All about the title


All about the title

Was exploring on what I could possibly call the movie and had a massive list of options! Some that I liked best were:Twinkle twinkle little shop One smile fits all Forecast : Cloudy

I decided to go for on "One Smile Fits All" as it derives from the phrase "One size fits all" which makes the shop connection. Most importantly, to say that "One smile fits all, and thats your real one."

Did a title plate for the short:

It has the "come buy from us" feel and makes it more relevant to the whole buying smiles theme!


Shops and Props


Shops and Props

25/05/13 I had to crowd my scenes and make my shops look like shops. I decided to design the poster of the shop on photoshop and import it as a texture. After exploring a few options of colors and fonts, I decided on this one:

Added the varying smileys according to the size of the smile! I took a while to find the perfect font for the Smiles shop board and I ended up with this: 

It was also important to set up promotional boards that lead him to the shop :

I also wanted to put clouds in the scene so designed some quick models and increased incandescence on them so they fit in more in the background.

This was the final look of the shop environment:

I was quite pleased with it! I wanted to put some other shops on the street. So I designed some for all your bubbles and teeth needs:

For the park environment, I decided to give the pond an ocean shader to reflect the ducks. I also made a board that says don't feed the ducks and designed pyramid shaped grass to fit in with the rest of the enviroment with varying shades of green to keep it consistent with the shop background. Here is what that looks like (without the clouds for now!):  

Quickly rigged a toy duck to make them movable enough to suit my purpose. That was fun!


Texture and Render tests - Ambient Occlusion


Texture and Render tests - Ambient Occlusion

23/05/2013 It turned out that I could get really good results if I rendered out two layers - on color layer and one ambience occlusion layer. This would require putting them together with blending layers during compositing. Also, an ambient occlusion layer alone was taking a minute and a half to render. My friend at Rhythm and Hues suggested that I plug in Maya's Ambient Occlusion texture ( mib_amb_occlusion) into the ambient node of each object texture using the hypershade. That took a bit of time because I had already textured everything using lambert/phong and I had to plug in each one individually for each shot. I didn't have a sun and sky so I used a photoshop image plane to attatch it to the camera to fake the sky. It was totally worth it! These are the results:

The renders were only taking about 30-40 seconds for each frame which is great!


Rough Cut - After Correction


Rough Cut - After Correction

Steve Roberts, our tutor, suggested I change a few things:

- When the character comes out with small smile, cut in to his face to show small smile, cut back out to show can splash.

- Make hand look as if it goes into purse and comes out.

- Bit of anticipation up before he falls into hole then make fall slightly faster.

- When skipping, he needs to go out of shot before cut to ice cream licking.

- The girls point of view shot of the ice cream on her dress is confusing.

- Make the girl look more angry in the long shot as man backs away.

Here is the animatic after incorporating some of Steve's and Matt's suggestions:

Some parts of the animation turned out decent like when he spots her and when he steps back from the car.


Texture and Render tests - Physical Sun and Sky


Texture and Render tests - Physical Sun and Sky

16/0513 I wasn't sure about how to go about rendering my movie. I knew I wanted it to be nice and bright and colorful, but at the same time well composed with all the elements fitting in together. I had talk with Sylvia Bartoli, a guest lecturer, and she suggested that the quickest thing to do would be to use Maya's Physical Sun and Sky. She gave me a really nice tutorial for beginners. Take a look here. I did a few tests : 

Although I really liked the direction this was headed, there were two problems:

1. There wasn't enough control with Maya's sun and sky. I wasn;t able to control intensities the way I wanted and it was always either too bright or too dull. Also, there wasn't a way of removing shadows, which seems a bit silly. A way to go about it would be to replace the automatic sun light with your own direction light, but it wasn't the same.

2. To use it, I would have to have final gather on to get good quality and the renders were taking a minute and a half. I just didn't have enough time to get that done.


Rough Cut Crit and feedback from my mentor - Matthew Lewis


Rough Cut Crit and feedback from my assigned mentor - Matthew Lewis

09/05/13 This is the rough cut crit that we had to present in class today. I incorporated Paul Chung's feedback and also suggestions from my session with Brad Silby and Emma Ewing.

Its much shorter and clearer now. The general opinion was that I'm headed in the right direction and that I should keep going.

