Thursday, 4 March 2010

Last week of term

Last week we set ourselves a deadline to have all the texturing, lighting and camera work completed by monday so that we could start rendering. Our group met in the morning but we still had a few last issues to sort out with the camera work and lighting. By the afternoon we were ready to render but we ran into problems. QUBE wouldn't accept our render and kept saying we were 'out of memory' and other things like that. Keith and Kofi both tried to help us but we couldn't work out the problem.

Eventually, on Wednesday after speaking with Jared, we discovered ways to reduce the memory. Remove the lighting, halve the textures, and optimize. It turns out the main problem was due to the number of faces in our scene; it was a huge file so we deleted a lot of unnecessary information - some of the flowers and some of the boulders near the fountain which were slowing things down, and were finally able to start the render at about 7pm!

By this time everyone in the group was very stressed and tired and I think that was probably our lowest moment, but we all got through it by supporting each other and continued forwards.

The next day when we came in, to our horror a lot of our work had still not rendered. James and Karen spent the day working hard trying to fix the problems and I have to admit I felt pretty useless, I had no idea what to do! But eventually, after staying late at college again, we signed in to a lot of computers in the Blue Cave room and left it rendering.

So, with tension running high, we came into college this morning (Friday) to good and bad news. The good being that some of it had rendered and the bad that a few of the computers had blown their fuses trying to get it to work! We set up the rendering again, but unfortunately got kicked out of the cave by the lecturer of a different class so we did the rest of the project using our macbooks and one computer at the back of the cave. What a stressful day!

Luckily, we all worked extremely hard and managed to render a lot of it and composite it together in time for the 4pm deadline. It wasn't the perfect result that we wanted, but I am so proud of our group, we have definately worked very well together and even though some of us had never really met, we got along really well and had a good time. I can't remember us having any arguments or major problems which may not happen in the future in the industry, but it was great experience all the same. Well done team STARS! ^^

Here are a couple of rendered pictures of our project;

It doesn't look exactly like this in our final because some of the render layers failed, but it's still gives an idea of what we have.
The playblast should be available on my other team members blogs, unfortunately i couldn't get it to upload here :(

If we were to do this project again I'm not sure if I would change anything, a little more time would be nice, since we lost the first 2 weeks because of the snow, but that's it. I'm very happy to say it's over but I will miss working with the group, every lesson was really fun and a good experience.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

22nd - 28th Feb

Since the previous journal entry, I’ve spent a lot of very busy hectic days on this project! I successfully finished my texturing of the flowers;

But ran into problems trying to sort out the grass. The only available pre-set Maya grass that looked like our concept art was too small, and when resized gave a terrible effect. It also slowed down Maya considerably and eventually we decided to not include the grass after all.

(with the grass)

(without! much prettier and less lag time :D)
This does however mean that we will not be able to have any animation for this part of our environment. However, since our project is set in an underground cave, there would not be a lot of wind to animate the flowers and grass anyway so I guess it makes more sense like this. Instead we are going to put our animation efforts into rocks and boulders falling around the environment, a bin rolling over and perhaps some sparks coming out of the poles and generator.

I also tried working on the camera. This is the first time I have animated in Maya for a long time so I was very rusty. Karen and James suggested I create a motion path for the camera to run around the environment on, but after two hours trying to get it to work with little success I gave up and animated the camera manually.
On Thursday this week I showed my first camera attempt (which is too big to upload onto here) to Jared and he gave me some helpful suggestions;
-Allow room for pauses
-Research into existing first person camera works
-Imagine you’re the camera and its not just a ‘showcase’
-And finally to animate the camera with ‘aim’ rather than by itself.

Taking this into account I first searched google for first person camera films and found a site with a list;

Then set about incorporating it into my work. I have Blair Witch and managed to watch some of Cloverfield, but tbh they showed me more what not to do as if the camera is too jerky you feel sick! So I kept it as steady as I could and didnt move it excessively.

This time, I animated the camera going round the environment first and then concentrated on what it was aiming at. I think the final result is much improved from my last one! (but again the render time is too long and the file too big to post the test up here)

Monday, 22 February 2010


I textured the tree to make it look more like the concept art.. However I had some problems with the branch on the right as it kept looking 'detached' therefore I've made a version without the branch and then I'll ask my group and we'll decide which version should be kept.

And I added some rubble to the outside of the building to make it look as though it was destroyed and therefore more in keeping with why it isn't like the other houses..

I'm not sure if we will be using this model anymore though, since we've already got a lot of work to do and we're planning on beginning compositing tomorrow so that we can get the rendering done as soon as possible.

