3D Video – The Crop Circle Warriors: Alien Ruination

25 06 2016

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3D Video –  The Crop Circle Warriors: Alien Ruination© (see at Youtube)

       Sometime late November 2015, I searched and hired a 3D freelance Filipino artist from Upwork  to make a 3D model of Jobert and the lamprey-like alien from the New Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors® poster. The said artist – Kristian was chosen because he agreed to the budget I had for the job. Before signing on the said artist, other foreign and local artists were invited since I wanted to check their skills and fees as recommended by Upwork. In the end Kristian still got the job as the other 3D artists have higher fees, others have no portfolio to show or their work is not specifically for the 3D I like to be done; another candidate cannot do the rigging although his modelling is very good and finally it came to trust (school reputation) and ease of communication (no cultural misunderstandings).

      Based on our experience creating this 3D video and 3D posters; there were many minor and moderate changes in the look of the 3D models and additions to the storyboard. I don’t think any other 3D artist from other countries would have the understanding to make the changes without charging extra fees or they may not have the patience to finish the job because of the many changes along the way. I tried my best to keep the changes to a minimum, but it was unavoidable as creating something new and original takes a lot of iterations to make the video work. 

     I thought Kristian can just execute the 3D models based on the poster alone, but he asked for the 2D turn around models for the job; he did not want to waste his time redoing the models if I changed my mind. It took two weeks to create and correct the Jobert 2D model by another artist as the original artist had no time for it.  Generally, Kristian executed the instructions very well with some corrections in the rigging (to make the 3D model move) and some errors in the texture.  Maya software was used for the 3D models.

      The animators who were suppose to do the 3D animations were not used to Kristian’s rigging style but he suggested that they have to learn to adjust as there are many ways to do the rigging; the animators he wrote were just used to a particular type of rigging. In the end, I hired Kristian to do the animation as well, as it will be faster than relying on others to do the job.

      The 3D Crop Circle Warriors©: Alien Ruination video is for the older age target market  while the original Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors® animation is for kids. The video is the fruit of many years of refining and developing the concept. I am very pleased with the proof of concept video; as it brought the poster to life and it can be used as a basis for any future 3D or live projects. Ever since I saw the final rendering of the poster, I really wanted the characters to move and do some action. Depending on the type of project with a new story line, we can refine and improve the looks, textures, movements, environment, sound effects, special effects and others. Everything was just basic design, basic rendering and movements to avoid the increase in animating costs and bad execution. Although the video just shows basic 3D animation output, the concept for the story, ship, weapon and flying discs are all original. I believe we have achieved a breakthrough, as the mentioned concepts have never been shown in any comic, film or games. 

     I cannot exactly recall when and the number of days it took to do the models or jobs mentioned. The time mentioned to finish the job in the essay is just to my best recollected estimate. If it is mentioned that it takes a week to make the 2D or 3D model of the ship or any other model, it does not necessarily mean that the artist worked on the said model entirely for the whole week.  The artists all have other jobs or projects to do, so its possible they may work on the model only for a few hours per day. With regard to the 3D modelling, animation, special effects and compositing, I really did not have a fixed deadline. I gave the artist/s and director the freedom to work according to their schedule as I have no idea how the production process works and I’ was not in a hurry but I estimated the project to be done in April but by late June we were still fixing the sounds and music. 

2D and 3D Modelling of Characters

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Original Monster Drawing

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2D Turnaround for the Monster with a Shorter Tail

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Final 3D Model of the Monster – the Minhorax

     The original monster drawing had a longer tail, I had it shortened so the monster can move and jump quickly. Below are the 3D drafts for the monster.

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   2nd Draft of 3D Model with Muscular Look

      The 3D artist worked on the alien model while waiting for the 2D Jobert model, but there was also no 2D turnaround alien model yet. So the 3D artist came up with a very muscular alien shown above for the 3D draft model but the detailed muscles was lessened after the final 2D model turnaround was finished.

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Original Jobert Poster

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Final 3D Model

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Second Draft 2D Jobert Turnaround Model

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Jobert Face

Jobert TrnAround color

   First Draft 2D Model

      The Jobert 2D model has a different costume in terms of color, sleeve length and design from the original poster as it was a different artist who made it but I didn’t mind it much as the 3D model was just for a proof of concept video. The 2D artist was given a free hand to do his own interpretation based on the poster; only the length of the sleeve was specifically instructed to be long. I was not satisfied with the 2D face; so Anthro – the original artist for the poster was asked to draw the 2D model of the face of Jobert in the early part of January. Anthro was not able to replicate the face of the poster to the 2D face model turnaround even when it was colored by another artist. 

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crop circle warrior faces color

      The 3D face came in later as the 3D artist suggested that I should base the model of the face on a real life picture rather than the given drawing. The 3D face is far from the real life model that I liked and the clumps of hair don’t look and move like real hair but I didn’t mind much as I was more after the concept and action. But eventually as I got used to the 3D face, I realized that it was not that bad at all. Below are the 3D drafts.

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           Aside from the 2 character models, we also needed to create a 3D model for the cyber pulsar gun with neutron discs. So we also had to do the 2D model turnaround for the cyber pulsar gun. The first 2D draft had a very wide trigger, so I said make it thinner but after a day or two I thought of using a track ball with a touch sensor for a trigger as the gun had no bullets like conventional guns; so a conventional trigger was not really needed. The screw was also removed from the base of the handle.

Jobert Gun

Original 2D Model of the Cyber Pulsar Gun

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Jobert Gun color fix

Revised 2D Model for the Cyber Pulsar Gun

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3D Model of the Cyber Pulsar Gun

     Even after the layout and movement in the video, we still had to improve the costume and the gun. The gun looked like a plastic toy (being a too realistic looking gun is no good either), so we had to change the texture and color. 

2 Original Gun Texture

Original Gun Texture and Color (left side is the gun texture)

2 Revised Gun Texture

Final Gun Color and Texture

     The 3D costume was a bit different than the 2D model and there was less cover in the brief area, so I had Alstaire remove a lot of the design at the lower part of the body sometime in March for the first correction and the final correction at the latter part of April 2016, where the video was partly being rendered already.

