Thursday, April 21, 2016

Meet the Characters!

Things are picking up as Ley Lines new and improved Cinematic Team decided the story and the amount of characters we wanted to make within this new world. Having four character artists meant to have various living critters to play with. However, none of them are there just to be pretty. No, they will tell a struggling tale, all that centers with the most important figure: Miria.

The Crystal Woman, Miria

Created out of living crystal, Miria is the physical embodiment of life for the planet. She developed a physical form to be one with her creations, often tending guardians as she passed through each temple in the world. She's depicted as a plump woman, with a soft form. This is to represent her motherly status, as seen in ancient fertility art.

As it stands right now, she is not a combat character. Instead is the being that must be protected. Her close companion is the Golem, who sticks by her as she tends to her tasks.

Guardian of Innovation, The Mantis

The Mantis is a swift moving, strong creature with sharp edges. He's partially corrupted due to it's heavy fight against the Naga. His design may integrate signs of technology into his design. He represents innovation and technology.

The Mantis is tied closely with the Golem, as Technology advances with Man.

Miria's Guardian, The Golem

A large, heavy set character who is the constant guardian of Miria. He resembles that of a gorilla, and is the ancient representation of man. He fights with brute strength and is highly protective.

He's intelligent, but rash. He fights against the intruding monsters to protect Mirira, becoming infected in the process. 

He's tied closely with the Mantis. 

Embodiment of Corruption, The Naga

The Naga owns a snake-like body and is the full embodiment of corruption. With his role and appearance, it hints towards biblical texts involving the taint of evil onto others. 

The Naga will be the main antagonist, spreading his 'poison' to the other guardians to become made with evil. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Reconstruction - Storyboards, Schedules & Assets


Amazing things have happened in the last few weeks that resulted in a restructuring of the entire cinematic. Now, there's going to be significantly less emphasis on the narrative portion of the entire sequence. This is to enable each and every artist on our current team (which has since expanded!) to both develop and refine professional skills that will strengthen our portfolios and abilities. We have taken into account everything each member of our team wants to personally work on so we could craft a project where every artist can get what they need out of it. The strength of Ley Lines as a world to use for portfolio pieces is that we could conceptualize nearly anything and fit it into the world. 

Now, onward to the work that has been accomplished during this time! We have storyboards, schedules, asset lists, and what hats everyone will be wearing.


KC (3D art), Steffen (3D art), Claire (3D art), Ashley (lighting, atmospherics + layout)

Lauren (3D modeling), Summan (facial rigging), Jasmine (body rig)

Alex (3D modeling), Katie (rigging)

Roselyn (3D modeling), Brian (rigging)

Josh (3D modeling), Samantha (rigging)

Samantha, Jasmine, Ashley (layouts)

Brian, Katie, Ashley, Summan

Samantha, Jasmine

We want to utilize the size of our time to optimize the quality of our sequence, as opposed to focusing on adding quantity in time. We decided that it would be far more efficient to break up into "strike teams" that are responsible for a key component in the sequence. These strike teams will meet multiple times a week to work together on that key asset. We will meet as a complete team once a week on Fridays to discuss the previous day's critiques and plans for the coming presentation. This will cut significantly on the amount of meetings we will have to attend and allow us to use our limited time in a far more efficient manner.


These rough storyboards were done ahead of the final character concepts so we can take both layout and scene progression into account as early as possible. The flow of this sequence goes as follows: Miria is magically tending to her crystal garden with her Golem guardian/consort at her side. Suddenly, the peace is shattered thanks to a fight between the Snake and Mantis monsters. They crash through a wall and remained locked in combat. The Golem decides to put an end to this fight himself to protect Miria.

