Archive for April, 2013

The Story

Before I had a solid direction I wrote a short treatment about what it was I was visualising.


Large tall room, clean, specious, tall slender object in the middle. Nice wide portrait shot of the object still.

The object is tall, grey in colour. The figure is that of a woman, but she has no arms, she is very thin and is constrained from the hips and has no appearance of legs. Her head and eyes are hidden by some form of helmet like device, with plug holes and what look like speakers. Her throat seems to have been augmented with ribbed that you can see under her emaciated skin that then branches off into her lungs. The pipe continues up and takes over her inner mouth with no tongue present only teeth

At one side of the room is a two way window. You know someone is behind there, (deep sound of vibrations of an uneasy presents behind it.

Sound of electricity hums and phoneo sounds begin to generate (camera follows sound along cables to the object) where are the cables coming from? The source a hole in the floor?

Underlining story of my animation short

A child is born twisted pale, blind and deformed out of clinical experiments

A twisted figure

A child was born blind and disabled. 

Following my research into human experimentation I came up with a more solid story based around the things that were happening in the second world war. Its a base for why she is where she is and what is happening to her. It just helps ground it in some sort of reality and gives me something solid to build from.

1935 Nazi Germany, Hitler has ordered the euthanasia of disabled men, women and children in a bid to create his Aryan race, eradicating what they saw as ‘life un worthy of life’. One young disabled woman was spared from such fate by a German scientist, only to endure another more torturous existence, to satisfy his own sadistic curiosity.

Elli, was born severely handicapped, all four limbs largely under developed and blind. She only knows the world though sound and touch, heavily relying on the love of her mother to survive. But now during the Nazi regime, she finds herself in a very quiet room with no loving embraces or sounds of the life she had always known. She can only hear footsteps and the overwhelming smell of iodine and when there comes the hum of electric she knows she has no choice but to bare whats going to happen next.

So in less dramatic sentencing, a German scientist has taken her to a dark, dirty lab and augmented sound equipment into her body as an experiment, like a human amplifier. This music then drives her movement in-voluntarily, forcing her to move.

Picking an era and a having a backstory means I was able to pull influence and designs from objects and subjects based on that time period to give it some grounding in reality. Though the research I have done have created a fictional story based on a reality.

from the start of my project i envisioned my character atop some type of podium. To give the impression that she never moves and is permanently in the same spot and something to be looked at, for admiration or for scrutiny.

I did a few thumbnails for ideas and shape.


I thought about a chair style, something she sits in. Or something that is part of a deformity so the actual flesh would form the podium, but that felt to alien. I drew one where her legs were bound and thought that was the was I needed to go. Like she had been put there by someone and imprisoned, a bit like a straight jacket for the legs.


Having researched into disabilities and the the human experiments in the 1940’s it lead me down the path of prosthetic s and came up with this kind of a custom made prosthetic cradle that she fits into.


I took a look at some prosthetic from the 1930-40s to take influence from for style, texture and practicality. Taking the 3 segmentation’s idea from an earlier sketch and the moodboard for 1930-40 prosthetic I came up with these iterations.

Scan 1 Scan

I liked the corseted look like that used on the leg prosthetic in the moodboard above. I also liked the idea of a belted look, like a straight jacket. So i thought i would have both, corset at the back and belts at the front. I did a few iterations with that idea.

Scan 3

Scan 2

As a function it would need to hold her up right and easily accessible for experimentation. I added stairs so the scientists could reach the plugs in her back and I think the stairs make her feel like an appliance.

I chose this as my final design for the podium.

ELLI (1)



Wrapped around the metal structure is hard leather,  pulled together like a corset to tighten her into it.


It gives this sense of a spectacle, to be observed, like many disabled have throughout history. It also serves a practical function, to hold her up right and allow access to parts of her body to perform the experiments. So it would need some sort of steps to enable the scientists to reach.


I have been getting so really ugly results with my rig and weight painting on my character. This was really concerning as I need a good rig for my mocap data to go on to. I took a couple screen shots of whats going on.

ugly3 ugly2 ugly1

Ignore the spiking, that was just influence from another joint. But what you can see is bulging and unsightly folding even after meticulous weight painting. I thought this could be down to the position of the shoulder and clavicle joints. So i repositioned, bound and painted twice more with almost the same outcome.

At this point I had to walk away for the weekend. I had been sat starring at it too long, getting mad with Maya and wasn’t coming up with a solution. So I came back the Monday with a fresh head and help. My tutor Mat showed me how I could use blend shapes to help correct the problem.

