Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pilot: And So It Begins

     Well hello there world! I will start this brand new blog with the customary introduction of myself. My name is Nicholas Arbeiter, Nick for short, and I am currently about to graduate from UCF's Visual Language/Character Animation undergraduate program. This program is designed to give a selected group of students the opportunity to not only create an animated short, but to take them through the entire process of it's production. We took our shorts (our class made two) from story conception all the way to full length, rendered and composited short.The title of the production I was a part of was Gaiaspora. It was one of the craziest, most stressful, most rewarding, and most fun experiences in my life to date.

     I've wanted to animate since I was in sixth grade. Ideally, my plans are to eventually be working for a big studio animating during the day, and then coming home and being able to work on my own personal projects. These projects I would work up to a point where I could then take them somewhere and say "Hey, would you like to produce something like this?" I have a lot of story ideas, and I want to be able to share them with others.

     While on Gaiaspora, I was given the opportunity to do more than I ever thought I'd be doing in relation to the animation industry. Since the program took us throughout the entire process of creating a short, I discovered a couple of other areas that I excelled at and enjoyed doing as well as animation. I was the Assistant Production Manager for the short, and this meant that I kept track of the entire file structure for the movie. I was also the editor, and I fell into that role because of my many years of previous video editing experience. But the two positions I grew the most from were animation and compositing. I was able to be a part of the animation team, and was able to animate Bob, the short's gangly main character. I learned a lot about animating with a process by animating him. And I learned how beneficial reference footage can be (plus, it's fun to shoot)! I was also the sole animator of Gaispora's secondary character, which was a plant-bulb like monstrosity. Animating the "Mother Bulb" taught me A LOT about overlapping action in animation by having to animate the leaves to create an organic feel for the character. Compositing was something I never expected to ever be doing. But there came a day when we needed someone to start looking into that aspect of post-production, and I decided to fill that need. At the time, I knew nothing about compositing. Now, I think I know a little. 

     As I said, I've wanted to do animation for a while now. This short gave me the opportunity to finally learn how to animate, and to discover my process for animation. Originally, I was doing animation with an overabundance of keys, and there was no semblance to how I was putting them on controls. I became a little wiser my second semester of 3D animating, using the method of animating dubbed "pose-to-pose." This yielded a better process for animating, but I seemed to have a hard time of it when I needed to offset keys to build in overlapping action. Then in my final semester, I adopted a more "me" process for animating. Thinking back to my days of 2D animation (the first semester inside the program), I realized I approached animation of that type in the straight-ahead mentality. I knew where I wanted to go with an animation, and I just sat down and started drawing from frame one. Now, my current method for animation has a bit of both the pose-to-pose style and the straight-ahead approach. I will do a sequence of main poses, and then when I start to do the in betweens, I will build in offsets and am ok with not having everything on the same keys. 

     Compositing was a whole other ball game. Animation I at lest started off with an idea of what I was doing, and I have a good eye for what feels right or fluid about movement. When I decided to get into compositing, I knew absolutely nothing about it other than we used a program called Nuke. From then on, I began to teach myself as much as I could about Nuke as it pertained to the short. This led me to create a number of different methods for saving us to re-render shorts, or just render fixes for them. One of the biggest solutions I discovered was in 3D Nuke and camera tracking. Once I figured out how to utilize the camera tracker, I was able to put backgrounds into scenes that would actually move as if they were naturally in the shot. In some shots, I also had to set up multiple background plate cards for camera moves that involved a lot of panning. I  feel like I'm a master of Z-Depth animation inside Nuke now as well, and was able to add to a lot of shots by giving them depth of field. One of my favorite shots to comp involved animating a grid-warp to shape an image that was a reflection inside of the lenses of Bob's gas mask to actually make it appear to be shaped like the lens's plastic. My top favorite however, and the shot that I am most proud of for how it came out and how much I had to figure out and animate in nuke, involved using 3D nuke to create fog that the camera actually passed through. All of the fog was 2D, however, I was able to make it appear as though the camera of the animated shot was actually traveling through a haze, as if it were in the Maya scene and rendered within the exr.

     Ok, I feel like this is long enough for a first post. I apologize for the structure of this one, I feel like it's a paper I had to write. I promise the next ones will be more like this last paragraph here. Just had to get this introduction out of the way! This blog is created for me to showcase not only my work, but my processes and problem solving of solutions. The blog is titled "Pose to Post," and as that title suggests, you will see a good deal of animation and compositing related posts. I'll make postings about all of the things I've mentioned here, and I'll try to do that asap. I will most likely also show off some of my storyboarding as well, which is my third field of choice to work in. This is pretty exciting for me, and I can't wait to start sharing this stuff and seeing what you have to say! I hope you enjoy the blog as time goes on, and I hope I can also share something with you that will help you on your own productions or shots! 

~Nick A.