Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Mudbox 03 - Practice Sculpt

I think I'm beginning to understand how to work in Mudbox now, as I'd been struggling in the previous sessions. Really enjoyed sculpting this, and will continue experimenting with this sculpt at home. 

World Cinema - "Spirited Away" (2001) - A Review.

Image result for spirited away poster
Fig 1.
One of the most well received - and until very recently, highest grossing Japanese anime feature film - "Spirited Away" (2001) dir. Hayao Miyazaki and created by Studio Ghibli is a coming of age tale concerning Chihiro, an 11 year old girl who is currently moving with her parents to a new home. In transit her father takes a wrong turn and they come upon a seemingly deserted fairground. Leaving her parents at a food stall and exploring the area further Chihiro meets Sen, who tells her to leave immediately before it gets dark. The ominous request sends Chihiro back to find her parents, who have now turned into pigs from eating the food left in front of them.

There is a certain amount of pedigree to consider when talking about the films of Studio Ghibli, and it is worth noting at their inherent and often inferred quality. Of "Spirited Away" in particular, Miyazaki confers that each frame was hand drawn, but what is perhaps most staggering is the attention to detail within those frames. Roger Ebert mentions that at times in the background of the bathhouse scenes he noticed that "watching from the windows and balconies of the bathhouse are many of its occupants. It would be easier to suggest them as vaguely moving presences, but Miyazaki takes care to include many figures we recognize. All of them are in motion. And it isn't the repetitive motion of much animation, in which the only idea is simply to show a figure moving. It is realistic, changing, detailed motion." (Ebert, 2012) and this generosity is only compounded further when considering the way in which Miyazaki effectively wrote the story, preferring at first to start with the storyboarding process first of all, and allowing the script writing process to erupt from that. 
Fig 2.
In terms of characterisation, this is where the film really shines, for it doesn't follow the traditional route of "apathetic child learns how to be good" as is so often the case in coming of age tales, instead the characterisation is much more grounded in reality, allowing Chihiro to come to terms with things in her own time. Critics have posited that Chihiro comes across as rather sullen, which is a disservice to her character and errs too closely to presuming that at the start of the film she's merely a typical spoilt child that needs to learn a lesson over the course of the film. The inspiration behind her character is perhaps most telling as to the aim a - then retired - Miyazaki had when setting out on this project. "Miyazaki said he'd decided to make it based on the ten-year-old daughter of friend, associate producer Seiji Okuda, who came to stay with him every summer. With this in mind, he made the movie for ten-year-old girls. This is exactly why it resonates so well with people of all ages and why Chihiro feels so real. How often can you say a film has been made for young girls, rather than money or mainstream audiences?" (Ewens, 2016) coupling this with the natural growth of the story out of the storyboarding process leads to an extremely naturalised feel over the film. Miyazaki cementing this viewpoint when asked in a Midnight Eye interview about that process. "It's not me who makes the film. The film makes itself, and I have no choice but to follow" (Miyazaki, 2002). 

Fig 3.
In terms of sheer ambition, "Spirited Away" can only be commended, for it not only allows itself to pose as an atypical example of a coming of age narrative, but also in the way that it distances itself from American animation. A scene that perhaps typifies this is when Chihiro's "parents eat so much they double or triple in size. They eat like pigs, and they become pigs. These aren't the parents of American animation, but parents who can do things that frighten a child." (Ebert, 2012) and it is in this way that the true flavor of this particular type of animation can be felt. Things are a bit more complex, a touch more naturalistic and grounded that say, something from Disney, which while entertaining, has a tendency to play it safe with it's characters. In fact, the very notion of Chihiro choosing to push to survive despite all the odds stacked against her and ultimately save her parents - who had spent most of the opening brushing off Chihiro's fears, and in general, not hearing her - is complex and mature, and in general the film doesn't patronise its audience. 

