Thursday, 12 June 2008

Director Statement

Production of Aztec Escape: The Forbidden Cake is now complete and burnt to dvd. As Director of this film project it was my role to oversee and direct all areas of the film (both creative and technical aspects). Its been a hard but enjoyable three terms of solid work and organisation. Taking on the role of director was challenging at times, always knowing that you make all the final decisions for the group and on the film creatively can on the one hand be a benefit but on the other you always know that if anything goes wrong , you'll be the person it lands on. I have seen myself change for the better because of this pressure and character building experiences. I have been more than happy throughout the year to take plenty of time out to review work and to give positive feeback.

When i first began as director i seemed to make decisions very openly to the group, allowing too much discussion and i tried too hard to make compromises when making key creative descisions on character design and story. As the terms have progressed i have realised that to be a successfully director you need to know what u want, and must be able to communicate these wants/needs to the team clearly. I have always taken a very professional approach to the role, I learned that it is hard to balance productivity and quality within the BA course time frame. I always strive for perfection in my work and in the film which can become a weakness as I want to spend too much time on one part of the production process, I have learned that when on tight deadlines quality must be lowered so that productivity is increased and the film is finished. Having direct creative control on a project is a great experience, that you must stay focussed and positive no matter what problems you may come accross throughtout the production process. I have learnt that a good story needs to be told well, through use of cinemtography, developing edits and creating clear and strong camera work. Let the camera work tell the story rather than relying on great animation and rendering. My overall thoughts on the finished film are very positive, im so happy with the outcome and the way we all worked effeiciently, professionally and effectively throughout this year. There is still alot i would want to change if i had the time, scenes i would replace and parts of the script i would re-write, but you just have to learn to walk away and start a fresh project, learning from the mistakes made in previous projects. Im most proud of the edit and energy created when watching the film, its not slow or boring in any place, the audience is taken on a short journey, that is what film making is all about.
I look forward to directing many more films to come!

The future of Aztec Escape? Well since completing this one i feel as though the overal concept has a lot of potential for future film projects, the next film would be slightly longer and dialogue would be essential. In a week or two i will start to write another original film script using Aztec Escape as its foundations. I would like to give a special thank you to Alistair Primrose whos talents and professional score really makes our film stand out and memerable. As well as to Kev and Gareth, whose cinematography advice changed our edit and helped us to produce the film we're all so very proud of. Thank you to my whole team for your ideas, deadication, laughs and for putting up with my perfectionism, its made it an amazing experience working with you, all the best of luck!

Jonathan Pryce (Director)

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Sound, Film Score and Rendering News

Following the successfull meeting with Alistair on Monday and a brief meeting with Becky our sound designer today, the music and effects are slightly behind and so to give them enough time the deadline has been set for late wednesday/early thursday morning. This will give Myself and Rob enough time to create a credit sequence, finish dropping all of the finished rendered files into the final edit and output the film to Quicktime at a pixel aspect ratio of 16:9 so that our film can be played on widescreen televisions. Alistair took on borad all of our productive comments and we worked for a couple of hours on the score with him, detailing correct timings, emotions/feelings, desired atmospheres, etc. Alistair put a huge amount of his own creative input into developing the score for the final final edit. When i suggested possible changes he started writing brand new original music on the spot to fill the gap in the score! Im really happy with the progress of the final score and cant wait to mix it with the sound effects and hear it all together. Becky has also asked for a day extension on the sound effects, plus i asked her to remove some sound effects as they could possibly clash with the film score.

The latest news on rendering is that we have completely finished every section of the film! Im so happy that its actually all done! Though recently we're encountered a few minor problems where textures havent been successfully applied in a few render sequences, therefore resulting in having to re-render some camera shots. Due to the strict schedule that we created, rob and myself built in time for such problems, so we're not actually losing any time.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Lastest Film Score and Sound News

Following sending the new precisely timed animatic to the composer and discussing score ideas over the phone and meetings in London, Alistair sent me the newest version of the Aztec Escape film score. Myself and Rob immdedialety placed the score over our latest film edit to notes any changes that might be needed. The overal score was great, but there were large areas where the music just didnt fit the animation, the feelings that we want to create and share with the audience weren't being emphasied. The actual written music is very impressive, it just needs to be moved around and areas cut. The only way of being able to discuss emotions, timing ideas and problems would be to arrange a meeting as quick as possible as the music deadline is in two days. The meeting is now set for tomorow morning at 11:00am at Alistair's house in Brixton. I have also recieved confirmation that our sound deisgner Becky is well on her way to completing the sound effects for Tuesday night.

