Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Contextual Studies: Death of The Author

The Death of The Author is an essay written by Roland Barthes in 1967 stating that the author and writing must be seperated when reading and not looking into the influences that the author has had upon the final piece...

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Visual Language Research: Mike Mignola

Recently I've been looking at artistic styles to try draw influence from to help represent my characters to help given an extra but of impact when it comes to the visuals. Whilst searching through my own collection of art books, graphic novels and comics and cam across American comic artist Mike Mignola's work, most famous for creating the character Hellboy what artracted me more was his art style. As soon as I looked at it I was immediately enthusiastic and about trying to replicate his style and see what effects it could bring to my imperfect character designs.

An example of Mignola's Work.

What really drew me towards his work when looking for inspiration was the heavy use of black to assist in establishing form and how figures get merged with the shadows only highlighting minor details. There is also something quite haunting found in his imagery which adds a sense of dread, especially when more black is used. it was this sensation of dread I wanted to add to my Shark Warrior character to add a little fear to the design. Even when Mignola's Work is coloured it can usually have an impacting effect in that things can look very dark yet calm, or haunting. Other times it can look warm and friendly creating a good contrast allows for the style to be very flexible.

(more of Mingnola's work)

Another key interest was that when thing were coloured in blues and greys it really gave the feeling of looking at something underwater, something cold with little light and even with a bit of mystery to it's actual form. Along with the heavy use of shading it's something that I'm looking forward to try myself and develop it into something a little more suited for myself and unique looking. Over my development period I'm going to be looking at more of Mignola's Work and try draw influence from it's dark visuals and cold colours as I feel it could really give my character design and extra kick.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Animation Final: Final Product & Evaluation

Finally the animation is finished, whilst it is not perfect I'm quite proud of what I have achieved as along the way of learning how to animate in Maya I've found it quite difficult but I'm glad I have stuck it through as not only have I learned how to animate but I have also learned a little about myself.

(The Final Animation)

When I first started this brief there was a lot of information to take in about character design as well as the 12 main principles of animation, once that was over I was introduced to the computer program Pencil which was a digital version of what traditional animators do. I found this to be very exciting as I found it quite easy to get used to controlling the pen and tablet to create images on screen although I did find the ability to "ease in and ease out" difficult to grasp at first but over trial and error I began to understand how to make things look more realistic to real life in Pencil.

The hardest part of this brief was learning how to create objects and then animate them within the 3-D animation program Maya. I feel that I'm quite strong at creating objects in the 3-D Environment as I have little to no difficulties put together an object, for example The King Chess Piece seen in my animation is made up of around 12 different objects all blended to create the one, I also feel I am confident at mapping and adding textures to objects in Maya as after learning how to I found do difficulty giving my Dice it's spots. Altogether I feel that I'm strong at making a scene including lighting and shadows as my final products look similar to something a professional may produce but it is when I start to animate in Maya that I begin to feel that I am not very confident.

The process of animating in Maya is very similar to Stop Animation in that you save key frames and the computer will then add the missing movements to string one key frame to another. I found giving the effects easing in and out and weight to the objects movements quite difficult as to change these I had to use the Graph Editor, each movement appears as a mathematical translation onto a graph of the time line. By using the Graph Editor I was supposed to make the animation look much better but in the end I never did quite understand how to utilise it properly even with my tutor's help, the animation would often look worse than it did before I began to use the Graph Editor.

If I could go back and change one thing it would most likely be the camera angles, I do not know how to use the camera in Maya but the perspective camera has done a good job in capturing that I want to present. Overall I found this whole experience quite interesting as 3-d modeling and animation is the future of the business but with the soon to be released "Princess and The Toad" by Walt Disney Pictures perhaps traditional two-dimensional animation is quite dead which is quite exciting for me as it is an area I want to explore more as I feel that would be much more capable of creating a piece of animation through those means than that of 3-D rendering. Through this all I have learned that 3-D animation is not my strong point, but I am not useless at it and it's a skill I am grateful to have learned.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Animation Ten: Animatic For Final Product

Whilst animating my final piece of animation I made a quick animatic to show how it should look in a bare bones kind of way. Unfotunately a lot has had to be edited from the original concept seen in the storyboard as I was too ambitious and ended up making the over all story too long, so I cut it down so that it had the main points of the short animation that I wanted to present. Below is that animatic.

It's proving quite difficult to animate my wholes piece but overall it is an effort that is well worth it. I can't wait to show it.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Contextual Studies: Narratives

For Contextual Studies I was given the task of finding and researching a narrative that uses media in an unusual/interesting way to present to the class the following week. After much consideration I settled on the narrative of Year Zero, the concept behind Industrial Rock Band Nine Inch Nails' 5th studio album (of the same name) as it span several different medias that all piece together to form the story that takes place in the year 2022. These medias include music, video, images, text and the use of the Internet including the reader/viewers' own input.

(Trailer promoting Year Zero, 2007, Rob Sheridan)

Above is the trailer promoting the new album but it also introduces two concepts of the world of Year Zero, first the sign that passes by read "I am Trying To Believe" which is a phrase that plays a strong role in both the music and web based parts of the narrative. As the video progresses a ghostly hand is seen protruding from the sky, when the camera turns to it electrical distortion appears to be an effect of the this hand. This hand known as The Presense is a strong element of the Year Zero story most likely relating to the concept of "The Hand Of God".

