Sacrifical Jam

1 minute Short

        "Sacrificial Jam" is a 1 minute short created as a part of the Spring 2020 Vertical Studio Class at Texas A&M University. In a team of 8 students, I was responsible for Script, Layout, Set Dressing, Render TD, Compositing, and all main character animation. My career focus is in layout, but participating in other aspects of the pipeline is helping to diversify my skillset and better understand the challenges my coworkers and peers will face in a production pipeline. 

       The layout of this film was a great opportunity to work in a specific genre. The main joke in the short comes from a misconception that the shaman is sacrificing the victim. In order to play this up, I tried to infuse motivation into our layout by shooting the film from dramatic angles and lenses before the reveal, and flatter angles after the reveal. I also payed close attention to the angles and framing of the victim against other characters so that he always felt small and powerless until the end where he is on equal footing. One challenge I gave myself in the initial shot composition was to never directly show the top of the table until the reveal so that the position of the cake wouldn't be a plot hole. Additionally, I was able to further develop my skills in character animation. Interacting with both camera and character gave me a better understanding of how to block scenes to capture performance.
 

       I also worked on rendering and compositing for the short. Through trial and error, and great mentor-ship from my peers and professors, we were able to transition our pipeline fully off of school servers and onto local computers in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. This was especially challenging, but it ended up being a great learning experience in the technical side of Autodesk Maya's workflow. To properly transition our various files, I had to troubleshoot methods, write and modify custom MEL scripts, and organize massive file transfers. Furthermore, because we were switching to an online render farm which does not support Renderman's native denoising, I had to find a work around to denoise as a post render process. Furthermore, I was able to implement other important "Additional Output Variables" or AOVs such as depth maps, PXRCryptomatte, 2D Motion Vectors, and shot specific Light Groups. All of these, gave us greater ability to composite our scene and improve the final image. 
 

       When it came to compositing, This was the first experience I had with Foundry's "Nuke" compositing software. I have several years experience with the layer based After Effects, but I had yet to use a node based compositing platform. However, I was extremely eager to learn. I was delighted to find that Nuke is very approachable and easy to work with. Most of the compositing work I completed for "Sacrificial Jam" includes blending Houdini Effects onto renders, adding motion blur and depth of field, and color grading.

3 Progress reels of the short. Top Left: Animatic, Top Right: Rough Layout, Bottom: Progress Animation.

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