Composition Revisited

So as my trailer renders out, I’ve decided to discuss some more things I learned through extra study of compositing.

I’m not sure if you remember, but last trimester we had to discuss visual fundamentals pertaining to our specialisations, and for some reason I’d actually only recently remembered it, so I went back and had a read through of everything I’d learned back then.

Visual Fundamentals in Games

As it turns out, I had a pretty in-depth explanation on composition in games, and how to train the player’s eye to look at certain points on the screen. After reading this, I realised that this exact same knowledge could obviously be applied to my game trailer. DUH.

Now the initial concept for our game trailer was that it would lead directly into the title screen/main menu for the game, so everything had to line up in such a way that would be able to include menus, a title, buttons, etc. However, after some discussion with our team we realised that this approach was perhaps not the best way to go about things, and that the trailer could be a completely separate part of the game, easing the pressure on we, the animators (Brandon and I) and the programmers (The programming required to make that idea work is quite complex).

However, by the time this decision was made I’d already created an animatic based off one of our ideas. I’d used what I knew of creating a focal point using the foreground, midground and background elements to create what I thought was a fairly decent overall idea, and the team also liked it. Not only that, but Brandon and I both discussed having both a separate trailer AND an animated main menu, and decided we wanted to do both.

Looking back on this now, I’ve realised that I made some serious errors.

  • While I thought about depth, it wasn’t quite right. The foreground elements needed to frame the shot more, the midground wasn’t quite close enough, and the background was okay, but looked off due to the misplacement of the midground.
  • The main character is right in the middle of the shot. To make this more interesting, and to draw more attention to him, I should have either better executed Symmetry (planimetric shot), or I should have instead followed the Rule of Thirds and not placed him directly in the centre, with so little else emphasising him.

Once I felt I was ready enough to do so, I took my ideas to UE4 to set up some of the scenes that I thought would be most effective. And here is where I started adding cameras that would get the effect I wanted across. AND GUESS WHAT HAPPENED????
My main feature, the viking character Brandon had modelled, did NOT want to import into Unreal. It had problems with multiple roots being assigned, or if that wasn’t the case, he only had a torso, just…. ugh. It was a nightmare 😦

So, I instead tried to make a different version of my original animatic, using the altar as the main point of focus. I tried a couple of ways:

At the start I was determined to try and follow in Wes Anderson’s footsteps, and attempted to capture the scene in a perfectly symmetrical view. However, I didn’t think it was effective at all, no matter how much I tried.

UE4_3 UE4_4

It just wouldn’t work for me, maybe it’s not quirky enough XD.


So, despite my best efforts, and my lack of anything truly interesting to complete the scene (*cough* viking *cough*), I decided against my planimetric dreams. 😥
What I came up with instead is, in my opinion, better than I’d hoped for 😀


While the symmetrical image of the altar was definitely something that could be built upon, the lack of any other animation in the scene would have resulted in a wasted shot. Ideally I would have had the viking in there at some point, truly bringing the piece together in a visually effective way.

So instead I opted for the shot that you see below:

Why this one, in particular? Mostly because I felt that it was the most effective in terms of placement, not just from a composition point of view, but also from a Menu designer’s. It would be easy to follow a good rule of thirds, effectively use colour and some lighting with slight animation, to create something beautiful and useful for the game.
So I went to town, went through various lighting changes and camera positions/angles/movements to bring you the animation I did.

Hopefully you all think it’s okay, but if there are any tips you could give me that would be great! I don’t think I could ever know everything when it comes to this area of study! 🙂


UAV Drones changing Photography for the better?

If you haven’t noticed by now, aerial drones are definitely starting to become one of the most appreciated new technologies for many people.

However, today I wanted to look at how they affect photography, and why exactly they are changing composition entirely, in photography, film making, and anything else they’re useful for!

In films in particular, sometimes it isn’t possible to get quite the shot you’re after. If you want an immense wide-shot but you don’t have the equipment available to you/the location isn’t good enough/a number of other reasons, you’re usually left wondering what to do. Most companies today turn to digital compositing and cgi to make up for what isn’t attainable by man, to create surreal landscapes we could only dream of going to ourselves.
With the production of UAVs slowly becoming more mainstream, they’re quickly being snatched up by any company who can make a use of them. Obviously, this means that companies focused on impressive scene shots are going to be on board with this.

How UAV Photography is Changing Film Making

The article above describes exactly why drones are so useful today for photographers/videographers around the world. They offer the ability to reach places that were once unreachable, they can get a view that could only be attained while flying yourself, they’re almost too good to be true.

While they aid photographers (especially those who specialise in landscape photography) to capture beautiful scenery images from unimaginable heights, they also manage to do this in a fraction of the time that it would take the photographer themselves. No longer do people have to trek to dangerous heights in precarious places to see great views, they can do it all safely on the ground without any harm to themselves whatsoever. This in itself is worth the money, in my opinion.
However, it isn’t an easy way to become an incredible photographer with an eye for great composition.

