Sunday, 28 February 2010

Tiny Robot

Now it's time for something that isn't a hate induced rant of rage. Josh wanted us to do a simple 3D model of a tin toy, using only a few tools and a simple diffuse texture. Of course, this feels like going backwards for me, since I've already done this. I've read the book, seen the movie (hated it) and collected all the action figures. I can safely say that I'm over it, but starting out, it's a very useful project to do. Low poly skills are essential for high poly work. Many people don't realize this, eager to jump into Zbrush before they've mastered the basics. Zbrush isn't a miracle program, it doesn't have a "Make look good" button on it like some people seem to think. In fact, Zbrush will ruin your work if you don't know how to use it. Alas, I learned everything the hard way, so I know my words are truth. I know how right I am (forgive the arrogance), but saying these words to people who don't know any better is a waste of time. People need to know that hitting their head on a brick wall hurts, but without a frame of reference or the experience to know that this is the truth. They'll doubt it, question it and inevitably smash their head against the wall only to go, "Yeah, that does hurt."

I once heard a quote, "A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether."

I thought there was more to it, something about a fool constantly making mistakes and not learning from them. But I urge people listening or reading, even if they don't care (I often don't) to be a wise man.

Anyway, my Robot is called... well, Tiny Robot. It's a small tin robot, patched up and made by a small boy who wanted nothing more than a friend. His wishes came true one day when the robot came to life and started moving. It was only made out of tin at this point, it was worn out and rusted, so the boy wanted to paint over it, but didn't get a chance to finish. I want to show this in the texture, I want it to be half tin and half painted. A 50/50 split between clean textures (somewhat) on a dirty, raw material. ENOUGH TALK! Pictures.

Textures are still unfinished, I've only begun to start detailing. Sooner or later, I'll get to making some Maya life lessons for John.

Alright, so there's this thing... (Cynical Blog Post 3)

That I never realized. The rule of three. Twice is too little and four times is too much. I won't go to far into the details, because Steve already covered it. Suffice to say, I do think that three is the magic number, just don't let your players know it.

Another thing I never realized, is the art and design split. I used to think that art and design could meld together, into some crazy blob of awesomeness. Turns out this wasn't the case, and while I bounce back and forth between art and design, this week I'm in the design camp. Let's talk about art.

Joanna Mowbray - Sculptures

Now, I rolled into this lecture as usual (30 minutes late, not regretting a thing, usually with some snickers). But this day, I had been constantly (and accidentally) putting my alarm on snooze. It was bad luck that my wake up alarm had gone off the exact same time as I entered the lecture. My alarm was set for 8:50, how I managed to not turn it off until 10:30 is beyond me. As I sat down, I noticed sticks in the ground. Yep, just sticks. The first thing I saw was Joanna's... something in space. Sticks in space? I forgot what it was called. But she said it was basically her outlining something; it was around there somewhere, but she never showed us.

Anyway, this woman was an artist. No two ways around it. She worked instinctively and freely flowed from thought to concept. She worked on paper (and with paper) for the ease of manipulation, then later used stronger materials to make her work last and stand up. The metals she used were dependant on what she wanted to do. One of her works was near the sea, so she used copper so that the rust would create unique patterns. Some of them she used stainless steel because it's very strong and clean, so it could reflect light well. Some she used bronze (I think) so that when the light hit it, it would create a nice orange/brown shadow underneath.

Her sketches were fantastic, lovely use of shape, perspective and shade. I wish she had kept her ideas there, because a lot I felt was lost between the page and the product. She prefers to work on her own stuff at all times, but will hand her projects over to people and supervise them if the work because too large or heavy for her to handle. She felt like an artist comes into constraints later on; she misunderstood the question that was asked of her. Since the constraints and limits she referred to were the ones that you place upon yourself, rather than what anyone else places on you. A lot of her work was circular, old designs would come back around, perhaps an accident or simply refinement. However, in my cynical eyes she just ran out of ideas. A lot of the work just looked like her previous work, and while I have no problem with revisiting old ideas and concepts to make them better - I saw no evidence that anything was being changed. Perhaps that is my inexperience as a sculptor talking (Yeah, Zbrush doesn't count, even though it should), but I thought there would be more to change. The shape was the same, the little hole in the middle was the same - oh, she just changed the colour - it's still the same. One thing I give her credit for though, was that her work had some awesome names. Let me list a few for you:

The Spaces Within
Movement in Space
Abyss and Passages (?!)
Beyond and Within
So Far So Near (So Near yet So Far)
Surface Tension

Reading this, you're probably thinking how corny they all are. Well, they are corny, but only as words, when you see the work, they lose all sense of corniness. Abyss and Passages could be summed up as... a funnel. One piece of work she had walnuts and light bulbs (I think, definitely light bulbs) on a wall. She talked about relationships and how we don't think about how certain objects relate to each other. Someone asked what the relationship between them was; when pressed further, she simply said, "The relationship between them is exploring the relationship." I was taken aback, I'm paraphrasing here, but the quote isn't far off. It took all my energy to not burst out laughing as I thought, "So there is no relationship then," and shook my head.

