Rendering Management

Semester 2 Easter – Week 13 (2018/04/02 – 2018/05/14)


Preparing for rendering

Rendering started with scene 02. Most of the shots in the seven scenes needed to have layout and camera adjustments as animation was carried out with the backgrounds hidden. Kerry took the bulk of scenes for lighting, cel shader set-up, and layout adjustments while I focused on render-setup and compositing. I worked on moving props out of the way of the camera for scene 02 only. Sorcha worked on the camera, lighting and shading setup for scene 06.

Before rendering on zync we needed to plan out what characters would be in each shot and the length of frames. I was responsible for rendering and setup in scenes 01, 02, 04 and 07. Kerry was responsible for rendering scenes 03 and 05 and Sorcha was responsible for scene 06. There are about 106 shots in our 07 scene, not including the intro.

We encountered a lot of errors which we also had to keep track of on the spreadsheet. The animation curves would occasionally change tangents between two flat frames. Renders on zync would also jump across the screen but render okay locally.  We think that this might be due to one or all of the plugins that we have installed.

For frame management we rendered into “SCENE_0X” folders and then manually moved the frame range to “SHOT_0X” folders but in the future it would be worth trying to automate this more as there were many thousands of frames to organise.




Asset List and Layouts

Semester 02 Weeks 01 – 02 (2018/01/29 – 2018/02/11)

Artistry and Planning

Kerry and I have been working on asset proxies, layouts and camera setups while Matthew and Sorcha have been working on animation/characters and Andrew has been working on the character rigs.


Kerry and I made a list of all the flora and other elements that will go into making our forest backgrounds interesting as well as the props for the interior of the house and other environment features unique to certain scenes such as step ruins. We are working with the aim to get the layouts blocked out with very basic proxy models so that blocked animation can begin as soon as possible. Sorcha and I planned out a maya project folder system where props, characters and layouts are within the assets folder. Props are referenced into the layout files. The layouts and characters are then referenced into the scene files within the scene folder. This way animation can be happening in the scene files and props can be worked on in their individual files while layouts are being developed or vice-versa.

For layouts, Kerry is responsible for layouts 02, 04/07 (before and after explosion) and 06 and I’m responsible for 01, 03, and 05.

Once the cameras are more in place from the animatic then we’ll be able to do another pass on the layouts so that the compositions are better. I’ve made a start on setting up the camera sequencer for the layouts I’m on but some moving cameras are better left to whoever is animating.


Week 09/10 Concepts

Some feedback from our last presentation on the concept for our opening shot:

  • Nami’s forms are getting lost. Try rim light to make her pose read better.
  • Try making the perspective of Nami more dynamic. The camera is close to the ground and Nami is far forward so she would be warped mored in perspective. Also think more about her scale in relation to the trees.
  • The trees should have their texture receding more in perspective as they go up.
  • Pay more attention to the value range. Add more nuance and contrast at the focal point.
  • Look at Hotel Transylvania for how they deal with night time lighting and characters who need to read against the dark.
  • Alec thought that this scene felt like it was during the night with eerie light beams, which wasn’t my intention. I often make the mistake of painting the sky too dark. It’s meant to be approaching sunset. Alec also advised against using absolute black if I wanted realistic light bounces for daytime. I had been looking at Samurai Jack for reference but was maybe mixing flat and realistic rendering too much without committing to one or the other.

I was also having difficulty drawing Nami’s pose from this angle. Sorcha offered to draw Nami into the scene but it’s something I want to improve on so I went back and forth getting everyone’s feedback more instead. Matthew suggested creating the pose in 3D and had some good advice on how to think of where the weight  is placed on the staff. I looked at snowboard poses for references but surfing references turned out to be more applicable as the stance is wider, as on Nami’s staff.

Trying to make the pose in Maya was more problematic than I anticipated also. I tried to match poses from photographic reference but once I switched to the low camera it tended to look odd and poorly silhouetted. Kerry and Sorcha suggested that Nami looked like she was aiming for the ground too much and to curve the staff to suggest direction.

