The Illustrated Building

The Illustrated Building was my first large-scale project. I wanted to create something that was uniquely mine, but also something that wasn't just a simple, quick animated logo. The project makes use of Cinema 4D for modeling, texturing, lighting, and animation, with Adobe Illustrator to create the stained glass textures. In the end, even though I had created the project for myself with theoretical ties to my college, Holy Cross College utilized it at the end their 2013 admissions video. I am often entranced by the concept of ambiguity leading to great clarity. The strongly ambiguous beginning was even more successful than I had originally intended. I think that in the beginning, the sound design (subtle water effects) and the immense detail in the initial stained glass window with depth of field makes for just the right amount of said ambiguity. As the animation continues, the setting, feel, theme, and meaning become clear, ultimately leading to the college's official logo. This was a logical conclusion to the animation, seeing as a great deal of the work I complete has strong practical application. As to the various elements of the project, I was able to apply many of the concepts I had been working on throughout my fall senior semester. While I still have to work on my texturing skills (evidenced through the ineffective repeated brick walls of the church), I think the overall feel is just as I had intended it to be.

Research

As I often do, I looked to practical application before boundless ambition. I knew the supposed client was my college, but since the project was created by me and did not initially have official ties to the college, I had to discern all elements of ideation myself. As I sifted through ideas and eventually came up with the fractured cross coming together, I had to solve the problem of setting. I did not want to conform to the oh-so-typical infinite white plane. Instead, I wanted to make the setting meaningful, and what better meaningful, reverential location than my college’s campus church. When I decided on the church setting, a whole new project opened up before me. I was fortunate enough to be able to acquire the church's original blueprint schematics, which I was then able to import into Cinema 4D to acquire very accurate proportions. This, coupled with hundreds of photographs I took inside the chapel, acted as the physical research by which I could create the space. Coming back to another element of the project early on, I had to figure out just how I wanted the logo to come together. I wanted it to feel like the cross was being built—not that it had been broken and it was being reforged. Using a simulated fracture plugin like Thrausi, I thought I could speed up the process, creating dynamic looking blocks of the cross. Unfortunately, after countless tests, I found that the random nature to Thrausi made it unusable. I ended up cutting up the various pieces of the cross myself, then stitching up the holes to get exactly what I wanted. As to the feel of the animated cross, I knew I had to match the reverential setting of the church, so a quick, fun animation feel would definitely not do. Similarly, a very precise, mechanical animated cross would still not give it the feel I wanted. I needed a very flowing, slow moving animation for the cross and the camera, and while this dramatically increased my run-time, it helped move the project along greatly.

Progress

Since this was not for a specific class, finding time to work on the project was challenging. It ate up a great deal of my free time for weeks on end, but finally understanding exploring modelling, texturing, lighting, animating, and rendering was eye opening. Creating virtually every asset myself from scratch, I was beginning to make something I could be proud of. As the weeks pressed on, I learned modelling work-flow when I was stumped with a texturing problem and discovered the beauty of volumetric lighting when the modelling was feeling particularly overwhelming. Trial and error of processes contributed to the project's lengthy time-frame, figuring out how to get the stained glass to look just right or learning to reduce choppy view-port lag by turning off the stained glass texture plane. While on-line tutorials proved invaluable for some of the general concepts of stained glass, I found my own research and development ended up getting the job done for my particular setting.

Final

The beauty of this medium is that the refinement stage is ongoing—I can change this project as much as I want, and simply render out a new version with the changes. Unfortunately, when I got to the render stage, I ran into a bit of a problem. As a one man army, I have to utilize the resources of one person. This means that my render farm, as it is known in the industry, is more like a render garden, comprising of my laptop (a few months old), my desktop (four years old), and my school’s media department editing computer (two years old). I clocked over 50 hours of render time on my laptop, 130 hours of render time on my desktop, and 70 hours on the school computer. As it turns out, volumentric lighting, ambient occlusion, danel shaders, and 1200 frames of animation are definitely not simply churned out. And so after five days of simply waiting, pouring all of the computers’ resources into this project, I had my frames. It was then the matter of applying depth of field and quick compositing with the logo, which comparatively took no time at all. It is indeed possible to make various changes to the piece, but it means I have to put everything on hold for a week’s time (especially now that I do not have access to the school’s computers as a recent graduate) to let it render. I have settled with the fact that the project is done, and I am rather content with its outcome. As much as I enjoy audio design, I cannot take credit for the audio selection and sound design—my mentor Br. Nich Perez helped me out with that when I told him I was finally finished with my project. I am happy to say that a few months after its completion, the college decided to use it in its entirety for the end of their 2013 admissions video. It was implied but never confirmed that the college would use it, but I was very happy when they finally implemented the piece I had worked so hard on in their own promotional video.

© 2014 Jeff Kyle | TOP