The story of Year Zero (at realease set in 2007) is that the United States of America has fallen into a shamble of what it was previously with laws being warped and mass use of a new drug used to control the public. For the participants of the story it can experience due to scientists transporting web pages from their time (2022) to ours to prevent their future from happening. As this is a multi media narrative each new media adds a new spin, perspective or part to the story, the idea is that people have to search out different parts beyond the music featured on the album, through Internet searches and finding clues hidden in the lyrics, packaging and then following clues and links from each subsequent web site.

Aside from just veiwing and reading the participant of the narration can take part of the vibe of the Year Zero tale. Another strong theme within the narration is "Art is Resistance" with another release of an album titled "Year Zero: Remixed" (or "Y34rZ3R0R3M1X3D" as it is shown on the packaging) which had all the songs of the previous album remixed by other musicians to create new variations of the originals. It came bundled with the music software Ableton Live 7 (demo) and the mastertracks to "Year Zero" which allowed anyone who bought the album to remix and create music and join the fictional resistence against the United States Goverment of 2022.

(The Cover to Year Zero Remixed, artwork by Rob Sheridan)

The whole Year Zero project was a very interesting way to show a story, becuase of it outstanding effort in creating a new variation on the concept album genre by also giving listeners an "alternative realty video game" to play to find out more about the back story it has won sveral awards. This effort should be noted as one of the most unique ways in presenting a story even though it can be slightly convoluted it is nonetheless an amazing proof of how much one person can care about presenting their narrative to the world.

If you want to find out more about the Year Zero story as there is so much to cover it would take me and age to write about it check out this link here.

Creative Industries: Copyrighting my work, Knowing my Rights

When it comes to getting things copyrighted and proving your ownerships there are many ways to go around doing this but one of the most easiest and effective way of gaining a copyright is by creating a Deviant Art Account, with this account anything you upload is automatically copyrighted to your user name which in turn is attached to your e-Mail then your personal details, and as you post it you automatically have a date stamp as it tells viewers when it was uploaded, meaning if there were any disputs about ownership Deaviant Art should be able to settle the arguement, this works very well for independant artists.

Another good thing about the copyrighting process on Deviant Art is that when uploading you can also choose license in which to release your work, such as a creative commons license allowing people to use your work for free aslong as you're credited for it's use.

One such instance of this instant copyright coming in great use was when I uploaded a short sequentially illustrated narrative, everything for this piece was created by me, first using photographs and then photoshop. During the production I did use an image from and name of a Rockband luckily the album that I used has a creative commons license allowing me to use it as long as I do not claim ownership of that said material.

If I was to get a publisher though I would first have to find out how to use the images not created by myself, most likely asking permission from the original creator. If I was denied I would have to change it, but if they request a payment I would have to organise the terms of agreement over payments before printing. If a buyer came up to me requesting to buy the rights I think I would probably sell the rights aslong as I get a share of what ever money it may bring in and get credit for it. I would probably choose this as I feel my story isn't going to go very far finacially or creatively.

Unfortunately if a client wanted exclusive rights that would be a bit tricky with my short story appearing on Deviant Art already as it has been seen by other people so it may be a case of just accepting that exclusive rights would be right out of the window. For the next time if I had something I would have to refrain from posting it on Deviant Art and getting a copyright via another medium to allow a client to purchase exclusive rights.

Visual language: Interm Crit.

his week was the time for the interm crit to show my development on my idea for the character creation brief in which I chose the words "Fish" and "Robot" to combine together to create a new character, my main idea that I seem to be following is that of fish donning robotic suits equipped with reverse aqua lungs that allow them to breathe on land, I've also been working on a back story to the character (/characters). Such as the character living in "sea-ciety" of sorts complete with hierarchies for different types of fish but before I go in to that, let's take a look at the slightly more developed concept of my "fish-in-a-suit".

Above is an image I drew up on adobe Photoshop depicting a more developed look to my initial suit idea, I really enjoy this idea and have been experimenting with different types of fish to place in the suit, with variations of design, but I still need to work on how the legs would appear. The reverse aqua lung is visible on the front of the chest and in the position where the lungs on a person would be. I also used the idea of a large bulking design as I feel it's what is representative of technology with the ability to sustain aquatic life. Overall my inspirations have been sci-fi imagery ranging from "Star Wars" films to the video game series "Half-Life".

Now I mentioned the back story to my character within a society with rulings and a class system. My rough concept for this is that you have the intellectual grouping represented by creatures such as octopuses and squids and maybe small whales that rule of the rest of the sea life, then below them you have other types of fish with fill out the main population. I decided that the Sharks would be the warriors of the "sea-ciety" and have more of a harness than a suit, it would be interesting to see what I could develop with the different types of sharks there are. Then finally creatures like crabs and sea snails are the janitors of my world, but I have still not decided on how they will look.

Whilst I have all these ideas bubbling in my head I feel it would be best to focus on one group and I think that would be the Sharks as I see it to be filled with the greatest amout of potential for various design and it's quite fun to draw sharks aswell. Whilst all this development is coming along on major note made during the crit was that I was still undecided on what media this character will be used in (game/film/mascotbook etc.). That's something that I will be considering as I go along design as I feel the answer will appear during the design process, overall the crit was positive and that I should just continue developing my ideas.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Animation Nine: Starting to Animate

This week was the first expeierence of truly putting together a piece of animation and learning to render it properly and put it together in the computer program "Adobe After Effects". After selecting the render settings and batch rendering (batch rendering being a fuction that turns my animation into a series of images) in Maya I then open up the first image in the sequence and select the render function in After effects which then takes all over images in that sequence and string them together and turns it into a animation in a selected format of the users choice.

