The game is a one-page, one-shot role playing game in which you play members of a family on a vacation. Every player has their positive traits and their negative traits, and a limited amount of patience.

Now this has been a fun little exercise for me, having designed a couple of short games before. So I might continue exploring new game ideas. I will also try to add another file shortly with some more detailed rules (if needed).

But for now, I hope you enjoy!

Cheers

Oz

Quill VR Tests

A Photo from a Friend

SumoDesk

So the other day, a good friend who worked with me at Sumo sent me a photo of my old desk, empty and deserted, screens blank, wacom un-loved. It was a kind gesture, one that said ‘we miss you, dude’, a sentiment that I share.

NSCDesk

And so I sent him a photo of my desk at NSC Creative, with my Intuos, Cintique and… Oculus Rift headset.

This, not surprisingly, sparked off a bit of a conversation. You see, NSC Creative work in fully immersive mediums – primarily making content for digital planetariums (fulldome shows), but branching into other media like interactive exhibitions, 4D experiences and VR/AR. As such, every artist in the studio has their own headset.

However, truth be told, I had never really got into VR. I had tried it a couple of times and was – on the most part – quite underwhelmed. But I had heard of one tool that I was quite interested in.

A Quill in VR

Quill is a VR painting tool. Chuck on your headset and use your Oculus Touch controls to do a lovely little painting in 3D. Lovely. It’s bright and colourful, and gives a really sweet, calm feel.

Then you start to paint. In a 3d space. And it feels good and intuitive until you move and see that the little picture you have made is messed up from any other angle. You see, instead of painting on a surface, or a flat plane, and you strokes being constrained to that plane, you’re painting wherever your hand goes in space.

Qill-Painting

This is something that will definitely take some time getting used to, but for now I wasn’t bothered about painting a lovely scene. No. I was interested in another feature – the animation feature.

A Rough Jump

Quill_Jump

By all intents and purposes, the animation tool is quite basic. It is similar to any 2D animation software with keyframes along one track, you can choose to paint each frame from scratch, or duplicate frames and make amendments. There are no tweens, so everything you pose or draw is what you have. And for this reason it felt like a mix between 2d and stop motion animation.

My first test, shown above, wasn’t the most interesting animation I had ever made, but for 30 mins in a programme I didn’t know, I thought it was ok. What this test did do, however, was spark curiosity. I was interested to see what could be done if I spent a bit of time figuring it out.

The Acrobatic Sausage

So the next day I figured I’d give it a bit more of a go, and I spent a little while learning the ropes of navigating, painting, selecting and tweaking strokes before going into full animation.

I really loved how you could simply select an object, grab it and pull it and break it, manipulate it in any way, so I set to a more ambitious animation.

Arcs

I started out by drawing a bunch of arcs, showing where I want my character to go, then on a separate layer created one, thick sausage shape. From there it was just a case or grabbing it and deforming it however I wanted. The onion-skin tool was very helpful at this point, if I felt something needed a bit more time on it, or a clearer breakdown, I would just duplicate the next or previous frame and tweak it, seeing clearly where my spacing would be from the the two frames either side. Sometimes I had to copy the original shape from frame one because I had over deformed it and needed to reset, but in all honesty, I tend to do that when animating in 3D anyway…

Quill_WallJump02

On the whole, I found the entire experience highly intuitive, it felt much more hands on than animating in 3Ds Max or Maya, but I’m not sure why… maybe the physical act of actively manipulating an object right in front of you. It seemed like a very quick and dirty way of animating; laying down simple and basic poses with simple and basic timings. Either way, it looked and felt great, though my shoulders hurt for a while after.

My Little Red Guy

Red

So by this point I was now so confident in Quill that I felt like a pro. I figured I would create a little block guy (simple cuboid lines put roughly next to each other in a roughly humanoid shape) on a new layer and animate him to the little sausage.

Admittedly, this was what I wanted to do from the start, but it felt good getting to this stage.

So now I have my little guy and my basic animation. I did a first pass, keeping the red guy in his standing pose, I animated his whole body along the guide. It looked so stupid – like when characters in a game suddenly go T-Pose. But once I had the main movement down, I was able to go in and properly pose the lil’ fella.

