Graphic Design and Animation Graduates 2012

Online portfolio and print on demand catalogs for Graphic Design and Animation graduates from the Department of Design 2012. On this page you will find our conference presentations, and by hovering over the menu groups on the left you can read contextual documents. You are welcome to attend our Grad Show, opening on 29 November 2012 at 6pm, and daily from 30 November to 6 December 9.30am – 4pm.

Johnathon Whiting

Johnathon Whiting

Constructing dreamscapes in 3d animated media

Design is holistic in nature and often collaborative, with narrative driving the communication needs, shaping the inter-connectivity of various parts with style forming the possibility of its resulted visual outputted creation, for an audience to share a projected reality.
People simply have a hunger for narrative; designers visually feed it in a planned manner

So what is a graphic designer but a conduit of ideas to reality?

My aim for this year was to understand the construction process and skills needed to create multi- tiered media production focusing in 3d animation, as well develop my skills as a 3d Generalist, with a long term goal of creating either my own or developing client’s intellectual properties.

To this end I undertook the development of a 3d animated film set in a dream scape, titled “Periphery” inspired and influenced by the works of Jim Henson’s 1988 “The Storyteller “series ,impressionistic works of Gustav Klimt and Claude Monet contrasting with the highly detailed work of the naturalist Ernst Haeckel and the ornamentation of the Victorian era baroque movement.

I wanted to examine the similarities of lucid dreams, computer games and books, all places for a short time a person can slip into and become someone/something other than what they are, experiencing a different and strange life, yet for that short time its reality becomes your reality.
As my planned output progressed I found myself more as a project manager with a team of myself, writing a script, organizing collaborators that supplied voice talent ,production considerations in relation to pre to post production resulting in the weaving of different skill sets and design considerations which proved often frustrating and time consuming but resulting in an ultimately rewarding experience.

There is no better teacher than doing, working hard and fighting against deadlines all to output a useful and attractive product. I had used my degree as a proving ground to constantly test what was possible not only in school related briefs, but also for future complex professional work that would be undertaken, were the need to output to a well finished product, that still entertained and informed while keeping the core essence of what it needed to communicate was due to well-crafted, theoretical and thoughtful practical design principles.

My initial idea for this project was to take a dreamscape setting some rules for the project, there needed to be contrast, a sense of hyper reality influenced by a baroque ascetic that resulted in a certain visual physicality while allowing through post production techniques the background and foreground to dissolve into abstracted shapes and patterns creating at times a sense of expansion or compression to enhance the drama of a scene.

This led into style, of all the options I could have chosen I decided on steam punk due to my personal interest and the level of technology that could be adapted, this sub-genre of speculative science fiction and fantasy ,creates a vision of a history that never was set in a 1890s environment.

This immediately imposed its own set of rules, the language used and its syntax, clothing worn, devices and landscape and a sense of some quest archetypes of man vs.environment, unknown and against himself as it was a renaissance of science and industry tying to make sense of the natural world and the mystically of previous empires and the spiritual unknown.
This genre while having certain troupes had the flexibility that I could use and adapt to create designs and curiosities for my audience in a relatable epoch of possible history.

My audience is in the range of 13-45 both male and female as this story becomes more abstract and surreal, tension creating horror elements as dreams can slip into nightmares, implying danger or loss, a hero needs to defeat something and face trials, else why care.
Initially a cast of many characters but as I developed the script multiple times, merged them down into a core story, all the time asking the simple question what would make my audience care about them, what do they look like are they human, or talking animals akin to the characters from “Wind in the Willows”

Andrew Stanton director of Pixar’s UP, Wall-E and writer of Bugs life and finding Nemo spoke about the importance of giving an audience what they need not what they want
“The unifying theory of 2+2,make the audience put things together don’t give them 4, give them 2 +2, the elements you provide and the order you place them in is crucial in whether you succeed or fail in engaging with the audience”{1}

This helped create a story that would allow me to be coherent, but understand, the script is a guide and the story will continue to evolve during production then again in post, I should embrace letting people make their own discoveries and realizations, it’s my job to communicate visually enabling their enjoyment of the narrative.

I decided on humans Characters, as I felt there was a need to test myself in the creation of working versions that would in turn legitimize my story as informed by my research, people like looking at people. It gives a sense of scale and basic relatable human connectivity, which increases as the level of detail gets closer to reality yet pulls away from its universal appeal and acceptability of stylistic choices and this was worth investigating.
There is a term called the “uncanny valley”, in which you have created a realistic image of a living thing, and it just doesn’t seam correct, as if it was simply mimicking a living creature while trying to pass its self off as one, yet as a image becomes simpler, ego is projected from the user to the image creating detail and improving its widespread acceptance and appeal.
I felt this was a balance needing exploration, as I’m sure it would come up in the future, and understanding its possible impact on my own project would inform any future decisions on style choices with the fundamental knowledge of construction from face to overall body structure was worth a solid investment of my time.

As I developed other characters for my narrative one that was giving me problems, was a Phoenix. I had spent considerable time investigating and testing different methods of making a bird look like it was on fire, and then asked myself, what was the core of its nature, that could be visually communicated, it was a mythical creature a construct of legend and stories, a creature that would rise from its own ashes in a cycle of renewal.

