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cribbidaj

Finished Animated Short Film

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Hi All - attached is a finished animation accompanied by a track from my album "Whisper & Howl".  Posting in part because I'm somewhat proud of it, but also because I've got a lot of work and learning to do still with a number of aspects of this deep and thrilling software, and I'm hoping for valuable critiques of anything you all can give.  For my part, I feel the areas I need to concentrate on most at this juncture are lighting & rigging (I really need to start using fan bones in joints).  I'm a conscientious student of the animating process, but realize I am still at a relatively low bar when it comes to creating the "illusion of life".  This is due partly because of time constraints (and, of course, impatience - I attempt to create a 3+ minute animation instead of creating, say, 20secs of thoroughly worked out animation).  Please feel free to chime in with any or all suggestions.

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Hey that was impressive! Congratulations on getting a production done! That is what we all dream of doing when we buy A:M.

The TV character is scary! It reminds me of the stranger thing in "Stranger Things" 😀

I agree that the lighting would benefit from reworking. It is lit, but with an unnatural flat appearance that pulls out of the story. It is difficult to do one lighting setup that works for multiple shots. Lighting generally needs to be rethought for every shot.

There are many promising storytelling touches. I like that it is all done without dialog.

Sometimes i think different "staging" of the action would make things clearer. I had to re-watch it to catch the battery scene.

Here is a posing thing that stuck out to me as soon as I saw it....

She's pulling the table into view but she is leaning exactly backwards from how she would need to be leaning to do it.

image.png

 

 

I'm still not sure what happened at the end. Should I be?


I'm very impressed by the music production, that sounded very pro!

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Robert - thank you for taking the time to address this.  Your suggestion to have girl leaning back instead of forward pulling the table is spot on - your storyboard frame example amazingly gets the point across so well, and that will breathe life into that scene.  Should've been obvious to me, but . . . yeah, so much better - and funny!  A friend who is not a graphic artist or animator also said that the scenes look “flat”, so that aspect of lighting is obviously something I don’t have a handle on.  I’ll have to dive into the lighting subforums to gain some knowledge.

As far as the meaning of the ending, there’s really not much to say except that it was my intention for the reveal that the little girl is also a machine to be shocking in a “Twilight Zone” sort of way & that the TV Head is building companions in a lab.  Sort of a “meta” ending -  it’s really not that clever, and it’s kind of a story trope at this juncture.  Perhaps I didn’t articulate it well enough in my storytelling.

Thank you, as always, for your help & input!

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Hey Chris, I just gave the short a watch and there's a lot of promising stuff going on there. I love the overall concept, although I was unsure if it was meant to feel sinister or maybe melancholy.  

You've got some nice looking particle effects going on, did you do those in A:M or in After Effects?

I'm no expert but for what it's worth I'd say you could make the hair on the characters much more lifelike by using a different texture, the current one on the girl doesn't seem to work as hair. I totally get where you're coming from about becoming impatient when animating, but as you said yourself the animation would benefit from some more time being put into it.  

It looks like you've used a combination of a texture and hair for the grass. It might look better if you crank up the density of the grass/hair so you see more of it than the texture. Although that would increase render times. Also I love the wind blowing through the longer grass, that looks great.

Anyway, If you either plan to go back to this one and tweak it or to move on to something else, I look forward to seeing more of your stuff. 

P.S

Did you write the music for the short? I saw you played the piano in the credits. If so, hats off to you.

 

 

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22 hours ago, cribbidaj said:

... so that aspect of lighting is obviously something I don’t have a handle on.  I’ll have to dive into the lighting subforums to gain some knowledge.

A book that I found to be very helpful in understanding how computer lighting worked and can be used to advantage is Jeremy Birn's Digital Lighting and Rendering

I have a thread that translates his terminology (2nd edition) into A:M language...

https://forums.hash.com/topic/37134-jeremy-birns-digital-lighting-and-rendering/?tab=comments#comment-320978

 

Used copies of the Second edition can be had very cheaply now. I have not read the Third edition yet.

 

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12 hours ago, Wildsided said:

Hey Chris, I just gave the short a watch and there's a lot of promising stuff going on there. I love the overall concept, although I was unsure if it was meant to feel sinister or maybe melancholy.  

You've got some nice looking particle effects going on, did you do those in A:M or in After Effects?

