Monday, 28 May 2012


Its been one long year. One long bumpy year full of many many problems. We have had tonnes of problems with work. Maya never works when you want it too.

I've learnt a lot in this past year, I've learnt that a lot can go wrong in one year. I really need to up my time management skills and address problems. I really need to get out of the habit of working under pressure, for some reason I work better because of it, but it doesn't leave me much time to make alterations to things.

I've also learnt that even when working with friends you still need to be tough and really tell people what you want in a film you are all working on, opinions need to be voice even if it means hurting another feelings.We were all a bit too lenient with each other when it came to telling each other what we want and don't want with the film. I also have come to the conclusion I am not the best leader as I am not authourative enough, I much prefer taking orders than giving them.

I'm happy I have done this course. I have always loved animation and I hope to one day become an animator for a games company. I really need to just do as much animation as I can now, really bump up my skills, this course has given me the tools I need to improve and work on my passion and I hope that it will one day I can be in a job I love.

I've learnt a lot over the year, I've learnt to be a lot more technical than I previously was, I'm usually worried about trying new things and getting my head around technical aspects in programs such as Maya, but I managed to learn the trax editor, rendering and further my knowledge of nCloth.

I feel my animation has progressed slightly, not as much as I had hoped but I am still improving, now that we are done I can really focus on getting some personal projects done and hone my skills.

Final Reach

Here I did a little character piece. This was inspired by my cats who are always investigating things and losing their toys under the sofa. My cats always try to reach under things that they just cannot get into nor reach what they are trying to get.

So I did a little piece of Melvin reaching into a little box, I liked having the angle of the camera looking within the box and seeing the cat reaching towards it.

Final Jump

This was the outcome of my final little jump I did. This was rather difficult to do as the rig didn't have a master control so it was rather difficult to move the cat, I had to move every single handle to get the cat to move.

There was more I could have done to this, there isn't much anticipation to the cat jumping which would probably improve the animation quite a lot. he just jumps and doesn't push off the ground I had to move him a lot because his paws kept clipping through the box.

I also should have maybe moved the box as the cat jumped into it. There's a few mistakes but the cat a small problem with his neck, it was perfectly workable but it could get distorted very easily so the cat was a little lumpy in places.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Final Run

This is how my final run cycle came out. I did this mainly using the trax editor to help lengthen the animation so you could see more of it.

I slowed the animation down a bit with the trax editor also and I feel it might be a little bit slow for a run cycle but I am still happy with it nonetheless as this was the first time I had used the trax editor and I was surprised how easy it was to use.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Ambient Occlusion

Seeing as the animations I've done don't have any textures or environments I am going to render everything with an Ambient Occlusion.

I have never done this type of render before so this will all be new to me.

First I deleted all the unused nodes in the hypershade so that I didn't get anything mixed up when adding new nodes. That cleared up a lot of nodes attached to the cat.

I then added a surface shader to the work space and then an ambient occlusion from the mental ray section and the joined the two together in the work space.

I had to change the environment colour in the perspective camera to 100% white so that it came out the right colour.

I then finally added the surface shader to the cat and its environment. I also had to go into the render settings to make sure that the render was set to mental ray. I also went and checked the quaility settings in there and made sure it was set to Lanzcos.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Ncloth Tearing

I then thought about doing some tearing tests, as I thought we could have Melvin claw at the curtains.

Firstly I did a simple tearing test to learn the simulation. This first video was a a way of me learning how to use the tearing and for it not to explode. I have tried using tearing in the past....and it exploded. So I tried again and I was much more successful.

I liked how this came out. I had to make the sphere a collider for the cloth I had added and then select the vertices that I wanted to tear. I was quite happy with the result seeing a previous times Ive used it, its just exploded. So once I did that I went and make something a bit more ambitious.

This time I made the cloth tear like it was being scratched by a cat. I also made very simple crude claws to simulate it rather than using sphere. I wasn't expecting this to work at all and I was very surprised when it did, I'm not sure why loads of little parts flew off but for a first try I was rather happy that it didn't explode...nCloth likes to do that

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Trax Editor

So I felt like I should get to grips with the Trax Editor to help me animate faster.

I had a look on line as to how the Trax Editor works and I was amazed at how easy it was to create a clip and to then loop it.

So I will be using the Trax Editor for my walk and run cycle of the cat, just to get my head over how it works and to get a looping animation without having to key it in over and over again.

To begin with I needed to create a character set so that I could use the Trax Editor. This also helped me animate the cat a little more.

The easiest way I found to set up a character set was to hide everything and then show NURBS Curves, so that only the Rigs controls were visible,  I then selected them all except the spine and tail and created a character set from that. I named it Melvin so that I knew that the correct character set was chosen.

