Here I will discuss the process of making the Ident, discussing various ideas that may have been scrapped, techniques that were learnt and talk a bit about the process of both using Autodesk Maya and Adobe AfterEffects but also what I learnt, and the design process.
So our initial brief gave us the following as the Context;
“It seems that every company that wants a strong industry presence has a cool ident on their webpage. The new startup games company you have just joined better be ready to play with the big boys and have an ident that says here I am you better take notice”
To get ideas at the start of the project, we were put in groups of 4 or 5 and brainstormed ideas for a company and what an Ident or logo could be for that company. My group (which to the best of my recollection consisted of myself, Chris, Oli and Stefan) came up with the name Farsighted Studios and we suggested either something of an eyeball concept (which I believe Chris followed up on somewhat for his Ident) or of a person standing in the foreground gazing towards someone in the distance, who would represent the future. I decided to stick with the name Farsighted Studios for my Ident as I had one or two ideas of my own that leapt to mind. My first idea for an Ident was to parallel the idea of someone in the foreground and someone in the distance with the text of “Farsighted” in the foreground and “Studios” in the distance. The camera at the start would only allow you to see “Farsighted” which itself would be partially obscured by a heavy depth of field effect, and as the camera panned across you would see “Studios” and when the text lined up to read “Farsighted Studios” it would come into focus.
After getting this idea working in Autodesk Maya, at least in a basic form, I began to wonder if my second idea wouldn’t be slightly more applicable to my ideas of what “Farsighted Studios” would mean, at least in the beginning. I was well aware that the meaning behind a name like that could change over time as it would be unrealistic to expect them to want to make the same product again and again, ad nauseam, so I wanted something that conveyed my initial message, or at least intrigued, but was not so specialist that it would become out of date as the studio moved on. At this point, Farsighted Studios meant to me something that was looking towards the future of the industry and tried to make products that were innovative and tried to move their chosen genre forward. However I didn’t mean this in a revolutionary way, in the way that Grand Theft Auto III changed gaming forever, but that Farsighted Studios wasn’t interested in making games or multimedia products that were par for the course, and they wanted to try to do something different that would make the player think “Oh, that’s a cool idea!”. The easiest parallel I could draw is that Gears of War was an immensely popular and influential cover-shooter series, but the first game in the series wears its influences on its sleeve and the creators have admitted that Band of Brothers, Resident Evil 4 and KillSwitch were all the primary influences for the feel of the game and how it would play. In this sense I thought Farsighted Studios would try to mix its influences together to create something that may seem familiar, but that you hadn’t seen done before.
I did run into problems with my first Ident idea, as the depth of field proved tricky to get working, with key frames not working as intended and the effect generally being quite underwhelming. However by this point I had decided to move on to my second Ident idea, which is what I ended up producing. My second idea involved a camera panning upwards through a starry-sky, of sorts, to reveal two separate words of neon text, “Farsighted” and “Studios”. The camera would briefly zoom in on each word because they would move together to form “Farsighted Studios” and the camera would continue its ascension, and the Ident would end. I did also toy with the idea of having the camera be obscured by lens flare in between “scenes” so it would flow something like;
– Camera ascends
– Lens flare
– Farsighted Studios
– Lens flare
– Camera ascends/the end
However the Ident was short enough that putting in the lens flare felt like putting in something for the sake of it, so I scrapped that idea. Having never done any animation work in Maya prior to the Ident project, getting the camera to move the way I wanted it to was quite tricky but when I got it to work it was quite satisfying and now feels like something I could do in a few minutes, although I’d like to experiment with multiple cameras and view points in the future. One of the hardest parts, and one that was immensely time-consuming, was getting the right material for the text. I wanted neon because although in films like Blade Runner or games like Deus Ex it seems futuristic, it’s something that has been used for signs etc for decades and would thus give something of a retro-futuristic feel. I experimented with several different materials but settled on the Phong material in Maya. I also added a visor brush called Marque Rows, to substitute for the starry-sky effect in Maya.
Ultimately this is the Ident idea I have continued with and ended up producing.
I’d used Autodesk Maya for some 3D modelling before but I’d never tackled anything to do with animation so I started off with plenty of ideas but no idea how to actually go about executing them. As I’ve discussed, my first idea for the Ident ended up having some technical problems such as the Depth of Field that I couldn’t get to work via Keyframes to the point where I’d already decided to move on to my second Ident idea as it was slightly more complex in terms of animation but by this point I’d “learnt” enough that I felt comfortable that I could pull it off.
With both of my Ident ideas there would never be any 3D modelling involved and instead it would be focusing more on the text, design and any effects I added after that. After creating the text of “Farsighted” and “Studios” my first Ident was quite simple to make as all I had to do then was create a camera, place it, and create key frames to “log” the animation and position of the camera across the one hundred and fifty or so frames of animation that made up the first Ident. I found this quite easy although assistance from Steve in terms of using a camera that “revolved” around a focal point was quite useful as it enabled the camera panning to be quite smooth and gave the sense that you were looking at something in particular and meant to focus on it. The use of Depth of Field has to help the Ident has more to it than just text and camera panning.
