This last week before the show has been incredibly hectic. One team member had to still get animation approved so close to showcase we ended up have to take over rendering some of her shots. Some things to note is that next time I need to have the person handing over the shot if they are ‘render ready’ as in they’ve done a test render of at least single frame and the lighting, z-depth pass and the shadows match. While working in a team project I have to remember that even if we are taking the same course it’s difficult to remember all the rendering setting by heart for some people and I should have written an email with the shared render settings and reminders for the settings that have to be changed manually and that you can’t reply on the max render.
In the end I managed to get the the renders down for our post production artist and we were able to showcase but had all members finished getting approvals for animation earlier or adopted the idea of ‘render as you go’ meaning render a scene as soon at it gets approved even if the rest aren’t, then our post production artist would have more time to colour grade and edit the film.
Despite these set backs I’m pleased to say showcase was successful. Several member of the audience burst out laughing at our short film and the feedback was constructive and will be put into use for future projects. Here is a link to our feedback forum.
Final self evaluation
This trimester I found myself becoming team leader, learnt a new 3D software in Zbrush, created my first short VFX film, while simultaneously working on pre-production for my studio 3 unit. It’s been hectic and there’s a lot to reflect on. The way I’m going is using Gibb’s reflective cycle model while looking at my production contributions and my KPI’s.
In the very beginning during the pre-production phase I helped with a rough concept art, portraying the frog character as a cheeky beguine anthropomorphic animal and did the initial storyboard and looking back now I felt that I could have done a better job in setting the stage for the film with better camera angles but we were so focused on moving forward quickly, as last semester there was an issue where a teammate was unable to model the main character and we were set behind several weeks. Perhaps, I wasn’t suited best for pre-production elements of the project so at first I felt that I had not done enough during that phase of the project but I did make it up by helping with the second to last version of the animatic and fixing some left over 180 degree issues and the pacing of the film.
Then for production I began to feel more confident and took charge of modeling the character’s body, hands and feet. The face topology was done by another member of my team and later in week 8, after receiving the face topology back the other modeler in our group and I work on fixing issues in the shape of the frog because it did match the model sheet, but it did not resemble a frog in 3D. I felt that these issues had to be fixed because the animation/face morphs relied on the frog looking like a merge of something humanoid and animal. What I should I have done in the beginning is asked if I could take over the face topology myself if they were finding it difficult to model or at least hold a meeting and spend a day figuring out the topology together.
I was advised to model details in Zbursh, which was very daunting since it’s a new program for me but I learned that the base mesh I made could be used to project details on top of it with a displacement map as long as I didn’t change up the initial topology. This allowed us skip the retopologizing step as we could unwrap the base mesh and bring it into Zbrush. I did have issues with the displacement map at first but found a tutorial online that advised to turn a smoothing option to zero just before generating the map which solved the problem. I feel like I was suited to modeling the frog character, especially the Zbrush portion as other member of the team found that they were not comfortable with the program yet and we had limit time to sculpt the details before we could hand over the model to be rigged by our animator.
I also worked on one scene of animation which contained my self directed learning – space warps. Our first VFX instruction told me to keep it simple and not stress about hundreds of render passes/caustics as it lasts only a few seconds and people should be able to recognize the ‘meme’ it came from in that time. I should have toned down the reflection layer because it made the tea appear more pink than the rich red Arabic tea we were going for.
Finally, I worked on a very tiny bit of post. I did render several passes for a team member who was struggling but my actual contribution was only fixing the reflection, and color correcting the water. It’s obvious I should have worked on more but a team member who did not get to model took it over and that’s only fair that the workload gets distributed in a way where everyone gets something to do.
In the end this trimester really pushed me to learn more about zbrush than I would have, had I been learning it by all myself and without a project at this scope that relied on me getting at least the basic down of the program. I want to practice retopologizing in zbrush and also try my hand at hard surfaces before I can really feel like I’ve earned the right to put Zbrush in my arsenal of tools. Finally, despite the rendering issues, and before that, the long wait to be able to sculpt in Zbrush this semester was really fruitful especially being able to add this VFX short film into my portfolio really helps to show variety in what I can do as a 3D modeler.
Finally the KPI assessment really helps gauge where I stand after working on a project for three months. There are some KPIs I thing I kept working at a consistent pace such as communication, acting as a team player and work ethic. Then there were some I improved on such as flexibility, problem solving and ability to learn from criticism. Flexibility improves as I worked on at least one aspect in pre-production, production and post production which was all explained in my presentation slides. Then there’s ability to learn and accept criticism, where I went along with prompts that changed the frog model completely, such as elongating the legs, detailing his hands and slimming his body, which in the end help our animator move the model better for her leap animation. Finally, there’s problem solving where I fixed the displacement map issues I has and helped other team members with animation issues.
So to conclude, I think working on so many aspects of the project made it difficult to see how far I’ve come along. Never would I have been able to get the details I did from modeling only in 3ds max, so expanding the tools in my workflow has allowed me to improve as a 3d modeler. Having a VFX class in the curriculum is really preparing us for a whole new market that 3D modeling is used for and I’m grateful this semester focused heavily on using Zbursh and post-production since those were area I had limited experience in.