Monday, 17 October 2011

Change of Scenery

It's been a year now that I'm back at Ubisoft (3rd time stint), and I've changed department within the company three times already.  I can't really go into specifics about the projects I've done and am currently working on, but I can tell you that the animation styles have changed dramatically each time.

The first project, which lasted a month, was really cool.  It involved 100% key frame animation of some really interesting characters in the early stages of the game.  There was lots of brain storming ideas with game designers and producers concerning character traits, concepts, and just overall feel of the game.  We were working in Softimage XSI with the hi-res models, coming up with animations that would dictate the look and feel of the in-game actions.  I really enjoyed that project, but it was short-lived.

The next project I worked on was also 100% key framed, but required a ton of work.  Also in XSI but in the cinematics department, this project called "Assassin's Creed - Embers", is a 22 minute short which follows the final days of Ezio Auditore.  I've played all the Assassin's Creed games, so for me this was a great project to have been a part of.  I guess the only complaint was that it required a minimum of 30 seconds of animation per week.  For the non animators reading this... that's a lot!  You can see the trailer here:

Which brings me to my current project.  On this game, I've taken a 180 degree turn.  I'm currently working in the cinematics department of a specific game which requires 0% key frame animation.  Yes, zero.  Nada.  It is all motion capture, including the characters face. In a month and a half, I've learned 2 different animation softwares (3DsMax and Motion Builder) and learned some of the ins and outs of motion capture and the video game pipeline.

I won't lie.  At first I was extremely discouraged.  In 10 years in this industry I've worked so hard to reach a level of quality in my animations that I can be happy with.  And now I'll be editing motion from a guy in a spandex suit.  I miss key frame animation terribly, but so far this experience has challenged me to think about animation in a new way.  Motion capture data can only work as well as its editor.  Sometimes the data doesn't work as well as you'd like, so it's up to us to make sure every emotion and every gesture is translated to the viewer.  Motion capture is just another medium of animation, and one I plan on learning.  

I still get to work in one of the coolest jobs in the world, with some of the most talented people in the industry.  

- Johnny

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