Fate Saga is a fantastical, action/drama animated series about fate and free will, and follows Cain, a knight who can see the future. With only glimpses of prophecies to guide him, Cain interferes in natural disasters and war in hopes of stopping his tragic visions from happening.

However, in a world on the brink of an apocalypse, is knowing the final outcome enough to change it?

Fate Saga is an original animated action/drama series taking place in a fantastical world based on Medieval Europe.

30 June 2010

Cyrus Point of View Color Roughs

by Tracy MacLauchlan

Tracy was playing around with the color scheme when the camera goes into Cyrus' POV and she came up with an interesting idea of making his viewpoint greyscale monochromatic for the most part (similar to his pale eye color). The auras as of right now will be faintly noticeable on the bystanders, really only flaring up when there's a strong emotion.

I like the idea. It kind of makes Cyrus mildly color blind except for the auras, and it also helps to make the auras stand out. Also it'll be easier to tell that you're looking through Cyrus' eyes in animation, because the camera is going to jitter (like a hand-held camera) and also glance around. Tracy also had a good suggestion of adding the sound of Cyrus breathing. I think that combination should make it clear enough.

SC152 Roughs In Progress

(6/30/10) Just started this about 3 and a half hours ago and will be continuing to update this animation each time I work on it. =) It's very, very rough right now. The part I am going to flesh out the most is when Cyrus moves his scythe and turns off the fire, since that's what I need to have done for Zelda. But this beginning part is necessary because it leads right into that motion.

Update (7/1/10): Added the animation of Cyrus turning off the fire and a little bit more after that. It still needs more easing when Cyrus turns off the fire (the part where his hand is closing into a fist and he's starting to bring the scythe down) because it moves a little too quickly. I'm also going to go back and fix the hand motion in the beginning for the next update as well. And, of course, the rest of the animation. I will probably stop it right when Cyrus is just about to get off the table, since I don't need that last part for the special effects. I just wanted to make sure I have enough animation before and after to make sure that there aren't any problems. Last thing I want to do is to pass off my animation for special effects then realize that there's a problem with the character animation that would change the fire animation if fixed. That would not be savory.

Update (7/2/10): Added more frames to Cyrus' hand gesture in the beginning, and more frames to slow down and smooth out some of the animation throughout. Although the end isn't finished (the part where Cyrus jumps off the table, looks and Cain and hits him), this piece may be done enough for now. I need to jump to the next fire sequence. But before I send the flash file off for special effects, I'm waiting one day just to get some critiques and make sure there's nothing off that I'm missing - especially for the part where Cyrus is turning off the fire. Thank you!

Update (7/2/10): Removed the blur when Cyrus is spinning his scythe around. The motion is too slow to need it anymore. The roughs will now be put on hold and sent off for fire effects. The rest of the shot will be continued later, once the other fire scenes are ready.

28 June 2010

Series Synopsis, Story Synopsis, Shot-by-Shot Breakdown and Detailed Explanations for the Film

It is understandable that some of the film may be confusing, especially since it is still in development and relies so heavily on audio/visual cues that may not be fully prevalent yet in the animatic. To answer some of the questions I've received, here is a detailed explanation for the film, from the basics (What is it about?) to the more detailed shot-by-shot breakdown, reasons behind each decision, alterations that have been made to prior versions and why the story is where it's at now. As always, I am open to suggestions and ideas.

Series Story Synopsis

The pilot is for an Action/Adventure tv series that is about Fate vs. Free Will. The show itself has a larger cast, but the pilot focuses on the main hero and the anti-hero. The show itself would be about Cain trying to stop his visions from happening, and in doing so he gets caught up in a conspiracy and a war he doesn't know anything about. The pilot condenses the point of the first season, which is Cain realizing that, in trying to stop his visions, Cain causes them.

In-Depth Pilot Story Breakdown

The pilot's story is about Cain getting a vision of the town burning down. The fire starts at the Crystalin, and the weapon left inside of the Crystalin is the only clue as to what could have caused it. The sequences are played backwards (You see the town burn first, then the exterior of the Crystalin, then the interior and focusing on the weapon at the end, in hopes that the viewer will remember the Crystalin and the weapon most of all.)

