New Narratives Concepts II

Our team is highly interested in using light as a visual communication tool in order to tell our narrative. Light can me manipulated and used in so many ways as an effective means on storytelling – it controls ambience and the mood of a piece, so much so that a change in lighting directly changes the environment. Changes in lighting can effect the audience’s perception of a setting, a dark and cold environment, once lit with soft warm lighting, completely shifts an atmosphere.

“Stained Glass” was a concept that received a positive reception from the team, we all liked this concept of light reacting through the prism of coloured glass, and how we could take these effects and play with them for our 15 second animation. However there was slight hesitation in running with this kind of idea as we need to recognise our own limitations before we get too ahead of ourselves, lighting is notorious for being difficult to get to grips with in Maya, and our time is so so limited. So much so that we could spend too much of our allocated time budget learharry-clarke-poe-tales-of-mystery-and-imagination-small-10_900_900ning the fundamentals of effects that may not even work in the end. It’s all a matter of which risks are worthwhile.

Nevertheless, research was done into the stylistic possibilities of stained glass. We looked at the Gothic Irish Artists Harry Clarke (left) and Aubrey Beardsley (below.) The dark approach and graphic juxtaposition of extreme detail against negative space seems like such a fascinating visual direction in which to take a short animated film, but once again it’s a matter of execution. And also we need to recognise that our limitations are not conceptual at this point, but technical.



Narrative-wise at this stage I was very inclined to research ideas surrounding a surrealist approach to story-telling. This largely derived from our group’s interest in light and shadow work as well as a common interest in abstract visual elements. I was looking into the early Surrealist painters, particularly Rene Magritte, whose observations provide interesting grounds upon which to base a narrative. For instance,

“Everything we see h300px-magrittepipeides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.”

The idea challenges the perception of the viewer – an idea communicated masterfully through the thought provoking piece “La fidelite des images”/”the treachery of images”. The idea being that the images that the viewer believe to be a certain object, or concept, are not what they seem to be but are rather a representation of what they can be perceived to be. The Treachery of Images, 1929, is a painting, a series of scores on a canvas in an arrangement of colour that could be seen to represent a pipe. This image is followed underneath by “This is not a pipe”, this idea directly challenged contemporary attitudes (brought about with the rise of photographs and early cameras) of accepting images at face value for being what they represent.

Surrealism challenges conventional notions of the viewer, The Treachery of Images creates a paradox out of our understanding of how words and images correspond to one another. In terms of building a narrative out of this concept, it would have to challenge the viewer’s perception of what was happening. Within the 15 second short, the built up perception of what the viewer thinks is happening is shattered by a final reveal. In visual arts and narrative, indirect and direct surrealism is the philosophy of perception and debate over the nature of the conscious experience. We could have had something that explicitly questioned the notion of whether the world we see around us is the real world itself or an internal perceptual copy of that world that is generated by our brains’ means of processing and understanding the world. This is the philosophical position that our conscious experience is not of the real world itself but of an internal representation;


Narrative based around the audience’s perception of what is happening, the character appears to be something that it is not, revealed that it is the character’s shadow being cast and created.

Alexey Bednij





Trees. We were interested in forest settings, everybody seemed to be inspired by this. Photography series following ancient tree stumps, National Geographic.




2D Animatic/ Final Concept

Post just to talk about some of the crazy range of ideas we had at a stage in which we probably should’ve had already narrowed down our final concept.

C’est la vie such is life. Yeo.

We talked about forests, about characters running through forests. We were really interested in Caitlin’s silhouette tree graphics! A character running through the forest, a reveal that the character, some kind of monster, that tricks the audiences perception of what is actually causing the fear in the forest. Reveal. It’s man! The vegans were right. Man is the enemy.

Ok. Simplification of ideas. We can’t rig a rock monster. Fuck. What’s easy to rig? How do you rig anyway? Does anybody know? No? Fuck. Ok. Snakes? Well snake could be cool as fuck. Rock monster snake? Combine ideas?