Above is an test animation I created to show how my dice piece will move, it's also a good example of how I got to grips with the rendering process. I also looked into early pixar work, most notably Luxo Jr. to just get a grasp off how to handle animating inanimate objects. I looked closely at the movements and studied them to just see how to accurately animate them, I also looked at how a dice rolls in real life.

Animating takes some time and patience but the reward is its self when you see your creations moving, next week I will be focusing soley on turning my storyboard into an animation.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Contextual Studies: What can be labeled as Punk?

When it comes to Punk the stereotypical image that is conjured in one's head is that of a person dressed in leather complete with Mohawk, piercings and a bad attitude. This shouldn't be the case as at the time (1970s) to be punk was to rebel against certain aspects of society and to break free of what you felt oppressed you. So in what relevance does this have to art?

Jamie Reid's art for "God Save The Queen" by The Sex Pistols.

So now that we've established what a rough definition of "Punk" can be lets look at an example of punk art work of the era. Above is Jamie Reid art work for the cover to the single "God Save the Queen", a song about the state of the goverment and monarchy. The image depicts the Queen Elizabeth II with her eyes and mouth covered by font, possibly representing the fact that she is no more than a figure head within society (as mentioned within the song). This image made a large amount of comotion at the time as no-one has defaced the queen make this quite the rebellious image. Another piece of artwork that created a stir in both the public and media was the portrait of Myra Hindley consisting of painted hands of children (see image below), as the subject combined with the method of creation was something that many people saw in bad taste. But surely this can be recognised as punk as it goes against what people consider acceptable and there in lies it's categorisation as it is a rebellion against acceptability, but was it made to purposefully upset people?

The portrait of Myra Hind by Marcus Harvey.

But in colleration to music what can be labelled as punk as an image to connect oneself to an aspect of pop-culture and as things evolve and develop, punk has grown into more of an image style than a statement. As the music has changed so has the artwork used to represent it, with bands creating music that seems to try out due each other, or bring in other influences from other genres it seems that punk has become distorted from what it used to be. Below is an image by artist Dan Mumford for a cover to "In the Belly Of the Shark" single by the British band Gallows. The image is a huge contrast to the make-shift and basic "anyone can do it" attitude of the "God Save the Queen" cover, The image shows tight lines and understanding of colour and composition this shows the evolution from the humble beginnings of punk's "D.I.Y." philosophy to something a lot more complex and this is also reflecting in the music.

Dan Mumford's cover to "In the Belly of the Shark".

In the modern world where everyone wants to be famous and out do each other it's increasingly difficult to define what is Punk as everyone is try to do something themselves or apply other essences of things to another taking many things and putting them together and at the moment truly the only thing that would be rebellious is to try to do something such as televise live murder. Society has experienced punk and has has it's rebellious age but now to do anything on a grand scale is either madness or stupid and the only type of rebellion that is present are small ones like swapping price tags in a shop. In short Punk is rebellion of any sort against anything you could think of be it styles of music, art, clothing and come up with you're own solutions to these objects of culture.

Creative Industries: Personality tests

[ Under Construction ]

Visual Language: A new Brief approaches!

After completing two mini briefs, "About Me" and "Character Archetype Design", a new brief has been presented to me. I was given the choice of selecting one of the following; "Character Design", "Cityscape" and finally "Photographic Investigation". I decided that I would choose to complete the character design brief as I had a lot of fun working on the previous character achetype design brief, but this time the brief is less vague. I was to create a character by combining two words from the choice below;

Robot, Dog, Cloud, Fire, Fish, Cello, Umbrella, Snow, Tuba and Tomatoe.

I decided on using the words Robot and Fish as these two words arn't often combined it could prove to have some very interesting outcomes and admittedly I already had ideas buzzing in my head at the prospects of trying to combine the two. With that in mind I made a quick mood board to help focus my ideas and gather some ideas for basic concepts, as I am unsure of how I want my creations to look I collected many different styles for inspiration ranging from photographs to paintings to cartoons, there is also a strong sci-fi theme in this mood board which I think translate the robot aspect quite well.

(What will come from this?)

There is also the reason of this character's design that I should consider as for what purpose it's being created for could help me decide how to overall character will turn out; will it be for a videogame? If so what kind? (eg. First person adventure, RPG, Platformer). Or a Film/ Animation/Comic? And finally maybe a Mascot for something much like Tony The Tiger is the mascot of Frosties cereal (a personal favourite). It might also be an interesting angle to try develop a basic character design and modify it to suit each of these medias, especially the videogame one as there are many different genres that I could modify the character for. Below you can find the first two rough sketchs that I created based on the initial ideas I had in my head at the time.

(click to enlarge)

I quite like the idea of the smaller fish having this large mechanical suit with a sort of reversal of an aqua-lung allowing them to survive in places where there is no water, and the concept with the shark as a kind of parody of a diver with it's mechanical limbs. I feel I am off to a good start and want to develop these ideas as well as come up with new ones, this shall be a very interesting brief. Whilst I have not quite chosen the format that this character will appear in I think it'll reveal itself as I progress through the design stages and I get to know my character a little better.