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Original 3D Costume and Texture (costume texture at left)

1 Revised Jobert_Suit

1st Correction of Costume Design

1 Final Jobert_Suit

Final Costume Design

new costume

Story line, Storyboard Line, Storyboard, Subtitle

      After the 3D modelling was done by the artist, it took me sometime to think about the story line and the storyboard line. The story line just sets the background story for the storyboard line, so the story line in this video has no pictures, only words. The story line for the video has been a blank in my head for months until I tried to start writing about it. My first idea was the usual film scenario where Jobert takes a look for any survivors at a research outpost in an alien planet where no one is answering. But I had a hard time thinking about the scenario since we have no 3D bases or building models, it would be difficult to do one and expensive to purchase one. Besides I had a difficult time to justify the scenes for this scenario, so I scrapped this idea and just thought of another one. A few days later I thought of a new idea and it took about two days to complete the story line with some minor corrections a few days and even some weeks later. The story line can be read the introduction of the video. 

      I knew that I have to do a simple and short storyboard line (no illustrations, just outline of the action sequence) because of the budget, it was more of an action choreography than a story, where there was only limited dialogue. I was very conscious of the action to be made, which was basic movements, anything more than that would entail higher costs due to a more elaborate rigging. I didn’t do a lot of dialogues because of the rigging for the face movements would be expensive. The storyboard line was faster to do than the story line, so I finished it within half a day.  I have no idea how long the video would be based on the storyboard line, but I estimated it not more than 2 minutes, if it is longer than than, I may have to cut some scenes. 

     I emailed the storyboard line to the director and the 3D animator but the 3D animator said he wanted a storyboard with illustrations. I was thinking of having Carly – a Top Peg artist who did the storyboard for the music dance video to do the story board but I was not prepared to wait for another few weeks and another round of payments to make. I remembered the amount of the storyboard made for the proposed mobile game, it was quite a lot but after it was finished a few months later it was scrapped. After thinking about it, I did the storyboard illustrations myself, which took me about a half a day to finish – a few hours a day for two days. Doing the illustrated storyboard was easy; I knew how the action should look and I just followed the storyboard line with some improvements on it. The storyboard illustrations I did was just basic rough drawings showing the positions of the characters with some descriptive words. The 3D artist was satisfied enough with the storyboard and he then proceeded laying out the characters based on it. At this point there was no budget for the video, the artist did not say based on the current market price per second, so I just offered a lump sum amount and added some more a few days later on which we agreed upon. 

      Even with the storyboard as guide, there were still minor additions to improve the video and the 3D artist had the liberty to position the characters the way he sees fit based on his artistic decision and the limitations of the purchased alien environment. When the 3D models were being laid out and moved, I had to add an additional eleven scenes at the end. And after that sometime in February 2016, I had an idea to add four scenes at the beginning. Alstaire and I were planning the beginning scene where planets are shown first, but this was not in the storyboard. The 3D artist had no idea what the beginning of the video was except for the one at the storyboard I gave. Even after the storyboard additions, there were still some minor adjustments in both the beginning and ending scenes. 

     When I saw the teaser of new Captain America film in Youtube sometime in mid-March, it had a subtitle called Civil War.  I remembered the subtitle of the previous film was called Winter Soldier – this was a good film for me so I cannot forget the subtitle. So I thought of adding a subtitle to this video since it can define the video better. It took me about three days to come up with “Alien Ruination” as all of the 40 subtitles I thought of were already used in films, books, games, music or rock bands when I typed the titles at Google Search. The said subtitle is not my first choice but it will do as it fits the video. 

3D Environment

      A few weeks before modelling the characters, Alstaire showed me a 3D environment for purchase which I liked and the price was very reasonable.  I also tried to look for other 3D alien environments for purchase, but I cannot find the one that best fits our characters other than what Alstaire suggested. So in the end, I purchased the suggested 3D environment from Unity Asset Store called the Alien Terrain Pack V.01 last February 3, 2016. Purchasing the alien environment was faster, cheaper and a lot better than doing the environment on our own. The 3D artist has to layout the rocks and the plants which he says was a tedious process.

alien terrain image

Alien Terrain Pack

     The images below shows the Model (center) and the Texture (Inset 1) when combined creates the rendered image (Inset 2). Alien Big Piece, Alien Column and the Alien Rock can be rotated or flipped to create new kinds of terrain.  Alien Mushroom can be resized and clustered to make a cluster of mushrooms.There are also multiple textures that can be mixed and matched to the model to create new kinds of pieces. Glows and light can be added to the rocks to create different terrains.

Alien Big Piece

Alien Big Piece

Alien Column

Alien Column

Alien Rock

Alien Rock

Alien Mushroom

Alien Mushroom

Alien Terrain Textures

Alien Terrain Textures

Alien Terrain 3D Artist Staging

Alien Terrain 3D Artist Staging

Alien Terrain with Lights and Shadows

Alien Terrain With Lights and Shadows

     The Alien Environment looks like some of the rock formations at Sipit Ulang in Rizal province.

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Flying Discs 

     In this video, Jobert is able to fly using two convex shaped flying discs with a crop circle design arising from both of his top hands. He has to use two hands to fly; he cannot use his cyber pulsar guns or any other weapons while flying. Alstaire was not able to get my concept, as he used only one hand for his drawing and there was an orb sticking out.  The other earlier sketch was also not accurate but closer to the concept I wanted. The flying discs should not be inverted and when flying forward the discs should be more or less parallel to each other. Another artist with an earlier work didn’t get the concept, as the drawing appears with the crop circle warriors with weapons while flying. Even the 3D artist didn’t get it after he let Jobert fly even with the storyboard illustrations and written instructions on how the discs should operate. The said artist placed the discs on the side of the hand or it was on the knuckle when Jobert was taking off. He got it on the 3rd try when I sent the second draft illustrations. This is an original concept, that’s why just describing it verbally, in writing or even doing a rough sketch of it; the artists didn’t get it at the first or even second try. 

