Posts Tagged ‘Student Animated Film’

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

Yosemite Film Festival Set to Screen The Offering

Friday, September 24th, 2010

YosemiteCogswell Polytechnical College is pleased to announce that The Offering, the first animated, short film produced under the umbrella of the Project X class, has been selected for screening at the 2nd Annual Yosemite Film Festival. The festival takes place from October 29 to 30, 2010.

Founded by environmentally-aware, eco-friendly filmmakers, the festival’s mission is to bring all genres of progressive, eye-opening, independent cinema to Yosemite and to foster an appreciation and understanding toward the preservation and majesty of our natural world. Between screening amazing films and exploring some of the most famous landscapes in the world, your time spent with us at the Yosemite International Film Festival will be an experience to remember.

Highlights of the festival include an opening night party and filmmaker reception, screenings of Official Selections and award-winning films, exclusive Yosemite premieres, a screenplay competition, and the official closing day awards ceremony and filmmaker lunch. The 2010 festival will showcase feature films, shorts, foreign films, documentaries, animation, music videos, television pilots, an Environmental Filmmakers Showcase, experimental Films, a screenplay competition and more.

Project X is a one-of-a-kind, project-based class – unparalleled in its scope and study as it incorporates every component of animation film production for the big and small screen. This class, under the direction of Animation faculty member and long-time professional animator Michael Huber, is only available at Cogswell. Students worked tirelessly for three semesters to produce this studio-quality short film. They were supported by a massive collaborative effort from faculty, staff, visiting artists, industry professionals and alumni.

-Bonnie Phelps, Dean of Institutional Advancement

Great Lakes International Film Festival to Screen The Offering

Friday, September 17th, 2010

GreatLakesCogswell Polytechnical College is pleased to announce that The Offering, the first animated, short film produced under the umbrella of the Project X class, has been selected for screening at the 9th Annual Great Lakes International Film Festival. Considered among the top 100 most popular film festivals in the world, The 2010 Great Lakes Independent Film Festival takes place from September 22 to 29.

The Festival is dedicated to showcasing independent films in the digital medium and to presenting the works of independent filmmakers and outstanding achievements in cinema. The film festival began reaching a global audience once it launched its festival interactively online. This allows independent filmmakers and fans worldwide to not only enjoy the films, but communicate with each other in real time as though they were together in the same room via online chat and web cams. Unlike other festivals streaming films online, films in this festival cannot be downloaded. The only time and place they can be viewed is through the festival.

Project X is a one-of-a-kind, project-based class – unparalleled in its scope and study as it incorporates every component of animation film production for the big and small screen. This class, under the direction of Animation faculty member and long-time professional animator Michael Huber, is only available at Cogswell. Students worked tirelessly for three semesters to produce this studio-quality short film. They were supported by a massive collaborative effort from faculty, staff, visiting artists, industry professionals and alumni.

-Bonnie Phelps, Dean of Institutional Advancement

The Offering Invited to Screen at SIGGRAPH Asia 2010

Friday, August 27th, 2010

SiggraphAsia

Cogswell Polytechnical College is pleased to announce that The Offering, the first animated, short film produced under the umbrella of the Project X class, has been selected for screening at the 3rd Annual SIGGRAPH Asia Computer Animation Festival. The festival takes place in Seoul Korea from December 15 to 18, 2010.

The SIGGRAPH Asia Computer Animation Festival strives to present a challenging array of the latest connections between art and technology and broaden new horizons in animation and its related fields. The Festival Committee received hundreds of entries and invited those that represented the highest quality, interest and impact on the SIGGRAPH Asia community. This year promises to offer an exciting display of cutting edge and innovative works that demonstrate the transition in computer graphics and interactive techniques.

Project X is a one-of-a-kind, project-based class – unparalleled in its scope and study as it incorporates every component of animation film production for the big and small screen. This class, under the direction of Animation faculty member and long-time professional animator Michael Huber, is only available at Cogswell. Students worked tirelessly for three semesters to produce this studio-quality short film. They were supported by a massive collaborative effort from faculty, staff, visiting artists, industry professionals and alumni. 

Project X is a one-of-a-kind, project-based class – unparalleled in its scope and study as it incorporates every component of animation film production for the big and small screen. This class, under the direction of Animation faculty member and long-time professional animator Michael Huber, is only available at Cogswell. Students worked tirelessly for three semesters to produce this studio-quality short film. They were supported by a massive collaborative effort from faculty, staff, visiting artists, industry professionals and alumni.

