YEAR 2 Environments project

Went back to college this week and have just been informed that my project for this term will be environments it was daunting at first but when i started thinking about it, technically everything is an environment of some sort so its a very loose project, narrowing it down may be challenging and coming up with the best possible idea is going to be a challenge considering the time we have, a lot of research is key for this project!

My group:
Josh Coldham
Gareth Peck
Sarah Piedot
Callum Dallimore

In terms of groups i think i've been very lucky i've worked with a few of these before and am looking forward to sharing ideas as i feel the people in our group are open and creative enough to come up with some pretty interesting ideas!

I started my environments project with a very basic and very unoriginal brainstorm! i always do this to get the train of thought moving because i find that certain keywords in my brainstorm become vital to my project,i also wrote down the definition of environment because  i thought that it mite explain something different as apposed to just an area of some place,  and a key word for me in the definition of environment was SURROUNDINGS because a surrounding can literally be anything, its so vast! but a word that came to mind also while brainstorming was HABITAT.The definition of Habitat is "a type of environment in which an organism or group normally occurs" i think habitat is a great word to look at because it defines what kind of characters (if any) or even plant life (if any) you can have in a certain sought of habitat! Below are some habitats and the organisms that inhabit it.....

Today i found a great environments video by complete accident my brother was trying to show me george lucas' first film "THX 1138" before i checked that out i remembered that lucas' sound company was called "THX" and as my brother is doing a sound design course i thought id show him the video i found was actually more helpful to me than it was to him...

what i liked about this video was how the natural environment worked with the sound to make a musical piece, what i also like is the visuals look quite natural but the sound suggests its quite technological in terms of machinery and stuff.

Week 2:
The first week of my environment project was pretty slow if im honest, getting back into the swing of things was a challenge but the biggest problem was researching, i had great difficulty in knowing what things to look for but hopefully it was just a block and it will pass. Also some good progress came out of today (Tuesday the 2nd of November) we have came up with a final concept for our environments project HOOORAAAYY! we have also come up with a team name "The Essential Mike Smith Appreciation Society" or as im going to call it on this blog for the purpose of being lazy (TEMSAS) with a name like that were definitely gonna get the grade ;)
Also Callum has very generously offered to be the producer of the group which is a huge responsibility lets hope he can handle it HAHA!!

Now enough of the little bits and bobs, now to the main thing THE CONCEPT IDEA.......

                                              The Weather Maestro

The idea is pretty much about an inventor who creates a weather machine which is an organ and he plays the keys and each key has different weather consequences,this is set in a lighthouse which inside is actually more of a laboratory. the idea is still very early in its production so a proper story line is not definite, although we all decided that we wanted the music to interact with the animation, my brother is doing a sound design course so we've decided to work closely with him and his friend to get the desired outcome.The concept for this idea is organised chaos.

So during this week there is going to be a lot of conceptual and pre-production pieces,
especially the design of the lighthouse, maybe some experiments with texturing,lighting and what kind of colours we want to use. Research is essential this week, without the research then my conceptual stuff will be weak and i think an insight into the history of lighthouses and maybe even organs will just be worth researching and i also think looking at the mathematical theory behind organised chaos is worth going into, and maybe looking at why natural disasters happen? either way theres a lot of potential to develop this idea...

Shedding some light on lighthouses:

I managed to find this very informative website on lighthouses (
and i thought what better way to start researching the lighthouse than to look at the anatomy of a lighthouse, i also thought that it would be good too look at so that we can get a basic idea of modelling the object, what I've noticed on this lighthouse is that it is very basic and the only things that are involved in the lighthouse are actually necessary so it may need to be taken under advisement that i need to incorporate all these into my design.

I also found this video on Youtube of a Lighthouse lens  flash, i thought that this would be incredibly helpful when it comes to the lighting process of the project, maybe the lighthouse light could work well with the sound of the piece, like a disco? but then again, that could be considered, incredibly tacky!

I also managed to find this video (on youtube) of what the inside of a Lighthouse lens looks like!!

i thought it would be interesting to look at the mechanism inside the lens and the design because i thought it would be inspiring and the mechanical side of things just looks really fascinating!