WorkingInVR-01

This was, once again, a very intuitive process. You see, instead of being able to grab and stretch and manipulate the character as I had done with the sausage, this guy needed to be posed like a stick figure – the blocks didn’t like the other way. And because there was no rigging involved, these separate limbs could be placed wherever I wanted.

I only used one tool – the select tool. Simply grab the piece(s) you need and put it where you like. It was that simple. Finally I added another layer to animate some (very) basic vfx, this was more to cover some points where I had stretched the little guy too much, but also give a bit more emphasis and flow to some movements.

Quill_WallJump04

It took me about 5 hours to do the full character animation. The initial Sausage had only taken me a couple of hours. So on the whole, I was really impressed.

Final Thoughts

So. VR. Quill. What do I think? Well at the moment it’s hard to say. I can see the potential as an art tool and an animation toy, but it’s something I need to try more. I need to experiment with the medium and the software. There is no doubt about it – this is some powerful stuff – but do I ever see it being used on a larger scale? I’m not sure. for quick animation sketches, this is incredible, but for anything larger than that? we will see.

HOWEVER, this little test has opened me up to an entire community of VR Animators, using different tools and animating in different styles. Sketchfab (see above), has countless examples of amazing VR animation, modelling and art in general. It is a place of inspiration for sure.

Seeing some of the incredible work other people are doing in programmes like Quill only feeds my excitement and gives me a greater urge to play in this medium.

And I use the word ‘play’ aptly.

Quill is fun.

It just is. At first I found it frustrating, as exploring any new software can be, but once you pass that first hurdle and you are pushing and pulling blocks and verts like the best of them, then you get drawn into it.

I did. It sucked me in and i just wanted to do more. And so I will. I think I am going to be spending a lot of time in VR over the coming weeks/months/years, and I am really excited to see what I can come up with.

As always, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy my work, and please feel free to share this blog with your friends!

Cheers!

A Whole load of New and Old

Well shucks, it seems that I haven’t posted anything on here since October… and that’s because a lot of stuff has been going on. Specifically a LOT of stuff going on during the weekend bridging January and February. Unfortunately very little of this stuff is good old animation, but let’s go through it.

Special Announcement Number 1: I bought a house.

So my wife and I have been blessed enough to buy a house. After a long while of saving and looking, we found a house that we loved, and are now paying through our teeth for it! We completed at the start of February, and over the past month we have been slowly moving stuff over, cleaning and decorating as we go, until recently when we have finally fully moved in.

The house is great, but it would have upped my commuting time to work at Sumo from an hour and a half to almost two hours each way. Now I know that there are people who do that with joy, but that aint me. I just don’t like having early starts and returning home late. I needed to find a way to balance my work life and my home life.

Special Announcement Number 2: I left Sumo Digital

It was a hard choice to make. Sumo have been a great company to work for over the past two and a half years. I have learned a lot and made some great friends.

I first started Sumo working on Crackdown 3 (which has finally come out, see my credit bellow :P). It was the first AAA game I had worked on, and sure, it has received mixed reviews, but on the whole it looks like a hell of a lot of fun!

However, commuting all that way weighed too much on me. And with a house in the mix, I decided to make a move.

Special Announcement Number 3: I have a new job.

At the start of February, I started a new position working at an old studio. NSC Creative were the first studio to hire me out of university. I worked for the studio as a CG Generalist (specialising in Character Animation when I could) for a period of six years. During that time they grew from a team of 8 to a team of 20+. However, I knew that I wanted to develop my skill as an animator, and felt I needed experience with other studios to help me develop. As such I moved on.

Now, three and a half years later, armed with a load of experience, I am back at NSC Creative. It is strange, it feels exactly the same as it did, with the same faces and the same space-themed work. Though my title is as a Lead Animator, the actual Animation part of the job is currently quite limited, but this is something I was aware of before re-joining.

Concept1

The thing is this; as much as I enjoyed animating for games, I found it a little repetitive – the projects I worked on tended to need the same animations done time and time again. However, at NSC there is a wide range of skills needed and used. As well as the occasional animation work, there is modelling and rigging to do, compositing and 2D animation. I have the opportunity to write, develop storyboards and create concept art. And though I will miss animating everyday, I will be practising other creative outputs, which I have really enjoyed in the past.

