Monday, 10 January 2011

Final Evaluation

Today is the deadline for my Advanced Skills project, although I plan on continuing my research and rigging skills far after today.

I must admit when I started this term I was rather ill and this set me back a few weeks with regards to my rigging. I realise now that the initial rigging of the body that took me a while to do could have been done in a few days in I had been better. I hope that I have made up for this of late, although I could have done with exurting myself more at the beginning of term. Possibly confusion and changes with my final film impacted with knowing what I wanted to do for this term.

In overview, I have done the following this term:

Rigged the bones in a human model (without binding- this is my next aim), created blend shapes for two character heads, tested dynamic fire, created water tests using textures and dynamics, render tested my head model using the toon shader, and also carried on creating run cycles and expression tests for my animation.

I feel I have learned so much this term that I cannot list all of the shortcuts etc here. It ranges from the obvious blend shapes to even adding prefixes to names. I really want to push on with my rigging, and will push on further this term to learn how to make the bulges in the arms and painting weights on the body. However, I do want to use the next week or so to concentrate on some animation as I am rather missing it.

My aims from now on are:
  • finish learning how to rig the body completely
  • apply my facial rigging knowledge to animals or non human characters
  • create a walk cycle or test animation with my rigged character

I like rigging because it is a challenge and you need to solve lots of problems as you encounter them. For this reason I want to push myself further and next attempt either cloth or hair. I really hope by having some knowledge of these skills I can create better animation for my final film Snatched, and make myself a desirable candidate for a job as a character Animator upon completion of my degree.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Industry Research

After learning all these new skills I thought it would be interesting to see what jobs are in the Industry at the moment.

I first looked on the Skillset website for an overview of the different types of jobs:

Jobs in 3D Computer Animation
3D Computer Animation, or CGI, takes place in a variety of different contexts. Therefore it is important to remember that different companies will have different interpretations of what a job role entails.
Some jobs will exist in one studio but not in others. For example whilst a Storyboard Artist is a very key role within feature production, the same job rarely occurs within a Facility House as storyboards will be provided by the client.
UK Facility Houses tend to call all roles TDs (Technical Directors) rather than the title of the specific job. This means there are TDs in all specialities with varying levels of skills.
When considering a career in Computer Graphics it is a good idea to think about whether you see yourself more as a creative or a technical person. Many jobs will require both attributes but most favour one or the other. Some will be almost entirely creative but others are exclusively technical and may require knowledge of Maths or Physics.
DevelopmentThe Development stage broadly involves the conceiving and identifying of ideas and designing initial concepts. Pitching the product and securing funding and intellectual property rights are also important at this stage.
The Development stage very much requires a strong understanding of the target market and any commercial constraints, opportunities and competition it presents.
Jobs in Development:
Pre ProductionIn broad generalised terms, the Pre Production stage involves fleshing out the idea to make it ready for production, typically involving writing the script, drawing the storyboard, designing character turnarounds, designing layouts/backgrounds and creating an animatic. For post-production companies much of this work will be undertaken by the client.
Jobs in Pre-Production:
Production Designer
Layout TD (several levels)
Art Director
Layout Supervisor
Concept Artist * (often 2D)
Layout Artists (Rough and Final) *
Character Designer (often 2D)
Environments Designer
Storyboard Supervisor
Effects Designer
Storyboard Artist
Storyboard Assistant *
Head of Tools (R & D)
Pre-Vis Artists (3D) *
Tools Writer
R & D Artist/Look Dev Artist
ProductionIn CGI the production stage involves building, rigging and texturing models, animating characters, and setting up and lighting scenes. Rendering is also undertaken to output the animation sequences ready for compositing and editing.
Many of these activities can be undertaken either by manually manipulating objects on the computer screen or by using software-scripting languages to automate the process, and frequently involve combinations of both approaches.
In fact animators represent a fairly small proportion of the crew, many fewer than in 2D. It is significant that CG is often more sequence led than character led. Each animator can be asked to animate all the characters within a shot; whereas in 2D, a lead animator may handle a character throughout a project. This practice can vary from project to project.
Jobs in Production
Assistant Director
Effects (FX)Supervisor
Visual Effects (VFX) Supervisor
Effects (FX) Artist/FX Animator
Director of Photography
Effects (FX) TD (several levels)
CG Supervisor
Cloth Simulation FX Artist
Fur/Feathers FX Artist
Modelling Supervisor
Water FX Artist
Modelling TD
3D Tracker/Match Mover *
Shading/Texture Supervisor
Digital Painter
Shading TD
Matte Painter *
Shader Writer
Texture Artist/Texture Painter
Lighting Supervisor
Lighting TD / CG Lighter (several levels)
Rigging Supevisor
Rigging TD
Fixing TD
Character TD
Rendering Supervisor
Rendering TD
Shot TD (Facility Houses)
Render Wrangler *
Set Dressers
Runner *
Animation Director
Lead Animator (Supervising Animator)
Systems Administrator
IT Support *
Character Animator
Junior Animator
Production Secretary
Production Assistant
Post Production
Post Production involves collating assets e.g. filmed footage, digital animation sequences and special effects into the finished film. It includes editing, scoring the music, quality checking and outputting the final product into the required formats.
Some animation companies focus exclusively on post production and deliver special effects for film, TV and commercials.
Jobs in Post Production
Compositing Supervisor
Editing Assistant
Roto Artist *
Scanning TD
Scanner/Recorder *
Wire Remover*
* entry level with appropriate qualifications

Evidently I want a job in the Production of 3D animation, I know this is where I am strongest, I do enjoy making concept art to help with my work however Post Production compositing does not interest me, mostly because I do not have the eye for colour.

