Category: AUT – Digital Design

Emily’s journey through AUT’s Bachelor of Digital Design

The Animated Documentary – The Idea Stage

As part of the requirement of this assignment, I have to keep a visual diary, which I do anyhow in a ‘real life’ book I will also keep it here. I actually started this in a word document with the caveat that I would put it here too if I could figure out why my WordPress was giving me the white screen of death in the admin section (news flash, it a broken plugin).

I have actually had this idea in my head for a while, to record my 7-year-old twins talking and animated a segment, so I guess it stands to reason that this is the first thing I would think of when given the assignment to animate a documentary. In the interest of covering all basis’s I will be coming up with a few alternative ideas, such as interviewing my Father about experience of being a Romany Gypsy, my Mother in laws quilt group, my husband’s job as an IT professional,  my sister’s job as a high school teacher, how my son feels about having Asperger’s and ADHD.

I decided to focus on someone in my immediate family group, as I know they will be willing participants. Mostly though, I want to talk to my twins about a situation that happened in their school at the end of the last term.  My girls it seems are crime stoppers. They caught a group of 11 and 12-year-old boys stealing speakers from outside their class room and managed to chase them off and provide information that leads directly to the boys being identified, and dealt with. Here are some other questions I will be asking them: What is like being a twin, what is a bully, what do you do if someone is bullying you, tell me about Cub Scouts.
Here are a few notes that I wrote in my physical journal about ideas that I have been generating. I love the idea of also including the girl’s art work in some way.

My girls may be twins, but they both have a very distinct style when it comes to their art work and how they express them selves. If I got ahead with this idea then I would like to incorporate that individualism into my animation as both girls talk.

The top two images are drawn by Violette, who loves reading, writing, and mathematics, the bottom two are drawn and created by Erynn, who says she hates reading and writing but loves to create art work, draw and colour.

Violette’s art work tends towards the two dimensional with written subtitles. Erynn likes to use the scissors to create 3d works of art, she uses a lot of mixed medias and has a very interesting take on the use of perspective.

Resources looked at: 

Part of the creative process is watching other animated documentaries in an effort to identify styles that we liked and methods used.

After watching the suggested documentary and personal narratives, I made the following notes what aspects I liked:

Baba, by Joel Kefali – Painterly, great transitions, painted look, always I motion, childlike, use of typography to emphasise mispronounced words. The simple block colouring tied the story together without confusing the eye.

Coi Army Learning – Why Not Associates – White board look, hand drawn, great transitions.

Storm Whale, Moth Collective – Nice texture and feel

The Wiki Man, Moth Collective – Loose animation style, animated word, not overly complicated or confusing, not too much to look at, vision not confused, I liked it, the idea of rebranding potatoes.

Sarah’s Story, Moth Collective – Childlike drawings, but not childlike, the view reflects Sarah’s feelings and thoughts rather than focusing on the story she is telling about what happened to her. Its meaning was much more metaphorical. Every day is a gift.


My Mothers Coat, Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits – I like the sound effects in the background, the simple lines. This is possibly rotoscoped. The lines were minimal as were the use of colour. Life should be a walk you share, share everything, do not waste time. I found something mesmerising in this.

Liars need a good memory, James Heredia – Collage, paint, digital. Nice integration of video and collage.

Keona + Chantelle – The Wrong Trainers, Arthur Cox Animation – I LOVE the cardboard box cut-outs and childlike drawings. I really love the child perspective in this animation; how they tell about the time, she fell out the window and described how far she fell. I like the way the children talk about their parents, and how they want to help them. ‘Small crushed up houses”
And in the interest of not spending the rest of the day copying links and posting the other pictures that I promise are in the word document here are some other animations I watched:

A is for Autism, Tim Webb – Childlike, hand drawn, dealing with a subject matter important to me as I have an autistic child and brother, I like the integration of the live action and animation.

Asperger’s Syndrome – Stop Motion. Music Matters, Nick Cave – Really love the line drawing and use of typography.

This Land is Mine, Nina Paley – I like the simple vector like graphics used in this animation, I also like how it feels as if it is portrayed as platform shoot’em up game.

