La Noria and Iglu Pitch Script

Sorcha found this Indigogo for La Noria (2015) and we liked the layout of their pitch.

  • First they show their best shot,
  • then they talk about who their team is and why you should trust them,
  • then they talk about the story and concept,
  • then the Indigogo rewards,
  • then a sneak peak of La Noria.

Sorcha took the task of writing a script with all the information that we would need for the pitch. I tried to condense this into a shorter version:


We received feedback that we needed to structure the pitch better for the audience and explain why we used so many different styles. With this in mind, Molly and I took what Sorcha had written and re-iterated on this, adding more detail while trying to keep it short. Sorcha and I re-iterated again while recording to make it sound natural when spoken. We also tried to keep the story structure flowing so that each section had a reason to continue to the next.



Stargazing Concept in After Effects

Christian suggested adding parallax and a vignette to the 2D stargazing scene to make it stronger for the pitch video. I finished the 2D concept a little more and animated the layers with a camera in After Effects. Unfortunately we didn’t get to complete our 3D version of this as we didn’t plan enough time to add the characters. I tried to use Sorcha’s design of Julie in this  (as it most match the Moebius-like style that we had discussed as a team) and then tried to match William to Julie. The lighting hid the line a little though and the colours changed after I colour corrected to fit within the scene.


Reflection: Placement-Lite Project with Iglu Media

Did we deliver what was asked of us?

We delivered pitch material and put together a video. However, we should have made a clearer representation of Julie and William aging over the 10 years and we should have created more concepts showing scenarios of the characters in different emotions. We also didn’t finish the 3D scene which we were working on for the deadline. I feel like we could have easily finished this except that both Sorcha and I caught the flu and couldn’t work for a few days each. We really should always leave extra time in our plans for unforeseen events like this.

Dealing with the change in requirements.

Just before Easter, our requirements as a team changed a little. Instead of making a video which demonstrated gameplay, Jonny discovered that more concepts of the characters and their relationship would be better material for a pitch. We still wanted to make a 3D scene together but this required a new plan as our gameplay footage was now less suitable. Skype meetings worked well over the Easter break but I felt that we could have done better if Molly and Aidan could have met immediately after our meeting with Iglu. Only Sorcha and I could meet soon after our Iglu meeting to discuss the new project direction.

Better time and project management.

Looking back, my best weeks usually involved a team meeting early in the week. For example, I think that my best week was in week 02. Immediately after our meeting with Iglu, we had a white board ideation session in which we discussed and divided up exactly what we needed to do. This helped to lay down a clear path of what exactly was important to tackle straight away and I was confident to jump on a task immediately and give a whole week for completion. I also worked well after meeting with Sorcha on St. Patricks Day during which time we set mini-deadlines for certain tasks. We tried using Asana at one point but it didn’t seem to catch on. I’m determined to start using a tool like Asana instead of facebook.

Team decision making problems.

One of our problems was making a firm decision on style. Sorcha and I sat down to discuss this together when it seemed quite late into the project. This turned out to be the solution that we needed as I felt a lot surer of what we wanted after this meeting. I wish we had of identified the high importance of this earlier in the project and had as many meetings as we needed earlier on until we found a solution. We seemed to orbit around the problem for a long time until it became more obvious. The same problem was present for choosing final designs for the two characters. Another option would be, if the team is having trouble deciding, then the team should appoint one member to research into and make a solution for one particular part of the project.

Presentation of work and communication

I felt like I was too quiet during meetings with Iglu Media and didn’t present my work as well as I should have to Gareth and Jonny. Jonny and Gareth made a point during our first meeting about artists who were too protective of showing their sketchbook work. I think that I can be like this sometimes as I often start a sketch like a scribble almost and then make iterations until it looks presentable. I should have put more time into presenting my work beforehand for meetings and I should have been more prepared about what I needed to communicate regarding how I contributed to the team’s weekly outcomes.


Paint Effects City

Week 11

After the grass, rocks and trees, the next challenge to tackle was the city in the distance. To create the impressionistic style of the city from my concept I figured that simple building shapes that could catch the light would be enough. With not a lot of time left, Paint Effects seemed to be the quickest solution, plus I really enjoy how organic the process of distribution feels with Paint Effects. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to figure out a method of distributing my own geometry with PFX so I resorted to using one of the default building brushes from the visor database.

I found that PFX will paint shapes perpendicular to the surface which is made paintable. This was a problem for my city designed on a steep hill and I found that adjusting the elevation produced too random of results (as one stroke had more than one house). I had houses pointing in all directions. I tried stacking planes which intersected the hill and painting on these instead. This method wasn’t perfect as there were some floating houses once I hid the planes but I got away with it seeing as the city was so far away and the style was more abstract than realistic.

