Final Animation - Ling Zhi Mushroom Life Cycle

The final result for the last project of the first year here at UCA Rochester. The life cycle of a Ling Zhi mushroom.

HD is available at Vimeo!
Ling Zhi Mushroom Life Cycle from Leo Tsang on Vimeo.

Youtube HD also available!

I am pleased with the results with what I have managed to achieved in just 5 weeks. The days were short and the nights grew long, but everything came together in the end. Despite the evil projector throwing a blue screen of death during my animation (twice this has happened now!), I am glad it was well received and that our client, Dr Klappa, also seemed to like it.

I think a well earned break is in order, though I will pop back on here from time to time, as well as not forgetting that the summer project now rises on the horizon...

Art of Ling Zhi Mushroom Life Cycle

Additional pages to the 'Art of' book.

Update + Brand Identity

Its been a while since my last post as I've been a busy bee getting everything done. All the scenes are textured and rendered, and am now well into the stages of compositing. I would have liked to have updated here more but I guess I've been stretched with ever dwindling time. Here are some renders of scenes which are ready to go to compositing.



Final Scene

Here are my designs for the DVD label, cover and brand identity. I've maintained the title of 'Leo Tsang Design' following the name of the blog, and tried to develop a simple yet recognisable icon with a my initials within the 'D' of design. As such, I settled on the use of the icon alone across my designs. With the DVD label and cover, I wanted the capture the world of my animation which I felt my original concepts portrayed best.

Basidiospores Scene Progress

Made some progress on the growth of basidiospores scene, I think I got the animation right now I just need to work on textures and lighting. I've also added the spore flight scene to the playblast below help establish the transition between the two scenes.

The UVs are now working correctly with the joints and blend shapes. As Alan pointed out earlier, be sure to lay out the UVs and clear the history BEFORE binding joints, otherwise the UVs will go quite mad.

Opening Scene Progress #2

I've been working away at various scenes of the animation, but here is an update on the opening scene.

Quick playblast of the scene so far:

I think I'll add some more texture variation to the grass, and hopefully the background will be blend better when compositing in after effects.

Mushroom Model

My photos taken of the Ling Zhi mushroom served well in creating the textures for the mushroom. I've also painted over the textures for a more stylised aesthetic similar to my earlier concepts.

Initial Renders

Some refinement is necessary as I am yet to establish the appropriate lighting which I'm having difficulty with. The scene is set during the day, perhaps afternoon - any pointers in lighting would be greatly appreciated. But I hope this begins to achieve the slightly painterly feel reminiscent to my earlier concept pieces.

Back to the pits!

After Effects Workshop

The results of some After Effects workshops, including a title screen created with several layers of clouds and 3D cameras, to compositing with various blending modes and effects with an example of the human lungs.

It was fun to learn, where I am certain this new understanding in After Effects will come of great use when compositing final animations.

Life Drawing #12

The penultimate life drawing session before the end of the first year, with two extended studies of a lying down figure wrought with foreshortening and a challenging perspective.

Spore Scene Progress

This particular scene covers panels 2:5 - 2:7 of my storyboard, involving the flight of spores. As the camera pans, we follow the central spore that will begin its growth. The movement and timing is aimed to fit the pace of the music.

For the spores, I intend to have a few hair like features protruding outwards similar to my previous concepts. I believe a fur could work but I wondered if this will animate subtlety to fit with the movements? Either way, its something I need to experiment with but any suggestions would be great.

Opening Scene Progress

Updating my progress with the opening scene, covering panels 1:1 and 1:2 of my storyboard. Things are taking longer than I would like, so I hope to speed things along in the coming days.

For the grass I've used a paint effect which I hope is fine as it seems to work pretty well, and that it would be a bit of a time sink to painstakingly model and animate individual models of grass. With the grass in the direct foreground, I hope to render this out separately to be able to create a focus pull transition to the mushrooms in the midground, where the background will be filled with a matte painting.

