Sunday, 18 March 2018

Lip Sync 006

Character Development

I really need to transfer off of character development and really answer some narrative and environment questions. But I wanted to start to staple down what my character will be as soon as possible due to requiring modelling, rigging and finally will be integral to the animation, thus I have considered this as one of the most important aspects to complete.

Starting with a basic structural T-pose I began to consider some elements of detail that would fall across the form, such as his feathers. 'D' and 'E' are appealing but the idea of doing fully feathered wings may be out of scope for the project. Taking to 'K' I found I was starting to lose some of the sturdy form by introducing feathers that fell across the body too smoothly so I started trying to ruffle him up in 'F'. 'L' was an approach inspired by 'Grandmaster Bird Guy Thing' with the feathers layered from the chest outward. This felt like it was starting to stray too far off my design and I really needed to consider how I might approach this in a way that is technically plausible and effective for the character design. I took to 'I' and started to consider the rig inside the character itself. Though I'd like to experiment with squash and stretch elements the initial parts will be getting the rig functional. I intend to explore squash and stretch in the head as without a neck I feel this will help improve his range of motion. The arms and legs squash and stretch would be a bonus but not a necessity.

I started blocking some forms out in 3D to see how his proportions look. I also did some small tests with a ribbon rig to get a feel for how I might take the approach. I realise I needed more joints for it to work more effectively.


Liking how this is looking even on a very primitive level. Still needs some adjustments to its overall shape but general I think the direction is working well.

After some tweaks and tests with the mesh I took a screenshot to take into Photoshop to explore the character details more. This is helpful to visualizing the volumes of the character and making decisions that better represent how the final form may look and the location of changes on the geometry. This definitely helps reduce gestural details and really inspires thought into where each detail connects in 3D space.

As mentioned, the chicken head won't have much of a functioning neck, thus I started to do some tests with a previous character rig to get a feel for how I might create a squashy head. I will likely use this method as a replacement for at neck rather than having both. I aim to have a more flexible version of this squashy system in place. I did a small animation to get a feel for how the squash and stretch would affect my characters performance.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Lip Sync 006

Character Development

I've got a various number of sketches and design pieces that are along the lines of what I want the character to become. So taking these and creating a mood board of my own sketches really helped me get a feel for what is working, what is not and overall mixing some different design aspects together.

Having decided I want the animation mood to be green I've began using various green colours as a base to sketch. This is helping with seeing how things may look in the overall scheme but also help sell an overarching theme between all my concept pieces.

'A' has some nice broad shoulders, but his legs seem out of place. he almost looks like an amputated body on stilts. 'D' and 'H' fit a build that fits a military design but comes across as very strict while 'I' seems almost comical because of his stubbyness. I took to 'B' because I felt this gave a balance between the stocky build that is capable of being strict and loud but with an influence of informal approach. More along the lines of Ex-Veteran over Veteran, which would make more sense in his situation of dealing with a bunch of knuckleheaded chickens.

Taking this sketch and exploring more I found his front view though strong, really left open the side view to have a number of proportions that still fit the same front perspective. This really highlighted to me how important multiple views of characters can be. A few elements I am currently doing thought over are the arms and still questioning on the legs. The arms are a matter of how I want to layer the feathers. I do like separating the arms as a separate shade of feathers breaking his body, arms and head into different parts that are easier to read.

His legs on the other hand are still in question due to chicken legs bending the opposite direction. Although functionally would be correct to bend backwards, it makes some posing of the character both difficult to read and less relatable. 'F' Although his upper body reads as relaxed, his legs struggle to communicate the same, they look uncomfortable even though correct. My thoughts on the dilema are to keep the leg mechanics to that of a chicken and drive the main bulk of posing through his upper body. This Should work well with his feet in IK, though I imagine posing that would be more FK would perhaps look odd. i.e. Sunbathing.

Some colouring information to get a feel for how he could look both with the green colour scheme I am looking toward. Added some lighting information with different styles. a cell shaded approach and a gradient approach with a strong rimlight.

Updated Animatic to help read some details and added a shot depicting the storm. Though the animatic will be going through an overhaul to incorporate some new elements.