Even though I tried to paint only on areas that would be seen, I still ended up with quite a heavy load of building geometry and some excess. After some frustration I remembered file referencing which I realised I haven’t been using enough of in the past. Even with using file referencing though, it still took a long time to load materials and switch between render layers with materials applied. Rendering was extremely quick though. Also, I built this approximately to real life meters which I’m not sure how necessary that was. I thought it might aid the parallax effect if we wanted to test the camera in Maya. Does the size of a polygon influence memory usage or is it just the number of polygons? Probably just the number right?

For shading, I used a ramp shader and directional light set-up similar to what I used for the rocks and played with the hue/saturation/brightness of the incandescence and shadow colour. For the water I used a reflective shader on a polygon plane and for the land I used a second plane placed over this with a transparency map made in Mudbox to indicate the coastal line. The land in particular needs developing. I was planning to make it seem at least more mountainous/hilly and perhaps indicate more forestation somehow.

Some render tests/progress:

Molly painted a sky which I tried adding to the scene also. The area light which I used to light the sky influenced the colours quite bit. I also haven’t added the clouds yet.

I rendered selectable areas for the sky, sea and land for colour correction in After Effects. This is the scene so far. We have yet to play with the characters in the scene and the environment still needs developing.

Stargazing: Rocks

Week 11

Getting the form, lighting and texture in 3D to fit the style which we wanted took a lot longer than anticipated. This is the aim which I wrote out for myself when I started:

“Make the rocks so matched to the painting that it would be impossible to tell that they were 3D if you composited them side by side into the painted concept. But, don’t let the concept dictate all, feel free to develop and improve when the opportunity arises.”

I started by taking the blocked proportions of the dolmen into Mudbox for sculpting. Although rock seems like a simple thing to sculpt it took me a while to get suitable forms. My first attempt was too rough and digital-clay like and looked even worse  when I tried to render the detail with a displacement map in Maya’s software renderer.

I looked up how to improve maya software displacement map settings but discovered that Mental Ray is a wiser choice for displacement maps.

I worked on a single rock, modified in Mudbox, for a while to see if I could achieve the style. I tried making very hard edged light by adjusting the intensity of a directional light. To create the fine carvings, I first tried using the knife tool in Mudbox but this gave me very lumpy results even after using the smooth and scrape tools. I also tried using the freeze tool but couldn’t create the desired results. I found that making a displacement map in Photoshop with a hard edged brush gave a much cleaner result and also maintained the smaller detail of the brush’s edge. The depth of this could then be increased by adjusting the alpha gain of the image file so as to make deeper shadows. By adding a few edge loops I could make hard rock edges without too much resolution and I tried bump mapping a canvas texture to see what this detail could look like.

From talking to Clare I was directed to look at the ramp shader with shading set to light direction and interpolation set to linear. From going through the ramp shader attributes I found that I could make the shading even more graphic like the painting if I cast the scene in shadow with a box and used the shadow colour to control the light colour and the incandescence to control the shadow colour.

The depth of the bump map, made from painted/canvas texture, controlled the detail on the interface between shadow and light giving a painted/dry brush edge to this area.

To create the rock shapes, I imported my blocked versions from Maya into Mudbox as these had roughly the silhouette and volume that I needed. I made the mistake of spending time UV unwrapping my modified boxes as I thought I would be applying maps onto them. As simple as they were, they still took time to unwrap using planar mapping as there were a few of them. Instead of importing the Mudbox sculpted detail as maps I ended up importing the level 1 subdivision of my rocks as .obj files into Maya and re-unwrapping them. Simple silhouettes were all that I needed but it might have been faster to figure out how to combine my Mudbox map and Photoshop map for applying as one map onto my first boxes.



Paint Effects for Grass and Trees

Week 11

Using the stargazing scenario, we challenged ourselves to see if we could translate the style which we wanted into 3D. Sorcha and Aidan worked on the characters while Molly and I worked on the environment.

For the environment, I started by focusing on the foreground. I blocked out where the rocks would be and moved some vertices around on a plane until it resembled the shape of the ground in my painting. I figured that it would be good to try and match my painting as closely as possible as I had already made a lot of compositional decisions while painting it.

I tackled the grass next and discovered Paint Effects, as I discussed in my post Paint Effects for Stargazing Environment. I found that the direction of the grass followed the direction of the stroke so it was better to paint stokes towards the focal point for compositional flow. I experimented with making different shapes with the tube’s attributes until I made a suitable grass shape, length and elevation.

