Spring Week #9 – Team

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Render, render, render! The team has been hard at work compositing shots as their frames get rendered. We spend our days working on compositing, recording missing frames, and sticking computers on the farm. Anna has completed her sequence and has been working hard on making visuals for our senior show presentation including a dog and man walk cycle, renders of our plants and environments to show before and after, and transitions in our presentation.

The Good ~ We’re more than 50% rendered and comped. We met with our sound guy and he’s still enthusiastic about working on the project, although we only have a week left. Our presentation looks nice. Our teammates have fused via space dust. 

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Help. We’re tired.

The Bad ~ 7 days left. We’re all tired. Cali has had a noise bug in her shots after the environment facelift a week ago that has been causing issues, but was an easy (just kidding) fix by importing all the shot into scenes that were successful at rendering. It’s not an easy bug to explain and has a 50% success rate on the imports… that’s Maya for you. We screwed up our second photo shoot. Whoops …

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We are now a horror film? 
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Aviva’s Post-Mordem PPJ

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

These past couple weeks I’ve reflected on our senior project a lot, a great deal of “where did we go wrong”‘s and “what could we have done differently/better?” and “what change could I have affected that I didn’t?”

Disclaimer: I feel like this can’t be entirely honest since we 1. Have not yet finished senior project and can therefore not be completely objective/ we don’t even know the full extent of our work yet and 2. I have not yet been given a grade my you (Rob/Abishek) or our adviser so I’m not going to be as honest as I could be.

3 THINGS THAT WERE DONE RIGHT

  1. Boy howdy did we do a project, did we make and produce a thing. That alone is an accomplishment, right? We worked, a lot. Lots of hours and effort and tears went into this project. Regardless of the end result (which is still unclear beacause haven’t yet finished) we put a lot into it.
  2. Soft Pastels and sweet plants. These were big deals to me so I’m happy we ended up with the aesthetic we did. It was soft and gentle and ethereal and it makes me happy to look at and that is important.
  3. Fall term. Fall term was super solid for us. We were flowing with creative ideas and momentum. We did good work and constantly. We were on point. While we weren’t able to maintain that momentum throughout the year, I am proud of the work we did in the beginning.

3 THINGS THAT WERE DONE BADLY

  1. Pretty poor communication. Our team struggled a lot with poor communication that i think got in the way of our own productivity and well-being. Things weren’t always clear, and I know I often felt out of the loop, not sure what was going on when, which hindered my ability to have input on things. That was frustrating. Things got done without everyone knowing about it which made things very tense at times. Messages weren’t always relayed or recieved and it caused a lot of tension which affected the overall feeling surrounding our project. And when you feel crappy going into a project, and you lose any  semblance of passion for a project, it affects the quality & quantity of work put in. We also didn’t know how to talk to each other always. We got in fights and shut each other out, it wasn’t always clear how to approach each other when feelings were hurt. I know I struggled with this a lot. I might be oversensitive to things but I often felt like people were pitted against each other, and felt like my feelings were getting hurt a lot.
  2. We were led astray early and often. This problem was the biggest thing I reflect back on in terms of “where did we go wrong? What could’ve been done better?” Like I said earlier, we had a very solid start in fall term. We came into the year with a fully realized story. It was concise, wimple, and short. And most importantly, completely finished and storyboarded and turned into an animatic by our very first faculty presentation. And then, came the feedback. Endless critiques that more often than not were not constructive but only served to challenge our story simply to challenge it. We tore our story apart countless times. We were changing it into winter term. It hindered a lot of production because so much depended on our story. And the thing is, I don’t think our story now is any better than our very first original story. We convoluted our own idea and I really only think this hindered us. We spent way too much time hung up on story that we feel behind, and spent the rest our project rushing and catching up.
    1. This is a topic that really gets me mad. The animation program here has no formal story telling  class, no focus on it in our major at all. They tore us apart time and time again taking away our focus from the actual production of our class. If this program cares so much about story, then make a class. Teach us.
    2. I think besides story this happened a lot inside our team as well. We had no organized sense of pipeline and lacked a central leadership guiding us in the right direction. But again, there is a lot I will not talk about while this project and class is still ongoing.
  3. We were working against our natural strengths/weaknesses. We are a small team and it is hard to get so much done with so few people. But for all of winter and spring term I don’t think we did it correctly. This ties into the other two topics but I think we went about the project all wrong. I voiced this a lot throughout the process but I felt pretty alone in my point of view. We basically split up all the work evenly instead of dissecting who is good (and bad) at what and planning accordingly. I think it lead to inconsistencies in our project and majorly hindered our productivity. A lot of times, it didn’t feel like a team project, rather, 5 consecutive projects stacked next to each other. We split the story up into fives parts and everyone was completely responsible for their chunk. I think in general our pipeline was nonexistent and we lacked the organization to reach our full potential . I think we also had really different standards and priorities which again, could have been a good thing for us — all of us focusing on different aspects and areas of the project and bringing it all together — but we lacked the organization and communication skills to make this work for us.

