Tag Archives: show and tell

You spin me right round, AAAAA, right round…

Welcome to what was 18 to 24 June 2017. Scene 2 has begun in earnest. This scene establishes level of general silliness.

AAAAA runs past a mild-mannered cube with such force that the cube gets violently lathed into a pyramid. The pyramid is roused from its dizziness by a pyramid worshipper that’s arrived from nowhere. The pyramid does not know what to think about this.

Here’s the first attempt:

This pyramid has so many questions…

It’s a beginning, but there’s definitely room for improvement. (Mainly I’m thinking “How would this scene unfold if Terry Gilliam were directing it?”)

The little worshipper doesn’t instantly read as a worshipper. The audience needs to be able to recognise the character instantly for the shot to work because everything happens so quickly. I showed it to a workmate and they confused the worshipper for AAAAA himself!

To fix this, I’m going to switch the stick figure out for a small group of monk-like characters instead. Monks are obviously there to worship something, moreso if they have little pyramids on their robes and if they’re wearing pyramid hats so it’s obvious that they’re pyramid monks. Sound will definitely help with making the gag work too.

Meanwhile, the day job is ramping up again for an emergency project and I just took delivery of four DIY synthesiser kits from Befaco which I’m itching to put together. If I still deliver this shot despite all that, I’d consider that quite the win!

If you’ve got any other feedback on this shot, please do me the honour of leaving a comment. 🙂

The rules of the game

It’s been 11 to 17 June 2017. It’s been a soldering-heavy week! In fact, I burnt my finger doing some soldering last night so typing is an annoyance.

But here all the same is shot 1 of the new short in all its goofy glory.

There he goes. A high-powered prototype never intended for mass production.

Here’s my draft “constitution” for this project:

The basics

  • The goal is to produce a comedic narrative animated short.
  • The narrative commences with a vaguely A-shaped creature (the AAAAA) going AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA while running.
  • The narrative shall be constructed of reactions and consequences of AAAAA running around going AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
    • AAAAA’s running/going AAAAAAAAAAAAA should not be explained or rationalised. It is not something mundane like a prickle in his foot. AAAAA does not stop running or going AAAAAAAAAAAAAA because it is AAAAA’s intent to do it as long as AAAAA can. Think of it as an endurance exercise that AAAAA is the champion of the universe at.
  • The project begins on the weekend of WA Day and ends on the Queens Birthday weekend (2 October).
  • The expected running time is.. not very long. Three minutes would probably be pushing it considering someone will be going AAAAAAAAAA although who knows what that could precipitate.
  • This project is intended as a learning experience and ultimately a stepping stone towards finishing larger more complex projects.

Production stipulations

  • The film is to be produced from start to finish in running order, aside from titles which are fine to put in during post-production.
  • Music and sound can also be retouched in post-production.
  • The narrative shall be entirely improvised during production:
    • Planning ahead before the current scene is completed is forbidden.
    • Planning ahead further than one scene is utterly forbidden.
  • Any attempt to brainstorm in advance how the movie ends before the actual final scene begins its planning phase will result in the instant forfeit and blacklist of that idea.
    • The blacklisted conclusions currently include a resolution where the AAAAA trips over, notices their group of followers, encourages them to continue after him like some sort of single file AAAAArmy.
  • Absolutely no 2D animatics – this is explicitly not that kind of project.
  • Limit the use of planning tools like storyboards except where they do double-duty as character and scenery design.
  • Going back and redoing footage is forbidden except to fix technical errors which cannot be fixed at composite time (animation glitches, etc).
  • Scenes should be simple enough to complete in two weeks alongside rest and relaxation, etc.
    • Time spent should be logged.
    • Late nights are strongly discouraged even on weekends.
    • Production pace can be slowed in case of mitigating factors like injury, fatigue, day job being extra-demanding, etc.