I've been debating on whether to have Cain clarify right away that it's a vision (such as have him say "Another vision..." when he wakes up). But many people I have asked have said it was unnecessary, and that usually by the end of the film they understand, and I'm hoping to rely on more on visual cues (such as the color schemes) than simply telling people. Show don't tell, right?

The shot when Cain's asking where the Crystalin is, is to establish that he doesn't know where it is, and that he's in a hurry to find it. The scene can be shortened, but because the film is already so fast-paced, he asks several people to give the viewer time to absorb what they’re seeing.

The cat is used as a transition to take the camera from Cain to Cyrus, to introduce Cyrus as a separate character in a separate part of town. It also serves as foreshadowing because the antagonist is looking for the cat all along.

Cyrus' intro is long, to establish his motivation (he's looking for the cat), his empathy (he can hear voices and feel people's emotions), and why he's angry enough to fight with Cain when they collide. An earlier version of the story had a shorter introduction, but I had a lot of arguments that Cyrus' motivation wasn't clear and that he seemed too angry from the get-go. So I extended his introduction to give the audience more time.

Cain's short sequences cut within Cyrus' are meant to remind the audience that he's still there, hint to the passage of time, and show the parallel that both of the main characters are looking for something, and they're both getting more agitated (Cain's getting more worried, Cyrus is getting more angry)

When they collide, Cain starts off not wanting anything to do with Cyrus and just wants to get to the Crystalin. The audio effects are not finished yet (I don't have access to Soundbooth over summer), so the 'thoughts' are hard to distinguish from the dialogue right now. The only thing Cain actually says to Cyrus right after they collide is "Sorry." But Cyrus also hears Cain's panicked thoughts ("I need to get to the Crystalin!" "This is taking too long!" etc.)

When Cyrus starts arguing with Cain, Cyrus is taking out his frustration with everyone on Cain, and Cain still just wants to leave. But when Cyrus attacks him and Cain deflects it, Cain looks at the scythe he's deflecting and recognizes it from the vision (I have had arguments for and against showing a short flash of the vision. Another possibility is to have the scythe flash red, since we're using red to connect all parts of Cain's vision. But that might be too subtle)

Cain then thinks that Cyrus is the one who will cause the fire. Originally, their argument was longer, with Cain asking him what is he doing there, Cyrus giving him an ambiguous answer and Cain warning Cyrus to stop whatever villainous thing he plans to do. It was cut short because viewers felt that there was too much standing around talking.

When the fight moves into the Crystalin and Cyrus casts the fire, it confirms to Cain that Cyrus is indeed the one who'll cause fire to the tavern (and consequently, the town). So Cain becomes especially frustrated and attacks Cyrus more ferociously. When he pins Cyrus down to the table and tries cutting through the scythe, Cain is losing control and he's the one pushing the fire down towards the table.

Cain stops when he realizes that he is the one about to cause the fire, and realizes that it was their fighting from the get go which caused all of this. The quick sequence of flashbacks he receives at that moment are meant to show that he's realizing how everything he's done up to this point has led to this moment. So Cain's causing his own vision to happen.

Cain backs off, horrified for what he almost did. Cyrus is surprised and confused that Cain stopped, but before he can figure out what to do from there, the cat enters the Crystalin and Cyrus is reminded of the reason he was there to begin with.

Cyrus turns off the fire, gets his cat and leaves. Cain just watches him go because he's no longer a threat, and he realizes - with surprise - that Cyrus' motive for being there was never villainous at all.

The final shot is still being adjusted a bit, as I’m trying to figure out the best spot and camera angle to end the film.

The Reason Why Each Character, Setting and Props Were Used:

Cain is the main character, and the theme of the series (Fate vs. Free Will) is directly connected to him. The pilot can’t be done without him.

Cyrus is Cain's antagonist, because Cyrus' missions tend to conflict with Cain's visions. But in the grand scheme of the story, Cyrus is an anti-hero. That is why so much of the film is dedicated to his motivations and empathy, because I wanted him to be established as a major character, as well, instead of a thug or villain-of-the-day. Their relationship is meant to represent the shades-of-grey that’s prevalent in the series (they’re on opposing sides, and they each see the other as an enemy, but neither are evil).