3 THINGS I DID DONE LEARNED

  1. How to be more adaptable. I have bad work ethic and am too emotionally invested in things. My productivity is directly related to my passion and emotions. While this can be a good thing, (When I am passionate about something I can create hella good stuff) more often than not, it wasn’t. I have been working on being more adaptable. When things do not go my way, how to find my niche. When things change suddenly and drastically how to mentally adjust without stress crying a bunch first. Just trying to be a better team player.
  2. Learning new software — Marvelous deisgner & mental ray! Just kidding, it was Renderman. Just kidding, it was Maya hardware 2.0
  3. How to detach myself from my earthly vessel
    1. Sometimes you just gotta let go, you know?

 

Anyways. Senior project was a thing. Now it’s almost over. Both excited to be done and terrified for the due date.

Thank you for reading.

Postmortem – Will Reardon

Well our road to completion of this project has been a long one. However, I think that we have created a final product that we can be satisfied with, if not ecstatic about it.

First, the things that were successful within the project or what we did ‘right’:

  1. We had a great sense of team inclusion and commitment to meeting from the very beginning. This is something that many projects suffer from and I think it was very important to us that we were instantly meeting in person both frequently and consistently.
  2. We had a clear and (mostly) cohesive vision of what we wanted our project to be from the beginning. This includes the tone, goals, and general aesthetics of the animation.
  3. We planned out the entirety of our pipeline in the early stages of our project, giving our team general direction and scope throughout production.

Now, three things that were not so great during the production of our animation:

  1. We met often to discuss all facets of the project. However this could sometimes be a detriment for several reasons. Sometimes the idea or piece of production being discussed was not wholly relevant to all members of the team. This is not great as it can waste time but the larger issue here is that too many voices may chime in with very different ideas about how something should be accomplished. This would create lengthy discussions about something that was honestly not quite worth the time put into its conception. It simply could have been done quicker and more smoothly had fewer members been directly involved in its creation.
  2. The team dealt with work and stress differently. Some misunderstandings of different work paces would lead to anger and frustration. Some people felt shoved along while others felt that they had to hold up the team.
  3. As we continued down the production pipeline, defined tasks and general management became less clear. The general consensus being for everyone to do the work most immediately due.

These hurdles were not the fault of any one person on the team nor element of the project. They are simply things that come out of a large project like this that can be hard to foresee. However, there are always takeaways from these past difficulties.

Some of the takeaways of this project are:

  1. Allow people to wholly own a part of the project. Let it be their baby. I’m not saying to never check in on their status/progress but let them be the master of their own work. Allow their passion and creativity to enter through their creative hold on it. For a time anyways.
  2. Divide up tasks among team members. Allow people to fill roles among the team and become the resident “expert” at a certain position.
  3. Find out what you want to get out of the project in the beginning and allow the project to come out of your gains. Instead of trying to gain something from the project.

Spring Week 9 – Cali Chesterman Postmortem

It’s been a rocky road.

4 Good —– TLDR: 
(1) I love our characters
(2) I learned a lot about computers and rigging
(3) We overcame our challenges
(4) I didn’t turn in deliverables late

  • I loved the designs of our characters and the world. We have established a fun color palette and cartoony characters. We stayed true to keeping purples in our project and bringing a feminine touch to the senior year.
  • When I came to college, computers were strange, magical machines to me. I am not and have never really been great with tech, but I surprised myself with how much I knew how to troubleshoot issues. I developed an appreciation for rigging, which works a lot like how computers do, or at least my understanding of them – upper and lowercase letters make  a difference, moving a file will break the data, and the project needs to be pre-organized with a logical workflow. I learned a lot about computers on a personal level.
  • Two of our biggest challenges were working with / animating a quadruped and learning/working with Renderman. I think we’ve overcome these challenges as a team, although it was a learning process. I made a lot of mistakes along the way that I won’t make again.
  • I wasn’t a TERRIBLE project manager, but I wasn’t great. Maybe I’m being a little harsh on myself, but at least I never turned in deliverables late… except first term. We were all trying to get into the swing of senior project and made a few mistakes.