Additionally, the choice has brought down my daily commute to around twenty minutes! That’s a saving of over two hours a day!

Special Announcement Number 4: I gave a presentation.

Ok, so I am going to spend some more time on this at another point, changing the presentation into a short video.

So on the second of February, two days after I left Sumo, one day after I picked up the keys to the new house, and two days before I started at NSC Creative for a second time, I was asked to give a presentation about games animation at an industry event called Interactive Futures.

The talk was primarily centred around my understanding of what it means to be a game-play animator, or rather the difference between animating for interactive and non-interactive media.

The talk went well, though I am not sure what percentage of the crowd actually had an interest in animation…

Anyway, they are the main reasons I haven’t posted in over 4 months. I hope it wont take me as long before I post next, but the house is priority at the moment.

Have a great day, everybody!

Oz

ANIMATION SKETCHES 09/18

Hey Guys! So I still have a load of free time at work, and as such I have been able to continue expanding my own skills as an animator.

After learning a lot from the League of Legends exercise I completed a few weeks ago, I decided to do a couple of shorter animations to play with a more fluid and expressive animation style. I also never know when I am going to be pulled onto a project, and as such, I cant afford to do many animations that would last longer than a few days.

First thing is first, the three main rigs I have used here is Kiel Figgins’ awesome Deadpool and Spiderman rigs found here, and MRigs AgentX found here.

spidey_Progress

Here is a blocked, in-betweened and smoothed out version of the Spider-man animation, and below is the final piece. Due to the cinematic nature of the final piece, the actual animation had to be slowed down a tweak.

spidey_Final

I have also added some splash images to emphasise the hits in a style that emulated the up-coming Spider-Verse film (which looks amazing!).

These static images flash up for five frames each, and were created by simply drawing over a still from the animation in Photoshop.

So in a way of retaliation to my last post, in which I claimed Twitter didn’t care about my League animation, Twitter seems to be totally on board with my Spider-man animation! Over a weekend I have gained more than 400 new followers thanks to 1,700+ retweets and 6,400+ likes of a fun little animation I did over three days! It was crazy how, with just the right person seeing the tweet and liking/commenting/retweeting it, my entire Twitter popularity has boosted. As a thanks, I created the final animation above, as a nod to the amazing Octopath Traveller game, and the fact that I had ‘levelled up’ in my own eyes on twitter.

Man… it has been a while since I animated in After Effects!

That’s all for now!

Cheers!

Sig

LOL Cinematic Animation Exercise Part 3

Evening All!

If you haven’t checked out Part One or Two of this write up, go ahead! They talk about the initial animation process and how I got the my works from Maya into Unreal Engine. This part is all about polishing up the animation to create the final piece below.

The Internet

So I had created an animation that I was rather proud of, but if there was any chance I could push it further, I would do it! And so I turned to the internet to gather feedback. I chose three platforms to seek critique; LinkedIn, Twitter, and the Level Up! Facebook group.

You can find my original post on LinkedIn here!

All I can say is that this was really worth while!

At the time of writing this…

LOL_Feedback_Facebook

… my Facebook post got 315 likes, 22 comments (mostly asking what software I used and telling me that I needed ‘More weight’), and 13 shares… which is nice?

LOL_Feedback_LinkedIn

… my LinkedIn post got 2,380 views, 103 likes and 11 comments, which had more focused feedback.

LOL_Feedback_Twitter

… and Twitter got a staggering 16 views, 1 like and 2 comments – both of which were me giving updates… in case anyone on twitter was interested. Turns out they weren’t.

Untitled-1

Come on, twitter. You let me down.

Feedback

From Facebook I got a lot of people simply telling me to ‘add more weight’. I had a couple of other comments saying that the swinging on the branch felt off, and one comment about the somersault at the start feeling like she was floating. Words no animator wants to hear. Interestingly I got a comment saying that the whole thing has the same pace and gravity. That comment made me think – I had started this exercise by copying poses and timing, I thought as long as it (more or less) matched the original, it was a successful piece. Now I had someone commenting on the pace of the animation, which for me meant a lack of texture, dynamics in timing, and that it was maybe too rhythmic and predictable.