Bystanders are random, and their designs are left open for the animators. Some of the other characters from the series may make cameo appearances. The only bystander whose design is set is the singer at the Crystalin, because she’s the main girl of the series and this was the best way to show her without making her an intruder to the pilot.

Mittens is both a character and a plot device. In the series, he is Cyrus’ cat and his purpose is to show Cyrus’ love of cute, small things. He is used in the pilot as a non-villainous motivation for Cyrus to go through the town and parallel Cyrus’ motivation with Cain’s (that they’re both searching for something).

Their world is a mixture of medieval and steampunk, the amount of each depending on the location. (Some places in this world are more medieval-based, while others embrace technology).
The town is the location where much of the series takes place. Its level of technology makes its set up similar to that of a modern suburb. The Crystalin is where the main cast often congregates. Although the pilot could technically have taken place anywhere in that world, I wanted to use this opportunity to develop the town and tavern because that's where the main series begins.

Elements Missing From Animatic

Some aspects that will help make things clearer that aren’t yet in the animatic are the sounds and new color scheme. Right now everything is temp sounds, and most of the dialogue in the town are thoughts that will be represented with reverb. Because much of the sounds don’t yet have the reverb, it probably all sounds like dialogue.

The color red will be used as a visual cue to represent the vision. So the scythe may glint red when Cain first looks at it. Cain’s eyes will glow red when he wakes up from the vision. The Crystalin sign will glow red. We’re also playing around with visually showing Cyrus’ empathy when you see people through his point of view.

Finally, it will be more clear that Cyrus is hearing thoughts in animation, when you see the bystanders, hear their voices in reverb and their lips will clearly not be moving.

Possible Alternatives to the Story That Have Been Suggested/Considered, and Why They’re Not Currently Being Used:

1) Remove Cyrus’ entrance and tell the story only from Cain’s POV
Benefit: Would shorten and simplify the film. Not showing Cyrus’ empathy or making his motivation clear from the start allows the audience to focus only on Cain’s story.
Problem: Without showing Cyrus’ perspective, Cyrus’ personality flattens and he comes across as a bully and villain-of-the-day. The series has a larger cast, but the pilot only has enough time for one or two characters. If Cyrus’ point of view is removed, then Cain will be the only fleshed out character to represent the series. If the audience is unable to bond with him, then they may not be able to connect with the story at all. With Cyrus’ perspective there, the audience has the ability to bond with either character.

2) Cain accidentally causes the fire at the Crystalin, instead of stopping himself in time.
Benefit: More climatic. Directly shows how Cain causes his own vision to happen.
Problem: There would be two most likely endings if this scenario were taken: Cain puts out the fire before it spreads, or the fire spreads. Cyrus would leave with the cat, either way. This ending is rather dark, and would imply that the series itself is darker than it actually is. Also, it would likely extend the movie to give time for Cain to react to the fire (especially with him trying to put it out) and the film is too long as it is.

3) Cain and Cyrus’ Argument and Fight is Directly Over the Cat.
Benefit: Could remove Cyrus’ empathy while still keeping a less villain-like approach to him. Simplifies the argument and could shorten the film.
Problem: It’s rather silly, melodramatic and out of character for both of them.

4) Remove Cyrus’ empathy, make his motivation only the cat, and he fights Cain because Cain ran into him.
Benefit: Simplifies and shortens the story.
Problem: Makes Cyrus too melodramatic and makes the fight seem random.

5) Make the film only the fight sequence.
Benefit: Dramatically simplifies and shortens the story. Removes the town and keeps everything in the Crystalin. Can focus on making the animation excellent.
Problem: Story? What story? Something that simple might not be a good representation of the series, or a Thesis. And the two characters wouldn’t have much if any personality at all.

6) Remove some of the explanation and let the film feel more random.
Benefit: Shortens the film and keeps the pacing quick.
Problem: Audience would have a harder time connecting with the story or characters if they can’t understand them. Feels like a cop out.

26 June 2010

Cain's Animation Model Sheets

Deadline for Animation For Fire Scenes

Hey guys! I received word from Zelda (our fire animator) for what she needs in the animations for the fire shots. We need to have all animation that has fire roughed out by August 4 if we want to give Zelda enough time to add the fire. This includes all keys, breakdowns and in-betweens but does not have to be cleaned up.