Early on Wednesday, we convened to discuss storyboards, scheduling, scale, and final concept designs. We received the final concept art for the monster and decided on the exact scale of each of the monsters (Miria included). We also discussed some content we would like to change for the coming cinematic of the storyboard. The potential changes we discussed were:

1. The Golem attacking both the Snake and the Mantis at once, utilizing its floating hands, to smash them both together.
2. Miria will not be a passive character throughout. Towards the end, there will be a closeup of her face, showing her determination & anger over the situation. It will end with her implied intervention to stop the nonsense.
3. Adding more symbolism of each of the characters (for instance, we were entertaining the idea of the Golem will be a representation of man, and Miria a representation of the planet's life. The Snake will be a representation of corruption, and the Mantis of humanity's progress). We will try to include some celestial aspects to the environment to further communicate that this is in another realm entirely.

Our sequence will be staged similarly to a trailer so we can have quick cuts to dynamic scene after dynamic scene. Doing it this way will make it far more efficient for animation, so we can make the fighting scenes much more precise. This will also allow Technical Artists to utilize more effects, and for everyone's work to be showcased equally. 

In conceptualizing this scene, the Storyboard artists examined the Tales of Symphonia opening closely:

What does this opening include?
1. Establishing environmental shots.
2. Quick cuts to the action.
3. Establishing the breadth of this world through implication. There is just enough content present for the viewer to be curious why everything is happening the way it is. Because we're honing in more on the action, giving just enough to the viewers will be our priority.

As for timing? We are currently looking at a sequence that's approximately 30-40 seconds in length.



 We want to use this portfolio piece as a means of applying to fall internships, so we have kept this strongly in mind when arranging our schedules. The beginning weeks will have a heavy workload for the character artists as they would need to get their characters completed as quickly as possible to allow rigging to begin. After these three intense weeks of working on characters, they are scheduled to have a week break (if they desire to use this to work on Capstone) and will then proceed to work on the extensive environment with the artists in charge of that. Because there will be many macro and micro elements incorporated in the environment (and all of which will be portfolio quality), this is why we think six artists working on this at one time will be necessary. This way, we will also be able to focus on making our already expansive environment detailed and full without having to worry about sacrificing quality. Also, given the difficulty that may come with initially finding work as a character artist, it will be best for them to build on this skillset as well.






We have begun looking at some inspiration for the movements of each of our characters - though none of these are currently set in stone. For the Mantis, for instance, we have been looking at some Capoeira videos. This fighting style relies heavily on being constantly in motion (even in "idle") and the increased agility that comes along with this.  


One of the most  important characteristics about the Golem we want to convey is weight. He's a hulking, slow, but powerful mass in comparison to everyone else.


The Snake creature is a little tricky in that we will have to incorporate both human and snake-like movements in his animations. One immediate reference that came to mind was Scar from the Lion King, chiefly due to his mannerisms. He can convey his malevolence without overacting, though his personality gears towards being more theatrical. We have also found some animation references of a naga character to use as reference!


 Rose Quartz from Steven Universe has been a big influence for Miria as a character. She's a great reference for us to use because she's motherly, graceful, but powerful all at the same time. So we have looked to her as our initial inspiration. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Animation + Lighting + Sound - Updates


Because we plan on using Motion Capture for Vala in the cinematic as we have for her in-game animations, our Animator was busy this week finding some reference videos specifically for the Grand Centipede himself. She closely studies the movements of real centipedes in preparation, ahead of our beginning on animation.

In regards to Vala, Kelly began working in MotionBuilder during our animation class this week to familiarize herself with the interface. She has also been working with and familiarizing herself with the MotionCapture data clean-up process on Vicon Blade 2.0 through video tutorials.

The Ley Lines team has captured some potential motions for the Cinematic during their last shoot. These current takes will be acting as a proxy to practice on until our story reel is fully cemented. Next week, Kelly will be acquiring this MoCap data and begin work on creating a simple MoCap clean-up test for the purpose of becoming proficient in the cleanup process. She will become very familiar in the entire animation pipeline process to be as efficient as possible by the time the actual animation begins.


For this week, our Lighting Artist discussed the creation of 3-point lighting rigs (concerning key lights, fill lights, and blacklights) with the Technical Director. The current lighting plan would involve an overall fill light to establish the scene with key & back lights parented to the camera. 