3 Bad —– TLDR:
(1) I sucked as a project manager and was too accommodating
(2) Too many cooks / opinions diluted our project, I got worn thin
(3) Our advisor was too fickle

  • This was my first time managing a 9-month project, and I have done a terrible job. I feel I let my team down repeatedly, making dumb mistakes, and getting berated for it, but not really knowing how to fix the problems. There are situations I thought were non-issues until they became issues, like establishing a naming convention for files, or finding a more professional way to communicate and store files besides Facebook and Google Drive. It was also bad for me to assume that everyone knew how to do the basics, because everyone was taught differently – this caused a LOT of problems. It is easy for me to manage myself and my pipeline, but difficult when everyone has an established personal workflow, and trying to be accommodating of them. I was too accommodating — but I also didn’t know if my way was the right way, so I didn’t enforce a way to do things. Now I know.
  • There was a lot for me to juggle between listening to my teammates, listening to our advisor, listening to the head of senior project, listening to the outside faculty, worrying about resources like server space, and available lab space to physically work in, all while trying to work, take classes, do personal upkeep, and figure out my life after graduation. My apartment also got robbed and I lost some important tech. It was wayyyyyy too much to handle and took a heavy toll on me. It was also stressful to deal with teammates waiting until the last minute or flat missing deadlines (myself included), not using the project management software, and having different working schedules early on. A lot didn’t line up, but also sometimes people didn’t meet me halfway when I went out of my way to make sure their work/school/life schedules were accommodated for. It was very, very stressful trying to be the person that each person needed me to be and I wore myself too thin taking care of everyone but myself.
  • Our advisor has been scary hot-and-cold about his feedback. One week he would tell us how great we’re doing and to keep up the good work and approve a lot of ideas/storyboards/workload. After an all-faculty presentation, he would completely 180 on all of his feedback and be seemingly irate at us and himself for not seeing all the glaring holes. Months later, he would approve the same exact thing he told us to change in the past. It was a headache trying to appease him because his needs would change constantly, and one day he would approve of something and disapprove of it the week later. I’m not just a dumb student that has a problem with taking criticism. I’m a frazzled senior project manager that is trying to juggle the fickle needs of her advisor and the requirements of the senior project

4 Learned —– TLDR:
(1) 9-5 jobs are a privilege. I know I can crunch when I need to, but not for months at a time.
(2) Have a support network outside of school/work, and don’t bring personal life into workplace.
(3) I need project management / leadership training.
(4) I need social interaction in my workplace, not strictly solo computer work.

  • In the past few months I have been in the labs every day for 40-70 hour weeks. It has taken a terrible toll on my mental health, my immune system has been destroyed (I got sick 4 times, and got two bad infections, when I rarely ever get sick), personal life, and relationships, as I’ve had to repeatedly prioritize school work over family and social life. I’ve been absolutely miserable and on edge as my laundry piled up, my significant other being constantly disappointed (but understanding) of having to cancel plans, leftovers molding in the back of my fridge, and general neglect of my home and myself as a person. I had to take a leave of absence from my job, which has been hurting me financially. I’ve learned that having nights, weekends, holidays off, even a 9-5 job are all privileges. I can survive crazy hour weeks in crunch, but I might accidentally kill myself from personal neglect if I don’t make time for myself.
  • Work is stressful enough without having to be at the blunt end of other peoples’ personal problems. It has been imperative having friends outside of my “workplace”. Our work environment got toxic for a number of reasons, both the people and the conditions of the labs, and the only people that never wanted to talk about work were people who didn’t even go to my school. I value the hell out of those people. There was a point where the criticisms and beratement stopped being about the project and came directed at me as a person. As much as my teammates are/were my friends, there is a certain level of professionalism I wish was maintained. Halfway through, I learned it’s important to keep my mouth shut about my personal life in a work environment.
  • If I am ever going to lead another project, I need formal training. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing half the time, and it was difficult for me to be assertive without feeling personally guilty about it. To some extent, this project is “our” project, but I don’t know how/where to draw a line between creative freedom and meeting deadlines.
  • We would spend all day together in the labs and not talk much, and often the only talking would be crits or needs for the project. That’s harsh, after not socializing all day. I’d go home and be mentally exhausted from not talking and moving much, but physically awake and shaky. I need to have social interactions – I don’t think I can sit in front of the computer all day like this. There has to be something to look forward to… I really have liked my jobs with customer interaction … I need people.

