Alien facial sheet

Here are a few of my design sheets that I forgot to upload. WE have a textures sheet, where I have outlined what textures I need to source out for him, a closer look at the face and a turnaround for reference in Maya. Below I have a facial expressions sheet for my alien, just a few quick sketches of the face in different poses to help me get a feel of the character.


Sticking to the plan.

Throughout this brief I have tried to stick to my storyboard as much as I can. I used both my rough cut and my storyboard to help me figure out the work through of my visual FX shots.

I found it difficult to maintain a sense of my original idea, where I had big plans to make the floor disintegrate etc. I think this was mainly because I struggled getting my head around the whole idea of piecing a composite together; to help me with this I looked at alot of making of videos and breakdowns of VFX work. These helped me to be able to realise what I would be able to accomplish within my time frame. I decided at this point to not focus on the over the top effects, instead I came up with a story board that allowed me to get a taste tester of after effects and compositing.


Adding in the sound.

I have finished putting my final film together in final cut pro so I have been spending my time sourcing out some sounds. I used the main shots sounds as background noise alongside a city skyline that I found on the BBC sound files in college.

I added a lot of sound effects for the space ship and lasers etc that were also found on the BBC sound files. I wanted to give the film a haunted feel so I use to find a short track of a female humming that had a sampling+ license which is no longer in use but allows you to sample the work for non-commercial use which is what I need to for. This humming sound is something that I considered in my storyboard at the beginning of the brief, I think it works well as it is used to set the scene at the intro sequence as well as being used to close the movie. I would liked to have recorded some of my own sounds in the sound booth but time seems to have worked against me on that front.

Interior Design Concept

My design process for the interior mainly was contain inside my head with little things jotted down here and there. I decided to go with a futuristic highly shiny approach to the interior. I wanted to keep the area dark taking inspiration from the games and films I had been looking at for alien influence. As I was cracking on with the alien model I asked Jade to take over the design and build for the interior; I left alot of it up to her design choice after giving her a basic overview of what I had envisioned.

AE Work Final Shot

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Finally the last shot I need to do!

In terms of animating and visual effects this was the easier shot I have done. All that needed to be considered was the alignment of the eyes of the alien and Lauren. The shot needed them to be looking into each others eyes, this required alot of fiddling around in Maya until I got the right direction of the aliens head. Luckily it isn’t too bad as a composite; I probably should have took alot more time on this shot though as it is the final one plus it is a close up so the viewer will notice it more. I think for a first attempt at compositing a 3D object to line up with a 2D one I think I managed to do an alright job, next time I should consider a techniques to make it match up perfectly.

Shot 8 AE Work

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Shot 8, the second to last shot! Finally I am getting closer to the end!

This is the sideways shot of Lauren as the alien walks towards her; I struggled a lot on the animation side of this shot, as I just lost all hope that I was ever going to have enough time to make this walk cycle actually look like a real walk cycle. I think this lets down the whole final movie as it is the one bit that breaks the believability of the film. Everything about the animation is wrong, the timing is off, the key frames aren’t right for a walk cycle, basically this is where I had got to a point that meant that I had to rush the final parts of the film; this is due to lack of planning and commitment tot he brief in the earlier stages.

The after effects work on this isn’t anything different to what I have done in the previous shots. It is simply maintaining the added in effects from the previous scene.

Shot 7 AE Work

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I have made a couple of changes to the playing order of my shots, instead of having two separate shots of the Alien I’m going to animate the camera to go behind the head of the alien then comp Lauren in!. This shot will go straight to the close up where Lauren looks up at the Alien as it gets closer. The reason for this is primarily because I am running out of time but also because I never was interested in animation so the less of it I need to do the better!

So far I have animated my alien in maya, this will be taken into after effects to comp Lauren into the shot. I rendered out the animation as a .jpeg image sequence that I could take into AE, using the maya software settings I made sure that I had the raytracing settings on alongside the right frames to render etc.

The animation has come out quite well, it looks better accompanied with the camera movement though; this makes the alien look more offensive and in your face so to speak. I like the relation that this camera movement adds to the overall experience of this shot, the viewer starts by seeing the alien through Laurens eyes then zooms over towards the impending threat itself. Then as the camera pans round to the back of the alien you get a sense of spacial value between Lauren and the alien, this gives the viewer a belief that these two creatures are within the same space, as this is the first time they are witnessed in the same shot. With all the added effects on the video footage of Lauren I have been able to create a reality within this scene that will make the viewer believe it is real. I think this is what I found so difficult about compositing, as you need to take into account a lot of information that makes the shot believable. For instance the camera height and angle from the actual shoot so that you can match it to the virtual one within maya. All these things I didn’t really consider, I just matched things up by eye, which is possibly my downfall on this brief.

UFC Open Show

Found on Stash 90, this VFX sequence packs a lot of shattering floors and ceilings. It isn’t necessarily to my taste, but I do think that the VFX are lovely, they add that over the top approach to the fight. One guy even breaks the floor by simply using it to help him stand up!

The visual effects were handled by the company Digital Domain. This is a statement from the Director about the vfx team’s work: “Once an animation was locked, the Digital Domain team tracked and animated 3D digital human models, lining them up precisely with the fighters’ motion, to enable the simulation of real-world lighting and seamless matching of the fighters into CG environments. Digital Domain employed a team of 20 artists to complete the project in ten weeks.”. A team of just 20 artists in ten weeks produced this lovely sequence. In retrospect of my own vfx sequence I feel like I am on par really as it took me around half the time to do my vfx and finishing touches for my post-production work and I was working by myself! Although mine is nowhere as high a level as their finished piece but I do see mine as a sort of test piece that I can continue onwards into the future(After the deadline of course)!