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Jobert With Flying Discs

Flying

     Flying Jobert

     3rd Draft of Flying Discs

Flying Warriors

2nd Draft of Flying Disc
jobert concept

   1st Draft of Flying Discs (there was none – the artist didn’t get it)

     The Crop Circle Warriors© cannot fly without the flying discs, nor can they use their weapons while flying at the same time – at least in this video. Our superhero’s flying mechanism is clearly differentiated from iconic multimedia flying superheroes or villains like Superman, Green Lantern, Iron Man, Thor, Hawk Man, Magneto and others. I am very pleased and proud of this original concept as it can open a lot of new possibilities for our property in terms of story lines for the older market.

      The idea for the flying discs was thought of months ago but it was not an instant process, it took sometime to be finalized. I first got the inspiration from the cyber pulsar guns and toyed with the idea that Jobert was horizontally holding the 2 cyber pulsar guns with neutron discs and he was able to fly with them. After that I was imagining him flying with 2 discs on each hand and he even had discs on his feet. I even had jokes about having a flying disc on top of a hat, like the ones children have with a propeller on top of the cone shaped hat. Then the discs had some other mechanisms on it until I just simplified it using Jobert’s mark as his flying discs. Thinking of the discs as a helicopter-like blades, I thought of the hovering cross position, which no other superhero character has ever done before. So this was the position I emphasized in the video since it is an original concept. The panoramic view with the hovering cross position was in the storyboard, but it was one of the last additions we had on the video because the 3D artist did not put it in the first place. In the storyboard there were other angles for this but due to time constraints and other corrections, this scene will do. 

Jobert Hover

Hovering Cross Position

Jobert Hover Side

Jobert Hover Side2

 3D Plecostomus Spaceship Model

     I have to think about the beginning of the video for about a week. So I toyed with the idea of having a wormhole, then it changed to a space power station, then to an organic spaceship and finally to a Plecostomus (janitor fish) ship sometime at the end of February. The ship justified the delivery of Jobert in the alien planet best compared to the previous ideas I had. When I first thought of the wormhole, I was really excited and I improved it further with the beam and a crop circle idea. I shared this idea to Alstaire and an office mate after I thought of it.  I then had a few laughs with my office mate about how sure I was about it and the wormhole was something like in the Avengers movie. After a few days, I realized that the wormhole thing is kind of vague and it slowly lost its hold; the succeeding ideas also did not have any spark in them. Then I tried to conceptualized alien ships to represent my idea; I imagined  some animals and creatures but nothing came out of it. I searched for other concepts at Google Images for organic ships or space power stations but the design of the space ships were very complex or the images of the space stations and ships did not fit the storyline.    

     There was nagging feeling that there was something missing in the video, that the concept was not clear cut and that I have to tie up the loose ends.   How Jobert was placed in the alien planet at the beginning was not mentioned in the story line in the video, so it was the last thing that I had thought of.  The Plecostomus ship was the last item that I added to the storyboard, as the inspiration and idea came when the video was about 90% complete in terms of the layout and action (there was no final rendering, special effects or sound effects yet).   The original storyboard did not have the ship, the beam nor the crop circle where Jobert was lying down from. Before the addition to the storyboard; at the beginning, Jobert was just lying face down on the ground and the action just began from there. 

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3D Model of the Plecostomus Ship 

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Ship

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ship

     I came up with the idea of Plecostomus ship as I have 2 small janitor fish in my aquarium and I had no other model that will fit my concept. The mouth of the Plecostomus was the one that inspired me as it can deliver the beam and crop circle energy to the ground. The janitor fish concept was simple enough and we were running out of time to think of other ideas, so I decided to just have it as the final concept design for the ship. One of the janitor fish eventually died sometime in May even before the video was released.

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Janitor Fish

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Plecostomus Mouth

     To convey my idea for the ship more clearly, I had to draw it and have it finalized by a 2D artist, which in turn would be turned to a 3D model. Alstaire did the colored 2D model, it was an improvement from my draft and it became more complex as the model sheet or ortographic sketch was being finalized by another artist. It took more than a week to finish the 2D model for the ship. The 3D model ship was not that expensive, as there was no rigging to move any parts, but it still took some time for the 3D artist to finish the job as it was not a simple design and he did not follow the 2D design. It took about three weeks to finish the 3D ship model. 

Ortographic Drawing - AlsFinal 2D Ortographic Sketch for the Janitor Fish Ship

Ortographic Drawing - Carlo

Another Draft of the Plecostomus Ship

plecostomus Ship WIPDraft of Janitor Fish Model Sheet

Plecostomus Ship by Als

Draft of Plecostomus Ship by Alstaire

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First Draft of the Plecostomus Ship   

 Rendering

     After the 3D artist submitted the video file for rendering sometime in mid-March, Alstaire had to add texture to the cyber pulsar gun and fix the brief area of the Jobert 3D model before rendering the video. The definition of 3D rendering is technical and long even on Wikipedia, so I cannot describe it myself without misinterpreting the meaning, so I just borrowed a shorter and simpler definition from the 3Drender.com glossary which says:

      3D Rendering is the process of producing an image based on three-dimensional data stored within a computer. 3D rendering is a creative process that is similar to photography or cinematography, because you are lighting and staging scenes and producing images. Unlike regular photography, however, the scenes being photographed are imaginary, and everything appearing in a 3D rendering needs to be created (or re-created) in the computer before it can be rendered. This is a lot of work, but allows for an almost infinite amount of creative control over what appears in the scene, and how it is depicted.

     The three-dimensional data that is depicted could be a complete scene including geometric models of different three dimensional objects, buildings, landscapes, and animated characters – artists need to create this scene by Modeling and Animating before the Rendering can be done. The 3D rendering process depicts this three-dimensional scene as a picture, taken from a specified location and perspective. The rendering could add the simulation of realistic lighting, shadows, atmosphere, color, texture, and optical effects such as the refraction of light or motion-blur seen on moving objects – or the rendering might not be realistic at all, and could be designed to appear as a painting or abstract image…

      Rendering sometimes takes a long time, even on very fast computers. This is because the software is essentially “photographing” each pixel of the image, and the calculation of the color of just one pixel can involve a great deal of calculation, tracing rays of light as they would bounce around the 3D scene. To render all the frames of an entire animated movie (such as Shrek, Monsters Inc., or Ice Age) can involve hundreds of computers working continuously for months or years.

