Tag Archives: post-mortem

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Cloudbirth

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When I signed up to take this course, I knew that I ultimately wanted to learn digital art skills that could pair with the electronic music that has been my primary artistic practice for the last couple of years. Since the theme of the class is “club visuals,” the idea to make visuals that could be projected behind me during a live performance was an obvious choice of project, and perfect for the type of music I make. Being new to digital art, I had no idea how the project would shape until I started using Photoshop and After Effects and learning what was possible. Early in the semester, I was drawn to psychedelic imagery and color palettes and thought my conference visuals might be psychedelic, and incorporate fractals and kaleidoscopes. As I worked in After Effects though, I began to think more critically about abstract shapes acting as characters, and how to build narrative that develops formally. My work shifted away from executing very literal and categorizable ideas like psychedelic imagery, and opened up to more experimentation with how the expression of color, shape, and motion can set a mood and build a work’s personality. When it was time to make my conference piece, I decided the best course of action would be to build a framework guided by the tone of the music to set the mood, and then fill in the narrative with different shape characters that I could develop formally, calling upon all the techniques that we worked on in class. The piece I used is an ambient interlude piece called “Cloudbirth Interlude,” and so the project became the three minute long video, “Cloudbirth,” an ambient visual piece for the music of “Cloudbirth Interlude.”



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The piece opens with a dark purple glitter field that connotes outer space as well as elegance, setting the tone for the piece. The piece “Cloudbirth Interlude” comes in with a “glittery” sounding synth patch, and as this sound enters, the title of the piece, Cloudbirth Interlude appears in an elegant red font over the glitter field. From here, the piece launches into glittery fractals that move across the screen as the music expands. At first, I was almost afraid to use fractals, because of their potential to limit the space and ideas of the piece, but in using them so simply and overtly, as well as in pairing them with the glitter field, I felt satisfied that I was not leaning too hard into the trope of a “fractal space.” The main character of the piece is what I grew to refer to as “the ovules,” which are gray ovular elements that appear in the space and slowly move around. In my first draft of this piece, they had a lot of motion, partially because I was afraid of them becoming stale if they weren’t very active. However, as I edited the piece, I realized the power in the ovules moving slowly, and on their own conditions, even if it felt slower than I thought I “should” have an element move, to keep the piece dynamic. They move around a bit and then rise up, as the next element, red stars are introduced to the piece.




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In keeping with the space theme, my other important character in this piece is the red star, that flashes up from the fractal field and out toward the screen. This happens for a few minutes before a particle rain comes down and the screen strobes with a red “light” that eventually takes over and becomes the new backdrop. Here, our ovule friend can return, alone this time, and express other ambient sentiments, like rippling, and slowly changing from grey to blue to purple, and slowly swelling — though not without returning to its original form just before its departure. This final section of the piece is one of my favourites because of the “eye,” formed from ovals flashing and shaking. At this point in the video, it is almost the end, but all the elements from the fractal world have found a new iteration to take on, unified by their connection to their original identities, as well as to a unifying color palette, and the grounding of the ovule’s return. As the music comes to a close, this scene “strobes out” and flashes back to the glitter field, which serves to bookend the piece, but also to be functional if I wanted to loop the piece during a live performance.




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I found the project to be largely successful, considering its intended purpose. While previous work of mine in the class sometimes had a lack of motion that made imagery too stagnant, the nature of this piece was such that motion could be slower and simpler, and my lack of rapid perpetual motion worked as a stylistic choice. In its first draft phase, I felt the need to move the ovule characters, and they ended up taking on a “cuteness” that did not serve the piece. I think the edits I made helped the characters to be confident in their slow pace, and remain true to their identities within the space. That being said, adapting to making a piece that could serve a slightly different purpose that just a video work and allowing the slow pace to live itself out was a challenge, and I think there are still places where the video would benefit from being slowed down even more. One of those places that really sticks out to me is the part where the particle system is spewing from behind the singular ovule. While I love this scene, the particle system is moving too quickly, and I could not figure out the best way to get it to slow down without changing its identity within the space. I guess in this way, the pacing is one of the most successful elements of the piece, but also one of the unsuccessful ones in the places where it did not come across exactly how I wanted, as disruptions in the flow detrimental to this type of piece.




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As I evaluate how this piece relates to my other work, I think it was one of the first works where my voice and style felt liberated to come through. Not just because of the use of my own music but because I felt justified in building a slow, ambient world, and am starting to see my elements execute themselves with confidence in their identities. The mix of purples and blues and reds and greys set a mood that suited the music and the narrative, and while it was a somewhat limited palette, I never felt like I had to hold back or constrain the ways in which I used them. Similarly, the patterns established by the elements were always interconnected, but not too tightly; the stars find their way back into the piece in a vastly different iteration, as do the ovules, and their ovular backdrop. Motion is the element that is probably the most constrained, as it is super simple, but it feels like I am now developing a sense for when and where elements need to move, in relation to the piece, in order to not become stale.




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Cloudbirth is really just a first take on visuals that I could project with my music. Until I actually use these visuals at a show, I will not know exactly what elements need to change and what can continue to be thematic in my work, but as I continue this kind of work, I plan on expanding on each of the moods set by the different scenes, playing with how slow and ambient I can let them be, while still introducing enough motion to make them interesting as a backdrop for live music. The element of the large oval with waving edges that appears in the fractal world would ideally become a kind of bright frame around my body at the live shows, with the particles and stars embellishing without detracting from me as the focal point. This project, and the wrapping up of this class tied together all the technical and conceptual skills we had worked on and forced me to start considering my own voice as a digital artist, now that I have a basic understanding of how to structure animation art. After finishing and reviewing the work I did on Cloudbirth, I feel like I have reached a point where I can start building exciting visual narratives to go with my music and other artistic projects.

Conference Project Post-Mortem:

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For this conference project, I intended to use after effects to recreate repeating scenes in my dream when I was a child. I believe most of us share the same experience of entering the same dream. When I was a child, I used to see kaleidoscopes before I went to bed and climb into and out of wells as I entered my dreams. When I had fever (even before I knew I would have a fever), I would dream of climbing on cement walls with cement balls crushing on my back. I also repeatedly dreamed of walking into a kindergarten with students and teachers with just three kinds of faces, my parents and I. Sometimes I could see two parallel worlds in my vision. These nightmare-like dreams had given me a lot of pressure, but I wanted to put them into a more joyful theme for this conference project.

After the trip to Japan during this spring break, I made several collages about color palettes I enjoyed for my printmaking class. I decided to introduce pastel colors in spring, for example, green, yellow, pink. into my video. I also picked out a song made by a Japanese musician to go with my project. This aesthetics are influenced by music I listen to on soundcloud. They are some artists from PC music, a record label, for example, Hannah Diamond and QT. I enjoyed the bright and synthetic characteristics with a hint of loneliness and disappointment of it. For my conference project, I hope to combine intimidating images with delightful colors.

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I was able to recreate the kaleidoscope accurately. I took an image of traditional candy in Japan and photoshoped it so the color fit my theme. it was hard for other images since I didn’t have a specific image for other dreams and it was way more effort to put in than I planned to and more technique beyond my capability. Thus, I tried to simplify images into abstract shapes and outlines. Some of the most difficult things to make was on the 3D layers. Because I had so many layers, I had to create combine several after effect files into one in order to create animations in a faster and easier way. I was glad to pick up some new techniques (wave effect, adjustment layer, cc sphere, reversing the direction of a layer) after I followed tutorials on Youtube.

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As I was creating the animation, I kept reminding myself to limit my choices, organize the video into sections and repeat motions and form. I enjoyed the use of echo effect from background in 2d layer to foreground in a 3d layer. Same for the kaleidoscope effect, I introduced this animation twice in the beginning and the end of the video. This decision was inspired my dream: I used climb in and out of the same well as I enter and leave my dream world. I also loved the parallel layer with particles and tunnels and the next section with wave and ball form. I was inspired Ben’s amazing tunnels and Clark’s storyboard in her little robot animation (sudden zoom-in and zoom-out).

