Working with an Animation Studio | Evaluation

For the past 12 weeks 6 others and I have been working for Blacknorth Studios (the creators of Finn in the Forest). During this period we have been working on creating a level for a game. The game is science fiction and based in a world with flying spaceships. The idea of the game is to fly around and shoot enemies as you make it through the levels. This game will be made available for Oculus Rift, meaning you can look around and not just straight ahead.

Our task was to create a level for the game, we began by individually creating concept art for different idea’s of levels such as lava, forest, desert, ice etc. I was in charge of creating the concepts for the ice level and ultimately my work was chosen and we moved onto creating this world in the 3d software, Maya. At the time I felt pretty proud that my work was chosen, but really everyone’s concepts were amazing and the game creator just liked the idea of an ice world.

We began by modeling rough blocks to show what the set would eventually look like, so instead of mountains and caves it was towering blocks and small fat ones. We then roughly animated in a camera on a curve to show off how we thought the spaceship would fly through the set.

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Once the basic layout was approved we began the proper modeling. We all spent a great amount of time trying to make our models look realistic, around this time we had to teach ourselves about ‘baking’ and quickly learnt how to bake in ambient occlusion and how to bake in lights and colour onto our sets. I really enjoyed this whole experience as it really excited me to go off and learn something on our own, overcome our problems and fix them as a team. For the first time we felt self sufficient and that we didn’t need to ask a tutor for help with every little problem we encountered. We could do it as a team.

Once our models were approved it was time to UV unwrap them. We had to unwrap and texture our entire set in one-week, witch in normal studios, isn’t a problem. However, for students who still didn’t fully understand how to UV unwrap and had never textured before, this was a daunting prospect. Personally, I struggled with UV unwrapping, I felt like I was never going to be able to do it, I tried and failed and tried and failed until I finally got there. I really do thank my team member Hannah Turkington, as she helped me understand and get to grips with it much better.

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I can now UV unwrap things quite confidently and ultimately we had our entire set UV unwrapped in 2 days.

The texturing, I didn’t find hard, it was just time consuming, luckily I had a little experience in texturing from my previous groups film done in first semester, so I was able to help the group by showing them how to take UV snapshots, bring them into Photoshop and back into Maya.

The rest of our time on this project was fixing parts of the set they weren’t happy with, and re UV unwrapping those parts and re texturing. We also had to set in pieces of crashed spaceships into the set, put everybody’s set together and animate in a camera moving through the set and baked in light and colour and ambient occlusion. We also each rendered a turntable of our sets every few weeks.

At the end of the project we were asked to work on for another few weeks and the company decided to completely ditch the idea and all of our for a more simplistic game style. We had one week to make a very simple set. To be honest I wasn’t happy with this as I didn’t think it looked as great. However it did shock me how fast we produced it. Having learnt everything in the previous weeks we were able to create this in a matter of hours of working.

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My time working there has given me an understanding of what working in a real studio is like, what the deadlines and work pace is like and how I deal with such things. I have to say I really enjoyed it, even the criticism because with every piece of negative criticism, we were going back and fixing it, making it better and bettering ourselves, even though I didn’t enjoy the idea being completely changed in the last week of the project, the speed we produced the work at shocked me. Being told they are happy with your work is such a rewarding thing to hear and be proud of at the end of the project. I feel this experience has given me an insight into what to expect in my placement year and when I leave university and begin getting real jobs in the industry.

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