Mound, Allison Schulnik – Pencil titles, simple uniform colour pallet, great depth of field, all characters are similar, but yet unique.

A-Z Clip, Sarah Cox – Great childlike perspective. Cut out, paper texture, some great transitions and cuts.

Oregonian ‘Transformation’ Bent Image Lab – I like the origami look and the fact that they took a newspaper and turned it into something else.

Lesley Barnes Herzog and the Monsters, GSA DDS MDes Animation – I like the cut out feel, almost like it could be a pop-up book. The incorporation of typography and books, and the 3d effect created with a drop shadow. I like the interesting perspective.

Shofar, JNFA Dancing Diablo – I like the hand drawn doodles circling the live action.

Creative Freedom, John Kelly – Great integration of live action and 3d, and hand-drawn.

Back to the start, John Kelly – Cute 3d animations, really love the way the camera pans from left to right as the buildings are created. Surprisingly moving, but I suspect it has a lot to do with the emotive music too. The models are very textural, which grounds them. Despite the non-organic shapes.

Josh Pyke middle of the hill video – I liked the cutout view and the integration of the live action with the animation.

The Thomas Beale Cipher, Andrew S Allen – Integration of newsprint, fabric, collage, and live action, textures used to create animation.

Pam’s advertisement, AssemblyLtd – I really like the use of texture in this adverts, the way the 3d models have been almost flattened, lots of Kiwiana.

Next up, recording the audio! Check out the next blog post for more on this.

Words Hold Power – Final Video

I have really enjoyed this semester of MoCap, last year I don’t think I truly don’t think I got it, but having the freedom to create a piece of art that means something really captivated my imagination.

As an artist, I never know when my next bit of inspiration will strike, so it was really serendipity when I glanced at the poster on the bus stop. One thought really changed the direction of my idea, and I am glad I did, as I am proud of the result.

I have learned a lot this semester that will not only aid me with my future MoCap endeavours but also supplemented my knowledge and skill for my Major of Animation. I found the tutorials especially helpful.

I still feel like I need to improve upon so much, and wish that my skill level matched my visions. If I could improve upon this sequence then I would have to say that I would do something more creative when swapping between rigs. I did experiment with nCloth, but in the end decided to keep it simple so the message was preserved.

I would like to explore particle effects more in the future; however, they just did not fit with my vision for this project.

Below is the final version.

And This is the ‘making of the video’, I quite like watching it along with the video of Mel’s live dance.

Mocap II – Capture to Final Render

I really promise I meant to update this while I was working on it, but as usual, life has kind of gotten away with me so here I am now updating in the last minute.

After capturing the live data in the Mocap room at AUT you import it to Cortex and do something that is called ‘cleaning the data’. To be honest, even though I remember doing it last year I had forgotten every last thing that I learned, so it’s a good thing we had some very useful PDF’s to help guide me.

I think I did an okay job of cleaning it up and making sure all the markers were not muddled up, although there were a few issues on the chest, I think that was more to do with the way the markers were on the suit.

After this, we import the cleaned data to Motion Builder and retarget with one of the characters there. This involved lining up the shoulder, head, hand markers, etc onto the correct place on the character, then save your new re-targetted character.

Then you can send your rigged character with motion control from Maya to Motion Builder and merge your re-targetted character with your new rig. Once you have resized the characters and made sure they line up well you can hide the character showing only your rig and bake the motion to the control rig.

Once the motion has been baked to the control rig you can create animation layers and fix any limbs that might intersect another part of the body or the floor. This is especially important if you are planning on pinning Ncloth to your character, as it really messes up the simulation (I found that out the hard way).

It took me quite some time to figure out how to use the feature on Motion Builder that prevent the characters toes from going through the ground plane. I knew it was there, as Greg my lecturer had shown me in the class, but the 2017 version had put it in a slightly different place so it took about 40 mins of searching to find it because Autodesk hasn’t seemingly updated the new location in any of their tutorial pages.

