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Blocking the Animatic

When I started blocking out the animatic this term it all started to become very real in both exciting and scary ways! Seeing the shots from the animatic come together a lot easier than I imagined was very satisfying, this is a big jump in the production where things are starting to come to life. However, I knew getting to this point meant I'd have to start tackling how to get this final style working and animated well when I still had so much to learn.

Like with everything so far, there's only so much I could research and actually doing it was the only way to fully understand how to get it working, so I have focused on enjoying seeing these scenes come to life and taking things on as I go.

As there is only one primary environment in my film, the rest being more abstract and lose in design, I was able to just focus on this room and plan out the shots from there. From my first term of this course, I completed a tower of boxes as an experiment in getting to grips with Maya, I had also used this tower to play with the controls in MASH in the previous term. This tower was a perfectly good asset to base my box room around. Duplicating the tower I suddenly had two sides of the room complete. I added the walls and door, then started filling in a few more boxes and objects to match shots from the animatic.

Because my animatic is so lighting-based, I also began to experiment with lighting here. I ran through a few options of what could be used in this first shot with the door opening. I tried a spotlight, area light and just using the skydome but I settled with using a mixture of area light, skydome and directional light.

The whole environment:

Apart from a few well-placed cylinders, I tried to keep modelling any other objects n the scene to a minimum as I know it would take a while with my lack of experience, and I may add more 2D objects later in production. But I would be needed a 3D model of an open box for the character to be looking through. This took a while to perfect but I am happy with the final thing! I even duplicated it to use in other places within the scene.

Blocking with the Character

As I was still struggling to get the rig sorted for a while the first character blocking I did was with a non-movable T-Posing version of the character. Luckily this was after I got the textures onto the model so that really helped as I continued to do render tests and see how the model's colours worked in conjunction with the box's colours.


I went through a journey with MASH this term.

As I had been using the blocked-out towers for my previous experiments with MASH the last term, I continued to use them as my main way of building environments. However, after building the box mountains I realised this was detrimental when I got to adding physics to the scenes. When adding the dynamic node, the node that controls the physics, the separate boxes didn't move as they should do in gravity, but rather they moved together as a unit bouncing off tower from tower. This is because they are going from the MASH network created from that mesh.

So this box mountain below, unfortunately, had to be scraped so I could get something working that actually looked like it had fallen down.

So I started from scratch with MASH and, as reluctant as I was to abandon my box towers, I am glad this gave me the chance to learn it more thoroughly. By creating a scene that based the mash network on only one box, I was able to free up a lot more abilities than I had before.

From this, I particularly made use of the Random node which helps you randomise your instances into different sizes, angles, and heights so that you don't have any recognisable patterns. The patterns were a definite problem when using the towers as there were so many distinguishable parts and the random node only moved around the same distinguishable parts.

The issue with the tower patterns is visible here:

Finally using the Dynamics node on these new towers was so much more effective and really reinstated my faith in MASH. I was able to create small box mountains with the result of gravity and use the camera angle to make them seem larger or smaller.

Here is a Playblast of the MASH Dynamics in action:

Thoughts on Blocking out in the Pipeline

I think this is the step that is most important to do as soon as possible within the 3D pipeline. It really helped kick me forward into producing the rest of the 3D. By having the blocked-out environment, without really thinking I was already working on lighting and camera angles before I even planned to! It was a great motivator to continue on with texturing and getting it to go from 'blocked out' to final.

A big help with this process was learning the brilliance of MASH, it is certainly a tool I would like to come back to as it feels like I only scratched the surface of what is possible with it. It really demystified so many questions I had about how things were done in 3D and revealed ways that I could realise my 2D vision. Kelly Clayton was a great help here, showing me how to make my first MASH network. Learning to ask for help from my coursemates has been something I've gotten better at over the course of the year.

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