Lighting in the House and Hallway

After completing the animation for the last scene of the film, i decided to move onto finalising the lighting in the hallway and kitchen scenes. Giles had already lit these scenes, but due to file problems the lighting had to be developed and replaced. The main idea behind the way i lit the set was that i wanted to create a strong and obviuos contrast between the exciting, colourful dream world and the dull, dark and lifeless real world. I kept the lighting very simple, and just chose to place the lights cleverly in the set. Overall i used x1 spot light in the hallway coming from the direction of the landing window (i find that its best to work out the main light source of the set i.e. the moonlight, so that the lighting seems more believable), x1 ambient light for the entire hallway and ketchen set, x1 ambient to subtley highlight the characters face when viewing the cake close up (this ambient was only linked to the characters polygon mesh through the relationship editor), this meant that the facial features could be lit while not affecting the rest of the lighting in the set, x1 high intensity spot light over the cooker/cake/oven hood source (highlighting main audience focus), and x1 spot light with a subtle intensity to create the illusion that the oven hood light slightly lit the opposite kitchen wall. The rest of the set has been left dark as there are no other sources of light effecting the scene, plus helps to highlight desired props. The render images below show some of the finalised renders of the hallway and kitchen shots:

My Finalised Hallway Lighting
(Focal Length 35, Widescreen 16:9, resolution 1204 x 576, Maya Software Rendering).

My Finalised Main Kitchen Lighting
(Focal Length 35, Widescreen 16:9, resolution 1204 x 576, Maya Software Rendering).

My Finalised Kitchen Close-up Lighting
(Focal Length 35, Widescreen 16:9, resolution 1204 x 576, Maya Software Rendering).

My Finalised Oven Area Lighting
(Focal Length 35, Widescreen 16:9, resolution 1204 x 576, Maya Software Rendering).

Small Pieces of Animation

The next area to start rendering after the temple cameras have rendered on Giles computer, will be the hallway and kitchen sets. The lighting still needs to be deveolped and finalised but the last shot of animation needs completing - the sleep walking character passing out and falling back after he blew up his kitchen. So far the animation that i have completed is the ornate stone slab, large stone door animation and posing and animating the characters and cameras for the edits/3D animatics. The sleep walking guy colapsing only needed to last 300 frames, the idea is that he falls over very stiff and ridgid after igniting the cooker flames in the gas filled room. I added secondary animation to his figures and nose while the character blinks several times looking shocked. This seems to add life and emotion to the chararcter. The kitchen cupboard and cake animation was completed by Jenny after i animated the character. Im not overly impressed with my animation, its was made more difficult as part of the character rig wasnt responsing (left wrist weighting problem) and no one in the group had the time to sort it out. The rig worked well on Giles computer, but somewhere along transfering it from pc to pc the file maybe faulty. This must be sorted for the degree show so that animation can be a lot smoother. This is the last scene of the film and must reflect the high level of quality produced throughout. The avi playblast of my animation, together with Jenny's is shown below:

Playblast of My Character Animation

The other small parts of animation i have completed for the final film are shown below:

Playblast of My Stone Skull Slab Trigger

Playblast of My Falling Stone Door Animation

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Extra Temple Set Dressing

Just woke after only having 3 1/2 hours sleep and decided to finish dressing the enterance corridoor, rock chamber and add small bits to the main chamber so that the entire sets are ready for importing the animation and final rendering later on today. Alot of the heavey amounts of temple plant and shrub dressing was undertaken by myself a couple of weeks ago. The plants used were the same ones from both the jungle sets to keep vegetaion and general style continuity. Example render pictures shown below:

