Monday, 28 May 2012

A Fantasia Of Art Nouveau - Pre-Deadline Update 2

After covering a huge amount of time in my last post, this features more recent progress, focusing mostly on animation tests, shader experiments and pre-vis and renders.

Sadly with a lack of resources and time, I haven't been able to take any fully rendered shots, so I've prepared rendered stills, passes and playblasts as an insight into what my finished piece would have infact resembled.

I began test after hearing how faulty the Toon Shader can beon animated objects, and without having used it before,  starting with a somthing simple like a cube proved to be a good insight. Using the same scene lighting as my animation to keep consistence.

After this, I pushed the technique further using Ebony as a the object, changing the size and colour. In motion it's seems to work, however when paused, the outlines are slightly misplaced.

Moving on whilst playing experimenting with animating my components and the toon shader, I moved towards focusing on separate objects working together. This is an example of what would be expected in my renders

On another tangent, here are pass through of my actual scene, to give a better idea of how I would have carried out camera angles in conjunction to giving my work a 3D essence. This would be the main camera, passing through slowly as component animation would build together and fall into place.

This particular section above, would be cut at intervals into the main camera to keep the animation fresh. Although I do have another playblast of my animation, this will be featured on my CD. Finally, here are the last remaining making of images I need to upload, focusing on visualising what would otherwise be lacking from my playblasts

Saturday, 26 May 2012

A Fantasia Of Art Nouveau - Pre-Deadline Update

It's been a long while since I've made any sort of progress posts on my project, and there is a huge gap of progress to mark from the end of my Pre-Production, right through to the end of Production, so hopefully these next few posts will lay it down and get you up to speed as to where I am before my final submission of my university life!


After understanding the style by trying out different many different variations of environment, silhouettes, tones components typical of Art Nouveau, I decided to take a more Architectural influence Building on the blocks I explored in my development, I combined different attributes from select pieces I felt were more successful in capturing the 'Cold/Midnight' hues and feelings of melancholy and loneliness that are evoked in Chopin's 'Nocturne Opus 9, No. 1'

After finally choosing the direction I wanted to take my design in, I quickly began to pick apart the composition influences, exploring what I felt worked and combined them into a quick digital paint to visualise  my piece. I decided to go with No.4 from Silhouette Composition 2, as I felt it was the most subtle in terms of sexual allure, as well a slotting into her environment perfectly.

After creating a mixture of the two compositions, I took the rough paint and began shaping my final design by blocking colour and vector shapes. 

After blocking in basic silhouettes and colour, I began breaking up the piece with more gradients, textures strokes, and detailed components, whilst sticking close to my previous choices & influences. Adding the environment and adjusting its levels/tone, I played with palette to try and make the piece flow together.

Finally painterly textures and canvas overlays are what really tied the piece together to achieve a natural feel.

Keeping in mind how these 'flat' design will translate into the 3D world, I made sure not to make the mistake of flattening all of my layers as part of cleaning my file, but to keep each separate component on a separate layer (which also made easier for applying complex stroke details) in order to blow apart the the components spatially. I simply applied a transform distortion to each side in order to give the impression that they were in a side position. 

This helped a great deal in order to help me visualise the image in a 3D space, instantly giving it life, to an otherwise flat art style, at the same time allowing me to play around with what components worked in terms of position.

Building on my final design from my initial mock paint, I went ahead and added the final components, the typical 'flowing dress' as well as a prominent tree silhouette and some cherry blossoms, as homage to Mucha's 'Dance', which evidently will be a great animation component.

I again built upon my new version of the piece adding the new components and transforming it into a 3D perspective, which will act as a map for my final layout for my models in my animation.

Throughout my designs, I've not really paid much attention to the woman in the focus of my piece, so I set aside some time to explore how she might look. I named her 'Ebony' for some closure, a fitting name for a dark set piece. Relaying back to my research I took most influence from Mucha, Amano & Clarke, focusing of the Mucha's softness combined with heavy stroke, Amano's use of pale tones, and Clarke's stark use of mark making in order to fit Ebony into this world.