"There's a quote on Tumblr somewhere that says "Disney movies touch the heart, but Studio Ghibli films touch the soul." (Ewens, 2016)


Ebert, R. (2012). At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-spirited-away-2002 (Accessed on 31 January 2017)
Ewens, H. (2016) Why ’spirited away’ is the best animated film of all time. At: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/spirited-away-ghibli-miyazaki-15th-15-year-anniversary-best-animation-hannah-ewens (Accessed on 31 January 2017)
Midnight eye interview: Hayao Miyazaki. (2001). At: http://www.midnighteye.com/interviews/hayao-miyazaki/ (Accessed on 31 January 2017)

Fig 1. Spirited Away Poster. [image] At: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/4f/d0/0f/4fd00fcfc910fbf3a2f6f083cea103a1.jpg (Accessed on 31/01/2017)
Fig 2. Chihiro & Sen. [image] At: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/_jGXcSBcvQQ/maxresdefault.jpg (Accessed on 31/01/2017)
Fig 3. Chihiro watches her parents eat. [image] At: https://vice-images.vice.com/images/content-images-crops/2016/07/19/spirited-away-ghibli-miyazaki-15th-15-year-anniversary-best-animation-hannah-ewens-body-image-1468944720-size_1000.jpg?output-quality=75 (Accessed on 31/01/2017)

Saturday, 28 January 2017

@Alan Adaptation A - Revised facts and expanded script

Taking the advice on the previous post regarding Adaptation A, I've reordered the facts and replaced the long-winded one, whilst also making additions to improve the flow of the infographic. I'll be allowing a little bit of freedom on the recordings to keep it sounding natural for the voiceover artist.

I've also been thinking about the way in which the infographic will be constructed and I think, over this weekend I will be roughly storyboarding it out just to get a sense of what I want the finished article to look like. As I want to keep the tone light, I've considered the fact that there is a definite structure to a "Top 10..." video, so for the most part the language will be dry, and the humor may come from things happening visually. This, I feel, is an important part in keeping people engaged depending on the context.

If this is looking good I'll send it over to the voiceover artist and focus on plotting out the visuals.

Friday, 27 January 2017

@Alan Max Walk Cycle Playblast

Here's the playblast as requested :)

This reflects where I'm up to at the moment since yesterday. I think I'm having trouble making it feel like it's got weight behind the movements, but that may be a case of me trying to run before I can walk as I've not yet finished all the in-between and breakdown poses.

Adaptation A - Chosen Facts

The selection process for these facts was actually quite difficult, as I didn't want to select facts that were too obscure, or unimportant to the casual observer. So I went for a selection of anecdotal stories, for humor, and facts about the production of the film trilogy. Going by previous conversations with Alan, I've tried to take a step back from 'fanboyism' and present a detached selection of facts, so that I don't come off as overly defensive and therefore biased in the infographic.

I'll be typing up the script tomorrow as I've got a voice over artist lined up, and hopefully over the weekend I'll be able to get some animation tests completed in after effects.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Maya Class - Walk Cycle Key Pose Breakdown

This is the complete set of key poses for this particular walk cycle. I started them in last Thursdays Maya class, and finished them off today, moving on to the inbetweens. I'm finding it a tad difficult in visualising the movement but I'm hoping that will become easier when the in between motions are in there. I also need to work on the curvature of the spine, positioning of the head and so on. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Pipeline 1 - UV Layout - Complete

After wrestling with Maya over the weekend, I've finally finished the UV Layout section of Pipeline 1. It was an interesting process to watch unfold(!). And it's bettered my understanding on the choices being made to optimize the model wherever possible. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Adaptation A - Art Influence and Possible Facts

Whilst assembling the facts I want to include in the info graphic I became aware that I also needed to settle the question on what the thing will actually look like. Fortunately, an artist sprang to mind who I've followed on and off since being at UCA - Noma Bar. - a graphic artist that seeks to convey a huge amount of meaning into as simple a display as possible. As such his designs are often striking, whilst being deceptively simple.

