The Labyrinth

This is my first complete animated short. It started out as an entry for CG Talk’s “Steampunk Myths & Legends” competition. I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance in that competition, but I figured the deadline the competition presented would be good motivation for finishing my first short. I wanted to use this project as a learning experience and work out all the kinks for each step of the process. To that end it worked very well. I’ve learned a lot.

To state the obvious, I missed the deadline by quite a bit. I didn’t have as much spare time to spend on the project as I had hoped and I took a little bit of a break after I had missed the deadline.

Let me know what you think. All questions, comments and suggestions are more than welcome!



Time Taken: 8 Months

Software Used: Blender 3D, Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere

Rendered on: 3.2 GHz Dual Core, 4 gig RAM, 32-bit Vista

Rendered at 1440 x 810 (youtube version compressed to 960 x 540) at 24 FPS

Very nice! Of coarse there are some parts where movement is a little unnatural, but hey, who said animation was easy? I like you rendition of the Minotaur! Well though out!

One thing people overlook is the coordination of a project and actually finishing it
and doing things you loath but need to do.
Finishing your first project(lol! I haven’t finished mine)
seems to be a holy grail after that it has to be easier.

Nice work, there are things here and there, but it is a good length.

Renderer10: Thanks =) I agree about the movement. I can tell which parts I did when rushing to meet the deadline and which parts I did afterwards. I animated non-linearly before the deadline to try and create just enough animation for it to make some sense. Maybe to edit it into a trailer? Then I realised how silly a trailer for a 2 minute 40 second animation would be =P

jm82792: My thoughts exactly when I was going into this project. I had a couple of ideas for animated shorts before. I played with them for a little bit, but I never followed through with them. The goal with this one was to push through it, learn what I can then make a much higher quality short to follow it up. I’ve already started work on my next project actually =). This one is a trailer for a movie that is live action with a lot of composited CG.

Atom: Thanks for the comment. You can see where your assistance witht the AO problem came into play =P. When I first wrote the script, I had it in my mind that it was going to be 3 minutes long. I wasn’t far off!

Really nice work. I like how he has to use the gem to kill the minotaur.

Thanks mcguinnessdr =)
I wanted the story to be a big circle. He starts out with the map and no gem and that’s how he ends up.

Hey! This thing’s got potential! Gee, where do I start?

Okay… first of all, and foremost, “Cut! Cut! Cut!” Go through every second of the film and cut away every second, every half-second, that does not move the plot (“hey! you actually have one!”) forward at an increasingly-frenetic pace. You will find “wasted seconds” scattered throughout the existing footage.

There are various rules-of-thumb for this, but they basically come down to “cut on the action.” Present just enough information to me so that I “get it,” then cut. Make sure also that you give me some kind of reaction from the character.

For instance: when we start out, we really don’t quite know who this guy is and what sort of world he’s in. Very well… let him be figuring it out along with us. But show some emotion: is he (over-)confident? Is he scared? He figures out he’s in some kind of a video-game. He notices something that will prove to be important (and to re-emphasize its importance, rediscovers it several times. Hence, we do, too. Good!) Cut! He sees a tasty prize! Cut! He grabs it. Whups! Cut! Starts to run. Wins some, loses some. (Reaction.) Cut! Along the way he figures out a creative way to kill-the-beast. (Reaction.) He throws! Cut! It lands! Cut! Beast gets (Steven) Spielberged! :slight_smile: Cut! The cuts come faster and faster until the… climax. Victory.

You get the idea: producing the footage is only half the battle. Now, you set about cutting it together into a story and in that regard, split-seconds can mean a lot.

You’ve got a lot of things going for you now: no exposure-errors or framing issues… generally good shots throughout… a plot… a cohesive story-arc.

Now… If you do want to emphasize that he winds up “with no gem,” you’ll need to emphasize that with a few reaction-shots. When he spies it, we need a brief cut-away to show “he wants it.” When the ogre appears, a little bit more reaction when he finds he can’t get rid of it. Now a little bit of “I still want it, dammit” when he runs … so we know that, at this point, he wants to save both his skin and the gem. Later on, when he comes up with his creative solution… show his quandary (just a few frames…), then his sacrifice, then his victory (dead grue), then… his loss. Show the gem rolling through the door. Or, show the gem coming to a stop in a shot that suddenly turns dark as (we know… the shutting door…) forever cuts-off the light. We’ll know, thereby, that the gem is beyond the door. Go ahead and “lift” it right from Indiana Jones…

Great story. It’s gonna be even better. You’ve got a very-few shots to add, and a bit of tightening-up to do, and you’ll wind up with a very nice “yarn.” The simplistic animation doesn’t bother me: this is a yarn.

Sundialsvc4: Thank you very much for your input! It is all very helpful. I agree with your thoughts on the pacing of the edit. It should have been much faster near the end and a little tighter in the beginning. My thought process behind exporting this as a finished animation was "I’m ready for this to be done and over with!’ It was meant to be a learning experience for the process of creating an animated short and it’s purpose was already served. I actually come from a background in video editing. I sort of cut the project short with the mindset that I already have the editing part down pretty well.

I also agree that there was a noticeable lack of emotion on the main character’s face for much of the video. I found myself animating shots and not having enough facial rigging to get the expressiveness I wanted. That was one of the big mistakes I made and wont make again. I decided not to do any re-rigging and just work with that I had. I actually didn’t make any facial shapes for the main character (Henry). It was all just 9 bones weighted to the lips and jaw, 6 for the eyebrows and 12 for the eyelids.

