Don't think this one has been done 2001 times before ...

Proof of Capability?

Industry feedback on the first round of promoting  noted some of the strong visual imagery as well as the challenges of a feature of this magnitude. It was suggested a useful next step was to do fully animated storyboards for several scenes. This required me to master some new skills and take the "animations" I had done so far to a whole new level.

I thought I was well placed as I had been experimenting with a new and more rich character posing program for another project and this program had some great animation tools in it. So I set out to produce a "proof of capability" that would show myself it was possible for me to produce a fully animated sequence at adequate quality.

JB's Birthday and Disaster (not the same thing)

Things were going swimmingly good and the opportunity arose to quickly do something fun for JB's birthday. I set out and had even created the flyout through the rainbow gate and was marvelling at the fantastic glow and light fuzz effects when disaster struck. Tom was not blinking. He's meant to blink there. And now I look more closely, he's not smiling. What happened to his smile??? I've only got 2 days before her birthday. How can Tom do this to me? Bastard!

To cut a frustrating story very short, while I could transfer all the "bone" movements from my posing program to my scene set program I could not transfer any of the "morph" movements. And it is the "morphs" that give all the expressions and speech and a swag of other things. As I joked to the kids over dinner that week, "Tom mumbling 'Happy birthday Jennine' through tight lips lacks a certain something".

So there I was. Fukusihima'd  so to speak. I spent the best part of a week experimenting to see exactly what was and was not transferring between programs, looking at both what was going out and what was coming in. And I sought assistance from the program techs and the ever-useful forums. The upshot was that these two programs just were not going to play together at this point in time so I needed another scene set program and needed to learn it fast.

Some hundreds of dollars later, and with many a late night, I think I have been able to convince myself that it is possible. Capability is proved. Sure there is much I can refine in technique and skill but the outcome was entertaining enough and not too cartoony.

I am disappointed to leave behind (for now) my old scene set program. But I am very happy with most of the outcomes in the new program and with the ease with which I can transfer characters and their antics from the build-and-pose program to the scene set. The one thing I am wistful about is the old program's light and glow effects. They were truly awesome and while the new one is OK it is just not the same. Some of the old program's naturalistic material effects, such as moving water, were better than what I've done so far in the new program but I know I'm still a young elf here so am sure I can get closer with a bit more time and effort.

At the end of the day I was only 3 weeks late with a pretty respectable offer that the "client" appeared to appreciate.

Mission accomplished?

Definitely No! This was just a way-point. A proof that it was possible and I was capable of doing it. I should just jump right in now to start a MESSIAH scene, but I'm going to complete the "Proof" I had originally envisaged before JB's birthday took me on a merry dance. Tom will do another little monologue but this time his eyes will not go haywire as he admires his conversation partner, his wing movements will look more natural, his quadruped movements will be more pronounced, more smooth and less "swimming in molasses"; and when he lands and takes off, it will look more bird-like. I also learnt a valuable lesson about camera placement for coverage and editing that I was not prepared to spend a 6 hour render rectifying but which I know has to start right next time. All up, I expect Tom's next offer to be quite a bit better.

Technical snippets

The old scene set program was a Monster! when it comes to hogging memory and I'd committed (ie paid for) upgrading from 12GB RAM to 24GB RAM just 2 days before I found out I could not use the old program. The new program is much more civilised so now I have 12GB of unused RAM on my motherboard and another 12GB unused in my old hardware box. Lucky that 24GB of RAM was ridiculously cheap.

If the share market ever chooses to move up or Europe finally cuts Greece loose, for just AUD600 I can DOUBLE (sorry I just dribbled with excitement) my processing capacity on my existing motherboard. 6 hour renders become 3 hour renders. 10 minute drafts become 5 minute drafts. All without render farming. Come on Germany. Foreclose. You know you want to!