I had never thought of animation like that before.

Short of moving a half of my keys around, there wasn’t really much I could do about pacing in my one day of polish, but it is definitely something to consider in the future. But it made me think – up to now the piece had been a carbon copy (as much as I could achieve) of the original. But at this stage I should really be looking to make it my own.

Where Facebook gave me ‘Add more weight’ (and Twitter gave me NOTHING), LinkedIn gave me an idea of how to add more weight. I got a wonderful couple of comments that gave some detailed criticism. I got the following feedback from Jerome Rodgers-Blake, a 3D Animatior at Kuato Studios;

“Ok this is going to be quite lengthy.

Overall I like your animation there’s some good poses and ideas in here I can tell you’ve spent quite abit of time on this. However.

I feel a majority of the action is moving at the same speed. During some of your landings have her squash for slightly longer to emphasise her weight, then make her spring up into the highest part of her jump much quicker than she landed to emphasise her athleticism and power.

I like your use of the smeer frame as she swings up but I feel the pacing of the following action is too slow and the smeer frame seems out of place because of it.

What I would recommend is to keep the smeer frame as is but have her quickly spring to the highest point of her jump in the next action. Think of the character as an elastic band; when you let go it fires off quickly you can get away with this since she is a ninja in a cartoonish art style.

At the end of the sequence the way she leaps out of frame seems needs work I don’t think you have captured the transference of her weight shifting as she jumps from beam to beam then exiting the frame.

I must reiterate that I actually like your animation. I just feel you can make it better. :)”

That was the feedback I needed. Thinking of athleticism like a spring, and the swing motion like an elastic band – this was the stuff my animation was missing. The swing was too kind, floating around in comfortable arcs that held no urgency. The feedback about pace now made sense – the flow of the swing didn’t gather energy and release it, it was leisurely and lacked that expressive, dynamic explosion of movement. The same went for the jumps at the end. More verticality, more spring, more squash – this gives the feeling of weight.

Now that I had my feedback, I needed to put it into action.

Polish

Here is the final polished animation as a playblast render straight from Maya. The reason I have added this is because I find it easier to see the animation without any of the flashy effects, motion blur or complex background muddying the piece up. It also has some facial animation, just to give a bit of life to the character in those close up shots. Unfortunately the facial animation would not export correctly with the current setup, which is why I had to abandon this animation for the UE4 render.

The great thing about feedback is that you can choose to take it or not. There are a couple of elements that I didn’t quite agree with, or once I put them into practace, decided they didn’t work as well. Below are three shots – one, four and five – illustrating what had been updated. I cant promise you will see the difference straight away, but I think, for animation, it is more about the feel of the piece rather than the individual poses, in the same way that you would judge an author by the feel of the writing, not the individual words used.

LolCine_SH1

In shot one, I chose to tweak the spring and height of the somersault, giving the character more of an upward spring rather than the forward spring she had before.

LolCine_SH4

I tweaked a number of things in shot four; there is a little more weight in the steps as she climbs up the environment before the leap across, but I hope you would agree that the major change is in the swing of the branch. Before, she was jumping to the branch, catching herself and gently swinging around. What I needed was for her to aim past the branch, catch her energy and spring it upward in a dynamic snap. This meant adjusting a lot of the poses along the path of the leap before the swing.

LolCine_SH5

In shot five, I had to add a little more time to help remove that swimming feeling she had. A little more time on the contact poses as she preps for the next leap, and a quicker spring with a little more height has helped sell this as more of a believable and appealing shot.


Since finalising the animation, I posted the new video up to LinkedIn (because Twitter failed me), and I have to say I have been absolutely blessed by the response.

LOL_Cine_LinkedIn

212 likes, 23 comments (all of which are encouraging and congratulatory) and 4,135 views.

Now I know you aren’t supposed to merit your life by the number of likes you get, and I try not to, but as an animator who doesn’t seem to get that much exposure, this is a real encouragement. Don’t get me wrong, I also get that most of the views are people watching it again and again, but that almost makes it more worthy. People are wanting see deeper into the animation, to give proper feedback and encouragement, and I have to say, it’s been really great to see.