These are the before and after feedback results:


Reymond Scene

I also worked on developing Reymond, our tree spirit. Andrew’s designs in the animatic make me laugh a lot so I didn’t want to detract from that by adding unneeded complexity. I feel like I could ruin the joke by changing him too much or not pushing his facial expressions the way that Andrew did but at the same time, Mike pointed out that he didn’t look all that beautiful in the animatic. Part of the joke is that Reymond initially looks noble and beautiful as the characters are approaching and then he breaks out into his goofy self at the flick of a switch. We’re thinking of going for the more sculpted/chiseled look in the sketches below along with using clumped and hanging moss for hair.



For the lighting in Reymond’s scene we want it to be the most warm and welcoming scene in our short. We’re considering doing this by either lantern light, magically motivated lights in Reymond’s foliage or as in the concept below, where Reymond is made of an emmisive, translucent material that acts as a warm (point?) light source to contrast the cold directional moonlight. I tried blocking and roughly lighting this in Maya before painting the concept as an aid to see how the light would react. We’ll hopefully be able to push the concept painting even more when we get to Maya and Nuke.

I also tried to keep the tree designs the same as the trees in the first house concept as Conánn pointed out that we’d be reusing assets as much as possible. Sorcha suggested adding more glow and reflective puddles to the scene also.

The references are from our Monsters Character Design Pinterest.







Concept Sketches/Ideas Development Week 07/08

Week 07/08  – Artistic, Planning and Research

My tasks/goals for this week were to finish 3 production design paintings based on the animatic and to design the masked creature and Reymond, the sexy tree, further. The team deadline for reviewing the project concept art is November 20th so I’m definitely feeling behind on these tasks! This is what I’ve got so far.

A core rule in our world is that spirits possess inanimate objects with faces. This is an idea for a possible opening shot that plays with this rule. Ideally we would have a short opening before this which would convey the rule of spirits so then this opening shot could give a moment of “wait, but that means that any of these trees and statues in the environment could be alive/undead?!”. Some narrative could be then be suggested in the undergrowth if statues had been defaced or had magical amulets to prevent possession. I haven’t added these last details to the forest statues yet.

Sorcha had mentioned that our short could be set in autumn so I tried this palette. We’re also considering that the time of day could move from dusk to night.

I tried to draw Nami in but it’s tricky from this low perspective so she’s not quite right. In the animatic she’s flying into the frame but I wanted her face to be visible for this still.

These next few sketches are considering the staging of when Nami is talking to the creature who she has mistaken to be Púca because of it’s bright orange eyes. Púca could be concealed in the shadows behind Nami, perched on top of a totem-pole type arrangement of statues. Púca’s eyes could be the first things that become visible so that the audience might suspect a statue head is being possessed by a malevolent spirit?

I’ve gotten as far as applying value masks in this one but the value arrangement would probably be different, with the background in shadow and Nami the most illuminated.

Reymond still needs to be explored in sketches. Both sides of the crossroads could be designed with opposing palettes and lighting. Sorcha suggested that this scene be bright and sunny colored to suit Reymond. Alec suggested the possibility of lantern lighting too which is a good compromise for having an inviting palette which is still at night. The second frame is inspired by a similar crossroads, aerial composition in Samurai Jack, just to see what it might look like.

Masks and carved heads are often used as threshold guardians. This could be suggested in the detail above the doorway. The door should also suggest the dilapidated and abandoned qualities of the house inside. We have different options for how we can lay the stone. They could be large slabs or rows of thinner faces laid like dry stone wall.

The inside of the house could look abandoned and run down. The house has probably been used as a vessel for eating people before, so the center of the floor would be clear while dust and debris would have gathered around the edges. There could be a fire place towards the back with remnants of pots and tools lying around.

When the house is possessed it takes on the qualities of living tissue on the inside but should also feel like the insides of an otherworldly/spirit monster.

This is a possible idea for the design of the vessel/creature which lures Tato away. This concept plays with the idea that the one of the forest statues had not been defaced/sealed so that it was a suitable vessel for the forest spirit. Spirits monsters could be a combination of the materials that they possess along with the material of the ectoplasm bodies. The ectoplasm material could form solid limbs or remain as a ghostly, fluid material which allows the vessel to float in the air. The eyes could be orange flames of ectoplasm/soul. I purposely avoided limbs so that there would be less walking/running animation but the others say they don’t mind.