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In my conference, Angela suggested me to introduce more parallel/horizon line effect and animate the rotation of horizon line as the parallel world separates. I agree that these adjustments would make audiences more drawn into the video and make my video more cohesive, but unfortunately I did not have the time to do so. I also regret that I could not figure out the best way to make the kindergarten sections. Using just the trim line effect makes the section too plain compared to other ones. I wanted to use more specific images like pictures of my family, but I found the style contrast with other sections too much. So I decided to use outlines of images of interaction between students and teachers I found on line. In summary, I hope my video could have a more consistent story line or a clear expression in my content instead of putting together separate dream images with nothing common.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Mold and Liquid Metal

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My conference project draws inspiration from several sources. From animated films such as Hiyao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky to video games like Valve’s Portal 2, fictional media has often explored the relationship between nature and technology within futuristic, post-apocalyptic fantasy worlds. Overgrown weeds and mold attempt to retake the remains of long-abandoned high-tech societies. I’m not sure quite why I’m particularly drawn to this theme, but I find that it serves as both a central aesthetic and plot element in many of my favorite films and video games. The visual contrast between raw, colorful nature and silver steel is striking.




For my conference project, I wanted to channel this type of imagery in an animation to accompany an original piece of my music. Before I began animating or even had my vision for what would become the visual content of this piece, I composed and produced the music. In creating this track, I experimented with a variety of musical styles such as breakcore, idm, and trap. Due to its constantly and drastically evolving song structure, this piece works well as the score to an animation. As I have done with past visual accompaniments to my music, I tried to change and introduce visual elements in sync with changes in the music.




In this post-mortem, I will discuss some of the ways I channeled my inspirations into this piece, as well as the technical processes I used to create these effects. Due to the length and complexity of the piece, I am unable to discuss every aspect of the animation and the creative process behind it. I have thus chosen to discuss only the elements I found most challenging and interesting.




The “nature” influence in this piece is directly drawn from the mold-like patterns found in the 2017 film Annihilation. The following image exemplifies the imagery in reference:




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Using adobe color, I created a color palette based on this image. This palette is utilized in the first half of the final animation, until the 2:22 mark. I also used this image to create the background of this first half. In photoshop, I transformed a cropped square from this image into a tile repeated as a background. In after effects, I applied the kaleidoscope cc effect to this image, creating the floral mold pattern serving as the background of the following still:




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The black “liquid metal” layer in the forefront of this still is one element of my animation that draws influence from the technological in this dichotomy. The process of creating this effect required much experimentation, but was ultimately one of the most personally satisfying parts of this whole project. My initial goal was to create a moving “liquid metal” overlay effect similar to that used in experimental electronic musician Oneohtrix Point Never’s recent music video Black Snow. Upon seeing that video, my first thought was of the liquid metal effect used for the T-1000 in the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgement Day.




Still from "Black Snow"




To achieve this effect, I loosely followed instructions from youtube tutorial videos, supplementing with my own experimentation. First, I created a composition with a transparent background layer. I then created a black solid with the Fractal Noise effect. On this instance of Fractal Noise, I used the “dynamic twist” fractal type and the “soft linear” noise type, with a very high (325) contrast and a very low (-101) brightness. I then applied the Find Edges effect, with “invert” on. To create movement, I used the Turbulent Displace effect, and keyframed the evolution. At this point, I had achieved the liquid metal effect, but because it was applied to a black solid, the background was black. To make this effect applicable as an overlay, I used unmult, an effect which turns specific colors transparent. I set this effect to make the black solid transparent, thus creating a liquid metal overlay with a transparent background that could be applied over my animation.




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To create the liquid metal sphere that appears at 00:11, I followed essentially the same process, but applied the cc sphere effect. The second sphere in my animation, which consists of moving lines, was also creating using this effect. To create this element, I created a composition with a shape layer. In this layer, I drew a vector shape using the pen tool. I then applied the wiggle transform, stroke, gradient fill, and repeater animation tools to this vector shape. Finally, I applied the cc sphere effect to the shape to give it its form. The following is a screenshot of this element.




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In conclusion, I’m very proud of the work I accomplished with this project. I successfully executed my goal of creating a visual accompaniment to a piece of my music; one which channels the dichotomy between technology and nature through the replication of visual elements from several sources of inspiration. Not only did I successfully execute this goal, my creative process taught me new skills in after effects. Through the process of creating this piece I learned how to create transparent solids using unmult, create liquid metal elements using fractal noise, and turn vector shapes into spheres using the cc sphere effect.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Let Me Delete Your Anger

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I started thinking of my project by looking at natural elements in the world around me on campus – fractal leaf shapes, clouds, the blossoms on the dogwood tree on Glen Washington Road. I was looking at the color and shape motifs in the works of Frank Stella and Yayoi Kusama. I am also very inspired by movement and performance artists, especially those who engage with earthwork. During the inception of this project, I was looking at Robert Smithson’s Yucatan Mirror Displacements. I thought about his introduction of foreign surfaces into the environment and how he used the human technology of the mirror to augment a place. I wonder how using Aftereffects can augment the textures and surfaces we experience in our lives. I became enamored with the particle effect, and so I attempted to play with the software and create something that could not exist under our current laws of gravity and motion. An initial draft sprang from a dream of watching blossoms fall upward. I animated a sequence somewhat like snow which I layered on top of a video.


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However, I received the critique that my personal interests in video art were at odds with the technical demands of the class. I realized that when making creative work, I have a habit of relying on my interests and current obsessions and allowing them to guide my workflow. I had to adjust my mindset to working consistently in small chunks of time rather than in large obsessive stretches. My hardest challenge was in stretching myself to find new ways to do things in order to create what I was imagining.
After building the initial particle sequence, I felt dry of ideas for developing the sequence into a longer piece. In turning through my notes, I recalled our glitch assignment. I spent a session making .png glitches of screengrabs of my blue and white cloud.  However, although I’m really interested in glitching and would like to explore it in the future, I realized I had to make quick decisions and finish a polished project.


After converting a .png file to a .txt file, I thought the text looked really interesting and had all sorts of graphic symbols like the apple that I could use.  In the past, I have been  drawn to work that makes the text into a graphic part of the piece.  I decided making a text tunnel would be an appealing challenge that would help me practice my skills in building a tunnel and also develop my knowledge of the text animators.


I wanted to make the fog blow through the tunnel toward the viewer.  I copy and pasted sections from the long text document into the text box in Aftereffects.  However, this method stretched the text box in undesirable ways and didn’t look visually pleasing.


I watched a video for inspiration and learned to put the text into a separate composition with settings that made the comp long and skinny.  This allowed me to animate the text in three dimensions like we learned in text studio.  I then made a copy of the layer and flipped it, so that its animation would mirror the bottom layer.  This was the most challenging part of my animation, because it required such close attention to the detail of the keyframes.  I am still not completely satisfied with the symmetry; the top layer moves into frame at a faster rate for the initial 10 seconds before coming more closely into alignment with the rest of the tunnel.


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I think the simple color scheme of blue, white, and black is successful at creating the tone I wanted for this piece.  I wanted to amplify the sense of harmonious symmetry by having the video form a complete loop.  So, I doubled the length of my comp and applied a time reverse effect to the second half.


The title refers the peaceful mood that this piece evokes in me.  I like the idea of using glitching for good.  Maybe the computer is refusing to process all the stressful data it receives and instead is sending a peaceful cloud into our minds.  Or, it could be a sinister memory loss gas like the climactic scene of Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer.  I leave the interpretation to the audience.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: An Exploration of Animation Techniques

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At the beginning of my final semester at Sarah Lawrence, I realized that digital animation was a form of art that I was mostly unfamiliar with. Since my sophomore year I’ve taken three oil painting classes, and one sculpture class… It was important to me to take advantage of these creative courses while I still had the time.




It took a few weeks for me to get the hang of the Adobe Creative Suite, but once I knew the ropes of the programs I took vantage of my lack of experience. Throughout the semester there wasn’t any one thing in particular that came to mind for what I wanted my conference project to be. Nor was there a specific artist that I was following with my creative method. At a certain point I came to the conclusion that I wanted to use most of the techniques I had learned in the course and explore them almost individually for my conference work. Angela and I spoke in conference and she told me to stick to the abstract, and that helped me fulfill these videos. With these final four videos, I aimed to show my growth and understanding in this class with Adobe After Effects in a minimalistic way.




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My four conference videos consisted of: a 1 minute video of a 3D tunnel centered on a vertical plain with a text fading up and out; a 2 minute video synced to the beats and happenings of an electronic song; a 1 minute video of a green square morphing into origami style shapes and animals; a 2 minute video of the masking evolution of a square. With these videos I purposefully chose not to have any specific direction, and allowed the Adobe program and my intuition to guide me alone.