Similar to my character design I started to pull the various pieces I had done so far and incorporated them into a mood board to get a feel for the direction I am headed.

Starting to consider the type of farm, given my character is ex military and is only dealing with a small number of chickens I want to have the farm feel smaller, like a local village farm out in the country more so than an industrial farm. The industrial farm gives some good military vibes but would entail a larger population of chickens. As such would also look much more fortified than that of a smaller farm.

I considered different fence types, then different structure types and used the fences along-side the structure to get a feel for how it compliments the environment as a whole. I also know that a big part will be tackling the interior design of the location and considering its function. The farm will mainly be manual labor and thus the chicken coop doesn't have anything majorly automated.
Finding an interior that doesn't come across as too CG with copy-pasted elements and enough variation is key. I want various props scattered about without being too heavily duplicated.

3D Tests

I re-rendered one of my test sculpts of the feathers with a green lighting to get a feel for how the lighting could be used to emphasise the look I am going for.

On top of this I went into Zbrush to also experiment with other methods to sculpt detail without taking quite as much time as this previous one. What I am considering is using a mix of both with bulky feathers for parts such as the neck and arm where the feathers change and the below technique to add some subtle surface detail the the feathers overall.


This will need some further exploration but the exercise has expanded my skill set to consider new approaches.

I also tried a geometry method in maya using layered meshes. This wouldn't be super clean for rigging and my intention would be to take it into a sculpting package to clean up afterward anyway. So I felt this approach wasn't all that effective.


Thursday, 8 March 2018

Lip Sync 005

Exploring Mood and Environment

I've narrowed down the character to definitely being an anthropomorphic chicken, though his design has not been finalised this is really a matter of milage within the same scope. What currently needs more exploration is the mood of the piece, the overall aesthetic. I'm working looseley, exploring various different shapes and ideas for both environment, particular shots and even some stylized characters.

I familiarised myself a little with chicken farms both on the end of free range and taking a look into slaughterhouses, though brutal, the ones I had looked at were very clinical. The process was interesting and I suppose, sad but lacking in regards to elements that I'd be interested in using for my project. Though could use some further looking into, perhaps less on large scale and more in the vein of manual labour on a smaller farm.

'C' for me really emphasises the danger of an oncoming storm with the strong red and yellow, but I do really like the musky green tones in 'E' and 'F', brings in a sense of smog, a world that does not treat well to those unprepared. 'H' and 'I' are good fun, but definitely giving off a rave vibe that doesn't really fit the context. Though I may not use the style of 'O' and 'P' I'm finding it quite interesting to consider how they could be depicted in 3D.

Further composition and environment tests. Again, finding the musky green tones in 'B' to be something I'm leaning towards. 'D' takes the scale up, making the world almost apocalyptic, run down, falling apart and the chickens have to survive. 'F' Puts them into a dark isolated environment, perhaps inside the barn, almost as if being interrogated or plotting something. 'G' and 'H' were some explorations into the idea of foxes, but using them in the context of a storm, considering them as a shape language for the storm itself rather than a threat of actual foxes. Finally here, 'I' a composition that is dramatic and somewhat impending, the scenery is not quite final, but the colours and the comp itself is something that I'm really feeling for in regards to the storm, this does go more into the realms of fantasy and very much reminds me of Fel energy from World of Warcraft. The brush for 'I' was definitely good fun and gives great texture.

Being fairly happy with the development of ideas I started to block in my main poses that I want in the animation through my animatic. There were some parts that I couldn't quite think of transitions or idle gestures and thus blocked in aspects I know I definitely want and re-visiting inbetween parts later. Some ideas are shots that show the location and the storm going on around it while in other cases I plan to take my animatic as a base for another acting reference video to see what may come to mind.