Scene guidelines

  • Scenes should contain no more than three shots – action, reaction, another reaction. Hopfrog‘s minimalism is a good guide here.
  • As per all narrative movies, scenes should continue on from one another logically. Scenes may refer to previous scenes.
  • Each new scene should introduce a new place, character and/or action.
  • Any single scene should present a single idea or gag. Scenes can carry ideas and gags from previous scenes but only secondary to the scene’s own gag.
  • Each scene should also contain a surprise.
  • The film will contain no dialogue or written material. Where words are expected to appear visually, e.g. the title of a book, a nonsense script should be substituted. Where dialogue would be expected, substitute lively gibberish or suitable sound effects.

Design and tone guidelines

  • The general tone should be giddy and fun, for kids of all ages. This is a happy place.
  • Given that this is a sweet and merry little refuge, it’s fine for characters to disapprove of AAAAA but it’s not fine for them to get furiously angry or terribly sad or agonisingly hurt. The standard-issue supporting character is friendly and calm and approachable.
    • Sad characters are ok but cheer them up!
  • It’s fine for the humour to be a little bit naughty but not outright rude. Again, consult Hopfrog.
  • Characters/scenery should be unlikely in some way or another.
  • Keep the designs colourful and fun to look at, and don’t make them too detailed. Go easy on stuff like greebles and cracks.
  • No need to do everything in geo! Non-pixellated textures are fine but keep the surfaces simple.
  • At least one character has to have fur at some point.
  • Design-wise, sharp angles are fine this time but tend towards roundness. Try for a general stumpiness, stockiness and broadness in the proportions of the designs. Allow for some contrast too.

Technical guidelines

 

  • If Eevee gets production-ready, use Eevee. Otherwise, use Cycles.
  • Using DASYRAC for the sound and music is strongly encouraged. There is no explicit budget for extra Eurorack modules though.
  • Use of third party time-and-effort saving plug-ins (e.g. automatic rigging systems) and other resources is absolutely mandatory. Use them! They good!

That’s it for now, so thanks for reading and I hope to see you with something new next week!

 

With the cold comes a small green shouty thing

It’s been 4 to 10 June 2017. Things have turned chilly here. We were forecast for 9 degrees overnight on Friday morning and got 1.6C instead because the rain we were expecting didn’t pan out. Brrr! Still, Perth winters are pretty bearable once the overnight cold goes away. Like the sound of 25 degree fine winter days? Perth has you covered.[1]

Perth: Where winter typically only happens at night. (Source: bom.gov.au)

Meanwhile, the new movie project has something to look at. Last weekend was a three dayer so I rigged the title character and sketched out some animation. Here’s “Take 1” of shot 01, featuring the central anarchist of the piece:

 

Best title shot ever?

It’s promising but a long way from where I want it to be. I wonder if it all goes by a little bit too quick, not letting the character’s weird/cheeky nature shine through enough. There’s some undeniably good stuff in there too – the goofy run at the end feels spot on. Then there’s points of ambivalence – maybe the zippier pacing is what I should aim for? And should I stick with the snappy stepped animation?

I’ve got some of my own notes to work through and I’ll see where I end up by the end of next week. But what do YOU think, dear reader? 🙂

[1] Of course the flipside of this year-round sunny weather is being short on water. The Water Corporation both desalinates the Indian Ocean and recycles our sewage into drinkable water because there’s nowhere near enough rain to fill our dams anymore. Yay.

Welcome to 6 to 12 December 2015 where Pointy flies through the air Kaeloo-style!

I got two more shots in layout on Sunday. The subsequent shots call for some cartoony action which Pointy’s character rig wasn’t easily capable of. So this week turned into a rigging week.

Pointy can now be dangled from his neck in midair. I’ve achieved this by having two separate control rigs for his spine. The more traditional control rig has a parent-child hierarchy that goes from hips to nose (!). By contrast, the dangle rig splits its hierarchy at a “dangle point” at Pointy’s neck so that the lower body is parented to the upper body. This means I can animate Pointy’s bottom half as a hanging weight much easier. It’s hypothetically possible to do dangles with the old rig, but it’s stupidly time-consuming. This new control system will work out much better.