So how does a Fresnel lens work?
The Fresnel lens reduces the amount of material required compared to a conventional spherical lens by breaking the lens into a set of concentric annular sections known as "Fresnel zones", which are theoretically limitless.
In the first (and largest) variations of the lens, each zone was actually a different prism. Though a Fresnel lens might look like a single piece of glass, closer examination reveals that it is many small pieces. It was not until modern computer-controlled milling equipment (CNC) could turn out large complex pieces that these lenses were manufactured from single pieces of glass.
For each of these zones, the overall thickness of the lens is decreased, effectively chopping the continuous surface of a standard lens into a set of surfaces of the same curvature, with discontinuities in steps between them. In fact a Fresnel lens can be regarded as an array of prisms positioned in a circular fashion, with steeper prisms on the edges and a near flat convex center.
Fresnel lens' design allows a substantial reduction in thickness (and thus weight and volume of material) of the lens, at the expense of reducing the imaging quality of the lens, which is why precise imaging applications such as photography still use conventional bulky (non-Fresnel) lenses.
Fresnel lenses are usually made of glass or plastic; their size varies from large (old historical lighthouses, meter size) to medium (book-reading aids, OHP viewgraph projectors) to small (TLR/SLR camera screens, micro-optics). In many cases they are very thin and flat, almost flexible, with thicknesses in the 3-5 millimeter range. (information taken from wikipedia)

Bell Rock lighthouse:
Bellrock Lighthouse is the worlds oldest surviving sea washed lighthouse, 12 miles of the coast of Angus, Scotland the lighthouse was so brilliantly constructed that it has not been replaced or adapted in 200 years! The lighthouse got its name "Bell rock" because of an old legend that an abbot from Arbroath tried installing a warning bell on it, the bell merely lasted one year as it was stolen by a dutch pirate. the rock has caused many ship accidents as it lies just below sea level for a few hours a day!

the reason i uploaded this photo was because i thought this lighthouse had a lot of history and because it was one of the first i think its good to look at how minimalist it is but the main reason i uploaded it was because it has a story behind it, and i think maybe it could be relevant to my team and myself, it could even be considered to be inspiring!!

 Colossus of Rhodes:


last Wednesday Jared mentioned fog horns, fog horns allow the person in the light house to see what obsticles are in what direction because of the sound bouncing off of the object, this got me thinking that sound is very relevant to our project and maybe the sound and perhaps weather from our organ can come out of the fog horns!

Designs for lighthouses:

The Weather Machine:

Weather control is the act of manipulating or altering certain aspects of the environment to produce desirable changes in weather. Weather control can have the goal of preventing damaging weather, such as hurricanes or tornadoes, from occurring; of causing beneficial weather, such as rainfall in an area experiencing drought; or of provoking damaging weather against an enemy or rival, as a tactic of military or economic warfare. Weather modification in warfare has been banned by the United Nations.-wikipedia

I couldn't find much information on a weather machine because its just an idea/theory so i have to go on what i think it might look like or work like as apposed to fact!

The logical thing to do with the weather machine as its got sound playing out would be to make the an organ into a weather machine, so above is pretty basic a piano with an electronic box on the front so pretty standard but i feel its a strong enough idea!
I think this is my best idea because ive added a few other elements to it, on top of the keyboard is what is pretty much a fruit machine but instead of fruit its different weathers and depending on what it lands on depends on what the "Maestro"can play.

Modelling the Lighthouse

For Modelling the Lighthouse i wanted to start with the basics before i went technical, as im not exactly the best modeller but i felt it would be cool to check out modelling the basic shape of the lighthouse, so i just used various cubes and spheres to create them, i like them both in different ways but  still think the actual idea need a lot of improvement!

Okay so today i finished my final lighthouse design, i think it looks pretty good in a very simple way, together as a group we decided to make the lighthouse clean looking and traditional as apposed to tatty or abstract, this is because looking at other groups they all seem to have gone for the tatty and rusty effect and we thought we better try something a bit different so that we can stand out!