That same article states that while yes, the drones are fantastic for helping in this particular field, their true strength comes when they’re combined with ‘tried and true fundamentals’.
It’s easy to grab a drone and start snapping aerial shots all day long (If you have the money for this I’m so, so jealous), but unless you have a trained eye for composition, and great photography, you’re unlikely to be using the tech to its’ full potential.

Once you combine the two, it’s clear here that the results can be astounding.

So while it’s clear that drones will only continue to embed themselves in today’s photography/cinematography age, hopefully we remember to keep visual fundamentals in mind, in order to produce the best work possible.

Revisiting CITS Work with a new knowledge

Since studying up on composition, and what makes an image really stand out to the viewer, I decided to revisit my concepts for Cave in the Sky.

Victim 1: My original Songhellir background, inspired by Maxx’s original image of the same idea.


What’s so wrong with this, you ask? There’s nowhere for the eye to go. I have bright colours on the top half, a white-leaved tree in the lower centre, and an oddly dark cliff to the side that isn’t quite dark enough to be in the foreground. Nothing points to any particular focal point, so it makes the eye struggle to land on one spot and see the picture as a whole.


It could have been an effective use of the rule of thirds, having only the main aspects along the bottom third of the image, however the bright galaxy clusters distract the eye too much towards the top, leaving the viewer confused overall.


Note: I only JUST noticed the huge chunk missing from where I re-positioned the fox to be further to the right… try to imagine it’s not there? XD

By bringing the tree closer to the viewer, and pushing it further to one corner, it seems to be more of a foreground element that’s leaning into the midground. While this could potentially be bad, the darkness of the cliffs push them closer to us, and the brightening of the leaves pushes the top of the tree slightly further away, creating more of an interesting perspective overall. This, along with the newly-shaped wispy stream, really help to bring the tree into focus. By simply framing the shot better, and adjusting some minor elements, I think I’ve improved the image’s look as a whole.

Next! My original Honey Tree concept:

Now this was a very rough idea that I quickly tried to get down, so that I could let others and myself know what the general plan for this scene was. However, it’s not great, and definitely needed some touch-ups.


Once again, I’ve managed to distract the viewer’s eye by putting in too many distracting elements all at once. If I had just had the bear in the image, then this may have actually been really good. Obviously the white colours of the bear and deer contrast greatly to the rest of the warm image.
But with everything in the image being bright, close to the viewer, and just overall messy, it makes it difficult to focus on any one point.


By using the rule of thirds, asymmetrical balance, and a better use of space, I feel like I’ve produced an image here that is much easier on the eye for the viewer. I’ve also tried to make all of the points in the image subtly lead back to the bear, who is by far the brightest point seen.
I also tried to reduce the number of colour variations I had in the scene, as I thought it was overall a bit too much. Instead, I focused on bolder, more fitting colours to really bring out the general feel of the image.
By setting my scene up around a particular focus point, I feel this has become a much better image overall 🙂


Time to reflect on what responsibility feels like…


So as pretty much all of you are aware, at the beginning of the trimester our class of three different studio teams was presented with a monstrous task: make a 1 hour animation for the performance of ‘Cave In The Sky’.
To be honest, everyone had mixed opinions about this task from the beginning. Many of us were incredibly inspired by the music, and immediately jumped on board to pitch their animation ideas, whereas others were more focused on working on personal projects instead.

For myself, I was apprehensive. This kind of project is something that will be excellent for your portfolio as a student. To make a real, substantial animation project for an actual client before you’ve graduated? Awesome. I was excited about the prospect of improving my resume and portfolio, but with our studio 3 class only just coming out of a big, and rather unimpressive group project (Creature Menagerie), I was incredibly scared.

However, over the holidays prior to this trimester, I brushed up on management methods, tips, articles, problem solving, etc., and thought that ‘Hey, surely with this many new people on the team, it can’t go too badly.’ And you know what?

I was right.

When I was appointed Project Manager, I was ecstatic. I’d worked unnecessarily hard on my application to the facilitators, and it was a dream come true to be trusted with the responsibility of managing a team and project of this size. I dove into the work for it, documentation, scheduling, team lead meetings, all of it. I loved every second of it, and even now I still do. Want to know why? Because in the end, things turned out exactly how I thought they would.

During my research over the holidays, I’d come to realise that being a Project Manager (PM) / Producer was hard work. Projects rarely go how you expect them to, how you plan them to, how you want them to. And that’s okay. Another thing that happens is that you tend to become one of the least favourite members on your team, because you simply can’t please everyone. The best you can do is get everything planned out in as much detail as you can, create all the required documentation early, help your team if any problems should arise and keep everyone informed of changes/decisions made.

