Saturday practice


Had a spare moment to model a bit. I’m loving the result of taking more time. This took about two hours or so to make taking out render time (and one maya crash)


More Bruce and Daisy

Another design! This one is based on one of the designs Lauren came up with. In this Bruce is a Scottish Highland breed; much bigger and fluffier than his first design. I prefer this one as I think he looks a little less threatening and a lot sweeter despite how massive he is.



I also went into why he’d be in the hospital in the first place. The least scariest option I could think of was him breaking a horn, which is also why he wears the bow. Daisy gave it to him to hide the break.

And last but not least, Daisy’s character turn around. This is the design that everyone rather liked, so there’s a chance we might choose it for the full short.




Sneak peek render of one of the objects from my room project. I’m basically modelling what my ideal study space would look like. I threw in one of my cacti (marcy) because I just really like cacti. She’s the only plant I own that doesn’t endlessly bitch when I water her.

Semester Reflection

So we finally got our marks back this morning, and I’m less than happy with the grade I was given in both classes. Neither were bad marks, however they were far from what I had hoped for this semester.

Considering the grades I got in Alec’s class last year, I had thought I’d been doing better this semester. It’s a bit of a blow to find out I was just getting cocky. I’m a mix of understanding and furious, but the anger very quickly fades the more I think about why my results were like this.

This semester, I was a bit of a work hog. There was a lot I wanted to try out, and I insisted on taking on so much that I’m certain groups I worked with became frustrated that they weren’t doing enough; a feeling that worsened if I didn’t end up doing something or came back with a less than impressive result. That’s not to say my work wasn’t good though. Because I insisted on doing so much, I couldn’t give a lot of models the attention they needed. I know I’ve been working harder to fix that since the hand in, and I’ve listened to the advice my friends have given me about slowing down, but I’m still disappointed that this was where ally me hard work lead me. I still feel as though the amount of work that I did is still commendable. Not to mention my models were not poorly done. As per the aforementioned anger, I feel like my marks seem to reflect that my work wasn’t good.

I tried to fix a lot of my past mistakes from last year. I worked as hard as I could, and tried to crank out as much work as I could. These marks make me feel like I’ve done absolutely nothing.


Daisy and Bruce concepts

So we had our meeting with the guy from the children’s hospital. His name was Niall, and he was very eager to see our work and get and idea of where to start. It went really really well, and I’m excited to settle on a design and get started working. So after the meeting we had a little more information on what Niall wanted us to create. (He was still a little iffy on a lot of the details, but I’m confident we’ll sort through everything.)

So the blue character from before, the one I’d drawn some doodles of , was clarified for us; the hospital would like to make the character one of Daisy’s brothers. There was no name yet, nor was there any design. We tossed about ideas. Originally we were wondering if the brother should b younger or older than Daisy, and if he should be sulky and sad, or with a touch more teenage angst. We also wondered what sort of style we were going to be doing.

Personally I like the idea of cartoony looking characters that look a little more human, like in Zootopia. They would walk on two legs, and be much more expressive; something kids could look at and feel a sort of connection with. We’re also thinking about doing realistic. Unfortunately though, I have to be honest, I don’t like the idea of that at all. I feel like it would limit movement and prevent us from creating appealing expressiveness in the characters.  I’m really really leaning towards a cartoony style. These are the references I’ve been drawing from.


Ferdinand had the bulkiness I was looking for in the character, and also had the horn type I was looking for. He’s enormous and threatening, but also very obviously a gentle and kind animal as well. I grew up reading Ferdinand, and was very eager to include him in my work.

The second influence I drew from was a much much weirder one. I used to watch this show when I was younger called Back in the Barnyard. This was a show about the antics of a group of barnyard animals who usually get up to some unusual, dangerous, and often times outlandish adventures involving wood chippers and occasionally Bigfoot. Consider I’ve never draw cows before, this was extremely helpful in helping me develop the basic shape of a cow.

When I got home I started doodling. The name Bruce started to bounce around in my head after the first drawing was finished, so I decided to work off the name itself to see what other designs I could get from it. I also started to draw Daisy with him to help develop their personalities.


By the end of it I really felt like I was more than familiar with the characters. Initially at the start of the project I considered Daisy as sort of the caregiver who would be walking around helping the kids adjust to the hospital. Basically a nurse of sorts. This was the first sketch I ever did of her


Now I like the idea of her being a little kid. She likes to learn about hospitals, the procedure, the ways the staff will help children adjust to new environments, and the safety measures taken to ensure thee best care possible for the patients. This was partly inspired by my cousin, who is incredibly smart and loves to read up on a lot of science based topics. (Biology in particular.) Daisy reads as much as she can, and also has a tendency to inform as many people as possible about her findings. (Particularly Bruce, who really does not care. At all.)

