Friday, 14 November 2014

Phoneme Shapes

Lip syncing - There are 10 basic shapes of the mouth when it comes to lip sync.
 *Courtesy of Rubber Onion Animation

A and I: For the A and I vowel sounds, the lips are generally pulled a bit wider, teeth open, tongue visible and flat against the floor of the mouth.
E: The E phoneme is similar to the A and I, but the lips are stretched a bit wider, the corners uplifted more, and the mouth and teeth closed a bit more.
U: For the U sound, the lips are pursed outwards, drawn into a pucker but still somewhat open; the teeth open, and the tongue somewhat lifted.
O: Again the mouth is drawn to a pucker, but the lips don't purse outwards, and the mouth is rounder, the tongue flat against the floor of the mouth.
C, D, G, K, N, R, S, Th, Y, and Z: Long list, wasn't it? This configuration pretty much covers all the major hard consonants: lips mostly closed, stretched wide, teeth closed or nearly closed.
F and V: Mouth at about standard width, but teeth pressed down into the lower lip. At times there can be variations closer to the D/Th configuration.
L: The mouth is open and stretched apart much like the A/I configuration, but
M, B, and P: These sounds are made with the lips pressed together; it's the duration that matters. "M" is a long hold, "mmm"; "B" is a shorter hold then part, almost a "buh" sound; P is a quick hold, puff of air.
W and Q: These two sounds purse the mouth the most, almost closing it over the teeth, with just the bottoms of the upper teeth visible, sometimes not even that. Think of a "rosebud mouth".
Rest Position: Think of this as the "slack" position, when the mouth is at rest--only with the thread of drool distinctly absent.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Interview on Rubber Onion Podcast!

Rubber Onion Animation Podcast Episode 54! Big Hero 6! It's just come out and Stephen and Rob went to see it! John Lasseter prepares to thank Daddy Warbucks with the announcement of Toy Story 4 (And Rob's idea is brutally brilliant) Futurama and Simpsons meet up in another crossover, The Minions are getting their own film where they go through time finding a despicable boss (probably steering clear of Hitler, though), Stephen's computer takes a Diamond to the mouth repeatedly... SPEAKING OF DIAMONDS IN THE MOUTH! I get a mini interview/hangout with Stephen, Pat and Rob where we talk wrestling, banging Jodi Benson who played Ariel in Little Mermaid, Macho Man Randy Savage, and the ‪#‎RubberOnionPodcastFanArt‬competition which I shared the gold and won the interview. Skreeonk.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Seance stuff

Generic Male - Cloth Modifier to make clothes, needs textured  <-- For Maya

Cat - Rigged


Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed as an extrusive igneous rock. It is produced when felsic lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimum crystal growth.


Slap On Rig

Flickering for a candle, MEL code to add to light

Selective area Blendshapes for full body models

Another way to do this

Blendshapes for Maya

More Blendshapes

Excellent Example of Blend Shapes

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Short Story Presentation

Short Story Project, Week 7 Presentation


What is my project? It is an animated advert for Jack Rollins' new short story, The Seance, published by Dark Chapter Press.

My sequence is based around the history of the mysterious mirror which houses a demon and how it came to be in the possession of Lord Aubrey Levi-Black, an “authentic, genuine, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Black Magician.”
I noted down the key features of this section of story, as originally I was going to make the whole history, but time constraints were against me, so I cut down to just the Greek fisherman and book-ending it with Levi-Black telling the story.
The Greek Fisherman section has the most detail, but it is still open ended enough for me to take some artistic liberties as it gives you the base story which lets your imagination create more of the scene, and as it was the first instance of the dark object, I felt it was quite fitting to use this as the advert for the book.
Having successfully worked with Jack Rollins before, creating the cover for the book, and the Kickstarter launch image, we were happy to work together on this project. Through the designing of the piece, I worked with him to ensure I wasn't breaking canon or revealing spoilers. The work I showed, he was impressed and liked the artistic licensing I took with the Obsidian block, turning it from a slab to a smaller chunk, which grows as it feeds. Also referencing a key piece from later in the book, where someone is partially submerged in the obsidian block was said to be a nice touch.


The Programs I will use are Autodesk's Maya and Adobe's After Effects. Maya will be what I animate in, After Effects will be used for compositing some VFX onto it. I like the idea of when something is entering the Obsidian block, it gives out a demonic light, so a directional blur in After Effects would be a nice way to do that.