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Anna Rebman – Postmortem

We are six days from the end.

Things that went wrong:

  1. We spent too much time on story and got behind right in the beginning, and the story we ended up with wasn’t worth the time we wasted compared to our first pass. We probably could have done our first story and ended up with a better executed animation.
  2. Work ethic and quality standards varied tremendously across our team, which did not result in a good working environment or optimism for our project. Not everyone cared enough or prioritized this project over other classes.
  3. Too many directors, not enough workers. Everybody had an opinion about what should be done. Faculty kept suggesting significant changes, even when there was nothing really wrong with what we already had, just to get their participation points in during presentations. We “didn’t have to listen to them”, but we did have to really because our adviser listened to them. Even within our team, everybody wanted to have a say in everything but nobody wanted to actually do the work. We had to have an excessive amount of progress presentations because faculty have apparently learned not to trust us with our own projects, but we couldn’t trust each other with our individual tasks either.
  4. When we realized we might not pass, priorities changed a lot, and not in a good way. It really only made the anxious people more anxious and not much else.

Things that went right:

  1. Everybody kind of immediately agreed on our aesthetic theme and animation focus for the project.
  2. When we’re not talking about senior project, we all seem to get along a lot better.
  3. Even though we’re a very small team, and none of us really specialize in anything, we were still able to create an animation from scratch without any purchased assets.

Take aways:

  1. Don’t work with people who don’t take deadlines seriously. Don’t work with people who modify finalized things in secret.
  2. Defend your project tooth and nail. Don’t compromise the heart of the project in a panic to get it done.
  3. The quality of the rig makes a huge difference in the quality of the animation. If the focus isn’t the rigging ability, just buy one that works well.

PPJ#9 Aidan Dougher – Post Mortem

Working as a Team is hard. It’s really hard when you put like minded stubborn people into the same group. Its also hard when people don’t swallow their pride often enough to get the job done. This project has been frustrating, and projects will always be frustrating, but this project is frustrating because people would dance around what needed to be done, and not actually do it. At least four of five of us wanted to be leaders, but only one of us should have been a leader. Not all of us stepped up to where we needed to be, but in the end, we got an animation done, and we should be proud of that. This isn’t as easy as the professors might make you believe it to be. This process was completely new to most of us, and it’s difficult to get into the grove of it if you don’t know how to work in a pipeline process with several other people (especially people who think they are hotshots). Dragon Bones Productions ended up getting it done though, and that is what we should reflect on when we are out of Drexel.

Things that went right:

1.) We decided what we wanted early on, we knew that we wanted to do, all we needed was to do it.

2.) We has a good set of team members that could get the project done and make it look nice.

3.) We all were able to come together to get our project done, and we ended up needing no speaking parts!!

Things that went Wrong:

1.) Some people on our team didn’t get their stuff done on time, even though we had systems in place to get the word out about how these things should get done and who should do them.

2.) There was a lot, a lot, a lot of arguing on how we should go about getting things done in the project. This didn’t help anyone, and people became so upset with other members that communication broke down. The fact that Professors kept giving dumb advice every single presentation to didn’t help. We should be allowed to not listen to any professors without it effecting our grade.

3.) We didn’t get the animation to where it needed to be. I would label everything under Could Be SOOO much Better, we had a lot of draw backs though.

Lessons Learned:

1.) People suck, myself included. Working with inexperienced members for a production that was supposed to be what we wanted, and ended up being something that we kinda just had to deal with, also is terrible. But I learned that you have to live with the hand dealt to you. There is no way for you to tell someone that they might be wrong without being an asshole.

2.) Having a better plan going into a project would have been useful. We had the outline of a plan, which we thought was good because we knew we might get derailed at some points. But because our plan was so flexible we went off on tangents that eventually got cut anyway. We wasted a lot of time trying to please everyone, but if we had a solid plan going into everything, we might have been able to brush off the comments from the professors with more ease.

3.) Not everyone can swallow their pride, not even you. While I am very stubborn, so were most of my teammates, and having so many people like that on a team is terrible. There were times when I wanted my teammates to just listen to themselves and understand that the way they were going about something could be done other ways, and there were times where I felt my teammates were getting to much into everyone else’s business. I am also guilty of all of those things, but I’m only human, and so are my teammates. We really needed a person to calm the masses, but we didn’t have anyone. I’m not sure if there is anyway to fix this necessarily, but I can try to be better, I can try to swallow my pride more often. I felt like I was already doing that a lot this year, but I guess I just have to try harder in my future endeavors.