I’m going to try and draw them more, because I want to bring as much work as possible to the team. Hopefully I’ve have time later tonight.

Belfast Children’s Hospital concepts

So here we are, diving back into the semester after a break. This newest project I’ll be working for the Belfast Children’s Hospital with Glenn, Holly, Lauren, and Emma. We’ll be doing something akin to a series of short animations or 3D scenes revolving around a character named Daisy the Cow and hospital safety. Daisy was designed by the children at the hospital, and she’ll be the main character.



My first thought was to immediately start looking up ideas for the project. What was hospital safety specifically? What are the main reasons kids are in the hospital for? What are some concerns children have about staying in hospitals? How can we make children more comfortable with their stay? Can we normalize their settings for them to help them adjust?

All sorts of things basically. We met up as a group to toss around ideas. Lauren was interested in finding out more about the character, as were the others. We considered Daisy’s role in the skits we were thinking about, and what she would mean to the kids she would possibly be addressing. We also began digging up what we could on the hospital. Though there was some limited information, we found some interesting tidbits such as the hospitals annual stay rate, it’s founding year, how many beds it has, and the types of treatments they offer.

We also learned that the hospital was requesting that while Daisy be the main character, we needed to create a blue character who was grumpy. I’m super excited about this. I’m super set on the idea of a bear. I love bears, and i could use some practice drawing them.

Firstly, I began looking for sort of s cartoony, but still vaguely human looking design. This was keeping in mind the rigging as well. Modeling is the easy part, making it move believably will be impossible if the design is crap. I began looking at designs like the Bartsloots from the Lorax. While the movie annoyed me, they did have some appealing designs I could draw from. The design I went with toned down the facial features and reduced them to more of a toyish look that was much less exaggerated.


For the next design, I picked apart what I wasn’t fond of and started again. I tried making the arms stubbier, and reduced the face again to make it look more childlike and even more like a stuffed toy. For this I drew specifically from Jim Davis’s Pooky from Garfield. (If I spend another semester being inspired by Garfield I don’t think I’ll make it. My entire artistic career will have been born from an orange capitalist. (A CATitalist)) I won’t lie though, I do love Pooky’s design. I have a stuffed version of him to help keep the cuteness accurate. He’s very fun to draw.

The last one I tried that I legitimately loved was was inspired by Koda from brother bear. I loved the art for brother bear, and after being displeased with the much too cartoony look the bear had been taking, I shot for a more realistic look. Koda was not only extremely realistic, but he was perfectly stylized and easy to incorporate into my own designs.


This is probably the one I like the most, and I allowed myself to stop there. At this point I was feeling like I should explore a little more and try some different animals. The next one I went for was an owl.


I had actually been trying out a shy and sad look for the bear rather than grumpy. This was mainly because I felt like “grumpy” could be interpreted as nervousness or uneasy in their surroundings. Kids don’t always adjust to new places at the drop of a hat.

So with the owl I made a bigger attempt to emphasize the grump. They look so naturally cranky it wasn’t very hard, but I’m still looking to play around with the shapes until I get the perfect combo of fluff and stiffness.

There are some other ideas I’m throwing around with a cat, but I’m not so certain where they’re going yet. I’ll toss some ideas around with the group and Niall (the guy we’re meeting with) to discuss further on Monday.

Final Project (Alternate Title: Peace at Last)

So before I get into the making of Double Denim, there is something I need to get out of the way. This has been a tough few months. It’s been a very frustrating project with several hiccups in the team and in the creation process that were devastating enough to bring and animation student to the brink of hysteria. (Skin weights I’m directly looking at you.) That being said however, I couldn’t have been happier with the group I worked with. Both team members were not only some of the chillest and patient people I’ve ever worked with, but they were some extremely talented, hard working individuals who love what they do. It was a fantastic and fun group to be in and I’m happy I got the chance to work with them

So, this project.

We tossed around several project ideas initially, all very good. We immediately decided that the theme, Bravery, didn’t just have to have a dramatic or grand plot. It could be something as small as doing something you wouldn’t normally do. This is what we decided. A guy decides he’s going to wear double denim like it’s 1995.