Rock Chamber Enterance Dressing

Enterance Corridoor Dressing

Rock chamber Exit Doorway Dressing

Temple Interior Lighting

The whole temple interior is now complete! And we managed to complete it within the time given in the schedule (10hrs sleep over four nights). For the past two days Rob, Dan and Myself have been constanlty developing the lighting, we first started with the main chamber early thursday morning. My initial idea was to use flame lit torches as the temples main source of light, but due to time constraints and lack of technical knowledge in creating the desired effects, it was easier to use the time of day change featured in the canopy establishing shot (day to moon lit night). With this idea in mind i wanted to make the temple very dark and shadowy, creating a mysterious and dangerous atmosphere. This type of lighting would contrast the lighting from both jungle sets effectively. To decide on a main source of light we used the illusion of moonlight passing through holes in the temple ceiling, this created a similar highlighting effect used in the jungle. The ambient lighting needed to reflect the time of day outside the temple, so we decided to use similar colour swatches i.e. blues, purples, silvery greys. Even with the ambient light and directional (moon) light the temple still lacked the dramatic feel of the jungle. I decided to use spot lights to focus the audiences main atentions to areas like the altar set, rock platforms and entraences. One lighting method adopted from the jungle was the environmental fog, this created a much more mysterious and misty atmosphere, camera compositions gained depth and took the attention away from the bottomless dark pits around. The fog almost takes the harsh polygon edges away from distance areas of the set, the saturation is distance set up so that audience focuses more on the action happening in front of them, rather than into large areas of dead space and vast chamber structures of the background (provides a balance). The total number of lights used in the main chamber was x1 ambient, x1 EnviroFog, x5 Spot Lights (two of them stronger in intensity to highlight enterance and altar set, one of them to highlight the explorers face at the altar set and the other to highlight walkways and actiona areas), x1 directional light to create purple/silvery gray moon lit pockets of light. With the spot lights we used a higher Penumbra angle to soften the drop off/harshness of the lights, but doesnt effect the overall intensity. These same lights were then duplicated and imported into the rock chamber and trap corridoor, the spot lights tweaked to highlight rope swing, broken walkway and entrances.

The following renders show some of the lighting tests that we created whilest lighting the temple interior:

Lighting Test Render - Single spot light at 0.4 intensity, trying to produce a very dark and gloomy set, dramatic highlights, etc (Maya Software Rendering).

Lighting Test Render - Three main spot lights, all at 0.8 intensity, very high penumbra angle and slight drop off, highlights main focus points within the set, lighting still not balanced, needs ambient lighting (Maya Software Rendering).

Lighting Test Render - Addition of EnviroFog and a strong ambient light intensity, colours used in lights are blue, purple, silvery greys. Saturation distance must be increased and fog height needs to be lowered. Very dramatic so i like it, but completely takes the focus away from the altar set area (Maya Software Rendering).

Lighting Test Render - First person camera shot lighting test from trap corridoor. Really like the darkness of the corridoor, the way it contrasts the main chamber set, keeps the focus on the chamber (end goal for our character). The main problem is that you proberly wont be able to see the explorer character running and jumping around the traps (Maya Software Rendering).

Lighting Test Render - We started to adopt the same directional lighting idea ultilised in the jungle, this time using the moon light as the main source of light. Lighting must always be justified with a main source(s) to ensure it makes sense (linking correctly to the day to night canopy shot earlier). A stronger ambient, less fog and the use of the original spot lights from the previous tests were used. Very happy with the lighting development, perhaps the ambient needs to be increased so that the rest of the set is slightly seen more. This render is close to being the lighting i would like to go for.

The final render shots of the main chamber and the rock chamber worked really well, they provided the adventerous atmosphere that i have been striving to achieve throughout the film project. The textures looked even better when lit, some textured walls were lost to large shadows, but the dark effect over ruled the need to see every texture i created. The only problem we encountered when lighting the temple sets was the ability to keep areas of the set quite dark whilest keeping the set light enough to see the explorer character. But as we had to stick to a tight deadline we all agreed to lighten up the temple sets and spend time after the hand-in using post production effects to dark areas like the rock chamber and trap corridoor sets in order to achieve a more dramatic effect.

My favourite lighting in the temple interior has to be the enterance corridoor start section, this lighting idea has survived through from the first 2D animatic we created at Christmas, the idea of a dark, merky corridoor, overgrown with plants and tree roots, and a strong source of light producing a dark outline of the explorers body on the floor. The way the shadow moves up the corridoor to rest over the skull carved into a stone slab. Below show some of the lighting tests for the temple interior, including a few final renders:

Finalised Establishing Camera Lighting for Main Chamber

Finalised Lighting for Enterance Corridoor

Finalised Establishing Camera Lighting for Enterance Doorway to Temple

Finalised Tracking Camera Lighting for Rock Chamber

Finalised Dutch Angle Running Walkway Camera Lighting for Main Chamber

Finalised Lighting for Main Chamber Jump

Finalised Establishing Camera Lighting for Main Chamber Altar Set and Steps