I then went into the saved layouts and chose the Perspective/Trax window so I could see both windows to work from. To get my animation clip I created one with the Trax editor and it came up in the bottom bar. I made sure that the first frame and the last frame were the same when I created this run so that it was seamless.

I then looped the animation with the editor so that it did more steps and lasted longer than the original. When I played it back and the cats animation went very strange as you can see in the above picture. To fix this I had to edit the channel offsets so that the cat stayed in place. I had to make them all absolute as the cat was moving forward very slightly every frame so by changing it to all absolute the cat stayed in place.

I really enjoyed using the Trax editor. It was relatively simple to use and once I got my head around it. It greatly improved the time I spent doing animation. I didn't have to do all the steps for a run and I could look what I had done and saved my time so that I could do other animations.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Cat Collision

Here I did a simple animation of the cat reacting to some nCloth, I wanted to see how animation was going to react to the nCloth as I've never put the 2 together.

It was quite hard to gauge the time slider with the nCloth as my interactive playback has been temperamental as of late. so I had to keep playing the animation back to see it colliding with the cat.

I was merely playing around with the interaction between the 2 elements and ideas for what the cat could interact with.

I liked how the nCloth reacted when the cat pawed at it.  I thought it was cute :3

Saturday, 28 April 2012

nCloth Curtains

For our new Melvin film we wanted the cat to interact with a curtain. So I did a few tests with the curtains Oly made to remind myself of nCloth.

This shot I was just regulating the wind simulation so that I could give a more realistic feel of a curtain by an open window.
This was a simple simulation and I'm quite familiar with the wind simulation with nCloth so this wasn't much of a challenge for me, I merely did it to remind myself.

I had to make the wind very weak or the curtain flew up too fast and didn't flutter, I also had to constrain the bottom corners so that the curtain didn't lift up too high.

This next test I did I had the wind simulation and introduced a collider. This was just a simple test to see how the cloth would react to something passing by it as we thought for our Melvin film we wanted to have the cat walk past a curtain.

I used a simple sphere here to pass by the curtain, this gave a nice effect. I still  had to constrain the bottom corners of the curtain so they didn't fly up really high up in the air.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


It happened again....Rigs....dying on my Maya.... I hate everything right now.

Richards Dog rig was fine one week, it hadn't been updated and was the exact same rig I had been playing with the week before. Then all of a sudden....It wont let me save.

I could work on the dog fine, so long as I never tried to save it, because as soon as I did...Maya crashed. This happened every. Single. Time. I didn't know the cause at all. I only managed to perhaps pin it down to the fact that it was created on a mac and I'm running PC as it worked fine on any of the macs I tried it on but not on my PC. This was the only theory I could think of as to why it stopped working but it doesn't explain why it was working fine the week before.

Regardless I spent a lot of time trying to work around why the dog wouldn't save till I finally got it working. I had to do this beginning part on a Mac. Firstly I had to set up everything I needed in the scene. I needed to put the collar on the dog and put the rock in the same scene as the dog. I then saved this scene with the three elements I needed and then moved it over to my PC. I then had to reference that file I had made so that I could actually animate. it was a pain in the butt but it finally got sorted. But it wasted a lot of time.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Fools Gold

So with Cat and Rat getting cut I tired to see if any other groups needed any animators. Luckily for me Richard was in need of some help when his group bailed on him so I got the opportunity to do a little bit of animating for him.

I offered to do any animation he wanted me too as I'm a keen animator.

Richard asked me to do a small scene where the dog in the film walks up and sniffs a rock.

Theses are the passes I had for the shot I did for Richard. I had a lot of problems with the rig. and I was so happy that I finally got it working enough to animate. He does slide a little on ground when he walks forward but it was difficult to get him walking more fluidly as his ankles controls were a little off. I did my best though and Richard was happy enough with it and it went in the film.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Melvin the Siamese

So in the end we all decided that Melvin was going to become a Siamese cat. This was a nice interesting breed but also had a simple coat so it wouldn't take Sarah very long to texture him, where as if we had chosen a tabby Sarah might have been texturing the cat for longer than we needed.

Now this is where I'm going to geek out a little, I found it amusing (and Im probably the only one who does and ever will find it amusing) but our cat Melvin reminded me of another Siamese cat...called Melvin. Except this Melvin has far less polygons.... and lives in a game.

For a while now I've been watching a guy on YouTube by the name of "Chimneyswift11", he mainly does Gaming videos, one of his most popular videos are his Minecraft ones. He has a series on his channel called the Minecraft Files, where he builds stuff every week and goes out adventuring in his Minecraft world. One day he went out and got a cat. This cat was a little Siamese cat which he (after a few episodes) names Melvin.

