Production Update 54

As you could tell from the last couple production updates, things have been chaotic from time to time. But it’s all good, chaos can be fun and exciting to work with too. It adds a nice change of pace to your work day and can be a fun challenge.

This past week has been a little more relaxed so I can actually sit down and write out a nice update and really share some of the stuff with you instead of writing a couple paragraphs on how busy I was and say I didn’t get much done.

I had projects passed of to clients this week so I found myself with a little more free time than I anticipated. I was working on compositing some scenes this week and discovered I forgot to render out a depth pass on one of the scenes so I had to do a re-render.

On_the_road__depth0255^This is a depth pass. It creates a black to white image depending on the actual 3D space in the scene. I can use the black to white color data to get some nice compositing effects and create some depth of field and even use it to add in other layers behind areas too. I got to learn more about these during production of the prologue.

So not only did I get that set up to render out, I also went in and did some compositing on the other shots since they are all done rendering. I was able to grab a lot of the work I had done on the previous shots and paste them into the new re-rendered versions with some tweaking. I also got 3 new drawings done, inked, colored and shading for one of the shots in the prologue.

There isn’t a lot of work left on the prologue. As of now today’s work schedule is a little light  so I am hoping to finish up compositing and revisions on the 6 shots I have left. However, some of those shots just need some minor text changes and other quick fixes. There are really only 3 shots left that need to be completed. On the audio side, I just need a new audio track to drop in and the prologue will be completed. Looking to wrap it up this week 🙂

Rage Session #4 Character Development Decision Making

Last week we went over some tips for character development and how we can use the triangle method or 3 act outline for helping our characters evolve. However, last week we didn’t talk about one of the most important things, and this is what makes our characters do what they do? Of course as the creators we write the stories, but how can we make our characters make decisions that aren’t out of character. I am sure you have seen a movie and at some point the character makes a decision that you questioned because it seemed out of character. Those are the kinds of things we are going to discuss today.

Let’s first start with some basics in building your characters. For a beginner I would recommend an exercise.Write out a character bio but write it as if you were creating your a character based on yourself. See what events played an important role in shaping your character. These backstories are important for what shapes your character’s current state and also their future decisions. One trap to keep an eye out for, is by putting too much detail and emphasis on events that your audience won’t know or see. For instance, I have seen some character bio’s online that have details such as the characters blood type. In my opinion, if you aren’t using that information, don’t even create it or spend time on it.

In some cases, you can start with a loose outline of your character and develop some backstory later, it just depends on how much history or past events your characters connect with. I also don’t think you need super detailed past events for at least starting a story. For instance, in Cosmic Rage, I have some loose outlines for characters backstories but since I haven’t written a good chunk of the middle portion of the story, I can add backstory events if needed and most importantly, as long as they make sense.

So now that our characters have some backstory to them, we can start to discuss how the characters can make logical choices in your world. In a well crafted world, your characters will write the story themselves. As cliche as this sounds, it’s true. It might not happen right away, but once your characters start to take on a life of their own, their choices and decisions will make perfect sense.

Take your basic story of good guy vs bad guy. The good guy always goes after the bad guy, no matter what and for a variety of reasons. If the good guy just decided to go home there wouldn’t be a story to tell unless you were potentially introducing a character who steps into that role in your world. Even anti-heroes get drug back into stories of saving the day. Whether it is a reluctant John McClain from the Die Hard series who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time, or if it is Vegeta from Dragonball Z who turns good from having a common enemy with Goku.

Let’s take a different approach, let’s say in a drama Guy X wants to date Girl X. That is his motivation for the story and he will do things that get him closer to that goal, unless he eventually quits, which makes more sense in a story when the world isn’t on the line. This kind of element may be why you visited this blog as well, you want to become a writer or storyteller and are working on advancing your skills. Your decision to read this post alone supports your own motivation.

