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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!


Over the Christmas break, I was able to use my family home as a reference for my subject matter. As so much of this project is from personal experience, this was an important chance to delve into where the idea came from and review where I was in keeping with the initial journey and whether I had gone too far.

At the start of this term, I am doing another pass of the storyboard I had finished at the end of the last term. Upon reflecting on the first pass of my storyboard I don't feel like it quite gets across my initial ideas and I have always viewed it as a first draft. So now is the time to refine it so I can identify how best to proceed when it comes to learning what I specifically need for each scene.

My ideas and notes for the final storyboard:
  • must better show the idea of a mental block in motivation

    • could this be done with a personification of motivation?

      • Manifestation creatures that I explored in my undergrad?

    • Objects that trigger the character?

  • How to show memories, and what are the memories to display?

    • Dust particles, how can they be used to show memories and emotions?

    • Use of different colours and shapes

  • Adding a Character?

    • Many personal situations much like this have been helped with the idea of another person joining the fight however animating another character would be too time-consuming

      • How can I display this in a different way? The idea of another presence supporting the character?

        • The character could be inspired by an object - subject that connects to another character, perhaps a photo - then that presence is seeming with the character, supporting them for the rest of the fight against the boxes

  • The idea of growing up.

    • The character has a memory of an object that they find, the object however is completely different in the characters memories to what it looks like when they find it.

    • Growing up and seeing the same treasured object as a whole new person - not worse, just different.

Notes from 1:1 with Susan:

  • Refining the storyboard

    • take out first shots - context can be introduced as the story goes

    • Start - the shot of the door opening

    • Keeping refining story to a more cohesive short

  • Boxes falling out of other boxes - things get too overwhelming as more is unpacked

  • Watch the Little Matchgirl

Animated Shorts for reference

  • The Little Matchgirl (2006),

    • Desperation for a better life

    • Seeing dreams or memories in the warmth of her matches

    • Strong contrasting tones with the "real world" blues and greys and the "dream world" warm oranges and gold.

  • Sonata - Gobelins, FX Exercise

    • Showing inspiration with fire

  • Mum's Sweater - Gobelins

    • Exploring grief

The Irony

At so many points in the process of putting this project together, I have become quite overwhelmed by the sheer amount of ideas and things I will need to do to pull off these ideas. I feel like at each point I am facing the same struggle as the character in my story, overwhelmed by choice and work, unpacking and organising so many different ideas and thoughts. The very same mental block that I want to illustrate in this short is weighing on me as I try to untangle my own personal experiences into a clear and structured narrative that can connect with others.

Whenever I see this comparison it helps me see that this turmoil, overwhelm and despair at times, must be worth completing as that is overall the point of this short story. What started as an attempt to show the process of unpacking one's life has become something a lot more reoccurring than I first thought.

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Within this module from my first term I wanted to bridge my knowledge from 2D animation to 3D animation and how they are being combined in current media. This module ended with each student producing a Research Poster to display their findings.

Mine, which focused on case studies of recent realises, Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse (2018), Klaus (2019) and Arcane (2021-?), can be read here:

The Exhibition

Our research posters were able to be exhibited in the Bradshaw Gallery and I put myself forward to curate this, with the help of a few others we were able to put up all 12 posters in a lovely uniform way as pictured! I really enjoyed being part of a in person exhibition again, something I haven't experienced since the final exhibition for my Fine Art undergrad! This will be up from Dec 17th to Jan 20th in the Bradshaw Gallery.

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The narrative lead project I aim to produce is one I will keep open to development as I go. I understand it is important to allow for change within this process and I think this will be a great opportunity to force myself to move on and not become too attached to a certain idea.

Here is my rough idea flow of my project:

The Process of De-Cluttering

  • Boxes forming walls and mountains 

  • Corridors and libraries of memories  within the boxes

  • The slow process of uncovering things 

  • Potential opportunities and ideas that make it seemingly impossible to get rid of items 

  • Sorting things into piles 

  • Making things out of old things 

  • Using old objects to actually make the film

  • Photogrammetry for specific objects - connecting more with the subject

  • Forming obstacles, shaping the boxes/ objects into monsters/creatures - symbolising dark times/memories preferred forgotten

  • Always in opposition with the mental block of finding motivation that is elusive throughout

  • Things become clear, not for new things to replace them, but for them to just be clear, clear for the space to think

  • Dust particles, changing colour, forming memories or creatures personifying feelings – compositing stage, after effects

The initial idea for this project has been one I thought of a few years ago whilst going though boxes from my old childhood home, seeing my mum unbox things from her childhood, and facing the overwhelm and cognitive dysfunction of not being able to tackle the huge amount of items in order move to a smaller house.

The Mood-board:

The Game Plan

I know this concept is a lot to take on and complete within a year so I have tried to learn as much as possible about the pipeline in order to plan for each step.

Here are notes on how I aim to break down the pipeline process:

Term 1: Pre-production

  1. Mood board - initial ideas in visual references

  2. Story outline - getting the idea into a narrative

  3. Visual Development - building the visual world from references and ideas

    1. Thumb nailing points of action

    2. Sketches

    3. Design Language

    4. Colour keys and colour script

  4. Beat Boarding and Storyboarding - breaking the story down into main beats

  5. Animatic - compiling the storyboard into video from to explore timing and cohesion

  6. 3D testing - Learning what specific things I need to learn in order to complete the film

    1. Boxes

    2. Environment

Term 2: Production

  1. Finalising Animatic - will help me know what to focus on scene by scene

  2. 3D modelling - Forming the 3D Character Model and Environment

  3. Rigging - preparing the character for animation

  4. 3D Camera testing - cinematography testing e.g. dolly zoom, Dutch angle

  5. Animating - getting the movement completed

  6. 2D render test - getting the style of the film nailed down

Term 3: Post-production

  1. Final Animations - both 3D and 2D

  2. Rendering - Readying assets for compositing

  3. Effects animation - dust partials

  4. Compositing - compiling the animation together with lighting and effects

  5. Sound design - music, sound effects

Timeline by month

November - Research, Mood broad, storyboarding, 3D tests,

December - character design, style tests, concept art, Animatic

January – Environment design, 3D Tests, Character building and rigging

February – Modelling and building, Texturing, rigging, animating

March – Texturing, Animation, test of toon shading

April – Animation, test rendering, test 2D effects

May - Light testing on renders, final character animation

June - Final 3D Animations complete and rendered

July - 2D effects animation on top of 3D renders

August - Sound design, finishing touches,

September - Finish

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