Once I figured out how to effectively skin my word mesh to the rig and control rig it was easy enough to edit the limbs and make sure the figure had good motion. It was mostly time to consume, and it’s easy to miss jerky or unusual motion if you are scrubbing through the timeline. This is why I did many playblasts from Maya, which allowed me to better easily see if I had smooth motion or not.

Sadly there were few motions that I couldn’t smooth. I suspect that it’s only me that it bothers. The reason for this is the way the original actor moved her arms. As she rotated her arms hands seem to look natural upside down, but when you flip a word that way it looks weird. Or at least it appeared that way to me.

I decided to just do a straight swap between rigs after pondering how to do the transition. I made these either on a camera change, or when my dancer did something like a huge leap. It is actually rather effective.

For my audio, I removed the original background music and just left Dr Maya Angelous voice over, then I used a piece of music that I know is royalty free from Bensound. I also replaced the audio so it flowed better with my chosen music. The Music piece I choose was too long for my sequence so I also shortened it.

I spent two days working out camera angles for my sequence. I know that this is an area that I am weak in so wanted to devote a good amount of time to this to ensure visually it flowed well.

I had an idea of how I wanted the lighting to look, but after spending so much time placing the poetry on the walls, and the dedication on the back wall I realised that I need a well-lit scene.  The only drawback to this is it takes so much longer to render due to all the geometry.

In total it took over 60 hours to render this sequence, at approximately 2 minutes per frame at HD750.

Photo Gallery or process, please click on images to view in full.


Mocap, Mash in Maya

I just fell down a rabbit hole of the internet but in the process discovered this video that has a quick overview of Mash inside Maya and it’s so good it makes my brain want to explode. I can really see the vector graphic thing working well for my character!

Anyhow, I wanted to share the video here while it was still in my mind so I can come back to it later. I’ll add a few more here as I go.

I had to test drive the SVG vector tool immediately! What I can say, is that I don’t think I’ll be doing my character quite like the ones in the image below.

Word figure testing

Here is a video that is talking about Mesh scattering.

Here is the webinar on Mash, that I have to watch. I have a lot of watching and learning to do.

Mocap – Research WHP

I have no idea what I should be calling these titles, so this one has WHP as a shorthand for Words Have Power, which is what I think my sequence is starting to be called, it’s like my sequence is starting to take on a life of its own, it’s one of my art babies. One I am hoping is cultivated and grown, not the kind you have to retire to the place all your old files go to collect dust.

I have scoured the internet in search of inspiration for what my character is going to look like, and although I still haven’t got it nutted out entirely here are some images that have inspired me.

group of inspiring images

So many images here are leaving me feeling inspired, in particular, the one on the top right. I like the combination of lines of the face, hair, arms and legs, and the text making up the dress. Although the one on the bottom right appeals to me too. These are both options I intend to explore while creating my sequence.

another group of ideas to inspire my work

the second set was supposed to focus more on what the area my character is going to dance in will look like, but I was also drawn to a mixture of ink lines and font used for clothing. I rather like the 2nd to top image on the left of the 3d words jutting out of the walls. In the video, Dr Angelou talks about how words get into your things, into your walls, your carpet, your floor, so I intend on incorporating words either I this manner, or by using a texture map.

This is just a small collection of the images I have collected during my research. Stay tuned for my next post which will show you some of the concept art works I have been working on.

Mocap experimental movement and the ideas.

The first half of my Motion Capture Minor for the 2nd year of uni is dedicated to creating a 30-second sequence which explores alternative, non-figurative, abstract and/or experimental visualisations of movement and the body in motion.

This project is leaving me excited and nervous in equal measures, and the possibilities I could explore are seemingly endless. The first idea that popped into my head was to use a combination of live action and motion capture to create a bubble man, that would float up and away from the Trouble Monsters (my twin girls) and start a dance sequence in the sky that would end with the bubble man popping. A quirky funny idea that I’d love to create and the first few weeks were devoted to coming up with ideas on how I could accomplish that.

pster on the bus stopThen, a few days before we were due to film in the motion capture lab I spied a poster on the wall behind the bus shelter and a new idea took place. This idea was so strong that it eclipsed all thoughts of bubble men and compelled me to change direction completely. I hadn’t actually spoken to Greg, our MoCap teacher before our filming session, so I wasn’t even sure if it was possible, so for prudence’s sake, I took footage for both ideas, so I could always come back to my dancing bubble man later if I wanted too.