Alex also discussed lighting dynamics with the Layout Artist so we could establish the moods laid out in our storyboards & story reel. The overall lighting of the temple is meant to be ethereal yet ominous. "God rays" will be particularly utilized in this environment. The purpose of these rays is symbolic of there still being some trickling rays of hope in the midst of seemingly hopeless and irreversible destruction. Our overall lighting scheme will have plenty of moments of dramatic lighting and high contrast. Our Lighting artist has also drawn some examples of what our light scheme will look like in the cinematic.


Some examples of Temple lighting.



Like JCVD, I split myself between immense trucks seemingly moving backwards while racing towards the proverbial sunset of production, all in the name of sound.

jean claude van damme

That being said, here's some info on what a Sound Designer does:

What do Sound Designers do?

Sound Designers are responsible for providing any required sounds to accompany screen action. They work closely with the production mixer, sound supervisor, the editor, and the director to create original sound elements. They may work with the director to create the entire soundtrack, or be hired just to create one kind of effect.

Most Sound Designers are experienced sound editors who often carry out a managerial role. They may supervise the work of the entire sound post production process as well as having a specialized role in creating the sound concept for the production.

Sound effects are added after filming during the editing process to give the film an authentic sense of location or period, or to give it a particular mood. They may be employed by audio post production houses, or work on a freelance basis and provide their own digital audio workstations. They are also likely to own their own recording equipment.

Good communication skills are needed, along with imagination and creative flair to produce original sound elements and effects. The ability to accept direction and work well with others is also important. Sound Designers must have a good understanding of acoustics, and an expert knowledge of sound recording and analog and digital editing techniques.

Sound Designers are enthusiasts who have usually spent years recording and experimenting with everyday sounds before entering the industry. They often progress from being runners in picture or sound cutting rooms, or in audio post production facility houses, to becoming assistant re-recording mixers or assistant sound editors providing backup to experienced sound editors. They may also have a background in music or may have learned their editing skills working in television production. Many Sound Designers are also supervising sound editors, or re-recording mixers.
There are 1898 members with the job title Sound Designer on Media Match.

Production Designer + Environments + Characters + Technical Direction - Updates


This week, the team had to reevaluate our storyboards and search for a better way to enhance the story. The Production coordinator and myself spoke to Chris, one of the faculty for this project, on how we can accomplish this. This allowed me to figure out some ways to further elaborate how this cinematic should look like.

Aside from ensuring that the leads of the Character, Environment, and Technical Design understood the initial style guide for this game, we also looked into the game Gigantic for further inspiration and overal look we are shooting for. Simple, clean, and expressive characters will be needed for this project. Their understanding of the style showed even further with their assignments for the week.

Lighting is something that's extremely important for this cinematic. A lot of the tone and mood will be described through lighting and effects, not only with sound. Some of the references for this that was provided to them, alongside the style guide, was a few stills grabbed from animated series. With these examples, they lighting crew understands that there will be multiple uses of lights.
One of the important aspects is to incorporate the sky lights, also known as God Rays, into the scene. Wide variety as seen in picture two, but strong and dynamic as seen in scene one. Sharp shadows that's done as cell shading.

The Character artists had to do a character study. Examining the shape and color language and how that will be incorporated into the 3D environment. Both the centipede and the heroine Vala will have to have be examined fully [ look below ]

The Environment artists have to look into the shape language as well as color usage. More importantly, how the dark and gloomy aspect of the Calcified world would appear on screen and how a Purified one will look. All the while keeping simple shapes and that painted style the LeyLines team are shooting for [ look below].


For this week, the Environment team discussed advancements in the storyboard shots with the Layout Artist and developed understanding of game assets and concept art through discussion with Ley Lines Environment Artist. Thought modularly in terms of game assets that would be plotted around sets to exhibit the character and purpose/aura of the temple. Have to consider exhibiting scale with repetition of assets--obscured low poly small scale versus large scale within shrine in relation to Vala.

