Since some time has passed since my initial ideas for the squirrel animation I realised I wasn't quite 100% dedicated the the ideas I had created. I took into account that the original idea I had was perhaps a little too ambitious and had a minor affect on my mentality towards the project. Leading my to start drawing up more concept paintings in photoshop.
The reason I chose to paint out scenes instead of creating a storyboard was because I wasn't feeling confident in my drawings at the time of creating these images and preferred painting. Secondly I found creating tests of environments and seeing how I could build them into a story made the process easier to breakdown.
My final Idea in this piece depicts an acorn falling from the sky into a nearby shed/structure, the squirrel investigates and the acorn empowers the squirrel, depicted with a strong light source coming from the structure. At this point I wasn't entirely sure of what would happen next. My initial idea involved the shed bulging, light breaking from the cracks and eventually exploding to reveal a giant squirrel. Conceptually I liked this idea and gave me the opportunity to include some action in the sequence.
Setting up the Scenes for Animation.
Happy with the general direction I started to build a scene, using referencing to give me the ability to update and improve aspects of the scene individually from one another.
I started by getting in aspects that would affect the animation first with other objects for the environment being considered as polish. Though I had started the creation process and happy with my story, there was still something that wasn't quite motivating me to continue, though I did anyway.
Everything was working fine, however, once I referenced the scene into a separate file for animating a shot I encountered some trouble with the Animation Mentor Squirrel Rig. This is likely due to the complexity of the rig, meaning I hadn't much of an idea of what was breaking or how to fix the issue. Initially I noted the issue to being something to do with Referencing. Importing the squirrel wouldn't have been a problem as I have no reason to change the rig in its base form. I encountered the same issue. After a lot of research and nothing, trying different file types, saving and reopening as .ma, .mb, I couldn't quite get the scenes working in a manner I was comfortable with.
I took a break, evaluated my options; Try and Fix AM Squirrel, use Squashy Box or Make my own Squirrel. I decided, make my own squirrel, rebuild the environment in a stylised manner that reflects upon my previous research and experimentation.
Creating my own Squirrel
I first started by looking at pictures of squirrels both real and cartoon to get a feel for what aspects of squirrels people exaggerate and identify with. First aspect I notice is of course the unique tail, present in almost all forms of squirrel depictions. Secondly we have the 2 front teeth and the acorn. Finally the last aspects I took into consideration are the chubby cheeks and the upright standing position with larger back legs, also taking note of the lighter patches on the body.
For the model I knew I wanted squash and stretch capabilities along with follow-through on the tail. Keeping that in mind, this is the design I came up with.
Exporting into Maya posed some issues when it came to rigging and deformation. I looked for methods to fix it, tried different export types nothing. Sometimes looking for a solution may take longer than knuckling down and cleaning the mesh manually. Luckily the mesh aligned to the grid when exported.
Manually Cleaned & Rigged.
This took a while to do, however, the character is the only asset that requires being clean & is also going to be present in each scene, making the process much more worth while. Weighting the tail was difficult, many different experimentation and iterations. I can however, come back and adjust the weights as I will be referencing into the master scene.
Maintaining the same style I moved on to creating the environment, nothing too complex and based upon my previous designs. In hindsight I could have used my previous floating island concept as it may have been easier to craft with voxels.
I noticed that when going into the voxel program my initial instinct was to paint as if they're pixels, at a fairly high resolution. This didn't quite work out and would leave me with fairly large amount of voxels to clean up. I was essentially treating the program as if it was for sculpting. Though may have worked, it was much simpler to reduce my voxel count.