Thankfully my dancer could understand what I want to communicate in my piece and I got my footage in one take. The idea that I have in my head has been a bit tricky for me to draw out, concept art is a skill I am still developing. However, I have  the words spoken by Dr Maya Angelou called “Words have power” in an interview with Oprah as the backdrop of the sound, and my figure dancing is made from words, the words on her body will either by Dr Angelou’s poetry, or perhaps (and I’m just thinking this right now as I glance over at the bus stop poster) words that empower people, in particular woman. to create not exactly the bus stop poster, but a form that looks like a person in form only, but it’s words.

I still haven’t quite figured out how I am going to build my figure yet, currently I am still completing tutorials, however, I am thinking I could use a combination of the Toon Shader in Maya, the ink outlines, and the text builder.

See my next blog post for more on the development of my idea. Below is the Dr Maya Angelou video that I am using to base my sequence on. I am using the powerful words of Dr Maya Angelou, the human form, and words themselves to create a sequence that show that words really are things.

Visual Effects – Red Queen Trailer

Hello! I’m putting the YouTube links up the top here for the skippers TLDR the rest of this post.

Final Red Queen trailer.

Visual Effects Breakdown of three of my special effects.

The animatic I worked from.

I’m not actually going to be pursuing the Visual Effects pathway next year as I am choosing Animation, however, I have learned a lot this year, many skills that will serve me well in the years to come.

My Visual Effects project spanned the entire second semester, we had to conceptualise an idea for a 30-second film trailer, create the story, theme, write a script and treatment, create a storyboard, make an animatic, then film it, edit it and add special effects.

First up I want to thank my amazing friends who acted in it and helped me to film it, this wouldn’t have been possible without their crazy talent and enthusiasm, I owe you all a drink or cake or something. So thank you  Kalindi, Nathalia, Mel and Conor, you guys are amazing.

I based my whole idea around the book I had just read and really enjoyed and hope that they might make it into an actual Movie. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard which you can find by following this link to Goodreads. I have to say thanks to my friend Kate who suggested I read it because otherwise, I might not have found it.

Below are my treatments, script, storyboard etc.


Treatment: Red Queen v.1

We are inside a huge cavernous area, it’s impossibly tall. Below balconies where the royal and silver bloods sit a battle of epic proportion is taking place. Twelve girls battle for the right to marry Prince Calor take their place as the next Queen. Flashes of fire, and metal and water flash below an electric caged area as the girls use their magically ability to fight for supremacy.

Above in the balcony Mare, a young red blood girl serves her masters. She is dressed in a simple red cotton dress which marks her as a servant.

She serves a drink to a young noble who asks her to come sit a while, patting to his knee and indicating he wants more than just casual conversation.

Mare shakes her head, smiling demurely and backs away. Pausing to compose herself she leans over the balcony. A look of rye amusement crosses her face as she scorns the girls below. How they put themselves through such fight all for a boy is beyond her.

She glances across the battle zone expanse at the balcony which houses the Royal family, and at the Prince who had snatched her from obscurity and given her this demeaning job serving. She studies his face for a moment before chastising herself for own girlish fantasy and moves to go back to work.

As she steps back from the edge she bumps full bodily into the solid chest of the young noble who had asked her to sit with him. He grabs her arm and she shrieks and leaps back from him.

Before Mare realises what is happening to her she falls backwards over the barrier, landing with a thump on the electric barrier.

‘This is it,’ she thinks as she falls, ‘this is how I die’. (voice over?)

Her face tightens in anticipation of the electricity that is sure to flow through her body, but instead of devouring her, it embodies her, and lends her it’s strength. Sparks circle around her as she drops easily to the floor, her knees bending gently on impact with the ground.

She looks around her in wonder, but she doesn’t have much chance for reflection because the she is standing in front of Evangeline, the favourite to win the hand of the Prince.

