Thursday, November 5, 2009

Script Second Draft: Shot List

Fade In:

shot 1 - Wide Shot of a factory floor. Two "dead" robots slide out of the way as we slowly dolly in to see our hero robot, a red light glowing above it, indicating that it is still functioning. The Faint sound of a motor starting and stopping can be heard.

shot 2 - Medium shot of the hero robot, looking at from the front, again the red indicator light in view. Sound of the motor a bit louder.

shot 3 - POV shot. We see a close up of a claw, opening and closing slowly, the object that the factory makes is just out of reach.

shot 4 - Full shot of entire robot, from the side, claw opening and closing, still slowly.

shot 5 - Wide shot from up high, through a shattered window/ripped wall siding, a figure appears in the foreground, hero robot still visible in the hole.

shot 6 - From the opposite angle, behind the hero robot, JASPER jumps through hole, still unclear as to who/what he is, leaves frame, then comes back into view as he approaches the hero robot. His eyes follow the entire length of the machine, inspecting, eventually grabbing the 'head' of the robot and peers into the eye.

shot 7 - POV, we see JASPER's cubist-style face inspecting the eye, and then beginning to move screen left.

shot 8 - Full-Wide shot, angled slightly downwards and above the robot's claw, JASPER moves towards camera, picks up object that the hero robot was reaching for, quickly inspects it, then tosses it behind him. The hero robot pathetically follows it with eye and claw as JASPER grabs another object from his pouch/belt.

shot 9 - Cut to a closer version of the previous shot, JASPER places another object onto the assembly line, grabs the hero robot's eye and points it at the object. The robot stares.

shot 10 - POV from hero robot's perspective, of a MIRROR, the reflection being obviously clear and not in 'cubist mode'


shot 12 - Medium/Full shot of the robot looking around, more animated than before. It eventually looks down at it's hand, lifts it up and starts rotating it playfully.

shot 13 - Medium shot of JASPER, looking amused. He begins to move forward.

shot 14 - Close up of JASPER's hand patting the hero robot on it's 'head'. JASPER then moves away.

shot 15 - Wide shot of factory floor, slowly pulling back. As JASPER is leaving screen right, we see the robot still playing with hand. The shadow of JASPER passing through the hole in the ceiling moves across robot, catching its attention as it looks up and watches him leave.

Fade out

Short Animation Analysis

Matt had asked me to analyze four animated short films, describing their story structure, use of style, and whether or not it was necessary to use animation to tell the story in the first place.

Knick Knack
What first struck me about this short was how quickly the characters appealed to me. Within the first few shots, I was interested in who these characters were, and how they might fit into the story. The music, vibrant colors, and subtle animation had me hooked from the beginning. Also, the strict reliance on the three act structure made the film easy to follow. I imagine the choice to use 3D animation came more from a "because we can" attitude rather than from a decision based on what would best fit the story. Obviously the technology was new and not very sophisticated at the time, but overall it did not take away from the story, how it was told, or how entertaining the end product was.

Nose Hair
As this short progressed, I begin to lose any semblance of a recognizable story, at least not in the same sense as "Knick Knack". As exciting and abstract as the visuals were, towards the end and from a storytelling perspective I was asking myself ‘what was the point’. The storyteller obviously wanted to depict visual abstraction, so in this case animation as a medium made sense. The sketchy pencil style aided in the manipulation of figure-ground, and the constant shifting of the environment kept me interested.

I imagine the most important obstacle the director of this short had to overcome was selling the world to an audience. It takes about a minute to finally get a wide shot of the environment, but by then the balancing mechanic had been properly established throughout a series of close ups, medium, and full shots. I did find myself asking a few questions about the character’s intentions as the short progressed (Have they ever done this fishing thing before, what were they expecting to find, why were the characters up there in the first place, etc). Eventually I ignored those questions for the sake of accepting what was going on in act 2. The use of stop motion definitely gave the short a handmade look, and felt appropriate for the story.

The Writer
Of the four, I think this example begs the question as to whether or not animation was a necessary medium for telling the story the most. The limited motion of the visuals suggests to me that the film’s focus was on the narration. The visuals do help put the spoken dialog into context, but I wonder how I would feel about seeing something like this in live action, or as an audio clip, or with animation that was a bit more intricate and fleshed out. In terms of style, I felt the audio and video matched well.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Script Update: First Draft

"Awareness" (WIP)
Nick Avallone

Act 1

Open with a wide shot of what looks like an abandoned assembly line complex. The audience's view of the scene is flat, abstracted, and fragmented, only barely decipherable (the same can be said up until Act 3). The faint sound of a tiny motor starting and stopping can be heard echoing the background.

Cut to show a variety of damaged assembly line robots, all frozen in time, in the middle of a task for which they were built. Off in the distance we catch a glimpse of a bright red LED. The sound of the small motor is now a bit stronger.