I've re-uploaded the Shot Breakdown with a yellow highlight over every shot that abides by the deadline. The notes on the right list what needs to be done for each of those shots.

Not every part of the animation needs to be done for each shot in order to add the fire, only the parts that have direct fire interaction (for example, Cain doesn't need to be finished in most of these shots because he's not manipulating the fire, but he is needed for the shots where he and Cyrus are scythe/sword locked.)

Also, some of the shots cannot be started until the backgrounds are finished. Those shots are also marked in the Shot Breakdown.

Anyone who is interested in any of the fire shots, please let me know what you can have done by August 4 and I will mark you for those shots. We can do it!

And it will be glorious!

23 June 2010

Cain/Cyrus Comparison Sheets

These sheets are to compare and contrast Cain and Cyrus' designs, to make it easier for the animators.

22 June 2010

Thesis Animatic - Version 21

I've been playing around with the overall pace of the story, extending some of the shots in order to give the viewer more time to absorb what is happening.

I've come to the acceptance that, as my story stands, it is simply one which requires more than one viewing to absorb everything in its entirety. It is not a new discovery, of course, but something I have been trying to rectify by allocating more time for the viewer to understand the events of the film. But despite my efforts, unless I remove something dramatic to simplify the story - such as Cyrus' empathy - it might be impossible for viewers to understand everything in its entirety the first time they watch it.

However, I'm not so sure that this is a bad thing.

The important thing for me is for viewers to be able to enjoy the film on the surface, whether or not they understand the complexities of it the first time. And for those who do figure out the more complex undertones of the film or are willing to watch it a second time, they will be able to enjoy it to its fullest extent. I have to keep in mind that this is, ultimately, a television pilot and this film is meant to just be a taste/preview of the whole story - where such complexities can be fed to the audience in tinier, bite-sized chunks.

So for this version of the animatic, I've replaced my voice acting for Cain with a temp track of his real voice actor, extended some of the shots and, as an experiment, added one of the animations I'm currently working on to see how it worked as part of the film. Seeing it meshed with the storyboards before and after makes me re-think Cyrus' walk animation. It might be too fast and a little bit too much of a swagger. He should probably have more of a stalker-ish glide, walk more slowly and take fewer steps before getting overwhelmed by the bystanders' thoughts.

It's also made me realize that, once the storyboard stills are replaced with animation, this film may end up even longer than I thought. For a film this long and complex, it'll be important for the animation to have the right speed and pacing. Consequently, it's caused me to rethink how I'm going to handle the animation style of the film. I was going to try and ink the line art as the roughs are finished, but to make sure that the animation style of the film remains consistent, and the pacing isn't too quick or too slow, I believe it will be best to finish the roughs overall, first, and start the clean up and inking process once we can see how enough of the scenes flow together in sequence. Also, there will be a balance between using limited animation for shots that can afford to have it, to allocate extra time to dedicate to the shots that would best benefit from full animation. Because more in-betweens can always be added to shots if there ends up being enough time for it.

The important thing is budgeting the time as best as possible to graduate on time while giving this pilot the best chance in every way that I can - both in terms of aesthetics and storytelling.

It will be a fight that will last until the moment I hand in my Thesis and receive my diploma, and quite possibly after. But this was a fight I've worked all my life to have, and I will do my best to make this film the best it can be. Thank you to all who are helping me.

21 June 2010

Character Color Sheet

Here is a set up for the character color possibilities for the film. Cain has a warm, red-based color scheme while Cyrus has a cooler, blue/violet based color scheme. On the bottom is a comparison of the characters together. The favorite at the moment is #2, which will likely be the final character colors.

Character colors by Tracy MacLauchlan

Shot Breakdown (Updated 12/15/10)

Updated: 12/15/2010

http://www.sapphiredragonstudios.com/images/ShotBreakdown.jpg - Click on this link to see the Shot Breakdown larger.

This is the breakdown of all of the shots. Currently, the animations in progress are marked, as well as which characters are in which scenes, what backgrounds are in which scenes, which shots are background-reliant (animation can't start until the backgrounds are complete) and which scenes contain fire effects. Later, the key at the bottom of the graph will be adjusted to account for roughs, lines, colors, shadows (if needed, most scenes will not), special lighting effects and compositing. Also, there will be a column dedicated to the level of anticipated difficulty for each of the shots, to help determine which animators would best fit the scenes. There may also be a column or mark for camera moves, eventually.