I feel like the ethos could be applied to infographics with great results. Below is a small selection of his work for reference.

Proposal Pinata Ideas

In preparation for today's "Proposal Pinata" I've tried to explore a few ideas to get a better understanding of what sort of areas I'd be interested in writing in.

A few that currently stand out to me is "Gender in Star Wars", "Representation in Star Wars", "Masculinity in the DC Cinematic Universe", "Representation in Comics", "Ownership and Shared Universes" & "Gender in Immersive Storytelling".

So yeah, that's more than the requested "one". Symptomatic of my interest in many things, so I'll eventually have to kill my darlings and go with the one with the most furtive ground. Initially I thought "Gender in Star Wars" was a clear sail for me, but as I jotted down ideas I began to sway between other's that seemed of equal interest for inquiry.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Pipeline 1 - UV Layout - Head and Head Details 01

If your mesh ends up looking like that when you get to the 8 minute mark in the first UV tutorial, don't lose your head as I did! I worked out that you need to untick "Prevent triangle flips" and crank the iterations up to 10 to prevent the mesh from warping.

I'm hoping that this is isolated to me, but I figured I'd post the way I fixed it just in case anyone else ran into the same issue. I have no idea why it happened, but I'm happy that mine looks like the video now. Hopefully I haven't inadvertently broken something in the process.

Friday, 20 January 2017

World Cinema - "Mary and Max" (2009) - A Review

Image result for mary and max
Fig 1. Poster
"Mary and Max" (2009) dir. Adam Elliot is an Australian stop-motion animated film centering on the developing relationship between hapless pen pals, Mary - a somewhat ostracized and lonely youth - and Max - an affected older man that suffers with Asperger's syndrome - Together, via somewhat secretive communique they find a form of solace as the two regale each other with tidbits of their day to day activities as well as 'tell all' accounts of their unique and particular neurosis and how it plays out in their lives. It is over the course of the film that their relationship is explored over the years, blossoming or otherwise, in what feels a completely natural account. In fact, this whole film has a naturalistic element to it, reminiscent of Aardman Animation's work on "Creature Comforts" (1989) - wherein recordings from people off the street were transposed into animation - leading to a very strong feeling that - despite the animated element - we're witnessing something that actually happened, an account.

Objectively this is a somewhat sad tale yet it is marked by a bittersweet ending, all-the-while managing to form an engaging and funny narrative over the course of the 1h34m run-time. There's an incongruity in tone here that other reviewers seem to have found issue with, Andrew Pulver, writing for The Guardian muses "the switches in tone are jolting, to say the least: at one moment, Mary is enthusing about her favourite TV show; the next, we are being treated to a lecture on the symptoms of Asperger's" (Pulver, 2010) but this is actually one of the strengths here. That patchiness in tone goes a long way in conveying the reality of the situation and further cementing and solidifying the films foundation in reality. Despite the cutesy aesthetic, there is no saccharine ending, and there is also no real doom filled ending, it's muddled, like life. Often conveying multiple emotions at the same time, and this is the main strength of "Mary and Max".

Fig 2.

Luke Buckmaster, also writing for The Guardian mentions Elliot's style as being "Sculpted with bulging eyes, wobbly lines and clumpy figures, Elliot's characters look haunted but cute, as if Ralph Steadman got his hands on the cast of Gumby. An analogue artist plying his trade in a digital era, Elliot's painstaking art – hands-on in a literal sense – is a rare treat for audiences accustomed to computer effects and CGI fakery." (Buckmaster, 2014) and indeed it is this 'hand-made' sheen that pervades the film that lends itself well to the nature of the story. "Like all Elliot’s work, it deftly mixes humour and pathos and imbues simple-looking surfaces with complex emotions." (Buckmaster, 2014) Typically the medium is one associated with children, but with the themes explored here, this is something that couldn't be further from the truth. "Mary and Max" explores complex themes and revels in it's use of animation techniques. It is by doing this that the film achieves something that couldn't be recreated in another medium, truly utilizing the medium to its advantages.