Notes for self

  • Make copy of geom for blend master
  • from blend master, copy one for each correction you want to make (in my case, left arm up, left arm down, right arm up, right arm down)
  • Select blend object, shift select model you want to deform
  • to add the shape to existing node – edit deformers > blend shapes>open prefs and select node from drop down.


So I could now edit the mesh vert by vert, on the correction meshes. Raising the arm up and setting the relevant blend shape to 1, I can amend the mesh to how I want it to look, I could then attach that node to the correct control using set driven keys. Setting the driver as the CONTROL and keying it to the relevant node at 0 or 1.

I got a much better result after when using the controllers. It’s not perfect and the mesh looks a lot prettier in her T-Pose but they cant always stay that way. I made sure I had more polys around the top of the shoulder and neck to allow for better stretching but didn’t consider the armpits. This may have been a reason why the deformations didn’t tern out as good.

better ugly

It is time consuming, I could have set blend shapes to correct all the un-sightlys in the rig, but I chose the most problem areas that will be used a lot.

I hadn’t used blend shapes before now, but I know about them and technically what they did. I do need a bit more practice with them and would like to experiment with them further in the future.



Although I modeled a human character in the second year I knew I could do 10 times better this time round. I have a better knowledge of modeling, topology and UV mapping and purchased a human modeling book. I sourced some nude model image planes from the free assets from 3D work magazine and a some separate free image planes for the face of the internet at

The Face


I wanted to find some one who had a young vulnerable look and i though this lady would be good. I wasn’t sure how much my model would end up looking like her but I was going to give it a good go.

With my game character I created the face from primitives but using the book I bought, it suggested the extrusion and following the flow of the face. I applied the colored shaders to help me follow the tutorial in the book it also helps me see and understand more about topology of the fast.

I think it looks like her, it probably would more if i used her textures. There are few issues with some of the topology there are some lines under the nose and across the cheeks and the head seems to be a bit square and the bones on the outer side of the eye sockets seem to prominent.


Although there are a few mistakes i am still really happy with how it has come out. It look fleshy, has and air of realism and super pleased with my speed and topology. It took me approximately 8 hours following a book tutorial and i can only get faster and better.

Certainly 10 times better than my first attempt at a face ha ha!


I sent a screen shot to Distant Future animation studio for some feedback.


The image I sent was of the complete model, Mudbox sculpted too. They pretty much pointed out what I expected plus a few others. But I think the one between the eyes is sculpted wrinkles. I really appreciated the feedback and advice, not as scary as I thought it would be. Will give me something to work on in the future.

The Body and all the Rest

I tired to keep to as little polygons as I could and add the rest of the detail in mudbox.

I am very please with the way the body has turned out. There are a few issues with edge flow in some parts, mainly the side of the hips, backside and the breasts. I think that maybe I was to tight with the poly count.

I sent the base mesh into Mudbox and sculpted on the eyebrows, a few creases in the face, scars and eyelids, stitches and the hose implant in the throat. One thing I didn’t want to do in this project is get carried away with mudbox. I made sure I spent only one day sculpting and a day texturing. With the texturing I took the uv map into photoshop first and did the skin colour and a few quick details, moles, blemishes and eye sockets. Then i took that into mudbox an put some more finer details on the model.


elli front



As part of my character design, she has phone leads plugged into the back of her. Currently in two place, the back of the neck and the base of her spine. Because these are attached to her, they will need to move with her, this is something i havent tried before in Maya, not with dynamics. I would like them to move realistically, like they have weight.fntPro

I have found this tutorial that uses hair driven joints and it looks like the effect I am trying to achieve. So I have done a little test to see how its done and how I can apply it to my idea.

He is using Maya version 2011 and I got a bit confused when it came to the collide as the attributes were different and 2013 has a whole new thing called Ndynamics where a colleague helped me make it collide with objects. It’s important that I get the wires to sit on the floor of the environment so they can curl and lift off it when she moves.

Note to self:

NDynamics – Nmesh- passive collider

Nhair – Convert selection- to hair constraints#

Makes object collide with the curve


  • CV curve 1
  • Create CV circle
  • Select the two
  • Surface menus – surfaces- extrude –at path- apply

So here is the test that I did and it worked pretty perfect for what I need.

I tried using Ncloth with different material consistencies but it didn’t give as nicer and easily controllable effects as using the hair driven joints.



Some how the wires got abandoned, I think I panicked about getting things rendered in time and ended up leaving them out. I’m quite disappointed about it as it had been part of the design from the start and it would have visually expressed more clearly about what she is. I have all the files I could always render them out as their own layer at a later date.


