Saturday, 14 January 2017

My first animation - log #06

It's done! So here's the stats:

21 days
15-19 hours of work a every day
3:40 minutes of animation
5280 frames
200$ spent on rendering
4 kgs lost

And I can't even count how much I've learnt. The technical process of doing animation in Blender; some more understanding about how people move; a bit about camera movement and directing; pacing a story to music (more of an experience, can't say I did it very well, but that applies to all of the above); making spells; animating textures; making a camera or an item follow a path in animation; camera focus and depth of field; a bit more about shaping mesh using a rig, and about lighting; making a character pick something up (I'm really pleased with the solution I came up with); some video editing; and that Render Street is a bottomless pit of awesome money spending, because it saves you so much agony you can't ever go back.

My insane, delirious hype died in a second during that fat-shaming incident, and although I did work non-stop since, the joy of working was gone, and what drove me was mostly completionism. Then I finished it, today at 18:00 or so; I expected to feel exhilarated, or elated, but I just felt oddly numb. It might be the result of the very intense work, or of that feeling that there's a bit of a wall between me and feeling happy right now. Be it what it may, it was lovely to actually feel free to not work on it at last; I had a celebratory dinner, then lazed on the sofa with husband (another thing I neglected) while watching Red Vs. Blue and thinking about nothing at all.

I can't post the vid yet because the guild needs to see it first, and seeing as I don't feel like having anything to do with them right now, it will take a few more days. Hopefully by then I'll have found my ability to be excited again, and I'll gush and whee over all the details.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Nope, not getting any better. I had fat shaming dreams at night, and woke up to immediately start crying, and working is far harder than usual. I wish I could get back at those people for it, but delicate-flower Europeans break when you do that; So generally, even if they do something that crushes me to bits like this, I have to suck it up rather than end up being far worse than they were. The joy which is my pathetic fat life.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

14 down, 35 more to go

The evil voice in my mind says 'how many times have I written such post titles? How many times have I failed, and the 'to go' number only goes up?' - but training said those evil voices make us weak, they make us fail, so I'm kicking them. Besides, all the other times relied on will power, and this one doesn't; hopefully, in a year's time I'll have lost it all and can smoothly sail into the sunset, feeling that people will measure me for more worthy qualities than my big arse.

I also wonder how fast the weight loss will be once I'm done with that clip, because then I'll likely get back to eating more than once a day; but we'll see.

Anyway, 14 down, 35 more to go! Many hoorays!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Fat shaming

So I brought a new character to the guild, because my shy, reclusive nun can't push characters to do anything, can't speak her opinion, and can't generate drama. My new character is a cheerful noble, a knight, a fop, gay, and fat.

Not an hour after I brought him in, he got his first mean 'you're fat' remark. Not one fucking hour. I was a complete idiot to not think that in-game characters would be just as mean and dicky as real life people are. And fuck it, I spent six years at home, missing all my friends' birthdays, weddings, performances and parties; I went to the movies four times, I only left the house to shop for food or see the doctor, because it hurts so fucking much when random people tell you things about your weight. And there, I'm coming out of the shell, I'm daring to go out, I even went abroad, so I thought I could play a fat character and prove myself it's okay to be fat, you have a right to exist.

Right to exist my big fucking overweight, self indulging, spoiled, lacking self control ARSE.

Not an hour. Not one hour. And he really didn't even do anything provocative yet. And I just exploded. In guild chat I said something relatively calm, but I was suddenly sitting here and crying horribly, the wonderful day's energies and enthusiasm gone at once.

I remember the old man from some shop by work who saw me eating and said 'you really shouldn't eat, you know'; I was 100 kgs then. Then I lost 32 of them, and some woman was blocking the narrow sidewalk on the street by positioning her baby's cart across and not along. I told her as much, to which she said 'if you weren't such a fat cow, you could pass' (I couldn't. There were about 5cms of free sidewalk). I was 68 kgs and I absolutely flipped. And then, three years ago; a random woman yelling into her phone right by my ear caught my look and snapped 'fuck you, fat bitch'.

When you're four, it's what kids do in kindergarden. 'You're black', 'you're ginger', 'you're fat'. But grownups doing that - strangers - sheesh, you know, it drives me nuts in any argument when someone stops answering to the point and starts insulting the speaker with irrelevant shit, but like this - I just - I can't. I can't. So I stayed at home for years.

And then this happens, in the guild. Why didn't it occur to me, even once, that this is what would happen? 'Cause I trusted my guildmates? My own NPCs say racist shit when need be ('stupid dwarf', 'ignorant space goat' and so forth), so why didn't I expect them to be just the same? Why didn't I expect them to be just as shitty as real world people? What was I fucking thinking?

I know it's all in-character, and I think I don't really blame the players; but I feel so hopeless with the human race, suddenly. My own guildmates, some of which are friends, happily and ignorantly employed this; they view this as a little mean, but just as legitimate as calling someone a moron. It's not considered half as bad as racism.