Linked In has been a great way for me to exhibit my work and, most importantly, get the feedback I needed, and I would like to thank everyone who has given anything to help me make this animation look how it does.

So that’s it for now! Until next time!

Cheers guys, and thanks for reading!

Sig

LOL Cinematic Animation Exercise Part 2

Afternoon All!

If you haven’t checked out Part One of this write up, go ahead! It will tell you a couple of things about the animation process and how I created the motion. This post is going to be all about the Unreal Engine, and the joys of making this piece look cool!

This all came about because my Lead at work had been working on a really nice robot, which he had modelled and animated. It looked pretty sweet, but when he brought it into an unreal environment that he created, it blew me away! How could someone create and render something that looked so good in such a short amount of time?

I wanted to do that!

Sequencer

The first thing to mention is that the Psylocke Rig I used didn’t want to work straight off the shelf. I had to simplify the rig a little, which unfortunately meant loosing any facial animation I had done. But once I had discovered this, the export process from Maya to Unreal was straight forward.

I wanted start off by getting my proxy environment exported and into engine, followed by the camera, then the character and finally anything else needed (namely the branch she swings from). Most things were quite simple to export and import and eventually I had a nice, albeit rough looking cinematic. I will expand on these in the following sections.

Environment

With my simple proxy environment in engine, I went searching for environment assets to occupy the space. Epic games have a wealth of assets free to download and use. I chose the Infinity Blade: Grass Lands package, and apart from the typical difficulty of figuring out how to navigate a new software, on the most part populating the environment was as simple as drag-and-drop position-rotate-and-scale.

The assets I had available to me would determine the setting of the animation (well duh!) and I decided the castle/ruins style area would be a cool change from the jungle setting in the original cinematic.

Part way through the project I had to get rid of a couple of assets which meant I had to repopulate the environment. I could have used the Paint Foliage feature in Unreal to paint the trees and plants into place, but decided I wanted more control over them; because my camera was fixed, I wanted to make sure each frame looked good and nothing got in the way. In a similar way, you may notice in the shots above that the grass is very patchy. I placed the grass assets only where I needed them for each shot, and scaled them so they didn’t distract from the animation. For the shot where the character slides along the ground, I also had to open up the material, where a wind modifier controlled a procedural wavering animation that was far to distracting.

Grass Wind

Camera

Sequencer is such a powerful tool, and really easy to work with. Because I had set out all of my camera work in Maya and exported it across, I thought it would automatically work; one camera stepping from one view to another. However, because the cameras were animated at 30fps and UE4 works at whateverItWants fps, the animation had some weird flits between cuts; it was tweening from one position to another for a fraction of a second, and motion-blurring the whole screen.

Sequencer allows you to create individual shots and work with them in a time line similar to any editing software. Inside each shot you will have your camera and any actor you need animated for that shot. For me, this was simply camera and the character, but could be geometry, lights, anything else.

Sequencer

Sequencer_shot

In the above shot, I have my camera with all of it’s position and rotation data as well as a way to amend focal length and depth of field. I also have the character and the stump she swings from, and their individual animation tracks for that shot.

It might be important to note that the camera fbx is imported directly into sequencer, as opposed to bring it into the contend browser as a Uasset.

Animations

The export and import process for the character is very straight forward. All you need to do is select what you want to export – typically the mesh and joints driving it, and export selected as an .fbx. In UE4, this one file will separate out into the Skeletal Mesh (actual character), Skeleton, Physics Asset, Animation (if any) and all materials and textures used on the mesh in Maya.

CharacterImport

GamesExporter

After that, for any animation file you need to add, simply select the root of the joints in Maya and export them, remembering to bake animation. Bringing them into UE4, a pop up would ask you which skeleton this animation belongs to, point it to the character you need, and the job’s a good ‘un! I used Maya’s Game Exporter to divide the animation up into shots. This not only made it easier to correctly line the shots up in sequencer, but again avoids any strange issues due to blocking between shots as mentioned in the Camera section above.

In a same way, the branch the character swings off needed to go through the same process, rigging it up and exporting it with the animation.

Once in engine, I added a socket to the branch rig, which allowed me to add a game asset to the hierarchy. In this case, it was a piece of wood. and with a bit of scaling, she was swinging with the best of them!

