Sunday, April 10, 2011

PRJ350 - Week 12 Progress Journal

What a week.

After reviewing the animation blocking I had completed last week and looking at the schedule I had left, I decided it was time for triage - I had to get rid of the bad blocking and do it over. It really didn't work well enough for what I needed, and it would have taken more time to try to fix it then it would have to just do it right. Having gone through the process, I feel I made the right decision, but the clock is ticking and I'm not particularly happy with what I'm going to have left at the end of the process - something I'll get into once I've completed the project and can do a post-mortem.

First thing I did this week was revise the basic lighting pass I had and get the "god lights" into the scene, as well as get the final props I was going to need in. I had to get this done, as the scene wouldn't work without them, and having the real things in rather then the proxies meant I could act to them rather then to where I assumed they would be in the final, then spend time later fixing the issues - time I wasn't sure I would have.

I would have liked to have modeled a custom sword for the scene, but I was on borrowed time, so I re-used an asset I had built for another class - the dagger from the table in my Bandit's Crossing interior scene. I stretched the blade out, tossed it into zbrush to get a better texture (the one I had wasn't working well at all, as it was grouped with a number of other items on the original texture sheet), a technique that worked well, as it allowed me to practice the process of baking out matcaps to the diffuse channel and get a better, more accurate normal map, something we'd been working on in my Zbrush class.

I got the sword into the scene and started tweaking the light setup. Most of the images shown are rendered with a test diffuse material on the goblin, as it shows up correctly in the viewport window and allows me to animate easier then with the SSS shader active - the SSS shader shows up as pure red in the viewport, making it difficult to read eye direction.

I messed with the godlight settings until I got them into the ballpark, then turned on the environment lights to make sure I'd have a strong enough effect to work in the composition, but not be too overpowering so that you couldn't read action happening behind them.

I ended up using two of the volumetric lights to get the falloff I wanted - one with a wider diameter but a softer effect, and a narrower, stronger one in the center to get a more powerful beam.

Finally, I turned on the SSS shader and played with a number of the shadow settings until I got exactly the look I needed - it still isn't ideal - the shadows have far harder edges then I'd prefer, but it is producing the desired effect well.

I then modeled out an anvil and textured it rapidly, using photoshop and Zbrush, got it into place and began blocking. I put in a lot of time between Friday and Sunday getting these poses in - I still have some timing issues to resolve and a few storytelling moments that need clarification and revision, but I am feeling more optimistic then I was earlier. I've rendered out some of the stills, as I would do often to ensure I was getting the result and composition I needed in the blocking, and it was often hard to tell in the viewport quite how things would look when rendered - these are all with the reference diffuse shader on the goblin, however, so keep that in mind.

Below is a copy of the revised blocking playblast. After speaking about my concerns about finishing the project in time with a number of professors, we revised the story beats a bit. I'm happy with the changes, although I'm going to miss some of the beats that were cut.

I'm nearly done with this phase, and hope to have it fully blocked by Wednesday so I can spend the rest of the week working on getting the spline pass completed. I'm not as happy with the result as I would be, but I spent too long in the rigging phase - the effort spent there was worth it, but it left me without the time I needed to spend elsewhere, and I learned a huge amount about something I was previously not proficient at at all. I also learned a lot about getting subsurface scattering shaders and modeling a character for animation, and am pretty happy with what I'm leaving with with the project, I just wish I could have focused further on the actual animation process during it.

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