Grass painted from left to right with no planned flow:

Grass painted with flow towards the characters:

Simple colours with a directional light:

As I learned from Mastering Autodesk Maya 2016 I was unable to use light linking with paint effects. I could unlink the light from the ground though and use incandescence to match its colour to the shadow colour.


Maya software render

This seemed to work well enough for the rocks also until I needed to use displacement maps which I’ll talk about in a different post. I rendered the grass separately in Maya software renderer and composited a texture in After Effects.

After I had some form of usable grass I moved onto tackling the rocks and then the trees. For the trees, I similarly spent some time editing the shapes of Paint Effects tubes to make the appearance of evergreen trees.


Trial and Error

Once I had a tree shape which I liked I looked up how I could save these settings as my own custom brush. This is the closest way that I’ve found to make my own brushes but I would still like to be able to paint with my own geometry made from scratch.

To animate the trees I used the turbulence attribute similar to the grass. The main challenge here was trying to make the trees look like they were in the same wind as the grass but reacting differently/slower due to their weight.

Turbulence too fast:

Adjusting the turbulence attributes:

For adding texture in After Effects, I had thought that using a background shader to shade the rocks with no shadows would work to create an alpha channel but in the end I needed to convert the Paint Effects to polygons and use surface shaders in order to make selectable areas. Using what I had learned about in my blog post Alpha Channels, Masks and Mattes, I was able to use these white/rgb shaded renders of the grass and trees as mattes for a canvas texture which I had created in Photoshop.

This was the composited result:


I don’t like how flat the trees look so I would like to return and continue experimenting with making the light catch foliage in a suitable way.



Office Stress Part 02: Try Again

Week 10

I wasn’t happy with how my previous take on the ‘stressed scenario’ was working out so I started again with a composition in mind which would tell a story with both Julie and William as the focal point. Before, I think I had struggled too much to include the window for pathos and didn’t choose the most interesting camera angle. I think that it’s good to vary the camera position so that we can frame the scene from new perspectives e.g. maybe we’re the cat looking down from a shelf or maybe we’re a passerby looking through the window from outside. Clarity of story always takes priority of course. Feng Zhu has a helpful lecture on planning camera angle for purpose which I blogged about in FZD Camera Placement.

This time around, I blocked the scene out in Maya so that I could play more with the camera angle and focal length with a clearer result. Sometimes I get distracted by perspective problems in my planning sketches.

I had an idea of what I wanted from looking at Pascal Campion’s piece Doubt, blogged about in Stargazing: Possible Palettes, so I was quickly able to choose a camera angle and lay down where I wanted the light. I liked the idea of Julie bringing warm light from the doorway into the stressful environment of William’s cold office as he works late into the night. I haven’t finished yet but I plan to paint Julie so that she’s being helpful in some way like bringing a coffee or a blanket and I need to clearly convey how stressed William is. I’ve given myself a challenging perspective to draw figures in. I also need to ensure that I don’t make William’s office too neat like I did in the last one.



Scenario: Stargazing

Easter Week 01 (26th March 2016)


Originally, one of the scenarios that we came up with was that William and Julie could be stargazing from their balcony on the flat, probably when they would be younger. I’ve blogged research for this earlier: Balcony Design Research.

Sorcha had suggested the possibility of starting the camera in birds-eye view, zoomed in on their faces so that you could see the reflection of the stars in their eyes. William and Julie would be on their backs, looking up at the sky and possibly lying on a mattress that they had pulled out onto the balcony for the occasion.

During one of our skype team meetings over Easter, the setting of the scenario changed: they could be stargazing from ruins on a high hill overlooking the city instead of their balcony. I did some pre-vis for what a parallax of this could look like in after effects.

Pre-vis camera 01

Pre-vis Camera 02

These were obviously done very quickly without any clean-up. I just wanted to get our idea in motion quickly for discussion and development. This was also the first week that I finally bought a subscription to the entire of creative cloud instead of just Photoshop by itself so it was like Christmas (at Easter) for me!:D No more relying on expired free trials for me.

Later in week 09:

I then developed some thumbnails to see if I could make a more interesting composition. I had started by doing my usual mix of blended values but then I thought back to Eytan Zana’s tutorial, blogged about in Eytan Zana Graphic Compositions, in which he builds compositions with hard edged shapes and textures. I found that I liked this way for simplifying the composition so as to see if it worked. I quite liked the thumbnail where they were sitting on a dolmen at an angle and surrounded by rock silhouetes so I went with this one. I think that starting traditionally in my sketchbook helped me gather my thoughts and momentum for theses thumbnails.

