Posts Tagged ‘Project X’

Concept Art Process for Award-Winning Short Animated Films

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Kong Vang, Cogswell alumni and Art Director of two short animated films

Kong Vang, Cogswell alumni and Art Director of the two short animated films “Driven” and “Worlds Apart” – both created in Cogswell College’s Project X class – shares his process of creating character concept designs and more.

While working on the films created in the Project X class, I learned that it takes a very dedicated team to make a short film in four semesters or less. Many of the students on this team are attending classes full-time in addition to contributing their talents towards making an awesome film.

Here’s an overview of what happens during the production process of a short animated film: First the script and storyboards are completed and approved, within the first semester. Meanwhile, the concept team begins creating concepts for characters and environments.  Approved concepts are sent into the modeling pipeline as soon as they are approved where our artists create 3d models. As each model is approved by the Director, they are sent into the texturing and rigging pipeline. Technical artists create animation rigs for each model and prepare them for animation testing.  Animation is a long process so it is important to get the rigged 3D models to the animators as soon as possible. Animation takes almost a year to get all of the shots approved.  After the animation is polished, the first test of the film timing is created, approved, and sent off to the sound effects and music score team.  Also during the process of animation, approved shots are sent to the lighting team for light set and test render. When the finalized lit shots are rendered out, they are sent to the compositing team for the final clean up. After the composite shots are cleaned up and finalized, they are sent off to the film editor who creates the final cut of the film and music score.

On the latest film ‘Driven’, each member of the team wore different hats depending on which stage of the production pipeline the film was in.  For instance, initially I started out in the concept design pipeline, then moved to the animation pipeline and finally to matte painting for the final stage of the film.

One of my jobs as a concept designer was to collect the approved designs from the other artists and finalize them. Because most approved designs are from different artists, each with their own distinct style, the finalization process ensures a consistent look and feel. After finalizing the look and stylization of the characters, I would render each character in 2D using Adobe Photoshop so that it would represent its 3d counterpart.  This allows the Director to easily visualize how each character will look before it gets passed along to the modeling team.

Digital media is the fastest way to work and Photoshop offers the perfect tools and work flow for this demanding field. With infinite tool presets, custom brushes, and limitless iterations, it allows me to work more quickly and easily compared to traditional mediums like paint or ink.

To block out the initial character’s silhouette, I like to use a standard round brush, which I adjust into an ellipse shape, then angle it 45 degrees. This style of brush setup creates a line weight that flows much more nicely than the standard round brushes. Once the silhouettes and internal shapes look good, I create a new layer in Photoshop and start to block out the forms with one color value. At this early stage, I prefer to work in black and white.  It makes it easier to focus just on values and form rather than getting caught up about the colors. My preference in digital painting is to work from dark to light values, or shadows to highlights. It has been my experience to get results much faster using this method than trying to paint from light to dark.  I push and pull (lighten and darken) the values until the character forms are clear.  During this process, I maintain a wide range of values to create depth and realism.

Once the characters have been sketched out, it’s time to experiment with color palettes. I like give a slight color tint to the values before painting on top of the black and white image. The tint layer acts as a color wash so none of the black and gray value show through later. I create a new layer and set the Layer Mode to “Color”. I start by painting over the character with the color palette that the team agrees on. By using multiple layers, I don’t lose my original black and white image – and I can test out different color schemes.  Once I’ve added general color blocks to the characters, I use a new layer to start painting in details. For the final detail stage, I use textures and custom brushes to polish the look of the characters.

The development stages from concept to finished product vary from character to character; it all depends on what the Director is looking for. For example, secondary characters may be approved before main characters. Main characters are often challenging as they have to be visually pleasing and have the right visual attitude. On the other hand secondary characters have far less restrictions, allowing flexibility for designers to explore their creativity.

The concept team spent almost an entire semester designing characters. After four months and multiple iterations, all nine characters were finally approved. Once approved, I took the concepts and started finalizing each character’s look. It took me roughly four or five hours to render out the first pass of each character to show the Director.  One character in particular – the adult Biff cop – took almost ten hours to design.  After multiple small changes, the final designs were approved.

One of the most surprising and challenging characters to design was the Jet Bike that the main character rides.  Its importance in the film is equal to the character that rides it. Although there were many great concept designs shown to the Director, none of them were approved. That’s when I was given the tough task of designing the bike. After fifty designs, we started to narrow down the concept. Once the main silhouette was chosen, I mixed elements from the best three designs together to get the final jet bike concept. The process for this single ‘character’ took three or four weeks, from start to finish, working with traditional mediums like graphite and paper.