So the first thing was decide what this dude was gonna look like. I was already doodling by the time I got home and had centered on one or two points of inspiration. The first being Jim Davis’s infamous John Arbuckle; someone known for his poor fashion choices and cornball personality.

Delightfully dorky.

To be perfelty honest, I had an idea of where to start so long as I started drawing using Jon as a reference. I tossed around a few ideas until I managed to come up with a slightly greasier looking guy.


This was a nice start, but the group felt out guy was probably a little less confident than these sketches implied if the whole point of out skit was about the courage to try a fashion choice that was normally frowned upon. So they went with my final sketch of this tall, gangly looking dude who clearly was just a little bit uncomfortable in his own skin.


We named him Lenry.

While I worked on the character, Glenn began tossing around ideas about the jacket itself. I don’t remember completely, but from what I recall Glenn had gotten it in his head that it would be hilarious if we had a denim jacket with a massive, terrifying, over joyed face that would fly at Lenry in the dream sequence. (This was easily the funniest and creepiest part of our skit.)

So another thing we began working on aside from storyboards, was the room design that we wanted the story to take place in. I set to work on this part of the project. I was really looking forward to modelling a room at that point as I felt like I definitely needed the practice. At this point, Yazz had made a joke that because double denim had been popular in the 90s, Lenry should have an odd fixation about that era. This made the project about 50% more fun than it already was and allowed us to experience a good amount of nostalgia while researching what we should have in the room.

To start, I began to look at bedrooms from the 90s and early 2000s. Back then the most popular styles were either grunge or pastel, so it was difficult to choose. As we worked however, we did allow ourselves to stray from the original theme. We began to mix it up a little more and let ourselves use the idea of nostalgia rather than total obsession on Lenry’s part.

While researching and beginning the modelling process, we also had the presentation for our storyboards as well. At this point in the project, we had officially been reduced to a group of three rather than the initial group of five we’d started with. This expanded  our work load considerably, but it wasn’t as daunting as I thought it would be. We very easily picked up the slack and threw together an extremely concise storyline that the audience could follow. Here are a few of the frames


This of course was changed after a bit to make the dream sequence less nightmarish and more inspiring. The idea of the story is that Lenry should be eager to take on his new style, rather than terrified into it. So we wound up changing the fear in the scene to something akin to confusion.

At about this point we’d had some really great progress with the room. The blocking and planning done, the only thing that was stopping me was the frustrating blanket. I was using nCloth feature with a gravity field applied to it and the cloth was just not falling properly at all. Here were some earlier versions

As you can probably tell, the blanket is way too thick, and doesn’t really fall very naturally, so I’d wound up redoing it so many times I lost count. While I wasn’t fiddling with the blanket, I also went and made several props for the room as well.

Around this time I had also begun to model the character. I started by creating a very, very, basic model in maya and then transferred it over to Zbrush so I could begin sculpting out the details. This was a frustrating but fun process that took about a max of ten hours. When I finished, I sent him back over to maya and began the retopology process so we could animate with him. This is where things got very complicated for me, as I”m not very experienced with retopology, but after several days spent working over the model, I had managed to simplify the mesh enough to begin the rigging and blend shape process.

(Except not yet actually. I didn’t do the best job with the head topology, so Alec took the model for a day or so to fix it. Thank you Alec.)

The rigging process was, to understate, tedious and torturous. Building the skeleton is the easiest part of the rig usually, but in this case I was trying something new. I made some IK handles, which I had never done before, and while it worked pretty well for a first attempt, it took out a large chunk of my time. By the time I’d gotten around to actually binding the skin to the skeleton, it had been two days.


If there’s one thing that I cannot stand, it’s skin weighting, and that was the next process. Now there are some things that I don’t mind about it, such as the end result and the feeling of progress. This time I went out of my way to try a new kind of weighting called Interactive Bind. This type, as opposed to the paint weights tool, allows me to weight chunks of the mesh with two controls rather than several.

Painting weights usually has me sitting there selecting vertices for ages, sometimes one by one for the sake of detail. It can be difficult for me to tell where I want my weights to start and end and can lead to extremely frustration if I flood the wrong part and get stuck undoing the now deformed mesh for ages.

With interactive bind, I’m allowed to weight the skin with the help of a capsule control that wraps around the desired joint.


(Image courtesy of Jonathan Hughes)

When you move the green controls up to down, it blocks out the weight influence along with limbs until you get the perfect joint you’re looking for. If you find you’re still having issues with the weights (one joint drawing influence from the opposite) you can just as easily resort to painting skin weights to fix it. This process got me through the hardest parts of the skin weighting, and was far less stressful than the painting weights method that I had been using previously.