Sorcha suggested changing the silhouettes of William and Julie in the first image below which was a good call. We also discussed if the composition would be stronger without William pointing away from the focal point with his arm. I had tried to plan the flow so that it all came back to Julie and William but I did a quick trial of William’s arm down just to see the comparison. We decided that the arm pointing seemed to work okay.

When painting this, I tried to take influences from the different art styles that we had looked at so as to produce a more unique style for 10 Songs (temporary title of game). I was trying to emulate Pascal Campion and Jeremy Mann’s looser impressionistic styles for the foreground/background environment. Clearly I need to practice light catching and sub surface scattering on clouds. I purposefully left the lines on the characters so as to test if simple graphic characters with lines could work within a loosely painted environment. These could be developed further to have the line quality that we admired in Moebius’ and Josan’s (The Future is Now) work. I have blogged about examples of these artists’ works in Style Inspiration.

Once the planning of this pieces’ composition was complete, it only took me one day to research colour palettes and paint it. Looking at the amount of pain I had with the ‘office stress’ concept, I think that knowing when more initial planning and studies is needed for a piece before committing is important. Even so, a day for painting a concept might seem long in some situations so making this workflow more efficient is something to aim for. Making smaller circles.

Scenario: Office Stress Part 01

Easter Week 02

During one of our team skype meetings over Easter we divided out the scenarios that each of us could work on. I took the stress focused scenario that we had thought of and I also took the task of developing a mood and style painting of the star gazing scenario.

For the stress focused scenario we had thought of a scene that focused on William being stressed working in his office and Julie looking in on him. I started by making some thumbnails exploring how the different possible office layouts/designs and camera angles could influence the composition and clarity of the concept. However, while drawing this I struggled to visualise a version of this which didn’t fall into the stereotype where William is the hard working male and Julie is the passive housewife standing worried, looking in the door. I ended up only including William in the shot.

I found that trying to make this piece work was an awful time black hole that week. I went back and forth a lot between different local values, different light spreads and intensities and different colour palettes. These were the versions that were somewhat acceptable at the end.

Aidan and Sorcha gave some helpful feedback on this piece, pointing out that William’s arms looked slightly out of perspective and unnaturally straight and also that the office looked too neat and organised (inorganic and over-planned maybe?). Poor quality figure drawing aside, I think that the composition was the biggest let down of this piece in the end. I think I tried too hard to break the focal point between the window and William as I liked the idea of seeing the rain (possibly animated) through the window. I revisited this piece a few weeks later, which I will blog about soon (yup you’ve caught me, I’m posting these into the past with the wordpress time machine). I tried looking through Jeremy Birn’s book, Digital Lighting and Rendering (2013) that week for some inspiration to fix the lighting. The best alternative solution that I could think of was to perhaps make a more apparent/interesting divide between the light from the city outside and the light from inside.

Looking back, I think that I missed an opportunity to get feedback on my early thumbnail drawings that may have saved me a lot of time later in avoiding poor composition. Sometimes in an early drawing I feel reserved about showing anyone as I think it’s missing what I truly want to express in that piece. I need to remind myself though that even at the roughest stage of a piece, the initial elements of a shot should still work without any polish. I worry that I can’t express the potential of a shot in it’s early stage (also dependant on the observer to a degree) so I guess that this is an area of communication plus technical skill in which I need to improve upon.


Environment Concept: Student Flat

Easter Week 01

Jonny had expressed in a meeting that he wanted to see the happier side of their relationship in our concepts also so I tried to keep this in mind even for a concept of a room. I took positive feedback that Gareth had given on Sorcha’s student kitchen/living room concept and developed from the ideas that Sorcha had created e.g. the exposed red brick, the fairy-lights and the skyline open and visible through the window. I had also thought of including patterned wall hangings so Sorcha researched some patterns that I could use as inspiration.

I had put time into drawing vanishing points but still made perspective mistakes in areas like the TV. I had considered blocking it out in 3D as a base for drawing over (as Alec suggested) but at the same time I wanted to have the challenge so as to improve my drawing skills with no base. For this piece, I put time into planning the local values as part of my process which is something that I’ve often not put enough focus on. I had almost left this painting at the stage where it still had the black line art. I’m really glad that I didn’t now as it had a very murky and unwelcoming effect on the piece.

Rew Day (2012), which I talked about in an earlier post (link), was a great source of inspiration for the initial colour palette and also for the foreground framing elements. Throughout painting this piece I tried to keep a traditional media feel in the textures like in Rew Day (2012) and Le Gouffre (2014) (blogged about here: link). I ended up painting most of the colours on a hard light blending mode in order to retain the paper texture. Haha I’m not even sure if I could replicate this process as it’s not something that’s easy to control.