An animated short created by a team of students over six months.
As part of the University of Washington's year long animation course, my class worked over full-time to create a short animated film. During the development process, the class functioned as a mini film studio, meeting daily to review and discuss progress, and learning what it takes to carry through with the entire film production pipeline.
The most important aspect of production was iteration. At the beginning of the year, we were inexperienced and new to both Maya, animation, and most things involved therein. Through critique, constant iteration, online tutorials, and the help of our professor, TAs, and other team members, we were able to continually push the quality of our production.
26 people (students and TAs included)
Lighting and Prop Modeling Lead | Animation | Look and Feel | EFX | Texturing | Rendering
Maya | Photoshop | Zbrush | After Effects
Look and Feel
One of the most important parts of any pipeline is preproduction. During preproduction, my team collected reference, created concept art, and experimented with various ideas and techniques to determine the potential look of the film. Everything was made to support the film's story. Originally we played with the idea of doing a black and white or desaturated look, as it would make our film stand out from previous UW animation capstones. As we progressed, we switched our focus to the contrast between the dark and murky underwater, where our main character, Mr. Corruption was, and the happier park area above.
Reference was huge for the Look and Feel team, as none of us had any prior experience and could only dream of what we might accomplish in six months. Two films factored massively into our visual style, Contre Temps and Meet Buck, both by students from Supinfocom. In order to get the painterly and cell-shaded style from those two films into our own, we created cartoony models, hand painted textures, and used toon shading in our composites. Other references were drawn from photos, sketches, and concept art found online.
Modeling and Texturing
Modeling was split between two teams, character modeling and prop modeling. I was the leader for a seven person prop modeling team, and made sure that they were provided concept art, knew how to make their models, and received proper critique so as to continue to improve their models and fix bad geometry.
The overall film ended up having a fairly small amount of total props, many of which were modeled but not included in the final version of the film because they didn't directly benefit the story. I modeled several versions of a bush, the fountain, rocks, and lilypads. I was in charge of texturing the bush, and also created the water's shader, which had to have a toon look, enough color variation, and believable wave displacement.
Animation took the greatest amount of effort. The film's story was constantly changing, and as a result, different shots were always being reworked. Our director brought actors in to help act out the story and record reference for the animators. Having reference is very useful, because without it, animators might miss certain elements that can make their motion more believable.
I created reference for and animated two shots of Mr. Corruption and the Goose interacting underwater. In order to make both shots, I watched reference and sketched out breakdown poses for later use in posing the characters. It took many hours, iterations, and critiques to bring my motion to a more polished state. The most challenging parts of animation were dealing with constraints and making the timing and spacing of my animation snappier and more dynamic.
Lighting and Rendering
In order to fit with the style that the Look and Feel group wanted, my Lighting team devised a new method of lighting that differed from previous UW Animation Capstones. For color we used textured models and a tinted ambient light. In order to add depth and shadow to shots, we used a toon shader and a directional light for our shadow layer and added occlusion, highlight, and depth layers to further enhance the shots.
The most difficult part of lighting and rendering was getting shots to look consistent, especially when consecutive shots were lit by different people. Thankfully, due to swatch sheets, planning, critiques, and a few outstanding shots that acted as reference, we were able to make the lighting work. Planning the lighting involved paying close attention to the story, finding quality reference, and creating lighting reels and paint overs. It was a challenge to teach everyone how to light, render, and composite according to our style, but thankfully we were able to create some scripts in Maya to ease the process. Fortunately everything came together at the last minute, thanks to UW's render farm and several all nighters spent polishing animation and re-rendering shots.