Maybe. There’s tutorials online for snakes. How hard is a snake? It’s like, organic string? Bound to be easy.

Cue tester animatic. Cartoon snake. Birdies.

Nobody was really happy with the below images that made our 2D animatic. We couldn’t even bear to show it to the class and present because nobody was strongly behind the idea. I drew out the backgrounds and the snakes in various poses, but it’s no good! It’s way too Disney, our team needed to be behind something.



scene1scene2snake_dervla_06scene4snake_dervla_02snake_dervla_5snake_dervla_1snake_dervla_2snake_dervla_3snake_dervla_4snake_dervla_6And this is where I said “B)” and went a lil off the rails and dove into RIGHT SNAKE SYMBOLISM. Adam & Eve. Apples. A rotting singular tree, with mad graphics going on inside the background! A Poison Tree, William Blake, GCSE English Literature returns to me in this moment


Apples, trees, snakes, religion, rotting, decay and death – rich symbolism. x

“15 Second” Post-Feedback

As a team we tried our best to take on board the feedback we got back from Conann and the tutors. I met individually with Conann after Caitlin and Jonny to get first hand feedback and to discuss how we could improve our animation. We were told to rework certain aspects;

Camera & Editing – we had spent a lot of time perfecting our models into grand sculptures but the strange camerawork took away from the visual strength of our pieces.

Lighting – lower the reflectivity and shininess of the entire animation so that it’s less of a visual mindfuck for the audience.

Sound Design – redesign the audio almost entirely so that it captures the contrast between the internal and external environments of this techno apple. The interior, with it’s highly mechanical aesthetic would be loud and harsh, and as the camera draws further from the mechanical box the audio should become more melodic and ambient – taking full advantage of the difference in atmosphere. Sound should drive the project, and the visuals should take cue from the nuances in sound design.

Based off of these suggestions we decided as a team that we really needed to rework the entire animation to incorporate these suggestions and to fully implement these. Admittedly, we rushed our first cut of the animation for the presentation deadline, and poor prior planning led to a visually interesting (I admit I still like our first output! Never forget) but overall confused final product. Cue rework and restoryboard!

Plan shot by shot when working in teams. Insure everyone is on the same visual wavelength x

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I went into extreme detail with this storyboard!! To try and regain a bit of order with our take 2! Although this is not an exact plan of our final outcome and we changed the storyboard a bit after team discussion is was something more of a plan that we had the first time! The storyboard visual was stage 1, and our sound design was essentially a second storyboard, so with the sound design and timing set we were able to work in unison.

For the beginning shots in editing we wanted the gears to appear incredibly clustered, the visual would be jam packed and chaotic, to contrast against the ambience created by the powerful tree model in later shots. A landscape grid was used to mirror scenes on top of each other, I was thinking about the juxtaposition created in the striking and memorable scene contrasting Expectations vs. Reality in a grid from 500 Days of Summer.


Camera wise, me and Eoin went about re twigging the scene showing the external environment showcasing the tree model. We took out and scrapped my earlier background, it was a remnant of an earlier concept – just because work was high quality or took a lot of the budget, if it’s not relevant to the current concept it should be scrapped so our whole piece feels planned out. Instead we went for a more subtle acid wash texture. It adds something of an ethereal presence I think.


We wanted to focus and highlight the model as a sculptural fine art piece. I feel like it contrasts well against the earlier symmetry in the mirrored grid of the merging gears. I removed the earlier animation of the helix gears being absorbed into the apple, although I liked the visual I’d created, I’d thought it’d be best for the overall finishing image and agreed with the team’s suggestion.

And below is our final cut! Finally got there in the end, and while I can appreciate our first cut of the animation in it’s mystical aesthetic, I’m actually delighted with what we have to show as an end piece. At first I was nervous because I thought that their wasn’t enough of my own input immediately visible in our end product but thinking back I remember my contributions to the ideation process and conceptualisation, as well as helping out and having my place in bringing out the end result.