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In a couple videos I struggled with the preciseness of some movements of position. In the tunnel video I really wanted the text to be perfectly centered coming into the screen and out of it, but didn’t succeed in doing so manually. One frustrating moment was when I was working on my morphing origami video… Later on in the video I had too many pen points from previous shapes that I had to delete a few to make the following shape easier to make. This resulted in those points deleting themselves from all previous keyframes. Consequently I had to go to the beginning of the video to add more points to complete the shapes I had already made. Another difficulty I faced was choosing the right color palettes. Well, “right” isn’t exactly the appropriate word. I mean to say that I like the color schemes I chose, and they pleased me, but in once instance the color contrast made it hard for the audience to see the animation well.




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I am very proud of my conference video that I synced up to a favorite song of mine (“Girl” by Jamie XX). This video was completed only after my conference critique, in which I showed two shorter videos. It was lucky that I waited to make this one, because I wouldn’t have struck such inspiration without having watched a couple other videos from the class. There were some specific effects I noticed other students had used and they were very appealing. It worked to my advantage that they went well with the animation of this video. One student used an effect called “fractal noise,” which I took to animate an otherworldly chorus in the song. I was also reminded of the use of particles, and how their constant movement would be great to animate ambient sound. I used another early technique, the repeater, to animate the bass in the beginning of the song… Making the repeater circle move from the center of the screen outwards in motion of the beat. Lastly, in the Girl video, I used the effect CC Scatterize to animated my mutated circle. With this effect, the object in question is manipulated to scatter into tiny particles, which I used to animate the final echoing beats of the song.




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Overall, I am content with how these conference videos came out. I believe that they show my creativity and growth from the class very well. In the beginning of my work on these videos, I had intended to make six individual ones consisting of a minute each to meet the conference project requirement. However, I reached a point where I realized I could show a lot more evolution of thought if I made some longer videos. Which is why two of my videos were extended to two minutes.

Conference Project Post Mortem: Space

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Throughout this class, I have been drawn to triangles and black & white geometric shapes. I had a bit more of a plan for this piece than I had for my other animations. I knew I wanted to use black, white, and a blue shade. I began by making the first element, triangles with a black fill and gradient stroke. I arranged them all in the positions I wanted. I planned to make them fall into the blue background, but after listening to the music repeatedly, I thought it would suit the music to make the triangles fade onto the screen and then start dancing. After making these triangles, I made the thick white line repeater. I used an element similar to this in my Space Oddity piece, but I loved it so much that I changed the skew of the white lines to create a different angle. I duplicated this layer and played around in After Effects. I continuously remembered that I only needed about 3 elements and 3 colors. I tried really hard to stick with this. I ended up creating a white line repeater that has much skinnier lines. I loved this repeater even more. I thought about just using the skinny repeater, but realized I could use both. I then made the transparent triangle that comes in on top of the white lines. I intended to keep this transparent when the white lines fade off screen, but I found a light sweep effect, that created these incredible shadows. I found that it added an element to my piece that wasn’t there before.IMG_9220

Music has been a huge challenge for me throughout this class. I began this project searching for instrumental music. I found electric guitar music that I adored, but after feedback from the class, I learned that this music was too loud and fast for the animation that I created. The music was asking too much of me and I just could not keep up. Upon, Angela’s suggestion, I switched the music to a softer jazz piece. It works better, but the problem with finding music after creating the animation is that the animation is no longer perfectly in sync with the music. However, something I have learned is that animations don’t necessarily need to be in sync with the music, but use the music as something that enhances the piece. My other challenge was with the positioning of the triangles. They ended up overlapping, but originally I wanted them to look like a tile or wallpaper. I realize now I could have created a tile in Photoshop and then brought it into After Effects, but I do appreciate the imperfect nature of how it came out. My final challenge was the speed of the software. I loved the shadowy feel of the light sweep effect, but as soon as I added it to the triangle, my software started running incredibly slow to the point that I could not work in it. I would like to make another piece using the light sweep, but I need to do it on a more durable computer.

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A theme throughout this piece is the idea of using an element from earlier in the animation by changing it slightly to create a fresh image. I used the black and white triangles 3 different times; the first in their original form, the second with the fill being half white & half black, and the third against a black background instead of blue. This structure and plan before-hand did help speed up my process. I’m proud that I was able to stick to 3 different colors and a few elements. At first, I felt like my piece was boring because it repeated elements, but it’s starting to appeal to me more now. Another piece that worked well for my was my attitude while rotating and positioning the white lines. I changed various values and had so much fun seeing what I could create, rather than stressing out about how I wanted this element to look. I saw it as a chance for exploration rather than something strictly planned out. Finally, my transitions in this piece were much more effective than in previous pieces. At the beginning of this course, I made the entire piece first and then worried about transitions, but I’ve learned that doesn’t work as well. When making each element, I thought about how I would transition from each. Sticking to a few elements and three colors also made transitions much easier.l

I struggled with time management for this piece, because I was working on my kinetic studio prompt simultaneously. I spend significant more amounts of time on my kinetic text piece than on this piece. Part of me wishes that I balanced my time more, but another part of me knows that my kinetic text piece is much more personal, heavy, and heartfelt, whereas this piece was pure fun to make. My critique of not only this piece but all of my pieces is that I find it hard to work with one element for an extended period of time. My inclination is instead to move from one element to the next very quickly. We did an exercise of using one square and animating it for 60 seconds. I need to do more exercises like this, because, for example, I could have had the entire animation be renditions of the white line repeaters. I could have also rotated the triangles or increased their scale, etc. to have them continuously become new.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Part1-Time, Part2-Factory

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Part 1: “Time”

This part of the conference follows in the footstep of my kinetic text project. I really enjoyed the phone themed soundscape I created in that project and wanted to do another one with the theme of clocks and the passage of time.

The idea started out very vague. I started out with two graphics made in illustrator. They were both the same picture structurally. However, they had drastically different color palettes one was for night and had the moon and stars. The other was for day and had blue sky and the sun. I wanted to make different types of transitions between these two graphic. I also had all the elements of these graphics on seperate layers. So when I imported the Illustrator composition I was able to play around with each them.

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I was originally going to start by making the clock hands move on the wall clock as the two graphics fade in and out of eachother. Then I found the clock wipe effect and key framed it to move like clock hands to the sound effect of an atypical ticking clock . The hands on the actual clock stay still as to not draw attention away from the clock wipe and the transition of the color scheme. I also keyframed the sound so that when the clock wipe transitions to the night graphic cricket sounds get louder. As it transitions to the day bird chirping get louder.

I then started playing around with the elements of the graphics individually. After some trial and error I settled on superimposing the sun and moon on different clocks hanging down from string with a drop shadow. I left the background gray to make it seem like the clock was in an empty space separate from the two graphics in the beginning. These clocks were accompanied with a fast moving clock hand keyframed to a ticking timer sound.

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I bounced back and forth between the clocks in the empty space and the two graphics. I ended with a clock that had both the moon and the sun superimposed on it as well as a transition to its corresponding graphic with both the color schemes of the previous graphics blended on top. I also had a clock-strike-the-hour sound to bring the piece to a close.
This ended up being one of my slower paced pieces but I do take pride in what I was able to to accomplish when limiting my resources. I also think the slow pacing enhances the experience by forcing the viewer to focus on sound more.

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Part 2: “Factory”

Despite the fact that Part I is called”Time”, I actually created Part II“Factory” first. I decided to switch the order of them up because it seemed more appealing to start out slow and end with a fast paced bang to leave a lasting impact. I started with this idea of a helpless character being trapped in a factory with a bunch of other helpless characters. The piece would end with the character being encased in a box on a shelf with the other characters in the factory.

I thought of animating it to dubstep music of some sort but I did not have any particular soundtrack in mind. I searched the web to see if I could find something that I could work with and saved ones that interested me. There were not too many soundtracks that sounded good for my piece.

I was having so much trouble finding a soundtrack that I was considering just creating a soundscape consisting of factory sounds, but I really just wanted to animate to music on this project. I ended up coming back to one of the soundtracks I already went through. I listened to it again and realized it has a lot more of the somber tone I was looking for.

