Everyone wants to find where their interests lie and then follow them, but not many people succeed. According to Gallup's World Poll only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged in their job. Umar Seed, now a professional 3D animator, has the job he dreamed of as a child. This is Umar’s story of realizing his passion, overcoming obstacles, and launching into the animation industry.
As a child, Umar was interested in animation and games. He recounts, “I thought I wanted to be a cartoon artist.” As time passed, Umar gained an interest in science and thought he wanted to be an engineer. In his teenage years, big gaming industries became popular and widespread. All of his friends, including him, grew fascinated with gaming. Umar describes that he “used to see game development on tv and how artists put their effort together to make a game.” That’s when a spark from his childhood dream reignited, Umar realized he didn’t want to be an engineer, and in turn, set out to learn animation.
Umar began his journey by watching tutorials and reading Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. However, back in 2008, the internet was still new in Pakistan, “very few people had it.” Umar was not accustomed to the internet and found it hard to figure out what software to use. “It was a back and forth between a lot of things.” Umar worked through all the trials and errors as difficulty arose.
Umar’s adventure to find the right software was similar to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. His third attempt was perfect. First came Autodesk 3ds max, then Autodesk maya, where he first learned 3d modeling and animation, and finally the commercially usable Blender. According to Umar, “Blender is getting better and better. A lot of people say it’s going to become the industry standard in the future.” Blender, an open source software suite created by hundreds of people around the world as a free-for-use, global program that anyone can use. This is the software Umar uses up to this day.
Beyond softwares, there were other difficulties to overcome. Umar rushed into trying to make a photo-realistic model with the absence of much knowledge and realized “it did not look that good.” Umar points out that “In the beginning you are naive and don’t know how things really work.” He can now suggest, before rendering anything, for creators to take a moment observing their model without any shade and without any lighting (the grayscale model). If it looks realistic then move on to the next step otherwise, refine the model.
Despite his first failed attempt, Umar wasn’t discouraged to continue. In his eyes “We have the whole world at our fingertips. You have this entire gallery of artists doing work and that is inspiring in it’s own right.” With practice, he gained skills and momentum in 3D animation and began looking for an online job. He applied to different companies for a job and/or internship when he saw an advertisement for the Kashmir World Foundation (KwF). Soon, KwF responded to Umar, accepting his application.
Umar looks back on his internship with pride. “It was really a different type of route to break into the visual effects industry.” At KwF, he was given flexible deadlines and creative freedom, a unique situation in the animation industry. Generally, there is a lot of pressure to come up with solutions and there are many limitations. Sometimes even a seemingly flawless proposed solution will not please the client. In Umar’s experience, when a client rejects your idea, “you move on to their solution and do what they want.”
During his internship, Umar was given the challenge to create a 3D animated KwF logo. Umar worked directly with Princess Aliyah, the Executive Director of KwF. Her vision was to create a logo that represented the union of art, science, technology, and worldwide collaboration. Umar was asked to design an earth rotating inside of a canary diamond. Umar took the challenge and sent Princess Aliyah 3 original designs to choose from. Originally, the render was really dark and Princess Aliyah asked to make the logo brighter. Umar understood what she wanted but he needed to determine how to achieve the effect in the rendering.
To make the logo “brighter”, Umar experimented with making the lights more intense and adding another light. “I rendered the diamond and the earth. Then, I rendered the KwF separately and put them together”. It took him 2 months to complete the challenge, but his creation of the KwF logo was a reflection of Princess Aliyah’s vision for Kashmir World Foundation. Umar went on to design the Kashmir Robotics logo as a blended wing body aircraft that resembles the Eagle Ray, the newest aircraft the Kashmir Robotics team is working on.
Princess Aliyah reminisces about this collaboration with pride. She reflects “ I enjoyed working with Umar because he was a great listener and did an amazing job creating a visual from a verbal description. Umar was fast and efficient with his work. He always wanted to improve upon his own designs because he's a perfectionist and wants to leave the perfect signature of his work. We are so pleased to have had Umar design the KwF logo because no one could have done it better.”
Expanding the horizons of what he can create, Umar’s favorite projects are two of his most recent. The first, is an interior visualization experience (IntVis) project which took approximately a month to complete. Umar created the entire space by putting it in Unreal Engine. He mentions “There were things I built myself and there were things like texture that I took from the internet.” Trying to build a scene completely from scratch would have taken an unimaginable amount of time.
“It was just to show that I can create an app visualizing an interior scene”. Having the ability to create such a scene is useful for clients who want to remodel or redecorate their home. IntVis provides the opportunity to visualize changes before spending a lot of money on implementing them. Visit https://www.artstation.com/artwork/9meRoq and https://www.artstation.com/artwork/R3YXKm to view the full project.
The second project is a Batman animation, more formally known as motion capture retargeting on custom IK rig. It took two weeks to complete. Besides including plot simulation and creating an environment around the animation, all Umar needed to do “was bind the character with the rig.”
A rig is a character setup. In blender, you want to set a character in order to animate it. In other words, you need to move the character as a whole rather than as individual parts. “You try to rig it down to finger movements and blinking. You need to set it up so you can move it appropriately according to your needs,” Umar comments.
After building an advanced rig on his own, with no assistance from youtube tutorials, Umar brought motion capture data onto the rig and blended his own animation with it. Such a project on Blender is one that has not been done before. Visit https://www.artstation.com/artwork/A94KJq to view the full project.
Having gotten so far in this journey, Umar was able to offer some advice for aspiring 3D animators. Umar shares that “If you know the 12 principles of animation you can create a really organic cartoon animation but not so much a realistic animation. For that, you need to take a slightly different approach.”
For example, take the principle of anticipation. If a guy is running and wants to jump, based on the principle of anticipation, you must position the guy in an anticipation pose. This could mean bending his knees and going down to gain potential before the jump. The position would look acceptable in a cartoon but you do not need to do that much in a realistic animation. The guy is already running so he has the momentum to jump without the need for any anticipation pose. For reference, animators should observe real life motion. This could be in person observation or through video format.
Umar also revealed, with practice, he became able to imagine a plan in his mind before starting a project. However, most of the time, the plan was only 5% of what actually happened. “There will be a lot of problems that you didn’t think about and problems that you didn’t even know could occur.” The next step is to google a solution online, solve the problem on your own, or find a way around it. Long story short, finishing a project takes a lot of replanning. But, that applies to every industry and even daily life. Doesn’t it?
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