In this report I will be analysing and evaluating my recent explorations into my specialist area. These explorations include research and experimentation which I undertook in order to develop my skill set and my understanding of my chosen discipline. When analysing these tasks I will consider the benefits of the various methods I used and I will compare the effectiveness of each. I will also consider how these various methods can be used in conjunction to effectively explore a topic. By analysing these recent tasks I hope to clearly explain how these methods have helped me to inform my own practice and develop with regards to my chosen discipline.
Mind Map. Interviews. Myers-Briggs Test.
The first method of introspection I applied was a mind map, this involved me writing about different aspects of myself in an interconnected format. One of the main benefits of compiling my existing knowledge about a subject into a mind map is that it becomes very easy to analyse what I already know about a topic. Creating a mind map is a good first step before committing to researching a subject as it allows me to easily observe my existing knowledge as well as areas where my knowledge is lacking. Interviewing was the next method I used, I interviewed another pupil about themselves and their ideas for their final major project, and after this they interviewed me about the same subject. Interviewing turned out to be a valuable method of information-gathering as I was able to find out very specific pieces of information. If I was interested about something that the interviewee had mentioned then I could delve deeper by asking followup questions. This is a type of information-gathering exclusive to this type of primary research, with many methods of secondary research you have to work with the information that exists and you cannot probe about a topic you find interesting if there isn’t pre-existing information for you to find. After being interviewed I considered how I had answered the questions, such as my interests and hobbies. I considered how these connected to my chosen discipline and how I could apply these interests to future projects. Following these tasks I took the Myers-Briggs test, after completing the test I also had a friend complete it on my behalf so I could compare the differences between the results. This task was beneficial as it enabled me to analyse and compare differing results and consider the factors which lead to the divergence. Out of these tasks I found the interviews to be the most beneficial, it allowed me to delve deep into a subject and ask about a variety of topics. I found mind mapping to be less useful as an independent task, however, in combination with other methods it turned out to be a valuable starting point. The Myers-Briggs test was a good method of introspection, however I found it less useful than the other methods because the qualitative results were much more subjective than the results of the previous two methods.
Methods of Research
Research – Skateboards
To build on my previous tasks regarding research methods and introspection I researched two different topics using the techniques I had been practicing over these recent weeks. The first research task was a study into the origins of skateboarding, the reason that Skateboarding was chosen as a topic is because it has no relation to my interests or my specialist area. To begin this research I created a mind map of my existing knowledge about skateboarding. The purpose of creating this mind map was to lay out everything I knew about skateboarding prior to researching so that I would have a point of reference to compare my knowledge before and after. Following this mind map I watched a documentary on the origins or skateboarding, during this documentary I noted down every important detail, the purpose of this was to allow me to recollect the details and to research these details in more depth. I created a second mind map based on the new knowledge I gained and compared it to the previous one, this was beneficial as it made me consider what aspects I still didn’t have a full understanding of and which areas I could research in more detail. Following this task I used multiple search engine techniques to find out specific details about skateboards, the techniques I used to research were Truncation Operators and wildcard characters, which enabled me to set specific criteria for my online searches. These techniques are extremely valuable to me as the internet can be used to search for an enormous amount of information, so knowing the correct ways to search for this information can improve efficiency and help find obscure information. By developing and practicing these research techniques on a general subject I will be able to easily transfer these skills and apply them to my specialist area.
Research – Unreal Engine
The next task I worked on was a research task on a subject of my choice, the topic I chose to write about was the history of the Unreal Engine. I choose to research the Unreal Engine because I was considering creating my final major project in the Unreal Engine, so expanding my knowledge about it would prove valuable when I committed to working with it for several weeks. To begin researching this subject I looked into the origins of the company which developed the Unreal Engine; Epic Games. I used research techniques such as the previously mentioned Truncation operators and wildcard character to search online about their earliest works. In particular I researched the programs they developed which had the largest impact on the games industry, such as the game Unreal which not only featured 3D graphics and artificial intelligence, but also introduced a set of modular tools for building and customising games that could be used by other developers. This engine vastly improved the speed at which developers could work, and lead to future iterations of the same engine, which is used nowadays for many mainstream titles. This task was an important way of practicing research skills and applying them to a topic within my specialist area.
Exploration through Experimentation
Exploring the theme of fear
Following on from the research tasks I moved towards tasks which would allow me to apply my skill set to the areas I research. These tasks would prove important as they connect the gap between research and practical skills. The first task was an exploration into the theme of fear, I started by researching existing examples of character designs which evoke fear, I focused on examples which were within my specialist area, such as 3D models from Dark Souls 3 (FromSoftware, 2016) and XCom 2 (Firaxis Games, 2016). When looking at what aspects of a character design would convey fear I focused on the formal elements, in particular shape, form and colour. I focused on 3D models from recent games, and how the formal elements of their design conveyed a sense of threat to the viewer. After analysing how these elements were incorporated I began to experiment with these concepts by creating my own 3D model with a theme of fear, based off of the style of the designs I had researched. Below is an image of the final 3D models I created, I had a large focus on shape, silhouette and proportions. This task connects strongly to my specialisation as it involved me researching a topic within my area and then applying the research through a practical process.
