Monday, 31 May 2010


This term when the third years pitched their ideas to us I felt very motivated to work with them by producing character animation for their short films.
I talked to different groups and found it quite difficult to get a place in a team. In spite of this I did not give up and I was then offered the chance to work with third year team characters and create my own animation around this.

This was a very challenging piece of work and tested my creativity as I was assigned two animations. The first was a gnome called 'Macho' and I decided to get him to do some weight lifting and then get hit by a rock. It was really complicated to get the character's hands to stay in the same place on the weights. The reason for this was that the rigging was FK, where as IK would have allowed greater movement of his joints without the hands leaving the bar. Also gnomes are tricky because they have big bodies and tiny legs and restricted, hip,waist and shoulder movements.
In spite of the challenges I like the character design and found that it pushed my creativity to make a good short film.
The second character was 'Patches' the pirate. I found him easier to animate as he was well rigged and modeled. However he had shorter than ideal arms so you could not always get them in the position you wanted and I had to work around this. I am pleased with the lip sync and facial expressions of Patches which showed better in the not smoothed version of the animation.
This character can do the lip sync and facial expressions very well and this makes him very flexible to work with.
Overall in spite of the the challenges I am pleased with the Patches animation but I am not as happy with the end result of the gnome animation.

I have put together a showreel of my best work. I listed all the work I had finished and then decided which ones to include in the reel. I ended up with 16 exhibits showing a range of the work I have been doing and my skills.
When putting the showreel together I allocated spaces for the Patches and Macho animations ready for when I completed them.
Throughout the showreel I tried to keep the animation in sync with the music. I specially purchased music from Audio Network, which I very much liked and thought would suit my work (this is the legal way of doing it!).
I am really pleased with the end result.

Final Thoughts

This year I have developed my skills in modelling and rigging characters, using After Efftects, modelling the environments and 2D animation. I have also learned a lot about teamwork and what is required and I think that this experience will help me be a much better team player in the third year.
I would also like to practice character animation over the summer break due to regrettably not doing as much as I would have liked last year.

Final Animations

Here are the final animations of the pirate and the gnome. As you can see there are two versions of the Pirate - one smoothed and one not smoothed.
I invested a lot of time into smoothing the pirate as the team found that he could only be smoothed on the recent versions of Maya (which I do not have).
I wanted to use the smoothed version for my showreel as this had a better overall effect. However I preferred the animation before smoothing.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

How I Made the Menu's Animation

I made the animation that is shown on my main menu by writing my name in a similar way to the font Zapfino (as in Maya fonts can be made in 3D and this way the 2d and 3D writing would look the same) on Photoshop. I then saved it as a jpeg and imported into After Effects and masked each letter separately. I had to fully cover the letter first and then start by step-by-step uncover it by moving back the corners and sides of the masks.
I also created my name in 3D using similar writing and animated it spining around and slowing down at the end to stop. I then (when rendered) put this in After Effetcs and planned to put it together with the 2D animation and make it into a movie file but it wouldn't, so I needed to use different ways of doing so which ended up losing me quite a lot of time.

Team Talk

Hi Steve,

Thanks again for submitting another playblast. We've reviewed and can see
the improvements you have made, but we wont be designating you shots for
the film Gnomes.

However, i feel your creating your own little character animation here,
which with continual development could be a nice animation piece for your
portfolio (so long as the model is credited). I can offer you feedback
here and there on this piece, but I do have the film keeping me very busy.

Ok a few notes on your recent piece:

- be careful trying to cheat movements. When Macho lifts the weight,
you've added the shake to the weight not his arms and it needs to be both
as thats where the strain comes from.

- use of the head control was only meant to be for precaution for when
lifting weights above his head whereas you have used it as secondary
animation. Of course this is up to you but it does look quite
flappy/wobbly so maybe just reduce how much you add of that.

- exaggerate the initial lift attempts, the pull backs don't quite reflect
the weight he's trying to lift.

-alter the pacing/speed of the big lift up as at the moment the weight
continues upwards at one speed which doesn't quite suggest its much of a
struggle for him.

- when he lifts up the weight completely he almost instantly goes into the
standing upright position which looks a little strange. It might work
better if he stands completely upright when he manages to lift the weight
as its that final push that allows him to achieve the movement.

-keep an eye on the legs movements as some of the bends don't quite match
what the body is doing in terms of lifting (11 seconds into your
playblast) The legs bend but the body continues to lift upwards.

the action has been broken up a lot more which does help the narration so
good work on that, I think your now going to be refining your keys and
exaggerating the movements more to add to the comedy of the piece you've

Again thanks for submitting Steve and I wish you all the best with this
animation your embarking on. If you would like any more feedback then
please let me know and i'll try my best to help.




Sorry the logo was not up on the blog when you looked earlier, I was late getting home to load it as my phone broke and I needed to take it back to the o2 shop. I have loaded the newer animation test onto the blog. There are still a few things that I want to change. Also I did not spend too much time making sure that the hands are staying in the same position on the weight, as I prefer doing that at the end when I have finalised the character's position.
Again I would be very grateful for some feedback if you do have the time, but I understand if you are too busy.
I am really keen to get this right and I will keep working on it - I hope I am on the right lines now.
Just to let you know I have my Nan's funeral tomorrow so I wont be in at college, but will be in on Thursday.


