Saturday, 18 November 2017

YPGTTO: Trip to France & Reflective Statement

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to France along with a few others on the YPGTTO team over the last few days. It was an amazing experience - it was very rewarding to see so many French kids enjoy this film that 17 of us have slaved over for months now. I admit I was incredibly nervous about being part of this trip due to how I'm normally somewhat anxious about travelling to new places. Also, I knew there would be many people I did not know and who possibly didn't speak English that well.

Amiens, France

Amiens, France

Amiens, France

I was also nervous knowing that some or all of us would need to be interviewed about this project. I tend to think "the reason why I went into CGI is so I can work on films without being in front of a camera" but I also know that if we are being interviewed then we were successful. I also tried to remind myself that interviews are a part of filmmaking and it is how the 'Making Of' documentaries that I often love to watch are made. Despite that anxiety, I enjoyed the trip and I'm very proud of this film that we have made. Watching the film with a live orchestra transformed the experience. While the timing of the music to the film was never going to be perfect live, the sound was richer and it as nice to be able to see real musicians play the instruments. It was also rewarding to see the reactions of our audience and how many people actually came to see our film.

Jeu de Paume Theatre (Albert, France)

Jeu de Paume Theatre (Albert, France) 

Theatre Municipal Abbeville (Abbeville, France)

Theatre Municipal Abbeville (Abbeville, France)

When I began working on this project I never expected to be as involved in it as I ended up being. It initially began as an internship/work experience over my summer holidays and it ended up becoming a large chunk of my Minor Project for my final year on the CAA course. I remembered this project being introduced to us in my first year with some speed-paint challenges - I didn't expect to have enough knowledge or skill to be involved with the project later down the line. When Phil initially asked me to work on the project again (about 7 months ago) to help out I was very excited and eager to help out. I initially expected it to be bits and pieces of After Effects and Compositing (for example - adding the text onto the signs) and while that was one of my main responsibilities - I ended up working on more than I expected including 3D modelling, digital set building, texturing, some rigging, and camera animation on top of the compositing role.

The Flute District - Speedpaint Challenge

Watching the film now, I find it exciting that I had the opportunity to be part of almost every district (15 districts/chapters in total) in some way whether that involved 3D modelling, digital set building, rigging, texturing, and/or pre-vis creation/camera animation. If I were to choose any of the districts that I felt most attached to in terms of my role with it - I'd say it would be The Viola District because I feel I spent the most time on it with modelling, set building, texturing and locking down camera animation. I also feel that one of the most challenging chapters was The Finale due to the difficulty I had texturing the 'Glowing City' and how the space was mostly empty but it still needed to be the grand finale.

The Viola District - Digital Set (untextured)

The Viola District - Digital Set (textured)

There were many challenges involved with this project, one being that the team never met together fully in person. While it's amazing that we still managed to achieve the film just by communication online, I do wish we sometimes had chances to meet together in person as I feel perhaps that would have helped solve some issues we came across during production. One difficulty we faced was having to consider how we could make a consistent film when everyone had different versions of Autodesk Maya. I think the use of Basecamp was both a blessing and a curse because it made everything available to everyone but sometimes it felt messy and confusing. This was especially true when it came down to compositing - one of my main roles on this project.

I was already quite intimidated by this role because it means that I need to take all of the different render passes and piece them together as the 'final footage' to then be sent off for the final edit. It was my job to filter through everything, spot gaps/errors, and do my best to make sure everything was in place and looked the best that it could. I was also anxious being in charge of the translations on the various signs since I only speak English...the only thing I could do is try to check over the signs several times to ensure I didn't make any errors. Luckily everything seemed to be alright with the French version, although there may need to be some tweaks to the translations later down the line.

In conclusion - I am very happy I had the chance to work on a group project with CAA staff members, alumni and other students. It's amazing to think that this project began two years ago (although actual production started about 14 months ago). I'm very proud of everyone on the team for the hard work they put in to bring this film to life - I hope they are proud of themselves too. While I'm excited to move onto my own individual project, I'm going to miss the project and the people who worked on it. I hope that there's some sort of project everyone can work on again in the future as I think it was an enriching experience for everyone. I look forward to creating a snag list with the rest of the team so we can work on improving bits and pieces of the film that we aren't 100% satisfied with.