In the early stages of the project, we had a few people elected as concept artists. As soon as we gave them a vision, they started working hard to produce pieces that we could use. I’ll admit it was hard, the team lead at this point had some serious health issues, which resulted in a fairly substantial setback in our schedule. The artists came to me for critique and direction, to which I gave it happily. Unfortunately what my vision for the project was ended up being different to the Art Lead’s. However, this isn’t anyone’s fault in particular, I’d say that this was just a way for us to realise that our initial conceptualisation and design needed to be more clearly defined to everyone on the team, especially the Leads.

Regardless of this, the Art Bible, Story Plan, Team Roles/Schedule, Technical Specifications and Client Approval were completed during those weeks to a good standard.
As soon as the Art Lead returned, they explained the overall vision to the whole team, and that was an immediate morale boost and help for the rest of the project. From there we created and are continuing to create great scenes.

From there it was a matter of re-organising the team as a whole, re-assigning positions, and re-scheduling to provide efficient workflows for everyone.

Due to time restraints and pressure to complete other projects, the team starting becoming less driven to complete CITS work during the middle of the tri. I was personally in the same boat, having pressure from my CIU project to complete assets/concepts, as well as my specialisation tasks.

I think this era for any student is the most stressful, because once you hit that mid-point and realise you’re not as on top of your schedule as you’d like to be, you start to panic. Myself and multiple others hit this point, and I’m sad to say that we collectively didn’t handle it well. I know that for myself, I hit a point where I was visibly shaken, and for that I apologise to everyone on my team. As a PM it’s my job to be the motivator and support system for others. I’m meant to be the one who reassures my team members that progress is progress, no matter how little. By showing the team that I was worried, I worried them too, hindering their work.

After some time to relax and take some time to unwind, I was able to gather myself and resume being a dedicated leader. (I hope :P)
From the midpoint to now, we’ve actually managed to do rather well. We’ve hit some bumps along the road, we’ve had some disagreements, but overall we’re on track to create something amazing for the band’s performance. I’m pleased with the efforts of my team, and I hope that we can all learn things from this experience for any similar projects in the future.

Once I’d recovered after my stressful period, I researched more into management tips, and wrote this blog: Project Managing all up in dis biz . This helped me clarify what I should focus on, how to solve potential new problems, etc.

Now, more of a negative nancy part here, the ‘what didn’t quite go to plan’:

  • We needed a better risk management plan, so that problems such as absences didn’t affect us as much as they did.
  • We needed to properly gauge every team member’s commitment to the project, so we could accurately distribute the bigger tasks to those who proritised CITS over their other projects.
  • Even though we scheduled for meetings, we rarely had them. This needs to be addressed early on, and shouldn’t happen again.
  • We need to inform team members to drill us with questions until they are 100% sure about what their task is, and the vision they should be striving towards.
  • The lack of program specifications and limitations affected us to collaborate with each other. Some scene compositors were using program plug-ins outside of what the university had, which meant that work on those scenes could only be done on their respective computers at home.
  • Lack of requests for feedback on some assets and animations meant that a fair amount of work had to be re-made. This resulted in slower progress overall.
  • Lack of communication between the Leads meant we had more trouble creating cohesive work, until we met together in class.
  • The project itself should not have been made mandatory for the first 5 weeks of the trimester, this meant disbanding of the team at a crucial point of production. It also meant that the Leads had to find work for those who had no commitment to the project whatsoever.

SO! After all this, I’ve researched more into Project Management and come up with these articles to keep bookmarked for the future. They’re helpful to me, and they’re helpful to others who don’t quite understand things from the PM’s point of view. 🙂

10 things you didn’t know about Producers

Production Fundamentals

“Negativity and bad habits spread quicker than positivity and good habits…Work and lead how you want others to work and lead.”

“If something isn’t going well, or simply needs revisiting, come at this problem from an enthusiastic and upbeat manner – sure it isn’t going well, but let’s figure out HOW to make it better, not focus on why it’s awful and everything is doom and gloom.”

Managing Large Scale Game Content Production

I feel like overall, I wasn’t meant to be producing assets for this project. Documentation and leading the team was my main role, but I was too caught up in my own work for the project that I ended up neglecting others who needed my help and advice. With that being said, I found it interesting to be on both sides of the spectrum, giving and receiving feedback according to the brief was interesting for sure.

What I’ve created for this project so far:

Various CITS Assets : Backgrounds, Model, Animations, Visual Effects

Model Sheets : Self-explanatory

Documentation, so much documentation.

If I were to be a Producer/Project Manager in the future, I’d try to ensure that I knew what my boundaries were. It’s not expected for someone in this role to make assets, so I shouldn’t have pushed myself to do that. Leading a whole team is a big task, I didn’t need to add the extra work on top of that just to help them out. I should have trusted more in the abilities of everyone else rather than assuming that any shortcomings or unassigned tasks were up to me to take on. Silly mistake.

