In-Depth 2020 Post #4

Following my initial learning contract, I’ve decided to start planning out my final animation and begin creating all the necessary assets and models I will need. Animating even short, minute long films can be a lengthy process—especially for a newcomer like myself—so it is best that I start working on my final animation early on to ensure I do not feel rushed in the future.

Professional modellers will commonly draw 2D concept sketches of characters from multiple angles (character turnaround) to use as a reference when modelling the characters in 3D. In my animation projects, I will use free-use concept art drawn by other artists as reference for my models. My main goal is to practice and showcase my 3D modelling skills, not my artistic and creative ability.

[video-to-gif output image]
Timelapse of me working on a character model for my final animation. Concept art sourced from https://i.pinimg.com/originals/c7/17/9a/c7179a80fbd0e33c1a9d763d59cbc95e.jpg

The model shown above is the first character model I’ve made without following a tutorial or template. I opted for creating a low-poly model instead of using the sculpting tools to create a smoother, more intricate model. A low-poly model will have less polygons, making it easier and simpler for my computer to render. It was troubling not knowing where to start when creating the mesh of the model, as usually I follow instructions or guides that tell you which polygons to construct for the best result. Despite having to start over and scrap work several times, the experience in the end was quite rewarding. All the skills I’ve built up to this point were finally being put to use in the creation of this model; I was able to prove to myself that I now could create 3D assets from scratch, without guidance from a tutorial or teacher.

I am also in the process of creating several storyboards to roughly plan out the actions and positioning of models, as well as the positioning and angle of the camera. This is in preparation for the first stage of animation known as “blocking,” where only key poses are animated to establish the placement and timing of character actions and props. I plan to post these finished storyboards alongside a blocked out draft animation in my next blog post.

Building off my last post on the new version of Blender: both my mentor and I have now realized how game-changing the new update to Blender is, even if we struggled to adapt to the new interface at first. For instance, Blender can now handle an infinite number of layers in a scene, compared to the 20 layers scenes were limited to before. This upgrade makes modelling process significantly easier for me; I no longer have to worry about traditionally taught strategies for reducing a scene’s layer count, such as joining together objects. Additionally, the new viewport rendering engine allows the program to run much faster on my computer. The improved performance means decreased wait times when rendering changes in real-time, and the live viewport now produces an more accurate representation of what the final rendered animation will look like.


What has been your most difficult mentoring challenge so far?  Why?

My most difficult mentoring challenge so far has been communicating to my mentor exactly what skills I want to learn or what type of feedback I need on my work. Many concepts in Blender do not have obvious names that relate to their function. Without sufficient knowledge of the proper vocabulary for working in a 3D workspace, I find it difficult to pinpoint the exact names of the skills and techniques I want to learn, which can lead to confusion and mix-ups when working with my mentor. For example, I asked my mentor how I could change the appearance of my objects to look “smoother”. My mentor showed me a method for smoothing the faces of my object by averaging out the angles between vertices. However, the method I was actually looking for is called “subdivision surface“, which splits edges and faces into smaller units; this method gives objects the more organic and smooth shape I was trying to achieve.

What is working well? Why?

In Lois J. Zachary’s book The Mentor’s Guide Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships, Zachary describes the phases of progress mentoring relationships go through: “preparing, negotiating, engaging, and coming to closure” (49). Currently, I believe that my relationship with my mentor is at the beginning of the enabling phase of mentorship. We’re starting to implement the project into full force, initiating work on my final animation while developing the array of skills I need to fulfill my vision. At this phase of our relationship, my mentor has now taken more of a facilitating role rather than being a tutor. I am taking more control over my learning, working autonomously on my own mini-projects and practice exercises, while my mentor steps back and acts as a resource for me to inquire.

As a teacher, my mentor often naturally takes the “lead” in our conversations and meetings. However, he does a great job leaving room for me to ask questions and provide my input. I direct the conversation by introducing the topics I want to discuss, and from there my mentor elaborates on what I already know by sharing his expertise and experience. Overall, I believe we have a good mentor-mentee dynamic, and we are consistently able to keep a productive conversation going for the duration of a meeting.

What could be working better?  How can you make sure this happens?

With his busy schedule working in multiple school districts, we’ve found it difficult to consistently meet as often as I would have hoped. It is difficult to find times and dates that will work for both of our schedules, as my mentor is often called away to emergency meetings and is not always available to meet at Gleneagle. While we try to make up for these lost meetings by rescheduling them to a later date, there are long stretches of time where I do not get the chance to update my mentor on my progress. This inconsistency in meetings is worsened by the fact that, due to recent events, we will not be meeting in person anytime soon.

