…The characters, that is.
It’s been some time since the last update, in some ways in seems like equally a-lot and not-a-lot has happened in that time, but it feels good to write one of these as it feels like some momentum has been made, a further step has been taken and to a certain degree, the plate has been cleaned; it’s ready for a fresh helping.
Some new things are: I bought a house, a couple of cats (don’t ask) and have also been working on some other non-film projects. I bought the house in September. It’s my first and most of my time during the latter part of last year/the beginning of this – has been spent building, decorating and furnishing and not much time has been spent working on the film. Prior to the house purchase I also began work writing and working on a short form animation series project which was intended to be one of the simplest, least time consuming, least effort requiring projects, which began escalating with new ideas and breadth to a point where I needed to step back for a moment and consider it more seriously.
That project, I’ve called, ‘Dulcet Tones’. I wont go into it in too much detail here given that this post is supposed to be a film update; I will mention however that the genesis behind it was to create something that is much more conducive to the work of a small studio (or in my case solo), by leveraging a much simpler style, construction and also working on it with the idea of starting small and expanding in stages both in terms of writing and actual character/prop/set assets. I’ve made a decent start of this project and although for the time being it’s been put on the backburner, I’m adamant that I’ll release – at least the first in the series this year.
With the house now coming along and being more comfortable to live in, the past month has been really productive film-wise. Last week I finally completed the weight painting for all the characters. I hate weight painting, it’s not in the least bit a creative/fun task. It could probably be used as an alternative form of punishment, perhaps instead of a jail sentence, certain low level offenders can be sent to animation studios. Though it’s my own doing, the type of characters I’ve gone for for the film require, and are better for it in the end. I still have a fair amount of technical, non-creative/fun tasks to complete over the next couple of weeks but thankfully there’s some more enjoyable work ahead shortly to look forward to. I find if I set myself achievable goals over a week (Thurs-to-Sun) I can get through it. This week my goals are: to give all the characters without teeth, gums and tongues, their teeth, gums and tongues, to provide characters (without) their open mouth corrective morph (to help with a little realism) and also update all but one character with an updated semi-automatic lip sync set-up. Filmmaker/Animator M dot Strange created an automatic lip-sync solution for his latest film, ‘I am Nightmare’, which he gave out for free (the auto lip-sync solution) and I adapted it and implemented it into all my characters. Check out the video test using it. You will see that the mouth simply opens and closes based on the amplitude of the referenced audios’ waveform, which is half the work done there and I think looks pretty decent for what is essentially loading a .wav file. However I’ve since updated my lip-sync rig so that I leverage the auto lip-sync functionality and layer over the top viseme (speech) shapes – so that the lips form the words. So my new set-up is semi-automatic, but the manual work is limited and very intuitive.
So that’s this weeks’ work. My overall goal at the moment is to have all the characters 100%, good to go; which I’m not a million miles from. There’s still the clothes and expression morphs to go, but having the weight painting completed and off the agenda is a big and encouraging step. It’s looking great too, the rendered test frames are what have been keeping me going. I love the style of the 3D and the grading I’ve decided on. Keeping the same quality level is taking time, but with the recent progress I’ve been making with the more mundane tasks, the fun stuff should be a breeze.