Animation Test
I was listening to some new music through spotify. Something I enjoy doing as I can sometimes discover pieces that I would not have expected to like and amongst those, pieces that strongly evoke a feeling or mood to the extend that I can almost visualise an animation to the music. I discovered Infinite - Notaker a piece that came across to me as gritty and deep, I was beginning to visualise a cast of gritty war-veteran like characters banded together walking over the horizon, which in turn inspired some ideas for walk cycle motions that I wanted to experiment with in my character. This is both a test for how well the character holds up in motion, his construction and potential for character. I was also able to overcome the hurdle of how his feet would look if the mechanics were that of chicken legs. Though they do look unusual when focusing on them, they seem natural on the character as a whole.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Lip Sync 004

3D Techniques for Feathers

Taking a step back from the concepts for a bit I decided I would look into solving some potential technical issues in regarding to creating the character and surface detail.
My plan for the project is to use Zbrush but I am open to using other techniques if I see fit based on my later concepts and how the techniques look in 3D.

I used Sketchfab as a search source for various solutions, this lets me see topology, textures and isolate methods easily. Because Sketchfab is a realtime application there are a lot of simple and effective tricks used to create visual effect without utilizing too many polygons. I created a text document taking notes on various Sketchfab creations:
  • Low Poly Mostly Texture - Some transparency: 01 | 02
  • Alot of Transparent Planes: 01 | 02
  • Alluded to feathers using silhouette: 01 | 02
  • Modelled Feathers + texture: 01 | 02 | 03
  • Modelling + Extruded Planes for transparecy: 01
  • Effective texture work on retopo + Normals:  01
Now that I've gotten some ideas for execution I've headed back to character concepts. Trying to capture some sense of gesture and posing through the concepts. I found that one of the problems I am running into is that I haven't fully established the final goal of what the character is to achieve, causing my designs to vary drastically with some vaguely working and others barely working at all.

Liking the contrast of a small head, thin legs and almost entirely upper body. exploring through different poses, expressions and squash and stretch. Some tests of what he may be wearing. Because chicken legs knees are equivalent to our ankles (in a sense) it is difficult to draw them bent backwards in a manner that looks natural. I may create a box hierarchy in Maya to quickly block out posing and basic lighting information to develop character over the top.

Using the bottom right doodle of what the feathers may look like I took a sphere into ZBrush using various tools, sculpted a poly-painted a feathery design. Textures UV's are generated in ZBrush for speed and have some strange artifacts but final character UV's will be clean.

3D View. Topology is a simple ZRemesh in this test. The low topology works well combined with the textures, perhaps even better with either Normal & AO map or Displacement.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Lip Sync 003

Character Concepts

Using the silhouette I created I started to look into different silhouettes and thinking of various other designs around the one I had so far.

My plan will be to design the hammer separately once I've started to get more final on my design, but I am exploring some designs so that they would better fit the silhouettes.
I am currently seeing the character to be quite gritty and aggressive but in the 'for your own good' kind of way.
(Perhaps I could ask Vincent for reference)
Almost exploring the idea of a commander like character. With his soldier chickens that are, obviously not prepared, they are chickens after all.

Really thinking the de-saturated colours will work well in the storm setting, pulling away from the sense of fantasy and wonder and getting more serious with the events at hand. Which I am hoping will contrast well with the fact that he is talking to chickens that are essentially completely oblivious.
Definitely not feeling the Barbarian vibe on the right, but do want him to have some sort of armour or protection.
Next plan is to explore more character poses and find a sense of the character I am going for through posture and proportion. Finding good face proportions that conveys the right character is essential.

Through the development of the character I've been thinking about and considering how I will represent him in 3D. There will mainly be texture work and avoiding anything too realistic in regards to the feather physics. My thoughts are along the lines of the Sonic series where a lot of the fur detail is through broad strokes. Any fur or feather depicted in games will likely be a good place to look for ideas.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Photogrammetry 001


This came about whilst I was visiting Lisa Yates and saw that she had an X-box Kinect, so I asked whether she knew it could be used for photogrammetry and she was unaware of what that was. So we decided we'd give it a try and explore into it. We first had to acquire and adapter to connect the Kinect to the PC, install Kinect SDK and various other drivers and a software to do the photogrammetry. We used ReconstructMe for this process, starting with various small tests to see how the software works leading into tests of doing bust scans.

Initial test scan of desk chair. Finding out distance from object for scanning and seeing how the system works. Found this was a good test for initial scan and export to see how export works.
Though unable to yet recover the colour information.

After testing we decided to start scanning each other. I first started by attempting to scan Lisa's face.

