KNB321 – Advanced Concepts in Computer Animation 2 Assessment 2 - Production Blog - Paul Stanton-Cook N9657037

This semester I have been involved in two of the projects “The Little Knight” and “The Goldilocks Zone”. My focus has been technical director for “The Little Knight”. Throughout the semester I have been spending a lot of time making updates and changes, as given by the director, to the master scene. Making updates to the specific assets has made the pipeline work, as each asset has been referenced into the master scene. When an asset gets updated the master scenes version gets updated automatically.

There have been several little annoying things that have happened, so I had to spend a great deal of time on mainly problem solving, which is one of the most important skills within the industry. As progression was made on the master scenes, one of the major obstacles was the use of the new render engine Arnold, within Maya. As this is a quite new update to Maya, there have been a number of things I needed to research and try and get my head around when something wasn’t working. There were a lot of little issues however one of the key issues, specific to “The Little Knight” production, was its high use of transparency. Arnold, specifically in Maya, handles transparency completely differently to how Mental Ray would, or even Maya’s software renderer.

In my opinion the way that Arnold handles transparency makes sense, however it’s pretty much the opposite of how you would set it up with other render engines such as MentalRay or VRay. This was a good challenge and good to learn a completely different method for future use.

Once the transparency issues had been solved, most of my time has been spent making updates of all the assets individually, so they were consistent within the entire production. This made sure that the master scene file was running cleanly. This process sounds simple but in the end, became one of the most annoying things to do, simply because of a major design failure with Arnold. The way that Arnold works is that if you don’t have any lights in your scene, it will just render out black. So, to make changes and see the changes being made, adding a light into the scene became the only way. This became a real problem using referenced characters in the master scene. For example, if I was making some material changes on the Little Knight character, I had to add a light just to see a render and after saving the file and not deleting the added lights when opening the master scene, the lights would be added. This process became very annoying and tedious because you can’t delete lights from a referenced file.

At this stage of the production the models were just using a texture in the diffuse layer. When it came to add the lighting for the environment, I made some adjustments to the characters, so they had a slight addition of shininess for the metallic components. The director didn’t really wish to have a fully metallic look for the characters, so only subtle changes were added to give the characters a little bit more definition of the metallic components they consisted of.

One of the last processes that I have been working on for “The Little Knight” production, is the addition of some FX. I had been assigned the flag simulations and the crowd FX. I had already previously completed the flag simulation. The challenge for me was finding a way to make the animation transportable between computers. Sometimes Maya’s cached system can be a little tedious when it comes to transportability, however I have tested the flag simulation across several computers with no problems.

Here are a couple of tests I did with the crowd animation. First is a random looping effect of each character on some planes. These planes can be painted throughout the environment.

I have also set up a simple script that is used to automatically assign multiple objects to be aim constrained to a camera. This was needed because simply assigning an aim constraint over a group would only affect the group. So, to do it you would have to do each plane individually, which would be an absolute waste of time. Using this script made it doable in a couple of clicks.

This is the script I setup

First select the objects you want to constrain to persp and run [persp would be changed to the camera you need to constrain to]

“string $sel[] = `ls -sl -tr`; string $tmp; for ($tmp in $sel) aimConstraint -offset 0 0 0 -weight 1 -aimVector 1 0 0 -upVector 0 1 0 -worldUpType "vector" -worldUpVector 0 1 0 persp $tmp;}”

Here is a little video demo of the crowd constraint to a camera

The next stage of development for “The Little Knight” was to begin testing some renders and sorting out the composition layers. Originally, we had set up to make our renders consist of several layers and multiple passes.

  • Master layer
  • Skydome environment layer
  • Environment geometry layer
  • Little Knight layer
  • Dark Knight layer
  • Props layer
  • FX layer

These layers would then consist of passes such as beauty, wireframe, AO, spec, shadow, shadow masks.

However, after spending a lot of time and only having unsuccessful renders so far on the university render farm, at this stage we will need to start rendering on our own systems while attempting to get the render farm working for the more complex scenes.

My tasks for “The Goldilocks Zone” have been to animate and light the four scenes involving the main spaceship and exploration pod. I have completed the light rigs for both the spaceship and pod and am in the process of adding in the light rig to the space environment.

I am also exploring a way to add a trail effect for the main spaceship. Here is a tutorial for a method which I will probably utilise using After Effects

Here are the latest playblasts for my 4 scenes.

Shot #1

Shot #2

Shot #8

Shot #23

Finally, here are the links to the most current animation edits

"The Goldilocks Zone"
"The Little Knight
Created By
Paul Stanton-Cook


Created with images by sultanaj95 - "mountain grass dandelion"

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