I made tons of thumbnails and sketches for the characters and background. I wanted to keep things simple since this was my first time animating in After Effects. The character was essentially a square with big eyes and simply shaped limbs that float in mid air without physical connection to the body. Although this character was easy to create it was a bit more complicated to animate. I thought that I would try using the puppet tool to move my character. However, since my character’s limbs were not connected to its body the puppet tool treated every part like it was its own character. This made animating really awkward because the slightest movement could split the shape I made in half. I decided to use keyframing instead. Most of the animation involved keyframing the position and rotation of each part. I used a mask on the eyes to give the illusion of them moving around the head. As I settled into using this new animation method I was able to apply what I already learned from previous 2D animation courses.

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I kept the background as simple as the character. Pretty much everything was a square or circle shape with the exception of the characters limbs. The machine claw was as complicated as the design got.

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When it came to color scheme I was thinking of making the main character as the only one with a black fill and white outline. I was going to make all the others different colors to help the main character stick out more. I decided against this idea since keeping everything grayscale would help with the gloomy factory theme. Thus all the character are the same exact shape and size to further emphasize this theme. I ended up making the main character stand out more by their actions, as they are the only ones struggling to break free from the assembly line.

My project ended up coming to only 1 minute and 14 seconds of work but being that I am studying animation I was not all that surprised. I am used to it taking weeks or months just for a cartoon short. This method of animation took some getting used to but I did end up appreciating the convenience of it (this coming from someone who is used to animating frame by frame). I still managed to tell a full story and I am happy with the results.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Some things I like

Some things I like




I set out to create a self-portrait of sorts- a piece reflecting my desire for visual aesthetic, in response to a stream of consciousness on the topic of “things I like”. I wanted to implement elements of hand draw animation inspired by some of the work I created at the start of my semester in Digital Tools for Artists. Illustrations I made for the GIF assignment would be utilized both as elements for the sequence and as a source of stylistic inspiration for my piece, “Some things I like”.




Sketch




“Some things I like” was inspired by Wes Anderson’s aesthetic mixed with a minimalist approach to pleasing pastels and clean design. I think I was effective in evoking a minimalist, aesthetically pleasing piece. I’m particularly happy with my use of color, font and minimalist design. Though there is a lot of work to be done in order to achieve the kind of sophistication I hope to express in the finished product, I’m happy with the place I’m at now, a kind of halfway point, as I’ve created a nice backbone for the piece and started working on some of the more intricate details. There is still plenty of work to be done in order to expand on some of the themes articulated in the piece. Specifically, I hope to implement smoother transitions, including fade ins and outs for all of the hand drawn elements. I also hope to enhance the playfullsness of the piece, to really take it all the way in terms of utilizing any and all opportunities to express my abilities as an editor, abilities I’ve acquired through out my time in Angela’s class.




Pencils




The challenges I faced throughout this conference project include the issue of having big ideas that I was unable to express given the amount of time I allotted myself to complete the project. I really wanted to have my pencil and lipstick elements write out text, but I quickly realized that would require a time commitment I wasn’t able to commit to. I also would have liked to accomplish more specific animations for each element, specifically related to the movements I experimented with at the start of the piece.




My conference project remained pretty consistent from the beginning. I’d say the biggest change happened during the middle of the piece. During the creation of the middle content, the pieces that came after the intro and before the conclusion, I struggled with implementing further technique and detail. I had a similar experience to some of the challenges I’ve faced throughout this course, hitting a wall at the one-minute mark and struggling to keep up the momentum.




I’m definitely happy with the look of the piece at this point in time. I feel there is a lot to be done in order to achieve a piece I hope to include in my professional reel, but I am very happy with what I have to work with at this point. I’m specifically happy with how the piece works in relation to the body of work I have developed this semester. The Davi character I created during the GIF assignment resurfaced in my “Davi Has Problems” kinetic text piece, a piece I improved upon as a part of my conference work. Davi appears again in “Some things I like” as a sort of passive tour guide. I’m happy with the way he casually exists in the world I have created for this piece.




Davi




My goal for this semester was to create a cohesive body of work, and I feel like I have achieved that when considering the work I’ve done for conference as well as the individual assignments and studio prompts. I think “Some things I like” articulates the aesthetic I was hoping to achieve. I look forward to continuing my work on this piece, as well as “Davi Has Problems”. I think they will be great additions to my professional portfolio. I look forward to sending future drafts of both pieces to Angela for feedback in the future.




Coffee

New Genres: Supernova Installation

Speak to me!




Claim 1: If I communicate to other people through a sound visualizer and text-to-speech library, then it will feel equivalent to or easier than talking to people face-to-face. (Hint: this is false.)

Claim 2: If an installation setup meets the correct criteria, then it is quite simple to deceive an audience regarding the legibility of artificial intelligence. (Hint: this is surprisingly true.)




For the Supernova Art Party 2018, I created an installation revolving around a pseudo-artifical intelligence program. I set up a large monitor with a microphone and speaker in front to encourage the audience to “speak” to the monitor. I connected my laptop to the monitor via HDMI cable and hid in a curtained area behind the monitor. The program I created and ran was a simple audio visualizer, where the central circle changed diameter depending on the volume of the surrounding area. There were also some extra visual effects (such as the circle gradually changing color, a fade-out effect on the circles of different diameter, and a grid background), as well as a text-to-speech feature. This is where the magic happened: I had a small text input box hidden at the bottom of the screen (which, due to resolution differences, coincidentally didn’t show up on the monitor), where I could enter text and upon pressing the “return” key, have a text-to-speech library read the text I typed. Thus, I could listen to the user’s questions to my program and type a response from my computer, giving the user the illusion that my program listens and can respond without any outside help.




I must admit, as a moderately shy person with absolutely no showmanship experience, I found my idea of hiding behind a curtain for the party as part of my project pretty genius. I knew, however, I still had to tackle the issue of being hidden, but still aware of the interaction with my piece. This was, overall, still the hardest part of my installation. I found it difficult to balance between interacting with people curious in my installation versus people trying to get from point A to point B and not interested in it, especially when I couldn’t see the people behind my Mylar curtain. The curtain seemed semi-transparent during daylight, but once it got darker it became much harder to see through and I found I couldn’t rely on it to see people. All I could rely on was their voices. This worked out somewhat, as people felt the need to treat it like any other talking device such as Google Home or Alexa and initiate the conversation. It still caused some anxiety, however, as I felt pressure to type and respond quickly, respond with wit, and do all this without seeing the other person (or sometimes, without hearing them quickly as some people’s speech into the mic was muffled). Thus, it was most definitely NOT easier to communicate with people via technology (in this case). In the future, I think placing the installation in a space where people go specifically to interact with it, versus a walking space, and making sure I could truly see the audience would create some ease on my part.




Speaking of space, I believe I was able to use the parochial nature of the space that is Heimbold (and Sarah Lawrence) to my advantage. As everyone at the party was united by being members of Sarah Lawrence, I could make college-specific references that made my “AI”, Sam, feel surprisingly knowledgeable and surreal. I was worried this would break the Turing Test quality, but even with specific references, many people appeared to think this was a program built with true artificial intelligence. On top of all this, I think the knowledge of local culture made it easier to befriend (and even fall in love with) Sam.




A screenshot of an acquaintance’s Snapchat story. I don’t think they had any idea it was me behind the curtain. I’m Internet famous!




This idea that I could make an AI interface built upon local knowledge is a unique and tempting one. What if, instead of having a mass production of general knowledge machines, we had specific localized AI that was built upon data within a small radius or specific community? But I digress. The specificity of this bot worked well at the Art Party, a culmination of the parochial localized culture we are a part of. While I wrestled with some aspects of my text-to-speech library, like Sam’s difficult-to-understand accent, I don’t think a general, clear-spoken Alexa would have been as fun or interesting.




But actually, you’re speaking to ME.

Cultural Hijack: A Tour of the Building

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Process:

I wanted to criticize space and my class challenged me on how self-righteous it came across. In frustration, I realized that what I wanted to do was explore Heimbold through my emotions and my memories. It is a micro-situation with thoughts and ideas from Vito Acconci Following Piece, The Art of the Question by Anonymous, and Tom Finkelpearl’s “Participatory Art”, as well as my own experience as a theater student. I initially wanted my project be more aggressive but I was convinced against it by my class. As I developed the places and spots to visit I made a few consistent spots to visit.

