Monday, 3 June 2013

My God, it's finally over... or Evaluation

So it's finally at an end. Now, I'd be lying if I said I was sorry to see it end, but it wasn't all bad in the end and I'll get to that in a bit. First however, I should really start by going back to my project brief and seeing whether I answered it in it's entirety. 

A rough overview of my brief was to produce a small to medium sized scene based around japanese alleyways. But that thee would be a greater focus on the VFX content and that this scene would be in many ways a backdrop to it. I was also to work on a secondary project to produce a VFX show reel that demonstrated various abilities and techniques.

I guess that my response to the brief is a game of two halves. On the one hand, I did manage to answer my brief correctly to produce a small alleyway scene. However, not only did I fail to manage to produce a full VFX reel, but I feel that the scene was the dominant focus. I suppose that this is more a case of me feeling like I have failed more than I actually have, although that would still be quite a bit.

If I view it a little more objectively then I feel a lot more confident about my outcome. Lets start with the scene. I am actually quite happy with how the scene turned out, there was a stage during the project where I felt it was horrifically dull and boring and that it would turn out a complete disaster. The overall scene has a very nice atmosphere and I, personally, really like the aesthetic and lighting that I've achieved. I think it was very important for me to have a strong colour palette so that it wasn't so dull and murky, it was important that I veered away from a grey/brown colour scheme. I also feel that my modelling and texturing skills have greatly improved whilst undertaking this project though there are still many areas for improvement and especially so with light mapping. Judging by the amount of light map issues and errors I've encountered I'd say that there's still a lot I don't understand. 

As for the visual FX side of the scene, I would say that I'm relatively happy with it. I am very pleased with how my rain shader turned out. I think that it has a high level of fidelity and that it works based upon the objects normals is great as it means that I can use the same material instance on each asset whilst cutting down on draw calls. Unfortunately though it is quite an expensive material so ideally I shouldn't have used it on almost everything. I think that it also works well in tandem with the rain particle system. The rain emitter actually gave me a lot of trouble as I found it quite difficult to get a cheap emitter to have a heavy fall to go with the scene, it was a lot of tweaking for that. Overall the other effects are okay I guess, not much to be said except for the cascading water. I feel that looking at the scene now that I should probably reign them in a bit as they're showing a much heavier fall of rain than is perhaps in the scene. Maybe switch them out for some just dripping water or a thin flow.

Before I proceed onto the other sections of my project or talk about the problems I faced and what I would do differently, here are a couple of my final renders and a short flythrough of the scene.

So as you can see it all in motion the rain shader really works it magic. But that wasn't the extent of the VFX that I worked on over the course of the project. As stated prior, I had tasked myself with producing a show reel. Unfortunately, I failed on this front as I didn't manage to produce one in time. I will definitely have one together for degree show so it's not a total bust, it just means that I failed to match one of my requirements for this project. 

I think the reason I wasn't able to produce one in time is that I underestimated how long it would take me to work on something as well as how much I would have to learn. Therefore my output was a lot lower than I initially thought it would be. But below are some of my renders of the projects that I was working on. The gas station explosion is the one that took up most of my time as there was so much that I had to rework or tweak or cut or add etc. It just took me a lot longer than I thought it would, but I think that it has the potential to be a major part of my show reel with a bit of love.

Unfortunately it's not more as there was so much that I had to learn for each project as well as working on the scene. New techniques or principles, new software and new pipelines all delayed my workflow. This was a major hindrance to my time management on this project. My complete underestimation of how much I would need to learn and how long things would take me to do were so costly. But there was also another big hindrance in that I found it troublesome to balance both sides of the project. By this I mean, one I was working on one side, be it the scene or an FX project, I would feel guilty for not working on the other and vice versa and this actually drastically slowed down work on either. I always felt my time would be better spent on the other thing. 

Because of this I feel that my scene suffered greatly as well as my various FX projects. Which leads me to how I would approach the project again. I'll split this into two; how I would approach the alleyway scene and how I would approach the overall project again. First off, the scene. I think that whilst it may look nice or what have you, it lacks interest. At it's core it is just a corridor. I think that it could do with some kind of expansion as well as a kind of focal point. I attempted to do this early on in the project by having that side alleyway, however, due to timing I really brought in the scope of it and ended up cutting it out. If I were to have dedicated my time fully to this project I would have kept that in as well as have the main street veer off round a corner or something to reveal either something like a refuse area or maybe something like having a police car parked with it's lights flashing would have given that focus to the scene. One idea that I did have was that I could have one of the signs either short out or be struck by lightning and fall the the floor as a tiggered cinematic in UDK that would block the player off though I deemed that idea unreasonable as it would have taken me far too long to research into destructive meshes in FX pipelines in the time limit I had. 

And if I were to approach the whole project again I would do so very much differently. Most importantly is that I would drop the scene altogether. I felt that having my time be divided like this ended up affecting both parts of my project and that it detrimentally affect my output. If I had focused solely on producing good FX as well as a couple of larger FX based sequences in matinee it would have benefitted me tremendously. 

I feel like now I am having to play catch up for the time that I either messed up or missed out on for my FX over the next couple of months in order to build a strong enough portfolio/show reel to get my foot in the door. Although I wouldn't describe it as a complete bust as having the time to look back over the project I can definitely see how far I have come and how much I have learnt about the practices and principles of being a good FX artist and that with this project under my belt I feel confident in my ability to secure myself either an FX or junior FX artist position.