Here I've modelled a few variations of the Ling Zhi Mushroom to populate the scene.

Jiggle Deformers

Workshop on Jiggle deformers which help give movements a more organic feel.

Head Jiggle

Heart Jiggle

Render Layers

Outputting and compositing Render layers including, diffuse, specular, ambient occlusion, flat colours, shadows and beauty passes.

Basic software passes

Using Render Layers

Using Render layers again and compositing in After Effects

Non Linear Deformers + 3D Felix

Short workshop experimenting with Non linear deformers, one can certainly start to see their potential for some organic shapes and movements.

Introduction to rendering in 3D. You'll need red/blue lenses to see their effects in the image below.

Skinning: Rigid Binding - Arm

A third method of skinning involving Rigid Binding, using lattice flexors to create a smooth falloff. Some other details can also be achieved including the flexing of the biceps and additional weight given to the elbow joint.

Mycelium Previs

A previs of a shot taken through the mycelium. The camera gradually pans in into a developing fruiting body, moving to the gentle pace of the music as shown in the animatic. This leads to the transition outside the mycelium to the final growth of the mushroom.

Some more experimentation is necessary as I intend to have much more branching lines of mycelium to give the further illusion of growth and movement. As for materials, I'm hoping to maintain a quality from my original concept paintings with the colour and particles.

First Hand Research - Ling Zhi Mushrooms

With a bit of shopping yesterday, by chance I found some Ling Zhi mushrooms at a Chinese supermarket. So of course I picked them up for a chance at some first hand research. There are quite fascinating with a solid hard shiny top, and an array of tiny holes on the underside where the spores release. Not only will it be useful as direct reference when modelling, but hopefully I can get some nice textures out of them too.

After the projects over, perhaps I'll even try cooking some... although I have little idea as to how.

Skinning: Painting Weights - Arm

Another approach to skinning this time by painting weights rather than inputting them with individual values. As such, I found the process much more intuitive with immediate visual feedback which can perhaps yields more organic results.

Wire Deformers - Bug Crawl, Head Wire

Introduction to using wire deformers, where one can immediately start to see its potential for a variety of purposes.

Bug Crawl


The Pitch + Animatic Ling Zhi Mushroom Life Cycle

The animatic of my proposed animation - the life cycle of a Ling Zhi Mushroom.

I was pleased with the response of my pitch today. Not only were the responses reassuring, but I feel more inspired than ever to continue the next steps and bring the animation to life. Now begins the process of production where hopefully everything will come together.

Life Drawing #11

An interesting life drawing session, committing to an extended study of a difficult pose full of foreshortening. It proved quite challenging where I must of rubbed out more often than I would have liked, but I think I got a reasonable result in the end.

5 min warmup sketches

Extended study

Storyboard Mushroom #01

I would have liked to have got this up a lot sooner, but I guess I've underestimated a few things and fallen victim to some dreaded procrastination. Despite this little setback, one must keep their spirits up and persevere onwards!

The storyboard encompasses the whole cycle beginning with the mushroom, growth and release of basidiospores, the germination of the spore as shown through mycelium, and ending with the sprouting of a new mushroom. Ideally, I've tried to focus on a level that cannot be seen by the human eye to further utilise the effective use of CG, being necessary to visually illustrate such remote worlds.

Some sketches of workings outs. Storyboarding really is one of those processes where you just have get things on a page to start resolving anything of significance.

An animatic should be coming shortly to further resolve timings and transitions.

Ling Zhi Mushroom Concept #02

UPDATE: Some tweaks added after feedback.

A second concept piece of the Ling Zhi mushroom

I felt the need to create a second concept piece to better illustrate the ling zhi mushroom and its possible environment, as the previous felt a little hard to read in hindsight. While I want to maintain a dynamism in my animation, a shot like this may perhaps be necessary to establish the scene.

With a good range of concepts, I feel confident to move on with storyboarding next in order.