Sunday, April 24, 2011

PRJ350 - Week 14 Progress Journal

What a long, miserable day.

I've spent the last six or seven hours having to render out the first 140 frames of my animation one-by-one by hand, because if I don't, the volumetric "god lights" don't work. It is absolutely maddening, tedious and incredibly boring but it is nearly done.

So, what's changed since last week?

I spent a lot of time cleaning up the poses in my animation and fretting over what to do with the opening of it - the walk and his "surprise" reaction just never worked right for me, and it was getting far too close to the end to fix them. It was upon reflection to this problem that I had an epiphany.

I don't need them at all.

If I start the shot out with the goblin already looking at the sword, we get it. We understand the setup right from the get-go - he's a goblin, this is a sword in a stone. We know how this story goes. I needed to give him some time to consider the sword, to think about it and to ponder his approach, but trying to tell the story with him walking in was trying to tell too much. I needed to introduce his personality in his walk, his mood and why he might be feeling that way, then show a drastic, big change of emotion followed by another drastic change of emotion, from sad to surprised to cautious, all at once, and that is really, really hard. And really, really unnecessary.

I proposed the plan to Pam Matheus and Antony DeFato, both former Disney animators with excellent senses of story and timing, and they agreed it was the right decision. DeFato even brought the idea one step further - start the shot with the camera tight on the character so I could really play up his thinking process, then pull out to reveal the goblin's motivator. Genius.

I deleted my walk and surprise keyframes and got to work adding a good animated hold, using his eyes and slight shifts in the direction of his head to really try to get the subtle animation in to show his thinking process and then proceeded from there. Additionally, I spent a huge amount of time working on getting the spline pass done this week, all while working on wrapping up other assignments (expect more blog posts in the next few days as I finish work for my other classes). I really, really wish I had a few more days for this, or weeks, or months, but I'm happy with what I'm getting so far, and very happy with everything I've learned from the project. I know it isn't the strongest piece in the entire class, but it is the culmination of months of hard work, and I stand behind the result.

I'll have the final posted here in a few days, once I've had time to composite it, build in the title and credits screens and do the post-processing. I'll also follow this post up with a post-mortem, most likely, to review what went well, what didn't and what I'm taking away having gone through the process twice now. For now, I've got to render out the last of the frames (11 left to go, thank god), start the compositing and get some rest before the last big push of the semester.

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