Taking an initial sketch that started on paper I quickly moved it into Photoshop finesse the style through colour and texture.

Moving on from my basic version of her, I wanted to explore in more detail her character, and add more of each artists influence into her look. I wanted a particular look that wasn't too provocative, yet not completely void of emotion.

This also allowed me to explore what kind of head accessory she might be wearing to accentuate her Toulouse hair, making her more of the decorative and natural. I made sure to paint her very softly in contrast the the strong lines that suggest depth and silhouettes, overlaying small hatching into shaded area's, as well as overall keeping to a very pale/cool colour palette, finally adding a canvas texture, as well as some components from my design to keep consistency and explore how she works in regards to her surroundings as a design.

The final component to take into consideration was in fact the gown. I wanted to have a translucent material that would allow some form to show through, keeping a sexual undertone, but to also follow along a 'heavenly & of the earth' aesthetic, using silhouette I put together for my previous compositions and adding an overall stroke to the piece.


Moving on from my Pre-Production, I began translating my components into Maya. Throughout this stage I wanted to keep a consistence in my model which still had elements of a flat world, however had a 'plaque' feel about them. Some of the objects in my scene had an organic flow in their shape, so a mixture of hard/soft surface modelling was key. Thankfully after doing many character projects this helped quite a bit. 

Adding thin edge loops was key in order to keep a crisp, smooth curve to accentuate the organic feel to an otherwise flat extrusion. In order to make more of the complex components, I made use of the 'Create Poly Tool' to draw out the area, and join the connecting verts together, as well as extruding cubes across CV Curves in order to accurately create the gate borders.

After seeking some advice whilst creating some complex shapes, I discovered that it's possible to import closed curved/vector shapes form Illustrator to Maya. Employing the same technique as what I used when creating brushes for Alchemy, I imported my shape from Photoshop, and converted it into a vector, then into maya. The downside however, is like with the create polygon tool, if you plan to smooth the piece of geometry, you'll need to link the vertices together with Split Polygon Tool.

With the last pieces of the puzzle coming together, I moved onto texturing my components. Now my original image has quite a lot of block colour, and no real amount of shading. Therefore wouldn't necessarily need much lighting if any. 

Here I was phased with the question, apart from the animation what difference would there be between the image and models. Whilst figuring this issue out I moved onto painting the textures, sticking very closely to my original concept.

With this done, I began to challenge the previous question with some material tests. This is an early version of the Gate Border. I applied a Metallic Paint Material to test how I would translate the flat block colours into materials in Maya.

Although very effective, the shading on the material wouldn't apply to all of my components. As I attempted to apply real world shaders to my work, it became more apparent that they just weren't what I was looking for, especially in terms of mia materials. Whilst trying to find the correct shaders that translated my image accurately, lighting became an issue as pieces like the gate, needed shading and specular to show it's material, whereas the textured components needed to remain flat. 

Using Blinn's on every other component that wasn't metal became the solution. Furthermore, by plugging in an Ambient Occlusion into the Ambient part of every shader (including the metal shader to help balance the world) the materials became self-lighting, however quite flat.To help with some of the textured components I plugged the file into a Surface Shader so it wouldnt receive any light. 

Hypershade network

Adding a soft, dim directional and adjusting each Blinn's specular and reflectivity, I was able to add a subtle amount of 3D to my components, without bleaching much of the color, and moving away from the block style. 

After sorting out the textures, I began working on the tiny parts like the cherry blossoms, preparing for the animation.

Next on the agenda, I'll be working on animation and texture tests, along with rendering, which will be updated into my next post.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A Fantasia Of Art Nouveau - Designing Compostions

It's been a few weeks since I've blogged any of my progress on my major project, I've just really been getting stuck in with the design part, which has been both enjoyable, and a pain. Taking on the style of Art Nouveau whilst trying to bring my own taste to the table has proven rather tricky, but it's clear throughout my designs my understanding is progressing with each image.