Although I settled on the (above) storyboarded idea for my final Ident, it has gone through a few variations, especially once “development” on the core idea finished. I have mentioned the core idea for the Ident previously in the Making Of and I want to discuss a little bit about making it and the various versions that ended up being made. So the basic gist of the Ident was to have Farsighted Studios and a camera, set against a starry sky with neon effects to have a sense of intrigue, mystery and retro-futurism. Getting the text to look right on Maya was slightly time-consuming at first, as originally I had wanted something of a Daft Punk font and ended up with what I currently have. I’m quite happy with the result though because I feel as if it still achieves the look I desired, but simply in a different way. I also think that although my original idea for an Ident would have been more blatant with its inspirations, I feel as if the current form of the Ident feels a bit more original because it’s not so obvious as to what certain things were inspired by and thus helps it feel a bit more original.
The first version of the new Ident had the text, which runs across all versions, and the aforementioned visor brush “Marque Rows” which were originally put in to substitute for a starry sky. The animation of the camera remains the same across all versions of the Ident. I spent two or three one-hour lessons applying various effects in Adobe AfterEffects to the Ident, to see what fitted and tweaking settings etc, but to be perfectly honest I didn’t really like the look of any of them. I exported it from AfterEffects in 1080p and the file size was about 1.8gb (for a 8-9 second video!) and for some reason it lagged tremendously on Windows Media Player and VLC so I uploaded it to YouTube and it ran just fine.
I was pretty happy with this version of the Ident because it felt satisfying to see the end product after making something and tweaking it for a month or more. However with the addition of the Cumulus Clouds from Visor I wanted that to give it something more. My original idea had been to have 3D fog but implementing that proved problematic to the point where I couldn’t get it working at all and with the deadline fast approaching I went back to Maya and added in the Cumulus Clouds. I was happy with the result and particularly liked how the “light” from the Phong material on the text seemed to reflect through the Clouds, although I half-suspect that is just my eyes playing tricks on me. However after seeing this and uploading it to YouTube, I was happy but also felt as if it were still lacking in something and that now I’d got everything else out the way I could try the starry sky effect again.
In the beginning I had no idea how I would achieve it and I experimented with a few visor brushes before settling on the Marque Rows brush. At this stage I decided to try to do something akin to a side-on, squarish sky box with a very high-resolution image. Oli had suggested I change the camera movements so that rather than the camera moving upwards it panned up as if to mimic someone stretching their neck to look up towards the sky, but I was happy with the look of the Ident so far and didn’t want to change it. However as a completely alternate version I’d be interested in the idea for the future especially if we were to make our Idents again, either as a future project or even professionally update them!
Getting an image to use was quite easy as I sourced it from Google Images after looking for the highest resolution textures that it let me search for. After applying a Blinn material to my Polygon Plane I changed the texture to downloaded image and checked it in Render View and it was black, I couldn’t see a thing. I had Hardware Texturing etc applied and checked with Steve if he had any ideas and, despite having an Area Light I quickly realized that the image was too high a resolution for Maya to efficiently load it…or something like that. I’m not sure of the exact reason why but I put the image into Photoshop and realised it was at an insanely high-resolution of 10000×7200 at least, so I downsized the image to a 4K resolution (3480×2160) so that it was a far more reasonable resolution and file size and saved the new version as a PNG and re-imported it into Maya and it worked just fine! I’m happy to say I was also able to somewhat help Eddie with a very similar problem with his Ident where some textures were of too high a resolution so Maya wouldn’t display them, although because he had a complex environment in comparison to my Ident he reduced some of his textures to 512×512 which looked just fine in a lit scene.
I double checked how my Ident looked in Render View and I was quite happy so I set up a new project in Maya, made sure the Render Settings were HD1080 etc and Batch Rendered as pngs to put it into AfterEffects. Knowing how much Maya could cripple average PCs I was hesitant about adding things like Anti Aliasing etc as options for Render Settings but I went ahead and did so anyway because with a render that didn’t include a particularly complex scene I felt it was important to keep the image clean. When watching the final product at 1080p I find that this is especially evident. At this point I didn’t anticipate adding anything in AfterEffects apart from using it to export it as a video, but I intend to spend some time on Monday testing AfterEffects out again, just incase anything seems to suit the Ident and work well with it.
With the apparently final version of my Ident in AfterEffects I experimented with some effects and I had much the same reaction as earlier, that none of them seemed to fit too much or worked. Happy with how my Ident looked, I added it to the Render Queue and after checking the settings (1080p, 60fps) I exported it. The file size when finished was quite large at 3GB or so, and I have now uploaded it to YouTube where you can see the finished Ident below and the final version of the Ident just above.
I am quite happy with my Ident overall. As ever with these sorts of things I feel as if I have learnt an awful lot over the course of making it and now I feel as if I could make it in a far quicker time, and improve upon the ideas somewhat. As I mentioned previously, one of the features I had wanted to implement was a 3D Fog effect and I would like to spend more time working on that in the future as I realise it was perhaps not the right choice for this Ident, and I am very happy with the Cumulus Cloud effect, but I suppose future versions of the Ident, if ever produced, would have the text be fully 3D modelled and feature more moving parts and animations, as well as the 3D Fog effect.