Ryan also gave me a tutorial on UV texturing last week that he found on this site; so if need be I can texture using the imported Photoshop method which will look better than the pre-made textures Maya has.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Formative Assessment

Well we had our formative with Jared last week Thursday, and man have we got a lot left to do! He was satisfied with the consistancy of our designs style, so at least now we know they work well together, but our blogs were a bit of a letdown as we need to show how our research got us to our concept pieces.

I've gone back over my blog since then and tried to make it clearer by posting reference pictures next to my concept art to show how they relate and written more about my opinion of my research and how it can/has helped us. I think we will need to finish up modelling this week or very soon, then we can begin compositing it (which I think will be a big part of my job...) and animate the parts we want as well as the camera. I have finished modelling most of my work now, and will post what I have done thus far;

Finished example of the bin.. am not sure if it actually needs to look that 'destroyed' as not everything in our cave is derelict and this is a very minor background detail.

The next two models were done with the help of my flower field concept art;

The shape of the tree and background buildings are taken directly from this image;

The only thing that needs improving is the house as I need to add some rubble around the outside to explain its derelict state, and why it doesn't look as whole as Karen's buildings!

I have also have an animation of what the grass can do on Maya... Our grass will be animated similar to this, but since it's in a cave, there will be less movement. I'll upload a better example of it soon, hopefully with the finished textured tree in the background (which I am going to try and attempt!)

Friday, 5 February 2010

This week's news...

We had a group meeting during lunch on our Wednesday lesson and showed each other what we had done. Everyone has made some very good progress and we are all pleased at how our project is progressing. I've given the flowers I modelled to Ryan to texture and I'm going to try and add the finishing touches to the bin and house and then they will be ready to texture too. The only outstanding modelling assignment I have is the tree which I will start today, then I'll see what else I can model.

Next, on Thursday we went to Chislehurst caves for cave research! Unfortunately Yuki couldn't accompany us but we took plenty of pictures for her to see later, they should be up on James and Karen's blogs sometime soon.
It was a really interesting experience, and we got a good feel for cave interiors, the floors and walls in particular which I think we hadn't thought about as much.

I think our research stage will continue a little longer as we discover more things we need to include in our cave but hopefully Jared will be able to tell us how we are doing properly during our formative next week. Will try and update again before then with the finished pieces of modelling.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

modelling update

just a short update on the modelling front...

I've remodelled and finished work on the flowers I think (still need to show them to my group)

I've done 5 different variations of the flower so they dont look the same in our enviornment by using deformers.

However, I've been having trouble modelling the tree for the flower field. For some reason I can't get Maya to go into 'component mode' so the concept art I imported into an image plane to help with modelling can't be seen.
I'm going to see if anyone can help me sort this out on wednesday but for now here is a very rushed and quick example of how we can create the flowers, trees and grass using Maya PaintFX (which I dont' want to go for in the final film as it seems like pure laziness).

I've also worked out how to animate the grass in the flower field but for that we will need to use Maya's pre-set grass.


Yuki has helpfully found me a tutorial that will be great for modelling a tree -

I will reference this over the next few days whilst working. It also seems like we will be going to visit Chislehurst Caves on Thursday for our research since there's no lesson due to the Barcelona trip.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Working with Maya

Over the past 3-4 days I have been trying hard to get to grips with Maya. Admittedly, it has been awhile since I last used the program and I have never modelled with it before so am finding this quite a challenge. Even some of the simplist tasks are proving far more difficult than need be.
The following tutorial sites have helped me slightly...
(a useful tutorial for creating terrain)
(and this one is going to be a lifesaver for animating the grass in the flower field)

Here are the results of my modelling so far....

Neither really look like what they are supposed to yet.. the first are my attempts at flowers and the second is a bin.. I am already re-making them! This modelling business is much much harder then anticipated but I am going to keep trying of course. I'm having some difficulty with the shortcut buttons in Maya using the MAC but I think I will be able to show some good results by the time I next see my group on Wednesday/Thursday.

Thursday 28/01/10

For our meeting on wednesday, we decided as a group to move onto modelling (although I believe we havent completely left concept art behind, there are always unexpected things that will need to designing i expect). We assigned different parts to the different people in our group and I recieved;
-the flower field and tree
-a bin
-a building (not a main one, to be seen in the background which should help)

We also had Jared come over and discuss our work plans.
He believes that more research is required for the cave setting and suggested some names for us to look into;
'City of Kowloon'
'August Pugin' and gothic architecture
'Cheddar Gorge' (which helpfully i visited over the summer last year and so know a little about already...)
'Edward Burtynsky'
'Bernd and Hilla Becher'
and 'Pueblo Indian Cave'

We have divided these among us to research, and have also decided that sometime next week when we are all free, we will visit the Chislehurst Caves.