I'm no expert but for what it's worth I'd say you could make the hair on the characters much more lifelike by using a different texture, the current one on the girl doesn't seem to work as hair. I totally get where you're coming from about becoming impatient when animating, but as you said yourself the animation would benefit from some more time being put into it.  

It looks like you've used a combination of a texture and hair for the grass. It might look better if you crank up the density of the grass/hair so you see more of it than the texture. Although that would increase render times. Also I love the wind blowing through the longer grass, that looks great.

Anyway, If you either plan to go back to this one and tweak it or to move on to something else, I look forward to seeing more of your stuff. 

P.S

Did you write the music for the short? I saw you played the piano in the credits. If so, hats off to you.

 

 

Hi Dan - thank you for your thoughts.  Your suggestions are spot on - the hair on little girl was not something I addressed in depth.  I'm running A:M on a 2014 Macbook Pro, and some load/render times give me anxiety - hahahaha! - no one to blame but myself!  I created the particles with Particle Illusion and imported into A:M.  A:Ms particle creation/rendering is very cool, and I've gone through "The Art of A:M" several times since first diving in, but I'm impatient/lazy, and, like all of us, am juggling multiple things all the time, so . . . I really hope to complete a short all in A:M sometime.  Also, yes the grass is both a texture decal and hair.  Due to running on my older system, I am dealing with load/render times that are difficult at times.  You're right, the hair/grass density should be higher.

I'm not ready to dive back into this particular story, though I should at some point go back and try to make it better - we'll see.  That's why I've posted with my invitation to critique.  Either way, your's and Robert's suggestions will be invaluable tackling this or any other creations I decide to move forward on.

The music accompanying this particular animation is my own composition, entitled "Frabjous Day", though it really doesn't have anything to do with Lewis Carroll's poem.  I just like the sound and enthusiasm of the phrase.  I'm a musician - pianist/singer/composer - by trade, so . . . the song is from my latest album, "Whisper & Howl".  It's an album of all instrumental music, though my previous albums are more singer/songwriter endeavors.

Thanks man!

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12 hours ago, robcat2075 said:

A book that I found to be very helpful in understanding how computer lighting worked and can be used to advantage is Jeremy Birn's Digital Lighting and Rendering

I have a thread that translates his terminology (2nd edition) into A:M language...

https://forums.hash.com/topic/37134-jeremy-birns-digital-lighting-and-rendering/?tab=comments#comment-320978

 

Used copies of the Second edition can be had very cheaply now. I have not read the Third edition yet.

 

Man - this is really helpful.  Thanks Robert!  I'll dig in

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Firstly, congratulations on finishing a short film, that's a big deal.  It's a monumental amount of work.   That's why we tend to see more stills and models of AM stuff than we do movies.   

I think you've got an interesting idea here, but I wasn't sure what was happening.   

At first, due to the lighting and the way the girl popped out of the trap door, I thought it was going to be horror.   Then I thought, oh ok you're going for a buddy/friend adventure short.   Then at the end I thought maybe we were back to some kind of horror?   And then I thought maybe you were trying to say something about TV making puppets out of us?  

Like I said, I think you've got the basis of a really interesting idea here.  But, I feel like I watched two different movies at the same time. 

I think it would benefit either from being reworked as full-blown horror, or to play up the buddy aspect of it and leave off the confusing ending about the child and people being puppets of the TV (why then would it need another puppet to put a battery in it?)

I liked the design of the TV character, if you are going for scary it looks creepy. There is a little bit of an uncanny-valley thing going on with the little girl.   I think maybe having a 2nd look at the lighting/texturing of her would benefit, especially if you're going for cute and not creepy.   I 2nd Rob's comments on showing her pulling/dragging the table rather than pushing.   If you're not sure on how to animate something, act it out.   

So to recap,  stuff I liked:  I think there is a more interesting story here, you need to decide on whether it is a horror story or a buddy picture and then go full bore with that idea.  Number two:  character design is cool (but maybe have another pass on the girl).

Stuff that is not working currently:  lighting needs some work, the pulling instead of pushing thing with the animation, again: figure out which story you're telling and commit to that fully.  I was confused by the ending.  