     For Alstaire the definition of rendering for him is as follows:

      Rendering is the creation of 2D images or frames from either a 3D wire frame model (3D Animation) that was enhanced with texture, shadows, lighting and effects, or a composited image (Compositing) with layers (background, character, overlays, etc…), effects, settings and other information in a composition to make up that image.

      This works also for 2D digital animation as well, sometimes when we animate digitally, we have a separate layer for the head, then arms or maybe another character or special effects, such as fire. When we render this, we basically “flatten” the image, composed of multiple layers.

      We can also render a Video with separate audio tracks, such as Voice Over, Sound FX and Musical Score. When we render this, the four elements (video, VO, Sound and Music) would be combined into one file or video.

   Alstaire tested to render just one frame to gauge how long it would take to render the video and to see what the effect was. He found out that it took 37 seconds to render one frame and it reduced the shine on the skin, hair, and costume in the original video; however, there was no lighting and some parts in the lips looked dark. So I asked him to look for a renderer,while I also searched for other renderers in the Internet.

     About 99.8% of the the freelance renderers I saw was for the architectural and interior design projects, but Alstaire was able to find two firms and we chose firm X, since it specialises in rendering architectural, interior design and commercials with 3D components as well. The rendering services for another firm was only a side business. Firm X asked Alstaire to fill out some information before they can quote the estimated service price and time it takes to finish the job. After the quotation the fee was still high even with  a big discount; and firm X will not correct any mistakes in the animation submitted. The good part was firm X could do the job only in a few hours. We decided to render the video ourselves, but it will take many hours to do the job and there was still a lot of scope of work to be done to complete the video.

Scope of Work

1) Fix textures (gun, Jobert armor, spaceship) using Photoshop
2) Fix overlapping models in Maya
3) Add lighting in Maya
4) Fix settings for render in Maya
5) Render in layers – Jobert, aliens and background (other scenes have gun and neutron discs separated: estimated at 60 hours)

6) Compositing – create alien sky, planets and galaxies
7) Compositing – add  special effects (FX) in gun blasts, glows and neutron discs FX.
8) Compositing – combine 3D with FX
9) Compositing – add particle FX (dust, smoke, fog, particles)
10) Compositing – color correction
11) Compositing -add neutron discs Ending/credits
12) Compositing – add music and sound effects
13) Render final video

 Steps in Rendering

     Top Peg Animation Studios Inc. director Alstiare did the rendering for the 3D posters and 3D video. Before the video was rendered, Alstaire tested rendering the first two posters. The original posters were improved a bit, as there was some changes and corrections in the gun, costume and facial expression. The posters also presented a lot of challenges in terms of placing the lighting, as the lighting changed the look and color of the 3D models and backgrounds dramatically compared to the original. There were many tests in the placement of the lighting as most were too bright or it dilutes the original file. For a time I thought that we could not render the video properly as the initial rendering of the posters were not good.  The poster rendering and color gradation exercise took about 2 weeks. 

Pasted File at April 4, 2016 12-31 AMPasted File at April 3, 2016 2-54 PM-2Original 3D Output

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Final Poster

     Shown below are some of the various lighting positions of the same poster. It took some time to get the best effect of the lighting with the special effects added.

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Lamprey_Orig

     Shown below is the second 3D poster, where the process of lighting and adding special effects is shown.

1 Flying Jobert Wiremesh

1) The initial stage – a wire framed model.

2 Flying Jobert Layout

2) Model with textures, this has no lighting , it just uses the default render of Maya software.

Lights and Camera

3) Position of Lights and Camera

3 Flying Jobert w Simple Light

4) Model with lighting that the 3D artist placed. No backgrounds yet.

4 Flying Jobert w Additional Lights

5) The light setting and placement is tweaked.

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 6) Final Poster

    This poster also had many variations of backgrounds, lighting and effects before I chose the final poster. Shown below are just some of the drafts.

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Flying Jobert Sky

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Flying Jobert_ Planets

Flying Jobert_Nebula

    The two posters shown were just posters I had the 3D artist do as it illustrates some other action sequence not in the 3D video. When I called Alstaire last May 19, 2016 to follow-up on the slow progress of the music and sound effects, he mentioned that he is about 85% finished but I felt frustrated as it was about 80% finished the day before. While we were talking I mentioned that I recalled the poster we did in Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors© which I liked to be placed in the widget side of the website. JobertPowerUp

Old Poster for the 2D Animation     

     And while we were talking about it, I had the idea to do the same type of poster for the 3D video we’re doing, since I liked the drama of the old poster.  Only this time the new poster would have Jobert holding two cyber pulsar guns with glowing neutron discs. Since we already have the 3D models, the poster was not that difficult to do; so I suggested that Rommel to do the 3D model set up right away, while Alastaire will do the special effects.  Before this, we had no poster for the video, I was just thinking of using one of the scenes where Jobert was doing the hovering cross position. Alstaire suggested that we add the alien environment, to which I was not agreeable at first, but agreed to it later on. I played with the idea of adding the monster but Alstaire said it won’t look good. 

     When Alstaire sent the draft of the poster on the late afternoon of May 21, I was greatly surprised that the poster was much better than I had anticipated. I expected the poster with a faded model like the old poster, but everything was very clear and the environment greatly enhanced the poster. I appreciated the poster very much, and I was just looking at it for a some time as it encapsulates the message of our short video. There were only some minor corrections and improvements to be made.

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   Draft of the 3D Video Poster

    Through email, Alstaire suggested to put some credits and a tagline to the poster; I replied by email  that I have no idea for the tagline as of the moment but hopefully I’ll come up with one on the 23rd, if not – no tagline is also okay. I did some research on movie posters and really thought about the tagline on the night of the 21st but can’t think of one. When I went to bed, I was still thinking of a tagline but could not think of one that suits the video. I couldn’t sleep that night, maybe because of something I ate or my mind was just still actively thinking. Very early in the morning of the 22nd, I rode my bike and before my ride was over, I thought of the tagline: “Annihilation Is The Only Option” replacing another option I’ve been thinking. The poster’s tagline and the subtitle is only for the short video, if the story is longer then most of the other elements will change – environment, sub-title, tagline, effects, music, etc.

