Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Existing 3d in Dragonology

In a past email i asked Nghiem whether there was any existing 3d work for Dragonology. Nghiem came back with this 3d dragon where using a webcam and the correct plugin you can bring a dragon to life on your book.

Dragonology Augmented Reality, 3D

I really like the movement of this dragon and can't help but wanting to see the dragon to do more! The animation is well executed and the model looks well textured.

Nghiem also came back with telling us that Dragonology is going to be released as a game on the DS.

Dragonology DS Game Trailer

I have noticed how the 3d animation are introduced through the book, and how some illustrations are brought to life in the book its self!

The layout for where the animated work could go in the book which will be nice to keep in with the trend of other sequences before. Where we have our text talking us through the spell 'how to catch a dragon', rather than using that as a screen to tell the audience, it would look better and create more anticipation if we have our animation on going? This way the animation is more active as opposed to my previous storyboard, i am going to do another storyboard from a POV (point of view) camera shot.

For the spell part
“Ecce Narcisso Draconus Attractivae!”
I am thinking to do this in a style which will make it quite magical on screen, where i play with the text on screen changing between human letters to the dragonology letters.

This is a photo taken showing the dragon letters next to the human alphabet, which is what i will be working from.

Lirael Book Trailer

This trailer above is work I had done previously whilst at school. What I would like to take from this is the beginning where we have these letters and shapes crossing over in a dust-like way. I thought this looked quite effective and could fit in with bringing Dragonology to a 3d environment, why keep the text a simple 2d? Also on the Lirael book trailer, the shapes flying around are relative to the book, they're called charter marks, and they are used when casting spells. So this could be replaced with the dragons language.

Also the way the letters fade in and out, this could be done much better with the skills I have gained since then, so I will put the idea forward to Nghiem when we send her the storyboards at either the end of this week or beginning of the third week.

Inspiration - How to train your dragon

"Based on a series of books by Cressida Cowell, the story in the film has changed a bit from the novels (from what I've heard, people don't ride the dragons in the series), but the author was pleased with the results. We'll have to pick the books up and give them a read now that we've seen the movie version"

We went to watch this today at the cinema and it was amazing, best animated film i've seen in a while because it never got dull and it was such a power film.

So this film is PERFECT for using as reference material to what Andi and I were both thinking for our dragon taming animation. The dragons were acting like dogs, in that Toothless (the main dragon) was rollign around in the grass, loved to be tickled under his chin, waited for a treat like a dog, majority of his communication was via facial expressions and sound, he could not talk but his reactions to what Hicup is saying suggest he understands. But basically i'm trying to say that i believe this Knucker will be brought to life with strong facial expressions and sound.


There was such a variety in the dragon's designs like the Dragonology book, but also that the main dragon Toothless, his walk was so different in that he didn't walk on his feet but they were more shaped like stubby ends. Our Knucker has feet so i still think it would be good to take the influence from the alligators walk for that.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Studying the shape of the Knucker dragon

Referencing from the books images of the Knucker seen in the previous post, Andi and I have been working towards how we can transpose this into 3D.
This would involve simplifying the illustrations down to their basic shapes for the body, wings, face and so on. This needs to be done so that in Maya we are able to simply model the Knucker and apply the finer details after the main body has been built.

I have done some sketches of the head and body, which i think always helps to understand and pay closer attention to the shapes. In the previous post i was talking about what we want from the character, what do we want it to be doing whether a comical character, or realistic?

As we're keeping it close to the book that means we're already going for an illustrative style, and i am keen on the idea of giving the Knucker a dog like personality, obedient, when the dragon is tame. When the dragon is not tameed it could take on the personality of a feline ferrel cat.

Head Studies

Jaw Studies

(^ Andi's drawing ^)

After exploring different head shapes i'm liking the one which is the closest to the book illustration. I like how the head shape is all one part as opposed to some where i've drawn the Knucker with more of a beak shape.


(^ Andi's drawing ^)

Basically i'm just trying to get an idea for placement of legs and wings, because i want the weighting to look right for the size.

Once we've settled on a clean concept Andi will be creating character sheets of poses and expressions of the Knucker, so he can begin modeling in Maya and we can crack on!

