We are done! This as our final week of production. We all worked on creating our final composites and edits to our renders through the Foundy’s Nuke.
We met for several color-correction sessions where we critiqued each other’s final comps. Later, we met with Jackson Mumford, who is handling our project’s audio. After seeing his work we all felt that the project really came to life. This was a positive week overall and it’s satisfying and validating to see our final product.
Some songs that relate my feelings throughout production.
It’s been a long haul. Six days until Senior Showcase and eight days until graduation. We’re meeting with our sound guy tonight and getting to hear the final audio from start to finish in conjunction with our animation. It is both terrifying and relieving to be here right now, but we have definitely come a long way.
This past week has been anxiously hovering over renders and sneakily commandeering lab computers during the day to put on the farm. It was a lot of sitting and waiting for exr sequences, while simultaneously setting up the comps and pngs, rotoscoping, color-correcting, and redoing background plates to cover up errors we couldn’t fix in 3D.
Now that we’re about to send off our animation to the promo people, we get a little bit of a breather to spend time with our loved ones before everyone goes their separate ways after graduation. Dragon Bones went to Senior Sendoff at Wahoos Tacos and will be going to Senior Toast this week. Aviva won a TV. We’re wrapping up our loose ends as college students, ready to start the next chapter of our lives.
This sprint has mostly been about babysitting renders, making sure there is enough space on the
server, and editing everything together. I did some last minute changes on comps, with color corrects and rotos in other people’s shots, while also trying to keep the coloring in mine consistent.
It’s been a busy week, but we’re almost there. We’re meeting with our sound guy tonight at 8 and everything should be ready for delivery.
A wonderful thing that happened is that we got to do a Senior Sendoff event, one of the best Drexel-sponsored senior events so far. It was so nice to sit and relax a bit in the middle of the day. Oh, and Aviva won a TV. Her first TV. 😀 We also got a really heartfelt talking from one of our faculty members and it’s really what I needed to hear after weeks of pessimism. Maybe a glimmer of hope? We’ll see what the future has in store.
It’s just Senior Show to look forward to now. Practicing our lines. We’re going to make cookies for the showcase and try our best to get our freebies ready to go.
Last PPJ ever! We are 100% rendered and composited. We are going to do a group color correction session and meet with Jackson, our wonderful audio and music guy, tonight and then we’re submitting it and then we’re done!
Our collaborative rendering spreadsheet. 100%!
We still have to practice our presentation and bake cookies, but it’s such a relief to be finishing up. I was worried at the beginning of the term that we’d be working ourselves hard every single day until the senior show and graduation that we would never have time to see any of our other friends until it was too late and we were in the car, packed up and leaving and realizing that we never got to do x, y, and z or say goodbye to anyone. Now that we’re done I’ve been making so many plans with people. I’ve got a week left to spend with these people I haven’t seen in months because I’ve been so busy.
The Bad: I have never been to the Mutter Museum. I’ve been here for four years and I’ve never had the chance. I want to hangout more with my roommates before we find ourselves on opposite sides of the country. I have so many regrets about things I haven’t done yet or enough of, and now I’ve got a week to take all my finals and do everything that I still want to do before I leave forever. It’s not enough time.
So, this is the last week, we turn in the project tomorrow morning. I’m equally terrified and relieved. I am not going to be completely satisfied with our final, but I will deal with what we have. I’m never going to be satisfied with anything I turn in, I guess it’s not in my personality to be satisfied with my art. I can always imagine it being better, I can see something bigger and better with every project I have apart in.
This week was entirely comping and waiting on renders, I was really scared for a while that my renders for one of my shots would be terrible. But they weren’t bad, but there were a lot, a lot, a lot of re-renders. Not as many as other teams, but for some reason, one of my sequences wouldn’t render out some frames correctly, which was dumb. then there was the case of the missing pants, and the case of clipping geometry. But in the end, it was all worth it, because I got I pretty good sequence out. We had a bit of a scare last night when Will had not worked on his comp all weekend, but that all worked out and we were able to fix up some of his plants that didn’t look so nice.
Over the past 10 or so months we have gone from a witch girl, a little boy pulling a wagon to a man on an alien planet with a dog creature. We went from a more desert theme to a pastel theme, leaning heavily on pink and purple. I’m not terribly happy with our story, but it does an okay job I guess.
Overall I had a nice enough time on this project, and although we all had our differences, we were able to make an animation together, which is pretty awesome. I’m very tired from rendering and comping all weekend, and I’m glad I had this experience.
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.
They love each other!
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.
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 …
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Learning new software — Marvelous deisgner & mental ray! Just kidding, it was Renderman. Just kidding, it was Maya hardware 2.0
How to detach myself from my earthly vessel
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.
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’:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
Divide up tasks among team members. Allow people to fill roles among the team and become the resident “expert” at a certain position.
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.
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.