UNIT 1 ASSESSMENT

Develop your Project Proposal to plan a challenging and self-directed
programme of study.

As a point of departure my interest in Simulacra and Simulations (Project Proposal) helped me question why I wanted to use 3D computer generated images to explore these ideas and allowed me to separate my work from the tool’s primary function within the commercial/advertising industry. At the start my work presented itself in a rather minimalist one dimensional sort of way that explored some interesting ideas but was also lacking some fundamental questions about contemporary art practice. On a plus my practical work was perceived as being technically and aesthetically very sound which was encouraging but I knew that a more critical approach to my practice was needed. Since my Mid-Point Review I feel there have been many different influences on my project (as I outline in the next couple of sections). Interestingly, as I look back now trying to unearth a written blog entry primarily discussing these changes in relation to my original proposal, I only manage to find small sections where I have talked about developing my practice in relation to my proposal. While this is a criticism of my own self-direction, I do feel in a confident position with my project at this point in the year. Possibly this makes me aware of a need to create a new blog entry simply outlining and redefining some areas of my proposal for my own personal development.

Demonstrate a critical engagement with practice-based research reflecting on the critical skills and framework presentations.

The Research Paper proved to be fundamental in my critical understanding of lighting within a 3D environment. Since this has been a major objective of mine from the beginning of the course I cannot give enough credit to the value this research has managed to channel into my own practice. Up until this point I was aware that the contextualization of my own practice was particularly lacking. This opened up many critical ideas and practices including the work of Paul Debevec who has been crucial in my research of lighting synthetic objects in real environments. In particular the importance of HDRI to simulate realism has been a focal point of my investigation and how this in turn creates a sense of perceptual realism in CGI. I found the writings of Lev Manovich to be a clear and articulate critique of ‘New Media’ and CGI, specifically I found interesting his thoughts on Universal Capture / Reality Reassembled (the integration of physical reality as captured by a lens, and synthetic 3D computer graphics.) Also, a fascination with photorealism in CGI led me onto the work of Alex Roman and Zeitguised who have both approached the medium of 3D in a unique and inspiring way. The interview I posted with Henrik Mauler from Zeitguised talks briefly about the generative qualities of their work as well as ideas about narrative and meta creation.

Articulate a clear understanding of methodology and context in your creative practice.

During the course of this MA I have employed various practical methods and workflows that have helped further develop my creative practice and specifically my proposed project. Earlier on in the year I completed 3 projects outside of Camberwell that inadvertently influenced my work immensely. Royal College of Art, Hellicar & Lewis and Mapping Visualization were collaborations that involved site specific visualization for proposed installations. The challenges given to me during these projects uprooted questions of physical and measured space, something I had largely ignored in my 3D environments prior to this. Thus I felt the natural progression of my skills should be implemented into my areas of study at Camberwell. This manifested itself through attempts to record real world lighting data (Production Shaders Tutorial) and tracking live-action video for CGI compositing (Motion Tracking Tutorial). I had previously tried tracking only to come up against some inherent technical issues (Motion Tracking Problem) and only thought it wise to tackle once my 3D skill set had developed.

Evaluate and present your Project

At the start of Unit 1 my work took the form of a minimal achromatic Monolith, referencing technologically advanced Automatism that seduced the audience through high definition simulations (Playout)(Occlusion). After Reflecting on my Mid-Point Review and completing various sideline projects in visualization (see above), the breadth of my work expanded as my knowledge and critical awareness of Maya developed. This accumulated in far more ambitious works like Unit Value that attempted to move away from a monochromatic aesthetic and saw a much more methodical and process orientated approach to working in 3D. Focusing on the importance of lighting to render synthetic objects into real work environments, Mirrorball and Corner explored the vast potential of incorporating video with CGI. However to my criticism this experimentation did not lead to a moving image piece which I feel is a wasted opportunity to show a thoroughly developed method of lighting and compositing. I hope to produce a piece of work early on next year that highlights the skills learnt over the last term. My most recent work however returns to a fully immersed 3D space. One reason for this shift back into a purely 3D environment was my frustration at the lack of decent video cameras available to me as well as a realisation that Physical Light could be mimicked in an alternative way to HDRI within Mental Ray. My explorations with this new way of lighting was used at first to showcase my slowly developing modelling abilities which up until this point had been rather limited (Centre). Putting this in motion became a procedural event in which I attempted to create something realistic that I had intended to shoot on the unattainable video camera (Central Dynamic Systems). It can therefore be seen that the limitations in reality became a motive for creating aesthetically real content in 3D.

Be aware of your own personal and professional development.

My timetable has been rather transient and a little loose over the last year, however I don’t believe this has necessarily been detrimental to my practice. I found quite early on that planning a structured approach to learning 3D was going to be more difficult than I presumed. Each step of the process had its problems and workarounds that generally made it very difficult to stick to a logical timetable. Modeling, lighting, texturing, animating and rendering in Maya would be followed by compositing, grading and re-rending in Shake. This multi-step approach proved very time consuming at the beginning with many technical problems weighting me down. Fortunately by now I have settled into a comfortable knowledge of the tools at hand and my work flow is developing at a consistent rate. As a result I intend to plan the next 6 months thoroughly as we lead up to the end of the course.

Thoughts on Degree Show work.

After speaking to Jonathan the other day I am keen to develop a narrative (probably linear) of some degree centred around themes of navigation and quantified space. I hope this to be delivered primarily in 3D and may even rely on some elements of 2D to be introduced. My main concern is that I have never created a linear narrative film while on this course and realise the difficulties I will face with this sort of storytelling. I am also aware that the film itself should fall in some respects into a fine art category and cannot rely on traditional and standard techniques alone. Therefore I intend to use the next 2 months researching and developing this story through text and story boards, hopefully completing a rough structure by the end of February. This will give me 4 full months of 3D production which I hope will be a sufficient amount of time. Over this Christmas period I will need to break this down into a timetabled plan for modelling, texturing, lighting and animating as I am well aware of the length of such an ambitious proposal. Luckily, working with these tools as part of my job will be hugely beneficial to this final piece of work.

Below are a collection of test renders that chart my experiments during my project using Maya and Shake.

This is a collection of photographs exploring the use of a reflective sphere to generate HDRI maps for lighting data as well as an investigation into the surface texture of physical materials.

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