Finally we see one machine still functioning, its large single eye fixated on a thin box just outside of its reach. A two-fingered clamp attached to the machine is stretched out as far as it can go, opening and closing slowly, in an attempt to close the lid on the box. We now see that this is the source of the sound from earlier.


Another wide shot looking through a large hole in the roof of the facility (the working machine still in view) a character steps into frame, objects hang from his belt, one of which being a hand held mirror that reflects a strong glare in the vibrant sunlight. (We'll call him JASPER)

Cut to the opposite angle, JASPER hops down from his perch (leaves frame) makes his way towards the machine, and comes into frame where we get a better look at him.

We then see him inspecting the lone robot, tapping on its side, peering into its eye, etc. Getting no response after waving his hands in front of the eye, JASPER takes the box the robot was fixated on and tosses it aside.

The machine pathetically watches it fall to the ground, points its arm at the box and continues to open and close its clamp.

Satisfied, JASPER begins to fumble with the tools in his possession, finally selecting the hand held mirror and holding it in front of the machine's eye.

Act 3

A glare caught in the reflection causes the robot to recoil slightly, refocusing its 'pupil' to compensate for the brightness.

POV shot as the brightness fades, we see a reflection that depicts the robot in full perspective. There will be a large contrast in clarity between the world up until this point, and the reflection in the mirror.

Wide shot of JASPER, the mirror, and the machine. The sound of the tiny motor has finally stopped.

Cut to a medium shot (dolly zoom) from behind the mirror, looking at the robot still staring at its reflection. Slowly, normal perspective returns to the entire image starting at the eye. Fragmented pieces become cohesive, spacial relation becomes clearer, etc.

The robot, astounded, begins to inspect itself and its surroundings, eventually fixating on its arm as it playfully rotates and moves it around.

JASPER takes the mirror away, pats the robot on the head, and takes his leave.

The final shot will be a pull out, looking at the robot still staring at its own hand, until it catches notice of JASPER, and watches him leave through the hole in the roof.

Fade to black.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Maya Tests

The goal of my initial tests was to confirm whether or not i could manipulate geometry based on camera movement alone. The first setup was a combination of blend shapes, set driven keys, and mel scripts. I used a locator (null object) to grab data from a selected camera's location, and then fed that data into a custom attribute. I then created a small library of blend shapes to swap between based on the number in the attribute. The result was an indentation in a cup that followed the camera as you rotated around it.

- In theory the test was successful, however I will need to do some tweaking to the procedure in order to iron out some issues I ran into. For example, the low resolution of the cup geometry prevents the desired smooth transition between blend shapes, resulting in the dip appearing to bounce up and down as it interpolates between shapes.

Another test I attempted was parent constraining the facing side of a cube to a camera's position using clusters. The result is what appears to be the lack of movement in the facing side, and a deformation of the rest of the cube. I'm thinking that a level of offset while moving the camera might serve me better, and look a bit more interesting.

I'll be using a combination of both techniques to achieve a look I want on a per-shot basis. More tests to follow.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Inspiration Pack

Below are a few links and descriptions to help better describe the visual inspiration for this thesis.

The indoor shots of the house have this really interesting flat aesthetic. What I find most intruiging (and a little mind boggling) is how easily the 3D characters seem to interact with things like the floor and table, which look like they are perpandicular to the screen. I'm looking to do something similar to this, except throw in some camera motion, and have objects in the scene change their shape to compensate.

Samurai Jack
This clip includes a few elements that should help better explain what I am going for. Most notably, the set pieces in each shot are seemingly painted to only 'work' for that shot in particular. That is to say, the imagegery is abstracted to the point of inconsistency with the other shots. The characters show a little bit of this as well. The challenge for me is to represent something similar in 3D. Also, there are certain shots that use our acceptance of these inconcsistencies to set up some great compositions. For example, at 3:44 the set piece is composed in such a way that forces your eye directly towards the combatants, when there had been no indication previously in the clip that they were in an area that looked anything like this.

Cubist Camera
This is one of the sources I used in my thesis proposal. The basic concept involves setting up a string of virtual cameras surrounding a subject within a 3D animation package, and taking a sliver from each camera to build a final image. The result depicts a subject in an abstracted form, shown from multiple perspectives. Though I'm not sure as to whether or not I will be using this technique exactly, the thought process behind the concept has helped inform some visual ideas.

Friday, October 9, 2009


This thesis seeks to develop a 3D animation using techniques such as abstract and exaggerated perspective, non-linear optics, experimental rigging methods, and optical illusion to not only develop a unique style meant to push the bounds of "expected" virtual reality, but enhance the already rich means of animated storytelling as a whole.

This past week I met with Matt Kaufhold to go over the best way to approach story development for this thesis. We talked about coming up with a general idea first, finding a way to refine that idea to fit within restrictions inherent in the context of a short film (while keeping production time in mind). Once the idea is nailed down, I will watch related short films and assess the similarities, continue on to write a script, and finally create an animatic by the end of this term.