In my research for the development of my characters, I’d come across the graphic artist Scott McCloud and his deconstruction of icon images.
“When we abstract an image through cartooning, we’re not so much eliminating details as we are focusing on specific details. By stripping down an image to its essential “meaning”, an artist can amplify that meaning in a way that realistic art can’t”{2}

What if, my Phoenix was fire shaped like a bird, not a bird that was on fire?

Un-textured Phoenix and egg, which would flake away to ash when animated

This then followed on to other considerations such as hair leaves, smoke, fire. What did I visually need it to be.
The Environments I created reinforced the tone in the story, from the 1st act in set in a train station that was a mixture of the 1851 building crystal palace and a dirigible hanger constructed from iron struts, cut stone and glass, its purpose was to be an introduction to the audience establishing an inventive but recognizable place setting the style rules in the opening shots and keeping with that idea of the periphery being on the edge of a new place as stations, airports and harbors tend not to be destinations but way points in a overall journey

My second act was my hero character August traveling in a natural environment which becomes a journey away from the familiar into the unknown, the further he and his guide venture off the beaten path, all the while traveling towards their destination the setting sun as a beacon caught in the golden hour between day and night.
While my 3rd act involved the combination of the 1st two acts, where our character has reached the destination to find it to be not what he expected and the full revealing of a previously foreshadowed element of man vs. the supernatural.

Production involved a great deal of learning new skill sets and refining others, I had been using the Auto desk product 3dsmax for the last couple of years, and due to this familiarity used it as my production tool along with Photoshop.
As this project progressed I was discovering about my preconceived skill level and the simple importance of just doing and spending the time learning to achieve a desired goal, one of my previous weaker skill sets was rigging complex characters, I knew a well thought out system of character manipulation would enhance my work flow and final output, as in conjunction with the modeling the two had a symbioses of making and doing, which made sense to spend a large amount of time accounting for correct manipulation ,as when animating there should be natural bends, flow and movement without strange distorting of the animated mesh and so time spent early would save unnecessary drama further down the pipeline.

While this was one program, like learning a language in the same family, it has advanced and empowered the learning of other related packages with corresponding skill sets carried across. Reinforcing my general attitude to creating, just because I can’t do a thing, doesn’t mean I can’t research how to do it, learn to do it or find someone who can do it for me, time is money, yet being proactive in my approach and adaptive means when there is no money I will still find a way.

The technical skills I gained while creating this project acted as an enabler of design vision, enhancing what I could do with my available resources, creating informed design decisions, that while there was early project creep, it wasn’t as rampant as it could have been and would be utilized when this project entered further stages of development.

Creating the 3d models and special effects went through many iterations tweaks and fixes, there was always the core question, do they all fit together, are they all part of the same world and what needs to be added to taken away to best work with the script not dilute the narrative, do they fit my initial style plan and what needs to be done to stay on track.

Two levels of process in my pipeline was the modeling of complex models then un-wrapping them for future texture placement, the checkers show where the texture would be warped and need to be accounted for. I was creating 4096 textures and then reducing them to 2048 or 1024 depending on how close the camera would be, taking into consideration system resources and rendering overhead.

When recording my voice artist there was not only the practical need to construct a small booth with sound absorbing foam and correct microphone levels but to really get into the collaborative nature of someone else acting your script, I would direct them in what I’d need from the beat of the scene to their interpretation of it and over a number of trials get the take which then went through further editing to create merged voice track.

Just as the choice of type, placement and scale changes the tone and pace of a publication, website or motion graphics, influencing, changing what had been written to how it could be read, the speed of the delivery the nuanced tone of the spoken language its volume and sense of energy has a trickle down effect influencing the integrity of my proposed finished scene, setting a guide for timing and body language nuance that would be animated to, creating a symbiotic pact of sound and visuals.
This process I’ve then used in sound and music development and choices, how would these sounds further the narrative enhancing the visuals, creating clues and foreshadowing and rewarding a viewer both visually and audibly.

Previous projects had involved printed media, interactive digital works and packaged units combing the two, as I believe that design needs to communicate across media and this experience has allowed me to create work that is both tactile and socially/ technologically relevant, which informed my decisions for the output in this stage of my project as the reality of the scope unfolded, I simply adapted to have my project fit the scope needed for this phase of its production.

I will be creating a multimedia press kit/Art of publication for my short animated film, consisting of a web based interface on cd, showing and detailing finished animated characters, devices and environments, printed matter in the form of postcards, and interactive folding books detailing my work and myself all contained in a firm printed cover.
Its purpose to demonstrate animated props, environments and characters examining their construction method and place in this stylized dreamscape.

A finished Showcase not only for the skills I have developed ,the design considerations and my passion for this field but the project I have undertaken and a visual teaser of its intended finished form.

{1}”Andrew Stanton: The Clues to a Great Story.” TED: Ideas worth Spreading. TED Confrences, LLC, Mar. 2012. Web. 03 May 2012. <;.

{2}”McCloud, Scott: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art .Tundra publishing. 1993.Print


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