We had a heavy talk with each other regarding our management. It seems to be that we are slowing down to constantly adapt the the animatic/narrative to appease each others interests and concerns. I have become personally frustrated and even angered by the constant changes in directions and small insignificant tweeks being made because someone isn’t happy or they got feedback from another team who put their own ideas into the film. It’s simply not practical and for the most part we can’t achieve our objective of making the damn movie if these frequent obstacles or backtracks occur…
So I suggested we subdivide.
9 weeks into this project and it’s come to my attention and the group as a whole that we can’t stop a four-person operation when one or two people could be taking on the task themselves. I theorised that be subdividing us into pairs, we could break the tasks into a balance – two focus on fixing the animatic (because despite what I think, it is the heart and sole of the project when it comes to the risky-emotional-artsy story we want to attempt to a capture); and the other two continue production.
So here was the plan – Beth and Nathan, as the illustrators of the original animatic, withhold their current tasks and continue to work on the cinematography and narrative delivery of the film. Dan and I would continue in modelling the assets needed for the film that were in the film unquestionably. Dan did props such as lamps, drawers, etc and I designed and modelled the bedroom.
The idea was that once Beth and Nathan finished their draft at the end of the week, Dan and I would come and analysise it and provide our own input and I would edit in any subtle readjustments.
I chose personally to withdraw from developing the new animatic despite cinematography and narrative being arguably my greatest strengths, because the reality was that I felt I was holding it back in a way. I noticed through self-reflection that I was showing resistance to change, and with that stubborn and conservative mindset, I needed to be inspired for this to work. And I genuinely believed Nate and Beth could do it. They both seemed to have a clear vision for what they felt should be included, so compromising my beliefs on the film was completely appropriate to make the organic development of a diverse narrative more effective. There is a point in production I learnt that releasing the ego and learning to back away is truly a benefit to the productivity and direction of the team. By not contributing to the current reiteration of the draft, there is less of the “too many cooks spoil the broth” and instead we are doubling our efficiency by working on two outcomes simultaneously.
I instead was eager to keep production going instead of halting it for an animatic because at this rate we have to get it actually done. I took Beth’s concept for the bedroom and designed to create it in Maya so that by the time the animatic was complete, we would have all our environmental assets complete and the plan would simply be to texture, animator and render, thus being back on track accordingly.
Beth believed this was just a rough idea to build on but I say exactly why it worked, so there was no body wasting time to have several different concepts when the emotional intention is already present in this one. The intimacy is conveyed in the claustrophobic, restricted bedroom. The sharp, pointy corners perpetuate a feeling of discomfort and the limited lighting creates a isolating and shallow atmosphere that effectively carries the character’s disposition.
My research led me to thoerise that the bedroom being ‘unfinished’ and ‘uncomfortable’ was fitting to the tone of the room because the comfort, security and calmness a bedroom should provide is absent to further accentuate the narrative’s theme of anxiety and alienation. This a place the character should feel as ease – the bedroom is the core identity of the owner, it’s their environment to manifest their ego. So distorting that and rejecting this harmony is pivotal to the never-ending misery the character is facing. He effectively can’t rest or feel at ease because the environment does not display the atmosphere he needs to relax.
In this regards, like the technical needs of the exterior, I needed to treat the bedroom is a level of artistic intelligence. Despite the room only being present for 2 shots (potentially more), it is the establishing environment of the room, so it needs to carry an immediate impression on the audience. As a result, the feelings of discomfort, incompleteness and isolation need to be maintained and presented in a subtle but naturally noticeable way.
This was my outcome over the five days (including UVs and textures). I haven’t added the atmoshpheric lighting completely until the colours and environmental elements are complete. Essentially, I just recreated Beth’s concept whilst adding my own artistic expression to help present further information to the audience that could be interpreted. The house is built within the measurements of the foundation I had created, so whilst I was restricted in scale, it still managed to fit Beth’s concept and provide additional space to project environmental storytelling.
The first detail I added was the bed. The idea was not to make a modern wooden bed but having a contemporary metal bed frame. I modified various IKEA samples and google searches to create something that was basic frame for two users. The reason for a metal bed was that I wanted the bed to feel uncomfortable without it being old or rustic. It serves as a cheap bed a couple would own before they had the funds to afford something more lavish. By giving our character this bed, it a) perpetuates the idea that he only moved in, and b) heightens the cold and uneasy feeling he’s expereincing. The metal frames are like prison bars, implying his cycle of entrapment, while the simplicity of it makes it obvious to the viewer that it isn’t easy to get relaxed in.
