Masters Project – 2 – Characters (Anna Model)


A lot of the first films narrative will be carried by animated models of both myself and Anna. As I said in the first post on this project, most of the video footage will be of ourselves going about our simple day to day activity. The animated characters will better reflect our internal emotional states. The way they move, interact with the room and the video geometry and the sketches within it, will be the method of transmitting our internal narrative, the main narrative of the first film. The characters will also serve as a point of focus for the audience, as they will be the only moving features not trapped within mundane loops. This will give me a way of guiding the eye, and the narrative around a mostly fixed shot.

As such I’ve gone for a very expressionist sculpted form for our characters, that the limbs and the body ratios are exaggerated. This is a type of character I have been comfortable animating in the past, and that I feel will work best within this film. I am not remotely aiming for photorealism in any sense, as that to me becomes a distraction from the feelings that I hope  the animation of the characters will carry (as well as adding horrendous and unnecessary amounts of time to the rendering). So in regard to texturing and lighting I have a lot of freedom. In reference to childhood, particularly my own, I’ve gone for a look similar to early childrens stop motion animation programmes of Gordon Murray (Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley).

Saying that I do plan for the Anna model to have dynamic hair, the mesh seen in these images on the pregnant version of the Anna character is just a stand in for the moment. The clothing of the characters will also be dynamic, and it’s behaviour will change over the course of the film. This is why in the images rendered here the clothing is quite loose, so that the dynamic cloth solver will be able to work more effectively (avoiding interpenetration). I did originally plan to have two completely different types of characters to represent us, one like this, that is more expressionist before Arianne was born and one that was even more cartoon like to represent us after Arianne was born.  I have since decided that it would be better to keep the character looks more consistent and represent changes in ourselves emotionally through changes in clothing and in our animation quality. Obviously though the Anna model post birth will not be carrying a large bump. My character is almost complete and I will post up test renders in a few days. The characters clothing, and their textures are not finished yet, and will change depending on how I feel they work within the room.

I also intended to build my own rig, but frankly, I’m sick of building rigs, and biped rigs are well.. biped rigs. I could, like I have in the past build a lot of secondary animation into a rig through expressions (eye jitter, breathing, hip swing and torso rise when walking etc) but I know I’ll just end up getting bogged down in creating elegant technical solutions that would take me away from focussing properly on the content of this film to an audience and to myself. So instead I intend to use Raf Anzovins Setup Machine to rig both of our characters.

All of the above images were rendered with Mental Ray in Maya. to close this post I’ve included some additional early test renders I did with Maxwell experimenting with different cloth textures.

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