Sarah Verrall wrote:

Hi Steve,

Thanks for popping in today to see us. Sorry the team did not have time to go through your animation with you personally, we had a tutorial session with Dan Dalli. I've had a look at your blog, but please email me when you've uploaded the
latest test to your blog and i'll give you feedback shortly.


Hi Sarah
Thanks for your e-mail. It was very helpful and I totally agree with your feedback. I knew things weren't right with the animation and I don't feel that it is a fair reflection of my work.
I am going to re-work a section of it over the weekend and then I will post it on my blog so that you can look at it. I hope that you will be able to see then that I do have things to offer your team.
Thanks again for taking the time to give me feedback.


Hi Steve,

Thanks for popping in today to see us. Sorry the team did not have time to go through your animation with you personally, we had a tutorial session
with Dan Dalli.
I've had a look at your blog, but please email me when you've uploaded the latest test to your blog and i'll give you feedback shortly.


Hi Sarah

Thanks for your e-mail. It was very helpful and I totally agree with your feedback. I knew things weren't right with the animation and I don't feel that it is a fair reflection of my work. I am going to re-work a section of it over the weekend and then I will post it on my blog so that you can look at it. I hope that you will be able to see then that I do have things to offer your team.
Thanks again for taking the time to give me feedback.


Hi Steve,

Firstly, thank you so much for taking the time to submit an animation test for the film.

I can see you have potential, and are beginning to demonstrate some character through the piece, however, I'm hesitant to give you one of our shots to animate, as I think there's an issue of timing/pace in your animation. I've made some examples of this and how you could improve on them.

Your animation would greatly benefit from more pauses to break up the sequence, as currently, one action leads into the other quite swiftly. If you had some breaks in-between the trying to lift, and the actual lift it would build up more anticipation for the audience; will he, wont he do it. Try using the stepped tool in the graph editor when blocking out the keyframes to see how the animation flows.

Again there could have been a bit more pause from the lift and the stone hitting him on the head. It seems to be instant that he lifts then throws the weight, whereas he could have held it up a couple of seconds and then got hit by the stone. A break in these actions would help us see the actions better.

Your playblast camera could have been closer, as it was quite difficult to see the facial expressions. The expressions could have been had more pause between each, as we were led from one extreme to the next in quick succession.

Be careful with the use of the head control on top of the suit, as his hat point seemed to dart around too much which was confusing.

I liked what you were trying to achieve with the legs switching over during the lift. Perhaps there could have been a little more of a jump in-between poses to demonstrate the heavy lift he was about to do?

As he gets hit by the stone, he could have held his head/rubbed his head in pain. Again I think you were trying to achieve this but because he turns round almost immediately the audience miss this reaction. A break before turning would have helped here.

The right foot of the character seems to be slipping round the scene quite a bit, I suspect you've given yourself a big amount to perfect here, and perhaps did not have so much time to sort out the leg keys.

Finally, the arms are doing some big gestures, which are quite difficult to interpret and distracted from him looking round for who threw the stone.

Overall I can see the improvements from the first playblast to the second, and I think you've given yourself a lot to take on animation wise here. I think these notes would help you finesse this animation more, but currently I dont think we can give you a specific shot to animate at present. Of course you can continue your tests and submit again, as the extra time may enable you to fine tune this piece and may convince us to reconsider.

I hope you find these comments helpful and if you have any questions then please don't hesitate to ask.



Hi Steve,

I'm a bit busy tonight so i will check out the video tomorrow as you've
said you've made updates.
Post a playblast on the blog and i'll view it from there. I'll send you my
feedback via email.


Hi Sarah,

Sorry that the playblast was set as private, I wasn't keeping it back as a surprise but it's not a bad idea. I have changed the setting now so that you will be able to watch it. I have improved it since but I will save that to show you tomorrow. Are you going to be at college tomorrow or shall I put an update. playblast on the blog for you?


Sarah Verrall wrote:

Hi Steve,

thanks for the link, unfortunately i cant view any of your playblasts at the moment as they are set to private but perhaps your keeping it a surprise until tuesday?
look forward to seeing what you've done

Hiya Sarah,

Here is a link to my blog

I'm still working on the animation to try and sharpen it up a bit.

Should still have something ready for you for Tuesday.


Hello There!

Just to inform you that I want to see your work on Wednesday.
You can either give me your files in person or put it in a folder (with
your name on it) in the ‘Pirates of The Produce Aisle’ folder on the
public drive.

I will not look at you work immediately as I want to gather it all
together to review it with my team.

Due to the nature of the marking system of the third year I might not be
able to take all of you on.

I look forward to seeing the work!



Hi Lewis,

I wondered if you would mind checking my animation that is on my blog and giving me some feed-back. I totally understand if you are too busy.
Thank you very much

Rave account:

Hi Stephen,

It's a goodstart man. My advice for a shot like this is pay close
attention to how a mouth articulates when it is speaking, if it helps,
moutht the lines out in a mirror, and copy those movementsin the
animation. Trust me man Pixar do it.