Spring Term PPJ #8 – Anna Rebman

Animation lock yesterday, which meant a lot of long nights for everyone. Thankfully, we can all breathe a bit more now as we send things to the farm and focus on the presentation. Really excited to see what the sound team is working on. Hopefully we’ll be able to meet with them soon.

In addition to animation, I’ve been working on presentation stuff and other promotional things. The poster has been updated, and the trailer has gone through several revisions. Our t-shirts and cookie cutter arrived as well.

The Bad: The last few days have been really pretty unhealthy. Several members of our team are getting sick again, and in the days leading up to the animation lock people have been working 14 hour days and coming back in with only three hours of sleep. Several shots had to be redistributed in order to get them done in time. The good half of this is that instead of tension and aggression, we all just got really silly by the early morning. It’s very relieving to be able to cross shots off the list for good.

The Good: Locking anything down is kind of nerve wracking, and animation lock is a big deal since we’ve saying that that is our focus for this project, but we really needed that deadline and to be rendering. Anything that really needs work can just be rendered last, since we can’t put every shot on the farm at the same time. So there is some leniency for the time being.

Spring PPJ #8 – Team

With 15 days to go until Senior Project is due, the team put in a lot of hard hours this sprint to reach our March 21 animation lock. While the animations could be better (can’t they always be better?), we’re now focusing on rendering, re-rendering, and post. We’re looking forward to babysitting the render farm and recording failed frames so we can render them again!

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How dare you

Walk cycles were completed. Dogs were emoted. The team has been under a lot of stress between shuffling shots between team members, arguing with our advisor over extreme last minute changes, and general lack of personal health. There have been a lot of late nights for everyone. We’re happy to close the chapter of animation to focus on rendering, compositing, post and getting the project done. We’re also excited to work on the deliverables for the Senior Show and get our animation out into the world – but we gotta render it first.

The Good ~ Animation is wrapped up. Let the Render Games commence! We still get errors from time to time, which has offered some good comic relief.

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On to rendering~!

The Bad ~ Classes are in session from 9am-9pm during the week. Very concerned about having the resources to render the project out.

Spring PPJ #8 – Cali Chesterman

I spent this sprint scatterbrained and feeling very counterproductive, even though I made a lot of animation progress for our March 21 animation lock. I’ve been neglecting two semi-serious infections that I thought would go away on their own, that landed me at the doctor, and almost the hospital had I waited any longer… Personal health has not been my priority. I’ve tried helping on shots from my teammates, and ended up getting two shots with walk cycles. I realized my shots don’t have the man walking on a flat surface. I suck making it look right with our characters’ proportions, so I had to give them back :/ On the other hand, I got two shots with focus on the dog and facial expressions, and that worked out a lot better. I think I’m growing an interest in facial animations and quadruped animations.

My animations are ok, but definitely not great. I’ve spent the week rendering everything I had in the state it was, so at least there is a version of rendered animation that exists. I plan to re-render the new animations once everyone has a version of their animation existing. My primary concern is still rendering and resources – I want everything to get done on time. I’ve gotten a lot of backlash from my team and advisor for having this mindset, so I’ve taken a step back and kept quieter. Now that animation lock has happened, I hope everyone is now in the “THIS NEEDS TO BE RENDERED OMG” mindset.

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Sometimes the man loads without hair. It’s a strange bug we get from time to time. Ohhhhhh well.

The Good ~ I’m happy Will used my nostril flare rig in his animation. I’m happy that our animation is locked. We looked over some old playblasts and versions of our animation, and boy, have we made a lot of progress. After animating so much, I realize how much I like FK arm controllers. I wish I had done a lot of things a little differently, but now I know for next time.

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This is one of the animations I took for Search. I like working with facial animations a lot

The Bad ~ I have a lot of anxiety about rendering and making sure frames come out properly. I have to go in and adjust the lighting for some of my shots (gross). I hope the antibiotics clear up my infection so I don’t get hospitalized. People keep telling me congratulations on graduating, but it hasn’t happened yet – such a tease.

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We still get occasional render errors. The sims in Takeoff explode sometimes.

We’re almost there. I can taste it. (Wait, no, that’s just bile again).