I know this is completely irrelevant but I thought it was cool that he had a Siamese cat called Melvin and then we ended up picking a Siamese cat called Melvin.

See Melvin and Chimney in action (geek mode activate!)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Melvin Concepts

These are some of the ideas I had for which breed Melvin should be. I tried to pick some basic everyday breeds that were common in houses but also interesting breeds. I tried out a diversity of colours so that they all looked different. 

In the interest of not having a lot of time left before deadline I used the line art I did for the cat in the Cat and Rat film as we were merely just deciding what breed to make Melvin. We weren't aiming for a fancy cat design, so I didn't need to worry about how the cat looked.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Hello Melvin

So with the end of Cat and Rat came the birth of MELVIN!

We decided to use a cat still bit instead of the zodiac story, Me, Oly and Sarah decided to do a short animation of a day in the life of a cat.

All three of us had cats so we all had funny little ideas of little things Melvin could do. We got the idea for his name off a list of the top 50 American boys names, we all decided Melvin was the best name for our new cat.

We didnt have long to try and get a short done, but Oly rebuilt the cat rig so that his feet moved better and our previous cat rid had problems with the ankles.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Bye Bye Cat and Rat

So after all our troubles with this project, it has sadly been put down....

We were advised by the tutors to give up on the Cat and Rat film and go for something else. This was a bit of a shock, we had finally gotten past all of our problems but it was little too late and we had to abandon all hope.

It was a little upsetting to hear that after nearly an entire year we had to give up and forget about the film. We had all put a lot of work into the film and gone through so much and just when we thought we were pulling through....we had to end it.

So on to bigger and brighter things? Farwell Cat and Rat...

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Bad Kitty!

This cat rig has been the pain of my existence during this project. It was very picky about when it wanted to work and for how long.

To begin with the cat rig was fine, but as the project went on and the cat got updated and improved, the likelihood of the damn thing opening on my Maya decreased.

I had to test out the cat rig when it was first built to find out if it all worked and if all the weights were done properly. So each time the cat was sent off to be updated the less it started to work my end. Until eventually it just stopped working all together and would crash as soon as it was opened.

We thought that maybe this could have been due to the fact that it had Vray settings on the cat whilst I did not have Vray on my maya.

In the end we resorted to making the cat and MA file rather than an MB and it made the cat a little more workable with my maya, but not all the time, sometimes it worked and some times it didn't.

Its really becoming a pain and we dont have time to make a new rig.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Shot 2

This was our second establishing shot that Oly did for the Cat and Rat. We still needed to work on lighting because we had some issues with it messing with the textures.

It was a very simple shot but we wanted a nice establishing shot to show off our environment.

Shot 1

This is one of the first establishing shots of the main characters the Cat and Rat. I did the really quick animation for this shot. It was then that we discovered that this cat rig could not lie down, nor could it bend its head properly.

We also had a problem rendering the characters in Vray. So for this shot they weren't rendered in Vray whilst we tried to sort out as to why they weren't rendering properly. When rendered in Vray the cat and rat just disappeared.

We were still working out kinks with these renders, Vray proved a lot of hassle but it was the only way we could render with textures and have a thick line outline for the effect we wanted.

Thursday, 15 March 2012 many problems

I cannot begin to list off the problems we had. I think we've spent more time problem solving rather than making the damn film.

To name a few:

-couldn't get Vray working on my Maya
-couldn't open the environment without severe lag
-cat kept crashing nearly every time I opened it

This was becoming bothersome and more hassle than it was worth, I couldn't animate the main character. I couldn't open the main environment to animate within, this wasn't so much of a problem as my animations could have been imported into the scene via someone else's laptop.

It was strange that the Rat and Ox rig were fine, whereas the Cat was causing so much trouble. Its probably all the times we kept updating the cat and not deleting history?

Saturday, 10 March 2012


I never had any official story boards, all the scenes I drew out I put straight into the animatic, rather than setting them out in a story board first. Thinking back on it I probably should have layed them out in story boards first.

After my animatics, Oly and Sarah went through my work to see what we could take from the story whist still keeping the plot.

Sarah drew up some story boards:-

They kept some of the shots I had originally done and built upon them, removing unnecessary scenes so to keep the audience from getting bored.

Oly then re did a new animatic.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Animatic redraft

This is the second shorter animatic.

The previous one was too long and the audience lost interest before it finished, so we shortened the script and screen play and re recorded the voice over so that it was more consistent.

James Tomkins re did the narration for me, this animatic was far shorter than the previous one but there are still a few pacing issues, we needed to try and shorten the story without losing any of the crucial plot points. This proved far more difficult that anticipated.