I think i'm going to do some research into obedient dogs and wild cats to get some sketches and idea of what i will need the rig to be capable of, and to figure out the best way to achieve this.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Studies of the Knucker Dragon

So Andi and I are set to work on the Knucker Dragon. The Knucker has been chosen because for our first dragon to model and rig, it was thought out best that with its long body and tiny wings.

Facts about the Knucker:
- Also called Draco Troglodytes
- Size is 3-6 feet high and 30 feet long
- They have vestigal wings and are coloured brown, dull red or a greenish blue.
- Their skin is leathery and their head is small.
- The call is a low gurgling or a bark in the mating season.
- They eat small animals though larger specimens have been known to take children.
- On average, they live for 120 years.
- They live in damp, deciduous woodland near rabbit warrens.
- The eggs are in various shades of green for camouflage and their chicks are largely aquatic.
- The Knucker uses its purple venom which is fifty times stronger than hydrochloric acid and can liquefy prey.

A baby Knucker dragon.

There are many existing references for movement on this dragon such as lizards, crocodiles or alligators.

From watching those clips it is interesting to see how the legs are picked up slowly then you can see the weight stomp down when they hit the ground. Also the way the tail drags on the floor, it doesn't just trail it rocks from each side as the weight is shifted. Squash and stretch are very present as the front leg comes back and the back leg meets as it comes forward the whole body will pinch in that point. In the Knuckers walk i don't think this would be the same because the distance between the feet are greater. So to find something where the legs are smaller and further apart would maybe cause the Knucker to take smaller and faster steps. Although the legs from the illustrations look thick and strong, so to carry the mass of the dragon maybe it could walk as gracefully as a alligator.

Existing animated dragons which spring to mind,


Love watching the movement for Mushu, he is a humanized style of animation in that he is walking on two legs, talks and his expressions are human like. What i thought was great about Mushu was the exaggerated body language, the eyes, ears, tail, the pose of the spine in that second clip when he was annoyed just emphasized the feeling for the audience. He is a believable character. Although Andi and I were not wanting to humanize the Knucker because that isn't how the character is written or described in the book, in the books such as Baby Dragons, or Tracking and Taming dragons, they are portrayed more as pets than a walking talking animal.

Merlin - Dragonlord

Looking at this dragon the face is very solid, the animation mainly is focused on the jaw, lips and some on the eye brows unlike Mushu.But this dragon is more photoreal in appearance and is in a serious context whereas Mushu is a comical character. So for the face animation i think it will be effected to the way the dragon is acting.


I just loved the overall movement to this dragon, it looked natural and the facial features were bold so when animated we got a strong expression. ILM made draco and i might have to look some more into this because i love the movement, maybe i'll try and get the attention of the animator and ask for some tips and difficulties they found.

Spirited away

I thought the shape of this dragon was relevant although our dragon doesn't fly.

So there were some things to certainly be considered when working on the model designs and storyboards so we know how we want the dragon to move and act.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Chosen Brief

So during the two week break i thought it wise to begin contacting potential clients.
Andi and I both agreed that the Ology books looked amazing and full of all sorts of crazy things to work from, and we did have to have a dig around to find the correct person to contact.
Eventually we found that Dougald Steer (the author of the Ology series) is now freelance, so the best people to contact were the publishers of the book as we couldn't find any details on how to contact the author.
Andi and I both knew we wanted to make something 3d from the book, then looking at the Ology website we saw a great opportunity.

On the website there are short video clips from the book which have been acted out such as 'how to take a cast of a dragons footprint', Both Andi and I thought that maybe to bring the videos closer to the book why not propose to create a 3d short from the extract of the book.

So i began by emailing Mike Jolley from Templar Publishing who then forwarded the email to Nghiem Ta - Art Director for the Dragonology book.


6th March 2010


Hi Mike,

I'm hoping that you're the right point of contact for the media creation
of the Ology Series.

My name is Lydia Fabian and i am a student studying Animation Practice at
Ravensbourne College of Design and communication, London.

I am contacting you concerning the Ology series.

I would like to use the Ology series and take some extracts from the book
to create them in a 3d environment. Potentially using the books
illustrations and artists style from the book to animate the selected
chosen sequences from the book such as 'how to tame your dragon'.

