Catching a few lobsters...
/ Matthew Rotella Post-Mortem
May 30, 2017

The project has been a pretty great experience since the beginning. I love sci-fi and have always been fascinated by outer space, so concept was a perfect fit. Then on top of that the team was great. Everyone on the team is talented, creative, and not afraid to work hard. Plus we all just sort of got along with each other, and had a phenomenal faculty adviser on top of that. Essentially everything just worked out right.

We planned really well and kept our project in a very manageable scope from the beginning. We designed our project so that the idea was simple, streamlined, and presented very few obvious technical hurdles. This made it so our core idea could be executed with relative ease, which gave us a lot of room for our project to grow and gain complexity at a pace that we could dictate ourselves, as opposed to starting with a more complex intimidating project that would be fundamentally difficult to create. This made it so the project was much more iterative, and we weren’t working towards one massive goal for the entire duration of the project. We could achieve what was our fully realized idea at the time very early, then say “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” and move forward adding more and more things. This iterative process is what gave us such a polished final product.

We all set out to learn new programs from the start which worked out great. I learned how to use Maya’s hair systems, and ZBrush and how to use both of those things together. I learned a ton of ZBrush techniques. Plus I learned a lot about Renderman, shader building and optimizing my scenes and project structures. I also learned how to color correct in DaVinci Resolve, and texture with the incorporation of Mudbox.

For me personally Databending (the manipulation of raw image data to create effects, often done in audio programs) was a huge aspect of the project and it worked out really well. It wasn’t my first time using the technique. I had dabbled with the concept for personal amusement, but had never really attempted to use it at a full production level. At the start I didn’t even know how to Databend video and now I’m probably the only production level Databender in the country. I had to do a lot of research to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and how to even effectively use it in the project. In the end I figured it out, it looks good and wacky, and we’re proud to have something truly experimental in our experimental film.

But of course there were still a few hiccups. The biggest one for me me was getting sick. I recently contracted mononucleosis in this final term, and the virus knocked me out of commission for 3 weeks. That meant that I never got to create a few ideas for my supernova databending sequence. It was just too late in the project to make them happen. I also never found the time to learn Houdini which is a fairly big regret. The only other thing that could have gone better is if we had been able to create just one or two more of our shot concepts. We had drawn up a lot of really cool ideas and would have been fantastic to have gotten more into the project.

The biggest thing I learned along the way that I can apply to future projects is project structure and initial planning. We put a lot of time into laying out our organization and project scaffolding. It was definitely the key to us being able to create what could of been considered a fully realized product so quickly. If I could apply the same level of disciplined planning to future projects it could go a long way.

Lobster Fact: Lobsters gather barnacles on their claws so that they can use their claws as more effective weapons.

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