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3D Video Poster- The Crop Circle Warriors: Alien Ruination© 

Video Rendering

      For the first draft of the video, there are about 3,383  frames.  For one frame, the rendering takes about 37 seconds in Top Peg’s computer. So for the total video: 3,383 frames x 37 seconds rendering per frame = 125,171 seconds /60 seconds = 2,o86 minutes/60 minutes = 34.8 hours to render the entire video by one computer. If there are many computers, then the time to render is lessened. Alstaire made me choose which among the two samples of single framed rendered video before he proceeded to render the whole video.  We chose render test 2.

1 Shot 2 not rendered

Original Single Frame Video

2 Shot 2 render NO Lights

No Lights

Shot 2 render test

Render Test 1

Shot 2 with color correction

Render Test 2 with Color Correction

     The 3D artist divided the video into 8 sequences for whatever reason, where each sequence has various numbers of scenes. After turning over the raw video; Rommel from Top Peg Animation then placed the light source for each sequence. In some of the sequences; Jobert changed positions, so the light source at the beginning would be facing him would now be at the back of him in some scenes. After the initial rendering, Alstaire saw some of these errors, so he has to change the light position.

shot2_frame150-1717_1354

     Source of Light at the Back

     In another case, we decided to alter the costume design from the waist down as it doesn’t look good with all the lines all over the lower part of the body. If the said firm X had rendered the video, we would have wasted a lot of money as firm X will not correct the errors after the rendering. So in the end it was a lot better for us to render the video ourselves as there were some changes that needed to be done after the rendering and then re-render the corrected scenes again. The video will also be rendered several times after the test placement of the special effects, music and sound effects.

3 Original Jobert_Suit

Original Suit

3 Revised Jobert_Suit

Revised Suit

3 Final Jobert_Suit

Final Suit

      During the rendering, there were other errors that cropped up such as the alien’s teeth came out of its lower jaw which was corrected in the after effects. The design of the underside of the ship was just a sketch of the 2D artist and not converted to 3D. So Alstaire just used Photoshop to correct the underside.

Alien Teeth

Alien Teeth Showing in the Lower Jaw

Ship_Intro_sketchLines

Underside Sketch Lines

Ship_Intro_fixLines

Fixed Underside

Special Effects

      According to Alstaire:  Special effects (FX) are added to enhance the video but this would add a number of days in animating it and increase the render time.  As a sample, a scene in Pixar’s Monster’s University, there were glowing orbs while the characters, were running in a cave, it took 1 day to render a single frame…. this is due to the numerous effects and animations in the scene.  Some characters had fur, and the light from the different orbs were reflecting and refracting on different areas of the scene. So I decided to do most of the effects in compositing.

     The effects I planned to add were for the gun blasts, neutron discs, atmosphere and dust FX.   Before we first rendered the 3D scenes, I already anticipated scenes where we needed the characters separated from the background. I needed to do this to place FX, such as the neutron discs, one at the front and one at the back of Jobert’s gun or hand. I also needed this so that I could apply FX that would only affect the character without affecting other elements in a scene.  For example, light from Jobert’s gun shines at Jobert when he shoots, but doesn’t turn the whole scene blue.
     I also added color correction, when we rendered in 3D, the scenes looked like it was set in a desert. With pale warm colors, I added a blue hue, and darkened the scenes in compositing.  It made the scenes look more in a cold planet.  I also added lens flare just to add a bit of tension.
     Other FX placed were laser hits, dust from ground hits, shock waves, force field FX and more. All of these has greatly enhanced the video. The Intro credits also had some light FX added as well as flying neutron discs at the end credits.

Voice Over, Music and Sound Effects

    The sound effects was the last element in the video to be completed by the director but it was being placed in the video together with the music. It took almost the whole of May to finish the job as there were so many options for the alien sounds and other elements in the video. During the draft stage maybe a month and a half before,  Alstaire showed me the monster with a lion like growl which I was not comfortable with, but I trusted his judgement and he may change it along the way. During the final 2 weeks of the video completion, he was still working on the alien sounds choosing from the various free alien sounds in the Internet that I had to suggest to him some animal sounds to choose from like wild boars, howling monkeys, birds, hawks, eagles, gorillas, guinea pigs hyenas, and many others from Youtube and just combine them.  I got the idea of combining the animal sounds from Alstaire a few months ago when he told me that the dinosaur sounds in Jurassic park was a combination of some animals or birds. But all the time and effort spent by Alstaire on the voice, sound effects and music were later replaced by other professionals. I paid dearly for this mistake in terms of time, money and effort spent as the sound and music elements did not enhance the video much. On hindsight, I think this mistake was essential to our learning process as it helped me look for the right sound editor or designer later. Without the mistake, I would have chosen the cheapest sound engineer or designer and the result could have been bad. The mistake also helped me know what was missing in the chosen sound designer’s output, as I instructed Alstaire what I wanted but it was not delivered in the first draft. 

     After hiring the foreign professionals for the voice, music and sound effects at Upwork, we realized that it never crossed our minds to hire the local sound and music specialists we hired for our 2D introduction and animation episodes years before; we totally forgot about them. Maybe we were so engrossed with the project that we never considered anybody else or we were limiting the project to as few people as possible. Anyway, hiring the former music and sound specialist would not have worked either, since from our experience they have other commitments and will just fit in our project if they have the time. And most likely they may not be able to do the job as this requires a higher set of skills already. Hiring at Upwork is better, as the candidates are qualified and prepared to do the job and they will work to meet any deadlines.

Below Alstaire wrote about his experiences for the voice over, music and sound effects: 

      After compositing the video in Adobe After Effects, I placed the video in Adobe Premiere where it is easier to edit the audio. First I had to record the voices needed for Jobert and the Alien Lampreys. Next I have to line up the voice over for each scene. I increased the loudness of each voice according to a scene. Louder voices for close ups and softer for full shots.

     We then downloaded sound effects (SFX) from different sites, we were also able to gather some SFX from YouTube. I had to list down all the sounds that I needed for each scene.

    We also have a copy of SFX we purchased online that specialises in motion graphics, this collection consists of about 500 SFX and audio elements. The first thing that we encountered was the number of SFX that were available; they are grouped in abstract (beats and sounds), ambiance, drums (build ups, cymbals and drum hits), impacts and swishes (see Sound Effects List) each has about 100 sounds per group. So we needed to listen to each sound before choosing on what to use. Doing this takes a lot of time, and of course  we can’t memorize each sound, so we needed to go over it each time we will choose.