Branit FX Company, Kansas

I first came across Branit FX a while ago when I used one of their films (World Builder) as a piece of research in my first year. So naturally as we are doing a VFX brief I decided to have a look at them again.

Showreel 2010:

Branit FX are a visual effects company run by Bruce Branit, a successful filmmaker with a strong background in CG. Banit is well-known for his work on Star Trek television series plus the companies several short films including World Builder. The company was founded in 2004 by Branit in his town of Kansas. They have worked on a fair amount of mainstream tv series like Lost and Fringe to name a few so they are a pretty well-known company.

I found their showreel quite interesting, I thought it was a very well presented package that was professional but also had a lovely playfulness to it aswell; almost like they weren’t being too overconfident and pushy, they lett he work speak for itself! I always will love the short film World Builder as it is a really nice little short, but the rest of their work is equally impressive for such a small company. I think this is something that I should consider as I have done a one minute film pretty much in its entirety on my own, and I have struggled but these guys who are experienced in their trade can create a short film with a small team. I suppose this is where compatibility comes into play aswell.

The most useful thing I have found from BranitFX are their shot breakdowns from Pioneer short film.

Mainly because they show how much went into a 20 second shot, I mean especially where it shows you all the layers that they had with all the little touches that made it believable to the viewer. I guess this is what it is all about, making the viewer believe what you are showing them.

Mind Control research

I have done a spot of mind control and alien abduction research for this VFX brief; this is to help me get a better vision of the concept. As I am going along with the idea that this alien can use mind control etc instead of inflicting actual damage, I found a good site that gives me information on what exactly mind control is.

Ufology is the study of alien encounters, most of the extraterrestrial encounters that are recorded are positive, in which the idea of abduction is often absent. This suggests that alien encounters don’t necessarily include abduction, so why do most hollywood films include this element? Is it due to the psychological idea that abduction inspires in the mind? The idea that a human is not in control of the situation they are placed in; this not only occurs within sci-fi films though, it is seen within thrillers aswell.

The article shows how the mind control techniques are implied in the abductions. This somewhat backs up my concept of the aliens control the mind of the abductees. I haven’t had time to fully incorporate the whole concept of my idea but I still would like to look more into the visual side of mind control in the near future.

Alien Rig

Finally I have rigged my alien so he is ready to animate!

I found the rig fairly simple as it was mainly human, plus I kept it simple. Using inverse kinematics to move the legs and alien arms, it moves about fairly realistically; the only problem lies with the joining of the alien shoulders to the torso, as a lot of deforming occurs.

AE Work Shot 5

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Probably the most complex shot to accomplish, this is where Lauren gets placed into stasis by the Alien. This shot was hard as I had to match up the back plate from Maya with the shot of Lauren. Luckily it matched up fairly well, it actually looks like Lauren is stepping over the pipe that runs along the floor of the ship.

This is the shot where I have the most effects in one. I have necessary things like colour correction, shadows etc It also contains two pieces of stock footage for the stasis orb, plus smoke and some sparks coming out of the hanging wire.

AE Work Shot 4

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This shot is where Lauren re-materialises within the ship. So, far this has been the most time consuming shot for me to create. I had several layers that had different bits and bobs. The hardest part was making the particle effect seem like it was bursting out of the door. To achieve this I used a mask that was keyed on the transform attribute. Luckily the shot was really slow so I could cheat a little bit with the door, making it fade with the opacity to reveal Lauren.

I created another composition that had the rendered shatter of Lauren in it so that I could reverse this to make it look more realistic.

This is where I found the CC Toner effect, I popped the mid tone value to a medium blue tone to reflect the colour inside the ship. Then I moved the Blend with Original value up so that Lauren wasn’t completely blue!

Overall this has turned out well, now I need to match it to shot 5!

Dead Space should never be played in the dark!

When contemplating on creating a human based creature for Invasion, one thing popped into my mind: Dead Space.

Necromorphs are the horrific creatures inhabiting the USG Ishimura from Dead Space. They are the re-animated corpses of the dead humans who once inhabited the ship; instead of looking like humans though the majority of them are grotesque formations of the being they once were.

A lot of influence came from the design of the necromorphs as they have similar traits to my character, they were once human and were formed through a rare occurence in space. The main thing that I took into consideration was how the designers utilised the human body to create the creature’s. What is more scary than seeing a humanesque creature that suddenly reaches out and has extended limbs that have razors on the end of them! This is where I got the idea to start of hinting that the Alien is human, so that is why the torso and head still look human. This is where the shot over the shoulder of the alien comes in as the viewer will think it is a human, later on the truth is revealed.

The colours used on the necromorphs was also interesting, it was a mix of human living flesh and dead tissue, hence what I was trying to create with mine. If only I was better at textures!

Finally I have an intro sequence…sort of!

Been cracking on with my intro sequence today, it isn’t the best of things but hey times a pressing!

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I used Maya to create the main body of the intro sequence for Invasion, I just need to take it into After Effects and put on some text, and stars whizzing past and what not. I utilised subtle camera movement to give it a panning effect; alongside the ship moving past it looks really alright! My main issue is the fact that the ship is only a low poly model. I was aiming to keep my models low polys so that they would be easily transferable to a game environment as this is what I want to do. Sadly as the ship only is 980 faces it looks really blocky on the intro sequence. If I had more time I would have rectified this by using smooth linearly then popping an edited UV map onto it.