20 June 2010

Color Roughs

These are the colors we're looking at for the film so far. These are rough color thumbnails of the storyboards throughout the film. We're trying to use color to both show the otherworldly feel of Cain's visions, establish the time of day and setting (earthy tones give it a more medieval look) and a give a contrast pre and post fire (the Crystalin is dark when they first enter, and the lighting changes when Cyrus casts the fire.)

Overall I'm really pleased with the direction of the colors. It's going to take some experimentation to see how to get these colors in the actual film without having to paint frame-by-frame, but I think it can be done with a combination of the 3D background's textures, the character's flat colors and paint layers added throughout in After Effects.

Colors by Tracy MacLauchlan

Layout Concept Art (Updated 7/24/10)

The Crystalin - Exterior - on the Street
Crystalin Street Exterior Front View by Adrian Gonzalez Roque

Crystalin Street Exterior 3qtr View by Adrian Gonzalez Roque

Crystalin - Exterior Close up
Crystalin Exterior Front View by Adrian Gonzalez Roque

Crystalin Exterior 3qtr View by Adrian Gonzalez Roque

Cystalin - Interior

Crystalin Layout Schematic by Samantha de Graffenreid

Crystalin Layout Work In Progress by Samantha de Graffenreid

Entrance view, by Adrian Gonzalez Roque

Interior Side View, by Adrian Gonzalez Roque

Interior Perspective Shot by Adrian Gonzalez Roque

The Crystalin - Props

Chair concepts by Adrian Gonzalez Roque

Pillar concepts by Adrian Gonzalez Roque

Town Layout
Town Layout by Robyn Haley

Cyrus' Animation Model Sheet

Animation model sheets for Cyrus, the antagonist of the Thesis. These are meant as reference for the 2D animators and goes into detail for Cyrus' design.

Character Call Out Sheets

These are the character call-out sheets, and are meant to show their colors and what their design is influenced from in real life. These are not the Animation Model sheets, which will be coming soon.

Animatic - Version 19

This is version 19 of the animatic.
A larger version of the Animatic can also be seen on my website: http://www.sapphiredragonstudios.com/artpages/g1.html

I have made some major changes to the film based off of several alternate versions of the script/storyboards and critiques. The main differences include:

1. Cain searching for the Crystalin is a newer addition, though not completely new. This is meant to show that Cain doesn't know where the place is, or what state it is in. He is concerned and urgent. This also includes the cat in the story more thoroughly, as the cat becomes the camera transition from Cain to Cyrus.

2. Cyrus' entrance is completely different. The first shot is meant for two purposes - to show that Cyrus is looking for something, and to show that he has empathy. Also, I used this scene to address the complaint that Cyrus seemed too angry from the beginning. In this shot, he's annoyed but not yet angry, and his primary focus is looking for his cat.

3. Cyrus' Point Of View shots have been added throughout the film. These are to better establish his empathy. It will use a combination of animation (in the establishing POV shot where you look into/through his eyes the bystander's mouths will not be moving), color (each person may have an aura) and sound (the thoughts will have reverb)

4. Cain Transitions - There are two short shots of Cain in between Cyrus' scenes. They are both meant to show passage of time, establish that Cain is still looking for the Crystalin, that he is polite (weaving between people instead of mowing them down) and that his search is becoming more and more urgent.

5. Watermelon scene. This is meant to be the bridge between Cyrus simply being annoyed and looking for the cat, and Cyrus being angry, in pain and searching for the cat more urgently. The watermelon salesman and his wife will be both talking and thinking, and with two separate strong emotions (the salesman is angry while the wife is frightened).

6. Cyrus' Build Up/Crowd Scene. This shot is meant for several purposes: To show that Cyrus is becoming more and more agitated/overwhelmed and his search is becoming more and more ridiculous. Also, it isn't added yet, but the bystander thoughts will also be at a hum, getting possibly louder and louder. It comes to a head when he hears someone thinking a stupid question and he barks out a snarky answer. When it draws everyone's attention, he gets overwhelmed.