This is just the front-end of the production pipeline for a short animated film. It takes a strong team and lots of man hours to complete the film. In the end many people had come and gone, and lots of talented people contributed to the film. We were all so glad that the film was finally finished. It took the PX team about four semesters and two summers of hard work to accomplish the short film, Driven. The Project X class has given me the best hands-on experience possible. It has definitely changed my future and life for the better. Thanks Project X!

Kong Vang

Beverly Hills and Newport Beach Film Fests

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Worlds Apart Crew at Newport BeachNewport Beach Film Festival (from left to right): Evan Clover, Josh Hodges, Jeron Moore

Worlds Apart Crew at Beverly HillsBeverly Hills Film Festival Awards Gala (from left to right): Josh Hodges, Evan Clover, Ivy Clover, Jeron Moore

Recently a few of our alumni attended two film festivals in southern California; The Beverly Hills Film Festival and the Newport Beach Film Festival. Both festivals were very exciting, the gang started their weekend off with attending the screening the animated shorts portion of the Beverly Hills Film Festival and we happy with the way Worlds Apart was received by everyone. After that, they took off to the Newport Beach Film Festival to attend the Shorts for Shorties portion of the festival. The animation they saw there was astonishing in quality and said it will be tough competition.  They were invited to the front of the theater to answer questions from the audience and then hopped out to the red carpet for pictures. Finally their weekend concluded with the Beverly Hills Film Festival Awards Gala. They got all gussied up with their suits and skirts and arrived to rub elbows with other film makers and celebrities. The awards ceremony was very classy and there we tons of laughs. Worlds Apart did not walk away with an award but there was high praise among  attendees for the films high production value and story. The Project X crew was all in all very pleased with the festivals and the weekend they had.

We will let you know as soon as we hear back from Newport Beach if Worlds Apart won an award. Stay tuned!

-Zombie

Cogswell on CG Society

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

CG Society Article

Hey Everyone!

I wanted to bring you some really cool and exciting news that just came across my desk. You have all been seeing the success that the latest Project X film, Worlds Apart, has been seeing. A few of you have even seen how cool it is by having the privilege of watching the whole thing. This next bit of news is huge for Worlds Apart and for Cogswell..

Recently, a couple crew members from Worlds Apart contacted CG Society and inquired about getting the film featured on their site in some way. They never expected anything crazy, just a link, maybe a small summary on their list of animated shorts. After they send some material to the editor they couldn’t believe his response. He decided that he wanted to do a full 2 page article on the film!

If you don’t know who or what CG Society is, it is probably about time that you checked the site out. They are one of, if not the biggest, online CG Art and VFX websites in the world. They not only feature individual artists work but also professional studio work as well. They get thousands of hits on their site everyday and host some of the most beautiful cg art that I have ever seen. It is not only and honor to be featured on their site but a privilege and the crew of the film couldn’t be more happy.

If you want to check out the article and more about Worlds Apart, follow the link below.

http://www.cgsociety.org/index.php/CGSFeatures/CGSFeatureSpecial/worlds_apart

Congratulations to the Worlds Apart crew! Hope you just as much success in your coming projects!

-Zombie

Cogswell in 3D World Magazine

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Cogswell in 3d World Magazine

Recently a couple members of the Worlds Apart crew reached out to 3D World Magazine to see if they would be interested in doing a story on the making of the film. The people over at 3D World loved what they saw and were very excited to do a story. The director of Worlds Apart, Michael Huber, got in contact after and went about answering all the questions they had for him and the crew.

The article full article is on sale now and I have the link to the short version right here: http://www.3dworldmag.com/2012/03/21/short-cuts-worlds-apart/

Cogswell is really proud of the Worlds Apart crew for getting accepted into 3D World Magazine. 3D World is one of the biggest CG Arts publications in the world and it is considered to be a great honor to be featured in such a prestigious magazine. Way to go Worlds Apart! Can’t wait to see what kind of attention the next Project X film gets!

-Zombie

Day 1 at GDC – Update: 003

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Cogswell College at GDC 2012

Hey Everyone,

So today was a great day for Cogswell at GDC. So many people stopped by the booth to talk to our students and representatives. Many connections were made that could end up being potential partnerships. Also, many companies that saw Cogswell as a very special place for training the future of the game design industry. Many alumni stopped by as well took a look at our games and demo reel, every one of them commented about how great the work from the students is looking and especially things coming from Project X. I had several conversations myself with people who thought what Cogswell is doing is an amazing thing.

A bunch of the student volunteers and other Cogswell people decided to stick around for the IGF Awards to see who won. If anything special comes from that I will be sure to let you know!

If you have never heard of the IFG, click here to get the details: http://www.igf.com/

So all in all, today was a great for day on the Expo floor. We are looking forward to an even better Thursday and Friday. I will check in with you guys soon. Stay tuned!

