Stages of a 3-D production pipeline
The first stage of any 3-d production pipeline is the pre-production itself. Without any pre-production than the result, if the project even makes that far, would be very messy and unorganised, overall not a good product. Therefore, pre-production is such a vital stage, as it could either produce something great or something less than average.
Pre-production is the planning for the following 3-d animated short, however this term could also be used for anything, such as video games and movies. The things that are involved in pre-production are important materials that are important to create the final product, these are a variety of things such as a story to follow, etc. Some of the important things that come from pre-production and are used as references throughout the production are the script, the character design and the story boards. Although everything in this stage are just as important as another, these are examples of the things pre-production can do to organise your production.
As seen in this story board as an example, it shows the products visuals and how it should look by the end, although it could be varied from the final product it keeps the base idea and is a perfect reference for the animator. Other things that are produced in pre-production also has its effects when creating the production, such as with a script the animator knows where the story is going, and with a character design they know how to turn that into a 3D model.
Pre-production is a very important part to the project. With a poorly organised pre-production, the end result of the project would not be as good as it possibly could’ve been, while a production with a good pre-production becomes easy to keep track of and everything has already been done. Hence the final result becomes the best it could’ve been.
The second step into making a animation in a production pipeline is the 3-D modelling of both the scenes/backgrounds and the characters that are in the production. This stage requires the animators involved to create everything from a small pebble on the ground to a complex face on a character. Based off the concept images and character designs (etc.) that was made during pre-production. the modellers can then grab a visual and turn it into a complete 3D sculpture which can then be used to animate later in the pipeline. The models must be able to fit all criteria that is set out, they should be aesthetically pleasing and yet they also have to be functional for animation and texturing that comes in the future (Pellacini, 2009). Every model is created through intersecting polygons, edges and vertices in a 3-d space and are used to create certain objects. As seen here with this ear, each polygon works together in this image to turn this into a shape that’s recognisable (“3D Modelling Process Defined”, 2017). The more polygons used, the smoother the result will look although with few polygons the better it will run.
After the 3-D modelling is complete, it then is time for the preparation for the texturing so the model doesn’t just stay as a bland grey colour. To do this however, first the model needs to be unwrapped and put into a UVW file, and seams and such to need to be created. The point to UV unwrapping (called UV based on the 2-D axis) is so that the 3-d model can be flattened out to a 2-D image which then the textures can use to easily draw the texture on a flat page rather than trying to draw on the model itself (“UV Unwrapping”, 2017). Seams are the edges of the object that are part of object that are part of the unwrapping itself, in certain situations, you would possibly need less while in others you’d need more. The seams determine what sections of the model come together for texturing. Depending on the placement, the seams could serve as a huge asset for the textures or it could find to be very difficult for them.
The next step in a pipeline in the texturing of the model, so it’s not simply a bland grey image, instead after this step the model will be full of colour, have shading on it and it will just look good overall which is essential for a 3-D production. Not only after this step will the model have colour on it, but it would then have properties, say if there was a metal object in the production, it would have the same properties as actual metal, not just the colour. To make the production seem ‘real’ in a sense, it is up to the texture artist to have a good understanding of what the object would look in real life and transfer that onto the object (Beane, 2012). Using the 2-D file from the unwrapped object, the texture artist can then proceed to draw on the image, which then can be transferred back to the model. After this process the actual creation of the model is complete, everything in the production that moves, then must be rigged
Rigging takes place one the model has fully been developed and textured, the rigging sets up systems of how that model can move within the 3d space. It acts like a skeleton of the model, as it limits to how far it can move and restricts how long it can extend for an example. This is a very important task to effectively do the animation in the actual process as it saves lots of time and it keeps the movement of the character consistent (Parent, 2012). The ‘skeleton’ by being able to manipulate one node within the rig and that’s proceed to move the model around with it, say if you had a tail of a creature for instance and it had three nodes in it. If you moved the middle one the rest of the tail would have to go along with it. As shown in the example to the right.
