Sunday, 30 October 2016

Character: Male Ferret/Guinea Pig Thumbnails #43-46

These are some ideas for my male far I prefer the male ferret vs the guinea pig. I think this is because I find that the body shapes of ferrets are more unique and interesting while a guinea pig looks more blob-like which makes it hard to play around with shapes. If I mess around with the guinea pig's shape too much I find it unrecognisable what it is. I feel that the male ferret thumbnails more look like they could belong in the same world as the thumbnails I made of the female ferret. I'll continue to experiment with both anyway for now.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Personal Work: Halloween Speedpaint (Leon Enriquez's 'Wendigo')

In the spirit of Halloween I wanted to do a quick speedpaint for fun. Since I have projects and other things to work on I made sure to not spend too much time on this, but it was enjoyable to make. I used a sketch I made a while ago of an art piece I like - Wendigo by Leon Enriquez. Since most of the lines were already drawn out for me it didn't take me too long, there are many things that could do with improvement but since it was just for myself, I'm going to leave it as is for now.


Maya Pipeline 1: Head Modelling - Preparation & Rough Blocking (Part 1 & 2)

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Character: Female Ferret Thumbnails #37-42

After further refining my story yesterday I've decided to go back to some of my thumbnails and make them look for feminine for my female ferret character.

After I made the first three I also decided to go back and readjust parts of the drawing (I made it in Illustrator so I was able to move around and adjust the points) to see what slight variations I could make such as larger eyes or smaller feet. I quite like how these are looking, and I plan to experiment with a scruffy male ferret character and a male guinea pig as I am undecided which one I am choose yet. I will also begin doing some thumbnails of the human child that picks up the two animals and crams them into a pet carrier/something similar.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Opposing Characters: X-Men

Considering the number of X-Men films currently released (nine in total) and being made such as Logan (and others in development including possible adaptations of X-Force, The Dark Phoenix, and The New Mutants), one would think that Bryan Singer's original X-Men (2000) was a massive success. However, this first X-Men adaptationreceived very mixed reviews during its release. In fact, the most successful X-Men films were spin offs such as The Wolverine and Deadpool instead of other films under the specific 'X-Men' title.

This is interesting because the release of the X-Men comics were also met with criticism and was cancelled (later to be revived). This could be because, "when Marvel Comics mastermind Stan Lee (co-creator of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, etc.) first cooked up the 'X-Men' series in 1963, its mutant vs. normal conflict was a provocative, usually serious-minded commentary of concurrent civil rights struggles," (Harvey, 2000). Both X-Men (2000) and X2 (2003) received criticism over its pessimistic views of discrimination. It is admittedly pessimistic and dark in terms of society's intolerance for people who are different but that is unfortunately representative of our society even today.

Fig 1. X-Men (2000)

At the same time, many met the first X-Men film with enthusiasm. It is often praised for its special effects such as the makeup/appearance of the evil shapeshifter Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) and the computer effects used as she changes her appearance. It is also very interesting to see the different powers that the mutants are born with such as telekinesis, telepathy, the power to control weather, and many more. It is often said by critics that the film spent too much time cramming in as many different characters as possible. This was always going to cause issues with this film considering there are several main characters, some being Rogue (Anna Paquin), Cyclops (James Marsden), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Storm (Halle Berry). There are also many other minor characters throughout the film, and quite a few characters that were originally in the comics that do not make an appearance such as Gambit and Scarlet Witch.

Despite the criticism of there being too many characters but not enough depth to these characters, there was significant development for the characters Magneto (Ian Mckellen) and Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Hugh Jackman's performance as Wolverine/Logan was also met with praise, so much so that he has reprised the role in (so far) every X-Men related film that features his character. Hugh Jackman's portrayal of Wolverine put him among the better performances along with Ian Mckellen's Magneto and Patrick Stewart's Professor Xavier, "The two-fisted Wolverine, well played by Mr. Jackman, is perhaps the only other semi-rounded character who animates the picture besides Xavier and Magneto," (Mitchell, 2000).

The flatness of the other characters seems to emphasize the relationship between the opposing forces of Magneto and Xavier. It refocuses the audience to remember that the main antagonist is Magneto and the protagonist is Xavier despite their relative lack of physical conflict compared to the other super-powered battles between their minions/allies. These are two older men with two opposing views of the world. Xavier is optimistic that humans will come to accept mutants and there will be no more discrimination or violence. Magneto, on the other hand, has a much more pessimistic view and believes that they cannot co-exist- it is kill or be killed.