10/05/13 I met my mentor Matt Lewis today and showed him my rough cut. He gave me some wonderfully detailed feedback on my short:

"Shot1: Swap the walk cycle for the other one that you showed me.
Shot2: I'd have him look up as he walks along and then stop, rather than stopping and then looking up as the latter suggests he was planning to go to the shop already.
Shot4: Start with his hand closer to his wallet, and his head looking up. The previous shot was showing his viewpoint so it's a bit jarring to see him looking at something else straight after. He could have got his wallet out whilst looking at the sign but not already be looking at the money. I'd also get rid of the head nod before the shoulder shrug. More than one gesture here will look very busy.
Shot5: As I mentioned the camera move looks quite artificial to me so I'd either avoid it or replace it with something simpler like a slight zoom.
Shot6: I think you need a gesture between feeling his face and looking at the board to emphasise his realisation/frustration at what just happened. Clenching his fist in anger for example.
Shot9: As he falls, have him translating forward a bit to show he still has momentum. Have the camera overshoot briefly and then come back. As if the cameraman didn't expect him to fall down the hole
Shot10: Avoid having both arms doing the same actions simultaneously. I'd have him wipe his face with his forearm and then briefly touch his mouth with his other hand.
Shot11: I'd suggest having him step into shot so that you could see his arm and part of his back. You could then start the next shot's action in this one and they would flow better together.
Shot12: Start with his hand deep in his pocket, leaning over as he rummages around for the money.
Shot15:  Love his expression in this and the gusto with which he eats the ice cream. I'd arch his back a little so his shoulders where further back and there was more of a curve to his spine. For continuity with the next shot, he should look slightly to the side when he notices the woman, rather than straight ahead.
Shot17: Really like the way you've conveyed the woman's surprise turning into disgust so quickly. Good work. I'd say the shot should finish with her looking back at her book though.
Shot18: Rather than dropping off because he held it out too long, I think it should come off as the result of a second more insistent offering. I.e He should jab the cone towards her. As it is, this shot is a bit dull as you have to wait so long for something to happen. It's a key part of the story so you have to make sure that you've got the viewer's attention.
Shot19: Her reaction is good but it should be more instantaneous. you'd feel the cold ice cream before you saw it. Shot20: I don't think this shot is needed. It's quite clear what's happened so you don't need the close up of the ice cream to explain it.
Shot22: Have his eyes darting about so that he looks panicked. Also have him start to lean back and draw himself in so that his body language looks less open even though he's still smiling.
Shot25: The camera should be much closer in on the old lady in this shot and for continuity, the two characters should be closer together. I'd start with the main character stepping into shot.
Shot26: You need to show the collision between the stick and foot in this shot.
Shot27: His fall is good but the old lady has to be visible in this shot as well. Though she could be stepping back out of shot, recoiling from the collision with her stick.
Shot28: He needs to rebound more from his fall and the old lady should be still reacting to him tripping over her stick at the start of the shot.
Shot29: He should go to a different position after he's been trodden on.
Shot30: I don't think the woman should pause before hitting him with the ice cream. It would have more force if her stepping in and the jab with the ice cream where all one fluid movement. She could also turn with a flourish and walk off primly. I'd also suggest angling the main character so that more of his face is visible. You can also cut this slightly before he's completely out of shot.
Shot34: Rather than punching the wall have him brace his hand against it so that he can fling the door open with force."

I feel really grateful for the feedback and can't wait to incorporate these changes. Although there might not be enough time to do everything that was suggested, but I'll try to do my best!


Paul Chung - Talk and Feedback


Paul Chung - Talk and Feedback

02/05/13 We had an amazing session with Paul Chung, who has worked on movies like Space Jam, Madagascar, Shrek and Megamind. Here is his show reel very awesome show reel:

The talk was great as Paul talked about 3d pipelines and how things go about in major animation studios. He spoke about two different types of casting systems (for dividing work in feature films):

1. Character Based Systems -  This pipeline has teams for each character in the movie. So there are character leads, who make sure that the character remains consistent throughout the movie. They are in charge of their respective character animation teams, who work on that character only.