I’m so happy with my team as well and proud of us all in bringing about this final piece of work. We’ll have this piece of work to remind us of what we were able to achieve despite the stress and tension and pressure.

This is getting soppy.



that goes it for Team Techno Tree. Party on xxxx


15 Second Production


Our original idea was to have our apple spin through a series of transitions, each transition represented a next stage in mankind’s advancements. Our animation was split into various tasks, at this stage the background was just as important an aspect of storytelling as it communicated our crucial concept of transition. Although the background would later be dropped as we changed our set up process and story (we dropped the transitions following animatic feedback, and the background was dropped) I had done a lot of prep work and research on developing the concept which is probably worth sharing.

To mirror Caitlin’s graphic concepts from earlier I wanted to have the center of the background to always be a circle framing the tree as it was such a striking image. Combining this with the idea of transition I chose to explore the idea of a lunar cycle. I divided the cycle into five stages, with the environments surrounding becoming more abstract and removed from nature as they progressed.

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The final scroll above! It’s a shame it had to be dropped in production, because I was really happy with the final outcome. But I guess C’est la vie.

HQ image


Artist Reference; forests, woodland environments, something faded, yet distinctly wooden and overcome by natural formation, overgrown.


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Something most mystical, lifting up into the clouds, moving from realism and hinting at something more abstract. Clouds, pixels beginning the transition. Moving into colour and a rise in technology.


A shadow of a moon, hidden. Something more subtle, a representation, a silhouette. Transition into night, into darkness. An outline, moving into mountains, into the sky.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 14.43.28

More spacial but still based on ground level i.e. the Earth. Rooted but travelling upwards, into night, into darkness. Sharp fade transition from earlier benign dusky pink skies. Hinting at something to come. Ominous.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 14.43.48

A sharp final silhouette. Chaotic, powerful. Striking colour schemes. Edges and sparks, indication of disaster. Complete removal from nature or natural indicators. Abstraction, no sense of gravity.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 14.43.57

When we decided to change the background away from the scroll (which would be overall irrelevant to our revised meanings of visual communication) we opted for a background still. I was stubborn in that I wanted a small piece of my work to be used and tried to find a texture by cropping a section of my background painting.

Looked horrible on a sphere! Blehhh

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It worked nicely as a visual against our tree, especially when it was lit well and reflected with it’s blinn material. However it was pretty distracting, maybe I was too focused on having a little bit of my work to feature somehow in creating the atmosphere for the shot that I wasn’t seeing sense.

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(The test renders came out maaaaaaaaad the first time!! Up above were the test renders we went with for the First Cut. We didn’t want to rely on AfterEffects to desaturate the whole scene so I edited the original texture by adjusting the saturation and brightness & contrast in Photoshop.)

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I had been trying to texture the tree and finally learnt my way around Hypershade! So even though my early texture tests weren’t used, we all agree to try and apple a texture image to the tree! (I really like the lowest tree colouration! Though it didn’t quite fit the desaturated navy-green x deep pink is pretty nice. Used a spotlight to test a silhouette like a moon shape.)

Caitlin produced a number of really interesting and striking visuals during our conceptualisation phase, and this one below really complemented the low-poly structure of the tree, especially with the blinn texture!!

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Roots were powerfully symbolic in our animation, and we wanted to harken back to an early concept graphic – a collaboration between Caitlin and Eoin, showing the tree and revealing it to be mysterious and unnatural, uprooted and exposed!


As Eoin was modelling the tree I asked to model the ‘base’ and the exposed roots, I based the roots off a very particular graphic so they were sort of limited.

Though Eoin when combining the tree with the roots took my base and made it pretty sexy with loads of extra entangled roots, it was a good call it really improved my model and provided an awesome juxtaposition with the low poly crooked tree up above.