I want to start by recapping some of what Jared told us during his lesson...
When we mentioned caves, Jared seemed a bit apprehensive because apparantly at least one group each year attempts it and they rarely come off well!
So, he suggested we look at different methods of making our enviornment dark that would be more interesting than a generic cave.

The 'most dense human habitation in world history'. It was a Chinese military fort in Kowloon, Hong Kong that was destroyed in 1995. Unsurprisingly, it was home to a lot of undesirables and crime was everywhere. The buildings were packed so closely together than often, if you were in the middle of the wall it would be very dark and there was little light (except perhaps at midday when the sun was directly above).

You could say it's an urban cave, and the structure is definately more interesting than a generic cave, however our group was still quite willing to set it completely inside a cave, that way our concept art could still be used and we wouldn't have to completely start from the beginning.

(info and image from

(1762-1832) An architect who was famous for designing a new House of Commons (after the old one burnt down) and a House of Lords. His architecture is very gothic and Jared sees this as a good direction to go in regards to our designs, which I think we all agreed with. I plan to take reference from him when creating bins and a building for the background (my task for this week).

(info from and images from 'bing' search engine)

Luckily enough I visisted this location last year and took plenty of photos which will help, I hope!
Cheddar Gorge is comprised of limestone, and its landscapes are one of those that inspired J.R.R. Tolkein in writing Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. There are two main caves to the gorge - Gough's and Cox's, and it is believed that prehistoric people made cheese in the caves.. this is a practice still carried out today and is one of the things the town of Cheddar is famous for.
I hope this will really help the group with the cave modelling but it will be quite complicated.. am hoping we've got the time to pull it off.

Just looking at these makes you realise how many little detail go into making up a cave, not just the stalagmites and stalatites but the actual rock details and shapes as well as debris that is littered everywhere. I'm sure we'll get a first hand view of this soon enough when we visit Chislehurst Caves!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Flower Field contd.

The group liked my initial flower field idea, and have asked me to expand on it it further detail, showing the surroundings of it and how it would fit into our environment.

Developing the flower field.. sketches;

starting the more detailed concept art;

finished result;

im really not happy with the finished result but after fiddling around with it for so long I don't know what needs improving :(
I showed it to my group via our facebooks and they were pleased with it so it looks like this will be okay to use for the final after all.. If i get time I may continue to edit it but I think I need to start thinking about modelling now!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Wellcome Trust visit and more concept art

Yesterday myself Karen, James and Ryan visited the Wellcome Trust and their '8 Rooms, 9 Lives' exhibition near Euston to gain inspiration and ideas for our project. There were some interesting designs on display (plus some weird ones) but not many of them fit our brief. Most of our ideas came from buildings we found on the way round London and the Underground (which are in Karen's possession).

My favourite part was probably the interactive stuff on the first floor. In one part we drew pictures relating to random words on the back of the supplied blank cards and placed them on display along with other peoples work to describe autism. There was also a big section on dieting.. and a strange model of a very bloated individual. But they didn't help too much!

As well as that, during the day we had a group meeting and decided new jobs for each group member. I'm still working on concept art and my task this time was to draw a beautiful flower field in the middle of our spooky deserted city. I went back to Paul Lasaine's blog and took these pictures as my main inspiration;

Here is what I came out with...


This is just the very first attempt mind.. And I will add more detail and change what I can depending on what the group thinks and wants. For example, maybe a view of the flower field from slightly further back..
Yuki has also helpfully given me a link to creating flowers in Maya!

And while I was in Photoshop I also tried to improve my last Police Station attempt slightly...

I felt my last effort was still too light and not 'evil' looking enough, so voila I darkened a lot of it and on Ryan's recommendation, added a reddish hue to the plants.

Monday, 18 January 2010

concept art

Looking over the concept art I found I tried to create an idea of my own for our project.
Started off with a page of random building sketches...

These are the three main police station pictures I looked at for reference;

Mainly looking at the first one for its shape, the windows of the second and third.

Tried recreating and colouring it on photoshop. Trying out different version with different colours/filters;

I've broken down what I did in steps but right to the last picture I was unsure of the colours so..

I mainly reference this picture for the colour of the caves and plants as it had a nice spooky feel. Except for the white background, I felt it would be a lot darker in the cave environment than this forest.

Finished result;

and a quick birds-eye sketch of my idea;

It's set in a cave of sorts that plants have taken over from lack of human use... it's supposed to be a semi-futuristic city with the police station in the center.
Anyway, need to get some feedback from the rest of my group before I do anymore to make sure I'm going in the right direction. Hope they like it...