Since we have been referring to the triangle method in terms of story outlines and character development, we can do the same with character motivations. A character has a  motivation and we need an event or a series of events that get that character to their end game or something that breaks them and gets them to disengage their pursuit of their motivation. And just like we did with outlines and character development, we can give a character multiple motivations. For instance Guy X who likes Girl X may also want to be a rich successful businessman, or maybe a broadway performer or even a mechanic. We can start to now use these motivations to play off each other. Maybe Guy X brags to Girl X about his successful business or his rich lifestyle in an attempt to gain her attention. Perhaps he uses his popularity as a performer to gain her interest or perhaps he struggles to talk to her so he formulates a character in which he uses as a self confidence booster to talk to her. Maybe he fixes her car or attempts to fix her car causing more damage making a relationship a potentially larger obstacle. The opportunities are endless.

So we covered a lot of ground today, but what if you are a beginner or you struggle with all of your characters making the same decisions or being too close to the same person. There are a few exercises and techniques you can use to overcome this as well. One tip is to base your characters personalities of of people you know or know enough of that gives you enough information. So imagine modeling a characters personality after yourself and then another character after a sibling, best friend or maybe a person you don’t like. By doing this you can write based on actual relationships and behaviors.

If you are writing about 2 best friends, maybe use yourself and a friend. By doing this you will give them certain details and intricacies that will make them more believable. It will also make the decisions the characters need to make towards or around one another easier to decide. Or if you want your character to interact with their parents the same as you interact with yours or even a friend and their parents. By observing different type of people and their relationships with others, it will provide a potential outline or blue print for you to at least get started.

You could even borrow personalities from existing characters, just beware not to write the same story. This technique takes discipline to use so your not just copying another piece of work, unless you are writing a fanfic.

For instance if we base a good caring character after Rick from the Walking Dead or to a more extreme example Goku from Dragonball Z, it would be really out of character for either of these characters to hurt someone else. They would need some form of conflict to make them do that or for them to change their ways and do so. In the Walking Dead’s case, it took a confrontation between Rick and Shane to resolve their conflict. Rick tried to avoid the conflict on several occasions and only had to fight when necessary. After his battle with Shane, it didn’t effect his character in the long run (at least so far) in his attitudes towards being a good person. It may have helped push him into having a shorter tollerance for threatening people, as we see in the start of the prison arc with the inmates.

Goku is the same way, he only fought the bad guys to save the world and even in those fights tried to persuade the bad guys to give up their evil ways. He even decided to remain dead since bad guys were trying to harm the Earth because he was around. Neither of these characters would go out of character and launch a pre emptive strike on another character, unless it was triggered by an event, which is character development.

As always feel free to comment below to share your thoughts or contact me if you have questions or want to talk about the topic some more. Next week may bring another writing lesson or a review, I haven’t decided. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

Production Update 53

Very quick production update. Last week was crazy busy, but the final scene has finished it’s 3D rendering. So you are probably asking yourself what that means. Well, it means that there are 4 scenes that need to be composited and one slight edit to the audio track and then the prologue will be done.

Last week featured client work, some traveling and a lot more things behind the scenes that I can’t really go over right now. I am hoping to get compositing tonight on some of the scenes and looking forward to seeing how much I can get done this week inbetween client work. Thanks for checking in and Thursday we will cover more character development techniques.

Rage Session #3 Character Development

In our previous sessions, we discussed our 3 act or triangle method of writing story outlines. One of the components in your story will be how do your characters evolve over the course of time and those events. When developing characters, I also use the 3 act outline or triangle for this method as well.

In character development, we have to evolve our character, they have to change in regards to the obstacles they face and how that shapes their character. For instance, you and I are not the same people we were a few years ago. Some people have a moment where they can change drastically over a short period; consider a broken relationship, a family tragedy, or even an environmental impact. But not all character development needs to be pushed by things on such a grand scale. Consider something another character says   in a conversation or something a character hears other characters talking about. Each of these types of scenarios can change the development of a character.

Breaking this down in terms of our triangle, we would have…

Character initial state>>>>>trigger event>>>>>> Character post event.

If we look back at our previous sessions, we can use the above path to evolve our kid that is going to the store and losing his money. In terms of character development, the fact our kid is playing with his money on his way to the store shows his relaxed nature towards money. If the character was really protective of his money, he would have had it in his pocket, wallet or some how protecting it.

In the event of the character losing their money as a result from playing with it, the character can not buy what they were going to the store for. As a result from this triggering event (losing the money) the character needs to resolve how they will change, if at all. For instance the character could have a new found appreciation for money and it shows in his following actions. Or the character could not learn anything, which is also character development.