So here it is, the final lighthouse with the BASIC colouring, im really pleased with the majority of it and ive passed it on to sarah to give it the final tweaks and some texturing, i hope she takes good care of it haha :)

thought id also give you a playblast to look at! :)

Anyways after the modelling of the outside, i thought while sarah was working on the uv mapping and texturing id start on one of the inside rooms here are some concepts of my ideas i wanted to go for something that looked messy and untidy but had an old fashioned wooden cabin feel to it:

the beginnings of my model:

Okay so this is the basics of my room, i think it looks pretty decent so far although i think its still too early to tell, but texturing and a bit of colour will make this really stand out, HOWEVER, I have been told to do the animatic for this short film, and the narrative is more important right now, so i've sent this model around the group and seen if they can do anything to it while i work on the animatic....

HOWEVER HOWEVER, we also need to think about effects for weather such a rain and the sea etc, so i have asked josh if he would like to have a go at the animatic, josh is probably the strongest user in after effects so it seemed logical at the time, he agreed and is currently working on it now.
This is the Storyboard Callum did which i scanned in, i shall be e-mailing these to each group member but i uploaded it just to give an idea of what josh has to work with on the animatic its not a bad storyboard but theres a lot of gaps to fill in there. 

Creating waves 

I took the liberty of undertaking the challenge of making the waves in our environment, mostly because i thought it would be a useful thing to learn and i've always wondered how to do it so its more an act of curiosity, so i began with the standard google search of "creating waves in maya 2011" and after a few minutes of tedious skimming through i found a tutorial clear and simple enough for me to understand haha!
This is a link to the tutorial i followed
And here is the result of my first attempt:
I think it turned out really well, at times i think it looks a tad plastic like, but for a first attempt you can clearly tell what it is and i think if i was to use it as a final piece it wouldn't look to ridiculous BUT that doesn't mean i'm gonna settle for it ;)

Applying some fog maybe?

I think this looks okay for experimentation, however i don't think ill recommend using fog in our film i think it just makes things look dull and the fog effect looks pretty tacky.
I also added a camera to get a real feel of the motion in the waves

Okay Modelling the character:
It seems callum didn't feel up to the challenge of modelling the character and decided he didn't want a character because we was running short on time, so ive taken it upon myself to save the day and start modelling the character so thats my job for a few days below is my progress:

Above is the beginning stages, i think this ironically is going better than my character design with alex's project haha i like the simplicity of it, although theres not much point in going in to detail just yet!

for some reason, when i duplicated my mesh i got a rather ugly crack down the middle of it, THIS IS NOT PART OF THE MODEL, so ill report back when i sort the problem out.
  • My vertices could be crooked on the side
  • i didn't merge the vertices together

Turns outi stupidly didn't delete the faces on the side, but this stupid error just goes to show how much concentration is required when using maya, one small pathetic slip up can  hold you back 20mins (thats right, TWENTY MINUTES).


It seems after all my efforts in character modelling so far that Callum feels we should just not have a character in our environments project anyway due to the lack of time, this has ironically wasted my time and if im honest im pretty angry right now, but if this is what the majority of the group think is best then im just gonna have to go with it. However i personally think this could potentially slow us down EVERMORE SO as this means coming up with new storyboards and animatics, our whole project was based on this character reacting to the environment so i feel without the character this could potentially make our project very weak and there would have to be some pretty impressive texturing and modelling for us to get a decent grade. This whole predicament has put myself and others in a panic as to how well we are doing as a team in this project but we will just have to work harder.....should i continue modelling and rigging the character wasting more time if we dont use it? or should i keep it for experimentation and finish it hoping we change back to our original idea?....TBC

A calmer mood!
Having spoken to Jared he assured me that obviously environment is key and that is the biggest issue in the brief, i think being so caught up in this project made me lose sight of what the important thing is in the project and so I've messaged the guys (not exactly apologising as thats not my thing) but admitting that there right, if anything this has boosted my motivation for the project.