The face was created using normal blend shapes, which taught me that in the future, it would probably be better for my emotional health to just create a facial rig. Blend shapes are created by sculpting the vertices of the model, but never under any circumstances, deleting or changing any of the original mesh. The number of times I accidentally changed something the resulted in the entire model breaking was embarrassingly high. (Like the pitch of my voice each time I had to ask “Why is this happening?”) By the end of it though, I had some workable expressions that finally cooperated with the mesh.


So with the character finally rigged, I had gone back to touching up the room while Glenn got to work on the textures. He gave Lenry several outfits that worked very well with the colour scheme we’d had going, and still maintained the dorky persona he had


He had also been modelling and rigging our jacket character, and he’d come back with an absolutely fantastic result and you can see his process and work on his blog HERE.


(credit: Glenn O’Neill. Nice work Glenn!!)

With the room, I had finally gotten the blanket to fall the way I wanted it to, and I got started with texturing. This I found to be the most fun part of the project for me. I had originally been very nervous to do UV Mapping at the beginning of the semester, as it’s not something I was entirely confident I was doing correctly. However this time I was ready to go and excited to see the result. Even more exciting, I got to do bump mapping as well, which I was thrilled to figure out.

The textures I wound up using were free stock photos, some of which I wound up editing to use as bump maps.

This was the first version I had before Yazz added the rest of the props for the room. It looks a lot nicer once it’s been fully textured and filled up with all the 90s nostalgia.Yazz modelled a lot of the vintage toys and items for the room as well. The following are three awesome samples of her work for the bedroom scene. her process and more of her work can be found on her blog HERE

Yazz also made the dream sequence as well, which was a major part of the project. It’s the secondary environment and the setting in which Lenry is graced with the inspiration for double denim. It was a scene that needed to be both dream like and realistic as well, and they captured it perfectly. The red carpet set up is supposed to be a nod to the red carpet fashions of the 1990s, some of which were glaringly denim. Specifically this tragedy:


(help them)

The Red Carpet sequence looks quite nice. The ropes are detailed, the poles are nicely textured, and it was easy and enjoyable to work in.


Very well lit too, courtesy of Glenn. He also did this really cool flick at the end of the carpet for Lenry to fall onto and bounce off of.


So at this point everything was finally textured and ready to begin animating. We all had scenes we were eager to do, and mapped out a good amount of work for everyone to start.

The rig proved to have troubles however, which would resurface again and again throughout the progress, and there were a few texturing problems as well. We’d managed to get the actual jacket on using a wrap deformer, when it came to animating, the jacket was anything but cooperative. I wound up having to tweak the skin weights multiple times to get something we could use. On top of them, large chunks of the model would vanish when the jacket was applied due to what I think were conflicting colour and texture settings.


(Lenry, coming out of his room to shame mankind)

(Lenry, consistently making me regret choosing animation for a career)

Problems aside however, we at last came to and end of animating and what would begin the render process for us all. The things we’d managed to put together were wonderfully animated, and again, I’m really lucky to have landed with this group for the project.

Something I’ve started to try and keep in mind after the last few projects are what I would have done differently. On this, I would have loved to spend more time of the character. I already spent so many hours on him, but looking at the finished result, I can say that there are problems that I should have paid more attention to. Given that this is my first legitimate, complex character modelling and rigging, I am willing to be a little lenient with my efforts. However looking at this, I am painfully aware of Lenry’s faults. (restricted leg, finger and arm movement, limited facial expression, sloppy looking mesh)

For the next project I would be more than willing to take on another character, and I know what I have to do to make myself better and achieve a greater result I could do professionally one day. I am eager to learn from my mistakes, and look forward to doing so in the upcoming semester.

As of today, our extended deadline, we’re ready to render everything out and will have the finished film hopefully before the 29th. I’m happy that we finished all our work to hand in and we’re looking forward to sharing the finished product with everyone.

EDIT: The finished film can be viewed here!


Jacket, lighting carpet and textures, Lenry textures: Glenn O’Neill

Room Props, Dream Scene Carpet: Yazz Herron

Interactive Bind Reference: Jonathan Hughes

Lenry progress

Okay so this is coming along slowly but surely. It took ages, but I did mange to finish some nice blendshapes for the mouth. I also got the eyes down as well. The whole character is finally ready to go, and the group is talking about animating this week.