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Roger - thank you for your thorough thoughts and response.  I believe part of my difficulty in storytelling is that I'm drawn to abstract ideas that do not necessarily translate into a specific outcome or genre.  That said, obviously I am lacking in the storytelling department, illustrated by the fact that all of you guy's responses are similar in discussing that you're not sure what is happening and what the "spirit" of the animation is about.  I will take these observations to heart and try to figure it out.  I'm not a scriptwriter, so perhaps some study in storytelling, script writing, and storyboarding are in order.  For my part, with this animated short I was trying to tell a creepy, abstract story in a whimsical way that accomplishes something different than a typical music video.  The idea "let the audience interpret as they may" perhaps in this case is a cop-out and doesn't work without me having a deeper understanding of storytelling.  Your comment "figure out which story your telling and commit to it fully" does not fall on deaf ears.  I truly appreciate and will have these comments in mind as I either try to better this specific story and animation, or continue with other ideas.

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Chris,

I'm a bit late to the feedback party but I enjoyed your short film.

You kept me interested (with minor exception) to the very end.**

 

Others have commented on the style/look and the one thing in that arena that I initially thought could use some finessing is the contrast.

The idea being that if we were to place a dot of light on the object/area where we want the audience to look all other factors should support that.

Easier said than done.. I know!

In reviewing the short to look for specific examples to illustrate what I'm talking about I was a little surprised to see that your setup was much more on point that my memory had recalled.  In particular, I thought you incorporated some nice use of silhouetted shapes and that helped in reading the action tremendously.

I do think that the girls face could be lit more perhaps simply by adjusting the ambiance intensity.  

There are some instances where the girl looks rather sinister and while this might be intentional I'd say that the shadows/lighting should have a source and one in the film is very obvious... the robot/creature's face screen.  The contrast then for purpose of mood might then largely be controlled by the background and environment which if darker would make the characters -pop- out of the scene***

 

Robert suggested Jeremy Brin's book and I wholeheartedly agree.

If there is only one thing you get from his book however I believe it should be the methodology of turning off (or even deleting) all lights except one and then perfect that light to the greatest extent possible.  When we think we have that light set ideally then turn it off (maybe renaming it in a way that helps us recall it's primary purpose.  

TIP:  In current A:M releases we can Right Click and Duplicate Lights.

This is a useful way to finesse lighting starting from a known location/setting.

For instance, we might duplicate a primary light and move it slightly to the left or right and then adjust it's color or intensity.

This is how such stylistic lighting as red hues on one side of characters face and blue on the other can be created.

The primary light then lights the main part of the face so we can accentuate the facial expression and help it read.

 

Moving on to the story a little.

Love the shots/replays of the pratfalls echoing the main action as seen on the robot's screen.  Nice.

I really like the twist ending but agree that it isn't entirely clear what is happening.

This is too bad because it's a nice surprise and I think unexpected by most in the audience (hence the reason some aren't quite following).

How to accentuate?

One idea might be to consider the girls eyes... especially after spending so much time peering into the -eye- of the robot creature.

After the switching off of the girl (which could use a little more highlighting... perhaps zooming in to a closer close up?) a view of the girls eyes as they 'turn off'... changing from normal eyes to the black eyes in the subsequent scene.  This could then be echoed in the other characters in the final shots... their black unliving eyes could also be emphasized as the camera moves into/through the scene.  Lot's of opportunity to really sell the ending there!

 

** I seem to recall a few transitions that had me slightly losing interest.  The one that stands out in my mind is where the interior changes to exterior just prior to the characters going outside.  The establishing shot is important but I wonder how that might be played up a little so as not to slow down the pace too much... slowing is good... but it seems to slow a bit too much.  One idea might be to start the film with the establishing shot of the exterior of the building so that when we see them exit later there is no question of where they are.  They start in the building... exit and consider the stars and the heavens... and then... into the finale.  This is a nice opportunity here as most of the film is inside the building.  It is this climactic movement when they move outside of building that sets up the punchline/ending.

 

*** I'm still not sure exactly what I might do with regard to background, lighting and such if this was my project but my initial thought is to render without a background so that the background can be manipulated independently (via compositing) to more easily control the mood and focus of the scene.  For purists that want everything rendered -in camera- this can still be done by inserting a 'color card' at the back of the scene which could be manipulated; even with decaled images where needed.  One reason that compositing works well with backgrounds is that blur can be added independently to control the DOF (Depth of Field) and pull the focus forward to where it is needed.

