Category Archives: John Henry’s Hammer Productions

John Henry’s Hammer Productions: An Overview

My placement at John Henry’s Hammer Productions lasted until early September when we were suddenly told that working with this company would no longer count towards our total placement time. We were then left with a choice of remaining with the company to work voluntarily, or leave to find another placement.

In my time working at John Henry’s Hammer Productions, I went in hoping to learn more about 3D character animation, and came away with not only that, but with a better understanding of how to organize a large project with many people working on it.

 

The animation was a fascinating process. I spent a lot of time animating the face of the character since the initial animation was motion capture and had no facial animation. I learned a lot about subtle facial acting as there were very limited controls with the robot character and it was a challenge to convey emotion when the only thing you could control was the character’s eyes.

We were also given a whole new bunch of controls to learn, such as a custom plug-in controlling the image plane in the background containing the live-action footage that were were to animate over, which was slightly buggy and a bit of a pain to work with if you weren’t technically savvy. It was an obstacle to conquer, along with the other custom company plug-ins allowing us to update the rig and change the model complexity at will without messing up the scene.

The biggest benefit to working at the company, however, was learning how they organised such a big project using the websites Slack and Shotgun.

Slack was an incredibly efficient way of communicating with either individuals or members of a team (etc animators, modellers) or even the entire group, which also notified each member with an email if they received a message. It was hard to miss a Slack notification.

Shotgun was the most impressive site, in my opinion. It was slick and very easy to use. We mostly utilised it for finding out what shots we had to work on, and not only that, but you could see what shots everyone was working on at the same time, so you never lost track of what scenes needed to be animated/lit/rendered.

 

Overall, it was a fascinating experience, and I am glad I got the chance to work there.

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Day 5

16th August 2016

Shot ts01_0160, which I had been working on for the last 12 days, had been sent off to the compositors for a rough render,and I had been assigned my second shot: ts01_0130.I was to provide clean-up animation.

This was a shorter shot and needed only a few minor tweaks with very little acting. The feedback notes for the shot as it was were that there was a jittery piece of animation near the beginning of the shot, and a strange sliding motion that seemed to be pulling the character to the right hand side of the screen, away from the character’s body.

The jitter was easily fixed, but the sliding action required a little more work. I had never used animation layers before, and was hesitant to use them in case I ruined some of the pre-existing animation. I looked up some tutorials and eased my nerves about using animation layers, and managed to fix the sliding effect.

Sent in for review.

Day 3 and 4

9th August 2016

Taking into account the feedback from the previous day, I removed the head tilt and fixed the eyeline.

 

11th August 2016

Feedback from the previous day:

  • Fix the eyes so there is more expression

Tex should be more sinister and suspicious at first,then as his gaze shifts to the dead robot his expression changes to that of curiosity and hope. The dead robot might have something he needs (a battery).

Animating the character’s eyes was a tricky endeavour, as the character’s eyes are fairly limited in the expression they can portray (being square in shape). It was tricky, and required a lot of jotting down frame numbers, but I completed the task and sent in a playblast of the scene for review.

Day 2

7th August 2016

I continued to work on fixing the head and the chest animations. When I was satisfied with what I had, I sent an email with a playblast of what I had completed to Eric, the VFX director. He then showed me the correct way to share a playblast with him, and the rest of the company, which is through the Shotgun website.

Feedback:

  • Chest and head fixes are good
  • Remove head tilt
  • Tweak eye-line and eye animation to make it more obvious where the character is looking

 

Getting Started

4th August 2016

To begin, I was taught how to set up a project directory so I could easily share and find certain files with the rest of the team.

I was then introduced to the website Shotgun, where the company had already organised all the scenes and the shots, and had clearly identified what had already been completed and what needed to be done. I was assigned Scene 1 – Shot 160 as my first job. Most of it had already been animated; all I needed to do was fix some awkward head and chest movements.

In the beginning I found it a little difficult to set up the Maya directory, but I did eventually figure out how to fix the problem and started working.

There was an issue, however, with the image plane in the background that was supposed to show the live action footage that we would be animating over. The plane was not fixed to the camera as it should be, and was instead static, and much further down the page than it should have been.

problem_01

This made matters tricky when it came to actually animating the head and chest while trying to align the motions to the movement of the human actor. I did my best, and later on in the day I was shown how to fix the problem.