Knives swirl around her body in a glinting display, she cocks her head and displeasure mars her otherwise perfect face. 

Both girls head off against each other, and as Evangeline rushes towards Mare to attack her lightening explodes and envelopes the entire scene.



My story is about a girl who is treated like a slave simply because of the colour of her blood. She is red blooded and their oppressors are silver blooded. Silver blooded people possess magical powers, the kings line can create fire, but there are other magical powers like the ability to mould and control metal, controlling magnets, controlling the mind, having skin that turns to stone and many more.

My story focuses on when the protagonist first finds out that even though she has red blood also possesses a magic power. There is a fight going on in the arena between the silver blooded, the like to hold these fights to show the red bloods how superior they are. The protagonist is a servant there but she falls from the gallery onto the electric force field.

She should be electrocuted and die but instead she becomes one with the electricity and becomes the lightening girl. The silvers in the area try to kill her but she uses her new found magical ability to control the electricity around her and knocks the antagonists away.



The theme I want to base my trailer on is: Society and Class, Identity, Power, and fantasy.
Other films in a similar genre I like are The Hunger Games and Divergent.



Script: Red Queen


Sounds of fighting can be heard below.


              Come here, sit a while.


              I’m sorry, I’ve got to get back to

the kitchen.


              Shakes head in disbelief


MARE backs away from Noble closer to the barrier


NARRATOR (Captions)

              In a world divided by blood and magic.

Sounds of fighting below slightly louder.



              I told you to come sit a while Red.

Screen dips to white, with red motive.


              The truth doesn’t matter.

YOUNG NOBLE grabs MARE by the arm.


              MARE pulls her arm from his grip.

              I Said no!

YOUNG NOBLE pushes MARE backwards.

MARE falls backwards over the barrier.


              MARE is falling

              This is it, this is how I die.

Mare squeezes her eyes shut and braces for impact.

MARE lands on electric barrier.

Electricity pulses around MARE, but MARE does not die.

MARES eyes open in surprise.


NARRATOR (Captions)

              It only matters what people believe.


Mare falls to floor and lands in a crouch. As she looks up she looks into the face of EVANGELINE. Knives magically circle her body.

EVANGELINE flings open her arms to attack MARE, MARE glances down at her hands as electricity dances around her fingers. MARE responds and electricity explodes from MARE.


Coming soon.

(If I need time add the TV idea in here – girl on glitch news cast, rise up, rise red as dawn speech)


Red Queen Title Hand drawn thumbnails 1 Hand drawn thumbnails 2 Hand drawn thumbnails 3 Hand drawn thumbnails 4 storyboard 1storyboard 2storyboard 3 storyboard 4moodboard

After filming my footage and editing it together I refined my idea of what type of simulation I was going to use in my project, instead of trying to emulate swords I decided that it would be better to stick to something that was more obviously ‘magical’ so instead gave them the power of creating fire. I went about this by researching how to create fire and electricity inside Maya and then how I was going to put this inside my project.

After talking to Mark and getting feedback on the clarity of my project I decided to put in a voice over that would more clearly define what my story was about.

Overall I am pleased with how this has turned out and I have learned a lot about creating a short film project from conception to final production.

Although I look at this and think to myself “IT’S SO AMATURE” I also have to stand back and give myself credit for the sheer volume of skills I have learned in such a short space of time. Skills that have thankfully been helpful in other areas of study.

I see that this lands very short of an operatic movie trailer, but I did try to keep in mind what I had learned about creating one and believe I have told a short concise story that would hopefully lead the viewer to want to watch the entire Movie.



Music used in animatic: royalty free
Stock footage used in final production from: royalty free
Sound effects sourced from and the files provided by Jason on the K drive and created personally by me using Mix Craft Pro and Adobe Audition.
Background music by Joshua Empyre

OHMYGodzilla MoCap Previs Final Assignment

godzilla Title Image

(Skip to the bottom if you just want to watch the movie.)

