So far so good. His skull looks a bit funny and his side view looks a bit flat but there is still a lot to work on. His 'hair' will be modelled in big chunks so we can work in detail on them in Mudbox later on.
I am pleased with his design so far, although I am still not sure about his face shape as it's been hard trying to visualise him in a 3 quarter view. Hopefully, everything's going to look much clearer once I work on him in 3D. I will probably have to work on a different version of him for when he stands up. Ready for Maya now !

Pre-production: Hemaraj Development 4

I developed my last design since it seemed to work best. I posed him in different positions to see if it works for him to be standing up and sitting in all four legs. To give the illusion of a human pose I made his front legs act like arms with active hands when he dances. He is still WIP as I still don't know how this is going to work.

Experimental style - the line work in the first two will serve to create something profoundly Thai in the next set. The remaining three are scraps. Aiming to get the gist of this as I continue.

Today, I visited the Thai Dance Academy in North London where I filmed female dancers in practice. It was a very interesting experience witnessing such a special dance like this live rather than relying on ‘impersonal’ youtube videos. The dances consisted of both calm and more energetic moves which is exactly what we are looking for. We will definitely use a lot of the moves filmed for our animation. I would like to thank Mrs Poranee Johnston for her help and her crew of lovely dancers. (Sorry about the quality)

Hello Alan,  I am going back to what we talked about yesterday on Hemaraj's leg function. We have 3 different body types we found most interesting but I am not sure which one could work best for running and standing up in some occasions. I want to make sure I don't end up with a modelled character that will look weird when he runs so it's best to be prepared early.

Pre-production: Group branding - MM ident V1

Branding studio ident made in After Effects:

Pre-production: Hemaraj Development 2

After the talk I had with Alan today it made me look at our quadruped character from a different point of view. We want him to interact with the Kinnaree, meaning performing some sort of dance or do playful movements.The decision we have to make is: is he going to be standing on four legs when he dances or stand on his two like a human. Making him work with the latter will mean more complicated rigging, or even two completely different rigs. I thought it would be interesting to go with a more in between approach by looking at Remi from Pixar's Ratatouille. He can walk in four legs but can also walk like a human to show his more sophisticated side.I gave Hemaraj short legs this time, like a Munchkin's cat, so it looks like his back legs are more supportive when he stands up. 
Any feedback would be much appreciated.
Some initial concepts. The first design is looking favourable, although features/ legs are W.I.P.


Pre-production: Custom Thai Patterns

Since we were having a hard time trying to find a decent pattern to use on our character I made my own based again on Lai Thai shapes. That was a lot of fun to do.

Pre-production: Animatic V2

Animatic V2:

In terms of use of leaves/ flowers/ blossoms they’re all helping the feeling of being in this ethereal atmosphere, invited into this mystical world. In the animatic change the flowers into leaves. Augmenting all the shots all the time with what it looks like, although in terms of proportionately we need more time with them dancing. We can probably truncate the beginning and manage the ending.

Resolve the slowly, secretive little coy scenes and look at how to weight the piece so that the ending is not rushed. Look at a few more sketches to slot into the animatic. Look at Hemaraj/ how it as a puppy is silly knocking things over, sitting on a plant; an actual incident to introduce his arrival. He needs to be more annoying and disruptive just by being there. Kinnaree will do something lovely and he will happens to that something and being proactive at mucking it up.

The animation “…the cat came back the very next day”. The numbers involved is a case where the relationship builds through a few incidents, great example of how to operate the sequences in our animatic. Hemaraj-annoyance boost; Kinnaree is coming off as a moody brat at the moment. In act 2 we need a bit of escalation so we can feel her frustration just a bit more as opposed to she’s a bit anti-social. The focus pulling in the animatic; the parallax is working, but more comedy. Not as sort of “Ren and Stimpy”, we need to build in some more time. We need gags in this act.

Hemaraj – the character archetype needs to be more doggish than dragonish. Look at Tigger in Winnie-the-Pooh. He is an irrepressible, bouncy, cute thing.

Kinnaree - Something imperious is already coming off of her persona in the animatic which is good, but needs a push – need to remove the moody cow element.
Enamelling design – surface jewellery patterns to be applied to the props and elements in our world. Mirror cracks and on the black of the glass, the silver paint; the deeper the mirror, the more rich the reflection is somehow. Large, old mirrors; the quality of their flatness where you can swim in it, you end up with the sense of thickness, over a colour reflective surface.  