I also put IK/FK switch controls on the legs, created a tumble mechanism, polished up the eye controls and started implementing corrective shape keys to make extreme deformations around the neck less pinchy and foul.

That’s all for now. I’ve got a nasty subacromial bursitis in my right shoulder which needs to heal up after being needle-fed some nice juicy cortisone on Monday. I’ll be taking it as easy as possible on the mousing and typing front this coming week to give it a chance to heal up, so there might be less to report next week. We shall see!

Greetings from sunny 29 November to 5 December 2015. We hope you enjoy your stay. Have some pictures!

Last Sunday, Gronky’s glitchy curve-based mouth finally got replaced with a mesh-based mouth. The rig is much more intuitive and predictable than before and just as expressive. And I reckon it looks much better – more like a big plasticine pad. 🙂

The mouth was the last job to do before I could start layout. I screeched into a microphone for a bit after the mouth was done to get some scratch, then struck out and began doing layouts of rough shots to pin down framing and staging. I also made sure I did thumbnails of shots the night before so when I sat down to work, I wasn’t going in cold.

Over the course of the week I kept adding more shots (one shot a day was my absolute minimum target) and before I knew it, I had nine shots and thirty seconds of edited footage. I hit the weekend slightly ahead of schedule, right at the point where the action-comedy stuff kicks in. I’m a little bit afraid of how that stuff will turn out because I haven’t done much of it before, but the only thing for it is to give it a shot and stay upbeat in the face of repeated failure. 🙂

This is such a small project that I’m not even using a spreadsheet to track shots or dialogue in layout this time around. It’s nice to just draw and make the thing I drew then see whether it works in the edit, rather than losing my will to live amongst spreadsheets and correctly-named files and so on. I’ve worked at streamlining my writing and pre-visualisation process over the last 18 months and it’s feeling nicely lean now.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading and please hit me up with any questions or remarks in the comments or on Twitter. 🙂

Welcome to 22 to 28 November 2015. The TL;DR version: five minute movie on hold; one minute movie being prepped; ill again (bah!)

On Sunday I got the story to the point where it’s ready to be a pitch again. Hooray! And then.. brick wall. I felt overwhelmed with the idea of even putting together a pitch presentation for it. I’ve been doing development for so long (almost an entire year) that I’m mentally stuck there. That won’t do.

Truth is that I’ve sunk so much time into crafting the story for a short film that I forgot I’m in this to make a film, not just develop a story where the resulting film is a completely abstract proposition. (If I can ever convince someone to pay me to sit in a writer’s room coming up with funny, maybe I can go back to thinking that way…)

In order to manage this apparent stagefright, the longer AMITS short film now goes on the backburner. I’m treating it as a longer-term goal to work up to via shorter films.

So for now I’m going to work on a shorter piece featuring Gronky and Pointy in a situation that fits the middle act of the film. The situation is as follows:

Gronky brings Pointy a hat. Pointy tries to leave. The hat has other ideas…

I’ve been sketching it out and readying the necessary assets. Compared to the needs of the full film, it is blissfully simple and much less intimidating. The hat asset needs to be built and Gronky’s face needs to be updated, then I can jump over to the crappymatic. Hurrah!

And then, just in time for the weekend, I came down with an upper respiratory infection. Boo. So I’ve been watching a ton of old Buster Keaton shorts while convalescing. I seem to be getting over it pretty quickly – laughing at Buster’s antics helps.

Another distraction this week: Krita’s animation branch beta has hit. (I animated a couple of little loops with Pointy and Gronky and here they are.)

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. 🙂

It’s always a good time for 15 to 21 November 2015. (These seem to make less and less sense every week.)

This week’s main production show-and-tell is to do with motion blur. But first, a little adminstrative notice: I have Disqus comments now. Feel free to use them!

Right. Now for the week that was.