From this , I feel as though I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to be a Producer, and what my role should and shouldn’t involve in the production of a project. It’s been an absolutely eye-opening experience, and to be honest, I still aspire to be a better Producer. Maybe I’m crazy, or maybe I just love the stress of an entire team relying on me, who knows 😛

Hopefully you don’t all hate me by now, I promise you I tried my absolute best in this role! Please don’t burn me. Hahaha…

Making all the things, and still MANAGING to keep my head together

Huehuehuehue. No but seriously, I made some things 🙂

These were the final backgrounds to be used for the songs ‘The Gift’, ‘Honey Tree’ and ‘Sönghellir’.
Maxx wrote up a very specific story plan for each song, so I tried to ensure that my images followed that well, and hopefully I did >< hahaha 🙂
The Gift_Dakota



Along with these, I also modelled, rigged, skinned, animated and rendered out my little seahorse creature, here are his two cute animations 🙂

After realising that quite a few people weren’t too familiar with After Effects, myself included, I decided to learn how to create a couple of animations to add to some of our scenes 🙂
Hopefully they were helpful for those who were tasked with compositing the song scenes :DD (I know who you aaaaaare!)

Note: I’ll add the links soon, the videos are just uploading to Vimeo now, and some are rather large files 🙂

Along with this, I’m also slowly going through and tweaking some animations that others have done (Thank you Jon for the basis for these animations, seriously helpful! Oh, and the OBVIOUSLY model itself XD) in order to flow more smoothly in the scene. I’ve made these deer animations smoother after a lot of pain went into them, and even though they’re not perfect by any means, I’m still happy with the final outcome 😀

Don’t mind the random glow fading away in these GIFs, I accidentally put the material on while Auto Key was on at the time (Since been fixed).



After this super intense week is over, and I’ve got more time to work on Cave In The Sky before the performance itself (September 13th), I’ll be going over the Phoenix renders as well, just to brighten them up a little. The animations themselves are great, but the creature itself doesn’t stand out too much from the black background, so we need to tweak that a little 🙂 No biggie! Should be done in no time 😀

Until next blog post peeps!

CITS Reference Material Analysis

I’m pumping out blog posts here guys, so sorry about that >< haha

For Cave In The Sky, one of the very first tasks was to develop a clear vision of what the final product was going to be. As PM, I needed a very good understanding of that in order to help my team create assets that would tie in with the overall idea well.

Angelica quickly set up a multiple Pinterest boards that would include all aspects of the project (Art style, Transitions/Particle Effects/Animation/Stage Steup). While we didn’t end up needing the ones involved in stage setup, they were useful later on when we discussed our ideas on this matter with Akshay at a later point.

Okay! So once the boards were set up, I was invited to start pinning to it, and boy did I. Angelica, Maxx and I went crazy with pins, finding images that we all thought suited the idea that we’d all agreed on.

I’m going to pick out a select few that definitely stood out to me as the main inspirations for our final design decision, and discuss why I chose them.



Now this first piece was, to me, magical. When I listened to the audio for CITS, I imagined beautiful galaxies and far away places. We had all discussed merging ideas of the ocean, ground and sky to give more of an ethereal feel, and to me this piece summed up almost all of that for me. The innocent character, the cloudy fish swimming through the sky, and even the perspective all added to its effect.
This inspired my original galaxy aurora concept, and the final product involves many songs with colourful galaxies, and a beautiful aurora.



This was another image that took my breath away. The idea of the girl herself becoming ethereal and wispy, blending into the environment in that way was beautiful. It again used a galaxy to pull off this effect, and so I wanted to try and take that idea but change it to give some variety. That resulted in my ‘Clouded Mind’ concept.  unfortunately this idea never made it into the final product, but I’m not fussed about it, I still love this inspirational image to bits 😀

Update on Sculpting

Okay! So some of you might know that I’d planned to tackle two specialisations this trimester: Compositing a trailer and 2 high-poly sculptures.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints and other tasks requiring more of my attention, I was unable to complete even the base models to begin sculpting with. :/ I’ve decided to put this task on hold until the holidays, and just focus on the trailer for my specialisation project.

The furthest I’d gotten was a basic idea of the body shape for the male character. However, here are my model sheets, just to prove that yes I did start something! Even if I absolutely didn’t get a chance to finish it XD

Dylan ModelSheet Kat ModelSheet

Capture01 And this was where I’d gotten so far. No real muscle definition so far, and the hands/legs/head obviously need to be finished as well. OH WELL, I’m still motivated to continue this project as a personal challenge, so I think you’ll definitely be seeing more of these later on 🙂