7. Cain/Cyrus Collision, or lack thereof - They also no longer physically collide. Instead, they stop right before the collision. This was done for a few reasons - 1) Humor/Unexpected 2) Establishes that Cyrus' anger is not because they ran into each other physically 3) I've tried several versions of their collision and it just wasn't something that could animate well. I ran into problems with how it would look/what angle and this version just seems to work better.

8. The Argument - The prior shots and this one are used together to fix the problem of Cyrus' motivation for the fight. Instead of being angry at Cain specifically, he is merely focusing his anger of the entire situation and of all people onto Cain. This is emphasized in some of the newer dialogue (Cyrus referring to Cain as "You people!") Also, in the older versions Cain seemed too calm and appeasing so some of his dialogue has been adjusted to add more confusion ("You people?"), more anger ("What do you think you're doing?!") and a little more snark.
- I'm still playing with some of the dialogue in this part, particularly with Cyrus' answer to "What do you think you're doing?!"
- Some suggestions for his possible answers have been: "Screw you!" (too directly angry. I'd picture him answering with more snark), "Shut up.. just shut up!" (In character, but possibly too out of control for this situation), "Kicking your ass." (Has the snark but I'm trying to avoid expletives and "Kicking Your Butt" just wouldn't sound right), "Your sister" (Cyrus doesn't do sexual humor), "I'm looking for something important" (Humorous because he says this right before attacking Cain, and apparently not looking for something at that moment. It's what I'm using now, but I've had the argument that it's too passive - that he wouldn't give Cain the dignity of answering his question.), "That's of no concern to you." (Snarky/confrontational but considering that he's being asked why is he's attacking Cain, it's a strange answer), "You want something to worry about, I'll give you something to worry about!" (I like this one, too.) Any other suggestions would be great because I'm far from the master of dialogue.

9. The Fight - The fight now starts during the argument, and has been shortened to both accomodate the extra time that was given to the introductory town scenes, and to give a higher sense of urgency.

10. Fire Inside the Crystalin - I've changed the shots and pacing for the Crystalin scene. Cain no longer drops his sword and there's much less of a delay before he goes in for the attack. This version hopefully shows a greater sense of urgency. I will likely add a few quick shots of bystanders reacting to the fire.

11. Final Fight - I've added a Cyrus POV shots during their final clash, when he's getting pinned to the table. Through his eyes, I plan to make Cain's aura look distorted and monstrous to help emphasize that Cain is almost causing his own vision to happen. When Cain backs off and sees what he's almost done, I've tweaked the flashbacks and extended the music so it stops after the flashbacks are done.

12. Ending - I'm still playing with the final camera angles, but in this version, Cyrus reacts more quickly to the cat, saying "There you are!" right away. Cain is more incredulous ("What?!") and Cyrus simply ignores him.

Overall: The main changes I made to the film were meant to address three major arguments: Cyrus' empathy/motives overall not being clear, Cain and Cyrus' motivation for the fight and their motivation for stopping the fight. I addressed this by:
Introducing the cat much earlier
Showing that Cyrus is looking for something much earlier, spending more time building up Cyrus' anger so that it could have time to reach a boiling point by the time he collides with Cain.
Making Cain more urgent and more emotive. The sacrifice was making him less passive/less polite, but I think he still comes across as polite and sincere.
Cyrus fights with Cain because he loses his temper and is taking out his frustration on him.
Cain fights with Cyrus both because he is defending himself, and because he sees the scythe and considers Cyrus responsible for the fire he sees in his vision.
Cyrus stops fighting both because he technically lost and because he was reminded of his objective when the cat comes in.
Cain stops fighting because he realizes he's going to far and that through his own actions he's causing the vision to happen.

Also, I've been adding some humorous elements to the film, mostly in character quirkiness. The earlier versions were being too serious. The main story that this pilot is based off of is serious, but also has a mixture of comedy, and that aspect wasn't showing in the film as much up until now.

Ultimately, though there are still fine tune adjustments to be made, I think the pace and overall flow of the story is finally ready for production!


This blog will be used to monitor the progress of my Thesis film, Fate Saga (Working Title). I've never put together a blog before so this will be an interesting learning experience - and admittedly might take some time to get used to. Regardless, this will be a great opportunity to keep all of the information about this film accessible to everyone who is helping and everyone who is interested in following its progress. Any critiques and ideas are always appreciated.