Talk with Andrew Deegan

Today we had a talk with Andrew Deegan. Andrew Deegan is an irish man currently working in ireland who currently is the Game Designer at Sugra Games. Here is what the site depicts him has

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‘As a producer, game designer and CEO, Andrew is the driving force behind the company. He writes game design docs, maintains the project tasks and takes care of business affairs like some kind of multitasking ninja.’

The company is best known for its game ‘Toy Rescue Story’.

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Below is the information i learned from the talk with him…

Andrew started at the lego company as an intern and invented toys, however he didn’t like the danish culture so he quit and went back home to Ireland.

At his time there and when he left he was working on a toy/action figure that moved on screen/computer as you moved the physical doll around. He had no idea how to do it in the beginning and thus learned a lot of programming in the process of this invention.

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This was successful in the respect that he was took seriously in the gaming industry, he was funded my Hasbro and Disney were interested. However, it was unsuccessful in that it was just too expensive to make and no one was committed to investing in it, thus the game/toy failed.

From this he quickly got a job though, he was put on as he described ‘ a pretty horrible’ game called ‘Playboy Party’ which is exactly what you think it is. It was a game for facebook.

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He then went on from that to create something called ‘Suburbia’ which was ‘Desperate Housewives’ meets ‘Sims’. This did very well on facebook.

He then eventually got to do the very successful ‘Toy Rescue Story’. and is currently working on a game called Dangermine which actually looks a lot of fun.

His advice on the industry was if we want to work in games we will more than likely need to move country. The majority of companies are fluent in english , even in places like Germany.

Most of the facebook games were made using Flash, his newest company works with Unity. They were given £150,000 for one games with a group of 5 people working. The group consists of

  • a junior animator
  • senior animator
  • game designer
  • programmer
  • tester

He discussed the game industry withen Ireland and told us there are 90+ companies wich are mostly all startups. At the moment 80% is still working in 2d and the only 20% in 3d but that is quickly changing.

He said although we are being taught as generalists we should considering specialist subjects as places will want someone who is really good at one thing and not only average in many. In order to do this you need to understand the whole pipeline of the industry.

He told us that when in interview to make sure we show our passion, have a great portfolio and great technical skills.


Talk by Mike Bell

Today i went to a talk by the ‘Simons Cat’ Executive Producer, Mike Bell at Duncairn Art Centre.

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Funnily enough i had actually met him 2 weeks ago, had a full conversation with him about animation and not realised who i was speaking too! (awkward…)

Now working with a new company called Ncycle (wich i knew)

Simons Cat is wildly known but also became a cult fandom through social channels such as facebook, Books and apps.

Mike used to work at Tandum for about 15-20 years with Simon. Simons Cat was originally created using Adobe Flash, he decided to put it in his showreel and got 30,000 views per day!

Someone illegally put it on Youtube and it went viral. Youtube allowed them to claim their video, and the original film was called ‘Cat- Man- Do’. Wich i remember seeing for the first time all those years ago, and falling in love with it, it was funny, well timed and so relatable to anybody who owns or has owned a cat.

this film got millions of views and their channel became one of the first to become Youtube Partners, they have no made a total of 45 shorts and have over 3 million subscribers.

All together they have 145,230,534 views!

Audience engagment is not just for views but for longevity.

Brad Bird- Simon understands cats, animation and timing’

The real Simon, infact has 4 cats.

Youtube channel posts are frequently posted, but are high quality, showing success happens even without regular posting, aslong as the content is good.

They also upload non animated content such as videos of Simon visiting the vets for research or Simon drawing ‘Simons Cat’.

Funnily enough, the majority of viewers are cat lovers and owners.

Mike said something that stuck with me in a humorous way “Dog lovers meet at parks, Cat lovers meet on the internet”

The finebrothers did a kids react to Simons Cat wich proved the popularity of the animated series and the audiences it appeals too.

Because there are no words in the series, it is loved Worldwide, Germany in particular are huge fans.

Simons Cats site is about to go live with a shop etc

He then showed us (my favourite Simons Cat episode) ‘Double Trouble”, it has the introduction of the kitten and it is one of the most humorous episodes out there in my opinion.

The company is now making their first colour film, going to be about 12 minutes long.

They are doing this through crowd funding on the likes of Kickstarter, people  who donate will get perks such as books and plush toys. This keeps the audience involved off and on Youtube.

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Head Retopology

In our Thursday class our tutor, Alec, taught us how to retopologise a model by giving us a basic head model from a modelling/sculpting software, importing it into maya and retopologising.

We start by selecting the model and making the object live.

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we then go to the modelling tool kit and select ‘quad draw’.

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when this is selected, when we click on our live model it will create a green dot, making 4 green dots and then selecting over them makes your first quad ‘square’. You repeat this process until complete.

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i did this for entire half of the face model, then mirrored the geometry, this isn’t my first try at this process, as it takes a good bit of thinking out the shape you want to create as you want few to no triangles in your topology.