      We also researched online about movie trailers, with the use of familiar sounds like the fog horn, and bass drops, made popular by the movie Inception. These sounds are now frequently used in blockbuster movie trailers such as the Avengers and Transformers. Fog horns are usually used for build up before the action, and bass drops are used to end the excitement, and then build it up again. So I incorporated these in the trailer.

      Editing these in Adobe Premiere requires a lot of layers (see Sound Editing), and then I need to adjust each sound so they don’t over power the dialogue or the other SFX.

      I layer Voice Over, then SFX then the Music, in that order. After everything sounds good, I just then render the Final Video.

A. Sound FX List

Sound Effects List

B. Sound Editing

Sound Editing

Credits

      Sometime on the 3rd week of March, I thought of adding something new for the credits. Since its our name on the credits, I wanted it to be original and something special. I had the neutron discs of the gun fly around in different patterns before the names of the credits were introduced. I had to do a storyboard on that so Alstaire can understand the flight patterns and effects I wanted to be shown. We will use this effect somewhere in our 2D animation television series also. Months before this, I was thinking of Jobert flying around before the names at the credits, but it was not a good idea, no matter how I tried to present the flight of Jobert in my mind.

First Draft of Video 

       Before the first draft of video was sent last June 1, I did not ask Alstaire to send me any portion of the video with added music and sound effects.  I just told him to finish everything first and give the first draft as if it is the final video. I was excited with the draft of the video, as Alstaire already showed it to some of the animators and most of them were very positive about it. When June 1 came,  Alstaire sent me and Grace Dimaranan a file for review.  My comment was the lack of sound and music in the video. After all the suggestions I made to Alstaire, the voice was weak, the monster voice inappropriate for my taste, the sound effects lacked excitement and in many cases the music was non-existent in the video.  Alstaire was working on these things for almost a month and any more recommendations and corrections will not change it substantially and it will take a long time to finish it again. In fairness to Alstaire he got a few things right. I was really hoping that Alstaire can do the job as we have a budget for the video. But I was really hoping too much this time as no individual can do all the voice acting, sound effects and music together with the special effects. Even though this was just the first draft, I was really worried and disappointed that the quality of the video fell below my expectations.

     When I called Grace about the video on June 2, I thought she will have the same sentiments as me about the sound and music in the video; but she just commented on the 3D animation as she was an animator. Grace told me that the 3D animation lacks the timing, especially that its an action video. I asked her to write her comment: “The animation is lacking in action and impact. It should be exciting but I don’t feel it. Action of the monsters is too limited. They are not threatening or scary to intimidate Jobert. They move too slow ( Kawawa lang sila sa (I pity them in combat/ fight)). The action of Jobert lacks timing to create the impact of action and urgency”. I wondered why Grace did not just share this comment while the 3D animator finished the raw file. It was almost  two months that Alstaire was working  on the special effects and the sound/music but we never heard any comments from her. I guess it was my mistake just to ask her comment when the video was almost finished. 

     I never thought of the 3D animation as bad as Grace thought it was; I thought it was just okay given the budget. I also showed Kristian the draft and Grace’s comment and he replied that its just her opinion, he did the animation based on his imagination rather than from a video reference. He added that Grace maybe thinking of cinematic movements already. Kristian found the video good and he had some ideas to add more action scenes, which I curtly replied that I have no more time and budget for it. 

     After some reflection, on June 5, I realized that the action on the video was really not that bad although it was not as fast as Grace expected it to be. So I reviewed the video and the slow actions could be justified as the aliens were taunting Jobert as they were overly confident – there was even a part that one alien spoke to and taunted Jobert. I have watched television shows of hyenas stalking their prey, sometimes they don’t just go for the kill immediately but they go back and forth assessing their prey. But I’m sure some of the audience will not see it that way, they will look for faster action like Grace. 

       Many of the monsters just come out behind the rocks and get shot, with no action. Before I have thought of making them jump, but with no time and budget, I just left it that. While jogging on the early morning of June 18, I thought about the justification for the slow moving monsters. The monsters are just intimidating and cajoling Jobert just like street thugs. So I thought of making scary alien sounds for them like some animals without the action. The sounds alone can scare the viewers, so I instructed the sound designer to think of sounds for the alien monsters to make it scary like hearing the howling monkeys or hyenas. So without improving the action, I was able to make the video more tense and scary. So I transferred part of the tension build-up from the animator to the sound designer, whom I believe can do this job competently. 

Corrections on the Video

      After working on many months on the video, I was really disappointed that the action and the sound was not that good. After looking at free music and the Audiojungle (Envato Market) for epic cinematic trailer in the Internet, I found many good music but I’m not sure which music will be appropriate for the video. 

Music and Sound Effects

     On June 3, I started looking for a sound and music editor at Upwork. I’m 100% sure that I needed a sound and music editor with experience in sci-fi animation. After placing my request, Upwork immediately sent me some candidates and I just focused on their recommended ones. The first on the recommended list was a European with experience in game sound and music. I saw his sample videos and all of it were very good. The sound, music, voice were all loud and clear while being played simultaneously. This was what I was looking for, the sound and music enhancing the video and making the experience of the audience better. The other candidates were not that focused on games but more on MTV, cinema and the other one I cannot open his sample file but he has the lowest fee per hour but lacks experienced. There were others not recommended by Upwork but were in the list; but there were so many that I only looked at about two of them and just focused on the recommended ones. 

     My first choice was the game sound specialist, although his price was on the high end per hour, I really didn’t mind as it was urgent that I find a professional who knows his stuff. I sent him the 46.41 MB PDF file of the video and the next day he said he wanted the original file before he gives me his quote. I asked him why he needed it, as the file was too big – 153 MB. I am not a techie, so I knew it would be hard for me to send it to him; as Alstaire also had a very hard time sending it to me that I told him just send me a smaller file. After a day, Upwork sent me new candidates for recommendation, I saw someone new and he was into commercials. I just saw one of his commercials and I knew right away that this guy knows his stuff. I wrote him and also sent him the PDF file. We used Upwork to communicate and within less than 20 minutes of communicating I invited him to the project which he accepted. Otavio is from a South American country and his fee is about half of the European guy. Otavio suggested that we change the total sound and music from the first draft of the video, which I totally agreed. As I was in no hurry and I wanted a good output; I gave Otavio up to June 20 to finish the job with adjustments after correction of the final video.