In terms of story, this is a tale that culminates as a bittersweet celebration of human connection, even between those that - on the surface - can't connect with people in their immediate surroundings. There are a great many themes at play here, and if the film had not been an animation it would have certainly been a hard task to generate as much comedy as Elliot has managed here by sticking with Stop-motion animation. It may have been an entirely dour affair had it not been for the somewhat 'cutesy' aesthetics on display, and in fact, the film would have suffered without it. There is a delicacy in the way these darker themes are handled, which some could consider perhaps a bit blasé if they wanted to take it as a negative. There's a "disarming way Elliot goes about depicting alcoholism, mental illness and other psychological maladies is a testament to the skillful way the film balances happiness and sadness, playfulness and profundity." (Buckmaster, 2014).  And it is precisely in doing this that Elliot manages to circumvent our defenses and subtly portray the tragedy, and the humor to these oft depicted as heavy concepts.

Fig 3. A Scared Max
Technical aspects are perhaps most impressive considering the apparent chaos the film was made in. Elliot himself comments that "We only had eight million Australian dollars, which is tiny, pathetic, almost tragic to spend compared to some of the other animated films out there. I feel like I wasn’t the director of the film, I was the ringmaster of the circus. There were days of anarchy and controlled chaos, and we didn’t even have the resources and the wonderful facilities that these other studios like Aardman and Laika." (Pond, 2009) Taking this into consideration, it is necessary to applaud what was achieved amidst that. The Cinematography is absolutely on point, creating an immersive and visually stimulating piece that belays the inherent lack of color in the world. Of course, everything being either a mundane grey or beige to reinforce characters worldviews totally makes sense, but it takes the compelling framing expressed here to really make the material sing.

In it's essence and execution, "Mary and Max" is a heartfelt and brave portrayal of loneliness, depression and in a much grander sense, the human condition. Adam Elliot has achieved a poignant and distinct tale that feels very real and heartfelt, despite it's aesthetics, which perhaps paradoxically, strengthen the emotional connection and subsequent impact that this story packs.


Buckmaster, L. (2014) ‘Mary and max: Rewatching classic Australian films’ In: The Guardian [online] At: https://www.theguardian.com/film/australia-culture-blog/2014/may/30/mary-and-max-rewatching-classic-australian-films (Accessed on 20 January 2017)
Pond, S. (2009) The weird brilliance of ‘Mary and max’. At: http://www.thewrap.com/weird-brilliance-mary-and-max-11544/ (Accessed on 20 January 2017)
Pulver, A. (2010) ‘Mary and max – review’ In: The Guardian [online] At: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/oct/21/mary-and-max-review (Accessed on 20 January 2017)


Fig 1. Poster [image] At: https://digitalnews.ua.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/mary-and-max-26769-hd-wallpapers.jpg [Accessed on 20/01/2017]

Fig 2. Mary and Max [image] At: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=blaze&oq=blaze&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.1191j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#q=dictionary+blase [Accessed on 20/01/2017]

Fig 3. A Scared Max [image] At: https://blog.animationstudies.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Figure-1.png [Accessed on 20/01/2017]

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Autodesk Mudbox - Session 01

So, I think I just made rather successful piece of Broccoli.

I found it quite difficult to achieve a smooth appearance in some of the deeper details, though I suspect it was because I was using the wrong tool. As I went along though, It became easier.

Adaptation B - Ideas/Tutorial Reflection

Preparation for today's tutorial. 

Last night I sat down, next to my bookcase, and began trying to solve the somewhat big question of "What do I like?" Apparently, the answer was - Too much. And I spent most of the evening trying to ascertain some manor of idea that wasn't simply "STAR WARS".

