Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Modelling the Environment, Setting up the Render Camera and Animating the Alien

For the modelling process, I used the front orthographic view in Maya. I projected an image plane of my interior concept art and modelled the environment, working in layers relating to the photoshop document, which was then later taken in to After Effects and given a slow zooming motion. The photoshop layers seemed to make sense in terms of organisation, so that in Maya I could hide certain layers when accessing geometry for UV mapping, making the process less time consuming. You can see how they layers were organised bellow:

Consider the HD format of the recorded video footage for the whole project, I then went into the render settings and changed the width and height to 1920 by 1080 pixels. As my original concept painting was created in an A3 format, I had to then set up a new orthographic front view titled 'render cam', enable a resolution gate and slightly move and scale the interior geometry until I was happy with the composition.

Although the scaling of the scene deviates slightly from the original A3 image plane, the composition strongly resembles the concept design for the shot.

I tried exporting my rigged alien as an FBX file, but could import the geometry with the rig still attached, meaning my weight painting would be lost. As there was no animation involved in the interior, it proved easier to export this scene and take it over to my rigged character scene. This did mean I had to set up the render camera again, which wasn't too difficult as I was working in the orthographic straight on view, meaning no angles had to be considered in relation to the green screen footage.

I decided to include and animate only one alien, to the right of the shot where the composition feels more empty around the central cocoon. I feel that when animating in Maya with the automatic easing animation curves, it is easy for movement to be slow and laboured. I wanted to try a dynamic animation, meaning some of the alien's movements are very fast and sudden:

There is a sense of anticipation at the start of the sequence where the alien very slowly turns to scan its surroundings. Suddenly it sharply snaps its head to a full turn as if startled by something. This adds to the sensation I discussed earlier, of the feeling they are being curiously pulled in, yet being intrusive adding to the suspense of the shot. Note that when the alien jolts the opposite direction, there is a sort of kinetic chain principle working up from the ground. First the hips drive leaving the upper body slightly behind to catch up. One could argue that the head would instinctively lead if startled, yet I like the idea that the alien is very attuned and dialled in to its surroundings, continuing to to scan the original area where a threat may lurk, whilst preparing to snap around simultaneously to catch out any flanking manoeuvres. With the fist controls, I added expression in the hands. The hands often signify when the alien is tense, for example when the creature inhales and lifts its shoulders, the fists clench. Perhaps the animation could have been improved if I had have included some more follow through action in perhaps the arms with the sharp aggressive turns. Also, with the first quick full body turn (kinetic chain movement), there is a slight jerk in the middle of the animation which I could not seem to solve in the graph editor. Another slight floor is when alien turns back to face the actor in the cocoon. The creature slightly over rotates and then readjusts. This could have passed as the follow through principle, but looks jerky and unrealistic. I am also aware that the right thumb seems to have broken and moved moved into an irregular position. However, I am hoping this will not be too noticeable in the low-lit distant final shot.

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