Exploring the themes of animals
The next topic I researched was the style of animal designs within modern game titles, in particular I focused on quadrupedal creatures. I focused on the techniques involved in the creation of the animals and how the formal elements were incorporated into the designs. In particular I researched creatures from Okami (Clover Studio, 2006) and The Last Guardian (Sony Interactive Entertainment, 2016). Following my research I began to look at reference images of Foxes, using these reference images I developed a model of a Red Fox in 3DS Max. I decided to create a low-poly version and a smoothed version as I found both designs to be appealing in different ways. I am very happy with the result of this experiment, if I were to improve upon what I already have I would improve the smoothing, add textures and perhaps try to add fur to the Fox. This type of work is core to the processes that I would use in a 3D modelling job; researching something which exists in the real world and recreating in digitally.
Exploring the theme of endearing designs
My next experiment continued on the theme of researching the visual design of characters and discovering which of their visual aspects most help convey certain themes. This time I researched what makes a design endearing, this type of cute design is often employed in child-friendly media, I analysed the designs in Teen Titans Go (2013) and Fat Princess (2009). Through my research I discovered that juvenile features elicit affection from humans, for instance large eyes, big heads and retreating chins can all come together to create a cute design. I applied this knowledge by creating a sketch of the body type which could elicit this same response, I focused on the scale of different areas relative to each other. This type of work ties strongly to my specialist area as developing effective character designs which convey a straightforward message is vital to creating an effective product.
The Practitioners Report
My final task for this unit of work was a practitioner’s report, in this report I researched an early practitioner of animation and a contemporary practitioner of animation. The people I chose were Walt Disney and Mariel Cartwright respectively. I looked at some of the history of each of them as well as what projects they had worked on, though my main focus was on the processes, techniques and materials used by each of them. I focused on these in particular in order to see what I could apply to my own practice. Although the base concepts of their works are the same, the processes and techniques are quite different. This is mostly due to the large time difference, however it is also in part because Walt worked primarily on early cartoons and Mariel works on video games, in particular fighting games. With this in mind I still feel that I learned a great amount about how they each created their works. I developed an infographic below which summarises the key points about the processes, techniques and materials they each used. Overall this task proved very useful as I now have more to consider when working on my own animations. For instance, Mariel described the principles of animation in detail at a game developer talk, I can apply these techniques to my own works in order to enhance their quality.
In conclusion, I feel that I have greatly improved both my general understanding of research techniques, as well as the techniques and processes employed in my specialist area through these tasks. The early tasks where I used different research techniques were a good setup for my future tasks, the mind mapping proved to be a good starting point for any piece of research. Interviewing was a valuable way of inquiring into specific subjects, it was unique as a research method as it allowed my to ask about any relevant topic and I was able to ask follow up questions about topics which interested me, something I would be unable to do just by reading existing information. The Myers-Briggs test was important as it allowed me to look at who I am as a person and see how that connects to my work, it also enabled me to compare differing results and consider what factors were involved in the divergence. In the following tasks I applied these research techniques, I researched a general topic and a topic relevant to my specialist area. Using the techniques I had previously practiced I was able to research thoroughly into each subject, I also used new techniques in the form of Truncation Operators and wildcard characters, which enabled me to be very specific when searching online. This is valuable as the internet is a vast pool of knowledge and being able to find important information efficiently is crucial when researching. Afterwards I applied these research techniques through experiments, I would research a topic relevant to my specialist practice and then apply what I had learned. I researched three topics, with a focus on visual design, I applied the research by creating visual works similar to what I had been researching. The first two tasks involved me creating creatures in 3DS Max, I focused on character designs and the respective themes of fear and animals. The fear model was created purely using my research about what aspects of a characters design evoke fear, however for the animal model I used a variety of reference images of red foxes as well as my prior research. The third experiment required me to draw a sketch of an endearing character design, I focused on the proportions and scale of the character’s form as a whole. I based my drawing off of cute characters from existing games and cartoons. My final task was a look into the techniques, processes and materials used by an early animator and a contemporary animator. By doing this I learned a great deal about ways to develop animations and I considered how I could apply this knowledge to my own work. Overall I feel that these were very valuable tasks to me, each one taught me a different technique or skill. The tasks also linked well together, the early tasks taught me techniques which I then used later on and applied to my chosen discipline though research and experiments.
Firaxis Games (2016) XCOM 2 [Video game]. 2K Games.
FromSoftware (2016) Dark Souls 3 [Video game]. Bandai Namco.
Clover Studio (2006) Okami [Video game]. Capcom.
Sony Interactive Entertainment (2016) The Last Guardian [Video Game]. Sony Interactive Entertainment.
Teen Titans Go (2013) Cartoon Network.
Fat Princess (2009) Sony Interactive Entertainment.