Going to do a couple blog posts instead of trying to cram everything into one. So first up, just a quick write-up of my experience making my third year film, "Bothered Bot."
I started out the school year with several ideas, I even had developed a film idea over the summer, but something always came up that made me shelve one idea and start anew---usually being, "This is way too epic. No." By November I had narrowed it down to two film ideas.
One simple 2D film idea involving this little elephant:
And then an entirely different 3D film idea based on this odd-ball robot/alien guy that I had doodled one day in an afternoon class:
I was boarding/pitching both for a couple weeks. I wasn't too concerned about the medium, I love animating whether it's Maya or pencil/paper, and I was jazzed for both film ideas. It really wasn't until I got some very sound advice from my 3rd year animation teacher, Scott Wright, that I made the official jump to only focus on the 3D Bot film. Another factor involved attending CTN-X and realizing that if I wanted a full-time job animating somewhere in the industry, I really needed more 3D work. At that time my reel consisted of traditional work. So what better way to bulk up my reel then making a 3D film where I'd only be animating in the computer.
Winter break was the final test for this film. If I couldn't get all the Maya-prep work, like modeling/texturing/rigging done before Dec. 31st, then I'd go back to the elephant idea. So on the day after Christmas, I battled my way through modeling the character, ship, and environment. Then followed that immediately up with a couple days of intense rigging madness. By the time I came back to school at the beginning of January I was already doing a couple animation tests to make sure the robot rig would operate properly once I started actual film animation. The above images show a little progression in his design, the Bot on the left is the "old" look before I showed him to a couple friends for feedback. Pretty cold looking and not quite there yet. The Bot on the right is the final design, not a huge re-do, but just tweaking a few aspects of him and he suddenly became a lot more likeable.
From the couple of quick animation tests, I fixed several issues with Bot rig version 1.0---a lot of bugs with those legs of his, but within another week I had version 2.0 up and literally running. Onto animating the film! Woo!
Out of 3 films I've made at CalArts, this was definitely my favorite one to animate. Despite the occasional rough-patch, like the PC labs being down an entire day for maintence(happened a couple times), or just having a really bad animation day(also happened a handful of times), I had an incredible time working on it(which was the majority of the time). That Bot was a blast to animate and a lot of scenes just fell into place so easily. I also had a close group of classmates/teachers right by my side to give me constant, very honest feedback(even on a frame-by-frame basis, which was amazingly awesome!) That group helped me really push my animation.
A quick screenshot of the graph editor from a scene in my film. This was taken before I started tidying up some of the animation---actually a small chunk was removed to keep the scene from "dying" in the middle. This scene had a build-up of tension/action and mid-way through it kind of stopped, but not anymore. Also, this doesn't include the facial animation(aka. the eye).
Anyways, that pretty much covers it. Like I said before, I really enjoyed working on it and after awhile, I almost didn't like the idea of "finishing" it--or at least no longer animating. Spending several hours a day just moving the lil Bot around was quite fun. No all-nighters, though things got a little nutty towards the end and I was pulling some really nasty hours trying to composite everything together in After Effects:
That's an example of what a scene looked like when I initially brought it into After Effects. Elements like the bg, shadows, reflections on the environment, additional camera moves, sky, special effects like snow, etc were all added in once I had the robot/battery animation working. This one scene(when the icicles are falling around the robot while he's desperately trying to pick-up the battery) took about 5 hours to put together. Most of the time, scenes took maybe 15-30 minutes to put together, just a handful almost did me in.
Okay, the next post will be a Producer's Show/Job fair wrap-up....