Fig 2. Erik Lehnsherr (young Magneto) During The Holocaust

While Magneto is the antagonist of the story and causes harm to innocent people, it is hard to blame him for doing these things. In the beginning of the film we are given a portion of Magneto's personal history, we learn that he is not only a mutant but a Holocaust survivor. With Professor Xavier we only get hints of his history through pieces of dialogue, the most important being he and Magneto were once friends, they helped each other build Cerebro (a machine that boosts Xavier's telepathy), and Xavier was unable to change Magneto's opinion about non-mutants. There is no question that due to their differing personal world views, Magneto has experienced how prejudice can lead to violence, death and suffering. Xavier has experienced much more kindness, compassion, and acceptance during his life in comparison. "They aren't enemies so much as ideological opposite. Magneto, having seen the Holocaust, has a deep pessimism about human nature. Xavier, who runs a school for mutants in Westchester County... hopes these new powers can be used for good," (Ebert, 2000).

Unfortunately, their inherited world is still saturated with intolerance, only this time the target is mutants instead of Jews. This makes the world of X-Men a combination of Real and Magic because it focuses on problems occurring in reality but mixes in some science fiction by making the targets mutants instead of focusing on something like race, sexuality, or gender. This is interesting because it allows the audience to better relate and understand to Magneto's distrust of the non-mutants. Because of this, his goal is to turn normal people into mutants because he needs to keep his kind (mutants) safe from violence like the Holocaust. This differs from Xavier, whose goal is to educate mutants to develop and control their powers so they can be used for the good of society. This is because he also needs to protect mutants, although he hopes to convince non-mutants to accept them.

Both Magneto and Xavier share similar external traits, they both appear to be wise and intelligent. However, they do not appear as capable of physical combat as the other characters... Professor Xavier being wheelchair bound and Magneto needing assistance walking after using his machine that turns non-mutants into mutants. However, the way they interact through dialogue reveals their internal traits such as power, passion, and intensity for their views, "listening to them trill their vowels at each other is one of the movies few pleasures, since the parallels to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Xavier) and Malcolm X (Magneto) are made wincingly plain...when they go golden throat to golden throat, it is like watching members of another species in action," (Mitchell, 2000).

Despite their wiseness, both characters have their flaws. Some of Magneto's flaws includes his age (not as physically capable), his ruthlessness (he hurts anyone who gets in his way, even mutants who he is claiming he is protecting), and his blind hate which turns him into the very think he resents (intolerant/judgemental of those different to him). His major flaw is his power's limitations which not only causes him to kidnap Rogue to power his machine instead of doing it himself, but also makes him incapable of escaping his plastic prison cell. Xavier's flaws include his inability to walk (mobility is limited, relies on others), his inability to use his powers on Magneto because of Magneto's helmet, and his vulnerability while using Cerebro (which is exploited by Mystique).

Fig 3. Xavier and Magneto Playing Chess in Prison Cell

Due to the number of different characters and the open ending of X-Men, it is difficult to determine the overall story arch for the characters. There are obvious emotional changes in characters such as Wolverine and Rogue. Wolverine went from emotionally cold and distant to being more open and caring (specifically towards Rogue) while Rogue went from fearful and isolated to more hopeful and confident. Magneto remains stubborn with his views about non-mutants, but perhaps Xavier has emotionally changed to pity Magneto while also trusting his X-Men more than he did before (he was in a coma while the rest of the team defeated Magneto and his team).

Overall, the main conflict of X-Men is not 'Magneto vs. Xavier' but Magneto's views of the world vs. Xavier's views of the world. This is interesting because it is easy to side with either character, not just 'the good guys'. Even though Magneto is the 'bad guy', one can understand why he feels the way that he does considering his experience in the Holocaust and the current intolerance of mutants. Even though the X-Men adaptation was not met with initial enthusiasm, it cannot be argued that it represents a very serious problem that people in real life face every day. Perhaps this is part of why not everyone enjoyed it, because it focused on a very touchy and uncomfortable theme but that is what makes the X-Men films and comics important - to teach people it is normal to be different.