Now to animating scenes! Once our scene was set up, tree and roots modeled and background lit successfully, we could fire on with making the scene visually interesting. Lack of a developed storyboard and 3D animatic made it crazy, everybody was trying to do something mad visually so when it was edited together finally it became a clusterfuck of dissimilar ideas and widely different styles (tbh!! tho) I went off the rails and wanted to transition from within to outside the apple with a helix animation of spinning gears. My first scene is shown at the very start of this blogpost, made using Jonny’s awesome gear and apple models!

For the helix motion, I was originally trying to delete all bar one edge of a preset helix model and to set a motion path, until I realised that I’m a huge idiot who had no idea what she was doing. SO! Back up animation plan, move each individual gears animation pivot to the center of the apple, rotate animation and scale downwards to get the look!

And then our final animation! Well, the original cut. The director’s cut. The cut made by a group of four people who just want to be DONE. FINITO.

But nahhhh, we rushed our editing, and edited on separate computers in separate locations! Bound for disaster. When we spliced it together we tried to make adjustment cuts throughout the latter scenes to maintain some kind of stylistic middleground throughout, made it all the madder, but our first go at Malum still has a lot of charm to it, in my opinion! x


Floating City Development

Thinking more into the development of what our city could be, or what it could represent I researched into the Iliad, the classical masterpiece from the epic poet Virgil detailing the quest of Aeneas in founding Ilium – i.e. what would become the Roman Empire. Aeneas is a prince of Ancient Troy who survives the fall of the city, driven by a destiny set upon him by the Gods to found a new Empire in a foreign land. The story of Ancient Troy follows themes of wrath, power and glory, homecoming and fate – it was a story that originated from a society that idolised heroism and applauded violence. These themes were something I thought could successfully be incorporated into the overall ambience of our city. The thematic relevance of fire in the downfall of Ancient Troy is reflected in our city but by modern day standards – fire could have a devastating impact on ancient cities of this period due to housing structure, in modern times an equivalent to this destructive force on contemporary cities would be the impact of nuclear weaponry and radiation. This is in conjunction to inspiration from other fictional cities, such as the Commonwealth functioning society in Fallout 4.


(Piazza Navona – Baroque period Architecture;
Architect – Apollodorus of Damascus)
(Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) topped with Roman Obelisk
Obelisk of Domitian)


The biker aesthetic and overall sense of patched together clothing and mechanics was really appealing and original in it’s execution. Applying this technique to our Obelisk design, and overall city was ambitious but it would add to a strong end result, something that implies a once existing or lost magnificence and sense of grandeur, yet still maintains a shadow of order underneath present circumstances of disorder.

Head Model Topology Research

A good proportion of my head model research was based around looking at my own face. It’s this kind of project that keeps me going, one that appeals to my vanity.

Cue excuse for me having my picture taken. Because I really needed one.

(shout out Sinead McCormack; always capturing my face at cringey angles hahaha)



This project was doubly great in that it allowed me to delve into classical art research as well. Which appeals to my innermost non-animation based self, obviously. (Leonardo Davinci, frontal face study, face lining reference)

Something that I really wanted to capture in my head model was the look of a Renaissance marble sculpture, there was a stage in which I intended to carve out pupil edges and model low poly hair as well. Until I realised that I would be a victim of my own mad ambition and decided to do what I could in this style. Largely the reason I modelled my face with an open mouth, to give it most of the relaxed jaw you see in these statues.