It will be challenging to work with my mentor over the next few weeks. To help remedy this situation, I’ve established several means of remote contact and methods of working together online. At the beginning of the project, my mentor and I set up a document online where we established several goals and projects to work on throughout my inquiry. Periodically over the next few weeks as I complete each step of the animation pipeline, I can update the document with my progress and check off the goals I’ve reached thus far. This way, my mentor can stay up to date on what I’ve accomplished. Additionally, my mentor and I have also installed an addon on Blender that allows us to work collaboratively in real time on the same scene. My mentor can demonstrate what changes he would make to my models, just like he would during an in-person meeting.

In-Depth 2020 Post #3

The theme of the past few weeks was “puzzling.” Recently, the 3D software I have been using (Blender) has gone through a complete overhaul in terms of appearance and functionality. This update brings many new features that improve the efficiency of operations, such as a new rendering engine; however, most of the menus and user interface has been reorganized and modified as part of Blender’s modernization effort.

For instance, Blender used to work based different “layouts,” which separated the necessary tools for each stage of the animation pipeline into different windows. However, the new version of Blender employs “workspaces,” which require users to construct their own layouts. While this new system allows more user-customizability, as a relative beginner in 3D modelling and animation, I have no idea what tools, viewports, and panels I should be using in each workspace.

Blender 2.7

Blender 2.8

As a result, I’ve been struggling to make any progress towards my final goal throughout the past few weeks. Additionally, my mentor is struggling to adapt to the new version of Blender; he too has to relearn the user interface and controls of the program. I have spent more time trying to relearn what I already learned and understanding what changes that were made to the program than actually learning new skills.

3D ninja model with textures added

I worked on adding to my ninja model I introduced in my last blog post, unwrapping my character model and mapping the character with textures. I was supposed to rig this model with a skeleton, in the hopes that I would be able to start animating the model this week. However, due to the new Blender update, my mentor suggested that I postpone that goal until he has regained sufficient knowledge to help me properly rig the model. He said that a model that is incorrectly rigged can lead to disastrous problems down the road; you will be forced to restart any animation work you completed if you need to re-rig the model. This is why it is important to do each step of the modelling-animation pipeline correctly the first time. You can’t turn back once you start moving forward!


What went particularly well during your mentoring sessions?

My mentor and I worked together in order to problem-solve our issues with Blender. It felt less like my mentor was teaching, and more like my mentor was working collaboratively with me. In Lois J. Zachary’s book The Mentor’s Guide Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships, Zachary states that establishing a “context”—that is, the conditions and circumstances that affect our interactions—is an integral part of having effective meetings. Due to my mentor setting up a “collaborative” context for our meetings, I felt more open to asking questions and less pressured to perform during meetings.

What relationship challenges did you face?

  • Were you communicating effectively with one another? Were you candid and open in your communication?

I appreciated how candid and straightforward my mentor was with admitting that he didn’t know the answer to some of my questions and would have to do some further research before providing an answer; since we both have been stuck at a standpoint after this new update to Blender, we have both been forthcoming with our issues and open to telling each other what we found in our research. Our effective communication has helped bring our relationship closer together: I’m helping my mentor, and my mentor is helping me.

  • Were you actually listening to each other?

Throughout the past few weeks, I believe that both my mentor and I have done an excellent job listening to each other’s opinions and advice. Instead of just letting my mentor do all the talking, which may cause me to lose attention, we had an exchange back and forth, communicating our concerns, questions, and knowledge to each other. This two-way communication made for a more engaging and involved mentoring session, and as a result, we were more attentive during conversations.

What learning challenges emerged? What did you do to hold yourselves accountable for the learning?

The main learning challenge that I faced over the past few weeks was having to adapt and learn to use the updated version of Blender; the program was drastically transformed, and I had to effectively start from scratch in terms of my practical knowledge of applied skills. This learning challenge was unexpected—having to relearn the interface has pushed back our schedule significantly. Since my mentor teaches students how to use Blender in a 3D game design course at Gleneagle, my mentor feels responsible to make sure that his knowledge of the program is up to date. My mentor actually recently took up a Blender tutorial course in order to learn how to use to newly designed program. At this stage in my mentorship, I’ve found it challenging to learn, as my mentor is also learning at the same time. In order to keep ourselves accountable for our learning, we agreed that we would both do research on the new version of Blender on our own time, and we would bring our research to our next meeting for discussion.

