The Pixel Crush

-------------------------------------------|Digital Animation & Game Criticism|-------------------------------------------

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Science of Motion

As we near the deadline for this terms major projects I've been working to get my experimental piece done in time now that my 11 second club entry is taken care of (though worryingly it won't upload to the site). Before yesterday I only had 15 seconds of pixelation and some hand drawn stuff to go on top, by some miracle it has now fully formed into something I'm really pleased with.

Spontaneity 1 : 0 Organisation

Yesterday I took my camera out, to the nearby stream, with the intention of shooting some splashes of water to sync with the piano chords of my music clip of choice: the crazy jazzy blues one. I had fun running around in the undergrowth get muddy, soggy, and throwing rocks in the water, doesn't get much further from a sitting in front of a computer than that. It was really sunny and the light shone through the branches in a particularly cinematic way, at this point in winter the sun doesn't rise higher than about half way up the sky so there its like extended evening light. But it wasn't long before it clouded over, but I carried on, finding some crimson berries to animate to the tinkling of piano scales.

This done I returned home, stopping for a pasty and a plastic bag to shelter my camera from the rain. As I returned- berries in pocket, I realised I'd spent the majority of this project in front of a screen, instead of having adventures like that morning, so why not comment in this in the animation itself. When I got home I continued to animate, and crafted a metaphor for the dialogue between man and machine that occurs in digital animation, to remind me which comes first, the man, or the machine.

Friday, 26 November 2010

11 Seconds of Forever IV

My brain is the consistancy of that mush that bananas turn into when they rot, so no fancy prose today. Here is just under a months worth of animating in fully rendered form. I say fully rendered, I'm still not convinced by this motion vector business added in post, though thats coming form a purist ;)
I fear my dabbling in render passes will turn out to be more experimental than my experimental project, but I'll see what I can do to rectify that over the next few days.

I would love for this to do well in the competition, these things matter to me in the silliest ways, at least it matters when I've invested so much time and effort. And time. Did I mention effort?

Part of whats motivated me is this GDC business, to have something I'm proud of that showcases core skills which is purely my own, this ticks all those boxes, and will hopefully be an important addition the slowly expanding showreel. Something to show people who I am should I meet anyone or even get there in the first place. I've got to say it makes brilliant repeat viewing!

I implore you watch this full screen HD.

Monday, 22 November 2010

11 Seconds of Forever III

All animation for the 11 second club is now done except for the lip sync on the second character so here is one final work in progress before the final submission. Lip syncing has turned out to be surprisingly quick, mostly because I haven't done it to a particularly high standard. Considering the handicam style cinematography you just can't see his face that clearly and any flaws that appear in a close up just aren't noticeable, at least not in a high resolution playblast. This is both welcome, and a shame, I may have to experiment with different camera techniques to best frame the scene. The second character is more aligned with the camera so hopefully I'll be able to get some really expressive dialogue from him. Youtube willing I'll have the clip up here, but right now its refusing to upload anything so for now here are some shiny renders:

And the obligatory motion blur, you love it ;)

Meanwhile the gaming critique blogosphere continues to churn out prose on yesterdays, today's, and tomorrows games. Here is a place to find the best of it, including a particularly interesting article which talks about something I've always thought about in relation to war games, and a presentation on social gaming, realism, and gamification which devolves into a crazed rant. Fascinating all the same, I wouldn't put this stuff up if it wasn't important (to me at least) or thoughtful so please give them a read/watch.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Hellish Cutlery

Its that time of night again when my mind wont shut down and I turn to the prose. At least its not addictive or detrimental to my health, physical or otherwise.

I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC. I want to go to GDC, seems to be the pattern of my thoughts.

This involves booking flights in excess of £400 and booking accommodation for about £300, then applying for the volunteer program (writing an essay justifying why you should be chosen) where I work 20 hours in exchange for an all access pass to the conference which is an extraordinary opportunity. Thing is I wont know if I've got a place until January 5th, which is far too late to book flights etc, so I'd have to book early and then later cancel if I failed. Is there a deposit or cancellation fee? Or do you forfeit the whole lot? No idea. Are the flights even sensible times that I can actually be at the airport for?