     Even three days after I chose a sound designer, Upwork continued to send recommended candidates which I did not take a look at anymore. Of all the 44 composers, music producers, audio and amp engineers, sound designers, sound engineers , sound and music editors who applied  within 6 days, only five were from 3 Asian countries (one from the Philippines) and one of the Asian candidates even has graphic design as his specialty. Out of curiosity I also looked at the sample works of the new recommended ones; I think all of them are very talented. If I reviewed the recommended ones before I chose one sound designer, I probably would choose among four people whose works I like best. But some of the recommended ones came in only four or five days after I chose the sound designer.

       On June 12 Otavio sent me the edited two music tracks from Audiojungle (Envato Market) with watermark for review and comments. He wrote that he thinks the tracks brings great rhythm to the action scenes. He can also play new instruments over it, to give it more variety and also highlight some actions. He was very happy with the results and was open for suggestions, reviews and adjustments. But there are some points to improve and he prefers to wait for the final video. In the meantime he continued working on the sound effects. 

     It took me a few days to appreciate the music as I found it kind of slow until the middle of the tape but I agreed that it will add excitement to the video. In contrast, the first draft of video had scant music except for  the first part and the credit part. I never realized it until 3 days later that it was already the edited music for our entire video as it was a combination of 2 tracks from Audiojungle; the music was slow until the middle part as our video. On June 15, I purchased the said 2 musical scores from Envato Market while I still awaited the final corrected video the next day. When the next day came the 3D correction and rendering was still in process up to 8 pm. On the 17th it was around 2:30 pm that the final video file with the actor’s voice over was sent to me after which I sent it to Otavio before 3:20 pm.

     On the 19th I opened my email after lunch and the first mix was done already. I listened to it and was very happy with the results; Otavio did a very good job as expected, especially the monster sounds compared to the first video draft. However, I noticed that he did not include the female computer voice in the first draft, which was one of the better sound effects in the first draft. But after numerous replays of the first mix, I felt that the computer voice was not essential anymore. I also noticed a missing sound – a whistle in my second replay of the mix; I noticed a gun blast needs some enhancement after about four replays. I listened to the mix about ten times more and just imagined if it is placed in the video; I was very satisfied.  After a few hours, I notified Otavio to add some dying monster sounds after being shot, since I remembered that I specifically instructed Alstaire to do that but it was not done. It was on the 21st the final corrected sound effects was submitted; hiring Otavio was one of the best decisions I made regarding this project. 

     Alstaire and Grace were in Cabanatuan  on the 20th to the 22nd as TESDA assessors for students wanting to get TESDA accreditation, so I have to wait for them before I send the final music and sound effects for the video. When Alstaire came back on the 23rd, he corrected some minor errors in the video and reinstalled the female computer voice in the first draft, which I did not authorise. But after listening to the complete video, I liked it and told Alstaire not to have it erased anymore. After playing the final video, everyone agreed that the video is now complete. 

3D Video Corrections

      I thought about how to improve the 3D video without overhauling everything. So I talked to Rommel first as Alstaire was absent last June 4. I had some ideas and I just confirmed to Rommel if somethings could be done without the original 3D animator – Kristian as he does not reply to me immediately, even though I am willing to pay for the correction cost. When Kristian did reply, he said he was busy with other projects and needs time to estimate the correction cost – that was it for me. Kristian tends to leave  the small details unfinished – the foot grip of the monsters, not following the original storyboard where the aliens were jumping, not following the top view of the ship lower body design, not fixing the original underside costume of Jobert, not having the alien fly into a trajectory pattern and not fixing the neck of alien with some teeth showing on it. In fairness to Kristian, he did a lot of other things out of the scope of his job like using the ready-to-use 3D environment and accommodated the additions in the storyboard while he was still doing the 3D set up for the original storyboard. The compromises of not doing things completely was compensated with some benefits; so I let it slide during the finalization of the raw file and paid Kristian in full. But with this experience, I will not let this type of compromise happen again for any future 3D projects with other 3D artists. 

       To minimise the correction cost and improve the impact, the Top Peg Animation team suggested to make the frames faster in compositing. Other corrections such as sliding feet of the monsters and emerging teeth will be corrected with Photoshop. Other scenes will require us to use the original 3D file again such as adding two scenes at the end and having some of the monsters jump based on the original storyboard. I cannot add more simple scenes as this will entail more correction time and expense. 

      After the final video editing on June 17, the subtle corrections and reductions were not that noticeable. I really appreciated the corrections made as I can sleep knowing that we did what we could to make a better video.

3D Animation Editing

      Alstaire wrote the following on what they did on the editing:
      We checked each scene before rendering. We noticed that there were a couple of overlapping objects in a scene, for example, Jobert’s thumb was overlapping through his chest while lying on the planet, this was easily fixed.
 
      Next we saw some distortion on the model specifically at the butt area (see 001), we left this at first because it was a rigging or skinning problem. Rigging pertains to attaching bones and controllers that would control the bones to the 3D model, these can also be controllers for facial expressions and eye movement. Skinning pertains to manipulating the skin of the model to follow the bones that were created. So when the legs of Jobert were animated, the skin of his butt contracted towards the bone.
 
      On a scene where the Alien Lamprey charged at Jobert, it appeared that the Alien’s feet was sliding, but when we checked it; instead of fixing it in 3D, our work around was to add dust and shadows, to make the character look that it is interacting with it’s surrounding. (see 002)
 
      We also noticed a distortion on Jobert’s foot while running. This may be the animator’s error, because the feet should not be that flexible while wearing boots. For this scene we also added some speed lines and blur, for enhancement. We also sped up the running action by about 200%. (see 003)
 
      Additional animations and scenes were also added to enhance the overall video. Aliens jumping (see 004), Aliens attacking (see 008) and a surprise ending (see 009) made the overall video much more exciting.
 