Considered color scheme transitions from cursed period to purification scene--stark contrast will be everything.

Explored shape language throughout environment elements between Ley Lines and Gigantic. Both carry rounded arcs in terms of shape language. These arches lead the eyes upwards to emphasize the scale of the temple setting. This shape language will tie into the concept of rule of thirds. The camera frame can be mapped by a grid, and we consider the relationship between different elements of the environment. As a result, we will be decisive about which elements will exhibit Ley Line's aesthetic and what those mean for the narrative as it flows.

Considered use of low poly versus high poly details dependent on the relation between the camera and mapping of sets. Details will be obscured for scenes with emphasis on the expanse of the floating temple, and the intricate details in closer frames in relation to camera.

Initially brainstormed a solution for Vala's transitional scene from inside the chamber to the exterior balcony--Steffen and I fully realized the solution of featuring a silhouette figure from the torso up that would seem to move on an incline. As a result the solution was a complete silhouette of half of a torso that ascends a silhouetted staircase, and complete emphasis on the transforming environment--However with changes to the storyboard, our team has come up with more profound ending that will ease the technical route and instead allow more emphasis on the environmental transformation and mystery of Vala’s character.



First, we identified how many characters we had in the game. We were able to agree upon two; Vala and the Centipede, who is the final boss in the game. 

After identifying our characters, we began our study of characters by deciding on how we wanted our characters to look. We were given two options: Stick with Leyline The Game's art, or create a style of our own. We opted for the latter and decided to create a more stylistic approach to our characters.

The perfect look and feel of our game that we decided on was from a game called Gigantic. 

Gigantic uses simple shapes to create visually appealing stylized characters. 

Let's explore these shapes and apply them to our characters. Let's start with Vala.

Vala is presented as a lithe and agile feminine character. Gigantic has many females, but one seemed to fit more than the rest. 


Tripp is a female assassin who encompasses all the attributes we see in Vala. We broke Tripp apart to her simplest forms as a shape language.

Her shape language was ALMOST perfect! When only looking at shapes on Tripp, it is hard to determine if Tripp is a male or female. We wanted to make this attribute a bit more obvious.

Luckily, Gigantic has another female character: Vadasi.

Vadasi certainly has hips that do not lie. Looking at her silhouette, it is easy to tell Vadasi is a more feminine character.

So lets take her shapes....

And put them on our new Vala.

Ta-da! Perfection.

Now lets apply this shape language to our own design for Vala.

Vala now has her own design created from simple shapes and is easily recognizable as a female.

Now to address our other character... the Centipede.

The Centipede is a bit more difficult to tackle, but once again, Gigantic has another creature for us to reference: Grenn. 

With Grenn being very snake-like, we are easily able to apply these shapes to our Centipede.

Breaking down the shape language, we are able to see that Grenn is made from trapezoids that alter in size with every other angle. This creates fun and odd angles that we can use for our Centipede.

Currently, the Centipede is under design revision on the game, however when he is done getting designed, the bug will get designed again into simple more fluid shapes.

Technical Considerations: Some technical considerations we addressed were rigging Vala's scarf, and how to approach building the Centipede. The length of the Centipede directly correlates with a large crystal in the environment, so we will not be able to directly guess how long the Centipede will be. Because of these, we are considering a modular approach to the Centipede to be able to add segments where we need.


This week, I focused my efforts on a first pass of the glowing crystal shader, seen below. It emphasizes a simple but interesting look and feel, utilizing a normal map and a color picker. As needed this shader will be expanded and improved upon to achieve the desired effect, such as texture maps for the diffuse or more open controls for the glow amount and speed, for example.

I was also approached about Vala, who may have loose fabric throughout her design. I'll be researching the topic more in the coming weeks but the goal is to have quality cloth simulation on the character where ever desired.