Ebert, R. (2000) X-Men At: Accessed on: 25/10/2016
Harvey, D. (2000) Review: 'X-Men' At: Accessed on: 25/10/2016
Kennedy, C. (2000) X-Men Review At: Accessed on 25/10/2016
Mitchell, E. (2000)Film Review; Pow! Misftit Heroes To The Rescue! Zap! At: Accessed on: 25/10/2016

Illustration List:
Figure 1. X-Men [Poster] At: Accessed on: 25/10/2016
Figure 2. Erik Lehnsherr (young Magneto) During The Holocaust [Film Still] At: Accessed on: 25/10/2016
Figure 3. Xavier and Magneto Playing Chess in Prison Cell [Film Still] At: Accessed on: 25/10/2016

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Character: Ferret Idea Development

After more feedback today, I've been able to develop my story idea more for the Character project. I am debating about either making two ferret characters or a ferret and a guinea pig. While in the real world it'd make more sense if it was two ferrets, having two different animals will make the characters more unique from each other. I think it'd also add to the humour of the tubby messy male guinea pig thinking the ferret is a strange, feminine, sort of mythically beautiful guinea pig when in reality she's a different species.

Character Class: Creature Design - Wetlands

Friday, 21 October 2016

Pikatti: After Effects Shadow Test (Using Zombie from 2D Character Rigging Tutorials)

For this test I decided to use the zombie from the 2D Character Rigging Tutorials because this is how we plan on making our animation. After I followed a video online guiding me on how to make the shadows in After Effects I made a few changes on my own which include reducing the opacity a bit more because I thought the shadow was too dark and adding a blur to it. I also added a film grain over the whole thing just to make it look a little less clean.

I apologize if the animation looks a little odd, I just wanted to make it quickly to test the shadows and I'm still struggling with Extension 2 on my computer so I had to use Extension 1. I wasn't sure if this would mess up the blend shapes or not, but in the outliner I still see the pose interpolator shapes (screenshot at the bottom) and the model didn't seem to collapse too badly so I had a difficult time telling if they were still working or not.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Pikatti: After Effects Wind Test

Character: Animal Silhouette Thumbnails #1-30

Ferret Silhouettes
Hamster Silhouettes
Meerkat Silhouettes

Narrative Structure: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

In cinema, it is common for the final installment in a series or trilogy to be the least successful while the first is the favourite, which is arguably true for films such as 'Star Wars' and 'The Matrix'. However, Peter Jackson's 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (2003) is often considered the best of the trilogy. This is very unusual, "After the galloping intelligence displayed in the first two parts of 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy, you fear may be that the director, Peter Jackson, would become cautious and unimaginative with the last episode...but Mr. Jackson crushes any such fear," (Mitchell, 2003).

Fig 1. 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (2003)
It is difficult to get the balance correct when creating a trilogy of films. The director must think of an ending for the first two parts without actually closing the story since it continues in the following film(s). While The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (the first chapter of The Rings trilogy) ends with a relatively solid conclusion when the Fellowship breaks apart, The Two Towers (the second film) is often criticised for not having enough of an ending and the final film, The Return of the King, is criticised for having "too many endings".

The stories within the original books were complex and detailed (the tales of Middle Earth go far beyond The Lord of the Rings), which in turn made the films hard to create. After the first installment, The Fellowship of the Ring, all of the characters become separated and as the trilogy progresses more and more characters are introduced. This means that there are multiple mini-plots occurring at the same time, making the continuity three films and the stories within difficult to achieve. By the end of the trilogy, each plot needs its own individual conclusion while also having a single unified conclusion shared between all the separate plots.

Perhaps this is why Jackson had the rare opportunity to film a trilogy all at once, "The Lord of the Rings trilogy was probably the greatest gamble of filmmaking history...New Line Cinema risked the entire studio by giving Peter Jackson $300 million and a free hand to make all three films at once," (Hiscock, 2003). By making the three films all at once, he was able to keep the different plots coherent and consistent with each other.

Jackson progressed each of the mini-plots to keep them within the same timeframe as each other. This allowed each story to be tied together at the end neatly, "The third film gathers all of the plot strands and guides them toward the great battle of Minas Tirith." (Ebert, 2003). All of this plays into the Narrative Structure of The Lord of the Rings, which differs in each of the three films. The Fellowship of the Ring follows the Five Act Structure relatively traditionally. However, in The Two Towers all of the characters are separated. Therefore, there are a series of different story lines that each have their own Five Acts that do not converge.

Fig 2. Merry & Pippin reunite with Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, & Gandalf
In The Return of the King some of the plots merge during the exposition. Merry (Domonic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) reunite with part of the Fellowship - Gandalf (Ian Mckellen), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies). However, Frodo (Elijah Wood), Sam (Sean Astin) and Gollum (Andy Serkis) remain separate in their own plot. During the rising action, Pippin and Gandalf leave for Gondor and later on Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli leave Merry to convince the Army of the Dead to help at Minas Tirith. The other mini-plots continue on, stemming off to more characters and more stories...there's no wonder as to why the film is over three hours long.

