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MSc Progress Blog

Welcome to the blog I kept during the last few months of my Masters degree project. Here you'll get an insight into my process of learning the 3D animation pipeline from scratch!


I started this term focusing on refining my animatic all the more to help scale back whilst maintaining flow and concept. As this is the final term to finish this project, the pressure of that was helpful in accepting changes and feeling the urgency of scaling back the film to a doable state.

I had a lot of trouble with the animatic throughout the last term and in this current process of getting it finalised. I think this has been down to nervousness about getting it right and organising my many ideas as to how to show it. Last term it had been through many iterations, but none of them quite different enough. There were sequences I had grown attached to and I spent far too long avoiding taking them out. Once we switched into term 3 however, I suddenly became a lot more open to the idea of changing all I could to be able to complete this project.

Close up shots

In the new version, I was able to show a lot more emotional connection through the use of close-ups, this was a key aspect my previous animatics were missing and it is so important in getting the correct sense of the film across as it is so defined by emotion and the internal struggle as well as the external. This will also give me the opportunity to try character animation, a thing I have always been interested in but never tried before.

Taking out Complex and Unnecessary shots

A series of complex and unnecessary shots were a few timelapse sequences that were originally placed to display the passage of time, an attempt to show the scale of the project at hand. Cutting these out removed the need to create the additional environments and the frames of the character needed for the time-lapse effect.

Experimenting with new shots

For a long time, I have been debating the best ways to show a bit more context to the situation the character is in. It had been a common thing to come up when showing the animatic to others so I experimented with displaying the urgency of this character’s plight with a classic To Do List. I added a few things that made it seem like this character had been putting this task off for a while but it had finally become time to attempt it. Along with this I also added a quick check of a watch to try and convey the stress this character had and how long he is worried about this process taking.

However, when putting this in the animatic it was a bit too much to take in all at once. Instead, it became clear that the close-ups and emotions conveyed through them could be enough to show what was needed. By having these scenes it slowed down to process, taking longer to get to the action. Simplifying this and having the urgency and turmoil this character was facing speak for itself, saying more with less, was both a more tasteful way of showing this and helped save time in production.

Scaling back on environments and planning with a shot list

Additionally, I have been able to scale back the number of environments and planning this out with the shot list has been very helpful! Assigning the environments to each different scene and detailing which other assets need creating has been important in this final animatic development. I have also assigned each shot with a number and short description which helped to discuss the sequence order with others.

The Flow

The edits I have made, particularly to take out scenes and focus more on close-ups and the story’s conclusion, have really helped the film flow so much better. For a long time, the story had multiple dips in the flow. This was to try and display the ebbs and flows of gaining and losing motivation in a project, but it was ultimately trying to add too much into such a short space of time. By having one dip, a singular ‘point of no return’, it allows for that one moment to mean so much more and for the imagery of this nightmare moment to be pushed a little more radically, therefore making the payoff all the more satisfying.

The Current Animatic:

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Some of the feedback I wanted to spend some time on from the last term was to refine my character design and make a stronger connection between the character’s younger and older design. It was particularly the younger design that seemed to fall short of having a resemblance to the older character model. Also as I had already completed work on the 3D model, the 2D character moments were easier to change.

Character Construction Sheet from previous term:

The original construction sheet I had made for the younger version of my character was one of the first construction sheets I had made for the character. I was experimenting trying to decide what shapes and sizes I would need to make a consistent look in the 2D animation, however, I was focused on that and not on the strength of the character design itself. Luke Coventry gave me some great advice about how to strengthen the design, specifically about off-centring the hair and how to make the character look younger, with fewer details around the nose, making things look rounder and smaller.

Luke's advice:

I looked at some references such as Mowgli from Jungle Book and other child character construction sheet sketches whilst I redrew some of the sketches for this character. I feel I was able to achieve a much younger look by just making a few tweaks. The asymmetric hair was something that I particularly think helped the design, making a stronger silhouette as well as showing more resemblance to the older version of himself.

Reference images:

Here is the new sketches I created for the young version of the character!

This is still an area I would like to improve on generally but for this specific project I elected to move on to the rest of production as there is much 3D to complete!

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Updated: Aug 1, 2022

For this concluding term, I need to be efficient in planning the final steps so that I can finish in the time I have left. Starting from May 30th I have until the 19th of August to complete everything I can. So that's only 2 months and 2 weeks.

I'm going to start by having a better sense of the overall pipeline steps I have left so this is some brief research into the stages and options I have to do this term to complete the film.

Much like that one pipeline comic that seems to be used a lot when discussing the pipeline, for me, it is useful to break down the stages into the smaller steps that go into completing them to have a better understanding of things and essentially a to-do list of everything that needs to be done.


  • Unwrapping

  • UV texture mapping

  • Putting the section into different shaders

  • Baking in Substance Painter

  • The Painting Process

  • Assigning new Materials on the Maya Model


  • Installing Advanced Skeleton

  • Weight/skinning

  • Face emotion checking

  • Possible use of Blend Shapes -increased control of the face


  • Camera Set up

  • Camera Animation

  • Character Key Posing


  • MASH physics

  • Replicater


Rendering and Toon-shader

  • AiToon - Using Note editor use both texture and toon shader

  • Possible use of Ambient Occlusion


  • 2D Matte Backgrounds and Foregrounds

  • Other 2D elements

    • Dust

    • More objects other than boxes

Sound Design

  • Outsourcing

  • Finding references

  • Giving sound directions

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