1. I started on the top floor and ended on the bottom floor of Heimbold.

2. During the show I entered bathrooms of all genders. I stuck my hand in the toilet.

3. I told different and often conflicting versions of the same story. The conflicting nature of it comes from conflicting natures on the same stories. For example I framed one tour as a descent into my feelings and chose not to in another.

4. I asked people questions about whatever story I told and asked them to do things. Including but limited to:

– sing a note

– look out a window

-sneak down the stairs

-play inside a rolling cart for film department

-reassure me that I am doing ok

-Stare at other students.

-Move chairs

4. Rely on my humorous personality to entertain even when I felt drained and unsatisfied.

What I feel about my piece and what I learned:

The first thing I noticed was the stress and lack of confidence from the first performance to the last. I became more emotionally drained from performance to performance. This led my tours from being confident and playful to (internally) more fearful and transgressive. What this meant  was that no two tours developed the same meaning. The same way that remembering alters the memory itself  over time, so did the descent from the top floor to the bottom. I felt that my piece became less about the construction of my Heimbold experiences to my failure to maintain the same thinking of it. I couldn’t remember the right questions or routines and would, with varying degrees of success, make up new ones. This in my mind is painful and yet in retrospect completely in line with the performance project as a whole. Because my relationship with my performance became strained and possibly unhinged so did my demonstration of the space. This meaning is of course very different for the audience, but their experience of the space was more of an amusing tour of memories, make believe, and activity that I would not experience at first.

One theme that sticks out in the retrospect is the transgression. Transgression here appeared in three forms: transgression of social mores, transgression of comfort level, and the failure to transgress against one authority instead of another. Let’s start in more of a note form of each kind and what that means about Heimbold.

-Social mores I would violate and ask the group to participate in include put my hand in a toilet, enter a gendered bathroom as a group, stare at a stranger walking by, play in a rolling cart, and stand on tables. What this did was provide a moment of playfulness but also give a eye on two elements of the space. The first is that there are things you can do that are fun that aren’t wrong or hurtful. The second, there is no true rebellion over the space. My playful attitude has zero effect on the architecture of the building beyond add a feeling onto it, like adding invisible graffiti onto the space.

-I never transgressed the comfort level of any of the participants. I did transgress my own comfort level when I initially put my hand in the toilet. By having my audience witness it I did unsettle the impossibility of the action. It’s small but it will be something remembered nonetheless.

-Finally I felt I pushed beyond my comfort zone in a positive way. I have touched on this early but I do feel that this performance has pushed me out of a certain comfort around my art making and I would like to further with it.

Nonlinear Narratives: Down Post Mortem

background pt 2 copyswamp grass copyswamp water walkable copy

My game is about Kaira making friends in a swampy wasteland while on her quest to regain her memories and find out why she lost them in the first place. The game is right now basically a walking simulator. It will eventually be a choice based RPG with follower characters and branching dialogue and story options. In her quest to regain her memories she will eventually also realize she has a sister that she needs to rescue.

The McGuffin is exploration as the only way Kaira can regain her memories is by exploring and solving the challenges she and her companions face along the way. For example Kaira is trying to regain her memories and some of the things she needs to regain those memories are in parts of the swamp she cannot breathe in, so she needs to gain the trust of a companion who can breathe in those areas so he can explore them for her. While this character has yet to be introduced in this game build he will likely appear very soon as he is pivotal to the story. I used abstraction in that the game is less detailed than I originally was going to have because the scope of the project would’ve been so much. I used aesthetic in my game to try and give it a dark and mysterious vibe. I use the purples and black colors to show that even though this is a swamp it’s not a swamp that one would find today. The environment is natural in form but unnatural in color scheme and inhabitants. The darker color scheme also gives a somber mood to the game which I am also going to toy with in later maps that will have warmer and more welcoming color schemes.

Nadia Sprite copy

Nadia, yet to be introduced character

One of the characters who will appear in this more warm place is Nadia. Even though her dress is cool colors I want her to still give off a warm and inviting vibe. I mostly have her in the dark blue dress to show that even though the home she’s crafted for herself is very different from the environment around her she is still very much one of the people who lives in the swamp. Another character who has a warmer color scheme is Shari, the talking serval. He is a swamp cat that if Kaira befriends, will be able to get things from the parts of the swamp that would be toxic for Kaira to enter. Almost all of the possible companion characters have an aspect of their design influenced by another companion to show that they are possible companions. Such as how both Shari and Zhis have orange, or how Shari and Nadia both have scarves like Kaira does.

I want to use the warm and cool color schemes to make the player feel different things about the different environments. For example, Nadia runs a tavern that I want the player to find warm and inviting in comparison to the hostile and dark swamp outside. My story is nonlinear because it starts in the middle, the events that led to Kaira and Zhis being where they are happened before the game began and there was a whole mini adventure that the two went on before the game began but the game starts in the cage, after Kaira has forgotten all these things. The level that I’m working on now in the final game would probably be a flashback that happens partway through the beginning of the game.

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Zhis, Kaira’s first companion/friend

 

enemy static copy

The first enemy

 

shari sprite copy

Shari, Kaira’s second friend in the swamp

I used abstraction in the fact that a lot of major characters that Kaira can befriend or interact with aren’t human. For the majority of the beginning of the game Kaira is the only human the player sees. This shows that the environment is not one the player is familiar with, but Kaira’s casual interactions with these non human characters shows that it is an environment she is comfortable in. My plan for moving forward with this game is to flesh out the animations as well as the dialogue that Kaira has with the characters already in the game as well as the future characters. I also want to work on the next few maps as well as adding more sprites for future characters. (Kaira will have A Lot of friends)

As far as feedback loops go the more the character explores and talks to people the more she will be able to remember which will make her want to explore more as she gets closer to her goal of confronting the force that made her loose her memories in the first place. How Kaira goes about accomplishing this will also effect how other characters see her. For example there are some choices she can make that will cause her companion’s deaths or cause them to abandon her because of her actions. A player who say doesn’t care for Zhis for example much might find this mechanic helpful while others may be distressed that their favorite companion could leave them depending on their actions, causing the player to have to weigh the pros and cons of the actions they take in the story. Another feedback loop will be an approval system where the different companions of Kaira’s will approve or disapprove of the actions Kaira takes and this will influence how they feel about and speak to her.

 

Nonlinear Narratives: City Watch Post-Mortem

Background City Watch

My game is about a girl who has to decide her own path in life.  She starts out in the City Watch, which is where she currently works as a knight for the city.  She is supposed to prevent and stop crime from happening.  She is assigned a major task, to find and take down the thieves’ guild in the city.  A problem with that, however, is that she is a kleptomaniac.  She has to infiltrate the thieves’ guild while struggling not to steal stuff.  Or she can give in to temptation and steal a lot of stuff.  It is the players choice to decide whether they want Lena to stay true to the CIty Watch or steal things and truly become a member of the thieves’ guild.  The characters in the game can also help influence her choice.  The captain, Morgan is very kind and caring to all her members; she treats them like family.  And Rob, the person in charge of the thieves’ guild, isn’t all bad.  He helps people who are in need and takes care of orphaned kids.  He provides people with a family as well.  So, the ultimate goal of the game is for Lena to decide whether she wants to stay with the City Watch and demolish the thieves’ guild, or leave her place at the City Watch and join the Thieves’ Guild.

Lena can walk around and talk to people in each level of the game.  There are many items to buy, pick up/steal, interact with, and people to talk to.  Depending on who is around, when Lena steals objects, dialogue options will change with Morgan and Rob.  If a knight is around, Lena will lose favorability with Morgan, but if a thief is around, Lena will gain more favorability with Rob.  To get closer with specific characters, their approval rating will have to be a certain level, so stealing items is a necessity, as well as doing heroic and just quests.  Heroic quests will improve Morgan’s approval rating without necessarily decreasing Rob’s.

The McGuffin in the game is the sword that Lena has.  It was given to her by Morgan earlier on in her life and it serves as her connection to the City Watch.  It changes/ disappears altogether depending on specific actions Lena takes throughout the game.