It would be a great project for my university and i think that the Ology
website would maybe look as though it's a closer continuation from the
book, taking fans into the world of Dragonology!

Please contact me on this email,
or my mobile number is _______

Hope to hear from you soon,

Kind Regards,

Lydia Fabian


15th March 2010


Dear Lydia,

I hope you are well. My name is Nghiem (Neem) and I design and art direct
the Ology book series. Mike Jolley, our art director passed your email onto

Your project sounds really interesting and it would be great to see another
dimension to the Dragonology book. Before granting an official approval for
your use of the Dragonology content, I will need to trouble you for a more
detailed project breakdown (detailing how you would use and treat the art
etc.) and also list any further assistance you may need from me.

In the meantime, may I ask for your postal address? I¹ll need to ask you to
sign a letter of agreement. I hope this will be okay.

Thank you for contact Templar and I hope to hear from you soon.



16th March 2010


Good afternoon Nghiem,

Great to hear back from you!
I just wanted to let you know that this project will be my final unit for
this year, and I anticipate having the finished animation available for
you to view in 9 weeks time.

When I return to Ravensbourne next week I will be discussing and
finalising my Project Brief in detail with my Tutor, Jared Taylor, and I
will forward you a copy as soon as possible.

In the meantime, please feel free to look at some of my work as follows:

Here is some animation from the end of my first year-

This is the unit i did last term which was to create a 3D environment-

My postal address is -


Thank you for giving me this opportunity and I hope to be able to keep you
updated on a regular basis.

If you have any further questions or wish to discuss any finer details
once you have received my brief, please do not hesitate to contact me.

I will be in touch next week
bye for now

Lydia Fabian


24th March 2010


Hi Nghiem,

You will find attached to this email a copy of the brief which has been
assigned for this terms work with the University.

I have also attached a more detailed brief that defines what content we
will be using, and how, from the Dragonology book.

To fit the requirements of the brief we will need you to be involved with
giving us feedback, and constructive criticism at various points through
the next eight weeks. I was also wondering if you could outline the
parameters for exactly what we can and cannot do with this dragon’s design
and animation?

We have decided to use the ‘Spell to catch a dragon’ at the beginning of
the book for our animated sequence. Were there any 3D generated or 2d
animations you like the style or look of which we can reference closely

Do you have any more information that you could send on the Knucker
Dragon? Maybe some images you could supply for more detail?

Also has anyone contacted you and attempted something like this
previously? If so what did you like about it?

One final thing!

We would like to showcase our finished work at a broadcast event Rave
Live. Rave Live is run by a collaboration of students from Ravensbourne
each year and this year is the first year it is being held at the o2 Dome
in London, Matter, Wednesday 19th May 2010.

do we need to sign anything for Copyright or using it at this event?

You are certainly very welcome to come to the event, all you need to do is
go to and there is a big button saying 'register your
interest'. You will need to fill in the details and once you get to the
venue your name will be on the guest list at the door.

We could also send a CD with the animation on to you if you would like.

Kind Regards

Lydia Fabian


Brief Requirements in more detail (the attachment i sent in the last email to Nghiem)


Here is a more detailed project breakdown for what has been planned for the use of the Dragonology content.

We plan to create an animated short which will be suitable for use on the Ology website.
This is the extract from the book that has been chosen to work from;

Spell to catch a dragon
Take a mirror and sprinkle it with dragon dust,
Then place a sapphire or other treasure outside the dragons lair,
When the dragon emerges to investigate the gemstone,
quickly bring out the mirror so the dragon see’s it’s own reflection,
and cry,
“Ecce Narcisso Draconus Attractivae!”
This spell will tame the dragon – but watch out when it wares off!

We are going to bring this character to life in its personality and movement whilst showing it in its natural environment and delivered in a 3d medium.

To make this work in 3d, we are to create a dragon in the 3d application Maya.
We are to keep it as closely related to the book illustrations as we can,using textures, shapes, colour and size ratios from the book.

We also intend to use the sound and lighting to help generate the atmosphere.
The final outcome will be fit for broadcast standard and suitable for the Ology website.

The animation will be between twenty to thirty seconds in duration, and the final will be available from the 19th May.


So i am waiting to hear back from Nghiem and mean while i will be refining the schedule which has been penciled together.