I put in a few tweaks like the fact that the earth actual rotates to give it a more realistic approach. I also messed around with the lights until I found one that gave the required effect. At first I was using a point light that lit everything equally; this didn’t give it the ‘space’ effect so I used a spot light instead. By turning up the penumbra angle and turning down the cone angle it gives a nice drop off of light. This then lights the ship from a single side due to placement and angle. As it is a spot light it means that when the camera pans up it comes from pure blackness to a lit scene. I like this transition as I think it reflects the empty black space setting. Much like the Alien title sequences did.

Maxim Zhestkov

Zhestkov is a director/artist that I came across on Stash issue 44. After becoming interested in him I had a peek online at his website and he has done some pretty amazing short films/VFX. I love the simplicity of his work, it is something that I would like to achieve with my title sequence. I especially like the short film that was featured on the issue of stash. It was a slow-paced film that reminded me of the inspiration I took from the Alien films. His website has links to all of his work here.

Initial Storyboard

This is my rather quickly done story board. I did this right at the beginning of the brief and now I am working through my rough cut for the VFX shots, I find myself referring to it. Here is a list of my key shots:

  1. Title sequence
  2. Crane shot sets scene
  3. Mid shot, ship composite over buildings
  4. Green Screen shot Lauren beamed up
  5. Inside ship mid shot, Lauren walks forward
  6. Long shot stasis effect
  7. Close Up on eyes, green screen
  8. Alien crawls out
  9. Side view Lauren and Alien
  10. Front view alien moving forwards
  11. Close up Laurens looks up towards camera
  12. End shot, alien and Lauren side on close up

Title Sequence Inspiration – Alien Quadrilogy

When considering my title sequence for Invasion, I always had the Alien title in the back of my mind. After doing a bit of research into all the titles from the Alien Quadrilogy, I have found some very useful things that I would like to incorporate in my title. is a great website that has clips of most of the intros to films. This link has all the Alien films title sequences in good quality: LINK

Originally I had simply the first film, Alien as inspiration; I liked the way that the camera very slowly pans the universe, giving the viewer an immediate feeling of isolation. The music adds to this as it is mainly low hums with an occasional banging or knocking(possibly indicating the threat that is incoming). The reason this title sticks in my head is because it is so simple, all that happens is the camera pans right passing an eclipsing planet, whilst the letters of the title are slowly revealed non-linearly. This is ultimately where I got my idea to use a long shot of earth in my original storyboard, as it indicates that the alien ship is aware of our planet.

I found’s analysis of the title sequence of Alien quite interesting; the fact that everything points towards the center as the center of the human is where the aliens come from! This is something that I hadn’t considered, linking the concept to the title itself. Possibly I need to consider this when I am looking at typography and such.

The title of Aliens maintains the slow pace from the first films title sequence. This drags the viewers in making them want to know more, it also sets the pace for the film itself. As the Alien films are horror/sci-fi films they need to have a slow pace that is disrupted by a fast pace, these throw the audience of track. One minute it’s all chilled out, then the next you have shaky camera movement to exaggerate a chase scene. As the title appears slowly at first as simple lines, then gradually as the music increases becomes brighter and more of a prominent force, this replicates the pacing of the film.

The camera then pans down and slowly zooms in towards the spaceship, similar to what occurs in the first title. This action sets the scene as then we venture into the ship itself. This style is what I want to achieve with my title sequence. I want the shots to switch between the exterior and interior of the spaceship as this will not only showcase the interior build but also, incorporate some of the tricks that the latter alien films title sequences use.

These little tricks are mini cut-scenes they are the things that were explored in Alien 3’s title sequence. This sequence begins once more in space, but instead of showing the isolation as ‘there is nothing in the scene but empty space and one lone ship’, they go about it a different way. They use mini cut-scenes to move the story along and show the viewer a different style of isolation, the one that means that they is no help coming. The scenes inside the ship show the facehuggers infiltrating the stasis of the human inhabitants of the spaceship; making the viewers believe that there is no hope, the aliens are clever.

This technique is advanced into the four installment, where we get extreme close-ups of the alien form, this brings the viewers straight into the action, letting them experience a close up of the alien.

For my title sequence I am taking inspiration from all of these techniques, this is so that I can replicate these ways of immersing the viewer.

Shot 3 – AE Work

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Shot 3 is the shot where Lauren gets beamed up to the spaceship. I tried out a laser beam at first but the gave up with that idea as it made her look like she was being killed instead of being beamed up. So I used a simple CC Particle World effect to add in some orbs of de-materialization and teleportation! I wanted to achieve something similar to the original Charlie and the Chocolate factory where the kid gets zapped up into tiny little pixels then rematerialized inside the tv screen. To get this I followed a tutorial on how to disintegrate people using a shatter effect in AE. Instead of it just being a shatter effect on the green screen footage I created a new composition that had a fractal noise effect on a still image of the green screen footage. This allowed me to create a custom shatter map for the effect, which took all the colour information from the combined fractal noise and colorama effects on the shatter map. This gives loads more pieces to the disintegration effect, which looks much better than some of the preset pattern maps for the effect.

Shot 2 AE Work

I have been doing a few of my VFX shot today, so far they are going well. Most of it is simply learning what is the best way to do it. Shot 2 is the shot straight after the opening scene shot. It is where the spaceship fly’s down over the buildings getting into position to zap Lauren and Beam her up.


Full Movie Rough Cut

This is my final rough cut for Invasion. I actually really like the shots and timing/pacing of the film, it pans out really well and feels balanced.