I'm still amazed at this whole art vs design thing. There was a lot of talk about feelings and taking your concept in places you never imagined - which I agree with, they are all important aspects, but this seemed too random. It seldom made any sense, but I applaud her conviction. If there's nothing I like about the concept or the way it turns out, I respect how it was made. Working with metal isn't easy, and the jump from 2D to 3D is a harsh one.

Gotta get 100 words out of this... how do I distill cynicism into academia? Is there anything I can take away from this as a game designer?


Saturday, 13 February 2010

Cynical Obligatory Blog Post 2 - Nevar Forget

The title tells more than it should. This post is basically a way for me to "never forget" what has happened. It's not a reference to some horrible war or event I took place in-- well actually it is. Friday morning lectures are a war. A war against boredom and apathy. There's only so much you can care about lighting, enamelling, leather working (HAH) or fine art (ew). And to say that I care, even a little bit, is completely wrong. Someone said there was a point for us Game Design students. But hell if I can remember it, I probably wasn't even there when they told us what it was. But I can say for certain they were talking out of their asses.

I have a lot (well not a lot, a little bit) of respect for those who can find the joy and the upside to these lectures. There's the whole thing about cultural enlightenment, or some crap like that. Broadening your horizons and that you can't stay cooped up in your little box. I disagree, keep me in that box, I like the box and I like the darkness. If pressed, I could say that I took something away from all of those lectures, that each one shaped and molded me as a person and now I'm better off because of it. Hah, only someone as arrogant as I sound right now would think that their lectures had so much impact it was like watching the death of Christ. The stuff that I can take away from these lectures, are the things you would (or at least I would) think about when you're pressed against the subject. You would think about fashion when designing the character's clothes, you would think about lighting when creating lights and lighting a scene, you would think about enamelling when... making accessories? You would think about leather working... I guess... I wouldn't really, nor would I think about fine art. But still, everything you could take away from these lectures are to do with the person's experience in that subject, which is good for people who study that subject. But it has absolutely nothing to do with me. I don't need to know, nor do I care that the speaker hates working in the industry, I don't care if they went to Australia for 6 months, avoided being killed by everything and came back like the second coming of Christ (Jesus, a lot of Christ). For the most part, I'm looking to take notes, write this essay and move on. Perhaps I'll be entertained along the way, perhaps sooner or later I'll actually take something away from all this (apart from avoiding lectures at all costs) and perhaps I'll look at this blog post and shake my head disapprovingly.

Anyway, first guy.

Craig Atkinson - Fine Art

The fine artist. At least, that's what I call him. Since I was technically at this lecture, I'll write about it. If there's a word to describe this man, it's random. He does things for the sake of doing them and looks at the result with approval or disappointment. He seemed rather...immature in his way of creating things, the sort of attitude that suggests that if he drew a moustache on the Mona Lisa he'd go "yeah, I like that." I know Fine Art has nothing to do with actual drawing ability (something I consider to be stupid), but... it seems like he doesn't even try, or doesn't try so no one can tell him that he did a bad job even though he tried his hardest. This to me, screams weakness, someone who can't take the harsh truth of their work being bad despite them pouring their heart and soul into it. I see nothing of the sort, nothing that suggests he tried and moved on despite failure and was better for it. I hate this style of fine art, where everything has this alleged deeper meaning that you have to strain yourself to find. He felt like he was constricted by the limitations that the industry or gallery put on him, I think he was just constricted by the inability to actually do something worthwhile.

I think the limitations imposed on a person helps to shape them, give direction and focus and really test creativity. It's not always fun, or easy, but it is satisfying. He would imply that working for anyone other than yourself is just a safety net for those who don't want to venture out in the dangers of the world, which I think is complete crap. Working together with people will always help more than harm, even as an artist, you can't get good if you have no one else to look at your work and tell you things that you missed completely. If I have to get positive about this guy, I suppose it's his lateral thinking. Moving from point to point, thought to thought instinctively and keeping everything very open and flowing. Kudos to him for making it in this big bad world.

I suppose later on I'll distill the cynicism into something more academic. But I'd really have nothing to say if I took that out.

Ruth Ball - Enamelling

I thought this was a welcome change from the week before. Ruth had been working for around 20 years, and the nature of her work evolved from common student dribble (pretty dribble, though) to something marketable and usable by the general population. She works very methodically, but still manages to make things in a creative and free manner. Her work (as one would expect it to be) is intricate, with the many layers and techniques of enamel working together to create a piece of jewelry. She goes from hard patterns to soft painterly strokes in her work. The variety of colours and patterns work well together to draw the eye. She is someone who feels that the exploration of technique can influence the work, I suppose that means that experimentation is good every so often and that one shouldn't stick to the same tried and tested formula for their field. She fuses techniques to create new pieces of work, something I often try to do as well, so it was interesting to see how another field of design handles it. She has worked for the industry in galleries and has had commissioned work, but she feels that it is possible to find meaning and creativity within the limits imposed. This turned out to be a common aspect, as so far most people who have worked within limitations feel like that.