And why? Because I'm fat? Because I didn't have the luck to be born with your awesome genes, or have received a more responsible upbringing? Because I was conditioned from home to use food as a pain killer? Do you even know, you ignorant shit talkers, how fucking hard it is to employ self control and discipline every single day, every hour, just to keep in a healthy weight? Of course you don't, you never had to do it. Oh, you could say 'I must lose five kilograms', but the truth is, you can certainly afford more than 1300 calories a day because you're fucking lucky; you don't grow mental with hunger once you had simple carbs, because you're fucking lucky; you don't compensate with food because you're fucking lucky; and you don't. Fucking. Need. To employ. Will power. Every. Single. Day. Just to keep a relatively healthy weight. Do you even know what it fucking takes? Have you ever tried using on this finite resource, will power, for three fucking years? Do you even know what an insane grind it is? Think that you have to go to a job you absolutely loath and makes you cry for three years, but you're not allowed to cry. Think of a migraine for three years, but you're not allowed aspirin. No, you have to use your willpower. How long can you hold?

And then, people who know you for half a minute, random people on the street, or people who know you in-character for half an hour, just go 'lol, ur fat'. Just like that. As if we fat people didn't have it tough enough already.

And it kills me that I'm so hurt, I'm crying, I'm miserable, I'm furious, but I have nobody to blame. Nobody to scream at. It's not their fault; 'it was the tiniest jab', they'll say, 'you're overreacting', they'll say, 'everybody does it' - all true, sadly - and besides, conflict is a welcome thing in-character, it makes things interesting. But it was the casual normality of it that broke me, and the fact that my guildies, my friends, feel it's perfectly legitimate to stoop to this kind of behaviour, that is the reason it's five hours after it happened and I'm still crying. And I can't yell at them for hurting me; they did nothing wrong. So I'm exploding here on the inside. I just want to break every bit of glassware in the house. But no, you don't do that, Bell, right? You're a nice, composed person. You're perfectly capable of taking something that hurts like a ton of bricks and be reasonable about it. Go and choke on it. Here, have some carbs to go with it, that'll make things better.

(I didn't eat. I actually feel kind of like throwing up. Gods, I wish I had an outlet for this).

I know I can't change the world. I know the only thing I can change is my reaction to people being mean childish assholes flinging the first irrelevant insult they can think about. But you know what? I bloody didn't, I simply, stupidly, naively, didn't expect my guildmates to play such shallow, four-year-old mean assholes. And I've just started braving out of this shell; and now I don't want to stick my head out of the house ever again. If my own guild mates play characters who aren't supposed to be dreadful antagonists, just normal people, fling this out - I don't trust anyone. And I certainly fucking don't want to come online and play. Why go out of the house? Why go into a virtual world? It's the same everywhere. Saying such things is legitimate. God fucking dammit.

My first animation - log #05

So while waiting for shot #26 to finish, I thought I could post some actual frames.

So here are all the characters involved, ready for me to import into any shot and pose to my heart's desire.

Shots 01-04 show locations; shots 05-08 show the same locations only with people them. Not very interesting to post, and since they're earlier in the process, they're even shittier than what I do right now. The one worth posting is for the story rather than the art - the one sentence from Lucky that sparked this whole fire: "My character knew yours was inhabiting a vampire and had to lie to her for three weeks because if the vampire knew I knew he'd have killed you." I really can't thank Lucky enough for painting pictures in my mind for two years now. And for being a really wonderful friend.

And then we have Khadrun blowing a spell at Sejda, to indicate the budding friendship between them.

But this spell was a bitch to make, because I have no idea how to make an object follow a path mid-animation (I can do it if it starts on frame #01!) so I had to manually move the spell things every five frames. I also didn't know how to resize part of an object mid-animation (I learnt since; you give it a rig and change the rig) - so it was animating three different objects. Manually. Along a non-existing path. Ah, the joys of learning.

But now we meet Eyrik and Eylin.

Eylin is dying, so Eyrik goes on a mission to find a way to save her. He does! It's becoming a vampire. He does, comes back, she tells him to go fuck himself, it's all very tragic. The challenge here was the fact that the Vrykul model - those oversized humanoids Eylin and Eyrik are - have about two expressions: mouth open, and mouth closed. The models' rigs aren't very detailed.

So I took the human models, beat them senseless with re-shaping that looks horrible in all the angles not shown in the frame, slapped the vrykul texture on Eylin and actually re-painted the human texture to look more vrykul-y for Eyrik. Can't say I'm too happy with the result - I think he looks way too human.

Then I cheated and just made an artistically fade-into series of shots to show him leaving her.

And becoming a vampire, because there's no time for subtlety when you've no idea how to script a story into a 3:40 minute long song.

Then we have vampire-Rowina slaughtering someone. The challenge here was the blood spatter, which I faked my way through by slapping a blood spatter texture on a transparent plane, and gluing that to her dagger, and counting on the fact this moves so fast nobody will notice.