I did have a few problems on the first try at the green screen for the side long shot. There is a lot of light on the left hand side that disrupts the whole key! I could just mask around Lauren so that it isn’t in shot so to speak, luckily this is an option as the actress is in a stationary pose for the shot.

Spaceship Model

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Keeping the spaceship simple was the best decision I have made on this brief. I managed to get it built and textured within a day. Good times! I went for  a golden bronze colour for the ship as it became a city as opposed to a working ship.

The build and texturing went smoothly, so no complaints here.

Alien Model with Textures

Finally I have completed the alien model with my textures! It may not be the prettiest model but hey time is running out and it’ll do! I swear I was much more managed on the previous brief, this one just seems to be happening with no prior thought or consideration! Need to sort this out!

I have abandoned a lot of things that I probably should have spent time on for this, i.e. the topology! I am well aware that it has pretty much no topology or even need for most of the edge loops. Time was ticking on though, this brief has really taught that it is best to work at a constant pace throughout a brief instead of taking weeks off at a time then hoping it will turn out ok!

The texture also isn’t great, the sides still blur quite a lot even after moving the Uv’s around, but moving the UV’s around was made even harder because of all the unnecessary vertices. I guess the lesson learnt is to keep thing simple from the beginning and thus you eliminate any complications further down the line.

Also, another thing that I only realised after texturing is that I totally missed out the stomach hands from the design! My mind really isn’t focussed at the moment! I guess in an odd way, this saves time on the animating.

Next up for the alien is the rig, I am going to keep this simple as time is pushing on.


Interior Model

In exchange for rigging and Uv mapping Jade’s alien, she built my interior in Maya. The result is pretty awesome, and she managed to do it through simply verbal descriptions as I was struggling with drawing what I had in my head.

The interior of my ship follows on with the idea of the alien concept that I have been doing. I went along with the ship having once been human, so the design fits in with this, taking on a retro stylised approach to futuristic design. I used a few tricks whilst UV and texturing the interior, these give it a more alien feel, plus saved time for me. Instead of making UV maps for everything I cheated and used the same base colours for several things like the pipes on the ceiling and the holding bay wall. I also took advantage of the translucency of the shaders, this worked on both the holding bay wall and the large pipes that separate the rooms. I especially like the room separator pipes as it allows you to see all the interior and overlapping pipes which makes it look ‘alien’.

Rigging Jade’s Alien

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I helped out Jade by doing her Aliens rig for her. It went pretty smoothly, it was nice to be back rigging again, definately cannot wait til I get to rig my alien, the build and model is taking ages!

The Making of The World Is In Play.

Came across this nice little making of video that showcases a few gems of The World is in Play advertisements for the PS Vita.

It doesn’t go into great detail about the behind the scenes stuff, but it does show a large scale crew and cast in action. I think I need to start watching more of these kind of things as they really open my eyes to how much people power goes into such a short piece of airtime. Especially the advertisement that has the warscene going on, the amount of extras in that is phenomenal plus all the big equipment like the crane that is shown.

The other thing that interested me is the use of special effects instead of VFX. Within the war scene they use a lot of explosions and such, which got me thinking that I didn’t actually consider this before! Generally I find things much easy to consider within a virtual reality hence why I tend to avoid film as much as possible! This is probably the reason I hadn’t considered another approach to any VFX shots I planned.

John Eaves

I keep John Eaves blog Eavesdropping on tab by rss to my google reader account, so when I figured that I need to develop a space ship, I had a look through the blogs archive to see if I could find any thing useful. I stuck gold, finding Eaves’ work on the Romulan Warbird from Star Trek. Not only does the post offer up some stunning art work but also an insight into how he developed the concepts.

Eaves describes how he processed the problem that the design of the current backstory had been mixed, it was not clear which race had first created certain things, “I had to come up with an understory to use as a basis of how the designs would relate to both alien races”. This initiative shows that in the design world sometimes you need to be able to quickly create a story which can sit within the clients request. What is interesting is what Eaves goes on to say, the designed ship that was intended to be Romulan got changed to be a Klingon vessel as the Paramount studio had masses of Klingon outfits but no Romulan ones! “Thus the Klingons were piloting a Bird of Prey!  So from there I started my idea that the Klingons stole or bought the warbird or it’s technology and made it their own…this would keep the overall look connected to the Romulans, from there the Romulan Warbird Valdore could easily fit into the design realm of what was seen before, only heavily modified.”.

Not only have a found some lovely concept designs but also a useful piece of information into the industry. Sometimes concept teams have to alter/create up a realistic story because of a minor change from the client. In this Eaves had to work around the fact that the Klingons were operating a Romulan ship, so he created a story that would fit. I guess it is all about keeping the believability of the concept.

Alien Design

My development of the alien has evolved fairly rapidly. It has changed from the fully human creature into a mix of human and grotesque. To achieve this vision, I looked at alot of different references, from horror themed games to concept artists work and films.

I knew that I needed to develop a creature that had a human base, with a grown ‘alien’ exterior. The best reference for this has been from games characters, I have looked at these individually in a separate post.

I took alot of inspiration from looking at the human body, especially the bone structures and muscle tissue so that I could adapt this to the alien growths of the body, this lead me to think of the creature as being part dead part alive. The old human tissue on the exterior of its body would be dead as the alien tissue would only need to keep the interior organs tissue alive, this is due to the legs and the shoulder arms being new tissue. The colour scheme should follow this!

I have done a lot of sketchbook work this time round to help me develop the visual side of the alien. Even to the point where I have been drawing the same thing over and over again to help me get a sense that this thing is real. The more I drew it the more consistent I was with the designs, doing a few varieties to helped me to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Since this stage in my sketchbook I have also done a few more character based sketches, looking at what textures I would need and facial expressions sheets.