Depending on your character, not every event will teach them life lessons. Let me explain. Think of every day encounters we all have that doesn’t necessarily change our behaviors. For instance, we still have hunger and wars even though we see images, videos and news casts about these kinds of things. However, some people need to experience things to change instead of seeing images or videos, thats whats makes everyone different. You don’t want all of your characters behaving the same way.

When developing characters, we can treat their development like story arcs. Characters can be going through a couple developments at once. Again relating our story of the kid and the store, when we talked about multiple arcs, we included an arc with a bully. So within this story, the character could develop a stance on money but also develop their relationship with the bully; does their relationship get worse or do they come to understand one another.

The character’s development can take the form of several arcs, and like the story arcs we discussed previously, they can intermingle with one another, one arc can be completed within the development of another arc and so on. Now spread this across the board with multiple characters and not just your main character.

Not all character changes happen smoothly however. Sometimes characters experience a triggering event, and they can not cope with it. The event can be so devastating or unbelievable that the character fails to come to grips with the result. This event could conflict with what the character thought they knew or a strong belief they had. Characters can struggle with their new development for a variety of reasons, fear of change or they don’t like what they are becoming are some possible routes among many others.

Next week we will go over some more on character development and in finding ways to model the characters and to help them make decisions within the world you have created.

Production Update 52

I am taking a quick break from my work to write another short production update. It has been another week of rendering to get the final image sequences I need. Which isn’t a bad thing since I have plenty of client work and proposals that have been keeping me busy 🙂 Hoping to have some more work to share with you all soon.

Late last week I set up a render on the final prologue shot, yes the final shot. I had to stop the render over the weekend due to some traveling but got some more frames rendered out last night before stopping it to work today. Looks like this week it will be a lot of on and off renders over the night hours. Currently there are 150 out of 450 frames rendered. I also have some traveling to do later this week so I might have to pause things again. I’ll keep you posted on this front as the week goes on.

Also since I have been busy I have stayed off of twitter for the most part, so there have been a lack of updates through that outlet, which I apologize for. I was scheduled to record some sound effects this weekend but due to stormy weather we had to take a rain check on that front. I am hoping it may be something I can get to this weekend now.

The push continues on the prologue continues. Stay tuned!

Rage Session #2 Working with Extended Stories

Last week we discussed short form stories and some basics for story outlines. Our point of reference last week was the varying outlines for the scenario of the kid going to the store and losing their money. We discussed potential story routes if the character found their money and routes if they couldn’t, depending on the type of story you wanted to tell. Most importantly we discussed the triangle or acts of a story involving the beginning, climax and end. Many of these principles apply to telling a longer form story, let’s dig in.

When we talk about a long form story, we are essentially talking about all sorts of little stories that, when put together, make up a larger story. With each of these little scenarios, we can use our triangle to determine the start, climax and end of each of these.

So, let’s jump back to last week’s examples, (you can view the post here). Let’s take the base story premise, of the kid going to the store. Now let’s say we want to add a relationship or interaction with another character in the story, let’s go with a bully from school who wants to take the kids money. When you hear of the word “arc” in references to stories, they are referring to a certain triangle outline of the main conflict in the story. For instance a Batman vs Joker arc. While Batman will have obstacles to overcome, until the conflict is resolved with the Joker, it is considered to be in that arc.

One major component to keep in mind when writing a long from story with multiple arcs, is timing. Timing was a major lesson in animation, not only the timing of storytelling but even the timing of a character. In terms of timing, we can offset the story arcs so not everything is happening at once. Check this out.

So we can take our 2 arcs (the trip the store and the bully) and we can start to play with the timing of events to help progress our story. Both of our arcs need an introduction, a beginning. We could start our story with an altercation between both characters at school. Or we could start our story with the kid going to the store, and on the way to the store runs into another character, who turns out to be a bully. We could even introduce the bully later in the story and have our main character run into the bully after the trip to the store or even while at the store. So you can already start to see how many options we can get for even just a two arc story. By adjusting the gaps of the events in the story you can get drastically different stories.

