Week 7 – Motion Capture Work

Following up from the motion capture shoot last week, this week has been focusing on preparing that data for use in my overall animation.

From Shogun, where the footage was recorded and the mocap data was captured, I then put these files in to Shogun Post where I was able to clean the data. It was a nice learning curve and it definitely have me a huge appreciation for how impressive this software really is! What a step up from Cortex in the previous year.

After the data was cleaned I moved on to Motion Builder so i could fit the motion on to the human characters biped. From there I could send the motion straight over to the human characters skeleton in 3ds Max and it was here I found an issue. For reasons unknown, the motion capture data applied itself to the biped completely wrong. the character was raised in to the air, limbs were hyper extended. While I admit I felt a moment of pure dread, I tested a theory and it paid off. Removing all the characters assets and leaving only the skeleton behind lead to the animation importing successfully. I am not sure what it was but something in the characters model was interfering with the import.

So now the human character has motion capture animations applied. What then? Well, then I set to cleaning the animation in 3ds Max. A task that has now been restarted as I failed to take notice of the fact my animations carried over at 120 frames per second as oppose to the intended 24. What this meant was now my animations, whilst looking clean, where in slow motion. I learned of my error and have since corrected my mistake. In Motion Builder I plotted the character at 24 fps but I did not change the fps of the overall file. This neatly brings me to what I am on with next. Cleaning the animation in 3ds Max with the power of Layers.

Progress!

Week 6 – Serious business

My project is behind on what is to be expected. It’s been a very reflective week to say the least… also a very busy one!

The hand-key animation for the mantis is almost done as a base to add finer detail in to. The addition of having the larger monster physically ick up the mantis is also resolved. Using a dummy as the mantis bipeds parent I have tethered said dummy to the larger monsters head, keeping it keyed in to world space until the moment those jaws clamp around the mantis’ body, from there its connection to world space is replaced with treating the lizards head as the core of the dummies movements, driving the mantis as a result.

The motion capture data has been shot and is ready to be cleaned up, the shoot was without any issues, each movement being shot between two and three times to give me a wider range of choice, the option to mix and blend various motion capture sequences in to an ideal final animation is not without consideration but we will see when the data is cleaned and actually applied to the human character.

Lastly there was the progress review. I have much more confidence in my ability to speak over my efficiency at making a sparkling, pretty slideshow for certain. Time will tell if that’s enough.

The biggest take from this week has been giving some hard thought to where I am at and where I feel I ‘could’ be.

Week 5 – Hand-key implementation

Things I were informed about in my feedback were corrected. Certain shots lasted too long, the camera moved too much. traps I’ve fallen in to in the past but that’s the great thing about a second opinion!

Certain angles were changed completely. The human character running on to the screen, the larger monster mauling the mantis, a cut added in the opening sequence to build more suspense for the reveal on what is chasing the human. The scene certainly flows better and now that I am content with the camera work for the time being, I can work on the hand-key part of my project.

The mantis is the start. As its momentum is already in the sequence from the pre-vis, I’ve started with animating its legs as it pursues the human. Reference footage of a real praying mantis running helped a lot in how I’ve made its legs take strides, always keeping to a front leg and opposing back leg moving in close time with one another.

I’ve also put in motion my session for shooting the humans motion capture data. An actor is in mind, now I need only wait for my slot to get the animation shot.

Week 4 – Pre-visualisation

This entry should be short and sweet. The human character I purchased came rigged and skinned but the two creatures did not. This week I did just that. The only hitch came from my silly habit of going straight to directly manipulating the weights of the vertices on the model to the bones they are to move with. This caused hitches, drawn out sessions of starting over. I learned a lesson from this, don’t underestimate the value of envelopes. When I finally did the skinning using the envelopes to take much of the mess around out from the process the models were skinned to an OK enough standard in much less time. Envelopes, they are there for a reason!