2. Sequence based systems - The pipeline has teams based on shot sequences in the movie. There is a supervisor for each animation sequence who has animation teams working for that sequence and is also responsible for collaborating with supervisors from other departments (VFX, lighting, etc.) to make sure the quality of the sequence remains consistent throughout. This pipeline might not be preferable for character performance consistency but is better form character dynamics of different characters in the shot.

He also talked about how a pre-launch (before the movie is moved to production) takes place. This happens after the shot assignment. At the launch, your respective sequence is screened where the director goes through the intentions of each shot. Paul mentioned a to-do list that you should follow before you go in for the pre-launch:

1. Check out the whole sequence in pre-viz. Make sure how your shot connects to the shots before and after it.

2. Find out all available info about your shot, tests, already animated scenes, live action references.

3. Find out the animation style - cartoony, realistic, etc.

4. Don't talk back to the director! (This point was quite stressed upon!)

While animating your shot, make sure you go through these approval stages with your animation supervisor: 1. Thumbnails (Optional) 2. Live action reference shoot (Optional) 3. Staging pass - Basic Poses of your character 4. Blocking Pass - Shows the attitude of your character 5. First Animation Pass  - From step to spline adding details 6. Next pass 7. Close to final 8. Ready for final 9. Fixes

So informative!

We were suggested to watch a few Jerry Lewis for acting references and Jimmy Slolina for lip-sync references. This is my favorite Jimmy Slolina, such great acting!

During my tutorial with Paul, I showed him this cut of my animatic (last shot is missing):

He basically suggested that a lot of shots be cut short and some changes with camera. He also suggested to make clear the reference position of the old lady in comparision with Maroon. He also told me to get rid of all the empty frames in the shots, before or after the character is in the scene.


Developing the characters


Developing the characters

My story has three characters -  the main character, Maroon, the girl at the park and the old lady. When I started developing the characters, I was really inclined towards using a modified version of  AnimSchool's Malcolm rig for Maroon as I had seen some wonderful animation using the rig and I wanted to use this project as an opportunity to create good animation to put in my reel.

Maroon: Here are some initial ideas on how I wanted the Maroon to look, kind of like mopey and really depressed with big sad eyes:

I was also experimenting with different kinds of hairstyles to see which one would add more character.


Unfortunately the Malcolm rig offered little flexibility with character modification, so I thought to model something and attached to the rig:

Unfortunately, after that I realised that the shape of Malcolm's body (long and stretchy) did not go well with the backgrounds(short and squarish).

So I decided to switch to my well trusted Morpehus rig. It seemed like the Morpheus rig model better belonged in this environment.

After modifying Morphy a bit, this is the one that I liked most, he seemed malleable enough to fit both in happy and sad modes. →


Girl : I wanted the girl in the park to be sort of attractive. I put a dress on the morpheus rig, attached it to it and modified it. It was hard as the dress kept intersecting with the rig geometry so I had to be really careful to fix it to avoid any problems while animating. I gave her a nice bright yellow dress. Here are two options that I really like:


It was hard to choose but I decided to go with the one on the right, simply because there were problems with hair geometry with the first one. The blendshapes for the dress took a bit of time to fix: 

 There are still a few glitches that wouldn't fix, but I managed to work around them!

Old Lady :

When I was planning on using Malcolm, I had thought about modifying the Bonnie rig for the old lady.

During our collaboration with the first year students, I asked my first-year collaborator, Natalia to do  texturing for the old lady's face (among a few other things). She did a good job with the wrinkles:


Unfortunately, it wasn't possible to modify Bonnie's body to make it less curvaceous and older, as hard as I tried!

So I had to resort to modifying Morpheus again, and I'm so glad I did! It works so much better now!

She reminds me a lot of my cute grandmother, who I took time to observe (not in a creepy way! ) over the Easter break.
I had to model the skirt, attach it to the rig and work out the blendshapes so that the knees wouldn't intersect with the skirt geometry. Its not perfect, but it will do, as she is only there for a few shots.


Maroon's World!


Maroon's World!

I was inspired by some suggestions that I should keep the backgrounds of my movie simple like the Spanish pre-school animated television series, Pocoyo. I thought it was a good idea and would help me focus on the animation more. The textures and renders are great and have a very tactile clay-ish feel to them.