The main points we needed to keep in the story were:

-establish the Cat and Rat are friends at the beginning
-establish the race and its prize
-make sure the audience know that the Rat pushes the Cat into the river
-show that to this day the cat and rat are enemies (due to the rat tricking the cat)

These I considered the more important points to the story as it is mainly a story about the order of the zodiac and why the cat does not appear, and as to why cats and rats do not like each other.

I admitted to not being very god at animatics, I have a million ideas for it I just have poor execution when it comes to these things.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


This was the first rough draft of the animatic I drew up.

I have come to the conclusion that animatics are not my forte but I wanted to try and give them a go. This animatic was merely to sort our shots and the script.

James Waters did the voice over for this animatic, I just needed a rough dialogue track as I needed the narration to work out what shots went where.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


Originally James was in charge of the Ox's character design whilst I was busy doing the animatics. But after being told that James drawings were not professional enough, I offered to do the OX so that he could concentrate on re designing the Jade Emperor.

I went for a very simple design as the Ox is only a side character and merely a "boat" for our main 2 characters. So I went with the traditional musk Ox (I hope to never draw another Ox again).


Here I also did the character sheet for the Rat.

I went for a more simple design with the rat as he is the "bad guy" in this film. The cat is more friendly and approachable than the rat.

We didn't want to go for a plain black or brow rat as rats are often associated with disease. So we went for a dull purple colour so that he looked a little more friendly than you normals bog standard rat.
Purple can be considered "artificial" and this ties in with the Rat attitude towards the Cat in the film, so this was a nice link.

I also based the rat off of a character from an anime (this is also where I got the inspiration for the film) called Fruits Basket, in which 13 members of a family turn into one of the 12 animals (plus the cat) when touched by members of the opposite sex. A boy in this anime, called Yuki, turned into the rat. Our rat is influenced by him. I like to think of it as a little homage to the anime as it was where I first heard the Cat and Rat story.


This is the design I came up with for the cat. She is the main character of the story so I wanted her to be interesting and likeable.

I had a few ideas of how I wanted the character to look. To begin with I considered making her look similar to a Chinese Lucky Cat.

In the end I settled on this design, her design was influenced by a couple of things, the breed I chose was the Japanese Bobtail (minus the bobtail) The Japanese bob tail is also the same breed of cat that a lucky cat is based off of so I thought that was a subtle connection. I also used a paint splat effect to co inside with the water colour theme we are trying to achieve. I gave her blue eyes so that she stood out a little more and looked cute.


These were some notes me and Sarah made in the car, a veeeeery long car journey.

- Sort StoryBoards and look into the timing.
- Talk to James Water's about asking him to re-write the stroy into a screen play.
- Look into the dialogue of the character's.
- Experiment with watercolours and ink for the style.
- Character Designs.
- Environment Designs.


- Cherry Blossoms, Bamboo, Riverside, Middle of River.
- Arbour - Wooden Structure - Pravillion.

Characters -

Emeperor - (Chinese) Huangda
- Wear's Gold
- Look at the Emperor from Mulan. (Disney movie version)
- Either really fat or really skin.
- Wise (Aged)
- Tall or short.
- Eyebrows covering Eye's.
- Elegant and Graceful.
- Long robes (N-Cloth)
- Jewellery (?)
- Forbidden city
- Palace
- Look into famous Emperors (Jade Emperor)
- Sort out concepts.

Rat - (Chinese) Lao
- Male
- Young
- Mouse like
- Plain fur coat
- Olivia Walters drawing style

Cat - (Chinese) Mao
- Female
- Young
- Gullible
- Cute
- Like Lucky Cat - White fur - Collar red - Gold bell.
- Cute
- Medium cat sized

Sound Track
- Old traditional
- Chinese
- Instrumental
- No singing

Sound Effects
- Water Splashing
- Running water
- A Breeze

Narrarator suggestions -
- Matt Alford
- Lawrie Rose
- Rebert Bowles
- James Tomkins
- James Waters
- Jeff Chen

We wanted a male to do the voice over.


Who we wanted to Target
Do we want it to be fun, educational, serious.
How will the style effect the Audience

Monday, 6 February 2012

Style Influence

The style influence that Okami has and what I would like Cat and Rat to have is that of the old Japanese Woodblock prints and paintings known as Ukyio-e.

Ukiyo-e was very popular in Japan between the 17th and 20th century and has a very unique style to it that makes it very recognisable.

Okami took some influences from Ukiyo-e  but was more heavily influenced by Chinese watercolours and Sumi-e art. Sumi-e is known as ink and wash painting.

We wanted to have a similar feel to traditional art but be made in 3D for a distinct look.