Sorcha and Kerry also suggested another idea for the creature which supports the narrative in the previous designs that Matthew created – the spirit could be using a skull mask as a vessel. I like this idea too as it makes sense for its forest habitat. Andrew pointed out too that Nami must believably mistake this creature for Púca so we’ll have to work with the staging more, maybe keeping it more concealed with shadow and foliage.

These are our various team Pinterest boards which give an indication of our design references. I’ve also posted some of the images below which I used specifically from the boards.

Monsters Character Design

Environment Reference 

Spooky Gothic Horror

Animatic 03 Feedback

This is the animatic which we presented in week 07 and which Mike gave us further feedback on on Tuesday of week 08. We’ve discussed the changes that we want to make but major updates to the animatic have been delayed to week 09 as we’ve been focusing on animation tests, further production design, character sculpts, rigging and research. Sorcha managed to cut 2 minutes off of this version at the beginning of the week which is a great start. We’re hoping to condense it further.

I’ve wrote Mike’s feedback in my sketchbook but these are the general points. Alec also made some similar points the week before and suggested some better scenarios for when Nami falls into the monster mouth.

  • The ‘keep your eyes peeled’ potato joke was lost. There should be a cut in to Tato’s reaction and audible grumbling. Nami should perform towards Tato when she apologises.
  • Make sure that the performance is loud and clear.
  • Nami needs motivation to cause her to stop. The rustling sound effect is missing  in this version which would cause Nami to stop but maybe Tato points towards the rustling bush. Always pay attention to cause and effect.
  • Consider how time passes. Nami comes across the creature very quickly and without apparent trial.
  • What is the creature doing in the bush – it could be eating berries.
  • The second close-up of the creature isn’t necessary when Nami is about to jump. Is this not a good editing pattern, getting faster and closer?
  • Pay attention to continuity of the space relationship between character staging.
  • We should see Nami’s spell start in a wide shot before it cuts closer to the Edgar Wright style cuts. Also indicate Nami’s spell forming, otherwise it pops into existance.
  • Frame Nami in an angled view looking towards the creature and beware of making her eyeline suggest that she’s looking elsewhere.
  • Nami’s pose looks like she’s straining to look around the creature.
  • We plan to see Púca’s first shapeshift. After this, when Púca is pacing he should’t pace away from the camera. Also, if Púca isn’t walking, then we can focus on his performance instead. Choose your battles.
  • It doesn’t come across that the creature is an accidental decoy. Nami and Púca should have more of a “…and who’s this guy” moment.
  • Move the camera with the character if they move out of frame and into the next shot (instead of cutting).
  • Use a two shot of Nami and Púca reacting to a third character instead of focusing on one at a time.
  • The wide shot of Tato should show him starting to listen. Cutting into his ear is confusing.
  • Is there a rule that Nami will also get smaller if she’s on Púca’s back when he shapeshifts?
  • We depicted Nami travelling on Púca’s back as we thought that the shots could be appealing but Mike’s feedback is that it would make more sense if Nami travels on her staff which is quicker.
  • Time could pass off screen between when Nami and Púca enter and exit the forest to Reymond’s crossroads.
  • Set up Reymond’s position in relation to Nami and Púca.
  • Will Reymond have afro hair, nice foliage etc? Reymond’s butt cheeks could wiggle when he laughs.
  • Nami should also be framed in Púca’s reaction shots to Reymond.
  • Take out the warning and Nami’s response. (We’re not sure if we want to do this as Reymond is our messenger, and it’s funny.) Speed up the dialogue at the end or cut it.
  • The screen direction changes when Tato arrives at the house. Maybe keep this right to left screen direction for Púca and Nami when they arrive at the house also to signal moving into danger.
  • Add a better establishing shot of the house.
  • Nami and Púca should cross the bridge when the camera does.
  • Mike suggests that Nami should run across the bridge first as she’s already shown that she’s impulsive at Reymond’s crossroads. However, this was something that we changed from the first animatic as we thought that it contributed to Nami coming across as stupid. We could make Nami run across first but try to pay attention to her performance so that she doesn’t seem completely brainless.
  • We’re missing a shot of when they open the door, either quickly or slow and tense.
  • When the camera pulls out it should reveal something e.g. Tato’s staging in relation to Nami and Púca when they enter the door.
  • Nami should start to leave the frame before we cut to Tato.
  • Púca needs to act more in the background instead of staring.
  • Nami needs to pull out her staff and be at the ready when the possession is happening and not after.
  • We’re reworking how Púca reacts to Nami falling. It’s agreed that Púca should immediately try to save Nami. Mike suggests that Nami could purposefully fall after Tato and then summon her magic in the moment of extreme peril. Maybe Tato is the demolition expert and has grenades. Magic shouldn’t be too convenient.
  • The magic should reflect Nami’s earlier attempt at magic.
  • Nami doesn’t need to announce her intention to capture the monster if she’s about to do it.
  • The end needs a lot of condensing. Mike pointed out that there are multiple points where it could just end.
  • For the ending dialogue the trio should already be walking into the distance. The smouldering house could be included in the last shot.

