Category: Ekow – 3D Animation

Pacific Steel – Evaluation

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.

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Early mock-ups like this with my models reflect the style I was initially trying to go for.

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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.

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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.

tfw textures

Sometimes Bodypaint worked very well, such as this;

Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 11.26.01.png

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.

AA Comp 1.png

AA comp 2.png

Here is also the before and after after spending some time upgrading and refitting Nagato

Spec Nagato Old.png

Spec Nagato.png

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.

Spec Carolina Old.png

Spec Carolina.png

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.

Carolinabump.png

The linings across the hull were created using this simple texture made in Paint.NET

Ribbed Plate Bump

Yamato4.png

Ditto, with the Imperial Seal of Japan on Yamato.

Crest_Bump.png

Lexingtonbump.png

Ditto, with the flightdeck of Lexington.

Stack Bump

Yamato5.png

Ditto, with the windows on Yamato.

Windows Bump

US_3_0152.png

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.

TBF_Wings.pngTBF_Wing Bump.pngEnvironment, 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.

nagaalmostfinal3nagatest-1nagalinenagato-final-4

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;

Portsetting.png

Using the fog settings, a new animated water texture and a custom sky texture, I was ableto get exactly what I wanted.

Pinky Sky Fog 1.png

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.

JP_9_0112-1

Using these settings, I was able to have the glow only effect objects at a certain distance. In this case, the sky object itself.

Glowsettings.png

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.

Portsetting2

Animation

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.

Trackwindow.png

Then I had to turn off the animation easing effect C4D has on by deafult, so that the animation repeats fluidly.

Trackwindow2.png

Then finally, set the animation to repeat 100 times after it’s first rotation.

Trackwindow3.png

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.

Vibratetag.png

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.

Walkcycle.pngWalk1.pngWalk2.png

Result;

It works. I have 3 other animations for the sailors which you can spot on the “cinematic”.

Conclusion

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.

 

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3D Animation Process 5 – When in Doubt, Render it Again

Nearly 20 renders later, I think I’ve finally (hopefully) maybe achieved the final look for my animation. I knew rather vaguely what I wanted from the beginning, but what I wanted was hidden behind a thousand lighting and colour correction sliders. And ontop of that, I was battling to keep the render times down whilst keeping the quality high. A careful balancing act.

First Batch

Nagatest 1.png

The first render I did of my finished ship in the enviroment. It’s nice, but the lighting is completley off. The ship doesn’t blend with the enviroment at all. The water is also way too reflective, something I’ll tweak continously throughout further tests.

Naganaganaga.png

The fog is also way too dense. It elongates the rendering time alot and anything not placed in a tight bunch you wouldn’t even be able to see.

Second Batch

Nagaalmostfinal4.png

An improvement, I think. I toned down the fog and water reflections. Also created a cool scene of 4 ships in a firing formation, to test the impact of rendering the model in bulk. To my surprise the models perform very well.

Nagaalmostfinal3.png

The lighting is awful though. This what I originally thought I wanted, a really deep and strong sunset scene. I thought it was great at the time, but further renders proved me wrong.

Nagaalmostfinal2.png

Third Batch

Nagaline.png

Really, really liked this one. It wasn’t at all what I thought I wanted but it turned out rather nice. The lighting is a lot gentler, though less realistic and more surreal. The material I used for the ships I found was also way too shiny. I wasn’t aiming for a realistic look, but this was a little over the top.

Nagaline2.png

 

Fourth Batch

A fine balance between all of the previous tests. Using colour correction and a primitive HDRI I could really fine tune what I wanted.

nagato-final-3

Not too realistic, but not too shiny and colorful either. By optimizing the shadows and anti-aliasing, I was also able to considerably nerf the render time to around 1 minute 30. It’s quite long, but it was quite a full scene and at HD. There’s still a whole bunch of tweaks I can make.

nagato-final-4

The lighting also looks good from every angle, which is pretty essential for a 3D animation.

nagato-final-5

Nagato Final 2.png

3D Animation Process 4 – Learn From the Best

To really get my animation looking as best as it can be, I had to study the work of professionals. Rather luckily for me, there are tons of examples that I can take plenty of inspiration from.

The best possible reference though, can only be my original inspiration for creating this, World of Warships.

To get a really good idea of what I needed, I booted up the game, chose my favourite boat and took it out for a quick cruise.

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I sailed to an environment similar to the one I’m trying to create myself, and waited a short while for the sun to set.

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Almost immediately I knew what I needed for my 3D environment. The water, the sky, lighting and fog all came together rather beautifully. Of course this is the work industry professionals, and I could never hope to recreate this exactly, I just needed to get close enough.

Taking a leisurely cruise at a comfortable 26 knots I tried to take in as much of the atmosphere as possible, trying to figure out why exactly it looks the way it does and what possible techniques were used.

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Turning the ship away and into the sun gave me a good idea of what the lighting looks like on all angles.