However, my backgrounds couldn't be THAT simple as they had some essential elements (as seen in my animatic) like the shops, the car and the park. I wanted to keep it as minimalistic as I could. So I modelled some stuff in Maya that I thought the backgrounds should look like.

I started with the trees in the park and basically played around with simple shapes and color combinations to get a result I liked. I liked the idea of the whole world in the movie to be a bit surrealistic ‒ similar to reality but not close enough.

These are a few of the trees that I liked the most. I think my favorite is the one with the pentagonal indentations. I also modelled a few houses that I thought might appear in the background as he is walking his walks.

I think the idea was to have houses that I could use to look flat from one angle if I needed to. I could place them straight on in from of the camera so that they remain simplistic and don't distract from the shot. I wanted to try out some color options, maybe to change in the background as his mood changes from sad to happy.

The most important part of the backgrounds was the shop itself, where he would go to buy his smile.

I really wanted the shops to be inspired from circus tents, as the commodity sold in my story, smiles, wouldn't really be found at just another shop. It had to be "different". Fun. Inviting. The colors on circus tents are very bright and attractive and inspire curiosity. "Come in..see all these unreal things we have!"

So I tried my hand at creating shops which would remind you of circuses. I wanted the same things for the shops as I did for the houses, to be flat from one angle if I needed them to be. I still need to work on colors but these are some I really like.

I still need to decide on which one I'm going to use and it would still need a banner and rate posters, but I'm happy with these designs. It will be important to make sure the character fits into this world, and doesn't seem like he's out of place.

Am looking forward to doing some test renders on the backgrounds to see how they will appear with lights and occlusion. :)

Also, here's fun example of Pocoyo!



This is actually the second draft of the animatic after I went through changes in the story after the first one: [youtube][/youtube]


I got some good feedback from the guest lecturers that came in to look at our work. Initially, Emma Ewing suggested that I have one same situation that happened before that took him down, after he returns his smile, so its clearer that he doesn't need the smiles anymore to  make him happy. Which is why there is a second car splash at the end of this one as I was trying it out. Sue Tong suggested that I make sure the elements in the two main backgrounds in my story -  the park and the shop - are similar so that the movie connects better. Also, I decided to change the name from mood change shop to SMILES. It is less vague and a clearer concept to have S,M,L smiles, rather than moods. A lot of people thought  I should re-work my camera angles as well. Which is what I did in the next animatic:


I decided to remove the kite-flying scene, as it seemed like it could do without, and would also help make the movie tighter, and also the second car splash as it ends up looking a bit repetitive  I think the cameras still need work, but I will try to tweak them in 3d as they always end up looking a bit different than in 2d drawings.

The Man without a Head

As my story was about putting on moods and faces, Amber showed me this movie about a man who has no head and goes and tries different heads at the shops to see which one fits best! I thought it was a wonderful concept. I thought the ending could have done with a bit more. It was worth sharing anyway! [youtube][/youtube]  

Also, Ioli showed me this wonderful piece of art with people walking around wearing devices to help support their smiles. I love the disconnection between the eyes and the face! Thought it was a wonderful statement on the social importance of smiles, and the need to smile even when you don't feel it.

I would love to know who its by. Unfortunately its very hard to trace stuff on the internet if you don't know the name of the artist or the piece.  

Developing The Story - Lets see some pearly whites, Maroon!

(...continued) 3. You can buy it but it wont come off! - I was constantly thinking about stories when I thought what if a smile that Maroon buys doesn't come off, that it stays forever. That could get awkward by landing in situations that weren't funny, with him smiling like an idiot. Like a car accident where everyone is concerned but he has a massive grin on his face, or a newspaper with bad news with him standing laughing like he caused the bad news. People would get annoyed and treat him badly.20130504_212820-1 He would get so frustrated with being misunderstood that he goes back to eventually return that smile to the shop. With funny details like hiding behind a plank with a plain face on to hide his smile and the returns being much more expensive than the price of the actual smile. And then he would come out of the store relieved and happy to be himself again (hopefully not in a cliched way!)

I decided to settle on this story as it had potential of creating situations that would be great to animate! Also, showing sadness in his eyes while he was still smiling would be a good challenge.

On my way back from school one day, I was planning on researching to develop this story more, so stopped at  the coffee place to prep myself for the night with some mocha when I got the idea. What if Maroon, my character, sees a shop that sells Smiles in different sizes -  Small, Medium and Large (contemplating on changing "Large" to "Ever-lasting").