Oh, the joys of this one. Make a liquid flow down without particles (I refuse to use particles, it will make render times intolerable. And expensive). This made me facedesk my way into finding a solution to something I wanted to know how to do for ages - animate texture. Specifically, animate a gradient mask on a texture, so it looks like it's gradually fading. It was a bitch to do and I'm not sure how exactly I managed, but it worked.

And here's my vampire-possessed nun, showing legs, which she hasn't done in two years of roleplaying her, and she's eating her best friend's priceless research. That's where I learnt to resize an animating object, and it was so simple I really don't know how I didn't figure it out earlier.

I'm fairly sure than in hell, what beginner artists do is animate beards and manually plot perspective. The beard movement in this shot came out wonky to say the least. Must... take... an animation... class...

Then I had Lucky's character find that all the books were burnt, including her priceless research. It was actually an excuse to include the nervous breakdown the character underwent in-game; so I made my own interpretation. I spent eight hours on animating her to do this, but since I can't show the animation here right now, I'll go for the other thing: the burning books. Animated smoke and flickering fire! Still look like shit - kind of like... dandelions in the mist? But hey, it's there for half a second and the camera is moving and who cares and it was progress and I refuse to make particle smoke.

Everyone's very tired, and that's because they spend their nights following the vampires in their unknowing friends' bodies. The challenge in this shot was the camera angle, and remembering to include the sky background, which I didn't. Look at that funny bright shape on the left. But it's only there for 50 frames - two seconds. I can live with not paying 10$ to re-render it for that.

The next shot was one of the most challenging and most fun in the clip.

Here's Edvann seeing his beloved horse's severed head nailed to the Christmas tree.

Then I really wanted to express the horror, tragedy, loss, despair, broken spirit and other nouns used for guild names, so I decided he needs to fall to his knees.

Which would be hard, because I currently move the characters like manikins, one limb at a time. Making him fall to his knees without his feet moving from their spot involved placing markers on the ground and feeling stupid, until I had enough of it and went and learnt inverse kinematics and did it the smart way. Inverse kinematics means that when, say, you pull a finger, the rest of the body gets pulled too; and if you place the feet down but then pull the whole body, it falls forward without the feet moving. Awesome! It's a shame it took me nine hours to get this, though.

And what's rendering right now - really, only 25%? Man, I grew spoiled with Render Street's awesome fast rendering - is the final battle.

It's been 26 shots and a lot of challenges overcome, but finding a composition for this one was so bloody hard; so many characters. Then we have the bane of all time: spells. When I got spells in commissions, many times I just ended up painting them over - because all those glowy effects are done in something called 'the compositor', which I know nothing about and looks scary complicated, and because just placing a light source in a wizard's hand doesn't look as cool as you'd think. But I found a keyboardsmash type workaround: I use a painting of glow, as a texture, and just place it facing the camera. Okay, so it kind of works; but what do you do with the spiralling blood pipe going from Eyrik's hand into the orb of sanguinating doom?

Well, having again pally-tanked my way through it (paladin-tanking: smash your fingers on all the keys repeatedly until the boss dies), I finally - finally! Made some advancement on that stuff, which has been eluding me for a year. You make a pipe (a cylinder with an array modifier, along a spiraling path), then you wrap the texture on the pipe - the you animate the location of the texture. Dude! How come I didn't figure it out before?

It still doesn't look very spelly, more like a weird... streaming pipe, but my next spell has a far higher point of origin, at least.

That's it for now. I'm about 80% done with this clip, which was totally boot camp for Blender beginners, and gave me so much knowledge my brain must be melting. I just hope I have enough drive to complete it; that would be so very nice.

My first animation - log #04

Today I did the first shot of the final battle, and when I finished rendering and threw it in the video editor I saw something I haven't seen before:

...The end of my clip! I can finally see the end! After days of scrubbing through the animation without once seeing the fading light at the end of the tunnel, it was suddenly there! 

This is very exciting. Not because the process is pain - it's, as said before, likely the most creative fun I had in my life - but seeing the end of this long and heavily invested process is great. Now I just have to figure out how to tell the rest of the story in thirty seconds...

Monday, 9 January 2017

My First Animation - log - 03

Today's scene - or tonight's? Whatever, the thing I started 22 hours ago - the challenge was to make a man fall to his knees and make it look not too lame. I realized at three in the morning that I need to learn inverse kinematics, and by half past five I had something I could work with (although I admit the elbows were doing the most interesting acrobatics there and I had to shelf the notion of arms inverse kinematics for another time). Then there's the recurring problem of those tiny jerks right before or right after a large gesture - this trademark animation back and forth, which I keep messing up; somehow I never nail the timing.

But the improvement from segment 01 to segment 06 is huge, and I'm three segments from the end; after two weeks of working about 19 hours a day on this, I can't wait to see it complete - for the achievement, and the pride, and the whooohooo! but also just so I can kind of get my life back.

It's 13:30 and I've been up for 22 hours and I'm going to bed now; but I wish I didn't. I wish I could go on working on this. It's the most creative fun I've had in my life.