Sorry for the delay of my reply. Thank you very much for the feed-back I really appreciate it.


Saturday, 29 May 2010

Creating the Showreel

Here is my showreel early on, I noticed that the screen size was 16:9. As you can see below the screen size then changed to 4:3, I am not sure how it happened. However I am glad that I noticed and corrected it.

Here the pictures used for the buttons are screen shots that I took. I discovered that moving images were possible to use on the select buttons. I decided what part of the film to use for the buttons and felt that moving images improved the impact of the selection menus.

Progress at last! There is now a section for the 3D animations and a section for the 2D animations.

Here is a screen-shot of when I had changed my showreel back to 16:9. This is the main menu which can navigate the showreel, my 2D and 3D animations. It also features my name animation which changes from 2D to 3D.

Here is the 3D animation selection and from this you can access a new added section called 'latest 3D animation' which features my animations from this term (as seen below).

Shown above is my 2D animation page (a sketch example is also included)

Opinion of the Final Showreel
Occasionally when playing the showreel it opened on the 2D animation page instead of the main menu. If I had more time I would have resolved the issue but due to the deadline I could not do this. However I am very pleased with the results of the showreel.

Friday, 28 May 2010



Today I did some work on improving certain points of Macho’s animation. I refined his reaction when the ball hits him on the head as I felt that he did not respond strongly enough e.g. the facial expressions were not on time, I didn’t feel that his jolt forward was on time, in the right direction or far enough. I also made similar improvements through the rest of the animation.


Today I made some more lip sync improvement on Patches (as that is the part of my animation that Lewis recommended that I improve).
The part that I made the most changes to was when Patches says, “Aye captain Breadbeard”

Today I improved various parts of the timing. For example the weight movement in the animation, the face gestures and I made some big timing and positioning improvements on the quick movements during the weight lifting sequence.
I also today created some texture for the model as I thought it would look a lot better with texture on my showreel.

Today I did make quite a lot of changes to my animation. I still felt that for example when the weight is being lifted it is too 'one pace' the whole way through. I then added some pace starting slower and building up speed with a stop at chest height. I improved facial expression and timings and I am now working on his arm positions to give better flow when lifting the weights.

I have been trying to improve the hands and arms when the weight is being lifted all day today; I have been working on his right side mainly. It has taken longer then I thought as the hand has to be in the same place otherwise the animation does not look at all smooth. So I am spending a lot of time getting the hand into the perfect position.

Today I continued to improve the hand and arm positions, I have also been making some changes to the position, timing, and stopped it from moving when it should be still.

Finished the hand and arm positioning on the weights today but when I watched it afterwards I was not at all happy! When the weight was being lifted up it looked like it was all set to 'stepped' but it was 'spline'! Other problems were also included in that section e.g. after Macho started lifting the weights, they dropped down again.

I sorted the problems that I found yesterday when I watched the animation, but I am still noticing that it looks a bit too jolty.

Today I tried to start to sort the problem out

Last Few Days…

I have spent the last few days designing and creating my showreel, which I have now progressed well with. I am also still working on my DVD Pro one. I went on Audio Network and ended up buying five songs that I liked for the background music in my showreel and I asked friends, family and teachers for their opinion on which would be the best. My favourite of the five ended up being most popular by a long way. I am very pleased with all of the showreel work so far.

This weekend and Friday night I have been working on Adobe AfterEffects and making the movie that I designed to be used on my showreel’s menu page. I wanted the effect of a blank page being shown at the start but my name appearing if it is being written. To do this I wrote my name on Photoshop (similar to a font) and masked each letter separately on AfterEffects. I have also made some 3D writing on Maya. When they are rendered I am going to put them both together on Final Cut. I want to demonstrate that I can do 3D and 2D animation especially as both are being used.

Today I spent quite a lot of time trying to sort out a problem that occurred while I was at the end of creating a 2D and 3D name animating video.
The issue was that the 2D animation movie file worked but when I put the 2D and 3D name animation together on Final Cut and rendered the screen, it was blank. I also tried to make the showreel’s movie on After Effects but the same happened in this programme.

Recent Problems with my Gnome Animation…
I have been having a few challenges with my gnome animation. Over the last few days I have found it looks better when I play it in Maya than either when I watch the playblast, and after rendering and putting it together in After Effects.
I haven’t understood why this is happening but I do think that my animation looses quality when it leaves Maya.
I have also been finding it quite difficult to keep the gnomes hands in the same place on the weight as he has FK handles so whenever the shoulder is moved the hand is moved with it etc. I also found it tough because I had to make sure that they stayed in exactly the same position when the weight was lifted up. Because of this difficulty I wondered about making the weight linked with The hands technique, but this could not be used as when I tried, the hand and wrist broke whenever the weight and hand were moved.

I have found the character somewhat limited by the model design and I have had to do my best within the boundaries of what was available.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Gnome Rendering!

My Gnome animation is now rendering!
I have had some difficulties today, for example my character started moving its arms away from the weight which was not intended also his wrist sometimes started twisting as well.