 

A final thought regarding the comments on 'flatness'.

It's always good to consider at least three levels of depth in any scene:

- Background

- Foreground

- Character space

It can also help to move the camera slightly off center and then point it at the characters.

Then converging lines in the background, foreground and throughout the scene can have a chance to direct the viewer's eye to where it needs to be from shot to shot and scene to scene.  

Having the camera straight on (or perpendicular to the BG, FG and Character planes) is often best used for comedy whereas more dynamic camera angles enliven the environment by allowing the audience to feel as if they could move through the scene.  A thought here is that your story starts out as light hearted and even comical... with the robot creature echoing the shots on his face screen... so those moments lend themselves to flatter camera setups.  It might be interesting to see how you might transition from the flatter camera to more dynamic as the story unwinds to it's ending.

 

All this... just random observations.

Not necessarily suggesting anything should be implemented.  :)

Bottom line:  Nice job.  I was entertained.

Keep up the good work and I'll look forward to your future animations.

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The hair... sort of reminded me of hair on a porcelain figurine. It is like the exterior volume of the hair without being every strand.

That is neither good nor bad, I saw it as a style choice.

 

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8 hours ago, Rodney said:

Rodney - thank you for your in depth response.  That's a lot of brilliant insight for me to contemplate.

Quote: [** I seem to recall a few transitions that had me slightly losing interest.  The one that stands out in my mind is where the interior changes to exterior just prior to the characters going outside.]

I love the idea of establishing the tone of the whole piece with an outside shot of the house at the beginning, and to let the viewer grasp the environs a bit better.  Nice!

Quote: [this can still be done by inserting a 'color card' at the back of the scene which could be manipulated; even with decaled images where needed.  One reason that compositing works well with backgrounds is that blur can be added independently to control the DOF (Depth of Field) and pull the focus forward to where it is needed.]

While I understand the use of compositing, I am not familiar with inserting a 'color card'.  I assume this technique is for the movement of the background in a scene to seem flawless with camera movements, but I really have no knowledge of this.  I'll do some research.  The DOF is something I have a very passing, general idea of, but really don't grasp how to utilize this for blurring the background to accentuate foreground actions - I do understand the concept - just need to experiment I guess.

In short, I'm going to spend some time in this thread trying to grasp some of the ideas you all have put forth and continue experimenting and studying.  I'm really thankful for this software and all of your diligence in answering questions and giving advice on these forums.

 

 

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Robert!  I like that comparison regarding the hair style being like a porcelain figure's!

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Hi, Chris, an impressive effort!  Interesting character design, and a nice creepy/eerie feel to it, and an interesting twist with the definite "Twilight Zone" feel.

My first suggestion would be to put a little more furniture in the first room.  I think that would give it a little more homey and lived-in feel.

The second suggestion is to try not to get the feet sliding on the walks.  No one else mentioned it, so maybe it's just me, but that kind of pulls me out of the world.  Getting it right is really hard unless you have inverse kinematics on your feet.  Even then, it's still hard.

Getting the scene of the battery installation and the final scene where she is one of many other robots to read better would help.  For the battery, maybe a bit more of a close-up on the battery so it's clear what it is would help.  For the end, maybe it needs more time to read.  It would be nice to have him set up one of the other robots for another scene, but I don't think you could squeeze it in given the song length.

I look forward to seeing more!

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Hi Chris - thank you for your insights!  Yes, giving a character proper weight in animation is an aspect of the process that I have studied and continue to study, but my knowledge and results are limited.  There are so many factors in this regard - knowing anatomy and movement, creating a workable model, and utilizing inverse kinematics.  I normally gravitate to David Rogers method of rigging the legs: http://am-guide.com/SetUp/, which I found years ago and utilize to some success.  I've got books on anatomy by Hogarth which I study, and am currently fascinated with David Simmon's "Squetch Rig" - in part because his modeling of the "Squetch Sam" character is exquisite - clean, precise, and highly animatable.

I also agree that the battery scene and the ending in my short could be fleshed out to provide a more cohesive story.  Hope to soon address these and other fixable issues suggested in the earlier responses.

Thanks!

Chris

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Wow nice something I could never do 

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