Using Blender the 3D Animation Program

In Rob’s most recent workshop we were introduced to Blender, an open source 3d animation (amongst other uses) desktop application. At first we were simply learning how to manipulate a basic cube and how to navigate the interface, which proved to be quite complicated with the addition of another dimension to take into consideration.

shape thing

In this image you can see a 3d structure that I created in the workshop. I duplicated an image of a cube and set it along the same lines in the x, y and z axis, which put the duplicated straights on the same straight path as the original. The shape is quite easy to make but is also quite visually pleasing. As can be seen in the image the shapes are aligned to a grid which is covered by a grey slab, if the grey sheet was taken away it would be possible to do a 360 pan around the image and see it from every angle. Although most of the moving positioning in the program is done with the mouse you can see that the green, red and blue arrows point in the direction of the three axis’s. The orange circle with dotted lines around represents the point from which the light shines, this is an important part of the program and obviously of animation in general as it brings more spacial awareness to the animation.

finished shape thing

This second image is what the shapes looked like after they had been rendered. As you can see some of the shape has been cut out. This is because there is a certain vantage point from which the ‘camera’ sees the animation. The other parts of the shape are outside of the viewfinder and therefore are cut off when the work is rendered. This can be simply resolved by adjusting the vantage point from which the animation is being seen.

Refrigerator

We also experimented with some 3d text and I tried to create a refrigerator. This is in reference to the After Effects project which I am currently working on which requires us to create animated text sequences to a section of dialogue from a film. What I want to do in my animated text project is create a text that looks like a swinging door and ‘opens up’ to have more words coming out. The reason why I tried to recreate this in Rob’s workshop is because I was working on the project previous to arriving at the workshop and that was the first thing that sprung to mind. I also thought that the program could have been possibly useful to the project.

In the image you can see that the shading is not equal throughout the whole image, this was because I was experimenting with the light coming in from different directions and didn’t quite get it right before the workshop ended. Upon first impression Blender is definitely a program I would like to become more familiar with.

Channel Project – Constructive Evaluation

Although there were sections of the project that I liked and I generally got along with all the people in the group, I did find it a struggle at times to participate and come up with ideas/solutions. If I were to do the project again, there would certainly be a lot of things I would have done differently and this is why the process was valuable to me in moving forward to future projects.

I think that if the group had worked closer together when writing the scripts and storyboards this would have helped us to have a more solid idea. I also found that half of the group going home for a week damaged the quality of our final product, especially as this meant I had to go out and film most of the footage on my own, meaning I also had to book and take out all the equipment by myself, which was challenging.

I also found that the group didn’t seem to want to discuss ideas enough. I feel as if a divide grew between people who were working on the website and people who were working on the webisodes. As the webisodes were dependent on the branding of the website it would have been more useful if the group had worked closer together. This also caused problems in not coming up with enough content as it was hard to discuss with each other exactly what was needed without meeting frequently enough and discussing issues face to face. If more content was added onto the website it would have made the idea more interesting. As the group didn’t want to work together or weren’t around to meet the consequence was that the final product lacked and the idea could have been further explored and wasn’t convincing enough. Furthermore I feel as though every time it was suggested there was an area of the story we could work on further no one seemed to understand why it was needed. As director I feel that I didn’t do my job well enough but also found it hard to do so. This project has been a learning curve for me as to understanding exactly how much work you have to put into something to make good ideas turn in to good end products, a good idea isn’t enough in itself.