He goes in, buys the smallest one, and comes out with a smile on his face! He is happy. Suddenly car passes by and spashes water on him. He is annoyed and his smile wears off (it was the cheapest one). So he quickly goes in to buy another, larger one. He comes out, skips in his happiness with his big new smile until...he falls down a manhole! This time he decides to buy the largest one, which is not supposed to come off. He is really happy, skipping in slow motion. feeding the ducks in the park, having many icecreams, hitting on girls.. But then..he goes upto a girl who struck his eye and while offering her one of his icecream cones, spills it on her. Seeing his big smile, she thinks he did it on purpose. Trying to back away from that situation, he trips on an old lady's cane and falls down hard. To make matters worse, the old lady, to avoid inconvenience, takes the easy way and simply walks over him. He is so frustrated that he gets up to go back to the shop to return the everlasting smile. He comes out, sad again, but then smiles of relief.

There are more situations i can add to the story, slipping on a banana peel, bird pooping on Maroon's head, etc., but I will try and make the animatic to see how long it comes out to be.

Initial Storylines

I started off trying to think of possible storylines for the concept. It was a hard one because it required me to consider what message I wanted to convey regarding the relationship between money and happiness, as my character Maroon goes to buy smiles (happier moods), or metaphorically, happiness. I didn't exactly want a "social message" but it was a profound topic, and I needed some direction I wanted to go in - whether its the cliched "money can't buy happiness", or "it will come find you if you stop chasing it" or that "its a drug that will consume you" (yes, the mind goes into weird places thinking about this sort of stuff!) Of course all this had to be in a comical, or "light" way, to keep it easy to watch, as it is a heavy topic. 1. Making other people happy - The first idea that was hovering in my mind was that he goes to the store to buy smiles, and they are never enough which makes him keep buying he until runs out of money. He then looks for alternative means to get money so he could go back to the shop to buy some more - beg, borrow, steal. Like an addict. To end it, I was thinking he could see a kid or a girl crying outside the shop and give them the money instead, so they could buy smiles to make them happy, which ends up making him happy without the need to buy anything. But then I realised that there is very twisted angle to it that he is getting other people addicted to it rather than actually finding a solution to it. Here is a rough draft of the storyboard for this line:

I wasn't very fond of this idea as it didn't give any solutions in the end.

2. Its not money, and the pursuit will make you crazy - One angle that I really liked (which is not exactly comical) was Maroon having withdrawal symptoms after he is unable to procure money to buy more smiles. Splitting in another direction from the previous storyline, I was considering that after he keeps trying to find money unsuccessfully, he sees this big pile of money in front of him. He is surprised and obviously starts to walk towards it to get some. Then suddenly, the pile starts to move as he gets closer. Maroon starts following it. It ends up in a wild goose chase. We are then at the edge of the cliff, and the money all falls down from the edge. Our character is very seriously contemplating whether he wants to jump off after it, and he does. Then there are two possible endings - Either A, on his way down, he sees the beautiful world around him and snaps out of it, but its too late and the fall kills him. Or B, that on his way down he sees the world, and right before he crashes, he sees other happier versions of him, 5 or 6 or them that he was always trying to be, and they are all stretching out their arms with smiles on their faces to catch him into death. I suppose to say that what he couldn't achieve in life, his hallucinations made it seem like he is doing so by dying. This would possibly be a statement on suicide. Obviously, the interpretation be open and would lie with the audience's perspectives.

As much as I liked this version, I don't have the means and the time to do justice to it, and at the same time have something good to show in my 3d reel. It would require really good effects when he is falling down the cliff and observing the world. But I will definitely consider creating it when I have some more expertise!

(To be continued..!)

11 Second Club - March Competition

15/03/13 I really liked the clip from this month's 11 second club! It is a clip from Men in Black. I had a bright idea for creating a short for it and was really inspired! Here is the reference that I took: [youtube][/youtube]

And here is the first pass at blocking:


I wanted to finish it before Easter break as I would be going back home but I don't think I will be able to. It will have to wait until after the final project, but its definitely going in my showreel!

References - Ioli!