Spaceship Design

I am not a major fan of sci-fi as a genre and I always seem to have difficulty whenever I try to visualise it creatively. So the beginning of this brief was difficult, I spend a lot of time struggling with the visualisation of the alien and the spaceship. After having a chat with my tutor I pulled together a moodboard to give me some direction for the spaceship design.

I picked up on several areas of these ships to the left that I found the most interesting, or simply found that they fitted with the general concept that I had. The things that stood out to me where the:

  • long extended parts of the spaceships, that gave them the feel of being a larger structure than it is probably inhabitable. A good example of this is the top most right image ont he moodboard. The three prongs come forward giving the ship a looming presence, the sharpness of the prongs insists that they are for some form of attack rather than defense.
  • unusual shapes. I popped the ISA cruiser onto the moodboard to exemplify this. They are a long thin shape but instead of being horizontal they hover vertically over the world. I looked them on the Killzone wiki to find out how they were designed. An interesting factor is that they actually use nuclear-powered beam thrusters to move about, these also act as weapons! What I like about this type of shape is the ever-looming presence of the directional weapons positioned on the prow. The whole ship is pointing towards the ground, exactly were they need to attack. It is a ship intended to attack ground forces, cities etc.
  • finally, the classic circular shape, use many times over the years! This shape is easily recognisable by viewers, but also it gives a sense of centralisation. I think this fits in with my concept, the idea that the spaceship is a sort of hub where humans lived. Human society has always valued the idea of a leader, so the ship should contain some form of central representation. This would refer back to the lesson I had in Critical and contextual studies where we looked at how people have always had some form of leader figure, whether a shaman or nowadays, famous people.

Here are a few of my concepts that I jotted down over the brief:

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My designs began looking at the sleek swift element that I wanted to capture. This later moved on to a more large-scale ship, instead of trying to design little one man ships I tried to create a large ship that was almost like a city. I came to the final design as it seemed to capture all the things that I liked from the moodboard. It has a centralised living area, that extends outwards along bridge like structures, I imagine that these areas would be the work sections. These go to an outer ring which is where the lower community would live. The spikes above and below this outer ring act as a barrier for the nuclear weapons that reside above and below the central station, they are made out of a special material that means that no nuclear residue traverses down them to where the people are living. The nuclear power above the central station is what powers the whole ship, acting as an orb of power that surges throughout the ship. Below the central station an elevator travels down to the cannon ray weapon, powered up from the orb above this cannon shoots out a single line beam of nuclear energy that destroys whatever is in its path.

This is my final design sheet for the two spaceship.

Uv Mapping Jade’s Alien

As this brief is pretty laid back I have decided to collaborate with a few of my peers so that we can help each other out and get more practice in the areas that we want to get better at. I exchanged the modelling of my interior ship for Jade’s Uv mapping and rigging of her alien. I’m not actually sure why I wanted to do the Uv map as when I think back, I actually hated the process of it! I guess I’m trying to get good at it so that it isn’t as painful to do in the future!

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I am actually quite proud at the moment as the full UV map only took 1 hour 30mins!

The process went smoothly the only issue I had was when the transfer attributes from the left arm to the right arm didn’t quite work out. It moved all the Uvs positions around so I had to do the right arm separately, which was no problem. Another thing to note for the future is that I should get all information before just jumping into someone else work. Things went smoothly because myself and Jade had been communicating through facebook as we were working, which helped a lot as we could ask each other about specific things. In this instance it worked out but when I am doing professional work I need to make sure that I ask all the questions before I start working, otherwise I will be badgering the clients and probably end up doing it wrong and wasting time!

I made a test of the map with basic colours as I didn’t want to have to be redoing it after giving the file back to Jade and everything works fine in it! =) good times! I also did a little annotated version of the Uv map so that Jade knows what each shape is when she comes top texturing it.

Final Shot Storyboard

My plan of action for the final shot is to create the alien in Maya and animate it within the environment. These shots will then be taken into AE where I can composite the greenscreen shots of Lauren. I think this will be fairly easy to do within my time frame left, as it isn’t overcomplicated. Hopefully I will not have many problems with getting my head around the process, as so far in this brief I have been baffled by the whole idea of doing everything in different pieces of software. Planning is key in this brief!

Intro Sequence Animatic

I have done a quick animatic for the intro sequence that I plan to do. It is fairly simple just using my storyboard as inspiration; although I do plan to add in some quick shots of the interior of the ship alongside the set out shots as seen on my storyboard.

My plan for the intro sequence is to build a set in Maya, this will include an interior cube map that will be the stars and galaxy. The mother ship will then be placed inside this cube so that I can animate it. This means that I will need to create a cube map of space which will be fairly simple to do. Earth can be simply a flat painting on this, although it might be a good idea to have it on an image plain as then it will move slightly as the camera moves to the left!

Inspiration for this style of title sequence has mainly come from the film Alien; as the camera passes over a completely eclipse planet, the letters of the title are revealed slowly.


Rough Cut of Final Shot

I used Final Cut Pro to put together a rough cut of what I aim to achieve for the final shot. It seems to work fairly ok but I a still finding it difficult to imagine how it will all fit together with the VFX in. This final shot comes to about 36 seconds with this estimate, which doesn’t leave me much time for the rest of the film as it needs to be under 1 minute. I think that I may need to amend this later on but as this is just a rough estimate then I think that it will hopefully work out ok; I tend to add in extra time on shots that isn’t needed! At least now I know that my shots match up and will work out for the final shot!