Animatic 03 shortened version 

Storyboards and Teamwork

Artistic and Planning

Week 06 2017/10/30 to 2017/11/05

We all had a long weekend of storyboarding for the new script. Andrew finished drafting the new script for Monday of week 06 while everyone else had been working on research, concepts or 3D sculpts. Once we got the script we reviewed it together, made some small changes and started planning the shots together on Monday on a shared spreadsheet. We found that it was a lengthy process with everyone sharing opinions so we gave Sorcha and Matthew the responsibility for planning the shots on the spreadsheet. This got finished by Wednesday and we divided out the resulting 139 shots between the five of us.

Screen Shot 11-06-17 at 12.06 PM

Shot planning

I was given responsibility of shots 85 – 115, where the trio are almost eaten by the possessed house, and spent most of Wednesday evening discussing them with Sorcha. Then on Thursday I thumbnailed out all the shots on one page, really trying to keep camera angles, composition and continuity in mind between boards.

Thinking through theses took longer than expected! I find that my level of drawing skills slowed me down a little too. I thought that after Thursday it would be a simple job of cleaning these thumbnails up but then it took longer again to figure out the poses and facial expressions better and tighten up the perspective. These boards took from Friday to Sunday to complete.

I can’t say that I’m too happy with my finished boards either. I really need to improve my ability to draw the same characters with different expressions and less stiff poses. I know that storyboards don’t necessarily need to be pretty but better drawings of sequences of poses and expressions, well framed by the camera with a pattern of editing in mind, would probably carry through to the 3D version too! So much to practice and improve for animation!

Also, the backstory of the house has changed now so that it needs to be designed more. Before it had existed as a mimic that was always a monster disguising itself as a house. Now it begins as an abandoned house that the spirit in the mask is able to possess and transform into a monster body.  Concepts haven’t been made yet for these so the composition of the room in the boards is very bare. Maybe more interest could be added to the framing if there’s more abandoned paraphernalia lying around.

This time around we used a shared onedrive folder to share all of our boards. Seems crazy that we posted all our last ones to slack for the editor to find. Sorcha is our editor this time around and is now putting the animatic together.


Week 04 Animatic, Feedback and Planning

Week 04 reflection on planning and team

It’s still tricky trying to find a balance between team work and individual contribution to the team, especially with story development. We seem to have a tendency to want to do everything together so that we all have an input and have our opinions heard. Over the summer we were writing scripts separately and then tried to sit together and write a script from the best parts. It made the process a lot more lengthy, and while everyone’s opinions were heard for every sentence, it also resulted in some important exposition being left out. For our second story idea, Alec suggested that we start with a less detailed skeleton of the story beats. We were able to do this relatively quickly as a team and then Sorcha was able to take responsibility of fleshing out a full script with character actions and dialogue.

Build a team skeleton —> one team member is given time to think and flesh out the skeleton into a script —-> the team gives feedback —> refinement

This is the script, wrote by Sorcha:

From the script, Sorcha made out a shot list with a list of boards for each shot and the progess. This made dividing the shots between us a lot easier. It also seemed better to divide the boards this time around as shots rather than backgrounds and characters.

Screen Shot 10-17-17 at 10.29 PM


We didn’t get to include the voice over dialogue for the intro section of the animatic, which maybe makes the opening a little redundant. The purpose of the opening with dialogue is to give a comedic retelling of the backstory but also to give a flavour of how it’s a nerdy fantasy show.