Animation is one of the many key parts in a production pipeline, if it was for a film for example then the story wouldn’t be able to be told because there’d be no movement, and if it was for a game there’d be no way for the player to tell what’s happening. This remains a very important stage because of its impact on the viewer, this will be one of the things that stands out the most. Animation of course stands for movement, and in this case the movement of the characters and setting within the production. It’s what brings life to the 3-D world that it takes place in. there are many different things that take part in animation for it to look convincing, for example the principals of animation. Such as anticipation, the timing, weight and many others (Sito, Whitaker, 2013). The processes of simulating life could be through key frame animation, when you create poses with the model to be in and the program calculates the in-betweens. Motion capture, when a real actor can take the role of an animated character, and other processes as well can take a part into making animation.
After all the individual objects and animation are completed, the animators have to put the assets together to make a scene and make an image that creates a setting. There’d be no point to creating each individual model, texturing and rigging it to not put it all together in the final product. This stage involves fitting all the different assets together to create one big scene that turns everything into one. For example, the image below shows separate models moulded together making a scene which then can be used in the result.
After the scene, has been created and everything has come together, the animator then must put in the lighting, to enhance the realism of the animation. Lighting if not done correctly can ruin the already existing content, it could possibly add a nice touch to the animation or it could be jarring to the eye and hard to make sense of the scene. With the right lighting, also it could set moods, and alter the viewer’s emotions (White, 2012). Certain settings on the program being used allow for certain areas to be lit, and general lighting to be placed, from there the animator or lighting director uses the key, fill and back lighting to create a certain mood to present to the viewers.
Rendering is the process of transforming the scenes from 3-d profiles into a file which then becomes easily accessible to viewers. This also allows for the project easily be edited to create the final work and release it to audiences. Following the directions on the program that is being used allow for this stage to be taken under place, this process however could possibly last a while as condensing the 3-d into a external file takes a lot of work and power from the computer (McCallum, 2011). This is around the time when the project is coming towards an end and the project is almost complete.
Compositing is bringing the images created in a 3-d program, into another separate image. Examples of this include modern movies such as Godzilla (2014), the avengers (2012) and many other movies that contain CGI (computer generated images). Compositing is a complete blend between one image and another. Though creating lighting that matches both pictures, the placement of one image, and how that objects interact with others.
Video is the final stage in a production pipeline, it is the stage in which everything comes together, after rendering and compositing the video, you cut all the scenes together and you blend it with the sound effects and voice acting, if there is any. This is a long process and take a very long time to get done, but as soon as this stage is finished you have your final product.
3-D GRAPHICS HIGHLIGHTS
One of the most influential moments in 3-D graphics history is the innovation of the creatures of Jurassic Park. Jurassic park was the first time that stop motion creatures where replaced with those of computer generated images. Instead of having jittery creatures, Jurassic park was the first time that a movie was filled with fully textured, rigged and modelled smooth dinosaurs. The screening of the film of course stunned audiences as they could bring dinosaurs back to life due to how realistic they were, even to today’s standards they still hold up relatively well.
Even though CGI was not a new concept before this movie, nothing of this extent had ever been used before. And even at 4 minutes’ screen time of CGI dinosaurs, it still stand at one of the most important innovations of its time (Acuna, 2014).
A blog post of an animator by the name of Jess Morris, she hasn’t worked on any large projects but she does post a lot of test animations on her blog such as gifs of the different movements of dogs and a horse. These test animations are very cartoony and they have very exaggerated movements to emphasise on their movements, which is the kind of style that I’d like to peruse.
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3D Modeling Process Defined. (2017). Lifewire. Retrieved 1 March 2017, from https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-3d-modeling-2164
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Uninvited Storyboards. (2017). Sketchpad Studios. Retrieved 19 February 2017, from http://thesketchpadstudios.com/2013/03/uninvited-storyboards/
UV Unwrapping. (2017). Help.thefoundry.co.uk. Retrieved 4 March 2017, from http://help.thefoundry.co.uk/nuke/8.0/content/user_guide/modelbuilder/uv_unwrapping.html
Pre-Production. (2017). Mediacollege.com. Retrieved 19 February 2017, from http://www.mediacollege.com/glossary/p/pre-production.html
Pellacini, F. (2009). Projects in digital art (1st ed., p. 45). Retrieved from http://pellacini.di.uniroma1.it/teaching/projects10/lectures/01_pipeline.pdf