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The effect that really stood out to me was the way the ship reacts with the water. The wash and waves from the bow and stern really complete the visuals. Something I really need to figure out how to do in Cinema 4D efficiently.

shot-16.11.23_23.21.28-0565.jpg

3D Animation Process 2 – Oooh, Shiny

A small test to see how my ship looks under my cinematic render settings. I think it looks heckin’ cool.

firstpass

I also experimented with Bumpmaps, but with these very ‘soft’ lighting conditions it didn’t show up too well.

I think I’m going to abandon UV mapping for the ships. I really would like more texture detail, but I don’t know if I want to put myself through that again.

boomp

I’ve heard of a program to use called Crazybump that professional developers use to quickly make effective bumpmaps. I’ll probably try it out soon.

3D Animation Process 1 – D3A BP UV C4D

The first of a series of posts focussing on the general processes involved in making a 3D animation.

Instead of simply block texturing my models by applying a flat colour to a polygon, I’ve decided to one-up myself and apply a flat colour using UV unwrapping in Cinema 4D. An extremely arduous texturing technique.

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-12-21-48

Cinema 4D has a thing called BodyPaint, which enables me to use a very crude Photoshop-esque system to actively paint patters and details onto my models. This is superior to just block filling polygons with a texture, and allows me to create a semi-professional looking model of a D3A Val, a Japanese dive bomber.

I do really enjoy the results of this method, and I used it on two of my other aircraft models, the F4F Wildcat and A6M2 Zero.

ps-render-1

But the process is a massive pain. In fact, I can say that texturing as a whole in Cinema 4D is a painful process. If the UV texture hasn’t broken for some random reason, the textures often don’t load with the model which means transporting them around separately and then re-applying them to the model every single time you open them on a different machine.

I could go on further about how terrible the whole process is, but I’ll save that for when I upload the process of texturing an entire battleship.

Pacific Steel – Storyboard/Script

I think I can better convey my idea through words rather than drawings, so I decided to set out my storyboard like this. This is but one idea I have for my animation, but this is the most well-thought out one. It’s aimed less at action/story and more of a showcase of models and animations, and impactful atmosphere.

Scene 1 – Imperial Might 

sky

Opening

The setting a mostly empty ocean at dusk, save for a few small islands silhouetted by the light. The sun sits low, just on the horizon, casting long shadows and setting the sky a deep orange-red.


The camera is facing the sun, and slowly moves downwards towards a flag until this flag passes in front of the sun. This flag is that of the Imperial Japanese navy, itself also known as the “Rising Sun”.


The camera doesn’t stop and continues downward revealing the flag is upon a large metallic mast. The camera then pulls away from the mast, slowing coming to a stop just above the deck of the ship and in a wide shot reveals the rear-end of battleship Nagato, and two huge gun turrets.


The scene fades/cuts and is brought back to a wide shot front-view of battleship Nagato, destroyer Minekaze to the right and aircraft carrier Zuiho to the left as the move through the dark sea, the sun behind them. (I’m willing to change the sun position to give me the best shots) The scene fades again.


Showcases

This time the camera focuses on Minekaze as it turns it’s main guns to the right flying over the ship and it sails underneath the camera. Minekaze’s name appears in Japanese at the bottom of the screen, followed by the English translation. The camera  focuses then alternates between the main gameplay features of Minekaze, the torpedoes and mine-layers.


The scene ends and appears seemingly looking down onto an empty body of water. Aircraft carrier Zuiho appears from the top left of the screen sailing directly underneath the camera, and it’s name appears in the same manner as Minekaze. The camera then cuts to sitting on the flight deck as a fighter plane is brought up from the elevator and it starts it’s engine.


Nagato’s name is displayed, and the ship is shown again from the very front of the bow, showing the imperial chrysanthemum, a symbol of the Japanese Emperor. A top-down view is shown briefly as Nagato turns all of it’s guns. The camera then cuts to sitting on top of the the main turret looking forwards as the turret turns to face the silhouettes of a distant fleet. The section for the Japanese then ends.


Scene 2 – Freedom Fighters 

1928-dusk-sun

Opening

The opening for the American’s mirrors the Japanese in a few ways. The sun still sits low on the sea, but it’s dawn. The sky is still dark, but a brilliant blue as the light creeps up from behind the horizon.


The camera is facing the sun, and slowly moves downwards towards a flag until this flag passes in front of the sun. This time it’s is that of the United States of America. The camera doesn’t stop and moves towards the bow of the ship, revealing the battleship North Carolina, with aircraft carrier Lexington on the right and light cruiser Atlanta to the left.


The Camera switches to a shot of Lexington in the turn as it launches multiple fighter aircraft. It’s name is displayed. The camera then follows a fighter launching from the deck.


The camera cuts to Atlanta in a turn, panning past it’s hull and then looking onto it’s many main guns. As always, the ship’s name is displayed.


Lastly, The camera looks down onto  North Carolina as it turns it’s main guns to the left, supposedly facing towards Nagato. North Carolina’s name is displayed in the corner. The Camera then faces towards it’s main guns as it turns. The camera’s final cut is a to a broadside view of North Carolina, who then fires all the main guns at once, ending the animation.


The screen cuts to black and the Pacific Steel logo is displayed.