For pacing of the piece, as you don't get a full Beginning-Middle-End as it is only a couple minutes long, I looked at other examples of short story in media, like TV. My best example was Nickelodeon's Are You Afraid Of The Dark. The structure it uses is bookended by the Midnight Society, a group who gather to tell scary stories at night. They announce the story with a small blurb, then launch the tale. The opening of the tale is often a summary of the characters, "Joey just moved to town and had trouble making friends," or, "The town was rumoured to be cursed by witches, but Ross didn't believe in magic" and things like that. Instantly letting you know about the characters. The episodes have a running time of around 23 minutes, giving the tale a screen time of about 15, allowing the rest to be used by the Midnight Society for intro and outro.

Real world examples of advertising for novels:

R.L. Stine, Red Rain (Circle of Seven, 2012)
An animated/motion graphics advert, the camera moves through a 3D house, with blood effects and puppet tool on the images of the kids.

Lori Foster, Hard To Handle (Circle of Seven, 2007)
Using video from wrestling and 3D sequence (in the car) with some text.

Christine Feehan, Dangerous Tides (Circle of Seven, 2006)
Video sequences with voice over.
Circle of Seven have changed their style slightly over the years, from simplistic video sequences from their earlier videos, to a higher quality of work using 3D animation and motion graphics. This would be made easier with the easier access to 3D animation tools of a high quality (licenses for Max/Maya, or Blender which is free). Technology is pushing their work further.

COS have their prices on their website. They have three advert styles, Basic, Intermediate, Advanced.

Using these prices as a guideline, I have valued my work at: £311

That is Animation : £231 which includes storyboard, animatic, animation, simulation, VFX, Motion Graphics
Voice over/voice acting, audio editing: £80
That is without addition revisions. I would price those according to the changes required.

Correen Callahan, Knight Avenged (Rasit Creations, 2014)
A series of images that zoom in, with some text. Very basic looking.

Jennifer Lyon, The Plus One Chronicles (Rasit Creations, 2013)
Rasit Creations create their adverts the same way. Images with zooms and some text.

Dean Koontz, Deeply Odd (2013)
Video with voiceover

Dean Koontz, 77 Shadow Street (2011)
Motion Graphics heavy work.
Sadly, I was unable to see who made these Dean Koontz videos. They didn't have their name on their videos and the Dean Koontz site doesn't advertise them.

Jo Nesbø, The Snowman (2011)
This is the US trailer for one of my favorite authors, Jo Nesbø. This trailer is a lot of video and VFX work, stunningly shot with a voice over

Jo Nesbø, The Redbreast (2007(
A Motion Graphic/3D sequence with some Live Action and voice over.

Creating a storyboard, I followed a technique I have used for some time now, which I learned from an animator friend of mine, Stephen Brooks. It uses sticky notes, so rearranging the scene is easier, and any mistakes can quickly be removed and redone correctly. Although it lacks some elements, like timing of each shot (which can be added, if need be), I find that I work through this when it goes to Animatic. If for some reason, I don't go to animatic, I add time stamps (like in the previous year's Motion Capture storyboard where timing was critical for capture takes when it is set to music), but in this project where speech used, the timing of when certain words may be changed depending on the voice actor's performance, unlike with a predetermined musical performance. But this is just how I feel about it, and of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.

I make notes under frames with regards to staging, camera movements and character movements.


We discussed Oblique Strategies in a lecture, where I was given "Wear Earplugs". I am going to implement this in the project when the fisherman has his head in the block. The sound will dip and only a heartbeat will be heard, like when your ears are blocked and you can hear the thumping.


Seances were very popular in the Victorian era. The paranormal and the travelling circuses with curiosities always drew massive crowds, and with that money. The Seances would be proven as cons, use of string, invisible in the low light, black-clad men in cupboards writing on blackboards and ringing bells, wooden poles up the sleeves of the "medium" which would lock under the table, making it easier to lift the table up, with their hands on top of the surface.
The higher classes had the money to attend and arrange such performances, which I will need to convey in my piece, which leads to the next moodboard.