Contextual Studies: Outlining The Uncanny in Media

Within the media the theme of the uncanny is one that is very strong especially in the entertainment industries which focuses on presenting both informative features and fictional ones. The uncanny is often a staple element within the fictional features found in entertainment to help make the story more fantastical and interesting to the viewer, there are also many aspects to what we can label as "The Uncanny" as there are many different genres of entertainment but each one can have it's own version of the uncanny. One example is that within comic books, especially superhero based ones where the concept of people who can fly and are stronger than the strongest man on earth is something that can be viewed as uncanny, then there are drama shows such as Coronation Street where things happen which are similar to our own but a lot more dramatic it could not be real with events such as murder and overly complex family fights, even these mundane things can be defined as uncanny.

That's just some of the examples of what can be classed as the uncanny within media but it's more of looking at the uncanny as an adjective. What about the Uncanny as a feeling, a sense of aesthetics? A good example of this would be any of the works of Jan Svankmajer, a film maker who is known to incorporate stop motion within his works but the end results is something that doesn't seem quite right a perfect example would be his work Alice in which the opening scene we see the White Rabbit come to life and this is done through the wonders of stop-motion animation. The way it moves is slightly jerky and unnatural but nonetheless it still mimics movement and this relation to reality with a distorted spin is what makes it Uncanny.

Another example of this type of stop-motion used to create the sense of "Uncanniness" is within the Horror genre film "Ju-on: The Grudge" in which a ghost of a women moves in a very discorntorted manner whilst coming down stairs using both her hands and her feet. It's this type of movement that creates the unerving feeling outlined by Frued in his theory of what the representation of the Uncanny is.

There are many ways the uncanny can be represented within media ranging from film to television, literature and even videogames, but here are just so many but I can garentee where there is fiction there will be an element of the uncanny waiting to be found.

Visual Language: Character Design Evaluation

Finally here we have the completed character design that I've been working on. In the end I decided to settle for the short hair as I felt it brought a certain uniqueness to the character as a whole. When it came to designing the clothes I was heavily inspired by the character designs found in Lost Planet and the tv-series Neon Genesis Evangelion whilst trying to keep a realistic look. Whilst the clothes take origin from animation and computer games the world in which I envision her is something similar to that found in the film Bladerunner, a cyber punkish but faux-realistic future where society hasn't exactly got better.

(The Final Version of My Character)

I chose quite earthy colours to contrast with typical character designs of futuristic settings, but also to get the feel of heavy construction workers into the design via means of the use of orange as the main colour. I also constructed a back ground for my character aswell as a short biography and profile, I decided that her ethnicity would be Korean as I was trying to think of a nationality not often used in western media, once this was decided I gave the name "Ta-Yun Lee" know as "Tay" for short. The year is set in 2127, 13 years after a world devistating event known as "Impact". The main idea is that Tay would be a sort of anti/no-hero in that she is a help for hire accepting odd jobs whilst also trying to uncover the truth about the event known as "Impact" using military ties that she has gain from both a stint in the armed forces and also through her father. I gave her balanced characteristic of being skilled with technology, extrovert but untrusting and stubborn, also Tay is able to take the itiative in a bad situation.

Developing this character has been an intersting experience and it's something that I really enjoyed but also found that it to be a fun challenge. Designing the costume for the character was a new challenge for me as I wanted to create something practical that would be used in something such as a film. I feel that with the creation of this character I want to expand on her in another format and build on her in narrative form as I think I could create and entertaining story that people would enjoy.

Animation Eight: Rendering and Lighting

In this week's lesson of Animation I focused on learning how to utilise lighting and textures in the animation & rendering program Maya. There are several types of lights that I could use within Maya but the two main types that you'll use during animation are "Area Light"s which are lights in the shape of a square which gives good lighting to objects and the general environment, the other lighting option is "spotlight" which does pretty much as the name suggests and is good for both area lighting and object lighting. Using a tutorial to set up 3 point lighting I created the image below, with shadows added it makes an image appear alot more realistic and nicer to look at in general.

(Click To Enlarge)

Once I had mastered the the entricities of 3 point lighting I set out to learn how to texture items. By going into the hypershade menu I can add textures to rendered items by selecting from a list of pre-existing ones such as marble. With these texture I can add them as a "Skin" or select bump mapping which will give the affected object 3-D textures similar to the skin.

(Click To Enlarge)

With textures and lighting I can give a much more polished look to my animations once they are fully rendered, ofcourse this is at the expense of an increased file size but it is worth it to see the end product, above is the end product and I quite proud in that I feel confident in my skills with both the hypershade menu and use of lighting.

Check This Out: I went to Bradford Animation Festival

This year I and the rest of my class were treated to tickets to all of the shows going on at the first two days of the Bradford Animation Festival. The first two days (10-11th of nov.) focused on the topic of Video Games and thier development, the line up had a fair few confrences and showcases lined up aswell as some interesting entertainment in the evening including a performance from Pixelh8 and Big screen gaming.

My expectations of the festival were generally non-exsitant as I had no preconceptions of what it was going to be like. I had previously been to the Eurogamer Expo, but I knew that this was going to be very different off the bat. When we arrived at the National Media Museum (formerly the National Film, Photography & Television Museum) we were informed that several events including Pixelh8's performance had been cancelled or that they had either been replaced by something less interesting. This did put a serious dent into my expectations of the festival as I immediately thought that it was poorly organised because of this.