With that done, I moved on to the pre-vis. The only animation factored on to the models at this point being movement in the roots alone. I main focus was the camera. Trying different angles, settling on the ones I liked. The sequence runs at 24 frames per second and I was introduced to my first technical roadblock.

The giant monster will pick up and maul the mantis, I need to figure out how. Other than that, things look alright!

Week 3 – Subject to change

As mentioned in the previous entry, there was a plan. A process of events for this short clip to play out in. A human is being chased by a creature, in this case, a giant mantis. The mantis manages to corner the human after a close call. At this point, a much larger beast enters the scene, its presence enough to drive the mantis away, leaving the human alone to gaze up at this mighty beast towering over the tree tops.

Between the close encounter at the mantis cornering this human character, I planned to have it scale the trees of the scene and go off screen until it suddenly sprung out and attack, driving the human into a corner as mentioned before. Through feedback I was informed how impractical much of that would be and how difficult it would be to shoot. Not only that but to accommodate a creature of such enormous scale as it had made, the scene would need to be built to equally enormous scale. The mantis scaling the trees would also lead to issue in terms of my cinematography as I planned to have him going from tree to tree after the human character off screen which begs the question for the viewer, how did it catch up with him?

At the time this feedback was a tough pill to swallow as I’d become so invested with the idea of how the scene would play out but ultimately it was the right course of action to change the sequence and the scale of the larger monster. The storyboards did not require a re-do as the opening shots were still the same and I already had an idea of how to make these changes lead into the new series of events in the short. A big inspiration for this was a scene from the Star Trek reboot movie in which kirk is chased by two creatures through the snow.

Onwards and upwards as the old saying goes!

Week 2 – Making pictures and proposing the plan!

The idea is sitting on a nice, secure foundation. Now to build it up!

A human and a creature of some description would star in this scene. The scenario, a chase! Movies with chase scenes between a human victim and a monstrous threat seemed the best place to look for inspiration and in the end it was the original Jurassic Park that gave me the idea of having two creatures instead of one. The human is pursued by a monster, the monster drives the human in to a corner and just as the final note is about to sing, BAM. A larger threat enters the scene, driving the first beast away and leaving the scene to close on the human gazing upon the spectacle that is this gigantic life form.

It’s all in my head at this point, now I need to show it. But before I began my initial concept art for the scene, I first had to scout the characters. Whilst being informed that I could create this scene purely with bipeds as it’s the animation that matters, the visual aspect matters to me. I could not bare the idea of forsaking visuals completely for the sake of convenience and some extra time. If I were to look at my own work and feel distasteful towards its appearance how could I expect others to see it differently.

After hunting through TurboSquid.com, I found my actors! The drawing began and just a smidge of time before my hand in for the Proposal of our project ideas.

Week 1 – What’s the plan?

Start of the FYP module, the game changer, the big one… and I’m starting my blog officially at the end of the 6th week. The blogs are dated so it’s definitely no twist that the first five entries are recaps.

The first week of the module still saw me in a state of not knowing what I really wanted to do. My head conflicted between the wide scale of potential things I could create when left to my own choices limitless and free with the other side reminding me that whatever I do has to be a piece of art that employers would desire. The second half of my little inner conflict holding one word up high, ‘mocap’. Mocap seemed the biggest interest in animation these days and even though I have never had a huge interest in it, I couldn’t deny that it was a smart field to focus my efforts on.

Thankfully through discussion and second opinions an idea was eventually reached. I enjoy hand-key animation, I like animating creatures. Mocap is a desirable field of employment and cinematography is a needed skill especially for animating game cutscenes or shows, maybe even movies! Why not do ‘all of the above’?

A scene with a human character motion captured, a creature hand-keyed, make it a short film to show cinematography and for the final cherry on top, put it in Unreal! Showing this is Unreal came to me for two major reasons. The first is it shows I can use Sequencer, always a nice bonus. Second, I can make a prettier environment for my scene in Unreal than I can in 3ds Max.

I had an idea, now to actually do it…