For the end of this week ready for Monday is to
- Start blogging research
- Begin concepts from the book of the Knucker dragon, and looking at damp environments as this is where they are found.

The Brief

This unit builds directly on the Industry Exercises 1 and Industry Exercises 2 units, allowing students to use their portfolio of animation skills to develop finished broadcast animation pieces (in small teams) to be shown during Rave on Air, and to generate an individual show-reel to promote those skills to employers. Students also develop more advanced planning and organisational skills necessary to manage team productions.

This unit has the potential to allow inter-faculty collaboration through the use of animation to promote the work of other courses in the creation of animated advertisements for Rave on Air (product design for example). Intra-faculty collaboration is also possible through the use of other disciplines such as post production and sound design that naturally complement the animation industry. These collaborations will be negotiated on a per team basis.

Aims of the Unit

  • To enable students to initiate, plan, and complete complex team projects.
  • To enable students to work to broadcast standards of quality.
  • To provide experience of establishing and developing team project schedules and tracking progress towards project completion.
  • To enable students to demonstrate and promote the range and quality of their animation skills through the production of a show-reel.

You will be required to submit three pieces of work for assessment.

· An individual reflective journal (Blog)

· An individual interactive DVD showreel

· A group film fit for broadcast


This should focus on your plans for this project, your brief, your project schedule, and your performance as a team member. These can be supplemented by a group journal to help communication with team members, but the primary concern is your individual reflective account. These should be hosted on Blogspot, or Wordpress and the URLs submitted to your tutor.


Your showreel will take the form of a menu driven interactive DVD where users will be able to select which of your work they view. You will be expected to assemble a reel that demonstrates the breadth of your capability, and the diversity of your style as an animator. As such, you may use work from any point in your studies, or from outside your time at college. You may also consider generating new work this term to supplement perceived gaps in your portfolio. The main drivers for assessment here are NOT the quality of the individual pieces of work, but the way in which you choose to present them and to promote yourself…


This is where the majority of your effort will be directed for this project. You will have to choose a team first of all, ideally a small one of two or three individuals. Then you will have to negotiate a brief for your project. There are three main ways that you can fulfill this part of the brief, but all will depend upon you having a real client, and it is up to YOU to get information from your client to define your brief. This information should include a list of deliverable items, and a set of deadlines.

Way 1

Work as a junior on a BA film project.

Identify the film you want to work on, agree a role, agree deliverables, and then deliver them. It will not be possible to do much in the way of concept or modeling work for these films given the advanced state of their development, but it should be possible to do large amounts of UV mapping and texturing, lighting, rigging and animating.

Way 2

Work towards Rave Live.

This will involve you either working towards doing one of the six channel idents, in which case you will have to contact the graphics students responsible, or towards generating programme content in which case you will have to contact broadcast content creation students to find out their requirements. Be aware that work will need to be ready much in advance of May 19th, so it should be viable within a reduced time frame. Remember the panic that you had at the end of last term? That is a luxury that you do not have this term. It would probably be a good idea to attend all possible meetings about Rave Live, such as the one this Friday (26th) read your email, and look for posters…

The 3rd Way

Find an external client.

You may source a client for your project beyond the confines of college. The same conditions apply, you will negotiate a brief, and whatever work you produce must be produced in a form that is technically suitable for broadcast purposes. Other than that, the subject matter or content are entirely down to you and your client. This is possibly the most challenging of the three ways you can fulfill this project…

By the end of this unit students will be able to demonstrate:

Individual Reflective Journal

  • Evidence of critical reflection on the creative and artistic merits of their work in relation to contemporary practice. (A1, C1)
  • Evidence of critical reflection on team dynamics and performance. (E1)


  • Evidence of creative presentation and promotion of students’ individual repertoire of animation skills. (A1, C1, D1)
  • Evidence of the critical analysis and selection of work of an appropriate quality for submission. (A1, C1)

Broadcast Piece

  • Evidence in the realisation of the projects of systematic application of animation skills and practices to the standard expected for an entrant to professional animation or visualisation. (D1, E1)
  • Initiate and negotiate a team project and independently manage their time and workflow. (B1, E1)
  • Successful completion, to a broadcast state, of a team animation project. (B1, D1, E1)