After hours and hours working on this assignment, it’s finally done. I’m not going to say it’s perfect by any stretch, there are quite a  few things I”d love to spend some more time on fixing but due to time constraints, two other assignments and an essay I have due in three weeks I am calling it a day on this. (Unless I have time to revisit before it’s finally due on the 25th October)

Here is the title I create for it, I feel like it sets the tone rather well.

I have learned A LOT over the last semester, this being my first introduction to Motion Capture it’s been a steep learning curve, but an exciting and enjoyable one. From my first class until now I am left enthused about the next two years and can’t wait to integrate the knowledge I have gained into my next project.

Overall I am pleased with what I have created, I just wish I didn’t zero in on the imperfections. That being said I will probably continue to work on this when time permits.

The process of MoCap wasn’t as complicated as I first expected it to be, the pipeline is mostly straightforward providing you follow the steps correctly and take the time to ensure each step is carried out correctly as each steps measure of success depends on the one that goes before it.

Having the previous knowledge of how Maya works has been helpful, and I have found that the skills I have learned in both Animation and Motion Capture have beneficial to both subjects, and hopefully means I will continue to deliver better work as I progress my learning.

I have found that taking responsibility for my own learning vital while doing this assignment, which has required watching other tutorials to also expand my understanding of the subject.

I have learned the importance of creating a strong story line from the start so when you are capturing your data you ensure a good end product that follows your script and storyline. I hope to improve these skills also. I believe that I have created an end product that kept in mind my original storyboard and also keeping in mind how this story will unfold in a 3D space.

When I undertake my next project I believe I will take greater care to film the live action from the camera angles I intend on using inside Maya, as it will help when animating characters expressions and finger placement. I will also take create care when capturing the data and fixing it. I have this strange issue with my male leads neck which I was unable to solve in every instance, taking greater care at the first steps should ensure I do not have this issue again.

Anyhow, below is my final edit. I’ll update it here if I make any more changes. Feel free to leave feedback. All constructive criticism is appreciated.

Motion Capture Data … Now what?

After spending the afternoon in AUT’s amazing motion capture room we have to fix our data in a program called Cortex. It’s not exactly hard, but it’s time-consuming and tedious and takes high attention to detail. At this point, I think our entire group started to realise the importance of capturing good data while recording.

Here is a screenshot of what cortex looks like, I actually forgot to take a screenshot, that’s how focused I was.



After fixing the motion capture data you import into Autodesk and the real fun can begin. To cut a longish story short this where you tell the character which part of the body belongs to which dot, so the motion can be transferred to it. I felt very Dr Frankinstine as  is saw my inert characters suddenly spring to life.


You repeat this process for each character, and THEN you can import them into your Autodesk Maya scene.

Maya Scene

After that comes the tricky process of making sure their hands don’t go weird, or pass through something that should be solid. I found this part tricky trying to handle all the different animation layers and the graphs. I had quite a few times where one of their arms would bend into a totally inhuman shape.

Reposition hands

Then when you have it playing out the way you like you position the cameras. We were given specific cameras to work with.


Then it’s just a matter of creating playblasts and assembling in Premier Pro and editing your audio. I can assure you this took a lot more time than I am implying here.

This is my first edit. In my next post, I will post my final Godzilla Previs. Which I loving refer to as Ohmygodzilla.

MoCap – Capturing the Motion

So apparently you don’t have to have stunning acting skills to ‘act’ for motion capture, but it helps to have some spatial awareness and a knowledge of how to overact, so I’m pretty glad that I ended up being the director for my very first Motion Capture assignment. I’m much more comfortable telling people what to do, although to be honest I kind of do want to suit up and prance around with balls velcroed all over my body.

You DO have to have quite a good imagination when filming for your data, as you are working in a room 24 camera’s and an empty set. It’s all in your head or taped out on the floor.

You can learn more about the AUT Motion Capture Lab here.

jeninsuit1  joshinsuit1
Here are Jenny and Josh dressed up in the suits practising their tree pose, which is the pose our actors get into at the beginning and end of each scene so we can align the data and eventually target our characters.

As well as capturing the action with the with the motion capture cameras we also use a video camera and to take reference footage. This will make editing easier. I’ll post our reference footage in the blog post with my first edit.