Creating Cogs:
Today we spoke altogether and decided that in a few of the rooms it would be cool to have some form of mechanism in the lighthouse perhaps maybe turning the Fresnel light so my next assignment for this project is to create some moving cogs, the cogs have to move constantly and in time so it would probably involve me entering some code, i've touched on entering equations before in my other project so hopefully this will be straightforward!

Modelling the Cogs- This was very straight forward just a matter of creating a circle and changing the subdivisions, and extruding the faces as cogs, below is my result!

so this is the basic model, were going for a dark rustic look so just a simple texture is needed.

This is the final outcome of the cogs, now all thats left is the coding which should be interesting, the most important thing is to keep them all in time with each other the small cogs have to work in half the time of the big cogs and they have to be exactly half the size so here goes....


ALL DONE! these cogs only took a few hours and i think they look decent enough, i don't think theres going to be that big in the scene so its not really essential that its textured beautifully but at least it looks decent enough for the scene! PARTY ON.

Well after my fun few hours with the cogs it appears my next task is to create some clouds for the outside of the lighthouse, it seems towards the end of this project my task has been more towards the elemental side of things, what with waves etc, but i don't mind, as everything in this project can be used later on in life so its all worth while, so i googled some tutorials, there are several ways i can do it, i can import an image of clouds onto an image plane and merely position it (sounds like the most straight forward choice) or i can use another fluid effect like the ocean which seems like it looks more natural so im going to give that a go first!

his is a sky dome that sarah created for me to act as sought of a backdrop for my clouds, all it is is a dome shape with a simple sky texture, i would've done it myself but sarah offered and i was pretty busy researching into this cloud lark.

The clouds final result:
This is a rendered test of my cloud and i think its definitely good enough! i can change the transparency and the colour to change the mood of the weather, but its gonna look very effective once its all put together

this is what the final render looks like i think it looks pretty effective now for the camera's!

This is a quick animatic that josh managed to whip up, just to give us an idea of the sounds and camera angles we all need, its not the clearest animatic but we've all spoken to each other and have a strong idea of what were going to do!

This is the opening sequence that i have been working on, i like it a lot because of the swooping actions although it could be improved i feel time is of the essence and if theres time after i can tweak it up a bit, but there is another scene callum wanted to try out so thats what im doing next,

I think this scene was definitely worth doing as theres some really effective stuff, it looks dark and gloomy which gives it a style GOOD TIMES!

There are 4 more parts to be done by josh, sarah, callum and gareth but we all have put input into every aspect below is a list of things and a few screen shots to show who has done what:
Callum was the producer, he made sure that everything was all on track and organised, he also modelled the inside of the top of the lighthouse, this involved all of the furniture inside it such as the organ, the machines and the telescope etc. Gareth modelled the hallway of the lighthouse and also textured it he did a very good job with all the colours and lighting giving it a regal and old fashioned effect, i was very impressed with the camera work he used and i think its a highlight of our project, Josh modelled the small green room and did some basic texturing he took elements of other peoples work and imported it into his(the sofa the books etc) but the majority was done by him he did a great job texturing the floor and it really gave it that grotty effect, then there was sarah who arrived last into the group and approached us, we would not have been able to do it without her she has helped so much with the texturing of the lighthouse i modelled and the room Callum modelled, she also textured a room that i modelled in the early stages of the project which we decided not to use, sarah also was a huge part mentally for the group, keeping a cool head and helping everyone! i myself modelled the lighthouse the sofa's the first room you see at the beginning of the blog (which was never used) the cliffs and i also created the waves and the clouds, modelled and textured the cogs and created a character (which got taken out due to lack of time) we all did the camera parts to our scenes we were working on, my brother daniel cowell also helped with some sound files!

In conclusion to this project we started off great at the beginning and the motivation of the team was strong it was just after the christmas holidays we started to lose our heads and thats why the project might have been slightly rushed, better time keeping is essential if i am to pursue this as a career and less time on pre-production, what should have been done was a week of planning, a week of storyboard and the rest of the time working towards the final piece!