The line up for the two days seemed very interesting but the cancelations made an impact on this. The first confereance of the day was presented by animation studio "Amanita Design" who were talking about both themselves and the production of their new game "Machinarium". The game was in the style of point and click adventure where in the player controls a small robot on his mission to stop the black cap gang from over throughing the mayor of robot town and save his girlfriend. For the first time in a long while I was astounded by what this design studio had done, the main feature of Machinarium was that the whole thing is made up of traditional drawn elements. The background and characters all stem from pieces of artwork drawn by hand and then scanned into the computer, from there it's all animated and put together with coding. Another interesting part of the whole presentation was how the composer created the music for the game.

The next interesting conference was presented by UK games developer Team 17, most famously known for creating the much loved Worms series of video games, they were presenting their new game which is a remake of an older IP (Interlectual Property) "Alien Breed: Evolution". It was interesting to see how they had used the Unreal Engine (which is usually used to render first and third person genre games) to render a top down arcade style shooter. It was also insightful to see how a slightly more professional studio works as opposed to the indy developers Amanita Design work.

A really interesting talk came at the end of the day when Ian Livingstone, co-founder of Gamesworkshop and Product Acquisition Director of the videogame developers Edios Interactive. Livingstone talk through a little of his own history and largely about the videogame series Tomb Raider (Eidos' most notable IP). The overall conferance was very charming and we were even treated to a clip of the Tomb Raider Album which was written during it's big popularity boom in the late 90s. Overall the first day was fun and full of interesting conferances with many opertunities to ask questions straight to the presenters.

In the evening I attended the Bigscreen gaming which was alot of fun. Essentially it was playing videogames on a cinema screen and I have to admit that The Beatles: Rockband has never been the same for me since playing it there. The festival was also holding a competition where the highest scorer would win a prize, through being the only person brave enough to play vocals and get 100% on hard on the song "Hello, Goodbye" I ended up winning a very cool prize, the Sony Eyepet. I also some how managed to attract some Rockband Groupies, unfortunately after three songs the crowd opted to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 instead and I suddenly became very uninterested by a generic first person shooter. Winning a prize did make up for Pixelh8's cancellation though.

(My prize...unfortunately I don't Own a Playstation 3.)

On the second day I found that many of the conferances were not geared towards my interests and not as insightful as the previous day's as it was also full of cancellations with replacesments which did not seem as good. Two did stand out the first being Fluid Pixel, a games design company who specialised with creating Mobile phone videogames were trying to set out to create a brand with one of their products ranging over a selection of medias, it was nice to see and small based company try establish a brand but I felt their brand was a little lost but nonetheless could appeal to younger audiences. The second that stood out was a presentation by the creator of the Broken Sword series of point and click adventure video games, Charles Cecil. The presentation talked about the re-release of the original game "Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars" and how it was created using low poly count 3-d models with cel shading to re-create the drawn look of the original. Over all it was quite engaging to see how companies re-invent previous installments.

The overall festival was enjoyable with the most memorable events happeneing on the first day as opposed to the lackluster second day, with many cancelations happening across the event in general it did bring the excitement down aswell as regards to the levels of management. The bonus of winning a prize was quite good aswell. Overall an enjoyable experience, hopefully next years will be a little more organised.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Creative Industries: Outlining Company Types

In creative industries, as a sort of follow on from the previous task I will be outlining the type of company culture the department is a part of, the company structure and the level of responisbility in regards to the level of management. As stated previously I was looking at the art department within the film company Lucasfilm, first of all I know that The art department is a part of the company with it's own managers and levels within such as Lead artists, plain artists and different type of artists, you have to remember thought hat this is just one department that is part of a larger company. All this means is that the department is a part a company structure know as "Role Culture", this means there will be people incharge of the whole company with people who are incharge of different sectors under their authority, much like the diagram below. This allows for the people at the top to know whats going on within their company without having to keep a constant watchful eye over all of it's employees.

(The top people are the triangle whilst the seperate departments are the pillars)

The company that the Art department belong to is a Privately owned Limited company, this means that there will be little amount of shares which are issued to a limited amount of holders within the company and they are not traded at all on the stock market. Lucasarts' structure in terms of management I feel it follows a more "Operational Management" structre as the department alone let along the whole company is full of "problem solvers" "Frontliners" and a host of other qualities that make it come under that catagorey.

I feel that I have a slightly better understanding of the way some companies work and why it works well for certain situations.

Animation Lesson Seven: Deformers

In this lesson of animation the subject we focused on was the Deformer tools for use within animation as mention previously I had a brief play around with derfomers by appling them to my characters. I then thought about how my characters will move and started to set up a rig to allow my chess piece to move more freely, to do this I added the twist and squash deformers to the chess piece by first creating them and placing them inside the item then by parenting them to the chess piece in the output window this will then make it so that when I move the derfomers it will manipulate the chess piece (like in the image below). Now my chess piece is just missing it's colour but it is almost done.

But just knowing how to make something move by manipulating it is the end all of animating in Maya. As sometimes animation won't be as smooth or maybe missing weight to the animations, you don't want a rock to look like it's floating. So below I'll be taking a look at how to animate something more smoothly in Maya using the proper tools including the crucial Graph Editor!