After Effects Practice with Effects Tools

Just had a session in After Effects where we could practice with some basic effects. I decided to utilise the session to help me figure out what is capable in After Effects for the stasis charge sequence.


Started off by using an audio file to create a visual of the audio, this was done using effect-generate-audio waveform. In its basic form I found it quite difficult to imagine how I could possibly use this, but it is a nice effect, it would be useful for a subtle use when the alien screams maybe? If tiny audio waves come out of the mouth, could they look like spit and slime splattering from the force of the scream?

After messing about with the audio wave I manged to get the above, which I actually really like plus it is simple to do! All I did was add a radial blur and a CC light sweep. This started to make me consider using this as part of the stasis charge sequence, where Lauren gets sweeped up into a temporary stasis orb. After a bit of messing around with the values I got this:

This is simply increasing the amount value so that the blur begins to overlap. This effect reminds me of looking straight on at a beam or ray from a sci fi gun! I think if I tone down the opacity level so that Lauren is clear through the waves this could be my answer to the stasis charge problem.

I also had a play with the radio waves tool.

    I liked the effect that the velocity value had on the visuals but currently I have no idea what I would use it for. Without the velocity altered though it is another contender for the stasis charge VFX.

This effect is really easy to do as well, it only really requires messing about with the values until you have something that looks right. I also like this one because it is pulsating from a center point whereas the other one is a full solid colour with random pulsations. I really need to think about how these both would visually fit in with my theme and interior ship before I take any of them further.

The other thing that we did today was using the audio files key points to alter the scale or rotation of an object/shape. This was fairly simple but it used expressions, which I have not come across before. I am not sure where I would utilise this with my current plans for the VFX shots but I may think of something down the line!

Messing about with hair

So, I just noticed that my character has a full head of hair on him in my conceptual drawings but I have totally abandoned this in the model so far! Instead of just jumping into the final thing I decided to have ago with the dynamic hair tool  in Maya on a sphere. It seems to have worked out quite well, considering that I avoided all forms of tutorial on the subject.

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If I do attempt this for the final product then I need to plan in a lot of time to be spent on it as I was already getting confused with just the practice one.

The making of Total Recall.

Everybody loves a bit of the Schwarzenegger!

This making of video showcases the whole start to finish process that happened to create the 1990 movie Total Recall, not all of it is relevant, if you skip into around 9/10 minutes you get to the good stuff. I thought it would be good to have a look at this movie as it is one of the last hollywood blockbusters to utilise miniature special effects rather than computer generated imagery. Even though we are doing a strictly digital VFX unit, I do find it rather interesting looking back to how it was done before.

The only fully created digital part of the film was the skeleton’s for the x-ray walk-through scene, the rest used special effects. Nowadays this is a bizarre concept, the majority of stuff now is done with CGI; which is most likely due to the fact that CGI has become so realistic that viewers can hardly tell the difference, I struggle doing it!

One of the most amazing things that this video has brought to my attention is how much time, effort and amount of people it can take for a tiny fraction of the whole movie. Kuato is a key character in the film which was made solely as special effects animatronics. It required 15 puppeteer’s to control every different part of the creature. For me this is quite an abstract idea, as subconsciously in my mind the design of Kuato has influenced my alien concept, but when I was creating the concept no thought went to anything as complex as what they would have had to think about for Kuato. The most I thought about was how it would move, and how its rig would work in Maya! Although I suppose these too are similar, a real life mechanical rig and a virtual one.


Another interesting part of the making of video was the conceptualisation of the back story for the film. This was a key thing as it made me realised that the way they constructed the world reflects a much deeper idea of global oppression and the fear of the global greenhouse. This all feeds into the concept of the virtual reality and that the viewer is left constantly questioning what the reality of the film is. It was useful to see this because it has helped me to make more sense of my concept for the short film; I think it allowed me to recognise a more visually simpler way to create the idea of conflicting realities.

Title Sequence inspiration

This is a lovely title sequence for Det stora uppdraget. I like how all the shots fold seamlessly into one another, this is done in a perfect time scale so that it doesn’t feel like it is a single continuous scene. Instead it feels like it is one area folding into another, so the viewer feels like they have travelled a great distance between each scene. I’m not sure if I want to do anything like this for my title sequence but it is a nice example of a well thought out one.

Behind the scenes of The Last of Us

Being an avid Uncharted fan, I am well aware how good Naughty Dog are at giving us behind the scenes footage. So, I can’t say i’m surprised to have found some rather interesting mo-cap footage that features in the new The Last of Us trailer.

Mo-cap may not be directly linked to what we are doing in this VFX brief, but I do find it useful to see the breakdown of how this beautiful trailer has been made. Mainly because it allows me to realise that not all things come out of a computer, I think I often rely too heavily on a quick(or sometimes very long) fix that can solely be done on the computer. Sometimes and especially with film, you often may need to consider another approach to a problem.

Filming…Green Screen

And yet we have added another thing to get my boggled brain around!

This weeks filming was to get the green screen shots done, these are two shots outside in natural light where the spaceship comes down to land!!! and the interior of the spaceship composite shot. The reasons for doing greenscreen shots for scene 1 and 2 was simply to give a bit more variation, as it will now be much easier to do vfx as we will have the character on a separate layer now.The more we do in this project makes me think that I am going to stumble my way through it somehow! Just how I am going to get my head around how all these assets are going to create a finished product I do not know!