So to bring you up to speed with where I am at the moment, I've chosen Chopin: Nocturne, Opus 9 No. 1 as my music in my animation, as I result, this will have a direct effect on all aspect of design in my piece, from the the movement in the animation, to the environment and tone of my designs.

Some editing of the 6:09 mins piece will need to happen, which will help work out an animatic/previs , however I'm still in process of purchasing the correct licensing for this version. I've been trying to place imagery to the sound of the piece, in order to properly start making decisions for designs:

Cold/Midnight Hues

There is a constant change in the rhythm of this peice, which mostly evokes a downbeat tone however at times uplifts, causing varied expressions throughout. The majority of Chopin’s nocturnes adopt a simple A-B-A form. The A part is usually in a dreamy bel canto style, whereas the B part is of a more dramatic content.

I'll need to take the time to properly study the movement of the piece in order to imagine my final design moving, I haven't deduced a proper method for this as of yet, so here's some movements I feel it evokes in me so far.



Moving away from the Audio part of my project I began a long mission of gathering various shapes/photoshop brushes, following the method I perfected earlier in the project by producing cleaner brushes in Illustrator for Alchemy

Using these brush sets, I put together several initial compositions as a way to begin interacting with the style. Although quite raw, and complicated I took some influence from Beardsley, Clarke & Amano with their dark use of mark making, along with simple monotone pallet's with an 'Invert like' effect.

Taking these designs into consideration, I began to build on the imagery of Chopin's Nocturne into more recognised traits of art nouveau, taking particular compositional influences from Alphonse Mucha. I moved away from Mucha's 'autumn pallet' and focused primarily on midnight/cold tones, whilst trying to include imagery associated to symbolisms of a sexual nature (Lilies). Integrating some some patterns I produced in Alchemy, I grew in confidence with each image, working with more Blend Layers as time went on to take advantage of the 'Stroke' on each component.

Toward the final images, I took many influences from architectural forms infused with this style, such as buildings, gates, windows, ceilings, and Tiffany Lamps. Gathering images I felt I could use to portray the tones of this Nocturne, I began to Matte Paint some photo's together to create my desired environment, an use photo-manipulation techniques to create a more painterly effect on the latter pieces. I also overlayed paperish textures onto individual components, as well as the the overall image to move away from the clean, digital look.

I've felt that although the woman is indeed the focal point of my piece, nailing the design of the components around her will at this stage is the hardest part. She will have a particular look, Toulouse hair, flowing gown, however she will not differ too far from the preconceptions of this style and will need to integrate into the composition. Gathering some reference images of models that are posed in particular positions, similar to Pre-Raphaelite paintings, I began to play around with her position in some of my pieces to see what is effective, so I can channel my final design in a particular direction without complicating her design.

*Note* The stroke around the silhouette is a vital part of this style

My next steps after producing these will be to finalise my design, by selecting elements that are compositionally successful from my existing pieces and combining them with the symbolic traits of Art Nouveau, more floral designs, as well as a flowing gown that will help break up the background and silhouette. Choosing the right pose for the female will help shape the nature of the final composition design as well as her own.

Some feedback would be much appreciated :)

Friday, 9 March 2012

A Fantasia Of Art Nouveau: Narrowing The Search For Music

Building on my struggles in my last post to find a song that can suits my needs, I explored many different types of royalty free songs, searching for something that had combined the flavours of the songs in the previous post, or at least the same essence of one of them. I managed to narrow my choices down eventually to these 4, which I think are the most beautiful and have the most potential. I've also expressed my thoughts alongside each.

Boccherini: Duet for Two Violins
Expressive, yet lacks the slow paced build at the begining.

Sad, Slow & Expressive yet there not enough tempo change. Lacks dark tone.