Why do I want to go to GDC in the first place? Well just about everyone I mention in this blog post will be attending plus just about every leading game development company to talk in detail about everything from the mechanics of game design to where the industry is heading, where it should be heading, whats interesting, whats important, what will further the medium as an artform? All these fascinating people in just one place to converse and discuss the very things that interest me most. On top of that it would a great opportunity to present some work of my own to developers, get some feedback, get my name out there in some form.

All this makes for one psychotic cocktail of a headache, compounded by an 11 second animation where each frame feels like a battle in itself, and an experimental animation that won't get done on its own. Surely all this is some kind of indication of a fork and the road, a hellish piece of cutlery, prongs firmly impaling the pathway. I feel so naive, but if I can somehow force this beast of an event to manifest, that would magical.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

11 Seconds of Forever II

Another week goes by and production seems to slow rather than quicken, its as if time creates a membrane through which my animation has to pass, each frame becoming harder to key.

Recently Dan posted a video that caught my attention (not least because of my recent Half Life experience of admiration, mild obsession, and ultimately disappointment). This  epic animation was done by James Benson who has some interesting tutorials demonstrating his approach to animating, which is more akin to stop motion than CGI. I found these pretty helpful, they're worth your time.

Here's my work in progress for this week, its developed quite a bit since last week but not necesarily in the ways I intended, for example less animating and more:

  • Camera Shake
  • Lighting
  • Fixed Eyes
  • Set Decorations

Click to enlarge:
Shiny Shot No. 2:

I'm just starting to hit my stride so with more hard work I'll have a finished block through for next week so I can start lip syncing! Thrilling stuff.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

11 Seconds of Forever

coming soon...

I thought I'd see if i could procrastinate some more and avoid animating by:

Sunday, 7 November 2010


Here is my work in progress for the 11 second club so far.

But this clip is more of a disguise because what I really want to share is this blog post and the information it contains. The Witness is what Jonathan Blow, Braid creator, is currently working on, and in this blog post he address the quality of most game texturing and how it often detracts from the beauty of the modelled geometry. I happen to agree. I think its the reason I love ambient occlusion so much, it describes a three dimensional object's form in the purest way:

Mr Blow goes on to reference a particularly important pdf of Naughty Dog's art direction presentation at GDC this year. As I was reading it I realised I actually didn't have much of an idea of what game geometry looked like and what kinds of detail were possible, it was fascinating to see how techniques like instancing, shader blending and all kinds of crazily innovative design methods allowed Naughty Dog to create what is probably the most stunningly beautiful game I've ever played. How they budget detail on everything from models to textures to lighting and rendering is what makes this presentation a masterclass in how to make a game look good in the most efficient way possible.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


Our month of the 11 second club has begun. I have been pondering various ideas for different scenarios that could explain the dialogue in this month's sound bite, the one I've settled on isn't especially original and I'm sure there'll be numerous other entries like it but it ticked a number of boxes including explaining the crackle of flames in the background, it allowed for the conflict between the two characters, and it allowed my to give the character's props that would give their hands something do whilst the scene plays out. This first reference video is before I had decided to add props so theres a lot of flailing which, while comic, isn't very expressive.

This next one involves one character holding a shovel and standing next to the freshly dug hole, while the other is holding a flaming torch to see by in the dead of night, dramatic I know. For some reason the sync is off a bit on the sound in the this one but don't let that tarnish your enjoyment of the fantastic, and nuanced acting exhibited here:

At this point I'm resisting watching the original clip for fear of it manipulating my view of the scene and limiting my clearly immensely creative idea. I just know if I watch it I'll end up subconsciously working it into my animation, maybe when this month is done I'll watch it in its entirety.