Channel 4 Ident

The original storyboards for the Channel 4 ident called to preview Channel 4’s groundbreaking programming as they are renowned for challenging perceptions and pushing the boundaries, with shows such as Cast Off’s; Skins; Shameless; Facejacker etc…  They are also committed to championing new talent and getting the best out of people (Channel 4 International) .  The proposal was to showcase these programmes inside of the pieces of the 4 logo as they explode from the TV; this was to be done with target light projection maps, as seen in the Cleveland Show projector, and to a lesser extent in the final version, the old 4 ident displayed on the TV screen prior to the explosion.

For this effect I looked at a tutorial to achieve this effect by mapping an animated texture onto the screen and set a target light with a custom falloff and attenuation to achieve the effect of a more concentrated light source which would have a greater impact on the environment.  The effect of this is somewhat lost in the final version due to the environment being changed to include textured walls in the background.

The original had a black background which emphasised the projected light, antenna lights and reflections to a greater extent, however this was a rather boring and lazy backdrop.

target light projection

target light projection

I managed to achieve a better effect on the DVD cover for the project, but was unable to replicate this success in the animation.

The main elements of the composition were modelled using a variety of techniques using splines, such as bevel profile for the 4 logo and a surface modifier applied to cross-sections of the TV set.  The legs were modelled using a loft function and mirrored on 2 axis’.  Spline modelling is a very good way of modelling an object accurately with the control of an editable poly.  To give the TV set more of a cartoon like appearance, modifiers were placed on it to deform the shape such as taper in xy.

The omni lights on the antennas also used a custom attenuation to give the light more volume and to make them appear as if they had a glow effect on them.  Lighting is a very important factor in making a model look realistic or stylised.  Light and shadow affect our environment and change constantly throughout the day and year in real life, so we cannot avoid its effects.  Light and shadow define 3 dimensional form and how the eye perceives depth and distance.  without the effects of lighting, the brain just interprets the image as a 2D shape.

Essentially how humans interpret the light arriving at the eye into an image is based on the amount of light arriving at any 1 point.  Without lighting effects we would see a flat image as all of the light we see arrives at what is more or less a flat surface at the same time.  3D is really only an illusion.  Bats and Dolphins can investigate 3D space using echolocation, measuring the change in wavelength and time taken for the return of the echo in the same way we hear the doppler shift of a passing vehicle etc…

An interesting application of 3D effects applied to fractal images.

Overall the ident could have done a far better job of previewing breakthrough programmes and challenging perceptions as it was a rather ‘safe’ idea to go for with a weak concept, which was hampered along with the other projects with a severe lack of motivation.

Flash Banner

The Flash Banner for the new MA in 3D animation can be found as a pop up on the YDP homepage; this was the most successful of the projects, and unlike many other banners contained interactivity for the user.  It seems very inapplicable for a banner advertising an advanced course in 3D animation to contain no trace of either 3D or animation.

The pitch called for a high standard of animation to prove to potential future students that the course would offer an appropriate level of course material.  Many of the other banners were purely typography and imagery which does not provide a good footing for a successful advertising campaign.  According to a study by The Advertising Council and PhaseOne Communications in 2001, the most successful banners used a 4-based pyramid approach to increasing hit numbers.  These are drawing the eye, engaging the mind, creating a desire and facilitating action.

The above banner engages the eye with a simple animation which subtly draws the user’s attention.  In the study, 35 percent of the least clicked group were motionless.therefore animation is a key way to draw the eye and engage the viewer.  82 percent of ads with high hit-rates are of a relevant benefit.  For example, an advertisement for Samsung TV’s would not do well if it advertised with an image of a can of soup.  One could argue that an iconic advertising campaign doesn’t necessarily have to have an obvious link with the product directly, such as the Sony Bravia campaign with the exploding paint, however, these ads have to be special in some other way.

The banner attempts to engage the user by hinting to the text with the character’s eyes, as if to suggest there is something interesting to be discovered.  There would then be a link to the MA’s information page with information on how to apply.  Out of all the projects the banner was of the most professional standard.  Some limitations of note during the making of it was orthographic rendering due to the shape and size of the banner.  This meant that the ‘Dog Look’ interaction had to be rendered separately and overlayed, hence there is some pixelation in this section.

