BBC N.I. challenges Ulster University Animation students to produce a 5 - 10 sec animation/video of their brand logo. We were tasked over three days to create an idea that would become a presentation to BBC N.I. representatives by the end of the week. The idea could be whatever we chose, as long as the project stayed to the brand guidelines, had the logo resolve at the end frame, the animation/videos must be clear and understandable for an audience.
Final Year's were tasked as the leaders for their teams.We were asked to help and guide the other years into their project. Our own contributions to the actual task had been ordered to a minimum (meaning stepping back and allowing the new students to hold the creative freedom). The goal, as team leader, was to encourage creative communication of ideas from the 1st years, (welcome them into the process of the course, put them on the spot). Also to push the 2nd years from their comfort zones. We were given three days to complete our task. The first question was to answer "What does the BBC N.I. meant to us?" In Week Zero there are no wrong answers.
"A leader leads by example"
Leadership; it's a difficult process and one I'm still learning as I go. I don't usually take control often times... but when I'm challenged to take action like this, I'm willing to push my own boundaries and try to make it the best experience I can. It was a difficult challenge and I was eager. Reading has helped me understand and solve many difficult challenges, and it did so again. Two current books I've recently been reading: The Book Of Leadership: How to Get Yourself, Your Team and Your Organisation Further Than You Ever Thought Possible;, by Anthony Gell and Simple Thinking: How To Remove Complexity from Life and Work;, by Richard Gerver. What I've learned and taken from these books is to live and act with resilience, authenticity and passion, believe in your own ideas without the need to seek approval and to refresh your thoughts, behaviours and actions. As for the leading side - most successful leaders do have one vision that sparks to action motivating enthusiasm from their teams, using optimism and realism to inspire intense loyalty from their teams.
Having a genuine interest in each members' own ambition and passion, I was curious to find out what skills they could bring to the table with this project and fit them to the role that would benefit them. Finding out a little bit of their own backgrounds and particular interests, I saw they all were very much passionate drawers. The question I asked them was: what were their ambitions for taking this course? What I found was that most had a genuine interest in animation, 2d animation and were keen drawers. Only one member shared an uncertainty of not feeling they had any ambitions for animation fearing they might be on the wrong course. We all assured that everyone was in the same boat and that many people on the course start out that way, but they soon find something they didn't know they could do and love it. The two 1st years were a little nervous and timid at first and I really felt allowing them to communicate their own passions would motivate them with confidence to contribute with their own ideas.
One struggle I faced with the 1st years and most of the team was, that they seemed to have a need to rely on my last word on every matter/decision. I sensed this lack of confidence early on and decided to act upon it and shake it out of them; so they would accept their own judgements as a vital contribution to the team. I clarified this was not my project, that it was a team effort; so, everyone had to contribute and had a say in every matter/decision. Still, this attitude did not shift from their minds I could sense no confidence with members of the team, many times they would panic under pressure, or become anxious with other teams' projects, which distracted them from focusing on their own main task.
At some point in the process, word had spread around the rooms that various teams were developing similar ideas; this sent a shock wave through my own team, as we were one of many with this problem. However, remembering to lead by example, I stayed calm and optimistically reassured my team that this did not matter it was simply that "all great minds think alike", and this did not mean we could not be original with our own vision. I needed to be responsible, taking charge of this matter. From then, I noticed a change, the team became very enthusiastic and willing with the idea we had chosen, however, now they were becoming their own worst enemy by allowing themselves to be stressed about the similar idea situation. There was no going back, we had to move forward with the idea we had. Time was not on our side and I was positive we would get there if we could just keep it together.
We were given a team no. (Team 1) and the time slot 6 pm evening news; after working through our research we all came to the conclusion that the demographic for this time slot was people who were home from work and spending family time.