  • The characters need a lot of developing. Both Púca and Nami seem silly, Púca is not likable as a mentor and both of their actions are too unmotivated.
  • The characters need to create a harmony.
  • Give more purpose to their journeying. Why are these characters together?
  • Know the backstory of everything and create the illusion of a huge world. Look into post modernism. Research how the audience augments the story with their own story.
  • Give the audience enough knowledge about the rules of the world that they can make guesses but always be one step ahead of the audience.
  • Is a spirit possessing an object the common type of monster in this world? If not, then we need to establish the context for this to be a mimic with a lure that would be uncommon in this world. Otherwise Nami is silly to rush into danger.
  • Does Tato function as the translator of the knowledge which Púca is trying to pass down?
  • Know what you’re trying to say. Research symbolism.
  • Research cinematography more and apply it better!
  • Archetypes should emerge in the dialogue.
  • Reiterate the lines of dialogue continuously and be careful not to get attached to performances that aren’t working.
  • Go beyond just applying mechanical story structure/the hero’s journey. Make us care!

These are the boards that I contributed. Kerry edited all the boards and sound together along with drawing boards too.

Definitely need to research more cinematography and think more about what each frame is saying.

Púca Animatic Draft 01

This is the first draft of our episode animatic/plan. The story follows Púca, Nami and Tato as they try to steal an amulet that will help them capture the creatures that have escaped from the underworld. The amulet is a magical artifact made by Cassandra, a cat-like familiar who killed her witch and practices dark magic.

Sorcha, Matthew, Kerry, Andrew and I made a super rough version of storyboards together on the whiteboard first and then divided the work from there. So far the work has been quite straightforward to split:

  • Sorcha – Nami character designs and animatic poses
  • Matthew – animatic sound design and environment concepts
  • Kerry – Púca and Cassandra designs and animatic poses
  • Andrew – Tato designs and animatic poses
  • Me – animatic backgrounds

Mike gave us many pages of helpful feedback which made me realise how much I needed to revise The 5 C’s of Cinematography (blog notes on composition chapter), especially when it comes to cutting and continuity.

Animatic draft 01:

Mike’s Feedback (notes in sketchbook):

  • The backgrounds are too unclear. Make clearer drawings.
  • Actions should cue the cuts. There are too many unmotivated cuts.
  • Characters should not be in different poses from one cut to the next.
  • The sound should not talk down to the audience.
  • Create a better establishing shot for the characters.
  • Púca’s performance needs to be more urgent. Work on everyone’s performance.
  • Tato is lost at the start, he needs to be better established as a character.
  • Nami’s fantasy plan at the start should be performed into and out of. Try to find smoother ways of transitioning.
  • The layout of the cottage is confusing. Establish the layout.
  • Show Púca shapeshifting.
  • Set up the danger immediately. Show the audience where the tension is.
  • Establish the power of the amulet. Be clear on the characters’ motivations. Always convey the ‘why’ of actions so as the make the audience care. Think of cause and effect.
  • Maybe the amulet is used to trap Púca?
  • The set up of Cassandra sleeping and the orb waking her up feels too contrived.
  • Cassandra sleeping on a rocking chair doesn’t seem all that scary.
  • The cuts to Tato breaking the bottle breaks the tension too much and is not as important for the story.
  • Find a better way of framing the tension between Nami and Cassandra.
  • Convey where Púca has been in the house. He shows up too out of the blue.
  • Cassandra shows up too randomly behind Púca. Show how she gets from A to B.
  • The floating is unnecessary. Why does Cassandra go through all this bother if she’s so powerful? Púca could change straight away from the spell. Don’t waste time.
  • Púca is scary already before he changes. Be more clear on animalistic versus angry.
  • Make the tear in the sky more dynamic. Don’t just make it like the eye of Sauron.
  • Explain the crack in the sky at the beginning?
  • Púca’s line ” Now for the hard part” is confusing at the end. Maybe the entire short was a plan in their heads and now they actually have to do it?

We’re reworking the narrative now before we revisit the animatic as we realised that there were problems with the initial needs of the characters and twists in the story. We’re using Dan Harmon’s narrative structure as a guide from the beginning this time around to help us make a stronger base for our story.