One particular thing which I liked about our idea, which I found separated it from other teams’ projects, were that it was less fashionable and more conceptual. As someone who is a big fan of science fiction I think my interest in older science-fiction was what made the idea so different from other work which tended to focus more on current trends or possible slight technological advancements. However, I agreed with the feedback we got in the presentation that the idea could have been further explored.
Although it could be argued that our project looked ‘outdated’, I wanted to focus on how the idea felt. It seemed that given the fundamentally artistic nature of the brief it was a chance to come up with something interesting and although I never really achieved what I wanted to I also felt as though there wasn’t any need for the project to mimic something that would be commercially successful. In hindsight this may have been a drawback because I wasn’t working for a client as such and this means that the ideas and work that the groups came up with probably reflected personal taste more than industry related practice. I also wish that someone else did the camera work as this would have given me more space to work on my role as director, plus I generally don’t really like using video cameras. I think in a personal reflection I am a slight control freak when it comes to ideas and I do prefer to work alone so I also understand that I may not be the easiest person to work with at times, so working with other people has been good practice for me because obviously collaboration is important and it is also useful if you can bat off other peoples ideas and work together to make your work better.

Channel Project Update 8th – 9th February

On the 8th February we completed the final webisode (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49-V8CVWsl0). As I have pointed out previously this one was particularly hard to film footage for given the nature of the dialogue. As it was much more to do with space, the previous techniques of going out and filming some landscape shots didn’t really work. This was a clear example of how if we had worked on the idea more we could have firstly made it a lot easier for ourselves and secondly come up with more in depth ideas and explored any possible problems we had, and came up with solutions for them. As the group didn’t meet as much as they probably should have in the pre production phase this meant that problems that could have been simply resolved were overlooked, which made the project more challenging than it should have been.

However, saying this, I think we were quite lucky with this scene as it turned out to be one of my personal favourites and actually flowed quite well. To find content for this scene we had to sit and watch all the footage over again and pick out little bits that could possibly be used, then cut them up, test them, then decide if we were going to keep them or not. Although this is not the way people would usually edit (in most cases) we didn’t really have a choice as we were running out of time and footage. We came up with the idea to use pans of the fake newspaper page I had created and a fake time magazine cover that Libby created. We also used some found footage of space shuttles and the Alpha Centauri star system which filled up time and put the story into context, showing the star system of Alpha Centauri worked well in giving a sense of reality to the video and I also always liked the fact that Alpha Centauri is a real star system which is very close to our solar system which gives some scientific fact to a science fictional narrative, which I find always helps to make the fiction more believable or at the very least relatable.

Found Footage

found footage 1

found footage 2

Time Magazine Shot

time

For our own footage we had to find shots that somehow related to what was being said in the voiceover. We ended up finding some nice shots of the sun shining through trees, which in a way represented the ‘up there and beyond’. I think that the cultish vibe, which we were trying to emulate in all of our scenes was clear in this webisode specifically.

Example of one of the light through trees shots, the silhouette of the tree to me represents Earth as a dark place.

sun through tree

The videos were purposely cheesy because we wanted to capture the strange oddities that are so often the most prominent factor in small communities or ‘cults’, especially in modern society. Examples we researched that we wanted to relate the concept to were small towns such as ‘Celebration’ in Florida (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oko7qh7m0fc) and also Sandbanks in a lesser sense, I found that when we were location scouting in Sandbanks I felt uncomforted being there and to me the place seemed quite fake, in some sense. Sandbanks was a definite inspiration and it was a shame that we didn’t end up filming there. Looking back now I wish I would have researched new age religions like Scientology and Mormonism more, and even smaller groups in bigger religions such as the evangelical Christian communities particularly in America (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LACyLTsH4ac) because I think that this would have really helped to formulate a more consistent narrative in both the webisodes and the website. The videos work well in that they mask a fictional planet as being ‘the best place to live’ and they also oversell the planet so you feel that you feel that it’s too good to be true and nothing can be quite that great (as they say, if it’s too good to be true it probably is). A problem I encountered with this was that we hadn’t really discussed the timeline in enough depth so it wasn’t clear how long this community had been around for, however as a personal preference I quite like the mysteriousness. I think this idea is something that if explored could be worked into a really interesting narrative and in a way it reminds me of a George Orwell’s ‘1984’ but with more of a Jonestown feel to it, so there’s not as much of an emphasis on a totalitarian society but more of a conceited, nationalist, communist society who have pledged allegiance to their community but are blind to its imperfections.

