Kiel Figgins  -  Character Animator

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Dinozilla from Kiel Figgins on Vimeo.

Go for the eyes! - Godzilla / Pacific Rim Inspired (WIP)
Winter 2015 - 2018

Project Details
I started this project back in 2015 as a way of getting the attention of ILM/MPC for the Godzilla/Pacific Rim sequels, as I'm a huge fan of the kaiju genre. As the previous personal project I had worked on was too ambitious ( Lacerian ), I scaled it back to a single shot using the same creature, only scaled up. The creature, Dinozilla, was modeled by Marcelo Pinheiro based off the previous project's goal, but I still wanted to see the creature fully realised so it was a good fit. I set out doing various ideas/previz for the shot, trying POVs of inside a helicopter gunner position, from a car, atop a building and eventually settling on the inside of a train. I enjoyed the train since it gave a good sense of speed and reason why the camera could have that speed as well as be hand held. The idea of having the final render treatment have cell phone camera icons and UI was also intended. While the camera was being figured out, I was also working on the story, wanting to have the creature getting hurt in some way without introducing another kaiju or mech. Inspired by Tessai from Ninja Scroll, the idea of have impervious skin but the eye ball was still a weakness was really appealing. The back story was that the shot cut in with the creature already having lost one eye to an earlier missisle strike and then going into a literal blind rage once a missile took out his remaining eye.

Once the project got underway, I began bringing on other artists I'd worked with in the past, you can see the full team list at the bottom of this page. They are all very talented and I've worked with many of them on other projects since. The work they contributed was incredible and I was always excited to see their updates and the directions they went in.

This project however was never finished and that onus is on me. I learned a lot from the experience which I think is more interesting to hear about than the particular nuts and bolts of the animation/rigging side typically covered in these breakdowns.

Lessons learned
  • Finish the animation, have it cached out and the camera ready beforing bringing on the rest of the team. This sounds so obvious, but I got caught up in my excitment and already had team members willing to help out, so I brought them on before the animation was fully realized. As the idea shifted or their own obligations came up, they weren't able to finish their tasks. Had I had the animation done, the goals clearly laid out and brought them on sequencially, the process would have gone much smoother and likely gotten us closer to the finish line.

  • Don't design key shot elements (in this case the heavy FX/destruction) around a skill set you don't have. I grossly underestamiated how much work goes into breaking a building, taking for granted the large studios that I've worked for that make it look easy :) I should have known better, talked to them while in the planning stages or learned the skill myself incase this very thing happened. In future projects, fx will be purely accents, as I still haven't learned houdini, incase they need to be removed entirely.

  • Building muscle system is almost more involved than I had expected. In the end, I was able to get some results, but once I realized how long the path was to an actual muscle system, I settled for what I had (more of a jiggle system). But this provided the base understanding of ncloth that I still use today to drive secondary bit in my animations, that you can read about here: Maya nCloth for Animators

  • Buy assets/models, instead of trying to custom create each one, especially for environment assets. Looking back at the amount of time/resources spent modeling assets that could have just been bought and be ready to go, is nothing short of frustrating. I would have rather have asked the Lighting/FX artists to pick out which helicopters/buildings/etc would make their life easier and buy those. The up front cost would have been a hit, but the ease down the road would have been worth it many times over. Changing my idea to have a different building would have been fine if it might seeing it finaled.

  • Dynamic cables are a nice touch. The goal was to have the FG electric cables swaying in the breeze, but my computer/setup (which was old at the time) was taking far too long. I know the reason now, mainly the connection points and radius of the sims were intersecting at the base, but never re ran them on my new workstation.

  • Lastly, I never made this project public. Though it made sense at the time, looking back it's harder to justify my decision. Even once I realized that the original team would be unable to complete it, I kept thinking that I could get another artist to pick it up and go. As the time dragged out, team members, including myself got new jobs, had kids or second kids, and all other manners of reasons where they were will but unable go further. Maybe making it public would have held me more accountable, or inspired others to join or other paths to be taken. I'll never know, but moving forward, I've made the progress on other projects more available and it's a nice change of mindset and likely something I'll continue.

    In the end, though I'll never see this shot fully realized, I'm still immensely proud of the work that was done by all those involved. And hey, I ended up getting the attention of ILM after all and have been there ever since...

    Team Credits

    Marcelo Pinheiro ( ) : Creature Modeling
    Kay Poprawe ( ) : Lighting / Look Dev

    Ismael Martin Pintado ( ) : Building FX
    Jesse Gozo ( ) : Building FX
    Cloud Park ( ) : Building FX
    Neil Wilson ( ) : Tracer/Dust FX
    Anthony Thomas ( ) : Train Env
    Chris Cross - Blood FX
    Michal Gradziel ( ) : Missile FX
    Wayne Hollingsworth ( ) : Building FX

    Vitaly Efremov ( ) : Tunnel Env Model
    Chris Clyne ( ) : Env Modeling

    Maxx Burman ( ) : Matte Painting
    Zach Christian ( ) : Matte Painting

    Kiel Figgins ( ) : Animation / Rigging / Team Lead