The abstraction in my game is how there is not a set path to follow, there are different options on how to progress the story, and there are multiple things to do at once.  This ties in with the nonlinearity of the game.  There is not one way to play the game.  Each playthrough of the game would be different because there are different side quests to take, different things to steal, different outcomes of the game.  Nothing in the game follows one path.  The forward and backward loops also tie into the nonlinearity.  The loops correlate to the approval ratings; doing a good thing will generally increase your approval with Morgan but decrease approval with Rob, and vice versa.  Depending on how the player chooses to play the game doing a good/bad thing will make one side of the game easier while making the other side harder.

My game says a lot through a little by using environmental storytelling.  The way places and characters look says a lot about them.  The outfits I chose for Henri and Morgan tie them together at the City Watch making them look like part of a team.  Lena’s outfit has the same boots as Henri and Morgan, but Lena has a much more casual look about her to make her blend into an average person.  The thieves don’t really where armor because they don’t need to.  They have more casual clothing to help them blend in because they aren’t supposed to stand out.  A thief that stands out is not a good thief.  That’s why Lena starts out with basic clothing.  She can get armor later in the game to help add to her defense, but her look should stay fairly basic.  Items within the environment also help to enhance the setting.  The setting is a mix between fantasy-medieval and realistic-modern.  There are items scattered around like smartphones and electronics.  There are working lights, but there aren’t cars.  There are typical RPG style vendors where Lena can buy and sell certain goods.  And the factions- City Watch and Thieves’ Guild are inherently fantasy tropes.

The nonlinearity of my game helps expand the theme and story because the purpose of the game is to choose your own path.  The player should feel free to follow whatever road they want to, and by not having a strict storyline, it allows the player to do what they want.  The ability to be free may also change how the player feels throughout the game.  By learning more about one person may affect how they want to play the game.  Discovering different parts of the game builds onto the world and influences the player’s decision without forcing them to do anything.

I think I have used the power of minimalism within my game.  I tried to give life to the environments and character through how they look without having anything be too cluttering.  The look of people and places should be simple but telling.

In a way the player can see what is important.  They know from the beginning what one option for the ultimate goal of the game is.  And they can soon learn the importance of one side or the other side.

 

 

HenriFace

 

Henri’s face

 

knight sprite

Henri’s sprite

Lena Front Sprite

 

Lena’s sprite

Morgan Sprite

Morgan’s Sprite

 

 

 

 

Lena Face

Lena’s Face

 

 

Morgan Face

 

Morgan’s Face

 

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original sketch for Lena

FullSizeRender

 

Lena’s sword given to her by Morgan

Nonlinear Narratives: Water Warrior

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My game is about a woman in a blue dress named Watershed (pictured in the center), whose goal is to defeat a bunch of ninjas to get back the money for, ironically, her water bill. This is ironic because Watershed, former superhero that she ostensibly is, has the ability to shoot water like a water gun, which she uses to battle the ninjas. At the moment, the only area/level I have implemented is this city area (pictured), where Watershed can interact with a ball person named Clarc (pictured to the upper right), who only shouts at her in his strange voice, as well as the mysterious Man in Black who prevents her from leaving town.

The game’s McGuffin is the money necessary to pay off Watershed’s water bill, which she can pay to the Man in Black on the map screen. The Man in Black, theoretically, also sells Watershed items that she can use to make the levels easier, at the cost of making it take longer to ultimately pay off the water bill.

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Watershed can acquire money by putting out fires and battling the individual ninjas, many of whom carry torches to represent their connection to fire, which Watershed can of course easily destroy with her water gun powers. I intended for this to be an example of instructive game design similar to that seen in Super Mario Bros., as the player would learn from a mostly harmless, stationary flame that the player character can easily put out fires, which would be followed through with a more threatening, moving enemy who also uses similarly designed fire to attack. The fire serves as an example of abstraction; abstracting the idea of being able to destroy obstacles and move forward by designing the obstacles around a common theme, in this case fire, which can be extinguished by water. The game’s art style is also pretty simple and unrealistic in general, but the characters’ and objects’ vibrant and oversized elements (such as Watershed’s transparent, watery blue hair) show basic things about them, such as Watershed’s association with water and the ninjas’ black clothing that emphasizes their sneakiness.

The forward loop of the game is the mechanic in which money can be used to buy helpful items, which can then be brought to other levels in order to get more money from them, and so forth. The more money Watershed has, the easier it is to get more, and more, until the player has collected enough to finish the game.

The backward loop in this game is that the player’s death, which can be triggered by running out of health, causes the player to lose all their items. This encourages not dying, as well as saving their money to an extent since it will all be able to be bought back later even after dying if the player has a lot of money saved up.

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I focused mostly on art in the development of this game (which, by the way, is tentatively titled Water Warrior, as can be seen in the very much work-in-progress title screen). I design a lot of characters in my free time, which the character designs for this game are taken from. I would say that bringing these characters to life via their animations was in the end my main goal throughout most of the development – I’m not historically used to drawing characters that are in a constant state of animation like those seen in this game, just stationary drawings. I got a lot out of this class in terms of learning to make sprite sheets using software like Inkscape and Pencil 2D.

In making the fire sprites (seen two images above) I initially had concerns about how to animate it convincingly, but I realized that fire need not look the same even a frame of animation apart due to how it moves in real life, so I completely redrew the sprite for each frame of animation aside from the wooden boards being used as tinder for the fire, which made it look like a constantly burning mass.

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I don’t focus on realism in my art style – as seen in the image above where Watershed is interacting with the man in black, human character’s proportions are not very realistic in this game. Although I wasn’t concerned with realism, I did have an interest in keeping the individual humans’ proportions similar (this also applies to the ninja sprites I designed above). Although my artwork would hardly pass for realistic humans, I believe that they stand for what they are and look like humans in the context of the game – they resemble each other and appear to be members of the same species despite having numerous individual traits, such as skin color, clothing, and hair (or lack thereof).

I believe that the player can see what elements are important in my game because at the moment at least, they’re the only things that move and/or are interactable. Watershed herself is pretty distinct from her environment, being a fairly vibrant shade of blue among a background that mostly consists of gray, red, and green.

In conclusion, Water Warrior aims to be a simple platformer, but one in which the player has a lot of options, hence the nonlinear design. I’d really like to finish this and add all the features I hoped to add over the course of the class – this creative stuff is really important to me and I’d hate to see this all go to waste. Thanks!

 

 

Nonlinear Design: A Musician’s Quest, Post-Mortem

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My game is about the story of a struggling musician going on an adventure to play a show at the end. Throughout the way, he collects musical notes to improve his ability to play and must have a minimum score to rock the world at the end. He also runs into events that would trigger “encounters”, or problems that would befall that of an artist in the music industry, such as paparazzi slowing him down as he aims to reach his destination, or groupies that negatively impact his musical talent. He must go through all these events while staying on his path to stardom and to rock out. I did not manage to finish the game but I was able to complete the paper game and see a physical representation of how the game would play out if it was finished. When I first started out in the planning process, I did not want to venture into the mentality of making my game memorable by any means. I wanted it to be relatable to the average, everyday musician. It was drawing from my experiences learning and performing music in my lifetime as I grew up playing the piano and now studying the drums and music more intensively as it is something I am deeply passionate about. I would like to explore this possibly as a job option in my lifetime if I can achieve it.

As I am not a talented artist I wanted the game to look simple but in doing so I found that my art ended up being very abstract which was not what I expected but I took that on to the fullest. It also fit with my idea that I wanted my game to be relatable. I ended up using the stick figure form as I thought that would be the best way to communicate the sense of relating to the player. Just like Borges in his story The Garden of the Forking Paths, I created a sense of nonlinearity while still being linear in my game design. In my world in the paper game, I created diverging paths to give the player a sense of choice. While there are not infinite paths as Borges suggests in his short story, I thought that multiple paths to the end goal in my game would be able to replicate the decisions that we must make as humans going about our every day lives. This also combined with the fact that our decisions and therefore actions have consequences, and that combines with the backward loop for my game. The backward loop in this game are the events that trigger as you go along your path, such as the paparazzi triggering slower movement for the player character if he takes a certain route or the groupies that were brought up earlier, making the character lose a certain amount of music notes, which is the score for the game. The forward loops are also the same, but they have a positive effect on the player, helping push him towards his goal, such as our character stumbling through his path and finding the event that has him being signed to have a record deal. This is just one example of the feedback loops that can happen throughout the game. Also, the McGuffin or the driving object that helps to advance the plot are the music notes that the player must collect throughout his journey. There are a bunch of events that can occur but the primary objective is to keep collecting the music notes and get the score required to get access to the ending. I fell in love with the fact that the minimalism of the game is also what can make it relatable. From the stick figure characters to the fact that there are not a lot of side objectives or that you must collect the music notes to progress, I thought that the minimalism does not detract from the experience that you have going through the game. The forward and backward loops are basically one and the same and they join together well because the events are connected to the player, also because of the branching paths.