For instance, if we start our story off with the interaction of the kid and bully and then have our kid go to the store (either later in the day or maybe the next day or even later), we then need to plot out our climaxes in each arc. We could have our climax between the bully and kid on the way to the store, at the store or after the store. With this flexibility, it gives you the most range on your story.

We could even decide to overlap the arcs or fit one complete arc within another. If the kid goes to the store and runs into a bully, we could fit the entire bully arc in between the beginning and end of the store arc.

If we added a third arc into the mix we could really start to play with the timing even more. For fun let’s throw in a third arc about the kid having to study for a test in school. Our points can be the introduction of the test, the characters struggle with the material and the conclusion would be taking the test. We know have 9 plot points (3 from each arc) in order to craft our story. So we could shell our store and bully arc within the test arc, or we could complete the test arc and have one or both remaining arcs conclude outside of the test arc.

We could do fit all of the arcs within the test arc for instance if the test is issued on a Monday and given on Friday, that would give us a week to complete the bully and the store arc.  Another route would be if the test was sprung on our character in the morning and to be given later in the day. In the same day we could introduce the start of our bully arc as well.

The arcs will heavily depend on the type of story you want to tell and also your stories beginning and end points and even the theme or idea of your story. I hope this helped you with your story writing, if you have any questions feel free to comment below or contact me.

Production Update 51

First off, I hope everyone had a safe and fun holiday break. This weeks production update is going to be pretty straight forward and to the point. I have been super busy outside of a couple games of disc golf this weekend and a few card games. Outside of working on my freelance work and other loose ends, my computer has been rendering almost nonstop.

A few days ago one of the re-rendered shots for the prologue finished up rendering. So I made some revisions to the second shot and set up a render for that as well. It should finish up rendering tomorrow and hopefully I can get a chance to set up another render for another prologue shot. There are currently 2 left after this one.

July is shaping up to be a very busy month, and I am hoping to get the prologue out and online around the end of July depending on how things line up. There isn’t much left at all in terms of actual work. Some tweaks to lighting and texturing but the majority of the work is going to be just render time and being patient.

I would like to get out to record some sound effects this upcoming weekend too, but the audio for the prologue is pretty locked in outside of those. Unfortunately I probably won’t have much artwork to showcase in the next couple weeks, but on the flip side that means we are closer to having some animated content to show you, which should make you all smile 🙂

I appreciate you all being patient with the re-renders and I am very excited to be getting more content up to show you.

Rage Session #1- Writing Story Outlines

I recently was having a discussion with a friend that wanted to get into writing, and since I have been too busy to really sit down and watch anything to review and enjoy… I thought I would start a little mini series on some things that I do to help me write, things I gathered from other artists and maybe some resources to help my friend and whoever may check this out and be interested in writing.

First off, the most important thing is to just write. It’s no different than drawing, and I had a professor in college that said we all had to make 10,000 bad drawings before we made one good one. Somedays that feels like the case.

So today I wanted to take some time to start with the basis of each story, and that is an outline, a path, a direction in which your characters go. Of course there are times when breaking the rules is ok and in some cases needed, but that will come with experience and will depend on the type of story you want to tell.

We are going to start with a basic story outline, which consists of 3 parts (such as a 3 act play). Which we will call the beginning, middle and end. However, there are 2 areas, one that lies in between the beginning and middle, which we call the rising action and the resolution, which lies between the middle and end. So our story path looks like…

Beginning>>>>>Rising Action>>>>>Middle (climax)>>>>>>Resolution>>>>>Ending

Every story needs that climax, we need a reason to care about the character or a way to connect with the character on their journey. For instance, if we have a short story about a kid waking up and going to the store, we have a beginning and an end but we have no climax, no meat to the story. The climax in most cases, will be a problem a character or your characters come across. So perhaps in our story on the way to the store, the kid loses their money so they can’t buy what they need. The problem our kid now faces, is the fact they don’t have money to get what they were going to buy.

So lets say that our story begins with an introduction to our character, the kid. We now have a middle point in the story where the kid loses their money on the way to the store. This is where the rising action comes into play. When you hear the word foreshadowing, that usually comes into play here. If you watch scary movies, music is a really good tool for foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is a technique used to prepare the audience for something. For instance, in scary movies they will use tense music to prepare the audience for a scary reveal. On the flip side, there are films that will use music as foreshadowing but it will lead to nothing, or after the reveal of nothing they get you.