The animations in this composition would have been a lot easier with the knowledge of set keys in the key info tools rather than the use of anchoring feet and hands.  These allow you to key frame the anchoring more easily.

Title Sequence

Originally the title sequence was meant to include more events from the book and include ‘Easter Eggs’ for fans of the book, such as the reoccurrence of ducks and the use of locations.  However due to time constraints it was impossible to do full justice to this novel.

The texture used for the models was based on a type of modified cel-shading, adapting ideas found in this tutorial, as Holden Caulfield, the main character and anti-hero of the book wants to prevent himself from ‘falling’ into adulthood, so the texture is trying to represent a child-like treatment and style.

The material uses a variety of maps and masks with varying parameters to retain a 3D look without the full effect of cel-shading.  Shown below are some examples of experimentation with cel-shading and some of the models which were not used in the production.

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The majority of the work on the titles was done in After Effects using 3D layers, cameras and lights, and the typography would have been suited better within the 3D environment, such as floating within the drink etc…  The typography also needed to be much more prominent within the composition and engaging with the viewer.

The titles would have been far more successful with the original storyboards as it would have offered far more of the story and had its own narrative, whereas on its own, the composition is short  and not very visually impressive due to the lack of backgrounds.

Good typography is an important aspect of design “The fact that it appears on a screen and not on a piece of paper is immaterial; it should still be pleasing to look at and easy to read… In every situation where type is used — in publishing, signage, packaging, television, etc. — designers have to adapt their techniques to suit the medium” (Web Page Design for Designers)  There is such a thing as a bad font, whether it be legibility of suitability.  Sometimes a particular typeface carries a certain stigma, such as Helvetica, which is renowned as a co-operate font, which is discussed in the feature-length film of the same name by Gary Hustwit.  The shift in perception over this typeface proves that there is no such thing as constant good design.  What may be perceived as good design one day, may be viewed as too cliché the next.

To conclude over the whole project, time management could have been better, there was an extreme lack of motivation towards the projects which affected the quality of the final outcome.  However this is also due to skill with the programmes, for instance, the use of set keys and better Photoshop skills would have made the look of the models and animations look better.

Render time on these projects was adequate, the flash banner sequences took around 20 minutes with Mental Ray and final gather enabled for between 100 and 200 frames using skylight to achieve a clay render with soft shadows.  However now I would be more inclines to use MR spot lighting with advanced area parameters to achieve soft shadows which also have more definition than skylight, as this has worked very well in another project.

Everyone has their different strengths and weaknesses in a field, in industry there would be many different departments working on projects such as these.  For instance, modelling, texturing, environments and animation.  Personally I would consider myself more of an animator with texturing and environments being a personal weakness and this shows in the projects.

My feelings towards the projects as previously stated was lack of motivation because of commitments with other projects, in industry there would be many projects on the go at once.  Alexander Kiesl, CEO, Head of VFX at Unexpected GmbH said in an interview for 3D Artist Issue 14, page 30-35, that his company now has the ability to pick and choose their projects due to demand for their services.  However they, uniquely, like to take care of the entire projet in-house with a team of 7 artists and hire additional freelancers when needed to keep the project personal.  “We pretty much work as a team and anyone from our team can come up with ideas and proposals and is allowed to be creative if it leads to a better result.”

In my original evaluation of the projects I mentioned about how there are endless possibilities working with 3D.  Results that are achievable today by average users were almost impossible to achieve by professional standards 10 years ago.  This is thanks in part to Moore’s law, stating that computing power doubles every 18 months, and affordability of processors has come down dramatically as silicon-based technology gains in performance.  The aim of 3D digital media is to achieve realism and then achieve the impossible in a believable manner, simulating real-world physics, cloth dynamics, hair and fur simulation etc… and then doing it with characters such as the Na’avi of Pandora, getting an audience to associate and empathise with a fictional character, and believe that they can exist in their fictional environment.

This is where secondary animation and attention to detail come into play, this worked better in the banner with the tail, ear and eye movement, but was markedly harder to achieve in the other projects and was compensated for with the 3D camera movement in After effects, which made the compositions more interesting than they would have been had no extra movement been added.


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3D Artist p30-35 – an interview with Alexander Kiesl, CEO, head of VFX, Unexpected GmbH

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“One of the most prestigious distribution brands, bringing the best of independent production to a global audience” – Channel 4 international.