Study the SSS shader in Maya; how to create a lustre quality with the enamel in mirrors, the throw of light. Is there a way for our flat planes in Maya to investigate ways in how the SSS shader/ route in hypershade for the colours to glow, not in a liquidly way, but as if the light is going in the top surface and bouncing off of the back surface. So, we can have a laminated surface; silver back surface, a layer of gold resin, and on top of that layer of resin, a colour of green. This will make a vanished effect; a bejeweled  pearlescent look. Light will skim across the surface and make the object come alive with a coating of reflection and a scattering of colour punching through. We want a burnished feel, a mellow light scattering across the planes/ displacement geometry in Maya. A depth of colour is happening on a flat, 2D plane. It’s all about layering. A composite effect as it bounces back on or eye.
Our world begins as if in the morning, a sense of wintry dew on the trees and the antique sun working through the environment. As we continue to unveil the bits of the world through the camera, we should feel vibes of passive neutrality. Something feels decorative, jewellery like. Details and pigments like “The Dark Crystal (1982)”. A shimmer of iridescence will be working off of the planes; the pieces of jewellery.
To summarise, we need escalation in act 2 to remove the unsympathetic element from Kinnaree, a few of annoyance scenes, plus the gags. The frustration will arise in the audience to, as opposed to being something charming. Also, we need a couple more of increments and a longer ending where the two characters are dancing in unison. 

Pre-production: Hemaraj Development 1

So Hemaraj is a half lion and half Hem creature, which according to Thai mythology is a sort of a bird mixed with a crocodile. It's been a bit of a struggle but this is what I've got so far.

Pre-production: Animatic V1

Animatic V1:

Pre-production: Kinnaree Development 4

Based on Justin's advice and by looking into traditional Thai costumes I made a few thumbnails to help us visualise our character . The special ornaments she'll be wearing will be used to emphasize her Thai and bird like qualities like the tall headpiece,  the wing-like ear cuffs, the long fingernails and the chain hanging from her arms creating the illusion of a wing.
I had a chance to ask for some help from Justin Wyatt today on our characters and got some great tips to improve our design.

I used Lai Thi art as reference for the detail in the tail and wings. These are very early sketches but I can already see what changes I need to make. The human torso looks like it's a completely different part of the bird body. The Lai Thi influences need to be added on the top half  to make it look more consistent.

Some more tests. Discovering new methods in Maya:

Here is a couple of initial foliage designs with new colour palette. Interesting to note in the attached references is the gold colours. On an international level, gold combined with lighter shades symbolises wealth and prosperity. Another way to look at its meaning – albeit subjective - is it’s usage to represent armour on top of flesh belonging to an imperial lineage of people. But in the references there a few individuals wearing no gold. If we assume the notion of social stratification, the people excluded from the golden patterns probably belong to a common ancestry and so there is illustrative divide. Our lead character is something of a special deity so the idea of bloodline and imperial belonging is a feature we're thinking about for the character design/ dictating the amount of gold in her costume.

There is a lack of gold in the surrounding nature in the murals (works conversely in the case of our designs). Gold is central to life, very bold; the first thing we see. Experimented use of gold in nature is something to consider, then whether there’s a weighted use of it. These are things to continue thinking about...

We’re going to continue experimenting by limiting the colours to core Thai cuisine: Golden patterns, green and jade etc. 

Andriana discussed colour theory from Thai culture on an older entry; click here to read her analysis post.

Here are a selection of designs we both worked on.
Andriana established some shapes by looking at traditional Thai
art & Lai/ Kranok patterns. We scanned in the pictures
and I experimented with colour.
These are mainly pieces of foliage:

I was having a little play-around in photoshop with some mirrored 'scribbles' and came up with some very interesting shapes/ silhouettes. I worked nearly the same way as Alchemy but for some reason it worked a lot better for me this way. Ideally, they were going to look like feathers but some ended up looking like tentacles. It is a start anyway..

For the purpose of exploring new turf, I have recycled the 3D model from my transcription piece: Mèng Pó. A concept that is very different from re-use. We have progressed to the unsatisfied, however, the 2D and 3D projections in Maya itself have revealed some decent potential. The early idea of progress implies, as these images show, the cutout styles. We have also starting looking into Lai Thai Patterns: Ancient Art Works, relevant to the study of core Thai themes. Updates will be posted soon as we continue to inject and experiment with this concept and later introduce negative space and the inner-confines of patterns.