Idle Animations are important

In the previous brief I had a dabble in doing a bit of idle animations for my character. Within this new brief I will be taking these to another level as I will need to animate the alien and possibly the main character depending on time constraints. I found an article on Edge online, that depicts why the idle animations are often the most important, Jon Maine, animation director at Avalanche Studios, states that “An idle can help to marry the character with their environment and therefore convince the player that the character exists in the world, so it’s important to invest time in getting them right.”.

The article pulled up a lot of ideas that I hadn’t actually considered, i.e. the main enemy of the animator being repetition. This was probably something that I did consider last time but in my subconscious instead of actually thinking about it and trying to solve it as a problem. I find it a little easier to consider now that I have read this article with Jon Maine, as he seems to focus all of the issues with believability in a character with how realistic the animation is. This makes me think that the best approach to animating this brief is to create a longer base idle animation in which you simply get the alien breathing etc. Although I suppose all the animations will be set and planned out accordingly as it isn’t in a game engine. I really need to stop thinking about this as a game level! Although if I can I am taking it into Unity, time constraints allowing!

The Making of 2012

2012(2009) is an ‘end of the world’ movie in which some of the most ambitious VFX shots were created. The film is set in 2012 where it is the predicted end of the world, Emmerich depicts yet again an idea of global destruction; but this time it is on scale that even we couldn’t comprehend.

The film itself features 1,315 separate effects shots, which is not a massive amount for a Hollywood film with a budget of nearly $200 million, but the actual majority of the VFX shots are somewhat more complicated than the ones you get in standard VFX-heavy films. 2012’s effects consist entirely of physical simulations which are much more time consuming as they are hard to control, not to mention they add a massive amount onto the costs! To make sure that the film could be completed within a reasonable time-scale Emmerich turned to 18 separate effects companies.

I have managed to find a break down of the production of the Los Angeles earthquake scene, where the city breaks up in over 200 separate shots. For this, Uncharted Territory, replicated then destroyed a section of the city that was over 4km long, each of the buildings were created by hand, “All the residential buildings had to be completely real structures”, states Grobe, Uncharted’s CG supervisor in a 3D World interview. This is because in the simulation there is not much room for errors, so each of the structures consisted of everything that the real structure would have i.e. brick on the outside, wood panels on the inside. All of the buildings were then carved up into all the separate pieces that would break off during the dynamic simulation. All of the simulation shots would go through a similar process to this one, and the majority of them took 4/5 simulations to refine the finished product. Now we see why this process is so time consuming.

The studio Uncharted Territory were involved the most out the 18 effects companies, the had 422 shots to complete all with a team of just 80 people. This in itself is quite a feat, but it also nulls my ambitions a little, if it takes a team of 80 professionals a year to produce 422 shots, what really can I produce in 2 months?

After Effects = Brain Freeze

Yes, so after effects…we have a love hate relationship going on.

I can’t say I am fond of any time spent on after effects, but for this brief it has to be done. I guess in the long run it will be worth it to have at least some knowledge of how to use it/how it works, so battle through I must. Luckily I had a fairly smooth drop into the software, where I took the footage from the film shoot on weds and was tasked with creating a mock up of the first effects sequence.

WE begin by making the film footage look pretty! Certain things will most likely need tweaking and tidying up when using film, in today’s case it was a few raindrops that were on the lens of the camera. These were easily rectified, either the clone stamp tool or the use of masking and replacing areas works fine.

To achieve a workable shot I needed to mask out the object in the foreground i.e. the building. This allows the spaceship to move from behind the building to in front of it; now I am still rather mind boggled by how this all works but I’m just going to think about it as layers in Photoshop!

To make sure that the mask had worked I placed a solid colour layer in, this also helped me to see where I had accidentally left in parts of the sky. Luckily my mask had been pretty accurate. To finish this part off all I needed to do was add a little feather to the mask, this I remember is more commonly used when you are trying to make two different things looks like they fit. In this case it will make the ship appear a lot less harshly over the building.

After rendering an image sequence out of after effects I imported a still into Maya so I could animate the spaceship. This process started off really confusing as I got confused as to whether you could add a sense of depth into the composition. I wanted the spaceship to get steadily closer in the top right corner of the composition, so I began by doing that, then got really confused as within Maya the ship isn’t in front of the image until it breaks through it.  This got my mind totally confused, so instead I opted for a simply option, to have the ship appear in the top left corner at a fairly close range. After thinking a little about this and how it actually works in after effects, I now realise it would have worked fine!!! I need to think things through more before I go off and assume that it won’t work. Anyways it works, all I need to do now is sort out the layers in after effects so that it works as a VFX shot.

Initial concept – VFX Invasion

These are my typed up notes of ideas etc.

Social experiment – not actual aliens.

-Rage beginning how would the Authority have begun their tests?

2001: A space odyssey

Ship flying through building – cuts to interactive display says something like landing imminent – ship sighted – helmet shot of alien – beam up – something happens on ship, not sure what yet!

JJ Abrams – TED talk Mystery Box

Charlie and the chocolate factory TV scene

Initial Idea 1

Aliens are actually humans, possibly from the future – taking reference from Star Trek.

Main references:

  • Final Fantasy especially Spirits Within
  • Rage – Authority
  • Killzone Isa style
  • Stormtroopers

Key factors:

This gets me out of doing typical ‘aliens’, could play around with advanced technology, possibly continue some ideas from previous brief?

Main issues:

  • Massive ‘WHY’ issue, why are humans on a spaceship? Are they cruising to collect more humans?
  • Back story needs a lot of work, time-consuming!


Initial Idea 2 –

Let’s do something crazy!

-Some sort of alien that can affect humans through mind control.