The upper-classes of the Victorian era wore lavish attire. The women wore elegant dresses, often with a large rear end. This was from the Bustles they would wear underneath, which was worn to keep the rear of the dress off the ground. Through the Victorian period, the fashions changed slightly, giving larger bustles in the mid-Victorian period. Colours were also very decadent as the dyes were hard to come by, therefore, expensive. The gentry would adorn themselves in suits and tophats, as a gentlemen should never be without his tophat! 

Living rooms - The main room in the house! A reoccurring theme I found was that the living room in upper class houses would have lavish, elaborate fireplaces. Although my scenes inside the house will not be light fully (a candle will be providing the light for theatricality and to reduce modelling time) some elements of the room will be visible in the flickering light of the flame.
Along with this, the elaborate designs in the fireplaces reflect the description of the mirror in the story, The Seance. The frame of which is adorned with a settlement within Hell, like Pandemonium or Dis, demons and other iconography of hell.

So what were Victorian mirrors like? Were they as detailed as Jack Rollins says? In short, yes! As with other Upper-Class things, the more "show-y" they are, the more it shows your wealth! And glass was an expensive thing back then. 

Ancient Greek houses, bare stone walls and floors with some wooden sections on the interiors. The stonework can be done with a texture and bump map quite easily.

Fishermen, they were simply dressed, a tunic, or chiton. The boats were simple wooden boats.


Arnold Renderer - Arnold gave my favourite render. The shadows are so smooth on this, giving the most realistic effect from my tests. I would add further lights in the final renders. I would use 3-point lighting.

Maya Hardware - The shadows are very deep, not what I would be looking for. And the lighting on the houses does not match very well with the other shadows.

Maya Software- A little better than the Hardware, but still not my ideal.

Mentalray - If I cannot use Arnold (due to concerns with if I could do the scenes from home), I would use Mental Ray. I would definitely require to soften the shadows slightly, as the hills seem a little too harsh, but the effect on the houses are better than on the Maya Software test.

Water Sim Test, Maya Software - I would need to fix some issues with the water if I used Arnold for this preset water sim, as it appears as just black. Although with extra lights, the shadows aren't as harsh as before. The light shine on the water looks very nice.


Concerns for the scene - Modelling time. The room shouldn't take too long, as the setting is pretty dark, so details aren't majorly important. Hinting at details could give a good effect, which I will test.

Detailing the Mirror frame. Again, hinting at details will be key. I could create a basic shape, then UV map the texture to it with a Bump map to give that little bit of extra depth. Or even Sculpt Geometry tool it, which uses a greyscale image to generate peaks and troughs. Black areas are the lowest, white is the highest, greys are determined by intensity. I've seen examples of scenery made like this.

Models - I will have to create the facial rigs for the characters myself (luckily, this ties in with my dissertation). Time is the main factor for this, as I will have to model the character's features. Main ones, Phoneme shapes (for speech) and eyes. I would need to do this for two characters, Levi-Black and the Fisherman. I can save time by not showing the faces of the Seance visitors. This will save a lot of time, which is key, and the visitors can be represented by the backs of their heads.

Test of Blendshapes within Maya. Easy to set up and gives you a basic slider interface right away!

Simulation - There is a scene where water will be required to be simulated. Maya 2015 has a Bifrost plugin which simulates water brilliantly. Sadly, it hasn't worked on my computer. It seems it may have been an issue with it's installation, which I will reinstall. There also seems to have been an issue with other simulation styles for water in my version. If this is not fixable, I'll either have to do the Maya simulations in University - if it works fine there, or use an earlier version of Maya on my home computer.

UPDATE: Reinstalling Maya 2015 with all the Service Packs has not fixed the issue with BiFrost. Autodesk contacted me with a response to my problem, saying it sounds like a problem with my Preferences settings, so to reset them and try again. This still didn't work, so at the moment, I will be unable to use it, at least at home. The Uni computers are still to be tried and from there, I will see if a file from the university can be used successfully on my own computer.

MEL Scripting? - To keyframe a flickering candle is just time consuming. Keying the intensity is easy enough, but just a time killer. If I can get some MEL script working on the lighting, I'll save some time.

Conclusion - All of the concerns have ways they can be done. Some just rely on time, others need other fixes, like working elsewhere or on a previous version of Maya. In 5 weeks, I am confident I'll have a finished product I will be happy with, as will the client.