Understanding that the conceit behind the adaptation project is that the work should be personal in some way, I thought back to my father's old art books he had given me in a recent clear-out. Books that I had stared at as a child, by artists like Frank Frazetta, Chris Foss and Boris Vallejo. Understanding that "High Fantasy" was kind of a no-go for the adaptation project I tried to source the common thread in my interest.

Image result for john martin hell
"The fall of Babylon; Cyrus the Great defeating the Chaldean army" - John Martin
Quickly, I came upon the notion that I really enjoyed the simple set up of the books. The often vague title on the opposite page, or at the bottom of the piece. And in more simple terms, I liked the focus on a few subjects in a sort of 'diorama' set up.

This led me to thinking about the artist John Martin, who created large scale landscape paintings that contain various little stories within them, forming a larger narrative when considered as a whole. Traditionally, the viewer's gaze would be led by someone with an oil lantern as they would narrate the painting's events to them.

This bled into that sense of wanting to create a scene, or at the very least, a piece of work that had the story deeply baked into the entirety of it's artifice.

Alongside this, I was also trying to think of other things I enjoyed and how it could work sympathetically with the previously established wants from this project. I thought of what text I could adapt, coming to the conclusion that I am a big fan of 'Pulp'. Be that in it's more contemporary form as Comic books, and right back to the original stories dreamt up in the 20's, 30's from a slew of my favorite writers, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs etc.

Additionally, I knew that I wanted to incorporate some form of 3D printing into this project, perhaps having a 3D print of a model/series of models/scene etc. form the basis of a sort of 'final' element to the project.


Following on from this morning's chat with Alan, I've come out of it with some form of direction to go in. Relaying everything discussed up top with him, I seem to have the methodology and pipeline in order, i.e. I want to create a character maquette or possibly an action figure or a scene, etc. It was agreed that I should go in to the Pulp aspect of my ideas, perhaps contextualizing them in another time period and imagining that particular permutation of that character. Alan said that there was another students work from previous years that did a similar thing with "Drive", placing it within the 1920's. It seems like in doing something like this, ideas will come naturally from that decision.

I have a particular interest in aligning the trappings of the setting with the adapted character, be that either an original creation of my own or something directly lifted from the text.

So we're happy with my own goals for the project, and all that's left to do is to find that piece of text, that pulp fiction, that I can use to springboard into the project. I'll aim to do this, realistically, by the end of the week, but hopefully as soon as possible so I can start generating more cogent ideas.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Body Modelling 06 - Complete

While not on time, I'm completely chuffed that this is finished. As far as I can tell it's looking nice and everything is in order for the continuing tutorials. 

Friday, 13 January 2017

CG Toolkit Submission - Film Reviews, Animation Classes & Maya Tutorials

Film Reviews

The Hero's Journey - The Matrix
Archetypes - Bladerunner
Narrative Structure - The Big Lebowski
Opposing Characters - Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade
B-Movies - The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms
Exploitation Cinema - Mad Max: Fury Road
Documentaries - My Scientology Movie
Adaptation & Transcription - Westworld
Comedy & Laughter - Naked Gun

Maya Classes

5 Poses
Max Animation Update 1
Max Animation Update 2
Lip Sync - Jaw Bounce

Maya Tutorials

Stylisation Techniques
Isometric Cameras
2D Facial Rigging

Pipeline 3 - 2d Character Rigging 
Rigging Progress

Pipeline 1 - Head Modelling
Preparation & Rough Blocking
The Mouth
The Eye
The Nose
The Brow
The Ear & Neck
Creating Detailed Eyes

Pipeline 1 - Body Modelling 
Torso Blocking
Torso & Arms, Legs & Pelvis
Legs & Boots
Gloved Hands

Reflective Statement

I have enjoyed completing work within this years toolkit immensely, in particular the Maya side of things. Though the writing has continued my understanding into the underpinning mechanics behind some of my best loved films, I really seemed to gel with the modelling side of this toolkit. Finding it relaxing at times, and challenging in a healthy way. In fact, I began to relish the chance to just sit down and move vertices about until they were 'just right'. I don't know if this is a signpost for areas that I would be interested in, in the future, but I know that in general, I've enjoyed creating things in Maya, problem solving with the aid of these tutorials, and fixing problems as they arise. As much as I love watching and writing about films, this is where I feel most rewarded.