The aesthetic of the game was designed to be escapist because as seen, it is not supposed to be seen as realistic nor reality, but simply to be relatable to people and the human condition. The stick figure aesthetic fits well for this mechanic as they can be relatively shrouded in mystery about the identity while still providing a basis for a being that everyone can relate to.

I believe that the player can see what is important because even with the nonlinear paths, the player automatically from the start can see where they have to go, which is basically to platform and collect all the music notes they can.

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The interactions between the player and the loops were also fun to think of from a musical standpoint as I got to expand my knowledge of the music industry as well as expand my creativity when it came to creating ideas for the game and definitely helped me think outside the box and to think more abstractly. I believe that the feedback loops are an integral part of this game, just as much as the world and the goal.

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Postmortem: Love, Marriage, and Space Pirates Post-Mortem

Example0

 

This game follows the story of the protagonist, named Alessa, who joins a league of Space Pirates to earn money quickly to pay off her debts and pay for her wedding. It centers around the internal struggle that she has when her work and home life collide and create a situation in which she could lose everything. By taking this job with the pirates, Alessa ignores her morals to try and earn enough money to get out of the business as soon as possible and marry her fiance. However, when her job requires her to steal the resources her fiance is using to help cure diseases, she faces a potential impasse. And in this game, the player gets to make the tough choice for her.

While there are some aspects of the game that are satisfying, there are still many others that could be improved. For example, the door animations are smooth and aesthetically pleasing, but the door assets themselves are not always at the right scale or angle thus looking slightly wrong. Also, the speed of character movement is matched well to the walking animation but the animation is not as smooth as I would like, plus the sprites could be improved quite a bit. I could go on for a while since it is always easier to pick out the problems in one’s own work, but I will say that overall, the game has a good start and plays well enough for me to consider expanding and improving it in the future.

Example1

Initially, the main McGuffin in the game is the treasure, also known as the raw elements that the pirates are planning to plunder. However, one could make the argument that the fiance is the McGuffin, since a player’s understanding of the story could lead them to attempt to rescue him. How the player chooses to play the game determines what their motivations are. I would say that the short term goal is retrieving the elements, but the true McGuffin is, in fact, marriage. This is because this is the protagonists overall goal and everything else in between just manages to get in the way. Working the job with the pirates, getting into a conflict with the captain and her fiance, and paying off her debts are all things that keep the protagonist from her main goal.

The loops in this game are all related to the story, since the gameplay is mostly related to the internal struggle of the protagonist and how that makes the player feel. Therefore, the main forward loop is interacting with objects, which gives the player more information about the story, which allows them to progress to the next room, where they can interact with more objects that will either give them more information, or will give them a useful tool to get more information in one of the later rooms. This way, the player is rewarded with story elements and progression through the rooms. Plus, getting these rewards allows the player to progress towards the end of the game and get the good ending.

A forward loop in gameplay acts as the leading movement toward the end of the game, and the backward loop is what pushes back and keeps the player from quickly reaching the end. Therefore, keeping the player from progressing through the rooms would be an appropriate backward loop. The way I do this is by having certain doors locked until a specific task is completed, so if the player is progressing quickly, they are impeded by the locked door until they slow down to interact with some of the objects and fulfill the objective.

Because this game is based around story more than mechanics, the loops work together to make the experience of the story nonlinear. For example, the forward loop pushes the player to progress through the rooms, so it introduces the possibility of missing some story elements. The backward loop makes the player slow down, which introduces the possibility of noticing more intractable objects and thus being exposed to more narrative elements.

What I took from the readings and incorporated into my game is the idea that nonlinearity is about experiencing the same thing in different ways. For example, one player’s understanding of my game could be very different from another player’s simply by choosing to go to the bridge of the ship instead of going to the crew quarters. The player who goes to the bridge of the ship might get wrapped up in the goals set by the captain and might miss all the story elements that were present in the crew quarters. This could lead to the player having a very different understanding of the characters and relationships between them in the final room where the climactic choice takes place. Also, my game imitates the idea about a nonlinear story having multiple paths by having different endings that the player can get depending on the choices they make.

The nonlinearity of my design is tied in directly to my story. The main goal as a designer was to have players feel a range of emotions towards the characters to see if they would experience the second-hand internal conflict and how they would react overall. The nonlinearity of my level design allows for the player to have the freedom needed to view the circumstances of the characters in unique ways.

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When designing the rooms, I used a lot of basic shapes to leave most to the imagination. They are simple enough to reuse the same elements and get the idea across, plus it has the added effect of making the rooms look like they are part of the same ship.

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Overall, I kept level design pretty minimalistic. I only added assets that were necessary to the player’s interaction with the world and tried to keep from adding anything that would serve no purpose but to take up space. Thus I used the minimalistic approach when populating my scenes to leave what was important and prevent useless clutter that would discourage the player from interacting with objects.

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The way my game looks and sounds adds an atmosphere that helps build the world and make it believable. The repeated shapes draw the rooms together and help evoke emotions whether they are feelings of safety or unease. The music adds an air of playfulness, as do the characters. The color schemes I use also work to evoke emotions and bring a coherence to the idea.

By Anna Beliveau

Space Hijack: Pop-Up Marat/Sade

I always felt in control of the performance although i let the failures of my technology or the lack of audience. This hijack I felt was successful and adding a bit of weirdness in Heimbold that wasn’t already there.

My piece consisted of two facets. My first facet projected the film Marat/Sade directed by Peter Brook upon a wall in the lobby of Heimbold. The second is my improvising and character I developed. My character was a senile old host of a movie, opera, or musical of a forgotten time and place. I go in with the intention of exploring the themes of memory and performance in relation to the film. I discarded upon the performance proper because I wanted my interactions with the guest to arrive organically. I spend my time asking people their names and what they think of the show but deliberately forgetting what they said. Doing so gave the audience moments to play make believe, thus destabilize the continuity of their identity to a certain extent. By asking them their understanding of the show (considering no one could hear them), I gave people an opportunity to explore the weirdness of the moment and give them space to perform if they wish.

The improv in the piece, I feel, did wonders to explore the themes I set out initially. Paralleling the project film Marat/Sade, I encouraged the audience to perform the memory of the piece’s moment. If memory is something communicate between people, how much of that communication is performed (read: manipulated)? The film and the play its based on revels in this mistrust of history to explore the question of Revolution, but with my performance I attempted with mixed and unknown results a micro-Revolution. This micro-Revolution was a space and time where identity, memory, etc. was always a choice and a not serious one as that. This is inspired by my love the carnivalesque works of Carnival-Protests of CIRCA and the theory of Carnival.

Radical Games: Her Eyes Post-Mortem

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Her Eyes is a game that has been through so many iterations and pivot it’s goal is almost entirely alien from the original idea. That being said, the look of the game has remained very consistent from my end and even though I’ve had to rethink over and over the way characters and the world worked, I always felt like I was working within the safe frame of the general world I had created and the art that expressed that world.

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As it stands, the game is roughly half done, maybe less. While the majority of the assets are made, a number are still planned out, and the larger meat of the game, that being encounters, has yet to be worked in. Building such meaningful encounters in the time I had is what I struggled with the most during this cycle and what I would’ve wanted to put more time and thought it.

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What surprised me was how easily I found the art to do. In other ventures towards the visual world, I always found myself getting hung up on the details of what I drew and how they didn’t look exactly right because I was rushed or just couldn’t eyeball something well enough. With pixel art, I found the amount of precision and abstraction allowed me to make pieces of art that I truly felt proud of. While I wouldn’t say the game had any strong influences artistically, I do think my most recent play throughs of games like LISA and Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery did influence certain character designs, narrative themes, world building, and NPC interaction.

