Planning and Preparation
The planning and pre-production segment went smoothly as usual, and with each piece of work I found myself becoming more and more clear about the direction I wanted the project to go in. It was going to be smooth, simple and clean-cut, just like my first 3D environment. Nothing too fancy and nothing that would cause me any problems when the actual production came along. (the opposite ended up being the case)
I found it quite exciting exploring the possibilities with the planning stages and initial concepts, and designing it for a mobile-platform gave me a great excuse to continue to practice the low-polygon style I’ve been developing.
Early mock-ups like this with my models reflect the style I was initially trying to go for.
At first I thought this is what I wanted, but these first renders couldn’t be further from the final look of the animation.
Modelling and Texturing
The modelling also went very well initially. Using various historical drawings and blueprints I was able to produce the models accurately and far more quickly then I had anticipated. First up were the aircraft.
The techniques used to make these are incredibly simple, and nothing I didn’t use to create my battleships, of which there is a video later on.
These went by fairly quickly, and I was pleased with the results. These were also my very first experience with UV texturing using C4D Bodypaint, of which I had varying degrees of sucess with.
Sometimes Bodypaint worked very well, such as this;
Other times Bodypaint refused to work entirley… I found the process so aggrovating that I opted to only use Bodypaint for the aircraft. UV painting an entire battleship would have been hell.
The warships were main focal point in the animation, so I really had to pay extra attention to those. As a result however, a stupidly inordinate ammount of time was spent on them. I originally planned to model 6 warships; North Carolina, Lexington, Atlanta, Zuiho, Nagato and Minekaze, but foolishly ended up buidling a 7th ship that didn’t even make it into the animation, Yamato.
Spending so much time modelling would ultimatley prove to be a very poor descision.
Here is the building process of the first version of Nagato. Note the reference image in the background, which helped immensley with both the ships and the aircraft.
You might have noticed I said “first version”, that’s because during the modelling process I found my 3D skills improve at a truly unexpected rate. As great as that may be, as I started to build with these new skills it left my older models looking incredibly outdated and out of place. My next biggest mistake would be taking precious time to either upgrade them, or rebuild them completley.
Examples of this;
An Anti-Aircraft gun. The one on the right is the one I modeled initially (and I thought was great), and the left is the one I modeled after realising how awful the last one looked.
Here is also the before and after after spending some time upgrading and refitting Nagato
On a far more ludicrous scale, here is the difference between the first time I modeled North Carolina, and the final version. Please bear in mind that the first version was never completed, but you can still see the difference in modelling quality.
The improvement is very clear to see, but it set me back a substantial ammount of time. Time I could have used to render and edit my animation.
The textures are incredibly simple, as they were made when I still had the “smooth,simple and clean-cut” style in mind. Here are a few examples;
Bump mapping became very important for my models near the end, as such I had to go back through my models again to add extra texture details there were lacking beforehand.
The bumpmap system in Cinema 4D is very simple, dark creates depressions, and the light creates elevations. Using this simple method I added bumps to various textures.
The linings across the hull were created using this simple texture made in Paint.NET
Ditto, with the Imperial Seal of Japan on Yamato.
Ditto, with the flightdeck of Lexington.
Ditto, with the windows on Yamato.
Ditto, still from the animation. A shot of an Avenger torpedo bomber. As the textures are UV, I simply traced over the panelling I’d drawn on and applied them. To acheive the blurred propeller effect, I simply applied a texture to a circle plane.
Environment, Lighting and Shading
The enviroment of my animation doesn’t look very complicatedbut it caused me a great deal of pain during production.The basic premise of the two enviroments is that they mirror eachother; (Japan vs US, Red vs Blue), so that meant making two seperate enviroments with their own effects and lighting.
To help better visualise the process, here are the enviroment itterations from first to finished, each one an improvement on the last.
After so many attempts and experiments and it still not looking how I wanted, I decided to rebuild the enviroment from scratch and take a diffrent approach. I threw away the ugly C4D physical sky presets I’d been using up until that point and make my own. The result is this;
Using the fog settings, a new animated water texture and a custom sky texture, I was ableto get exactly what I wanted.
This sky HDRI was simply applied to the sky object in C4D. I added an orange gradient at the bottom to help ease the fog effect. The reason why the texture looks darker here is becasue I applied a glow effect to it, which creates the subtle aura around the ships and makes the sky brigher.
Using these settings, I was able to have the glow only effect objects at a certain distance. In this case, the sky object itself.
For the lighting itself I used 3 lights. The light that comes with the physical sky, a primary sun light with the lense flare, and a secondary backing light which prevents the dark side of the ship beccoming too dark.
For the second enviroment I simply changed the fog and light colours.
The majority of the animation was very simple, such as the turret movement and aircraft wings, it was just keyframing position and rotation.
To get the propeller to spin around indefinatley, I had to do some trickery. To get the rotation to repeat smoothly, I had to right click on the plane, and open the tracks window.
Then I had to turn off the animation easing effect C4D has on by deafult, so that the animation repeats fluidly.
Then finally, set the animation to repeat 100 times after it’s first rotation.
The result is this;
To have the ships rock forwads and back in the water, instead of keyframing each angle I used a vibrate tag that had a parameter for angles that occilates indefinatley. I also used this for the camera on occasion.
Animation of the characters wasn’t as complex as I thought it would be. I used this template and posed my character and keyframes accordingly. The resulting animation is a little flamboyant, but I wasn’t to concerned too much with how it looked as the people were so small anyway.
It works. I have 3 other animations for the sailors which you can spot on the “cinematic”.
I am no animator. I am also terrible at managing my time.
Those are the two main things I learned from this project. I set out to construct a cinematic sequence with my models, and the sequence isn’t finished. I had to just hastily throw what I had together to get it finished on time. Not only that, but the time frames/speeds on the scenes themselves are all over the place; most are way too quick, and others are too slow.
I enjoyed the modelling and texturing alot, but spent far too much time on them and not even half the time I needed rendering and editing. The result is this, born from a series of very poor descisions. Luckily for me the breif doesn’t say anything about cinematics, only models and animation… so I think I might be okay.