Main Influences:

  • Batman – Scarecrow and Mad Hatter
  • Donnie Darko
  • Fear and Loathing
  • Factory Fifteen – Golden Age
  • Funny Games – shifts between fiction and reality

This idea stemmed from my other ideas, initially I thought of doing a cute version of the human aliens which then led me to think why would it be cute? To trick them of course! So, from this we have an alien that can control the victim through mental suggestion.

Good points:

  • leaves a lot up to my choice, what design path to take!
  • allows me to avoid the obvious alien theme
  • allows me to strengthen previous untouched areas i.e. by exploring an idea I have not done before. Instead of looking at what is ‘alien’ I will be looking at ‘what creates a good sensory experience within an unfamiliar reality to the player/viewer?’ This links in to my Crit studies essay!

Bad points:

  • It could turn into something that doesn’t follow the brief – I am trying to avoid as much VFX as I can, as it is something that I am not interested in, so is this idea going to distract me from the actual brief?
  • I could get carried away and create too much work for myself!


End shot idea

In the title sequence show the back of the head of the alien, humming away  so that the viewer thinks it is a normal human. At the end the floor disintegrates – illusion begins and stuff goes crazy! The walls white out and move back to create a massive room, like the infinity curve in photography. Alien cruises forward, puts Lauren into stasis orb. As it walks forward the reality of the ship appears, when they are face to face it begins humming again.


Filming…Scene 1/2

We began our filming process on Tuesday, doing half a day worth of shooting. The day went smoothly and was a good insight into what actually happens on a real film set. I think when we have previously done a film shoot we were left to our own devices whereas this time we had a lot more guidance, and so it was more professional.

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I enjoyed the day and we managed to get scene 1 and scene 2 shot on location. I think the filming has made me realise that I am steering away from film for my negotiated study. I do like film but I find it difficult to get motivated within it, I just don’t seem to have a passion for this brief.

Even though I was an extra in the film I managed to find out some useful facts from witnessing the others setting up the equipment. These include:

-The boom is a directional sound recorder, this means that it will pick up whatever it is pointed at, this is good as you can eliminate some background noise like the traffic, and pick up to main parts i.e the actors voice. Our only problem within this scene with the boom was that because it was situated overhead facing down it tended to pick up the footsteps quite loud, so every take we had to check the sound levels.

– It is best to white balance the camera to both the natural light and the tungsten light. For this you can utilize a large piece of white light reflector card.

Only in the Future

I have been having a look at a few bits of research that idealise our hopes and dreams of the future of this world. This seemed to have stemmed from originally looking at a few alien references, but as it is my nature to try and complicate things, I have moved on into the idea of it being a take on what our future could hold. Likewise, with aliens, this is a popular theme within pop-culture, you don’t have to look far to be able to find a game or short film that encompasses the hypereality of what lies beyond the next 50 years. So, to get the most out of this research I have tried to find the most interesting ideas within this futuristic theme.

Golden Age – Somewhere

Found on vimeo this video, shows us the possibilities of a future in which the “global becomes the local”. As humans we lose all sense of reality as we live completely within a virtual reality that is composed from the real world. I like the narrative aspect of this short as it leaves the viewer with an uneasy feeling, after seeing that the virtual world can simply restart itself within warning or justification. It gives the sense that the human is no longer in control of the world in which they live.

This video was by Factory Fifteen, who are actually quite awesome at the experimentation of the virtual world and how it could be used to influence our lives. They have a lot of video and screenshots up on their website, and alot more screenshots and development work up on flickr. The company work with the media of film and are a good example of compositing.

Looking at Factory Fifteens work has really opened my eyes to what is possible within VFx, as in the past I tend to avoid using it as reference because I do not come across it generally.

The main things that I like within this piece is the render of the world creating itself out of the white box, I think that this is a really nice way of showing it. This moment is emphasised with the sounds that are used for the action, they are those futuristic sounds that we seem to associate with this idea of computer generation.

Another thing to consider about Golden Age is the shot compositions, these appear to have been calculated to get the most out of the VFX. I hadn’t really considered this until now, you need to consider the whole shot you are taking, making sure that the most important thing will be in shot at the right time; this means that I will need to work with the storyboard to make sure that I can make the most out of my ideas for the VFX.

Wierd Creatures

Really random find, that may prove useful. LINK

The site has an article that shows 10 of the world’s weirdest creature finds, most of which are based upon legends. A few of the featured animals were rather interesting to me; these include the Crab-like creatures that look like facehuggers from alien, the eerie monster in Berwick and the Blue hill horror. My reasons for this are:

-Alien facehuggers, this is interesting as it is a really similar match to the designs that Giger created, it kind of makes me think that he used them as some form of influence for his work., who knows?

– The monster in Berwick is a good reference as both Super 8 and Resistance took claims to it, stating that it was a viral marketing claim. In fact the creature does represent a Grim pretty well! I think this is interesting as it shows that within the industry there are companies that either throw fake images out as part of advertising or they simply jump on the band wagon. We will probably never know which is the correct answer, but this does prove that even the big companies take some form of inspiration from the weird yet wonderful natural occurences in life.

-Finally the Blue Hill Horror stands out to me as it has been proven scientifically that it was simply a rare occurence of nature that created this unfamiliar creature. This is interesting as it shows that as human beings we tend to make up stories of how this could be some sort of monster; as in this case the youths that found the animal stated that it chased them so they killed it with rocks. In actuality the animal, which was a sloth, had been decomposing in a river for some time which had created the bloated, hairless appearance of it. I think that this is a good reference for my current idea for the brief as it shows how even nature can make something that looks alien to us, it is all about familiarity with what you know.