Michelangelo’s David is a classic example of a facial sculpture, although the anatomy is exaggerated in points comparatively to a real human face, it works and is held together correctly within itself. Although not sculpted by Michelangelo I referenced once of my favourite sculptures of all time, Benvenuto Cellini’s bronze masterpiece Perseus With The Head of Medusa, who himself was highly influenced by Michelangelo. To reference a female face specifically I was looking at how Michelangelo captured the delicacy of her nature in Mary’s face in his Pieta. Thought the Michelangelo style faces are characterised by their delicate feminine quality as an almost universal feature, the beards on men are what captures their masculinity.

i.e. almost cleft chins = feminine face got it.


d bronze statue of Perseus holding the head of Medusa,Florence, Italy





Floating City – Final Outcome

Based off earlier sketches of our city in my sketchbook, I planned a final silhouette of our city so that we would be able to begin the modelling process. From the beginning I wanted the city design to be well established by the point we came to modelling so that the team would be working in some kind of synchronised pattern and we would all be working towards to achieve the same overall aesthetic. The city plan I drew wasn’t overly detailed, it was meant to be extremely detailed in certain portions (stylistically it was technical in patches – representing perhaps economic discrepancy within buildings, as some could afford external defense while others cannot.) Overall the plan was meant to capture the shape of the buildings and their disjointed architectural style while also establishing the distance between “islands” in the floating city.

The design in based off of a Roman Colosseum, with the centre piece being the “powersource” Obelisk. The city is war torn and defends this Obelisk from presumably floating invaders or malignant forces with its armoured walls. We aimed for a city silhouette that was highly asymmetrical, reflecting the disorder and chaos from which the city itself originated. Roman Architecture is highly organised, buildings are served to further the order of the city, and it was pioneering in most famously road building, but also in transport and work. All these architectural breakthroughs emerged on the back of a rising empire that could invest it’s wealth in funding proper architecture. For this reason, the asymmetrical semi-ruined state of our city was an appealing concept, it juxtaposes the architectural order of Ancient Rome with an external presence of sheer anarchy.


I provided my team with several edits of my earlier design, just to clarify the design.


Our floating city design was sectioned off into parts which made it easier to divide our efforts and workload between the team. Jakub had already experimented before the design had been finalised and created our gorgeous final Obelisk, although it differed slightly from the design on the design page. That left the sections of the “fortress walls” (upper walls), the “arena”(middle center island), the “engine”(the lower island) and the “lower defensive walls” to be modelled. I chose to piece together the upper fortress walls,as  I had a fair idea of which way I wanted to take it.output_0wb1y3

Jakub had designed in his lower defensive walls certain assets such as spears and canons and to minimise unnecessary workload we decided to patch the same models to build onto the upper fortress walls – keeping them stylistically relevant to the rest of the city.

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This was my first venture into a more detailed model so it was quite a harrowing experience to say the least. Our designs are limited in the beginning stages because we’re not aware of what we’re actually capable of. I made my start by splitting a pipe shape and deleting the half of it I wasn’t doing to be using. To form something similar to our concept drawings was simple enough, it only involved extruding and building detail on faces to represent a difference in building. The walls were then embellished to include detail such as clusters of chaotic rock extrusions and other details, the window carvings and balconies, representing the areas of the walls affected by the clash of rich and poor respectively.

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I wanted to add internal detail to our city as well, to expose the weaker underbelly were the most vulnerable civilians lived. Housing was large and clustered in the carved out internal “windows” in the wall details, and the internal walls at the same time host wide open balcony stretches. This was designed to reflect the Roman importance of the Piazza, an city design mindset that values open spaces for social needs, with room for forums or markets, or simply gathering areas away from the homes.

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After I modelled one large wall and a smaller defensive wall I duplicated the two and merged them into one large wall. This filled up the remaining section to complete of the arena. Following this it was just a case of adding extra detail and embellishments to our walls.

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Our final project came together in the end, our whole model pieced together, alongside various textures and background took a long time to render, despite it being only a simple animation 360 degree model turnaround.

For the data visualisation aspect of editing I had intentions of creating something that was highly reminiscent of Fallout 4’s retro interface;


Although our time management should have allowed a larger editing budget in reflection, our ambitions were pretty high for what we wanted to achieve with a limited knowledge of AfterEffects.However we pulled off a kind of retro text in the end, and we were able to “draw lines” to section off our city in order to reflect the division of wealth that we had in mind from the beginning.