22/02/13 Just like the previous two movies, Ioli helped us take animation references for this film. It was really fun as this short is quite cartoony and needs a lot of exaggeration. From my previous shorts, I am also learning to push my acting as much as I can to exaggerate it enough. icecream_010Although I will have to retake my references as I go, its always still a good starting point to understand weight and anticipation.  

First year students - Work Experience

05/03/13 We had a two week collaboration with the first year students and I worked with Natalia. I showed Natalia my backgrounds and asked her to design the main Smiles shop. I had a few options already but I wasn't sure how I would go about it. Untitled-4a


Taking these as reference, she designed the following shops. I really liked the colors on the second one and decided to use that as my final shop, without the boards on the roof.natalia


Here is a quick render test I did on that one by using Maya's ambient occlusion shader.


Joanna Quinn

31/01/13 This week we had the amazing Joanna Quinn come in for a 2 day workshop  with our class. The workshop was a drawn animation one and our brief was to create a 6 second piece of animation with sound, to be screened the next afternoon. 6 seconds in a day and a half! Sounded quite challenging, but it was good to know that we weren't expected to do any clean up of our animation. It was supposed to include carefully punctuated animation between actions and emotions and properly analyse timing of the action by taking appropriate reference. The plot had to follow 7 different actions and 5 different emotion changes: 1. The character drinks a potion 2. Waits for something to happen (anticipation) 3. A sudden change of emotion and character changes emotional state 4. Character comes out of it and reflects on what happened 5. Relaxes at being normal again 6. Suddenly something "extreme" happens to the character

I decided to have my character "Joe" drink the potion, wait, become crazy angry shoving things off of a table, snap back to his normal self, act apologetically at his behaviour and turn into a bunny that hops away!

There were some really important guidelines we got before starting, that I think I should follow for all my subsequent animations: 1. No straight lines 2. Never have the character face on 3. Arms and legs should not mirror each other 4. Explore 3d space and overlapping planes 5. Know for sure where the camera is 6. Work from key to key 7. Push and exaggerate the acting so the emotions and thoughts are clear to the audience 8. Work fast and rough so you don't lost tract of your destination by getting too involved in details 9. No clean up (this is for this exercise only)

I took a reference I liked and started getting used to drawn animation again (it had been a while!) It was a wonderful change to work with pencil and paper again rather than on the computer. Here is the piece I created:

[youtube][/youtube] There was some problem with my "table layer" that didn't show because of a demo version of Flipbook that only allows two layers.

And here is a compilation of the whole class's magic potion movies put together:



It was really lovely work from everyone in a day and a half. Joanna also gave us souvenir badges! I got the awesome Beryl, the main character of her film "Body Beautiful" :


An Vrombaut

17/01/13 This week we had An Vrombaut as a guest lecturer. She is the creator of the animated TV series 64 Zoo Lane and Florrie's Dragons. Talking about her own career, she gave some really good insight into how to go about making your own TV series. It is very important for the story to have structure, character and authenticity.  After you find a UK broadcaster (the toughest job), who will only sponsor about 25% of your budget (might vary), you need to find sponsorship for the rest of your budget, which might even come from international sources who would be interested in airing your show.

For every episode,  there needs to be: 1. A Pitch Document - an initial pitch of the episode narrative 2. A Writing Bible - a rough script 3. An Official Bible - the final script 4. A License Guide -  for merchandising and retail purposes

I've always wondered about how different professional studios go about organising the process of animating a short. According to her, each episode follows the following process: 1. Story outline before the script 2. Official Script 3. Voice recording of characters 4. Model Sheets 5. Storyboarding - Thumbnail board and then Final Board 6. Animation 7. Post Production 8. Branding and Merchandising (packaging, story books, etc.)

Here is a rough format of a Writing Bible: A. Episode Structure 1. Title Sequence 2. Intro Sequence - Details 3. The Story - Narration, Episode Story, Dialogue, Moral, DOs and DON'Ts 4. End Sequence 5. Credits B. Settings Contains environment and placement settings with layouts and visuals. C. Character Individual detailed descriptions of each character and their personality with illustrations.

It was really lovely to see the writing bible for an episode 64 Zoo Lane with beautiful illustrations of characters in their settings.

Here are some of An's movies that I am a huge fan of:

[youtube][/youtube] [youtube][/youtube]