-Bonnie Phelps, Dean of Institutional Advancement

The Offering Selected to Screen at the Animation Attack! Festival

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

AnimationAttack!Cogswell Polytechnical College is pleased to announce that The Offering, the first animated, short film produced under the umbrella of the Project X class, has been selected to screen at the Animation Attack! Festival in Atlanta. Filmgoers can catch the film on August 7 during the Animation Attack Program Two at the Plaza Theater.

The festival takes place from August 6 to 8, 2010 and is part of the Independent Film Month Atlanta produced by the Festival League – an umbrella for several specialty festivals including: Atlanta Underground Film Festival, Atlanta Shortfest, Atlanta Horror Film Festival, Animation Attack! And DocuFest Atlanta.

The Festival League began in 2002 when a group of eager filmmakers, musicians and artists decided to create multi-media events to showcase and promote work which transcends the typical Hollywood productions, the radio hits and the high-priced art market. We constantly searched for work that brings audiences something fresh and alive.

In 2007, Festival League created an annual film festival in Costa Rica. The Montezuma International Film Festival is held every year in November and has proven to be one of the largest events the Festival League produces. The successful film festival in Montezuma has grown into an eight day, two city festival held in Manuel Antonio and Montezuma, Costa Rica.

Project X is a one-of-a-kind, project-based class – unparalleled in its scope and study as it incorporates every component of animation film production for the big and small screen. This class, under the direction of Animation faculty member and long-time professional animator Michael Huber, is only available at Cogswell. Students worked tirelessly for three semesters to produce this studio-quality short film. They were supported by a massive collaborative effort from faculty, staff, visiting artists, industry professionals and alumni.

-Bonnie Phelps, Dean of Institutional Advancement

The Offering Awarded the Prestigious Indie

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

IndieFestCogswell Polytechnical College is pleased to announce that The Offering, the first animated, short film produced under the umbrella of the Project X class, has been awarded an Indie with an Award of Merit in the Animation category from The Indie Fest.

The Indie Fest recognizes film professionals who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity, and those who produce standout entertainment or contribute to profound social change. Entries are judged by highly qualified professionals in the film industry. The Indie is also about helping independent filmmakers secure distribution, the Holy Grail of filmmaking. Indie awards go to those filmmakers who produce fresh, standout entertainment, animation and compelling documentaries. The Indie is a showcase for cinematic gems and unique voices.

The Indie is a virtual festival. It does not have physical screenings. Rather, winners are promoted via targeted press releases to media outlets and The Indie’s email database of more than 25,000 filmmakers and industry insiders.

In winning an Indie, The Offering joins the ranks of other high-profile winners of this internationally respected award. Thomas Baker, Ph.D., who chairs The Indie Fest, had this to say about the latest winners, “The Indie is not an easy award to win. Entries are received from around the world. The Indie helps set the standard for craft and creativity. The judges were pleased with the exceptionally high quality of entries. The goal of The Indie is to help winners achieve the recognition they deserve.”

-Bonnie Phelps, Dean of Institutional Advancement

The Offering Selected For Screening at the Jersey Shore Film Festival

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

JerseyShoreCogswell Polytechnical College is pleased to announce that The Offering, the first animated, short film produced under the umbrella of the Project X class, has been selected for screening at the 5th Annual Jersey Shore Film Festival. The festival takes place from July 8 to 18, 2010.

The Jersey Shore Film Festival is a genuine filmmakers’ festival, known for maximizing potential for the filmmaker in their pursuit to make valuable industry contacts with fellow filmmakers, actors, cinematic professionals, producers, directors, investors and the general audience. This event, takes place in New Jersey along the Jersey Shore, with the central venues situated in Asbury Park and Deal Park N.J. The JSFF showcases the talents of up and coming filmmakers, actors and industry leaders from far and wide, with a receptive, anxious audience and an enormous opportunity to Network. JSFF looks to promote works which attain a professional artistic integrity without compromising the need to entertain.

Project X is a one-of-a-kind, project-based class – unparalleled in its scope and study as it incorporates every component of animation film production for the big and small screen. This class, under the direction of Animation faculty member and long-time professional animator Michael Huber, is only available at Cogswell. Students worked tirelessly for three semesters to produce this studio-quality short film. They were supported by a massive collaborative effort from faculty, staff, visiting artists, industry professionals and alumni.

-Bonnie Phelps, Dean of Institutional Advancement