The 2D character tutorials were absolutely necessary as they formed the basis of how my group narrative project would work. As such, I found myself referencing these particular tutorials the most as I made my own bespoke rigs to suit the characters designed within that project.

I found enjoyment in watching the films we were shown after Alan's lectures on various aspects of cinema history, and it really helped bolster my knowledge in those areas. And it actually gave me an excuse to revisit films that I had previously written off, as I'd been handed another lens with which to view them in. I think that is something that will aid me greatly in the future, having learned that you can watch films with different 'heads' on.

I do feel as though I need more practice in animating successfully and this is something I will continue to work on in term 2 in order to satisfy not only the criteria of the course, but my own wants/needs from the course.

Overall though, this term, and this toolkit have been an invaluable learning opportunity that I am very happy with.

Body Modelling - 05 - Gloved Hands

I'm still working on the sixth and final tutorial in this series, but it doesn't look like it'll be finished by 5, regardless I will be working on it until it is finished. 

In the meantime the next post will contain links to all of the completed Maya tutorials for today's deadline. 

Body Modelling - 04 - Legs and Boots

Following on from the last post here's part 4, complete. I've also complete part 5 which I will post shortly. 

Body Modelling - 02 & 03 - Torso and Arms, Legs And Pelvis

Here's the Torso and Arms, and the Legs and Pelvis tutorials completed - just finished tutorial 4, so will be posting soon - Moving quickly now. 

Maya Stylisation Tutorial - Isometric Camera

Just finishing up smaller tutorials before I get back to the body modelling - about to start the 4th tutorial of the series - so here's the final part of the stylisation tutorials.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Body Modelling - 01 - Torso Blocking

This marks the start of the body modelling tutorials, I'm currently halfway through part three and aiming to finish it before I go to bed. Using the rest of tomorrow to finish the remaining parts. 

Head Modelling - Complete

So this post marks the end of the Head Modelling tutorials for me, I found them enjoyable once I got into the flow of smoothing vertices out and adding edge loops, and throughout the duration of this series of tutorials I found myself becoming more adept as I went along. 

Definitely an enjoyable experience. 

I'm halfway through the body tutorials too, which shall be posted up soon. 

Adaptation A: 10 Ideas for an Infographic

The top 10 facts about...

1. Fans of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy
2. Hipsters
3. Your Local Band Scene
4. Running a blog
5. Diabetes
6. Men
7. Working in a cinema
8. Living with your Partner
9. Boardgames
10. H.P Lovecraft

So I'm in-between going for something of a more irreverent flavor, as opposed to being a straight up - bosh here's ten boring facts about something - So some of these are intended to contain inaccurate facts played for laughs. But there are a couple here that I could do a lot with in a serious manor and still generate a bit of comedy. So, here's the ten ideas. I could go literally anywhere with this sentence, but for me, it has to be personal in order to be interesting.  

Monday, 9 January 2017

Character - "Lester Sr." Turnaround

And, rounding off the trio, Lester Sr. the grumpy piano player situated at the Saloon that Frasier and Snidely have their altercation in. 

Character - Prop - Frasier's Mirror

Below is Frasier's incredibly goofy pocket mirror. As the mirror forms the crux of the short, I thought it should reflect the silliness of the characters and echo the farce of their masculinities. This was the most direct way I could see of doing that. 

Character - "Frasier" Turnaround

And straight up after the Snidely turnaround is the hero, Frasier. 

Character - "Snidely" Turnaround

Here's the turnaround for "Snidely", the villain of my character project.