On the Sunday we finished editing and the rest of the footage and then focused more on sound and graphics, Libby created the intro and ending using Bob’s logo and added the jingle which Libby created. I liked the simplicity of the jingle and I thought that it wasn’t overly futuristic. We then worked on the music and I think that the music was really important in making the sequences stick together. Making the music for the videos was my personal favourite part of the whole project as I found it was the most creative part, I think that before adding the music I was more cynical towards what the final product would be, but after adding the music it seemed to make everything come together. I think the advantage of being able to write your own music is useful because you can create what you want instead of having to try and find it and also it is useful for ownership reasons.

Watch Scene 4: The History Of Alpha Centauri. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49-V8CVWsl0

Channel Project Update 6th – 8th February

My plan on the 6th was to film more footage for the ‘History of Alpha Centauri’ scene. However, due to bad weather I was not able to. I made use of the day by booking out the equipment for the 7th (luckily the weather was nice on that day) and picking out possible clips, which could be used in the final footage. This was useful because there was a lot of footage and as I didn’t know if certain shots were going to be usable I shot the same scene 3 to 4 times. I was able to pick out the best version of each shot and pick out the shots I felt were the best.

On the Friday the 7th I filmed the final footage. The weather was much better and this meant that I was able to go outside and get some nice shots of locations close to the university campus. I stayed close to Talbot Campus because I had a lot of equipment and found it hard to go far as I didn’t have any crew to help with equipment.

On the Friday night we continued editing and this is when the videos really started to come together. We worked on the Earth scene first (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8oJ5L-_vfM). We tried a series of different techniques to see what looked best. We changed the clips so the sped up clock wasn’t over the other clips though decided that this didn’t work as well as the previous version.

This is a section of the clock footage, I reduced the opacity of the clock and put it over other footage. This also shows the eye clip which I felt was very effective.

Clock

This is a scene of a lock which we decided to put in the scene, To me the lock represents being trapped on Earth, Alpha Centauri is the escape to freedom, looking in from the rubbish is like looking at Earth from Alpha Centauri.

Lock

In the earth scene we decided to keep sections of the scene black and just have a voiceover, I found this quite effective as it gave this scene an eeriness. This is what the intention was when compared to the example I found in pre production of what I wanted the scene to look like you can see some comparisons. I wanted Earth to seem like it had been abandoned or was in the process of being abandoned, and although not all of the footage particularly represented the theme of abandonment or isolation, we made the best of the locations which we had found.

Scene of Nara Dreamland an abandoned theme park in Japan which inspired me when researching abandoned places.

For the Alpha Centauri scene (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWH9OY0d-NU) we felt that because the two suns were a main feature of the planet we had to find a way to show this in the video, (You wouldn’t leave the Eiffel Tower out of a video promoting people to visit Paris). For this we used the same clip but reversed it so it gave the illusion that it was still panning across the horizon and showing two suns. It was difficult to get the fade right so that the clips couldn’t be seen over one another. The only problem with this clip was that it was hard to get a shot of the sun because of it’s brightness, I had taken this into account beforehand although I didn’t think it would be too much of a problem. When the viewer was scaled to its default size whilst editing the footage the brightness wasn’t as noticeable, however I realised during the presentation that because the video, whilst being projected onto a large screen, was too bright. Although I made sure that the amount of light that was being taken in by the camera was at it’s minimum whilst shooting I could have also turned down the brightness whilst editing. Though as I said the shot didn’t look too bad when the viewer was a relatively standard size.

I particularly liked the shot of the eye in the underpass. I felt that the eye looked sad, and to me this represented mother Earth being let down by the human race who had destroyed the planet. I personally think we could have had more found footage of natural disasters and pollution etc, as this would have cemented the point that Earth had been destroyed. Preferably it would have been better to have filmed that footage but good disaster/pollution footage is usually accidental andit is hard to plan, especially in the time restraints. Also, we wouldn’t have been able to film those scenes anyway due to risks. So using found footage was the only option we had, although we didn’t like the idea of using found footage and tried to minimise it as much as we possibly could, which we did well, it also would have made the point that Earth had been/is being destroyed more clear.