Still needing some tweaking and experimentation to figure out a method that works effectively.
Some experimentation later we started to get some cleaner scans. Here are the results.

Following these tests the next steps are looking at ways to retain colour information and perform effective mesh cleanup and retopology. Followed by an attempted to do a full body scan in T-pose for rigging, though an A-pose may be more ideal, it'd be easier to scan in a T-pose.

Overall these tests have been fun and will prove useful in some situations. Lisa intends to scan physically created models, such as with clay for use in maya as she is much more comfortable with her hands-on craftsmanship.

Lip Sync 002

Idea Exploration

I began to collect different images for the concept of the ant, looking for images of close up folliage locations and various other depictions of ant characters in media. Namely; Bugs Life, Antz and Ant Bully. I also looked at Ants themselves. Upon further looking I found that I wasn't really too keen on the idea, and creating a believable foliage environment would take some extra work on animation. Though I considered lattice deformers I decided a heavily animated background would be quite time consuming.

Ant Concept Mood Board

I decided it was time to take some drastic changes and explore new ideas. So I removed myself from working digitally to go back to my sketchbook and work out some new elements.
I find my sketchbook at times can be better for thinking even though I am more comfortable doing digital artwork at times.

During the process of sketching down characters and considering how they may fit either clip I then decided to write down various notes on the dialogue in the clip, breaking down both a literal storm and the idea of a storm being a metaphor for another upcoming event. I also noted that the character talking doesn't appear to have as much concern in his voice as what he is implying the other characters to have, thus giving him a sense of not being affected by said storm.

Some further thought and listening to the clip I decided to think back to things that have portrayed well the anger that comes across in the audio clip. I thought to the film Whiplash and upon looking at some images, I had a moment to wonder whether the audio clip itself was from Whiplash. I didn't want to check whether it did or not so I am still completely oblivious to the context of the clip but the idea of the storm being that of an upcoming performance was an interesting recontextualisation and I realised that I could almost turn the clip into any emotional moment within any profession. I.e, perhaps politicians about to be hit by a wave of bad press.


Upon my new searches I came across this image. This inspired me because I felt I could see the character performing my dialogue, even though there's aspects of his character design that are not directly correlating to the clip. At this point I realised that my character could be ANYTHING and chances are, I could contextualise them within their universe so that the dialogue makes sense.

Carlo Spagnola

I began to create silhouettes. Unsure of how this would go I just kept going, working from thick brush to thin, block shapes and then sculpting detail. I found myself creating a range of characters that I felt would fit either the storm clip or the lebowski clip, opening up my options.

I like each of these varying designs, but the one that peaked my interest the most in regards to character and something I'd want to create is what I am calling the Chicken Dwarf. At first I intended to use him as a character for a future side project as I didn't know a way he might fit this one, however, away from my work I had an epiphany about a context that would also solve some issues I was having with the storm audio clip. Using the Dwarf Chicken, talking to an audience of actual chickens I could avoid having too much to animate in an audience to the dialogue. Given the storm dialogue addresses multiple individuals I was finding it difficult to justify depicting them, though through my new idea of using passive and less sentient creatures I can reduce my animation requirements for the crowd.

From here forward I am going to be exploring more into Dwarf Chicken and his Chicken Crowd. Considering various concepts of the environment and what the storm is represented by.


So amongst doing various character exploration I decided it would be valuable for me to asses what I want to achieve by the end of pre-production and schedule in the time I am giving myself to complete such tasks. This has lead to me creating a Spreadsheet that outlines a number of tasks I wish to complete and the timeframe in which I have to complete them.

This has significantly improved my productivity and focus. Working narrowly on each task rather than broad across everything at once.

Once I had the chicken character in mind I felt it would be good to begin recording reference. This did not go completely as I'd hoped but given my little experience in acting out reference it was definitely a valuable place to start in getting used to the concept and overcoming some of the various hurdles I may no have expected to encounter later.

Montage of Various references and early recordings. Recording reference started very stiff and awkward but felt the more I began to feel comfortable tackling a new aspect the more natural it became to slowly sink into character without it feeling like a sudden uncomfortable change.

Refined reference with audio overlay. This is definitely much stronger than my initial starting reference, but still will require reshooting once I start to board out shot progression.