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Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Navy 2015 Our Everyday is Defending Yours

Here is the main project that I was involved in for the last 2 months (amidst other smaller and shorter projects).

The Navy 2015 recruitment video / corporate branding video / TV commercial has been released. My work is solely around 1:55 and 1:59 in this edit of the video, the robots and weapons. There are 2 main mechanical characters: The hero robot and the mechanical spider.

Both the hero and spider robots were acquired from an asset store. From there I did quite a bit of modification to the geometry before they could be rigged. Aesthetically I had to modify some parts so the shape of the robot fits art director's requirement of fierce, steadfast and battle-worthy looking.
I had to do a lot of modeling and modifying especially for the weapons, his head and visor, and missile mounts on his shoulders too.

Technical fixes when dealing with the model involved conforming face normals, cleaning up and simplifying the models too. This involved grouping the parts into meaningful hierarchies, breaking up and combining parts of some pieces so they could be separately articulated. Also, all the pieces had their transformations frozen. Pivots were at the origin, oriented and aligned to world axes. So for those parts that needed proper alignment and placement of pivots (which were quite a number of them), I had to take the time to align and group, before they could be used.

For the preparing of UVs, I used automatic mapping for the most parts. However, there were quite a number of larger and more prominent parts that needed manual laying out of UVs too. I then set-up the shaders.

Rigging presented fresh challenges for me. I have had experience rigging props and humans alike, but rigging a robot of this complexity made me feel like I am rigging a character and a prop at the same time. There were many moving parts that needed to align themselves 'automatically' without the animator needing to manually animate it. These included things like secondary hinges that needed to move according to the primary limb angles, and actuators (there are lots of these!) that needed to extend, retract and align to the joints. There were also some parts that I had to figure out and imagine how they would move / slide / extend when the limbs articulate, just from analysing the shape of each part, and how they were resting on each other even when the robot was in its' rest pose. I felt that I was an engineer that needed to reverse-engineer an alien piece of gear, by figuring out how the parts should logically and physically move against each other.

Most of the time, clients are not even aware of the existence of this stage of character creation. These probably fall under "animation" in their understanding.

Finally I laid out the camera and animated the robot and the robot spider. This went through quite a few revisions, including the timing and pacing. Every time the camera angle changed, the poses of the robots had to go through revision so they make sense to the new camera angle.

In the close-up missile launch shot, the camera had to be matched in perspective, position and size, so that the missile will match the missile in the next shot.

My partner in the CG game sequence was Hau Tran (+hau tran). He was in charge of everything besides the robots and weapons. These include the layout of the CG environment in the game world, compositing dust , fire and smoke elements. This also included rotoscoping the boys in the live action shot to hold out on the TV display.

Summary of the work I did:
- I modified the robots and weapons
- did technical fixes (conformed normals, deleted stray faces and vertices)
- I unwrapped UVs for major and prominent parts, set-up the shaders
- I prepared the mesh for rigging
- I rigged the hero and spider robots
- set-up the camera
- animated the robots
- light and rendered the robots
- light and rendered the weapons in first-person view
- match-animated the weapons in first person view to the boys' actions in the live-action TV shot

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