Lighting and Rendering

Lastly I had the joys of trying to light the whole thing. I would be the first to admit that I am not a lighting artist, and the thought of having one skylight to illuminate the whole scene is a saving grace for me. However, I wanted some form of atmosphere for the piece. And I’m not going to lie… it took me a long while to get the lighting to a place I was happy with.

Each shot was individually lit with spotlights. I gave the whole scene a slight foggy atmosphere and change the skylight to look like it was night time (as best I knew how!).

I faced two tricky situations here; One was how to make the character stand out from the background – how to make sure that she is the main focus of the piece- and the other was how to make the branch stand out.

On the most part it was difficult to make out what the character was swinging from in that fourth shot. It was a tough call, to be honest. She needed a branch, and that branch couldn’t just come out of the side of a pillar, and as such, needed a tree to emerge from. To change this, I changed the colour of the background tree to a significantly darker brown than the swinging branch. This was a cheat, knowing the light draws the eye and contrast separates objects. But I would have to make sure that the character was lit as best I could; utilising a three light setup wherever I could without making it obvious that she has gone from under one light and into the next. I also used slightly off-white colours to give different definitions and bring out different colours in the environment. Lastly, made the decision that most lights should not cast shadows. with too many shadows turned on, the action was muddied, and I instead chose to rely on Ambient Occlusion to give a sense of shadow.


Well… that’s almost it from me. However, I want to talk about how I pushed the animation a little bit more with a bit of help from The Internet, and as such, Part Three will be all about Polish.

Cheers for reading, guys!

Sig

LOL Cinematic Animation Exercise Part 1

Morning All!

So recently I have finished a short personal project; an animation based on one of Riot Game’s League of Legends Cinematics. A New Dawn was released in 2014, when I was still a young and impressionable CG generalist exploring a career as an animator. Needless to say, the animation blew my mind, and these sort of high-end cinematics have since been a massive inspiration to me.

Recently I have found myself between projects at work and decided to use this time as productively as I could; expanding my skillset as an animator, and learning a bit of UE4 at the same time. This seemed like the perfect time to learn from one of my favourite pieces of animation!

In this series of blogs I am going to outline a couple of the processes used during this project, looking at:

First, however, I need to give a massive shout out to Dan Eder  who created the Psylocke model and TruongCG who rigged her up! Also another shout out to the guys who made Advanced Skeleton, who created the rigging system used. Having played around with the Psylocke Rig I was impressed by how versatile it was, but when I actually checked out the system used to make it, I found a load more tools like control selectors and such. Great Stuff!

Animation

The reason I love this cinematic is the energy and fluidity in the motion. The way the Animation team at Riot have been able to mix the realistic and unrealistic animation styles, merging really exaggerated movements and smear poses into a really detailed and believable world. I edited the cinematic down to the pieces I wanted to animate and used a great piece of software called Keyframe MP to help me flick through frame by frame, set keys at those storytelling poses and generally keep on track with my reference.

My first action was to  proxy out the environment. At it’s most basic level, the character is bouncing around an obstacle course, and so I needed to estimate heights, shapes and positions from my reference. As you can see, the Psylocke character is pretty small in the environment.

LOL_Cine_proxyEnv

With this done, next was just a case of jumping into the animation. I had watched the cinematic time and time again, getting an understanding of how the motions worked. Using Keyframe MP, I identified the most important poses, the extreme poses that would sell the story of the movement and truly convey the motion.

And, without an ounce of remorse, I shamelessly copied.

This was a test in discerning the reference. In the original cinematic. There are a lot of things happening that would confuse the eye. going through it frame by frame definitely helped, but not where effects or motion blur got in the way – and that didn’t come in small doses. There were many times when I had to flick between five or six  frames to get a decent enough idea of what the key pose in the middle was.

Because I had given myself a short deadline, I wanted to focus on one character and one character only. Looking at the reference, I knew I was going to have to change a couple of shots in the middle, animating them from scratch. Watching to keep a realistic motion, I used Ryan Doyle’s Parkour Roll Tutorial for the second shot.

So let me just put a little bit about animating a shot. As you can see from the process video above, I have a rough blocked playblast, then an inbetween blocked playblast, and then the final video. So that’s three stages, right? Simple.