She moved from small pieces of jewelry to rather large pieces of art. Large panels, boxes and other wall-fixtures that she used the same process on. She seemed to enjoy doing that, finding the boundary of how big her work could be. She also mentioned that she found the unpredictable nature of enamel work appealing and (from what I gathered) a little frustrating. As there's no way to know what happens when you light your work on fire, sometimes the results are less than desirable, or completely desirable but not what you expected.

Lamp Girl - Lighting Design

I don't have her name... Actually I should find that. Oh, it's Claire Norcross. So, Claire's work was all about lighting, something which sounded incredibly dull to me, but somehow was more interesting than I gave it credit for. One thing I noticed - which is something I agree with and found that Craig disagreed with - is that design is a social activity. People add to a design and take away from it. Is this a difference between "designers" and "artists"? I find myself straddling the line, but it's weird to see how my perception of artists is one of selfishness. They want to do what they want and no one can tell them differently. While designers are all about sharing, bouncing ideas off each other to refine it, or gain more ideas. A generalization of course, so if you're an artist don't think I'm calling you selfish (I am, though).

Anyway, Claire had a lot of weird and quirky ideas, but she saw them through and the end result was pleasing to look at (though not entirely practical). She was influenced by nature and her designs reflected that. I think that nature is aesthetically the best place to go for design, as the shapes, patterns and colours are so pure and untainted that you can often integrate those into your work to find something pleasing. The thing I liked most was the star light, which opened up into a lot of little stars and the light passing through created some nice shadow. It wasn't much of a light, but it was pretty. Claire seemed most interested in origami, the art of Japanese paper folding, in order to make her lights. She worked with a lot of different disciplines and moved around the world, which seemed to influence her work. But mostly, just seemed to be where the next job took her. She was looking at public art, finding it interesting to share your work with the general public in the forms of vandalising building by stringing them up with lights, or having weird floor panels that turn lights on and off. Claire found it hard to work alone, and as I said before, liked having more people around to do research with and find new designs. She viewed this as a distillation of design until she got to the final outcome. She often had to work on time constraints, saying that her work would have been better if she had more time - but she knew she would never have the amount of time that she wanted, so she had to make her work as good as possible within the limits.

Barry Purves (Yes, Purves) - Animation

Now, this guy had passion. I mean, the other lecturers talked about their work, this guy felt it. Everything he said had such passion and fire in it, you believed everything he said and often wanted to hear more (until the dull Q/A section with stupid questions). Animation is something I'm interested in, so it was good to see other techniques and limitations of traditional methods. 3D animation is very free-flowing, you can modify the frames (timing), you always have a consistent look and you can view your animation from many different angles easily. Barry seemed to look down on CG animation, saying that 2D animation and stop-motion animation had more feeling to them. I disagreed with this, and with most of his views on CG, but I saw his point of view. He liked the feeling of doing things in the moment. He described how that in stop-motion, if a character is doing a gesture they can't complete due to limitations (the cloth stretching, restricting movements), you had to improvise and turn that gesture into something else completely. 2D and stop-motion had to be perfect from the get-go, everything you did couldn't be changed or modified later on down the road (save from cutting it out completely). Barry liked the strings and mechanics behind animation, how seeing the operator(s) of a puppet could bring things to life. He told a story of Warhorse, a play about a boy in WW1 who went looking for his horse after his father sold it to the army. There was a part where the boy had to kill a horse dying from mustard gas and stabbed it in the ear. The operators of the puppet horse got out of it, bowed to the horse and slowly sunk into the shadows. I thought that was a really good way to infuse emotion into a piece. Even the operators of this horse showed such care and respect for a puppet and a fictional story character, the audience couldn't help but be moved to tears. He said that theater was made for the audience, how their laughter, cries and coughs influenced the way the actors worked. Something you wouldn't get from cinema. Barry's work - Screenplay - used this element a lot, people dressed in black (that you could clearly see, but obviously weren't supposed to see) using all these stage effects right in front of your eyes.

Barry was the first one to actually say, and give the feeling that he loved working in limitations. One of his works, a Shakespeare retelling only had 1 puppet, but thanks to this he came up with a great concept and piece of work to utilize that puppet, and the final piece of work was perhaps better off for it than if he had 3 or 5 or 10 puppets to use. This work was based on body language, something that every animator needs to know, even artists too. Body language can say more than words (especially if you watch Lie to Me). Barry liked to be spontaneous due to the limitations and was often aware (and made us aware) of the techniques behind his work. Barry gave a few pointers to wanna-be animators. Things like, how timing is important and how you should always show your thought process and be clear with your concepts. How your animations should always read clearly, and how important show and don't tell is (duh).

He showed us a few interesting short movies (along with his own mentioned above). One about a dead puppeteer being moved by alive puppets, one about a boyfriend and girlfriend (Polar Bear and Penguin) having an ordinary conversation about something the boyfriend did wrong (obviously, it's always the boys fault). The last one about knowing your place, and how people do their jobs with their entire bodies and often pay with them.

The one thing I distinctly remember thinking by the end of this lecture was that; animators are messed up. I wouldn't like to meet one of them (or their concepts) in a dark alley. That's for sure.


Whew, that was long. Note to self: Do this crap sooner rather than later, so you don't have to retell 4 weeks of lectures in a single sitting.