This was further heightened by a very suble detail on the pillows. Notice in the figure below, the pillow on the left is more compressed in comparison to the fluffed pillow on the right. I actually got the idea from The Simpsons (2001), where Flanders leaves his deceased wife Maude’s side of the bed intact. I liked the idea of presence that permeates through a physical connection. The audience can interpret how one side of the is (or isn’t) used. In this case, I wanted to imply that the character only chooses to sleep on one side of the bed, while the other is untouched because it was once the side of his beloved. Considering the audience never get a picture or an immediate indication of the existence of a girlfriend, this information is instead observed through the environment – the double bed, the detached house, and the unused pillow to the right of the character.
This environmental storytelling continues with more apparent details. The use of a bin with crumbled up pages serves as an indication of incisiveness or the struggle to concentrate. When writing, it’s common to go through draft after draft and make mistakes because your mind losses focus, much like the character of the film. The paper outside the bin indicates a lack of concern for the character, as he absorbs himself in his attempt to concentration or make a decision on the letter he’s trying to make.
The cardboard boxes seen around the room also convey the unsettled and incomplete feeling of the house. Considering the character is recently moved in, the empty cardboard boxes serve as the further conveyor of this as the character as moved stuff in. Yet, the emptiness they leave inside feels to me to carry the essence of the same figurative idea. Nothing inside reflecting the emptiness the character feeling, perpetuating a metaphor.
In general, that emptiness exists throughout the room. The lack of a detailed environment keeps the feeling of the character not settling into the house both figuratively (emotional) and literally (narrative). So the idea with the prop models was to give the impression that he simply put together a makeshift space until all his furniture is moved into the house. Instead of making a traditional lamp, I made a desk lamp because it’s temporary as a bedside lamp and something you’d position at a workstation. There is a crudeness to how it lacks a sense of formal placement, in that, it’s just been propped there to make a light source instead of being decorative or intentionally placed with meaning.
In fact, my thinking process for the room’s narrative and artistic design came from my analysis of the video game protagonist Adam Jensen’s apartment in Deus Ex Human Revolution back in 2014. Thinking about the artistic and technical meaning of the room reminded me of this video I year back those years ago, so revising it was a nice chance to revitalise my informed decision making.
This task was an opportunity to ignite the film’s story as it was being developed in the animatic. So, in a way, it wasn’t us subdividing two on story and two on production. We were effectively completing tasks at double speed and in our own ways advancing the story based around our agreed concepts. This task was about simple topology, optimised and UV unwrapped with cleanliness so that once it was finished and polished, it could be locked in place to service the animation. The challenge that faced me here was in trying to make the room look natural without feeling artificially staged in a minimalist way. What I created was an informed bedroom that wasn’t detail about advancing the story is the simplest and most artistic way possible. As detailed above, this is an analytically designed room where it speaks through the information that the meshes present. It’s up the audience to interpret it.
Continuing my technical process with unwrapping from the exterior of the house, here are my UVs textured to visualise the models within the scene. Note that I these are not final to the film but instead to serve as an accurate representation of the object.
Note that the photo textures (referenced below) I do not own, but downloaded them from royalty free sites listed below. I attempted to make the room look unkempt and neglected by adding stains using photoshop brushes. I added to make the textures dynamic without using normal maps. The reason for this was a) it would conflict with our established style, and b) it would be more efficient for rendering by reducing the time it takes. I tried to challenge myself a little more by putting my drawing skills to the test and tried to add fine lines and the stains while using photo textures on outlay blend to make it stand out.
UPDATE: As I am moving onto rigging and set up tasks, Dan as offered to take responsibility for the rest of the bedroom textures. This was a positive way for team management because I build the foundation and Dan, now free of his tasks, can reduce pressure off me to ensure I can complete my additional tasks. No point withholding it when someone is free to assist. I gave him the analytic and technical rundown of the room so he understands what needs done. I’ll be on call if he needs me to assist further as I commence rigging.
It’s extremely great to see that the team are back into a productive and efficient workflow rhythm. Thanks to the subdividing, we appear to be closing back on track with our production schedule. We have moved more effectively into a consistent scrum operation, so it’s clearly working!
Below is my notes on my design and technical process with the assistance of Jess for design details I struggled with.
Sheetz, C. (2001) The Simpsons: I’m Goin’ to Praiseland. Los Angeles: Fox Network
Dugas, JF. (2011) Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Japan: Square Enix
Textures: http://www.hdbloggers.net/wood-texture-amazingly-used-website-designs/, http://www.mb3d.co.uk/mb3d/Wood_Seamless_and_Tileable_High_Res_Textures_files/Wood_14_UV_H_CM_1.jpg, http://texturelib.com/texture/?path=/Textures/rust/completely%20rusted/rust_completely_rusted_0052