In-Depth 2020 Post #2

Throughout the past two weeks, I have been focusing on getting comfortable with using the 3D graphics software Blender. I’ve designated this month as time dedicated towards mastering 3D modelling and rigging—fundamental skills I need in order to move on to actual animation.

Screenshot of finished character model

Following the tutorials my mentor provided, I worked on creating a low-poly (a mesh composed with a low number of polygons) character model from scratch. This “mini-project” provided with a solid grasp on the basics of modelling in Blender, teaching me how to extrude, scale, and sculpt primitive objects (e.g. cubes, pyramids, cylinders, spheres) into more complex shapes. Instead of concentrating on a single skill or tool at a time, as outlined in my original proposal, working on mini-projects allows me to use multiple skills and learn the fundamentals of Blender at a much faster rate.

However, without a tutorial or step-by-step instructions, I find it challenging to know what parts of the model to sculpt and to choose the proper techniques to apply. As described in Kit Laybourne’s The Animation Book, 3D animation requires an innate sense of depth and spatial awareness. This is the reason why modelling 3D objects can be difficult for many artists and animators, who traditionally work using 2D spaces and mediums. My mentor says that understanding which tools to use and which shapes to modify/extrude will come naturally with time and practice. To alleviate the problem of not knowing where to start when modelling, my mentor suggested that I find a 2D image of a character, and “trace” the image using 3D objects.

Example weight map of character model my mentor showed me—different body parts have different “weights,” as represented in variation of colour

Moving forward, I will practice rigging the character model I created with a skeleton and a weight map, preparing the model for future animation with realistic motion. My mentor demonstrated how to correctly apply a weight map onto a character model during one of our meetings together.

How did your mentor gain their experience/expertise?

Having worked in the information technology industry for a good portion of his life, my mentor gained a significant amount of experience working with computers throughout his career. In particular, his programming skills carried over well into 3D animation; my mentor explained that many parts of 3D animation, such as programming a dope sheet, are similar in process and function to coding software. My mentor also gained part of his animation expertise by learning from other teachers in the Digital Arts and Media department.

What were those experiences like for your mentor?

Technology moves at a rapid pace and is constantly evolving and changing. My mentor told me a story of when a company he worked at rolled out a new update on a program he had already grown accustomed to, forcing him to relearn the interface of the program. From that experience, my mentor learned that one of the most important assets anyone can have is the ability to adapt to change and be flexible. My mentor summarized his experiences with a simple mantra: “it is useful to just memorize and know—but it is much more useful to know how to grow.”

What wisdom have you gained from your mentor so far?

One piece of wisdom I have taken away from my mentor is to only take on what I can reasonably handle. My mentor has reminded me that balancing my ambitions and the time I have available is an important component of the learning process; I can only do so much within a limited timeframe. Adding on to managing my workload effectively, my mentor has taught me that it is important to set specific boundaries ahead of time on what topics and skills I want to cover during an inquiry project. During our first meeting, my mentor and I created a list of goals (similar to SMART goals). When you are invested in your work and inquiry, it is important to stay focused on the task at hand and not have to worry about what steps to take next. Developing goals and projects beforehand clearly outlining what I will accomplish is one of the best strategies I can use to stay concentrated throughout In-Depth.

What have you learned so far, in terms of facilitation strategies, that might contribute to your own development as a mentor?

In working with my mentor, I have learned that crafting an outline and plan for learning is an effective facilitation strategy mentors can use to enrich a mentorship. My mentor said he “appreciates organization and clarity” when working on a project, which are values that I share in my own work. To ensure both my mentor and I are on the same page with my progress, during our first meeting we established a timeline filled with different projects and goals to work on throughout my inquiry. This facilitation method is supported in Lois J. Zachary’s book The Mentor’s Guide Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships, where Zachary states that mentors should “involve the learner in planning what they are going to learn […] and encourage the mentee to design their own learning contract.” Even if a learner is hesitant to speak up or a shy individual (such as myself), it is still important to ask for the mentee’s opinion and input. For example, after we created a timeline for my inquiry project, my mentor shared the document with me and told me to comment on the document in red text. I have realized that in order to make the experience for the mentee worthwhile, a mentor must not only teach, but also let the learner be a part of the teaching process.