-Zombie

Cogswell College on ABC News

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

esterday a camera crew from ABC News came and did a story on the Project X class and the films it has produced yesterday here on campus! It was really cool when a large group of us sat around the tv in the student lounge and watched when they aired it last night. Also, I just got the link for the online version! So, check it out everyone!

The link to the whole article is here:
http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/education&id=8564323

The Offering – Online at last!

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Cogswell Animated Short Online

Hello and good day to you all!

I have some really awesome news for you. The first Project X film, The Offering, has made its way through the film festivals and is now finally back home. Since this fabulous animated short is all done with its circuit, Cogswell has decided to place it online for all to see! It gained much acclaim and won many awards during its run. So, I hope you will all stand with me and congratulate The Offering on its success and head on over to watch it, I am just about to for the fifth time today!

The Offering: Click here to watch

-Zombie

Behind the Scenes of a Masterpiece!!!

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Huge News Everyone!!!!!

After the long wait, the Behind the Scenes feature of Worlds Apart is finally finished! Some of the crew talk about their experience on Project X and they all have amazing things to say. I wish I could work on a movie like this!

-Zombie

Cogswell College Film, Worlds Apart, Wins Best Animation at Miami Short Film Festival

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Best Animation - Worlds Apart

The 10th Annual Miami Short Film Festival honored 12 films during its November 19 Red Carpet Award Ceremony. Worlds Apart received the nod for Best Animation. Cogswell College faculty, David Perry, was on hand to receive the trophy and extend thanks for this recognition of the hard work that went into creating the film.

Part science fiction and part cautionary fairytale, Worlds Apart explores the universal themes of stewardship of nature and the fate of humanity. Worlds Apart asks the question, “Can humanity change its ways and save itself?” The film is a production of the Project X class at Cogswell College. Watch the trailer.

The Miami Short Film Festival award recipients are determined by a jury of 28 influential personalities from the world of film and art. This year’s Festival welcomed more than 80 films from 39 different countries. Each film was judged on originality, cinematography, storytelling, use of the medium, production value, editing and film as art.

Past award winners have achieved significant success, including Grisen, nominated for an Oscar in 2009; Frankie, which won the European Film Award for Best Short; Down In Number 5 which won a Student Academy Award in 2010 and most recently God of Love an Oscar-winning short.

Project X is a one-of-a-kind, project-based class at Cogswell College that is run like a professional animation production studio using teams of skilled artists and sound designers. Students work tirelessly for three semesters to produce a studio-quality, short film. During production they are supported by a massive collaborative effort from faculty, staff, visiting artists, industry professionals and alumni.

LINKS

Miami Film Festival http://www.miamishortfilmfestival.com/

Worlds Apart Wins Honors at Encounters Film Festival, UK

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

2011 Winner

Worlds Apart, a short, animated film produced under the umbrella of the Project X class, faced its toughest jury yet. The Encounters Film Festival visited 20 schools in Bristol to present a special screening of this year’s nominees for the Children’s Jury Award to hundreds of children. After the screening the students voted for the short film they liked best.

And the envelope please – Worlds Apart wins the Children’s Animation Jury Award! Film Director and Cogswell faculty, Michael Zachary Huber, was on hand to accept the award.

“The award is regarded as one of the best awards to get at the festival,” said Huber, “because these young judges are so brutally honest and free of bias. At the Awards Ceremony where they also showed the film, people in the audience were wiping their teary eyes right after it screened.”

All Official Selections under 15 minutes long and deemed suitable for young audiences over 7 years of age are entered in this competition. These films demonstrate how animation is a great way to tell stories visually; in ways that require little or no spoken language.

Part science fiction and part cautionary fairytale, Worlds Apart explores the universal themes of stewardship of nature and the fate of humanity. Worlds Apart asks the question, “Can humanity change its ways and save itself?” Watch the trailer.

Encounters Bristol International Film Festival is the UK’s longest running competitive short film and animation festival. The festival presents one of the world’s best-known showcases and meeting points for emerging talent, and seeks to promote the importance of short film as a means to develop the next generation of filmmakers and animators. Of the more than 1,800 films submitted to the festival only a tenth of those made it through to the festival competition.

Project X is a one-of-a-kind, project-based class at Cogswell College that is run like a professional animation production studio using teams of skilled artists and sound designers. Students work tirelessly for three semesters to produce a studio-quality, short film. During production they are supported by a massive collaborative effort from faculty, staff, visiting artists, industry professionals and alumni.

LINKS:

Encounters Film Festival http://www.encounters-festival.org.uk/encounters-2011-awards.html