      Some special effects were also added and enhanced.  Neutron discs were added to Jobert’s Guns when they levitated (see 005). And the charged gun blast at the end were made stronger (see 006 and 007).
     Another issue we noticed on the 3D animation, was that the lights that were placed in the scene were too bright and it didn’t cast any shadows on the environment. So we added some sunlight to each scene. Since the animation were divided into shots, with each shot consisting of different scenes, when we placed the sun direction, it affected each scene differently. The light is in front of the character in one scene, but once he turns, he turns dark, because the sun is now on his back. So we had to render each scene, then change the sun direction again to render another scene. To avoid this in future works, each scene should be made separately from each other.
     This procedure affected us once again when we needed to do retakes, since we needed again to move the sun direction for each scene that had revisions. Fortunately, the sun direction was noted down by the director.
 
     Some scenes where also shortened by removing lulls and holds after each action. Overall, about 19 seconds were removed from the first draft of the video.

    001 Jobert Butt Distortion

001

002 Alien Feet Slide

002

003 Rubber Feet on Run

003

004 Alien Jump

004

005 Add Discs to Gun

005

006 Charged Gun Blast

006

007 Charged Gun Blast

007

008 Alien Attack

008

009 Alien Ending

009

Voice Acting

         I decided to get a voice talent in Upwork on June 7 with a fixed price since the job would just be a few minutes of work. There were 3 US applicants at first since I required the talent with an American accent, I chose the most experienced and it took about 15 minutes to get him on board. I got Troy on board around 7:30 pm and after about four hours he finished his job for approval but I messaged him about some lacking sounds the next morning. It was good working with Troy as he is very professional. There were a total of 9 additional applicants and some were also very talented but the others didn’t have any demonstration sounds. 

Lessons Learned

     It was my first time to produce a 3D video, at the start I knew nothing about 3D animation except that it was expensive to make. I was not sure what the final output would be, but we tried our best to come up with a decent video based on the budget. To produce the short video was longer than expected as there were many unexpected problems along the way. In the end, this budgeted video just went a bit over the budget than what I expected to spend. 

      Although I produced this on a budget, I was kind of hoping and expecting a first class output. To be realistic for a better output next time; I will look for top talent with a corresponding professional fee to do the job right the first time. I could have saved a lot of time and money if I just had a professional sound designer do the sound effects and music without asking the director to do it first. But without the first draft, we would never know our capabilities in the music and sound effects area. There is always room for improvement, as this was my first budgeted 3D video, I can live with a few errors and disappointments. Based on our 3D production experience; the pre-production part – the concept, story line, storyboard, 2D models and 3D models is the most important; it should be as final as possible before any work gets started, the various changes were the ones that extended the production time. But after seeing the on-going production process, it cannot be helped that once in a while inspirations for new ideas come up to improve the video.

     Top Peg Animation Studios Inc. didn’t have much experience in 3D production, so they lacked the personnel and equipment to do the entire short video. I had to get a freelance artist for the 3D modelling and rigging , while Top Peg did the 2D modelling, rendering, special effects and placing the sound effects and music at first.  Even though we didn’t have a real deadline, the delays in the video really tested my patience.  I always have a long lead time to finish the job, but for some reason even with a very long lead time, there are always delays in the 3D modelling, animation, rendering and special effects.

     To summarize the three main mistakes according to order based on time wasted in the production: a) having the director do the sound effects, music and voice at first, b) not asking others – like Grace who had  a valid critique on the animation (we tried to involve as few people as possible in the project), c) having a compromise with the 3D artist. These mistakes will serve as a reminder for our next projects. On the other hand, one of the best decisions we made was not to have the video rendered outside Top Peg, as it will cost us a lot of money with only a little benefit. As the re-rendering continued throughout the correction of errors for the 3D models, animation movements, special effects, sound effects and music. 

     Producing quality animation for the international market has many specialists involved which the Philippines do not have. I have to source some talents abroad and they are very good at what they do as they are educated in their chosen fields and have years of international experience in doing their jobs. But it is hard to choose a  talent whom I can work with and can understand my project with the budget I have. Some talents are not yet proven as they have zero hours worked in Upwork, but their credentials and portfolio looks good. In the end its just a matter of trust whom I can rely on; so I just go with the ones with more experience, within my budget range and have good rating at Upwork who appear in the first batch of the recommended artists by the website.

      I have to be sure that I know what I want and what time table I have before hiring the talent abroad; I don’t want to waste their time and my money. After the first draft, there will be some additions, corrections and even some recommendations from the specialists. I also have to be sure what elements are lacking that the specialists may have missed out after their first draft. Unlike hiring local talent, I am a bit vague and I can just introduce improvements along the way which partly contributed to the delays at work. But without these added inspired ideas, the video will not be as good.  

     For future animation related small projects, hiring foreign talent will be easier as the specialists will have the actual 3D and 2D animation video references of our property to assess from where we are to what we want to improve better. For bigger projects for our properties for the foreign market; contacts with foreign brokers, project packagers and marketers with experience or good track records will have to be made.  A team of experienced writers, directors, animators, designers, actors, lawyers, producers, marketers, investors and other related professionals are needed to make a good project to be produced and marketed well. 

     Even with the concept being refined for many years, there were still lots of improvements to be made. The pre-production, production and post production sequence were not followed according to ideal  textbook cases. There were changes in terms of the storyboard (added additional scenes at the beginning and at the end of the storyboard much later on; also added a gun scene like a video game), in the art (costume, gun) and in the concept (the beginning scene was Jobert in a prone position at first, then ideas to improve the beginning from a wormhole to a ship).  Doing it in 3D is no less difficult than doing it on 2D. The common thing in 2D or 3D animation is that it takes a lot of time and effort to produce an original content, basically its a research and development exercise where there will be a lot of mistakes in the production process. Given the limited budget, I did not try to impose all the improvements that I wanted; like the foot grip of the aliens which I already asked twice to be corrected, hair of Jobert, special effects and improving other scenes. This 3D video achieved our objective, which is to showcase that the Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors® property is adaptable to other platforms with  different story lines for other target markets. It was a lot of hard work to produce this video, but it was worth it and we had fun doing it. 

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