March 26th 2013

For my performance I need a dancer. Someone who knows their body, who isn’t afraid to perform and who can bring their own experience and professionalism to my final major project. So I sent an email to The Northern School of Contemporary Dance, along with a pack relevant to finding a dancer. ( see link – Project Info)

I got an amazing response and lots of interest! It is nice to know that i have come up with an interesting and appealing concept to people out side my course. So having a look at a few show reels sent by dancers from the school, I have decided to go with a girl who seems to get the feel and mood of my piece and has also an interest in games and animation. This will make it easier to interpret what it is I want to achieve for this project if i have someone who is genuinely interested and understands what it is I want to achieve.

There is only one problem, I was hoping to capture and record the footage in the first week of April but it is the Easter holidays. Although I might not stop for the hols, the college and other students do, and I found the majority of dancers were away until the 15th 16th of April. So that was something I had over-looked, it will be pushing it, so I need to be properly prepared and organized to make sure I get the performance applied and rendered in time.

Out of all the interest I only got 3 show reels to review. I decided to go with Nina-Morgane Madelaine from the Northern School of contemporary dance. This was a decision based on her response to my project and her dance based on Video games.

I am really interested by animation and games creation so meeting and working with someone like you would be an excellent opportunity ! I really like the kind of creepy and scary side you wanna explore’.

– N. Morgane

Nina seemed to understand the project and get what I was trying to portray emotionally and conceptually, it only made sense to go with her.

17th April 2013

I had a meet up with Nina today just to introduce myself and have a chat about the project. I showed her my character that her dance would be applied to and went through the track with her and what kind of movements I was looking for. I asked her to wear something tight fitting so the motion capture software wouldn’t be picking up the movement of loose clothes. It also made sense as my character is essentially nude. I also asked if Nina new much about motion capture software and showed the demos on the IPI Soft web page. I explained the kind of restrictions the character had and that I would need her to be pretty much in the same spot for the dance.

18th April 2013

I borrowed a friend’s laptop and downloaded my free 30 day trial and made sure everything worked and how much I remembered from my test with Annabeth several weeks ago. The software is pretty self-explanatory and easy. The only difference this time is I would be using two kinnect cameras, not one.

This was because I was anticipating parts of the body moving from the view of the front camera. Her head for example, if Nina leans far backwards, which I expect she will, then the front camera will not be able to detect where in the space her head is. This is where the second camera, placed to the side, would see where her head is and record the data.

Because I had two cameras I needed to record a calibration scene. This was so the two cameras can later align the 2 sets of recorded data in IPI Studio for the data to be accurate. This was just a case of holding out a large 2D piece of card and slowly swinging it from one camera to the other for about 5 seconds. Then you upload it to IPI studio as a calibration scene, to ‘calibrate’ the 2 sets of data.

I recorded the dance in sections, a couple takes of the first section of the dance, the more erratic section and a couple takes of the second section of the more fluid section. This gave Nina a brake in between and made it easier to deal with the captured data.

I also made sure Nina did a T-pose at the start of every recording to fit the data onto the skin in IPI Studio.

19th April 2013

Into IPI studio. Uploaded the calibration scene and calibrated, then uploaded the action scene. Again the software is quite simple to use and easy to navigate. The T-pose worked great and calibrated nicely. The first set of data I tried to track was approx 2 minutes long and would take what I thought it said was 1 hour so many mins so many seconds…..turns out it was 1 day so many hours, mins etc! Annabeth had warned me it would take a long time to track but I wasn’t anticipating that. So with Annabeths guidance I aborted that and reduced it from high quality track to lower quality and tracked just 500 frames and that took about an hour – hour and 1/2, for the purpose to do a test in Maya. I was keeping an eye on it all was going well but then the left arm popped out of place. I tried to reposition it and track forward but the tools to re position the bones of the skeleton are very buggy and difficult to use. Although there is a list of selectable bones that you can manipulate, only the left and right wrist would allow me to manually reposition.  I think that it popped out of position because of the quick erratic movements, so I left it temporarily until I have a chance to have another look at the manual and started to track the second section, the slower more smother part of the dance. So far that looks good, still tracking.

When problems occur solutions and alternatives need to be found, so here is what I am thinking. I think the first section of the dancer will have some difficulty tracking and will involve a lot of clean up, that’s if I can clean it up using the software. I need to see if I can clean up in motion builder, so I need to do some reading. If the clean-up of the first section is too time consuming I could track the 2nd section only, as I think that will be more successful and using the camera footage I recorded separately I could key frame the first section of the dance using rotomation.