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Looking back, I feel that the two things I learned the most were exactly that. That meaningful encounters is the hard part, and art in this capacity is what I was strongest with. Know that earlier on would’ve helped me better allocate time and energy to maximize the potential of the product. Strangely, I never found the time to make music or sound for the game. The reason this is strange is that I’m a musician and one would think the music is what would come naturally. Pointing out then that I do not consider myself a visual artist, it is intriguing that the thing I found most uncomfortable at first (art) became the easiest and what I was more familiar (narrative, music) took longer and I was less pleased with the result.

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Conference Project Post-Mortem: Swimming In the Void

 

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For my conference project, I made three animated kinetic text videos which featured narratives from people who spoke about their emotional -experiences of dealing with their mental illnesses. Initially, I wanted to mimic Oskar Fischinger’s ( a German-American abstract animator) style of shape animation to mimic the emotions highlighted in the narrative. In his videos, Oscar Fischinger uses simple shapes to move in co-ordination to classical and jazz musical compositions.However, a major feature of his animated shorts which made them so appealing was the syncing of his shape animation to a Litz composition, which  I lacked the technical expertise and time to emulate.

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Instead, I used a variety of inspirations for different scenes in each video. For instance, in the video featuring my friend’s narrative encounter with depression, one of the first few scenes has been inspired by Saul Bass’s cinematography for the opening credits of Vertigo. In order to create that, I chose to transform my ellipse into a spiral , using the “twist” animation effect. My intention was for the rotating spiral to create a hallucinatory effect and make the viewer experience a sense of dread and feel that they were getting pulled into some sort of void (a symbolic interpretation of my title). The last scene, which features a gif of a girl with a tear rolling down her cheek, has been inspired by Mitski’s “Townie” music video, which is filled with a series of hand drawn gifs that express the self destructive and discontent nature of a young adult, which is quite similar to the narrative of the video I was creating. I attempted to re-create this hand sketched gif using Gimp and my Wacom tablet, however I felt that I used too few layers, which resulted in an animated gif that was too rushed up and had a rocky transition between the frames.

For the BPD video, I was particularly inspired by Jim Goldberg’s short video for his photobook, “Raised By Wolves” which features teenage runaways in Hollywood Boulevard. The juxtaposition between the young, innocent faces of the subjects and the dreary nature of their narratives interested me and I attempted to re-create this effect in my own video, which featured a childhood photo of my cousin contrasted with lines from her narrative.

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While creating my videos, I discovered a variety of tools that complemented the nature of my narratives. For instance, I used a combination of “Bad TV” (warp, old and weak)  and “Set Channels” effects to create the damaged VCR effect with the static lines. The “Bad TV” effect was used to create the static lines while the “Set Channels” effect was used to create the glitch text at  the beginning. All three of the kinetic texts shared a common theme of the narrators describing themselves as feeling like ghosts and wishing to float away. The “Set Channels” effect proved to be a very efficient tool in helping to convey this in images and text. For instance, I created three layers of the same text and would modify the channel information in such a way that the colors in the images would get separated and created the effect of the person in the image “floating” away from herself (see picture above).

I also heavily experimented around with the “Fractal Noise” effect which helped to create the jittery effect for the text and animated shapes in the video and created a sense of heightened anxiety. I was also interested in creating a zoom in affect where it feels like a camera is panning towards infinity. I tried to convey this in the first two videos which featured the narratives about depression and BPD. This was achieved by making the text 3-D and altering the key frames for  it’s orientation. For the backdrops, I decided to create visual representations of a galaxy and glowing tunnel; both of which convey a universal sense of infinity.

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I wished I had a better understanding of key frames and transition between different scenes , as I felt that some scenes were too rushed to properly convey something impactful. I also wished I had more time to compose a musical composition for my videos, as that would have made the animations  more effective in manipulating the viewer’s emotions and would have been more engaging.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: IV

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IV is a top down RPG that tries to model the American medical industry within a video game using mythic imagery. Currently I’m at a place in the dev cycle where most every art asset is in the game, however the actual coded mechanics don’t quite work yet. The project had some major surprises, notably the coding and character animation came remarkably quick but the terrain and tile maps came much slowly. This is probably due to me using a different program (photoshop) and technique for these tiles than I did on my last game The Strength Needed. Much of the design choices came from this place of experience/need for growth. I wanted to expand my artistic skill set this semester by making the terrain far prettier than last semester. The main character had much of the same sort of art style I had cultivated before, but used some more complex shading techniques that made them seem more dimensional.

I think I surprised myself this time with how quickly the character designs came out. Initially I had many different full walk cycles for multiple different characters that didn’t make it into the final cut of the game, but I still might use these assets and the practice they afforded me in future projects. I discovered a sort of natural ability to design characters this semester which honestly surprised me as I’ve had plenty of doubts throughout the year about my ability to draw/make pixel art.

I had a lot of artistic inspiration from the game Hyper Light Drifter and used much of the articles I read interviewing the developer Alex Preston as guides for making this game. In addition, the games Lisa, Undertale, and What Now? as models for some of the things I wanted to do with odd mechanics.

I did definitely learn how to do tilesets better this semester, which overall has aided my skill set as an artist quite well. The extra practice on characters also undoubtedly will make future projects that much faster. In addition, I think my skills as a designer definitely saw some improvement. On previous projects I don’t think I would have done much to draft out a main mechanic. Really thinking about the internal logic of the game’s central mechanic became a rather good thought experiment and practice for the future. The whole process of making a mechanic that didn’t play by conventional game standards made me question how to defy typical mechanics even more. However, although I cultivated a better sense of art and design I will mention my coding still feels subpar. While I’m aware much of my strife came from a major setback in the dev cycle when my computer lost all its data and was out of commission for two weeks, the fact remains that coding takes me far more time than any other aspect of the project and I should leave more time for it on my next project. Although I thought I managed my time well, clearly I’ll have to get better at deadlines in the future.

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Best,

Chris Haehnel (Kit)

Conference Project Post-Mortem: ADHDRPG!

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My game this semester is ADHDRPG!, a semi-autobiographical depiction of what it’s like to have undiagnosed ADHD in middle school. The game as I envision it depicts a week in the life of a girl (named Claire, after myself) as she attempts to navigate home and school while dealing with her ADHD. At home, she must manage to get out the door in the morning with everything she needs, a challenge that increases in various ways as the game goes on. At school, she battles the various manifestations of her ADHD, such as homework and distractions.

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I am still fairly early on in the dev cycle for this project, unfortunately.  My artwork is very involved and detailed, and I’d say that’s the most advanced aspect of my project. There are many objects that I have created art assets for but not implemented or implemented without planned interactivity. As far as coding goes, I got so far as to implement basic enemies into the game and add a system for killing them. If the game were to become fully realized, I’d say that I’m probably a quarter of the way through.

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I was surprised by how easy the coding aspect of the game was. I have a small bit of experience with Javascript, and while much of the actual scripting was different, the logic carried over to a surprising degree. Most of my problems came from careless errors, which were annoying but ultimately easy to fix. The most surprisingly time consuming thing was the art — I never realized how much I could agonize over the placement of a few pixels. To my pleasant surprise, I was more talented at pixel art than I thought. However, this came with the unfortunate flip side of me often wanting to go back and redo older assets as my skill increased.

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Other than a skill with art, I’d say I definitely gained more confidence in my ability to write code. In a less quantifiable sense, I feel like I have a better eye for design than I did when I had started the semester with no education on visual design and little on game design. That’s my biggest concentration in the future — improving my game design skills. I want to be a designer and a writer, and while art assets and code can always be done for me by someone else, design is absolutely necessary if I’m to lead the creation of a game. I really learned the value of feedback from my classmates, so I’ll definitely take advantage of any playtesters I can get for future games.

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I was really inspired by all of the projects created by my classmates this semester. I feel like every game that each of us created had different strengths, and every creator stood out from the others in their own way. The sense of humor in David’s game, the beautiful art in Colin’s, the use of a small and detailed space to create compelling story in Chris’ are a few of the many standout examples of things that I take as inspiration for this and future games.

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My one regret is that my time management absolutely could have been better than it was. I was hesitant to implement functionality into my game before making the necessary art assets, so that contributed a lot to me not having as much code and interactivity in as I could have. I learned that I need to create a stricter dev cycle and really stick to it. This summer, I plan on trying to finish my game. If I can create that structure for myself I’ll be at a huge advantage over where I was. I also hope that someday working with others on a game can keep me to task.