In-Depth 2020 Introductory Post

This year for In-Depth, I am going to learn how to model, animate, and render 3D models using 3D computer animation software and tools. I was re-watching Wall-E, one of my favorite animated films, when I thought to myself: why couldn’t I try making an animation like this? Watching computer animated films from studios such as Pixar and DreamWorks reminds me of the child-like wonder and beautiful storytelling animated films provide; there is an “animated” quality in computer-animated films that live action movies simply cannot capture. In this In-Depth, not only do I want to take a closer look at the magic that goes on behind the scenes of 3D animation, but I also want to prove that it doesn’t take big budgets and massive teams of animators to create fun, 3D animated films. Combining together my love for computers and film, here I am, ready to discover what it takes to create a 3D animated film from start to end.


As a side note: one other topic I considered for this year’s In-Depth was video game development. However, creating video games within a 3D environment requires preliminary knowledge on creating and animating 3D models. Two other personal interests of mine, architecture and engineering, require knowledge on using 3D modelling software for design work and constructing building plans. By learning to animate 3D computer animated films, I can hopefully transpose the skills I gain in this In-Depth to other personal fields of interest.


Over the course of this year’s In-Depth, I will attempt to master each component of the “animation pipeline”—a term used to describe a plan outlining each step of the animation process. Four basic summaries of each main step in the pipeline are listed below (Vilar, 2014):

3D Modeling and Texturing

  • Modelling and sculpting 3D polygonal models and objects
  • Applying surfaces, colour, bump maps, and textures to models

Rigging and Setup

  • Creating a “skeleton” for models in order to animate them
  • Preparing assets (sound, environment) and models for animation

Animation and Effects

  • Animating models using motion, posing, and keyframes
  • Creating effects such as particles, hair and fur, cloth simulation, etc.

Lighting and Rendering

  • Lighting a scene to create the right tone and look
  • Generating a 2D image/animation from the 3D scene, “rendering” the final product

Computer animation is a methodological, gradual process; each step builds upon the work already completed, adding bit by bit to the final product. For example, you cannot begin the rigging process if you have not created a model to work with. This is why I have decided to take a step-by-step approach to learning the skills necessary for 3D animation. By concentrating on one section of the pipeline at a time, I can build a concrete foundation of knowledge and resources required to move on to the next section of the pipeline. My goal for the end of this project is to produce a complete 3D computer animated short film, accumulating my experience with each part of the animation pipeline to create a finished, polished animation.

I have tried reaching out to an animator at a local animation studio to see if they would be interested in being my mentor for this project. Unfortunately, their schedule as a full-time animator is extremely busy, which means that they are rarely available to meet up. Thus, I have also contacted Mr. Linberg, who teaches Animation 12 and 3D Game Design courses at Gleneagle Secondary.

In the meantime, I’ve been setting up my work layout in Blender, the 3D computer graphics software I will be working with throughout this In-Depth. Using the start-up guide included with Blender, I’ve briefly explored the different modules and tools within the program to get a sense of the functionality Blender is capable of. Hopefully, by my next blog post, I will have started 3D modelling in Blender and can provide an update on my progress with using the program.

Screenshot of Blender 3D

I am excited to see where In-Depth 2020 takes me. I’m taking a relatively big risk with 3D animation as my In-Depth this year—I have almost no experience with traditional animation in general, let alone 3D animation! It’s a daunting journey ahead, but I think I’m in for a great adventure.

Career Education Interview

I interviewed a mechanical engineer who provided his personal insight on the field and gave valuable information on his path to becoming an engineer. From the interview, I managed to take away three main pieces of wisdom in regards to building a career and navigating life:

  • Accelerating progress and reaching success starts with setting concentrated goals.
  • Expanding your network will open up opportunities.
  • Staying relevant and informed requires flexibility.

Eminent Introduction – Nikola Tesla

The present is theirs; the future, which I really worked for, is mine.

Nikola Tesla

What is one’s fate when they are too ahead of their time? Nikola Tesla—a remarkable inventor, physicist, and engineer—was a thinker unmatched with a vision for the future. Although Tesla’s name is now a byword for innovation and achievement, he was not always the acclaimed scientist most see him as today; perhaps Tesla’s contemporaries were simply not yet ready for his novel foresight.

As a revolutionary in the field of electricity, Tesla developed and invented many groundbreaking technologies that are implemented globally today, including the x-ray, remote control, the Tesla coil, induction motors, wireless technologies for telegraphy and telephone, the oscillator, and most famously, alternating current. Considered a futurist from the beginning of his career, Tesla predicted, advocated, and designed many systems intended for the future benefit of society and Earth. He promoted wireless technologies for worldwide communications, fought for universal access to electricity in every home, designed devices that he hoped would end human warfare, and lauded efforts in sustainability and the preservation of our planet.