(Click to enlarge)

For the first example I played around using a simple cuboid shape, before I start to animate it I first used the edge ring tool to create segments in the cuboid I then created various deformers and placed them inside the shape and parented them, you can see the effects above. The reason for putting these segments is to give a kind of joint system to the shape, the more joints the more flexible the shape will be but, the longer it'll take to render and it'll also create a larger file size in the end. As you can see there a various types of derfomers ranging from benders, to twisters, to squashes (and stretches) I just had a play around to see what I could do.

(Click to enlarge)

Next I was given the task of taking an existing animation of a pendulum swinging and giving it a little more realisism by adding ease in and ease out via the Graph Editor. The editor works in a way that it shows the movement of the selected object along the timeline and by moving the line on the graph you modify the way the object moves. I found this particularly hard to understand and get a grasp of as when I moved the line on the graph to what I thought was the correct postion it just messed up the animation so I think I need to practise using the Graph Editor a little more. Overall I found this exercise very enlighting.

Visual Language Research: Character Design Development

I've started to design and develop my character as stated previously the setting that this character lives in is a futuristic time. Below are notes that I made after creating the rough portrait to indicate roughly what my character would look like. I decided long ago that I wanted to create a female character as strong and memorable female characters are fewer in numbers compared to the male. I also decided to make her Korean just for kicks really... and fairly young but not too young to allow for her to be relatable amoungst a wider group of people.

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I also decided here personality would be that of a strong character but not a rip-off of Lara Croft, one of the more famous strong female protaganists to do this I tried to take attributes from other characters from film and add them too my own such as Deckard from Bladerunner, Ripley from Alien and even Obi-Wan from Star Wars. A main source of Influence for this character and The world she inhabits admitable comes from a mix of the enviroments seen within 1982's Bladerunner but also from a representation of the future found in Japanese sci-fi, most notable that found in animations.

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With the original Sketch of the character's head I wasn't one hundered percent satisfied with the hair style she had, I felt it was too remaniscent of the world I was influenced with when creating her (Bladerunner). I took a head shot I drew of her and scanned it into my computer then importing it into photoshop I started to mess around coming up with various hairstyles, above are the top four that I was fond of.

I'm still developing the character so where she'll go from here I'm not too sure but I'm really interested in seeing how she'll turn out.

Contextual Studies: The Uncanny

After my first lesson of contextual studies I was given to task to analyse and outline the key points of an excerpt on the topic of "The Uncanny" written by Sigmund Freud. This short essay should be at least 300 words in length and outline the notable points within the in short passage.
When defining what exactly "The Uncanny" is, at times it can be quite difficult as one is trying to explain the definition of something extraordinary, something that is in relation to our world and reality but at the same time either bends or breaks the rules of which outline our existence in the universe. This can be anything from defying gravity to merely having a unique quality that is not found in other objects or beings, the uncanny is often found in works of fiction where reality can be bent at the author's whim. Great examples of the uncanny in fiction are any kind of superhero comic or the works of H.P. Lovecraft. To further define what exactly can be classed as the uncanny I have turned to a certain passage by psychiatrist Sigmund Freud.
The first thing that Freud talks about is that the uncanny is generally perceived as an observation and opinion based upon that observation, these opinions are then compared to other opinions of sights seen for matching qualities, if a quality does not match with other familiar traits this can create the concept of the uncanny. To help strengthen this theory Freud brings up a quote from Jentsch which can further outline what can be defined as uncanny, "Doubts whether an apparently animate being is really alive; or conversely, whether a lifeless object might not be in fact animate". This short quote can clearly be used to in the age old question found in many science fiction narratives, whether a robot (or a doll) can be classified as being "alive". This is due to the fact that they share similar traits with humans yet they are not human, creating a likeness but not a replica of a living, animate being. Freud then goes on to say that using the human form as a basis is a one of if not the most successful method of creating a sense of the uncanny.
Freud carrys on to define psychological side of the uncanny, what makes it appear that way in our minds, using the narrative Nachtstrucken as a point of reference to translate his theory. Nachtstrucken features the story of 'The Sand-Man' an entity that claims the eyes of children who will not sleep. The story features a young boy by the name of Nathaniel whom seeks out to either prove or disprove the Sand-Man's existence in his own mind this is due to the fact the entity is never actually revealed to be fictional or no within the narrative leaving room for ambiguity. What it is important to know that is the narrative seems to be based within a reality very similar to our own in that when reading this we expect this narrative to follow the rules of our universe, with the shared traits in realities. The boy was determined to find out the Sand-Man's appearance and whilst in hiding he observes a character of which he has a distaste for, Nathaniel then projects his preconceptions of the dreaded Sand-Man on to this character for their exclamation of "Eyes here!" this event would be one to stay with the young child for his life.
This event ultimately became the demise of poor Nathaniel as it drove him to madness due to the fear he felt for the Sand-Man, through out the story it's never made clear if the Sand-Man exists or not and that's what makes it uncanny. Freud continues his analisation noting that the concept of pyhsically being robbed of not just one's eyesight but of one's actual eyes is something quite extraordinary and something that would not happen in this reality. Freud also notes on the ambiguity or the narrations rules and boundaries in relation to the existence of the Sand-Man character comparing it to narratives of Shakespeare wherein these rules are layed out giving a chance to suspend belief to allow for the existence of uncanny beings. Freud then goes on to suggest that some events within the story can appear meaningless until the character of the Sand-Man is replaced with that of the Nathaniel's father and begins to interchange the concept of fears of losing the eye to that of castration and punishment.
It is here when Freud stops focusing on the uncanny and focuses more on the possible hidden messages within the narrative, nevertheless from the excerpt Freud has presented I have gained a slightly better understanding of what the Uncanny is and through knowing this it will allow me to develop my own narratives which can be believable with fantastic elements.