Last Sunday I got The Fear about starting work on the animatic. In a nutshell, I’m not ready yet: the story’s still needs more tightening passes and I hadn’t even figured out what everything’s meant to look like and I forgot that Gronky doesn’t have his good mouth yet and and and. So no progress on the animatic just yet.

Storywise this week I lost Pointy’s character (he briefly became this
charmless jealous horrible bastard) but I’ve found him again and tied this version of him to a post so he doesn’t get away again. Pointy now has a solid character arc, so that needs another
writing pass to hammer it in effectively and scrub any other
wayward bits that don’t belong. Janitorial rewriting, basically.

The ending is still giving me some trouble. Good endings are tricky. I’m zeroing in on something. We shall see!

Some scenes are set enough that I could at least get to work on props. I started making some of the easier props as a warm up and I now have a parabolic mirror on a swivel. Other props are mid-design, including the movie’s mysterious MacGuffin.

On Tuesday, Greg Zaal did a blog post about new motion blur controls in Cycles available in the Blender nightly builds. The controls let you specify whether the blur comes before, after or during the current shot and how opaque the motion blur is at any given point. To my delight I found I could do cartoon-style trailing streaks and sharp leading edges with a bit of compositing. I even made a video about it. So yay again!

I’ve been experimenting with motion blur on and off this week. Last night I got to work with the old “Pointy running into the bus stop” shot from the April animatic. There’s bugs and straight-up motion streaks don’t look too interesting but with a bit of noise applied in composite it looks way nicer. Check out the captioned images attached to this week’s post for more info on how I achieved the effect.

That’s all for now. If you want to leave a comment to chat or ask about stuff, leave comments! It’s always nice to know people are out there.

8 to 14 November 2015, your time has come.

Story dev is very nearly almost done – I know I’ve said that in the past, but this time for sure. The gag bank is absolutely packed so I’ve been able to get through the middle act and massage in another “rule” which makes the gags even more satisfying. The whole thing where bad luck strikes because Gronky is helpful yet unlucky has been switched over onto Pointy – whenever Pointy’s ungrateful or mean, that’s when his luck turns for the worse. Much less explaining to do means more time for funny!

I haven’t done an animatic yet so I haven’t seen the overall shape of the film in the rough. It would be exceptionally foolhardy not to make an animatic, but on the other hand certain key scenes I’ve got are locked enough to start pre-production on. Those scenes are not in doubt at this point, so I can happily start figuring out how to make them without having to worry about discarding them later.

I did the little beetle guy from the pre-title scene last Sunday. I needed a rig that could scamper and tumble. I’m happy with how this quick animation test turned out – the skitter looks good, the tumble mechanism works, and the rig is OK to work with. The surfacing is just a placeholder for now and will be polished up once it’s time to render everything.

There’s another gag which involves wind blowing sand off something. For this I tried using a particle system with Cycles particle density. The particles don’t whip up and disperse in a way I like yet and the cloud is way too dense, so this one will take another try.

That’s all for now. See you again next week!

18 to 24 May, come on down!

This week’s show-and-tell is a video featuring the intro scene (which has been deleted) along with some narration about deleting scenes.

Just like the last couple of weeks, I’m reviewing the layout. This week I’ve been discovering opportunities for more gags, finding a new point to begin telling the story, devising how to make it look like Gronky has fainted using his current character design, and figuring out once and for all what the hell Pointy is doing in the middle of the desert anyway.

The rewrite is a big job. There’s so much reworking to do that it’s hard to know where to begin making the actual changes. On one hand I’m getting more and more curious to try stuff to see if it works, and on the other I’m afraid of jumping the gun or getting stuck on ideas that won’t work or having the story unravel.

I’m sure these wil all turn out to be dumb animal fears in the end, but having them hovering around makes the movie look scarier than it really should. It also makes stupid little distractions and timesinks all the more tempting. Progress bars, level-ups and game achievements come so much easier than crossing shots off a shot list.

Just have to make friends with the moviemaking process again and ease back into hands-on work instead of fretting or distraction-seeking, eh?