No.

More phases are needed, more than I have added into the video, so lets have a look at that.

  1. Reference – Already talked about that. I had it prepared and I could go through frame by frame.
  2. Environment – Already mentioned this. It was a rough proxy, but enough to give my character something to work with.
  3. Shot Layout – Boom! I have a camera and a person in my scene. Where the heck do they go? This phase is all about getting the shot composition correct and typically has a handful of rough poses set to the correct timing throughout the shot, as denoted by the reference or animatic. I did this for every shot before I moved onto the next phase.
  4. Blocked Pass – now comes the fun part! Animating and laying out those key acting points. Those important poses that tell the story in it’s most basic yet true form. It is important (for me, anyway) to have the keys set to clamped and stepped, and to key every controller for every pose. This will give a clear sense of the poses and timing, and as such, you need to make sure your timing is solid. This phase is the real skeleton of the piece, the foundation on which the rest of the animation is built. If you don’t have your timings down now, sort it out! If your poses don’t sell the action, pose and pose again until it does!
  5. Inbetween Pass – leave nothing to chance. Hear that? LEAVE NOTHING TO CHANCE! You want the character to move a specific way between one pose and the other? Key it! Chances are, if you spline your keys at the blocked phase, your animation will feel like it floats. spend some time keying the transitions. No, not just keying, but fully posing. The keys are the best tool you have to maintain full control over an animation.
  6. Smooth Pass – What happens when you take all of your nice and neat stepped keys and simply smooth them out? Answer? Not what you would expect!
    OrderToChaosSo many times have I animated my blocking phase to look sweet, only to discover that it looks very wrong when smoothed out. As such you are going to have to go into the graph editor and tweak your keys. At this point I wouldn’t be worried about regular keying, but more about the motion. Smooth it out as best you can. At this point you get to really work in offsetting animation to give more follow-through or secondary motion to your animation.

There are a couple of other tricks I adopted during animation to help get the feel I want. For instance, I put reference curves in place to help get a nice arc into some of the jumps, and then used motion trails to make sure I was fitting my animation as close to those arcs as I needed.

LolCine_18_Block

I also used animation layers to amend bits I thought just didn’t worked. In the below example I changed my mind about how her legs should be move during the jump, and used an animation layer to adjust the poses.

LolCine_29_animLayerOn

With the animation at a point I was happy with, it was time to bring it over to the Unreal Engine. Though I work with UE4 as part of my day job, the majority of my understanding of the games engine is importing animation assets, blend spaces and montages and the like.

I had dabbled with set dressing and Sequencer only once before. Check out Part Two for more on that!


Cheers for reading guys, and I hope you enjoy the animation!

Sig

Sketches and Fjord

So since the last post with some pictures, I haven’t been able to do anything I said I wanted to do – which was pretty much to write and do some comic stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to do some more writing, and I have a few writing workshops coming up, which will hopefully kickstart a couple of ideas I have.

Instead, I have been doing some more animation and illustration work. Last week I posted the Human Insult – Animation post with my latest polished animation, but I have been playing around with some additional anim tests. Below are a number of illustrations I have done recently, mostly sketched drawn during a bit of down time I have at work.

I haven’t been doing too much illustration on the train, as I am currently reading through Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear, which I have been tearing through!

Anyway, of what I do have to show, this is the best for now. I hope you enjoy!

Fjord

Season 2 of Critical Role is well underway, and some characters are more likeable than others. By far, my favourites are Fjord, Jester and Nott. Fjord, the half-ork, is a great character with a sharp mind, wild-west mannerisms, and seafaring backstroy. I have wanted to draw him for some time, with a very distinct visual style. This picture can be seen below.

 

Unfortunately, I much prefer the style and costume of the pencil sketch, but I didn’t have this on hand when I started the digital picture, so decided to plow on regardless.

fjord

Other stuff…

A mix of digital work and pencil sketches – mostly idle sketching and tests.

 

What’s Next?

Well… I’m actually spending a bit of time doing animation. I have writing workshops coming up, so you might hear back from me with a couple of those, but I have just started a new illustration, so I think that will probably be my next post.

Thanks for reading!

Oz

Sig