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my problem with this one is that i have probably made it to high of poly, it also isn’t evenly distributed as i found i had to make new edge loops to make all the quads fit.

I began this process by starting on the mouth and working my way outwards

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Something i was trying to focus on more than anything else was having the edges curve into the shape the face might move, example the curve on the chin, cheeks and around the eye area.

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Once done i moved onto the process of mirroring the object, so moved the new topology away from the original model and then went to mesh-mirror-mirror geo- -x axis

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As you can see from the image above, i started off with the original model, moved the half model (thats newly retopologised) and then mirrored it into a full model as you can see from the right.

As i have said, i am not entirely happy with this and would like to do it again and feel i will improve more with more practice.

Icetundra UV Unwrapping!

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At our next meeting at BlackNorth we were asked to uv unwrap our sets, then create textures and bake in ambient occlusion and lights etc.

So first thing we had to do was get our sets uv unwrapped. This was something i struggled with but managed to get it done in 2 days. Once i had this done i moved and rescaled my entire uv set so that everything fitted within the one square as you can see below.

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Once i did this i then took a UV snapshot so that i could bring it into photoshop and create the textures, before i did that however, i decided to colour key my uv snapshot so that it was easier to then go onto to create the textures as you can see below.

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Once i baked in an ambient occlusion to my set i then brought it and the texture together in photoshop. I applied it to my set and it looked really well when rendered. texture_with_AO

i then needed to create a bump map, i tried doing this a few different ways, first i tried doing it by desaturating my textures in photoshop, then going to filter- other- high pass and then changing the settings higher or lower until happy.

The second way i tried was by in maya adding a fractal to the bump map options, this way worked pretty well to but it just wasn’t giving me the desired effect.

I then downloaded a piece of software called ‘CrazyBump’  this worked brilliantly and it actually created a ‘normals’ map rather than bump. This worked brilliantly when brought into maya. As you can see below, here is said normal map.

bump map intense 6

Here is the rendered and textured set, i baked the lights in before adding these textures.

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Skype Call with Jason Sadler of Blue Sky Animation Studios

“Industrial design is always solving a problem wether it be time, money or technology. Going through progressions at Blue Sky is that you get to see the process from start to finish instead of modelling something and not getting to see it again until the film is out. ”

Sadler’s process is one of many ways to go about doing something. Don’t feel like its the only way.

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“Sometimes you can love the character because of the pose, not the character. You should try drawing the character in an unattractive pose to see if the character is still appealing. Draw small and if the basic shapes look good you have better chance of it being a successful characters”

“Rule of thirds always helps with proportions, never divide things in half if you can avoid it. Proportion decisions are everywhere, be deliberate about your choices”

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Sadler mentioned ‘The Illusion of Life’  and how its principles still work. He mentions off setting straights and curves like natural body eg back and boobs, legs and knees etc. He mentions looking back at black and white films because of how brilliantly their lighting was.

When discussing the difficulty of animating/modelling “peanuts”, Charlie Browns nose caused many problems and simplest shapes are so difficult to convincing in 3D.

When working on Gabbi the frog (from Rio) he was surprised at the fact the modeller actually made his character so much better.

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Can be forced to specialise but work closely alongside all other specialisms.

Sadler (concept artist) works closely with model and even rigger. Grew to love deadlines because things just don’t get done without them.

Working with the Mery Rig

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remember if using a main reference to bring it with you as it wont copy over with file.

Made keyframe of head looking from side to side.

looks awkward and unnatural

dip head down slightly in middle- looks a little better

Problem with student work, poses are right but forget about arcs.

Forward kimatics are how shoulder moves whole arm moves downwards etc

IK means whole arm moves at hand, not should, looks less natural i feel.

Remember to move controller to get eyes to move in realistic and interested manner. Make sure eyeroll etc isnt to slow or to fast. Supposed to be subtle and super natural.

use facial rig shaders to change eyes, lips, cheeks etc, can convey alot of expressions this way.

Even have control of iris size, eyebrow shapes etc

Remember, graph editor is your friend! Helps transitions look much more smooth.

if a keyframe is not useful to animation, delete it. Try and key every 3-4 frames, keep it clean.

Next time watching an animated feature, watch closely at eyes and facial expression especially when character isnt moving. Over and underacting never looks good or convincing.

If unsure always film yourself acting it out or watch scenes from films you know have the look you want to achieve.

tween machine- changes controls of keyframes can save a lot of time.

Remember to give the head (and body) weight.

Never bad idea to look back over 12 principles of animation.

Shown videos of Tena and Alec acting stuff out

Move model into convincing sitting at the table pose. Work on getting pose right.

Keep looking at video for reference.

Put in all key poses first then gradually animate bits inbetween. May take longer but almost guaranteed better results.


Can download a free trial of renderman if you want.

May be useful to learn as some other studios are now using it other than just Pixar/Disney.

Arnold is still best for handiness, but its downfall is render time.

Mental Rays advantages are it renders slightly faster and can learn how to manually create render passes as it doesn’t do it for you.