Wednesday, October 13, 2010

i hate this kid

while i don't regret my decisions, jumping on airplanes to fly around the country to shoot interviews can be detrimental and deleterious to one's graduate studies. i felt this most acutely in my 3-D animation class, which i've come to find out is the steamroller class that always has the first-years scrambling.

in the class, we make a 30-second movie based on a nursery rhyme. we do everything ourselves, from conceiving the story and designing the characters to modeling them (creating the 3-D sculpture in the computer) and then rigging (building a skeleton for it and defining how it can move) to texturing (making the flat gray surfaces look like cloth, bricks, grass, whipped cream, whatever) and animating (you know) to lighting (which is what i'm really here for). that's a ton to do in fifteen weeks.

for the base of my story, i chose "star light, star bright" and pitched two story ideas. the one i preferred (and chose) was a little boy entering his room in tears, holding a fatally damaged teddy bear. he set the bear on the his bed and goes to the window and aimlessly looks up. the evening star is just appearing. realizing the star, he looks back at his bear and then starts to wish with all his might. the last shot pulls back from behind him (still at the window) to reveal a repaired teddy bear sitting on his bed.
i wasn't feeling too swell after my first few weeks in texas and decided i wanted to do something genuinely positive and hopeful.
you can see my storyboards here. (for the record, i cannot navigate myself to save my life on this crazy new age "tumblr" blogger site....)

from there, we had start modeling our characters. it's highly recommended to draw things out before trying to create them in 3-D, so i did some sketches of my little guy.

i liked how my first drawings came out, except that he looked like he was 14 and i wanted someone about half that age. so i played around and found what things to change, such as:
making his neck thinner. a thick neck looked like a tough guy. a thin neck looked like my nephew.
straightening his body. broader shoulders tapering to a thinner waist looked like the popular guy at the school dance. a straighter body looked like he belonged on the playground.
(you can still see my notes to myself at the top right of the paper.)

at the same time, i thought about some other changes to help tell the story as clearly as possible in 30 seconds. i originally imagined him in a typical house, like andy's from toy story. i decided to change it to a mobile home in a trailer park (the last shot will be from the exterior as we hear his laugh with delight), to make his damaged toy that much more dire. also, i gave him baggy hand-me-down clothes to again emphasize his plight and create pathos for him., baggy clothing allowed me to hide poor animation...

from my time as a semi-legal alien at byu, i knew i hated modeling, and we weren't getting along any better now. i built, hated, deleted, and restarted him at least four times. the upside to this was that i would spend two hours trying to design a head or an arm or a shirt sleeve and have it get increasingly convoluted to the point of uselessness, yet learned enough in the process that v2.0 would come out looking much better in about 10-20 minutes.

still, on the big day when all of our models were due, i spent the night flying back from las vegas and then driving from houston to a&m, arriving shortly before class started and having essentially NOTHING to show. it was not pretty.
and i seemed to be falling further and further behind, which made this worse less and less fun, until i told myself i would not leave the lab until all was finished. i didn't think i'd be pulling an all-nighter one month in to school, and there were times when i just sat there, hating this kid staring back at me, but i pushed on and it was such a relief to say he was done around 2 a.m.
i still had five more models to make, but he was by far the most complicated. and i found myself returning to him to make tweaks a few more times that night and even since then. just today i totally redesigned his eyes. they're much better and he can blink very easily, which will avoid some very ugly situations in animation.

creating his hair was a nightmare. i really liked the way it looked in my sketches, but how would i make that in three dimensions? i tried and hated it so many times that i seriously considered making him a leukemia patient, citing my failure to adding sympathy for him. i kept going, though, and found a way that created a look that i'm really happy with, actually. his body is kind of blocky and i'm ok with that, but his hair is pretty much just the way i want it. cool.

i looked at several different teddy bears and decided to base the design off of the one i had a child (and i did consider modeling mickey, for those of you who know (which is most of my readership, i think)).

yeah, the bear is kind of blocky. it was after three in the morning and i had to design another version with the head starting to tear off....

for his bed, i tried to keep it a little lumpy still. he's done his best to make his bed, but likely he has to do a lot of things for himself in the morning and doesn't have a whole lot of time to spend on a perfectly made bed. (the irony was that i didn't either--it was probably 4 in the morning by now--and a neatly made bed would have been much simpler...

currently, i'm pretty much caught up. i spent several hours in the lab today rigging his skeleton, actually kind of enjoying it and being grateful that i have rather low-impact animation in my story.

today our professor reminded us that this class is simply to get us acquainted with the program, not to be experts at it all.
it's a "cbb" project. "could've been better."
knowing that, i can adapt accordingly.

i'll keep you updated.


Jaime said...

:0 brilliant!

The Former 786 said...

It's looking good, Jeff! Both the models and the new blog layout!

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed, Jeff!