Saturday, September 20, 2008

New story beats

Based on the suggestions I got from class, I simplified my story and made modifications. The structure is much clearer and I feel I can make the movements really fun and enjoyable while still getting the message across.

- father and son are dancing to the sound of drum beats
- we see them dancing near a house raging on fire and people running around anxiously
- father and son keep dancing
- the rain starts falling and puts the fire out
- father looks happy and proud as he dances
- boy looks sad and uninterested
- fire is put out and everyone cheers with happiness
- boy looks very unhappy
- he looks at the drums that the drummer was playing and his face lights up
- He tries to start talking to his father
- but father's followers interrupt by worshipping him and giving praises and boy never gets a chance to tell his father what he wants
- father starts patting the boy on his head for a job well done
- boy looks very unhappy and walks away
- he starts walking to the drums and sits down
- he starts playing the drums and his face gets happy so he keeps playing
- he father hears the drums and notices that his legs are starting to move differently
- he hears laughter and looks over at his worshippers
- he sees that they are laughing and pointing at someone
- he looks in the direction they are pointing and sees his son playing the drums
- he gets mad and starts moving towards his son
- he holds his sons hands to stop him from playing anger on his face
- the boy looks at his father and tries to pull his hands away so he can play
- his hands gets free and he beats the drums
- the father's legs start moving again out of control and he quickly stops the boy
from playing the drums again
- thunder sounds
- suddenly they both hear screams
- the worshippers come running to the rain doctor and his son, jumping about pointing to a fire that has broken out
- the father looks at the fire and there's panic on his face
- he looks at his son and pulls him so he can dance with him
- but the son looks at him and pulls his hands away
- panic on his face, the father leaves the boy where he is and starts doing his rain dance
- The rain starts to fall but its not enough to put out the fire
- The son looks at his father and decides this is his chance to prove himself to his father
- He starts playing the drums furiously
- the fathers legs start moving to a different beat,
- thunder sounds again and the rain starts to pour
- the father keeps dancing while the son keeps drumming
- the rain pours even more and the fire is put out
- the worshippers surround the son and carry him up on their shoulders
- the father goes up his son and hugs him
- another devastating scream is heard
- village person runs by with his clothes on fire
- father and son look at each other
- son starts playing
- father starts to dance
- the screen fades out
the end

Revised Animatic: 9/17

I revised the previous animatic because it was too rough. I redrew all the images and added more sequences so the actions would be more clear. 
When I presented it class, I realized that the ending was still unclear and people were not able to understand the relationship between the raindance and the rain falling to put out the fire. Also the father's character looks too similar to the son so I have to make more of a distinction. Therfore I will first need to redesign the father's character.

I will also need to simplify the story as it needs to be understandable by my audience, Indian children between the ages of 8-12 yrs.

These were some possible changes that the class suggested to me that I might help clarify the story and simplify it:

- It needs to be clear that the rain falls when the father does his rain dance, so I will get rid of the thought bubble which shows him putting out the fire in the initial scenes.

- The ending will probably make more sense and be more enjoyable if the father's rhythm changes when the boy plays the drum and then it rains heavily. This would be good for animation because I can make his movements look really funny and make it all about the animation.

I will use these suggestions and integrate them in my original story as it was much clearer and the kids liked it. 

Final Character Design

Bong from Rohini Metharam on Vimeo.
These were the revised designs for my character. From my testing and research about the types of cartoons that children watch, I found that my children in my target age group have a tendency to like more human characters. So I added some more features to the favorite characters that my audience chose such as a nose and mouth.

Summer character design tests

Based on my feedback from the initial character designs, I redesigned my characters and tested it with a bunch of kids from my friend Natasha's dance class. These were all Indian kids and were in my age range 8-12 years. I tested the designs by showing them to the kids that were here and asked them to pick which characters they liked. Some of the kids were not around so I sent them a survey through survey monkey so they could choose which characters they liked. I did not get many responses through the survey, only two 13 year olds, one 8 year old and a 6 year old.

These were the results:

Revised character designs

These are the revised characters that I used to test with my audience.

Initial character designs

These were the first set of characters that I designed in the summer. 
This character appealed to a younger age group than my target audience.

These characters were too interesting so I had to redesign them to be simpler. Also they had too much of a tribal reference.

Animation Test

Animation Test from Rohini Metharam on Vimeo.

This was the first animation test after I first rigged my character using the setup machine and the face machine (two maya plugins used to help setup character rigs).  

I setup key poses using the reference footage I took with an actress who did some possible character moves for me. After I set up the key poses using the frame number from after effects, and then did the in-betweens. This also helped me with the timing to get the movements on the right beats.

These were some of the realizations I had:
- I need to remodel the legs because they are too thick
- I need to remodel the hands because the fingers are too thin
- I will need to fix the weight painting using the new and more efficient techniques we are being taught in the character rigging lab.
- The face machine does not work well when the character mesh is one as the file becomes too big and my computer slows down tremendously.
- I will need to figure out how to optimize the mesh so that the face machine can still be used to set up the controls for the face.

The successful parts of the test were that I know the body rig works well and I can synchronize my animation to the sound of drum beats.

More modifications to my story

This is the story board with modifications made. Here the brother has been removed from the story.

This is the animatic for the board.

Thesis story animatic from Rohini Metharam on Vimeo.

This was a very rough animatic that goes with this storyboard. It  was too rough so I  had to redo the animatic so that there is more detail and the story is easier to follow. 

Modifications to the Initial Story

Link to the pdf of this storyboard

So... since the initial story worked well for me, I decided to stay with the same concept. I wanted to show how the boy discovered sound and so I decided to add a portion to the beginning. Here I also added another character, the boy's brother to show that the boy is a rebel. The idea here is that the brother makes fun of the main character for making sound with fruit. I also changed the ending. Now when the big fire happens, the father starts panicking and does his rain dance but the rain doesn't fall. So the son decides that he is going to help by running into the danger zone and burst all the landmines which burst when he beats it like the drums and water comes gushing out.
However, as I kept looking at this I realized that the brother in the beginning doesn't tie in with the rest of the story. Apart from that, it is clear that the boy is a rebel when he shows his father that he doesn't want to do the rain dance. So I decided that I would remove the brother from the story.

My initial Story Board

This is the story I had been working on since last semester. I have tested it out with 6 kids during the summer who liked the idea of the rain dance and the boy who wanted to be a drummer. 

Matthew: 7
Christopher :5
Akshay :6
and three random Indian children whom my friend Natasha teaches dace to who were of the ages: 12, 13, and 8

When asked if they liked the story and what they understood from it, they were able to tell me the story and the moral: "The boy was happy in the end because he was able to play the drums. He was able to prove to his father that it was ok for him to play the drums."

The characters shown in this board were put in as placeholders for the final ones.