Our idea was to create a rotoscope of a cup of tea. It would be a pan up shot of steam forming into the BBC N.I. logo. How we would make this happen was a problem to solve. The original idea was to try and find props and a set, to stage out live footage of a tea cup. This was before we had settled on an idea for a simple pan up shot. Our complications for this approach would mean having to purchase a lot of props and find somewhere to film it. It would have to be quick as we did not have a lot of time, and so due to the time restriction we abandoned this idea. Below are some storyboard explorations for how we would film this idea, that I drew for the team, this was also to explain and demonstrate to the two first years which when they were thinking about their own storyboards they should fill the page and think of multiple compositions and layout.
We pitched out ideas to our lecturer and it was his suggestion that referred us back to an earlier idea we had for a pan up shot. This was the 'green light' we were looking for and with our idea in place, we set out to figure how we would create this idea. What we finally decided on was to create a 3D setup modelling assets like a cup, and table etc. and rotoscope animation from the layout playblast. What the team focused on beforehand was to work out the design and layout for the piece to figure out how this would look. We had done some research into how steam from a cup formed, and thought about how we could animate this... our only option was to create fluid simulations in Maya and rotoscope the playblast video frame-by-frame.
Above you will see the ideation process for different approaches we discussed before tackling any of the actual work. As examples of reference, we looked at old BBC logo animations that came from the past and had an idea to incorporate old and new with our own version. This idea was abandoned as one lecturer questioned out what we were trying to say with this idea. We could not think of a good answer to support our idea address this question...
Below are some of the visual designs and references examples for research into the formation of steam; I set a task for the two first years to create the visual design stylisation of the steam.
The design of the cup was also very important, as this would also set the mood we were after. We all agreed mugs would not be pleasing to look at. So we decided to go with a teacup, as this was elegant, very pleasing and instantly recognisable that it was tea, not coffee.
When thinking about colour, we hit a bit of a problem. Our idea was to incorporate the brief's theme of colour palette into the background, however, when we did this, it suggested too cute and childish in style/tone... which we definitely did not want. We had been discussing what sort of time the 6pm slot was and our perceptions of this time were relaxation, comfort, and a positive atmosphere. It was also a time when people were coming home from work and spending family time. So, wanting to stick to this idea, we wanted our piece to retain these qualities. We weren't looking for something that would be overcrowded and busy, viewers would not be interested in seeing that kind of content at this time. We wanted it to be a subtle approach, something simple with a sense of suffocation. I feel this piece shows this in one simple idea that is straight and direct to the point. You instantly recognise the feelings and atmosphere of the piece... we knew this should be something directed to the adult demographic, one idea we feel fits this time slot well.
Above are some more layout examples we developed. One member produced these drawings to figure out what we could add to the background. We were originally thinking about tiles; but, this became too overcrowding and distracting, so it would easily lose the point we were trying to make. The .gif was the final layout test before rotoscoping. I modelled the cup in Maya; another team member focused on the lighting, layout and camera movements for the playblast. Once we finalised the layout playblast and fluid simulations, we sent these videos through to the 1st years for rotoscoping frame-by-frame.
One idea we had had was to have the logo forming by fluid simulation I created in Maya; a lecturer gave us the idea to create a quick simulation, then with After Effects revert the video to play backwards. This idea we any earlier idea we had been thinking about, but abandoned it as we thought of a simpler way of doing it, which would fit within the 2D style was to have the logo fade into focus, from the steam.
Above, another playblast video of the steam simulation we did use... this video was before rotoscoping frame-by-frame.
One of the second years had a very appealing design, her line work/ design for steam formations was beautiful, which we all liked. I tasked the 1st years and the placement student for animation. They were challenged to rotoscope the steam fluid simulations, I had created in Maya. I shaded the simulation's colour in green, so this would be easier for the animators to see when tracing over their frames in Photoshop.
By the end of the week, we held a presentation in front of representatives from the BBC to showcase our work. This was a brief 1 min or less pitch, in which we introduced our idea and then presented the final animation.