These separate mini-plots each have their own acts which develop at their own pace. However, some of the plots reach their climax simultaneously. For example, Frodo and Sam fight Gollum to throw The Ring into Mount Doom while The Eagles come aid of the rest of the Fellowship who are battling Mordor's armies at the Black Gate. However, there are other mini-plots scattered throughout the film such as Eowyn's (Miranda Otto) battle against the Witch-King, Arwen (Liv Tyler) giving up her immortality, and many more. "There is even time for a smaller-scale personal tragedy; Denethor (John Noble), steward of the city, mourns the death of his older and favoured son, and a younger son named Faramir (David Wenham), determined to gain his father's respect, rides out to certain death." (Ebert, 2003)

During the overall falling action, all of the story lines converge again and the Fellowship is unified. As the film reaches the denouement and nears resolution, each of the characters seem to drift off one last time. After Aragorn is crowned King of Gondor, we follow the Hobbits back to the Shire, leaving Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli on their own. Then other characters such as Frodo, Gandalf, Bilbo (Ian Holm), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) leave for The Grey Havens. We never really know what happens to Sam, Merry, and Pippin...we can only assume they live on in peace. It is difficult to say if The Return of the King had a partial ending or a closed ending since we know The Ring has been destroyed, but we do not know what happens to the rest of the characters afterwards (unless the viewer has read other Tolkien books).

Fig 3. Sailing to The Grey Havens
The narrative structure of The Return of the King and the rest of the trilogy is untraditional and dynamic, it can be difficult to keep track of all the expositions, inciting incidents, rising actions, climaxes, falling actions, and resolutions. Perhaps this complex system of converging and diverging mini-plots is why Jackson received criticism that The Return of the King had too many false endings. "With epic conflict, staggering battles, striking landscapes and effects, and resolved character arcs all leading to a dramatic conclusion to more than nine hours of masterful storytelling, 'King' is an urgently paced 200-minute film without an ounce of fat -- until unfortunate multiple endings that go on and on, as if Jackson couldn't bear to let go," (McCarthy, 2003).

The Lord of the Rings must have been especially difficult because the world of Middle Earth written by J.R.R. Tolkien already had many fans. Jackson had to satisfy the fan base that already knew and loved Middle Earth while making the lore understandable to people who have never read the books. It is easy to see that all three films were very successful pleasing the Tolkien fans while attracting new people to the tales of Middle Earth. Through unique storytelling, intensive filmmaking, and inventive visuals, The Return of the King and the rest of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a high fantasy film to remember.

Bradshaw, P. (2003) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King At: Accessed on: 17/10/2016
Ebert, R. (2003) Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King At: Accessed on: 17/10/2016
Hiscock, J. (2003) It's the biggest, and the best At: Accessed on: 17/10/2016
McCarthy, T. (2003) Review: 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' At: Accessed on: 17/10/2016
Mitchell, E (2003) Film Review: Triumph Tinged With Regret in Middle Earth At: Accessed on: 17/10/2016
Morrison, A. (2016) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Review At: Accessed on: 17/10/2016

Illustration List:
Figure 1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [Poster] At: Accessed on: 17/10/2016
Figure 2. Merry & Pippin reunite with Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli & Gandalf [Film Still] At: Accessed on: 17/10/2016
Figure 3. Sailing to The Grey Havens [Film Still] At: Accessed on: 17/10/2016

Monday, 17 October 2016

Pikatti: After Effects Snowfall Test

@Alan @Justin New Character Ideas (Core Idea with Variations)

Here is my core idea and some variations for the Character project. Most of the variations are interchangeable since they are all pretty similar. I also made another post previously that expanded a bit on one of my ideas.

So far I like the idea of the hamsters/ferrets getting stuck in the tunnels the most, but I also think the addition of a child forcing the two animals together or a sort of 'high school' gossip thing may be interesting too. Between all of the animals I think I think either hamsters or ferrets would work better, although I think ferrets would lead to more interesting designs because of their body shapes. I'll continue to brainstorm and I'll start to expand on the better ideas when I get feedback...thanks!

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Character - New Idea: Hamster Love Triangle

After some discussion, it was agreed that my cat/dog idea was not working out. It was suggested that I look at situations where things are forced into confined spaces or animals bunched up in a small space (for example, a bunch of birds on a power line). Taking this into consideration, I also talked to a few of my family members and friends to help me come up with a few ideas...a few mentioned pets such as hamsters getting stuck in things or lost, which inspired the idea below.