I really want to get into the games industry in my career, so I started looking on Gamasutra for job openings. However, I found that all of the animation jobs did not mention rigging, which is interesting as the two are so closely linked. When I searched for 'Rigging' the results that came up were for Technical Artists:

I then looked on the Lucasfilm website as this is my dream company, and where I hope to work after a few years in the Industry.

It seems that in bigger companies like this it is not necessary to have all the skills for rigging and animating, as they will have different people for the jobs. I know I want to be an Animator, but I do enjoy rigging and think it will help my animation, so it may be better for me to aim to start at a smaller company where they made need the extra skills and I will be a more desirable candidate. This is because I do not want to really become a Technical Artist and disregard my animation because that is my passion. I would really prefer to be an Animator and continue with my rigging skill set in my spare time.

I know I am not ready for the Industry with my rigging anyway because I have only just started to learn it, but I feel if I do not rest now and continue to practice on different models throughout the rest of my final year I will be ready by the time I leave University.

Expression Tests

As a final part of advancing my skills this term, I thought I would do a couple of quick tests to check how well my Blend Shape models work.

I found this image on Google to use as reference:

I think they work rather well for my first attempts at Facial Rigging. I did realise by doing them that I have improved my skills somewhat as I did not complete many eyebrow movements in the Melvin rig, although I do need to add to the nose movements of the second rig.

More Water Tests

I have been looking into effects work as well this term, and I wanted to do a few more tests with water.

I also found this water dynamic tutorial on using Softbodies to make the wave movement:



I do like the movement of this water, I think if I toned down the turbulence then perhaps it could be used. My only reservation is that there is not much detail on the surface and this may get lost in the style of film we are using for Snatched.

This could probably be rectified quite easily, but as I am party colour blind I am not the best person for the job. Perhaps a texture could be applied to the water to make it look more cartoony?

In this next instance, I used a cloud texture in order to create a more cartoony look, as I think this is more suitable to the look of our film and realistic water will not be needed. This will also render faster than using dynamics for example.

In order to make the water look like it is moving, I simply animated the texture. You can see the results below:


I tried adding a light to see how this would look. It is only a simple point light, but it would be interesting to see how different lights make the water look and changing the Opacity and reflection of the Blinn shader.

Playing around a little more:

I like the movement of the dynamics but the style of the texture test, so I decided to combine the two. I used the Softbody and turbulence in order to make the plane move, but then added the Cloud texture and played around with the colours (as I say I am not the best at this).

It may also be possible to make one of the colours black and use the Luma key in After Effects like I did with my render tests to hint at the water in the scene rather than having a block of colour like in these tests, but I will feed back to my Director before I do so. Combining this with my particle water test may also create some interesting results and add more depth to the environment.

Creating Hand Controls

My main aim for today is to complete the rigging of the hands.

I have been learning about joint orientation because it is important when creating Set driven keys for the hands. The joints are rotated in order to create curls on the fingers.

Here you can see the joint orientation of the hand

I had to change them so that the X was pointing in line with the Middle finger and the Y was pointing towards the Pinky little finger. This is true except the Thumb, which has a different orientation to the other fingers as it acts differently and curves at a different angle to the others.

Once the orientations were done, it was a case of mirroring the rig across the Y axis in order to create the right hand rig quickly. I then added the prefixes to the right and left hands to differentiate the two.

As you can see, there are now both hands with joints:

It was then time to create the controller and Set Driven Keys for the hand.

In order to create the Set Driven Keys, I added different attributes to the hand Control. These were: pinkyCurl. indexCurl, middleCurl, thumbCurl, ringCurl and pinkyCup. All of these had minimum values of 0 and max of 10, whereas the thumbRotX, thumbRotZ and fingerSpread has minimum of -10 and maximum of 10. All had default rest positions of 0.

It was then a case of using Set Driven key to rotate the fingers into their maximum and minimum positions so that they could be keyed ane be able to be animated easily.

Finally the hand was controlled by using the Command editor and linking the hand to the wrist, so it was able to twist and move.

Showing that theSet Driven keys work:

What I have learned just from the hands:

  • Joint Orientation
  • Set Driven Key

Hand Rigging

Following on with the Melvin rig, I have started to add the joints to the left hand. I found this pretty easy and it did not take long to do.

Making sure the joints were inside the mesh:

How the hand is looking so far:

Joint Orientation

This was a quick test to see the difference when setting Joint Orientations. This is important for the hands so that they can bend in a certain way and have Set Driven keys applied to them.

As you can see the Orientations are different when using Auto Join Orient in the second 's'. I did not realise how important this was to rigging a character, but it helps control joint transformations as well as having an effect on the clusters when skinning the character.