Welcome back to another instalment of my studio development blog. Today is going to be a big one, we are going to go through a post mortem dissection of the World Builders Project that I have just completed.
Today we are going to scour every aspect of the project from inception to completion so that we can isolate what went well and what did not and how we can best learn from the project as a whole.
Forewarning, it’s going to be a long one.
A brief, brief of the project. The goal, in teams, was to create individual shots of an environment built based on the descriptions within a book.
Our group, after much deliberation settled on the book, Darksiders, the Abomination Vault by Ari Marmel. We chose to create several environments from the book with the intention of telling a little of the story through our sequence of shots.
This is our final product.
First, I want to take a look at how our team and myself did in regards to teamwork, engagement, processes and the outcome of the project.
Starting with teamwork and engagement as they sort of go hand in hand. As a team, on the most part, I think we worked well together. I was the project leader as the book we chose was my suggestion. This isn’t a role I have assumed from day dot before, so there were a few teething issues there, nothing serious though. I did the majority of the documentation including the entire project plan, which was thorough and included an easy to follow schedule, that didn’t get followed and clear milestones that were not met very often.
I think this was one of the key problems our team had, was not following the project plan strictly. In it were laid out deadlines that if met would have made our end result much nicer, especially because of the extra time at the end of the project we had to work on it further.
This was in part because I struggle with exerting myself, even when I have the authority to do so. Something that I think would have helped greatly, if I were more strict and stern in my leadership roll.
Acknowledging my failure as a leader in that respect, the team also didn’t take the initiative on that front to make sure they were self motivated enough to follow the plan without immediate and constant guidance to do so.
I think in future projects, where I am leader I will be more strict in making sure that the project plan gets followed and milestones are met. This way there will be no problems in ensuring that the project gets delivered to the required quality on time and without fail. More over, in the event of an extension then the team is able to create something even better again.
This leads me on to group engagement, an area our team had serious issues. On our team there were six people. We decided to split into smaller groups for each environment. It worked well for getting a variety of areas done with a variety of subject matter and it gave each member the opportunity to work on something a little closer to what they wanted to to. This was done, in part, to help give the team more ownership of their work, to help motivate them to actually want to do the work rather than just needing to.
This was both a good and a bad thing. It worked to an extent but without everyone working on the same thing it became much less necessary to keep everyone appraised of where we were up to and so communication suffered and also there were less overt opportunities to ensure everyone was staying on track with their workload.
In one part of the group, there was a particular member who did not contribute a single asset to their environment and only did one quick piece of concept art for their shot, as it was required for the class and still came in once to collect the finished project files so they could do their required shot without having to do any of the work to achieve it. This shot then didn’t even get made available to the group to be made part of the sequence until an hour and a half before the showing of said sequence.
This was a huge blow to the project. Not only was the project then missing an important establishing shot for the world but also the assets that they had 2 -3 weeks to produce to the required quality were instead rushed in 2 days when we figured out they were not going to get done unless we did them ourselves.
While I took steps to make sure everyone did what they had to do, without taking decisive action earlier, out team lost weeks worth of time in which the assets could have been redistributed. This was again in part my problem as leader as I didn’t want to hinder a classmates chance of passing the course because they were struggling. However when it became apparent that they were just not engaging with the project I approached my tutors and made the decision to redistribute their assets.
Although the substitute assets were not to the highest quality due to time constraints, they at least got done allowing 2 other members to complete their work.
With regards to the processes undertaken to complete the project, I think our team did quite well. We had an effective pre-production phase that included several pieces of concept art, thorough research on ideas and the result we wanted to achieve and a very in-depth project plan which although not followed to the letter gave us a very good starting point for what work needed to be done when.
This was adapted over the course of the project as circumstances changed and the deliverable date was moved.
All in all I think the processes our group used were effective and helped us to achieve the outcome that we did.
Although it is not quite to the standard that I would have liked, I think our final product was quite good. It could have been better if some of the aforementioned circumstances did not arise or were handled better when they did. But all in all, I am satisfied with the result.
Our final deliverable had an output format of 1920 x 1080 resolution, H.264 compression video. Each member produced one of the shots in the video and I compiled them all and did the editing, meeting the brief’s requirements.
We posted our video to youtube as our chosen publishing platform based on the research that went into our target market as part of the project planning document.
In terms of the workflow we used to complete the project. We started with pre-production. We decided on our idea, researched and concepted ideas for our shots and our environments. From here we moved to producing basic assets to set up a dummy scene or pre-visualisation. After this was complete we began production on the final assets that were swapped into the previs scene as they were completed until the whole scene was finished. Asset production followed a basic PBR pipeline. After the scene was completed, each member rendered out their shot before all 5 were complied into a single sequence and exported in the appropriate format.
All in all the workflow that we used was successful in terms of the completion of the project in a timely and efficient manner.
A list of the tasks that I completed as part of the World Builders Project.
Project Plan Document and all accompanying research, parts of the art bible and style guide, contributed to the mood board for the entire project, did several pieces of concept are and development for the environment I was involved in and my shot, completed the film shot deconstruction, created the pre-vis scene for the white city environment, created the gates, walls, bridge, towers, modular buildings and accessories for the white city scene, textured and implemented said assets. Complied the white city (including other peoples assets) into the final scene, did the lighting and rendered out initial versions of my shot and another’s shot. Did 3 iterations of my initial shot (gave a better result but upon viewing the final result could have done better). Compiled all shots into one sequence, did transitions, sourced music, created the 3D version of the title card.
Also as part of my duties as team leader I liaised with the facilitators (clients) regarding the team’s progress and any issues that we encountered, maintained updated versions of documentation and made sure I was available as much as I could be to offer my team what assistance I could.
As I was leader for this project, I think it is only appropriate that I critically evaluate how I think I went in this roll.
Previously to this the only time that I was in any sort of leadership roll on an animation project was in studio 2 where I took over when the previous leader stepped down. In that instance the framework for the project was set up already, all I had to do was make sure what needed to be done was getting done and to help the team achieve its goals.
This time around, I was leader from the inception of the project. While I am not sure that my personality suits that of a leader I am certainly able to complete the tasks required of a leader, documentation and setting up the project frameworks and getting the ball rolling. Where I have noticed that I fail as a leader is that I am not assertive enough to really tell people what needs to be done in a way that they understand that it NEEDS to be done and not just has to be done when they feel like it.
This is something that I have noticed in other areas of my life and so is something that I am working on improving. I think that taking on leadership roles is a great way to better myself in this area and so improve my skills as a leader.
The other area, that is linked to this, is that I am not strict enough with making sure my team meets their deadlines. I have a tendency to try to avoid conflict and so I can be a little outspoken and my words don’t carry the authority they need to get the idea across. Also something that I am working on that will come with more practice and life experience.
All in all, I dont think that I failed as a leader in this project, but I do think that there is room for significant improvement in this area for me.
I know it has been a long one.
Thank you for sticking it out,
Thank you and till next time.
James Day – 1002467