So first things first, we have Lenry without his jacket.


Getting him modeled and sculpted took about a week and half or so. The rigging, pictured below, took about another week as well. (a long and irritating week.)

The skeleton is always the easiest part  for me. The hardest is actually the skin weights. I tried this new method called interactive binding, which uses a capsule that allows the rigger to size the skin weights as well. I found it was so much more enjoyable than painting the skin weights. Not only was it easier to skin large chunks of the model, it was easier on my eyes as well. I didn’t have to squint at the verts as much. However despite how much I really loved the interactive bind, the skin weights were impossible to import and exporr, and it really limited some of the smaller parts of the rig, like the fingers and feet.


So I wound up doing the regular painting weights instead. It’s far more tedious, but it does what I need it to do and that’s really all that matters at this point in the project.

Next up was getting Lenry into his jacket and making sure the blendshapes were perfect. Glenn had made not only the jacket character, but the outfits Lenry would be wearing as well. To get Lenry into the jacket he would don at the end of the film, all I had to do was select the jacket, then the body mesh, then create a wrap deformer. The wrap deformer basically binds the clothing to the mesh without having to worry about creating new models with new rigs and new outfits.

Next up was texturing, which was Glenn’s area of work. There were a few outfits planned out, including the final denim outfit

These were the top three. There were of course variations of color on the outfits.

As of right now it seems all that’s left for us to do is put together the scenes and animate!

Pepper: Final

So I finally finished texturing my character, Pepper. Several changes were made to the mesh once I took him out of zbrush and into maya, but I think those changes were for the better. I think the topology can be better edited for blendshapes and what not and I’m confident that if I needed to, I could take a few days out to do just that. Here is the original mesh and some concept art. I used old and new references.

I started out with just a plain old polysphere, then got to work. The main tools I used for this were the Clay buildup tool, the smooth tool, and the polish tool. It took about six or seven hours to make sure I got the right amount of definition I wanted. After I was happy with the final sculpt, I exported it into maya and began to retopologize. I changed the area around the eyes, as that would have led to complications in texturing. The first thing I did regarding texture was to create a spherical map for the sweater collar, then another for the chest and shoulders.


The biggest steps for me were figuring out how to do his eyes and his freckles. Since usually I just applied colored lamberts for a simple look, I wanted to challenge myself a little. I managed to create a nice looking iris by using references from movies like the incredibles, and frozen. The only hindrance was that I couldn’t seem to give the eyeball the glossy shine I’d been hoping for.


Basically I took created the green lambert that I wanted and hooked it up to a layered shader, which was then connected to a ramp shader. After everything was set up, I assigned the ramp shader the colors of black, bright green, then another layer of black and played with the gradient until I got the result I wanted. The last step was to add a noise shader to the layered shader, which gave the iris a better looking texture. Originally I had added a blinn that I reduced the color of, increased the transparency, and increased the specular color. However the gleam does not show up in the render, so I was left with a good looking iris, but without the realistic shine.


After I got that taken care of, all I had to do was make his hair and give him some freckles. The freckles took up a majority of my time, as I had already applied an Arnold Skin texture to him and didn’t want to lose the nice effect I’d achieved. I talked with Alec about it and he recommended I map the freckles into the texture. Which worked after several tries and a very minor crying incident. I found using a transparent texture would blacken my model out, so I edited it a little in photoshop before creating a UV map, then opening the hypershader and connecting the subsurface to the file Out Alpha, and the subsurface color to the file Out Color. Then everything finally came together.


Because I spent so long with the skin, I didn’t have enough time to do as much as I’d hoped I would do with Pepper’s hair. However I did managed to take the time to model some cubes into extremely low poly hair clumps that I styled into Pepper’s weird spiky hair. The end result is show below


I very much enjoyed this project. Firstly, because seeing my style in 3D is very fun for me, and gives me a better idea of what I want to do for placement. Secondly, I felt incredibly accomplished during the entire process of the project. I got to use Zbrush again, which I’m still learning with, but felt more comfortable using this time around. I tried new methods of texturing which I usually don’t do. I got to practice retopology again, and I’m getting much better at it then I was before.

Looking back at this, if I were to do anything differently, I would spend more time on the hair. While I’m content with the final render, I do wish I’d spent more time learning Xgen and mapping hair instead of resorting to low poly again. However it is something I’m looking forward to practicing more in my free time and I am confident it’s something I can easily learn.

The following images are of the final topology of the character. The hair was a separate mesh from the original sculpt.