I think most of the suggestions you made would indeed make this into a much cleaner piece. At this point I’ve already started production on my next project and have actually been thrown 2 other projects by other people. Maybe one day I will revisit this and fix it up, but take it as it is for the time being.

Thanks again for all the great input Sundailsvc, I appreciate it!

You’re welcome. Really, I think that for the most part all of the rendering that you need to do is already done, except for the “pick-up shots” suggested. What remains is an exercise in (I admit it…) using Final Cut Pro. It might be a good exercise to be working on while you’re waiting through yet-another render. Even if you just set the edit-points and don’t actually do the editing anytime soon, it will give you a good point of view on the show.

I suggest this in-part also because it will save you rendering-time. I have found that if you do rough-edits as early as possible in the production cycle, you will cut-out unnecessary footage before you render it… and it adds up.

The way that I use Final Cut for this purpose is that I set up cams, shoot animatic-style action from various points of view, stick all the clips into the editor and fiddle with cutting the show together… treating the whole thing, at this point, just like a real film-editor would. I’m not good-enough yet to be able to anticipate whether a shot will be workable or just what flow and pacing will work out. You can actually go a long way, though, toward finding what works and what doesn’t if you just leave yourself that opportunity to “experiment without pain.”

That gives you a list of shots and frame-number ranges, and you subsequently refine (and eventually final-render) only these. Gradually the more-finished shots replace their rough stand-ins until finally the show is complete. The workflow is: “Edit first, render second.” (And of course, “render in passes.”)

That sounds like the kind of workflow I should follow, very efficient. I learned from this short that pre-vis is a lot more valuable than I anticipated. As you saw during the end credits I did some story boards for the Labyrinth, but not very many. For my current project I am going to storyboard all of the shots and put them into Premiere to make an animatic out of the still frames. Test a few music scores to get the feeling for the pacing of the shots.

The timing I get from the still frames probably wont be as accurate as the 3d block animatic, but it will get everyone invovled on the same page. I’m working with a few other people on this one.

As for The Labyrinth, that’s not a bad idea. As soon as I get my old machine back up and running (2.8 GHz single core T_T) I may do some further editing. For the moment I dare not try to run premiere while I am rendering on the same machine. I am dealing with many, many more polygons on this project.

i will try to be short:
1-You got an excellent work on modeling the scenario.
2-Even though we know it takes place in a dark place you could have used a Blueish light instead of making it too dark. The robot is good but you failed to show it accordingly.
3-the character animation is not good. Lack of expressions, he moves too slow. It does not transmit his emotions.
4-Cut some scenes where no progress is showed. The story telling is a bit slow.

Improve the character model and animation (facial expressions–walk cycle etc)
Make it shorter.
Add a better lighting.
It will rock.

Good Luck

Thanks for the input blenderguy2008.
That seems to be the consensus. Tighten up the edit.

It’s nice to see complete work made by Blender on YouTube for a change rather than the usual test footage that spams it everyday. Not that it’s a bad thing, I just like to see the full potential to which this software can be used.

Nice work, the character work is very good for a first try, hopefully the next one will be more refined. We learn as we progress. Well done

damn man, I just started a project about a guy waking up in a room with a minotaur (non-mecanical)

and then I see this thread :slight_smile:

don’t worry it won’t be the same

just cool that we have the same idea

btw very nice peace of art you have there.

well done for a 1-man job

Well, more polys for your upcoming project does mean more RAM usage, but a 32 bit OS can only alot 2 gigs of RAM to a single application… since you have 4 gigs, you could run Premier at the same time without a problem. I’m used to multitasking quite a bit while doing some intensive renders/fluid sims and my 4 gigs hold out! It’s common for me to be rendering in Blender while compositing previous footage in After Effects and Editing in Premier… and then maybe programming a Flash game on the side… I think you’d be alright.

MangaGothic - I know what you mean. I like to peruse youtube sometimes, looking at Blender tests. Thanks for the reply.

bullseyesos - I’ve had similar experiences in the past. Actually, my current project is related to such a scenario. My friend wanted to make a Silent Hill movie for many years before the Hollywood one came out. So now we’re making a trailer for the storyline he wrote.

Renderer10 - I’m already running into RAM problems in this new project. I am using Zbrush for some of the sculpting and when I imported a 3.1 million polly model to bake a normal map from, I couldn’t select the high and low res models simultaneously. It would crash every time. I wish I had a 64 bit OS =(

Blender crashes because it’s hitting the 2 gig limit that a 32 bit OS allows. There are still 2 gigs of RAM available even if blender is using all it can. That would allow you to use other applications like Premier at the same time. My dream is to get a 64 bit version of Windows 7 and run 8 gigs… But who knows when that will happen!

Another question… Why not sculpt in blender? Then you’ll know when you’ve hit the memory limit…

Zbrush has better sculpting tools and it handles massive numbers of polygons a lot more effieiently. When you move around in the 3d window, Zbrush automatically lowers the subdivision level while you’re moving to make it run smoothly. Zbrush has a lot of nice features like that I didn’t think that selecting the high and low poly meshes at the same time in Blender would cause a crash.

I’m sure that some day soon 64 bit operating systems will be standard. That’s the only reason I hesitate to get it, because of incompatability problems with a lot of software.

Yeah, that is strange how it crashed when you SELECT the objects… I haven’t heard of this before. The Durian project is using lots of high res sculpting, so maybe there will be some better tools for that in the 2.5 release!