Director + Producer + Layout Artist - Updates


After we consulted the faculty about ways we could possibly strengthen our narrative, our Director tasked herself in utilizing that advice so we could craft Vala into a more empathetic character while simultaneously remaining true to the heart of the Ley Lines game. Together with the Layout Artist and Producer, we decided to show more signs of Vala's struggle as she reaches to purify the last Ley Node. Vala is seen staggering, injured, and nearly desperate to purify the last crystal that (she hopes) will end this struggle between her and the Grand Centipede once and for all. Rather than keep the balcony scene we showed at the end of our first storyboards, we decided on crafting a more ambiguous ending. In this new end, Vala collapses onto the ground and she looks up to the uniting lights. She finally feels peace and relief. It will be up to the viewer to determine if she later dies, or ultimately survived her struggle and the damage she sustained through it.

Along with this, our Director worked with our Production Designer to determine the "look" we will be trying to achieve, if that will flow with the already-established look, and if it's something we can achieve in the allotted time. She then met with the Producer to begin roughing out feasible schedules so we could keep true to the iterative process and produce the highest quality assets we can. She also communicated in depth with the Layout Artist, Lighting, and Sound so we could achieve the various moods we have illustrated in our current story reel.  

Our Director has also found an Audio Engineer that is willing to work on sound effects and music for the cinematic. He is currently working on our sound library. Music production will begin when our story reel is solidified.


As the supreme office lady of the group, my first order of business for this “Sprint” – as it could be referred – was to organize a team meeting so we could discuss everyone’s assignments for the week. Ahead of this meeting, I consulted with the Production Designer + the Director about potential assignments for each of the specialties and documented them accordingly. During the meeting itself, we discussed these potential assignments and used them as a jumping off point to determine what each group member will be working on until Thursday. Then everything rolled on from there.

 This week around, we have also been working on recording each of our processes. Detailed explanations of our thought-processes, workflow, and deliverables will be present on our Blogger. These tasks will be summarized far more succinctly on Google Slide presentations in hopes of our being as transparent as possible with everything we have been working on for the entirety of the week.

Though we’re still early into the storyboarding process, I tasked myself with creating asset lists of everything we might need for the cinematic as it stands right now. Of course, this isn’t close to being the final list as it will undergo iteration until the storyboards & story reel is finished.

After this, I took a stab at making a very rough schedule based on our course outline, what’s currently in development for the Ley Lines game, and a schedule outline I found from the cinematic groups from last year. Mind you, this schedule is extremely rough. It’s an attempt of mine to keep the iterative processes into account, our team’s current workload, and the fact that our cinematic should be “complete” by July 14th to undergo review at least two more times. In the coming week, I will be going over scheduling down to the asset with our Director to ensure our artists’ time is being utilized efficiently.

One of my secondary duties is ensuring narrative flow. Given the amount of additional work that needed to be done to strengthen our story reel, I thought it a far more efficient use of my time to continue aiding our Director on our storyboards. Alongside our Layout Artist, we added in a new beginning sequence and changed up the ending. We show more of her physical struggle. She’s limping, she’s wounded, and she’s bleeding and struggling to get to the final Ley Node. By the end, her fate is left far more ambiguous. Whether she survives after her confrontation or doesn’t is left up to viewer interpretation.

By going for this more symbolic route and resolution to the Ley Lines game, we have also eliminated some technical challenges along the way that would have taken more time than what it was worth [ for instance, the stair climbing sequence ]. We will also be able to used more varied and dynamic camera angles to capture a more serene feel to the story.

These were the storyboards I did for this week. I passed them right along to our Layout Artist for her to turn into a story reel.


Early on this week, our Layout Artist met up with the Director + Producer about the narrative direction our story reel will take. We established the alterations to the story together in hopes of making Vala more of an empathetic character for our viewing audience. Our Layout Artist determined the camera angles & composition for each of the new storyboards that were crafted. After the alterations were completed, Ashley spliced the images together on Premiere Pro so we could have a better sense of both timing and movement for the entirety of the cinematic piece.

Along with this, Ashley consulted with our Lighting Lead on what direction we will be taking for this entire piece and how the various moods can be accomplished.