Honours Project:

An Approach to Independent 3D Animation Production

Bachelor of Arts in Design (with 1st Class Honours)

Part 2 - Self-Reflective Case Study on the 3D Animation Process

Chapter 6 - Conceptual Development

6.1 Project Background

The idea behind the practical component of the Honours project, the creation of a 3D animated series concept and presentable prototype of a pilot, originated from a combination of different factors. These included my personal interests, past commercial experience in animation, and aspects of work carried out in 3rd year Bachelor of Arts Degree in Multimedia Design. The practical component is also related to the information researched in the theoretical component of the Honours project, in some cases this information and knowledge was applied to the animation process carried out.

I initially undertook the project with the objective in mind that I would be learning new technical skills, solving problems, and gathering experience that will be useful to me in my future career in design. The idea, which evolved before the Honours project began, was to create a pilot episode of an historical Polish legend, which would be the first episode of an entire series of 3D animated legends. The fact that a Polish cultural heritage area was chosen for the subject matter reflects the deep interest I have in my Polish and Slavic ethnicity, history and cultural heritage.

Combining my passion for cultural heritage with my passion for animation also directly relates to my philosophy of using design for a noble and greater cause. My aim in this case in particular was to use design for the maintenance and preservation of certain aspects of cultural heritage. I wish to use animation to carry this out, by using it as a vehicle to record, spread the word, and educate the wider community about aspects of cultural heritage.

The idea of animating legend is also reflective of my past experience in animation. In 1996 I conducted credited work as a trainee animator on an episode entitled Meeak Mia (The Moon's Cave) in the series Bobtales, which was a 2D animated series on Aboriginal Dreamtime stories [Plate 2]. In 2001, for the Multimedia Major Project in 3rd year Bachelor of Arts Degree in Multimedia Design I completed a 3D animated short film the Polish legend/folktale Smok Wawelski (The Legend of the Wawel Dragon) [Plate 3]. Smok Wawelski, along with another 3D animated film that I completed in 3rd year, was entered into the 2002 15th FTI WA Screen Awards under the title Showreel, and was nominated for Best Animation / New Media.

Plate 2: Selected scenes from the Bobtails episode Meeak Mia (The Moon's Cave) Plate 3: Selected scenes from the 3D animated short film Smok Wawelski

The practical part of the Honours project also directly relates to the information researched in the theoretical component of the Honours project. The pilot and series concept is reflective of the research carried out on funding and selling an animated work, as it has the possibly of being pitched and sold in real life to an interested party in the future. In respect to this fact, I determined to carry out the practical part of the Honours project with the possibly of it being part of a greater series with commercial output.

The subject matter of legend also directly relates to the information researched with respect to the Principles of Mythical Storytelling and Character Archetypes, which was discussed in Chapter 3: The Principles of Storytelling. This chapter examined the universal storytelling formula that traditional story types embody, impacting on the part of the animation process involving storytelling. Due to this fact, it can be said that aspects of cultural heritage i.e. traditional story types, significantly influence the design process. By animating a series based on legends, I am also animating a narrative from which the Principles of Mythical Storytelling and Character Archetypes are derived. This in turn will lead to improving my understanding of these principles.

It is also important to note that the fusion of two of my passions; animation with heritage was a very important factor in maintaining my interest levels and dedication throughout the Honours project.

6.2 Initial Episode and Series Idea

As the idea of creating a pilot episode of a 3D animated series of legends was already decided upon, the next stage was to choose which legend to work with. This did not present a problem due to my interest in cultural heritage, and previous animation experience working with traditional story types.

Floating in my mind from the very beginning was the idea of animating the historically important shared Slavic legend Lech, Czech & Rus. It is a story about the three brothers who founded three Slavic peoples; the Poles, the Czechs and Russians respectively (Lech, Czech, and Rus 2002, [Online]). Details of the legend will be described later on. My initial idea of a series was that is should be based upon Polish and Baltic legends. As the idea of a series just on these regions seemed limited, I later on decide to encompass Slavic legends generally, and then the legends from the whole of Eastern Europe.

Before the final decision of which legend to choose, I contacted Mr. Longin Szymanski, my historical adviser and narrator from my earlier 3D animation Smok Wawelski (The Legend of the Wawel Dragon), to see if he had any suggestions. I asked him what Polish legend he would like to see animated, as he is an authority on Polish cultural issues, being the director of a Polish folklore theatre group in Perth.

He mentioned The Legend Of Wanda, which is a well-known Polish legend about a Vistulan female leader who due to a difficult ultimatum chose drowning herself instead of marrying a German knight (The Legend Of Wanda 2002, [Online]). He stated that this would possibly reflect the historic tensions of the Polish and German peoples, also somewhat parallel to the situation today with the EU economic situation. Another legend he mentioned was The Legend Of Piast; a long legend, parallel with another The Legend Of King Popiel, describing the beginnings of Polish statehood, which too included a large dose of friction and conflict with the Germans (Rappaport 2001, [Online]).