The main thing to keep in mind of foreshadowing, is continuity. So lets say in our story we introduce our character getting up in the morning. They are getting dressed and we foreshadow a problem by the kid putting on a pair of shorts that have holes in the pocket. This way when the kid loses the money its not a shock to the audience, the money fell out of his pocket. Another route we could go, is on the way to the way to the store, the kid is flipping his coin in which they are going to buy something with and drops it in the sewer, this is still a route to get from Point A (the kid waking up) to Point B (the climax of the kid realizing they lost their money). And even another route we could go is by foreshadowing the character is forgetful. For instance as the kid is getting dressed, they forget to tie their shoes or forget their coat or something. That way the kid didn’t lose their money, they simply forgot it. But it still gets us from the kid waking up to realizing their money is gone.

So now that we have our character waking up, foreshadowing a way they lost their money and we have reached the climax of the character realizing their money is lost, we need to work towards resolving the issue and ending our story. The resolution will depend on how we actually want the story to end.

If we choose to end our story by the kid getting their money back, or go with the path of the kid not getting their money back, we will have different paths to go which will need to be addressed accordingly. If the character has money at the end of the story, then we could fill in our resolution (the way we resolve the conflict or climax) with an appropriate story. In this case, the kid could back track and find their money if they lost in through the hole in their shorts. In the event the kid forgot the money, they could return home and find it. Money lost in the drain while playing with it? The kid could find someone to reach the money or even someone who gives him money or buys his stuff at the store.

If we choose the alternate path of the kid losing their money, they could backtrack and not find the money that fell through their pocket. If the kid forgot the money, they could return home and not find it, or another family member could have mistaken it as their own. With the storyline of dropping the money in the sewer, the kid could simply not find it or try to recover it and fail, or no one will lend him some money.

There are no right or wrong paths you can create, as long as it makes sense in the overarching story your telling. This is a solid start to outlining short stories, but the same principles will apply to telling long form stories, which I will talk about next week. Feel free to comment below if you have any questions or have anything to add.

Production Update 50

Here it is, update number 50, the big 5-0, halfways to 100. That’s all I got for installment update 50. I have worked on several freelance projects this week but I did get to Cosmic Rage this week. I didn’t get to the compositing on episode 1 yet, the shot that recently finished up rendering and wrote about last week.

I did get the audio added in yesterday, there is one small minor change in the audio that I am hoping to get revised, but outside of that it is done. This last week I spent some time revisiting backgrounds to the prologue. I decided to revisit the backgrounds since I wanted to revise the water in some of the shots as well. 

I wanted to go into the backgrounds and make them a little less CG in appearance and a little more graphical. However, after experimenting with a few other styles, I think I am going to retain the original designs for the backgrounds. But the time I spent doing so was not a wast of time.  

[vimeo w=960&h=540]

I came across this video and there was also a recent tutorial from Greyscale Gorilla (a pretty prominent artist that makes tutorial videos). 

[vimeo w=960&h=540]

One of the things I have been looking at additional ways to add more depth into scenes, which is something I was experimenting with on some of the spots this week. I am very excited with some of the things I learned in the last week to be able to grow these skills into more of the backgrounds. Currently, I am rendering out a test animation on the water in the first water scene. I am hoping that today I can get it ready for a full render. As I start rendering out the shots for the prologue I can continue to draw for episode 2 and also start modeling the next environment for episode 1 and even composite shots. I look forward to posting up new production art as it comes available and will be posting render updates to Facebook throughout the week.

On a small side note, I have also started some preliminary work on my SGMS presentation pitch for this years SGMS conference. If you are kinda new to the blog, the SGMS conference (Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits) is a conference in which the topics are academic presentations on all aspects of Japanese animation, culture and more. You can check out their Facebook page here. A couple of my previous presentations include; Gantz: the social commentary and CGI and it’s use in Japanese animation. By researching these topics, I have learned so much and get inspired by digging deeper into techniques, stories and artists. I will share more on this as it develops.