Visual Language Research: Poster Analysis

Unfortunately due to my computer crashing I could not finish my my poster to the level of quality that I wanted, but below is a pretty good representation of the look I was trying to achieve, I tried to include things of my interest and my life such as the place I've been getting education from the last 2 years (and still am), my enjoyment of video games. As mentioned I had been trying to re-create the effects that artist Drew Struzan achieves in his works, I also wanted to try show my life as a kind of epic adventure bigging myself up just for laughs. I chose to complete the image in a painted style as digital painting is something I really want to learn. Once the deadline was upon me, the rest of the class and I were to reiew eachother's work.

(I was aiming for a kind cinematic look)

The most common comment was that it was a very comic looking image and that I don't take myself too seriously. I feel this is quite an accurate obvservation but I was tring to avoid a comic look in this poster, I was slightly disappointed that not many picked up on the Struzan influence at all, but perhaps it would have been clearer if the image was finished and had a more polished look. In any case I'm glad it got to this level before my computer crashed and now that it's up and running I may go back and complete this image.

Animation Lesson Six: Modelling and Rendering

For the sixth lesson of animation I spent the whole day trying to create my Characters for my animation, there is a sense of contrast in that one was challeneging to make whilst the other was very simple. To create the dice I simple created a cube, the Chess piece on the other hand was a whole new challenege for me, being made up of many different shapes the Piece really did test my knowledge on the use of the modeling tools found in Maya.

(I used referance to make the Chess Piece)

A new technique I used whilst creating the model was using Photo-Referance to make sure that the outcome would be similar to it's real world counter part. The experience of making the chess piece was really beneficial as it also strengethened my skills with all the tools but most specifically the deformer tools for modeling (rather than animation). Overall the chess piece is made up of twelve shapes mainly consisting of round/clyander like ones with two cuboids at the top making the cross. I also became more familiar with the method in which the bevel works as to help futher the imitation of a real chess piece I added a smooth look the the edges.

(The complete renders)

To further my experiences within Maya I started to experiment with colouring my objects. Over all I was happy with the day's work and feel I've took a step closer to completing my animation as I now have my script, storyboard and actors. I just need my set and cameras and I'm ready to start animating!

Visual Language Research: Charater Design influences & Inspirations

Before I start to design my character I should outline the kind of elements I want to include in my character. I know I want my character to be female, quite commanding with an element of sex appeal, I also want the setting to be a futuristic one and since I'm a fan of the sci-fi genre it shouldn't be too hard to develop something. To get creative juices flowing I'm going to take a look at various artists' designs that I want to try incorperate into my own.

(Designs for characters of the animated series Burst Angels)

First I took at some character designs by Japanese artist Hakua Ugetsu, more specifically the ones he developed for the tv-series Burst Angel. Looking at these designs gave me a great understanding of how to develop a character and a character sheet, whilst Ugetsu's style isn't one I want to replicate it is one that I find very interesting especially the line quality and colour jobs. His ability to combine unqiue character designs with sex appeal is something I do want to try incorperate into my character to try make it appear as interesting and as appealing as possible.

(Artwork by Hakua Ugetsu)

What I looked at specifically with Ugetsu's designs were the clothing and hair styles as it seems to be something that makes his characters seem truly interesting, I will have to think about how I would translate Ugetsu's style into something more suiting for myself. This is because the type of style I have in-mind is something a little more reflective of realisitic illustrations. One thing should be noted here about the way Ugetsu's work has been laid out is that it can tell you alot about the character before the character has even been animated or even coloured, such as a character's personality. In the above picture there is a design of a female in a track suit and from the design I can tell that the character is surly and anti-social when compared to other characters.

(Art by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto)

I want to include a type of close fitting type of space suit in my character design to show that space travel has reached to a certain point but it's quite like hoping into a car to go to the supermarket. I was reminded by the character designs for the animated series Neon Genesis Evangelion and how it contain something very similar to what I want to try include. Sadamoto's design work on the "Plug-Suit"s were something that really stood out amougst all the other different types of space suits so I took a closer look at the designs to see how he designed them. When it comes to my character I want to try add a more practical look which suggests that it's more based in reality.

(I actually own this book, it's reet good)

For extra inspiration I also looked at the art of Star Wars to just get a further understanding of how to design a character, I found using this book was helpful when I got stuck with ideas aswell as just general brainstorming with what to include or what kind of things to include. I found that looking at other people's work really helped with coming up with ideas for my own character design and because of it I feel I have a good bearing on my character and will start to sketch down my concepts and develop them from there.

Check This Out: The Future of Live Perfomances?

This week I went to a concert to see Billy Talent, one of my favourite rock groups perform after a cancelation a month ago. Over all the performance was outstanding and I found it very enjoyable but that's not what I'm writing about. No, what I am writing about is what could be considered as the future of music performances and merchandise. As I walked into the venue at which the band was performing I passed the merchandise booth which had the usual t-shirts posters and various other generic items but one caught my eye, a big banner posted above a table of it's own advertising USB Drives with the whole night's perfomance on it. After the show I rushed to the merch booth to purchase one of these new and wonderful formats of memorabilla, the asking price was £20 and when compared with a t-shirt which would come to the same price it's clear what the better product is.