The ‘I’m a Centaurian’ scene (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml3pMf2g6WI) was a lot of fun to film, though it also had its problems. Firstly, there was a fan that could not be switched off at the location where we filmed. This got in the way and it made it hard to edit the audio. We could have done ADR but unfortunately most of the people who had acted were not available afterwards. There was also a mic in one of the shots, which we only noticed after editing, (a problem which I have encountered in the past). The other problem was a continuity error in that we had used make-up in the scene to define people as ‘Centaurians’ but had filmed candid shots of people walking down the beach with no make-up. This was something that hadn’t been thought out when coming up with the idea in the pre production process. I personally don’t think that this broke continuity too much as there could be a number of reasons why some people wear make up and others don’t i.e. fashion. I also like the idea of having unanswered questions because it allows the audience to use their imagination. Although this wasn’t the original intention.

The 4th scene (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49-V8CVWsl0) was the hardest to get footage for as the script was written about space and about ‘venturing to the stars’, this meant that it was harder to film our own footage for the scene as we couldn’t film space. We worked around this by firstly using shots of designs that we had made such as the newspaper design and the time magazine design. Which brought a sense of reality into the narrative.

Channel project production Update 29/01/14

Today we filmed at a number of locations for our channel webisodes. For the first scene we filmed the sea and people on the beach from the cliff path. This footage is supposed to represent a fictional new habitable planet called Alpha Centauri and its aim is to show the natural beauty of the planet and to advertise a new home for people who still live on planet earth. For this scene I also filmed woodland areas to show sustainable natural resources and beautiful locations on the ‘new planet’.

Other footage that we shot was of underpasses and some run down buildings which are supposed to represent a deteriorated Earth which will not be habitable in future years. For this we will also be using footage of storms and natural disasters to enforce the message that the ecosystem of Earth has been ruined. The reason why we will be using footage that we didn’t capture is because firstly there aren’t many locations in Bournemouth that are suitable to represent a deteriorated Earth. And secondly, even if we could have filmed some places I think that due to risks we wouldn’t have been permitted to film in such places due to the possibility of damaging ourselves or the equipment. Therefore it is much more rational to add a few clips which represent a inhabitable planet.

One of the things that I have found challenging about shooting is making sure that there is enough footage to fit in with the running time of each webisode. I think it will be easier to distinguish how much more footage we actually need when we start editing.

Channel Project Production Update 28/01/14

Today we filmed some of the footage for the third webisode in our series which shows people who now live on a fictional new planet called Alpha Centauri talking about why this ‘new planet’ is such a great place to live. The ‘interviews’ were in the format of short clips, and were very similar to voxpops. We filmed the footage in Cranborne House and some of us within the group acted. Some people outside of the group were also asked to do some acting. We used make-up to try and make the ‘Centaurians’ distinguishable from the people of Earth, I think this was a good idea and especially as the make-up somewhat resembled David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. I think the footage we got was good and the shoot was a success, although it would have been nice to get some more shots just incase we needed more footage. But overall I think everybody put in a lot of effort.

Channel Project Production Update 23/01/14

Recently we did the voiceovers for the channel project. We recorded a number of people to see who had the most suitable voice. We were reading from scripts which a number of members of the group had worked on together and in their own time. The voiceover is a narration for an advertisement for a fictional planet named Alpha Centauri. We wanted the voice to be calm and soothing like in travel adverts so that there is a similarity. We are also going to put music over the recordings. The recording took a number of takes from each member of the group to get correct, but I think we did some good takes and hopefully we have some usable recordings. We recorded the clips in a studio in Weymouth house to minimise unwanted noise getting recorded. It was easier than recording in a room where students might have walked in or rooms which had air conditioning or computers running or the sound of slamming doors from other rooms because the microphone might have picked that up and we wanted as little background noise as possible.