Nice 'Fluid' Sound  - Too paced, Not enough tempo change to animate with

I feel as though this next piece however, is the only one a came across that had everything I was looking for, emotion, dark, sad, cold, nicely paced, and beautifully soft sounding. I'm not going to lie, I've struggled trying to describe what it is I'm looking for, but this piece answers all my questions to put it bluntly.

Chopin: Nocturne, Opus 9 No. 1

This is my clear choice and the more listen to the piece, the more it makes sense. Its true however now I've decided on this piece, I need to properly analyse the song, considering what imagery it may convey, also understand how to incorporate my own style and animation/visual idea's with it's tempo and tone. All the while sorting on the relevant license to use it legally.

Here are some of the sites I've gathered whilst trying to find my sound.

Royalty Free Sites

A Fantasia Of Art Nouveau - Music Consideration

It's been a few days since I took up looking for composers/musicans that could be related to the Art Nouveau Movement, which proved harder than I thought. This is mostly because stating that a 'composer/musican'reflects or has attributes of Art Nouveau within their peices is more of an opinon than soild fact.

I took some time to research into this, and found a few articles that stated some artists that fall into this classification. It's very important to me that I find the right composer/piece as I want it to not only direct the timing of my animatic/previs, but contribute to my design.

Some artists for consideration, and links to back up sources.

Richard Strauss

Vitezslav Novak, Josef Suk, Mikalojus ─îiurlionis,+J.+Suk+and+M....-a0107422627

Claude Debussy

Eric Satie

After finding these artists, I began sifting through thier peices to find somthing that would have the right flavour for my project, which took a considerable amount of time, as I needed to take into consideration the tone/mood of my peice as well as how effective the tempo of some of these songs would be to animate to. Eventually, I narrowed it down to three pieces:

Now, apart from trying to decide which one I want, I've had to consider copyright issues, somthing I'm very unfamilliar with, after some research I've found only both Debussy and Satie fall into the public domain, due to their deaths 70+ years prior, however the recordings made of their music more presently become protected by copyright law, which is really annoying. So I've made the descion to use these songs as a 'Starting Point' for the flavours I feel work, and to begin searching for Royalty Free songs that I'm able to legally use.

List Of Public Domain Composers

Useful Coprigtht Sites

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Art Nouveau: Pre-Raphaelite Influences

I thought I'd spend some time gathering some referenced for the movement as it had a strong affinity with Art Nouveau, I feel it could help me in regards to the females that can be found in both movements, such as there poses, subject matter and most importantly compositions in their subjective pieces.

Pre-Raphaelite's had a penchant for painitng about powerful idea's, seeking to escape the confusing world around them, by turning to history, legend, myth and the constructions of women who inspired such an age.
Frequently they were quite literal about their symbolisim. Less frequently, and arguably more powerful they were subtly in their approach to symbolism, merely whispering that 'somthing important had happened to the figure in the painting.
Essential to the Pre-Raphaelite art is a woman's face, a beautiful visage with large, luminescent eyes set in a web of long hair. Powerful bodies, necks, or striking features usually make the "stunner," each of these women's expressions embody enigma and distance; oftentimes, their poses remain static versus active. Strange that these unearthly alluring women should sit so silently when their images literally infect the Pre-Raphaelites' body of work. Their likelinesses appear in poetry and their very faces stare out of numberless canvases. The voices and meaningful looks of these women, however, are actually the filtered versions of the men who adored and depicted them.

Their names ring familiar, the famous women who modelled for and who associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in marriage, affairs, and artistic endeavors. Agreeing to model for an artist already contained some risk to body and reputation, but to also shoulder expectations of some of these men's ideals of femme fatale, victim, or saint both in art and in life proved to be most hazardous. In art and in life, some of the Pre-Raphaelite women felt the pressure to abandon humanity to become an archetype. They were dreams coming to life in paints, and it was this living dream which the artists could not help but fall in love with.

Some of the artists associated and apart of the 'Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood':

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
John William Waterhouse
John Collier
Sir John Everett Millais