Tesla’s supposed superhuman brainpower, photographic memory, and mental prowess marks him as one of the most prolific geniuses in history. It is commonly said that Tesla could envision detailed three-dimensional structures and mechanisms in his head. Yet, beyond Tesla’s intellect lies his eccentric personality and actions. Tesla was the epitome of a mad scientist, whose smarts were perhaps too great for his own good. What drove Tesla to design and invent such deadly, epic, and dangerous creations like the theoretical “death beam”? Why was Tesla so determined to prevail victorious in his infamous rivalry against Thomas Edison, attempting to prove that his dangerous alternating current would be better than Edison’s conservative direct current? I want to delve deeper into the contrast between Tesla’s inner and outer life—the difference between the mastermind on the inside and the madman on the outside.

Tesla faced numerous setbacks and challenges throughout his career; for every step he took forward, it seemed he would always be forced to take one step back. His esteemed laboratory burned down in 1895, along with his notes and prototypes, leaving Tesla with his whole livelihood taken from him. Many of Tesla’s dreams and plans were never realized due to lack of capital and funding from investors. Credit and honour for several of his inventions were stolen from him by other inventors.

It is vital we honour Tesla today for his work and numerous contributions to his discipline. His scope of genius not only was limited to physics, but spread to all areas of sciences, the arts, and engineering. His insight into the future and vision of a world powered by electricity was much ahead of his time. The technological marvels we’ve become accustomed to today are the brainchild of Tesla’s brilliance.

Tesla and I share an intense passion for technology and engineering. He and I could be viewed as farouche; both of us are reserved, shy, and introverted. Tesla was particularly known to be unsociable around the company of others. However, most qualities I share in common with my chosen notable are not my envisionment of an ideal individual. Instead, I aspire to emulate the many other traits Turing possessed that allowed him to endeavour great feats. One of my goals in TALONS is to become a better, more confident leader and individual. Not only does Tesla’s resourcefulness, determination, perseverance, and ambition exemplify traits of an excellent leader, but they are all also qualities I strive to follow myself.

Tesla’s story derives from his immigration to America, and rising up within his career as an unknown. As an immigrant, he faced a multitude of struggles and obstacles in becoming recognized within the scientific world, all while having to adapt to a new country and culture. Since I have never experienced the process of immigration firsthand, Tesla’s journey to citizenship and prominence is one I find difficult to relate with. To combat this barrier in my speech, I’ll make an effort to focus more on his unique character and personality, rather than the impact immigration had on him.

My next steps for studying my eminent person will be to contact individuals adept in Nikola Tesla’s work and seek potential experts to interview. For my eminent project this year, I hope to be able to find an expert on my notable and be able to interview them in person.

Independent Inquiry: Canadian History

In my inquiry on exploration and colonization in Canada, I created a podcast episode to answer my inquiry question: “what motivating factors instigated European efforts to colonize North America?”

Link to podcast episode on Anchor FM with full transcript


Works Cited

Canadian Museum of History. “Colonies and Empires.” Virtual Museum of New France, 2019, https://www.historymuseum.ca/virtual-museum-of-new-france/colonies-and-empires/.

Champlain, Samuel de. The Voyages and Explorations of Samuel de Champlain 1604-1616. Translated by Annie Nettleton Bourne, Williams-Barker Company, 1904, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.hn24pb;view=1up;seq=10.

—. Carte geographique de la Nouelle Franse en son vray meridiein. Chez Jean Berjon, 1613, France, http://collectionscanada.gc.ca/pam_archives/index.php?fuseaction=genitem.displayItem&lang=eng&rec_nbr=3919666.

Fidler, Peter. “Hudson Bay House 30 May 1795 Standard of Trade.” HBCA Archives of Manitoba, 1795, http://www.furtradestories.ca/details.cfm?content_id=244&cat_id=2&sub_cat_id=5.

McCliesh, Thomas. “Letters From Hudson Bay, 1703-40.” The Hudson’s Bay Record Society, 1965, London, http://www.furtradestories.ca/details.cfm?content_id=94&cat_id=2&sub_cat_id=6.

Norwich University Online. “Colonization of the New World.” 2015, https://online.norwich.edu/academic-programs/resources/colonization-of-the-new-world.