Thursday, 2 May 2013

SUPER BLOG POST: Evaluation of the college year

Overall I would say that the college year hasn't been too bad. There were several units that I was very enthused with and I felt like I was in my element, equally there's been a few units which I struggled with a bit more.

The main units which I was very much interested in mainly revolved around drawing. The 2D animation unit at the beginning was my first real foray into Traditional animation, which I found to be quite fun as well as a good way of combining animation I'd learned how to do using Flash and the more hand-drawn stuff I liked to produce. I found testing motion and adding in details later to actually be a much more efficient process than I thought it would be and not dissimilar to what I'd done previously on the computer. The main thing which I learned from that unit was about how to construct a walk cycle, as before, my walks looked less like walks and more like skipping which would be alright in circumstances which called for it but otherwise just looked silly.

I felt like I was also in my stride on the storyboarding module, as storyboarding is something that I had done before and had brought over previous skills from another animation I did to create fully coloured storyboards. I did enjoy trying to capture the action in a frame and I think I did well enough, with enough variation in each frame to make it interesting and the action not too much of the same thing.
Where it was different from what I normally do is when we took the storyboard assets and combine them in After Effects to make an animatic, I normally make animatics in Flash to sort out timing, however this was an interesting approach and it certainly looked closer to what I would hope a final product would look like. After Effects was surprisingly easy to use once I got the hang of it and was very compatible with Photoshop which made importing assets to be animated a really simple task, I also thought about the possibilities of using After Effects for actual animation.

 The character design unit was a mixed bag, as there was a large component of creating a character, designing the back story and then illustrating a turnaround sheet. This part was what I'm usually used to, my character ended up actually going through more design changes than I normally would do for a character and I ended up finding the value in just sitting down and sketching and doodling and then not stopping until there are pages of ideas for each body part. The advantage of my character was that, being a robot, it made sense that parts of the character could be mish-mashed or interchangeable as is often the case with electronics. This allowed me the luxury of being able to swap around heads, hands and other body parts until I created a robot which I felt had enough personality. The second part of this unit was that the characters would then be taken and recreated in 3D using our model sheets as reference. We used Cinema4D, which is a program I've used before, although my understanding of how to model and animate characters was much less than it was before I started this unit. I learned how to model, rig and animate my robot. Modelling was actually easier than I imagined it would be, once I learned how to do it. Luckily for me, my robot was already designed to be very uniform and had many straight edges which allowed me to model in a much more boxy style, which I felt might be easier than modelling organic characters. The other advantage of my character's design was that his arms were basically tubed, which meant that when they were modelled and rigged, they were basically pipes which could be manipulated on the rig and had several bones places along side it to make the arm bend much in the way a hose does, the same goes for the legs, however from the knees down were large calves and feet, which were harder to rig and animate.
Rigging it's self was a nightmare, I thought, I rather struggled which it because when I eventually figured out how to set it up, there were difficulties getting everything to move the way it was supposed to. Particularly with the knee and shoulder joints, there was a lot of misshaping and warping with the former, and clipping with the latter. The main problem was trying to set up and foot roll which was controlled by a slider, I found that I actually couldn't achieve it because every time I connected the joints together in a hierarchy and told them to roll, the leg would shoot off in an insane direction. To remedy this I went with a much more simpler approach; I created several joints inside the foot and rooted them to controllers which could be manipulated and then I manually keyframed in the foot roll, it was a bit more primitive than the slider but I felt like it did the job in the long run.
The actual animation was pretty straightforward as I was able to block out the basic movements first and go back later and put in the fine details, this was very handy as the timeline preserved everything and I was able to test movements before I finalized them, the only problems with the animation process were caused by my rig and the way I'd set it up.

The practice enrichment module was a unit which I got a fair amount of simply because I found that I could draw human likenesses better than I thought I could. The life drawing was a new experience because I'd not actually done any proper life drawing before, the part where I think I succeeded was the gesture drawing as eventually I got used to the idea of quickly attempting to recreating poses and I hope that's helped me to be able to capture action better. Some of the drawings were better than others, I had a problem with proportions at first, which seemed to be rectified the more I practiced. I also found that the more I actually filled the paper with a larger image, the easier it was to maintain proportions and to add detail.
Life drawing is something that I would want to try again because I think it would definitely help, even if I am primarily a cartoonist, it helps to look at reality if I plan on distorting it.

The unit which I had trouble on was the Cut-out unit because while it was straightforward, it was a unit which I just wasn't entirely sure about because the style of animation wasn't really suited to me. Overall however, I think that I've learned a fair amount of new things in order to expand what I already know. The hope is that I'll improve more at drawing and illustration and that this will benefit my animation skills.

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