(The future of live shows?)

Once purchasing it the woman at the counter said that the USB Drive was missing the last six tracks, but not to worry as within the lovely presentation case was a one time only code to download the missing tracks from the Concert Online website. After doing this I finally had it a perfect recollection of the previous nights show, the sound quality is really good considering that it was a recording of a live show done within the show's timescale. I feel that this is the kind of merchandising that will make future perfomances of any musician extra special for the fans, just imagine what it'd be like to have a full recording of The Beatles concert in Tokyo in 1966 after being there, you'd not only be able to describe how amazing it was but also show you're friends. This USB Drive is extra special for me as there is a section in one of the later tracks in which you can very faintly here my voice and that I also got it signed by the whole band after the show, but not to deviant from the original point, just imagine owning a copy of the only show of your favourite band's perfomace you've been to and ever will go to. I feel it makes the whole experience just that little more special, there are plently of artists who have already started doing this amoung them is rock and roll legend Kiss, Alice Cooper and Brit-ska band Madness, in a few years I can see this becoming the norm for Concerts and I already wish it had happened with previous Bands that I have seen perform live.

(Me with Benjamin Kowalski of Billy Talent.)

Check This Out: Eurogamer Expo 09

[ Under Construction ]

Check This Out: Capcom Character Designs

Recently the video games industry has been growing more rapidly than it has done previously and is beginning to build up to a level that is starting to rival the film indusrty in terms of story and visuals. Ofcourse one of the things that makes a videogame memorable is it's characters (this obviously goes for film aswell), and an important part of that is the look of the character. Below I'm going to analyse character's that have been designed for games published by the successful videogames company Capcom to understand the ins and outs of good character designs.

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Here is the character Wayne from Lost Planet. Within the game's world it's sub zero temperatures so characracters all need warm and protective clothing, this includes a suit which pumps thermal energy keeping the character warm, this is represented by the orange lines seen on his clothing. There are also lots of pouches and holsters to hold items and weapons are the character does a lot of exploring this is complimented by the earthy colours used that also allow players to differentiate the character from the white, arctic surrounds. It's clear a lot of research into how people dress to survive within cold climates and have modified it accordingly to give it a certain appeal. An interesting point is that Wayne originally was going to have blonde hair but some where along development of the character is was decided that it would use the face of Korean actor Byung Hun Lee. This gives the character a much real look.

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Each of the characters in Lost Planet have very similar attires but with slight variations, one common feature is the use of fur around the edge of the collar of character's coats. One notable variation in design is that of the character Luka, who still wears outer clothing under her thermal suit but it's much less concealing giving the illusion of sexiness whilst also outlining that the character is female by showing these attributes. It's interesting to see how much the characters change from their designs on paper when entering three-dimensions but nonetheless it's very impressive.

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Here we have several characters from the videogame Devil May Cry 4, all these characters share the theme of dressing in white which translates into them having an alliance with each other, a notable design is that of Gloria which is very revealing for that sake adding in the theme of sexiness to the group. There is also an absence of any short/bald hair within this group which helps tie these characters together.

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Here are sketches of the development of the main charcater Dante. Previously this character stood out for his large leather coat, white hair and large claymore sword. Here the artist has experimented with several new looks for the character's face whilst keeping the same general motif. There is also an image of Dante's "Devil Trigger" form, which also takes on from the main motif but warps it into a new character. It's truly interesting to see what can be done when you use the same design motif and give it new variations or spins.

All artwork is copyright of Capcom.

Finally here are designs of the newest character Nero. His design is very much based of Dante's but with the use of Blue as the main colour instead of Red, he's also younger and more slender to give a kind of contrast to the other protagonist. Clothing choices here seem that originally is was intended that Nero would dress in clothing of early 1900s style but the design developed to give a more upto date look. Whats interesting to note is whilst Nero and Dante have similar design traits you can still tell the difference between them, such as age differences, body builds, face and colour pallete.

What I can take away from this look into character designs from Capcom is: Research clothing based on enviroment, Similar Colour Palletes can designate groups or alliances, Alot can be done with one design motif, Character build and facial structure can make all the difference, show the audience when a character is female (unless there is some reason not to), Hair styles play a key part in a good character image and don't be afraid to modify designs you may have already finalised previous.

I think I'll use these tips for the next time I'm designing a character.

Learning to use Illustator

When is comes to creating artwork digitally my skills have always not been equal to that with traditonal tools, when the oppertunity to learn how to use Illustrator more successfully arouse I was very excited to start. First I was given a few exercises in learning how to use the pen tool learning the ins and outs, once I had completed that exercise I was told to use the pen tool to illustrate a drawing, below is the original sketch of the character.

By using the pen tool I created the outline and then on a new layer I started using the pen fill tool to add colour. Most of the day was taken up with completing the final piece but it was a great exercise in trial and error, the end result was a very smooth piece of graphic design with crisp lines and bright colours, I'm proud of how the image came out and feel that it looks like it could come off as semi-professional. I now feel more comfortable using illustrator and I have taken alot from the lesson, with this new knowledge and confidence I think I will use illustrator more both as an illustration tool and as a design/type tool.

(The final result of my character.)