My only regret is not being able to speak French because after the very first official performance of our film a little French girl that was sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder. With a large smile on her face, spoke to me in French...I can only guess by her grin and her nods of (hopefully) approval that she was saying that she enjoyed the film. I do hope that we inspired and will continue to inspire some children to pursue classical music and/or animation.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Minor Project: Experimenting with Substance Painter

Now that YPGTTO is essentially finished - I moved back to my other project that I've been calling 'When' (for now at least, this may change later on). I know that texturing is going to be an important component to this project. I know Arnold is going to be invaluable for creating realistic textures but I also wanted to experiment with Substance Painter. I've watched a few video tutorials on Youtube by Allegorithmic to see if it was possible for me to use this software or if it was going to be too complex for me to learn in the timeframe that I have.

However, I found it somewhat similar to Mudbox, except it is only really for creating textures and not sculpting. I actually much prefer the interface and tools compared to Mudbox for painting textures, but as far as I could tell so far...Substance Painter cannot create displacement maps, only bump/normal maps since it's not a sculpting software. For these few tests I used a few preset smart materials and altered them .

I watched another tutorial about how to export the textures into Maya. As long as the settings in Substance Painter are correct, it will create channels that get plugged into the various slots in the Arnold shaders. While I think some textures I'll need to create will be able to be made solely in Arnold - I think some textures may benefit from painting I could do in Substance Painter. I know there is also a piece of software called Substance Designer, so I may look into that as well just so I have as many options as possible to achieve what I want.

Some other features I really liked in Substance Painter was the ability to change the resolution whenever you wanted (you can start at a 2k resolution but bump it up to 4k later on and the program will recalculate the strokes you have made) and the ability to plug in your own images for lighting. I also really liked different filters that you can add onto your shaders such as colour correction, blurring, effects to achieve scratches/brushed metal looks, and several others.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

YPGTTO: Compositing Shots #2

As the YPGTTO deadline draws closer - I've continued to composite shots while helping the team sort out any footage that may have been missing from the film. As expected - the Finale was a challenge as there were several different people working on it and it became somewhat difficult to figure out who did what and where the files were...but we got there in the end! The Trumpet and Tuba & Trombone districts are now composited and complete...the Finale is mostly complete with only a few shots left to piece together. Once again I love being able to see all of the different elements come together...compositing these shots has given me the opportunity to see animation I haven't gotten the chance to see yet. I can't wait to see the final outcome, it's been overwhelming and stressful at times but this project has been a great experience overall and I've really enjoyed working with the YPGTTO team.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

YPGTTO: Composited Shots #1

I've been working on compositing some of the different districts in YPGTTO. I've found it very enjoyable to be putting all of the pieces together - I love being able to see how everyone's hard work merges together. I've so far completed the Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, Bassoon, Violin, Double Bass, and Harp districts. The Horn District is nearly complete then I'm onto the Trumpet, Tuba/Trombone districts, and the Finale. Here is a selection of some of the shots I've put together so far.


Each district and shot required different components and techniques in AE - some shots such as The Flute District required lots of clouds for Red to fall through while the Clarinet District needed smoke puffs to come out of the buildings. The Bassoon District had crowds and the transition between the Bassoon and Violin District was a challenge to get seamless as it was made in two different digital sets. In the Double Bass District I had to animate lights on Red as the power cables flickered and the Horn District called for an animated light in the sky. Overall I'm very happy with how these shots are looking and I cannot wait to see the final film.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

YPGTTO: Additional Finale Shots

As I began work on compositing - we realised that we had a few shots for the Finale that were missing so I went in to fill in the gaps for the environment renders. Some of the character animation was already blocked in by Emily Clarkson while other shots I had to block in the character animation myself before passing it to Nat Urwin. I attached some birds on a motion path just to get an idea of what the birds will be doing round Red, but my main focus was the camera movement.