Focus on the Face

So I’m finally starting a blog for this production.

Briefly, to sum up what I’ve mentioned on Twitter or in passing, Nemusidian will be an under 9 minute short animated movie made with the open source 3d software, Blender (or hashtag #b3d ), that I’m producing on my own.

This weekend I did some concept studies of the main character, Nemu. I feel like she’s close, but I haven’t quite totally hit the mark yet.

Getting her character correct at the quality I’m aiming for is the biggest challenge of the production. If she doesn’t work on screen the whole thing falls apart. Once I’ve got her character working the greatest hurdle will be behind me.

Nemu 0Nemu 1Nemu roughNemu Heads

The face is the most important part of the character. If I can get the face to work, I know the rest will follow. So this is my top priority. You’ll notice I’ve mainly been drawing heads.

I view these as studies or schematic diagrams for the 3d character. As it’s the 3d character that will be the end result, not a drawing so I’m not spending much time rendering them. The important thing is to get an understanding of the 3d form.

I need to understand the 3d form in order to model the character in 3d. So I’m trying to visualize her from at least 3 different angles (Front, Profile, and 3/4’s view, and any other angle I can think of).

Nemu 4

A majority of my time has been spent studying anatomy. I still have a lot to learn as you can see obviously from my sketches (Also my sketchbook thread on CGSociety); but I feel like I know enough now where I can suss out the errors that I make and the concepts are beginning to get to the point where they’re worth showing you to get some feedback.

And I’d love to hear your feelings in the comments below. Whether just stopping in to say hello (since this is my first post), or get into the nitty gritty and start a discussion. I’m all for it and I intend to spare you none of the details on this blog. Just keep it clean and civil. I’ll respond if I can, and try to keep out the riff raff.

So what was I saying?

My focus is on the face. And the important thing is to understand the form in 3d.

I’m noting the profile, and the shape(s) that creates. The importance of a strong silhouette is not to be ignored. Determining the shape of the silhouette from as many angles as possible is paramount to understand the form for 3d modelling. It’s also vital to creating what animators call “appeal”.

Nemu 3

Appeal isn’t a term used to judge how pretty a character looks, but how clear the outline and overall appearance of the character is in so much as it makes it easy for the eye to see what’s happening.

A strong silhouette from every angle will make her character instantly readable on screen so the audience will be focused on what she’s doing (the animation) and not where she is, or trying to discern which parts of her body are actually moving and where they’re going.

The goal of most animation isn’t to try to create a puzzle for the audience to solve. The goal is most often to convey some kind of emotion or character motivation to progress the story. So everything possible within reason to aid in that clarity should be done. That’s the basic idea of “Appeal” in animation terms.

Of course it’s easy to get carried away with appeal, especially for an animator for instance who might be focused on just one individual shot at a time and not looking at the broader picture (that the goal is to make a whole movie).

It’s important to remember that Story Context is the main driver of clarity for the audience and appeal is always a secondary tool to story.

But that’s getting a bit off topic. I might go into that more in a future post…

So in these studies I’m trying to find a strong silhouette from all angles that captures her character.

Getting the eyes right is crucial. I’m liking the look a lot of a fairly wide brow, especially together with what I think will  be a very small, rounded jaw. The eyebrows will probably peak high on the brow and it’ll accentuate the forehead which is covered by the bandanna/ headdress.

Nemu 2

The design of the bandanna is also a crucial aspect of her character. Not the texture printed on it; that’s a somewhat lower priority, but the silhouette and shapes it creates around the top of the head and interaction with the hair. I’ve always envisioned her with a bandanna pretty much as I’ve drawn but I’m interested in possibly experimenting with some other ideas… maybe not even a bandanna. I don’t know, how do you feel about it?

The cheeks are defined by the silhouette of the whole head and the skull shape underneath (The Zygomatic bone). I feel like the pronounced cheekbones are a good fit but maybe a bit softer and not such a sharp angle like I’ve drawn in the sketches.

For the hair I’m pretty set on a straight black just sort of hanging out from the bandanna. I’m not sure on the length, but for technical reasons it’ll probably be easier to keep it short (Hair is notoriously difficult to work with in 3d animation so the less of it getting in the way the better. And beyond that Blender has a lot of issues animating hair -though it’s been making strides in rendering hair lately -but movement and rendering are two entirely separate problems. So it’s already going to be a challenge. No need to make it harder unnecessarily.)

Other than all of that I’m just trying to vary things wherever I can to experiment. Adding little dangly things, accessories, changing the bandanna or the features around a bit with each drawing. If I know the cheek works in one drawing I might change it up in the next one just to experiment to see what works.

But I’m also trying to duplicate features. It’s not okay to just get lucky and get a face that looks good because the whole point is to be able to understand how the forms are laid out. I need to be able to draw it again. Luck is not good.

Not only for this design, but I’ll be doing storyboards and also full poses for her outfit design as well so I’ll need to be able to draw this face many times and have a total and complete understanding to model and animate it for the movie.

Whew thanks for reading if you stuck around! Please leave comments below if you did. I’d love to hear from you. Your thoughts/ feelings on my workflow, or on my designs, or any questions or comments you might have, I’ll really appreciate it.

If you felt this post was interesting it’d really mean a lot if you shared it with your friends. There should be some social networking buttons below, but if not, you know how to copy/paste a link right?

Also, bear with me. I just threw this blog up and haven’t had time to break it in yet. If you spot any horrors, let me know.

If you have social media you can follow me on Twitter @mikhailpschalk. I’m most likely to post new updates and things in-between there first.

I’ve also started a Facebook Page for this short:

If you’re on Facebook, giving it a like would really mean a lot.

And you can subscribe to the RSS feed and be updated that way through a service like Feedly or Digg Reader. (RSS feed links on the footer and sidebar)

Links to things mentioned in this post:
My Sketchbook
Gray’s Anatomy Online
Facebook Page


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