After pondering his suggestions, I decided not to create these legends for an academic project due to the fact that the anti-German element may be less than constructive and upset some people. I then decided to settle upon the legend I first thought of for the pilot episode; the Polish version of Lech, Czech & Rus (other versions are Czech, Croatian, and possibly Russian). This legend would also be appropriate for the pilot as it would truly be the first episode in such a series, documenting the genesis of nationhood.

6.3 Early Research

Early research for the practical part of the project consisted of gathering everything related to the Lech, Czech & Rus legend, and Polish and Slavic history and folklore in general. This was achieved by conducting various keyword searches on the Internet, and collecting specialist resources such as history and folklore books, and contacting domain experts who have strong knowledge in these areas. I developed a fair amount of understanding of the legend during this early research. A more thorough research and investigation would be undertaken during the pre-production stages.

6.4 Conceptual Work - Workbook Activities

As the idea was largely thought out earlier, the development of the project could begin immediately. The first steps undertaken at this stage were to revisit various activities described the Multimedia Design 391 Workbook. A teaching document prepared by lecturer Andrew Hutchison, which I had used during my BA Multimedia Design 391 major project.

These activities had been mandatory for students. Since the activities had proved useful in development of the Smok Wawelski Multimedia Major Project in 3rd year, I used them as a guide for the project development process for Lech, Czech & Rus. I combined and slightly modified some of the activities in certain cases so to be of maximum use. See Appendix 1: Workbook Activities, for the completed Multimedia Design 391 Workbook activities.

The numbers of the workbook activities i.e. Workbook Activity ##, does not reflect the activity number in the Multimedia Design 391 Workbook. The workbook activities that I have chosen to use are numbered in the order I completed them.

The first activities, at the early conceptual stage, were completed in the following order:
- Activity 01: Project Information
- Activity 02: Needs Analysis
- Activity 03: The Brief

Descriptions of each of these activities are outlined in the following sections. Due to various factors that arose while I was completing the pre-production and production stages, including further development of the name, theme and aspects of the series concept, these activities were later revised and re-worked with new information added. Some of the resulting information may later be useful as part of a pitch document, especially with regard to target audience questions.

6.4.1 Workbook Activity 01: Project Information

This activity maps out general project information, identifying and measuring various aspects of the project. The sections are:

Description: Description of what the project is.
Content: Will the content be easy to find? Are there resources?
Size: The size of the project.
Technical: What technical skills are needed, and what would need to be learnt.
Job Prospects: Job prospects one may receive by completing the project.
Career: Career skills learned and needed for the future.
Level of Interest: Personal level of interest for the project.
Advantages: The advantages (good points) of undertaking the project.
Disadvantages: The disadvantages (bad points) of undertaking the project.

This completed Multimedia Design 391 Workbook activity is displayed in Appendix 1: Workbook Activities.

6.4.2 Workbook Activity 02: Needs Analysis

This activity identifies the needs of the director/client and details information about the User/Target Audience by answering questions. Hutchison (2002) states that the Needs Analysis 'is basically a checklist of things that need to be asked'. As the project progressed I realised that the information regarding the target audience could be very useful in the construction of a future pitch document. The sections are:

- Description of what the project is.
- What problem does the project need to solve?
- What is the economic rational?
- Who is the intended user/audience?
- What satisfaction can occur for the user/audience?
- Does the user/audience intend to have this experience, or does it happen to them like advertising, as they are intending to do something else?
- What are the circumstances under which the project will be viewed?
- What is the user/audience's typical current attitude towards the subject?
- What is the desired action on the part of the user/audience?
- What problem does the project solve for the user?
- Is the content hard or soft?
- Will the content need to be created by a specialist?
- What are the most important ideas that the user/audience needs to understand at the end?
- Do any existing elements need to be included in the project?
- What media elements already exist?
- Does the client already own the copyright?
- What media elements need to be created?
Technical Specifications:
- Video Delivery Format Information.

This completed Multimedia Design 391 Workbook activity is displayed in Appendix 1: Workbook Activities.

6.4.3 Workbook Activity 03: Brief

This activity develops an outline of the general information, planning of the project, and lists and details the resources needed to complete it. The brief is something commonly used in the design industry, created for the benefit of both the client and designer, as Hutchison (2002) points out. Briefs can vary in the amount in detail specified and Multimedia Design 391 Workbook identifies all the critical issues of a project in one document.

Description: Description of what the project is.
Aim: Explains the aim of the project.
Target Audience: A round-up of the user/target audience that will use the project.
Planning: What needs to be created; e.g storyboard, 3D modelling etc.
Video: Information on of visual style of the project.
Audio: Information on audio.
Software: What software will be used.
Other Resources: List of references other than software e.g. music, texture maps etc.
Technical: Format and delivery method.

This completed Multimedia Design 391 Workbook activity is displayed in Appendix 1: Workbook Activities.

6.5 Conclusion

In applying and completing the first three workbook activities, I was able to better define the idea, and establish the rough foundation and guidelines of the project I was to carry out. The next stage to be undertaken in the development of the project was the pre-production stage.