Hi! We’re Team UULA and this blog is a showcase of our work and it’s progression. We’re super excited to be here at the competition and representing the University of Lincoln, as well as getting the chance to make a (hopefully) awesome little film. We hope you enjoy seeing some of the work in progress and how we’ve got to where we are now.
Mat Dame – Director/Compositor/Generalist
Ngou – Yin Wong – Visual Effects/Compositor/Generalist
Amy Fairclough – Layout Artist/Concept and Visual Development
L Clay – Character Animator/Design
Our Film is about a little girl called Marsha with a passion for Space and Time Travel. She dreams of following her astronaut idols in to the deep unknown and has turned her bedroom into a haven of astrological bits and pieces. Her wardrobe, complete with taped on cardboard wings is her rocket and there’s nothing she loves more than to sneak out of bed and blast off into her own vivid imaginings of outer space. The piece is based off the extract “The Time Machine” by HG Wells which we’ve adapted and crafted our own original story using the basic narrative elements of the passage to tie the two together, with references to the text peppered throughout the film.
Please see below a video that shows the iteration our animatic has gone through so far, from its humble thumb nailed beginnings to the more polished version that’s very nearly complete.
After pitching the initial idea for the film we were given some pointers by the industry mentors to fine tune the story and make it a bit happier (For a director with a beard and an unhealthy dose of cynicism this wasn’t easy). I spent the Sunday drafting up a few new ideas for the ending in their animatic stage.
With our new idea for the ending, it was time to start building all the elements for the film. We had a pretty solid foundation to work from for our first week of production and we dived right into creating the layout elements for Marsha’s room for Shot 1.
We wanted her room to have a bit of a cluttered feel to reflect Marsha attitude and character. We had to balance just the right mix of messy but still visually appealing and not oppressive. As layout elements got drafted, I began to put these into the animatic and start to flesh out the room and really try to arrange objects so they were always framing our character to emphasise her importance. Whilst we knew we would be doing this with lighting later, I thought having all of the elements also doing this would really point the audience to where they need to look. After all we’re not doing all this hard work and animation for the audience to be staring an extremely pretty window frame instead!
Although that is a very nice window frame…….
LAYOUT ELEMENTS PROGRESSION
My task whilst these assets were being lovingly crafted was to create the 3D part of the film. Being primarily 2D specific, the thought of merely opening Maya tends to send us into a mild coma. However, being the only one who knows you need to set a project first or you’ll find yourself in a polygonal nightmare later on, I was given that joyous task. (Scary thing is I’m starting to enjoy it…)
I needed to create a 3D wardrobe environment where we would put our 2D character animation. It was a 360 turnaround so there was no way any of us were going to be drawing the inside of a wardrobe again and again and again so 3D seemed to be the best option. Having had quite an interest in merging 3D and 2D together whilst retaining the 2D look of the film I wanted to make it look as ‘un-3D’ as possible. I modelled our Wardrobe and then got our texture artist to paint some nice 2D looking textures that I could use to texture the model (as much as I love the beautiful ‘Lambert Grey’).
I then created a Toonline in Maya that looked as close to our hand drawn line as possible to give that illusion of 2D drawings rather than a 3D environment. I then created a camera as per our animatic and put in some draft character templates and track markers so we could match up the 2D elements much easier to the 3D backplate.
With all these backplates and environments being created we set our animator to work in the dark corner with red bull on a drip to bring our protagonist to life. We animated to the backplates whenever there was a big camera move or the environment drove the animation movement such as the jump to the wardrobe and the turnaround. We used Photoshop to animate as we were using a lot of after effects to build the shots and composite so it made sense to use another adobe product so we don’t have any software domestics. It also just happens to be the program we’re most comfortable animating in which is apparently a bit weird but we find the brushes and tools to be far more sophisticated and achieve a better line quality than any of the other animation programs we’ve used which balances out Photoshops ability to simply decide which frame goes where at will.
The animation went through many stages, from roughs to final colour and will be treated in the composition stage to bring it into the environments. This is important as I feel that 2D animation has a bit of a tendency to be seen as flat animation on a flat background whereas we wanted our animation to feel like it exists within the environment and to be surrounded by the world and not just on top of it.
This was also the most important stage of the project because our film is all about the character. We want the audience to really relate to her and feel her charm and appeal. We need lovely acting and bouncy childlike movement and a rough and tumble attitude to emanate from what are essentially lines and colour on a screen. Everything is geared towards portraying our character including the layouts of the shots, the framing, the lighting, and even the minute details that can be seen in the layout elements flesh out our characters story and hopefully make her feel real. To us she is real, we love her when she’s bouncing around happily through her shot and truly hate her when she refuses to be drawn just right.
Then again maybe we’re just all going a little bit mad, who knows.
The following videos are a series of tests that we had to conduct as we were working on production. Seeing as computers cant just do whatever you think at them yet we had to work some way of making them work and this testing was pretty vital to us getting what we wanted into the film. I’m always of the opinion that you should always think big and unlimited at first and then worry about how you’re going to do it later, as much as that is to my detriment it hasn’t yet failed me. This testing allows us to work out how we’re actually going to get a little girl to float to the moon (not as easy as it sounds).
The first test video shows how we approached the lighting in the film. We wanted to mix hand painted light effects with some digital lighting to get a nice blend of a 2D feel but with the nice effects you can achieve with digital lighting.
The second is a test video of how we planned to transition from inside the wardrobe to the open space world. We had the idea very early on to have the fairy lights warp into these stream of light that paint away the wardrobe to reveal space and have them become the planets and other space elements themselves. This required some playing around with effects and so our resident particle geek (real name Ngou – yin but that’s not as fun) created the tests you can see in that video and we finally settled on the very last one, which we are still tweaking as you read this. If you are still reading this…..
The last is how we created the space environment using a mix of maya and after effects and then layered up photoshop elements. We have a 3D backplate which is a huge texture dome in maya so we have the revolving background. I then created some tracking object that would be the planets so we can track them into the 3D background. Lastly, some extra layers of stars and texture would add some depth to our scene and make it feel like an open environment and not a background as such.
It is now the final week of the competition and fortunately my hair is only 80 percent grey and relatively in tact so everything hasn’t fallen apart, luckily I decided that a schedule might be a good idea for this project (unlike my more care free ‘winging it’ approach I’ve been known to utilise in the past) and this has kept really well on track.
Shown below are the 3 shots of our film and their progression from week 1 up until now (week 6) it’s really cool to see how far they’ve come since the beginning and I hope you enjoy watching them too and seeing how we built up the shots week by week.
Thank you very much for reading this and I hope you liked our work. Finished film still to come…