Tag Archives: Process

A quick peek behind the Scenes (Or the real face of Animation)

A lot of times I’ve been told that if we, animators, own a “special” software. By the questions I’ve been asked, sometimes this “special” software becomes magical. Like if Pixar of DreamWorks had a set of parameters like: 50% action, 35% comedy and 15% character development and then you press a button and… Presto! You’ve got yourself a Blockbuster movie!

I can assure you that is anything but that.

Both 3D animation and 2D animation start the same way: with storyboards and moodboards. This tools are priceless and, more often than not, still done in it’s majority “by hand”. Sometimes, it is drawn directly into some software, using a Cintiq or a Tablet.

Background in process

Background in the process of being painted in Adobe Photoshop, using a scanned drawing as reference.

So as you can see animation is a technique, not a movie genre. It’s just a different way to tell stories that might not work that well in Live Action settings.

Most people got shocked when I explained that my final film was done with 707 final drawings (That is without counting rough animation, in which you sometimes do several times a scene, until you get it right!) and that all of those drawings were scanned and then digitally painted using Toon Boom Harmony (a very animator specific software).

This is a X-sheet in Toon Boom Harmony

This is a X-Sheet, in Toon Boom Harmony. First we fill this ones by hand -before- we even start drawing, in order to plan our animation. Then we type it back into the software, making sure each drawing is in order according to this sheet.

But at least Adobe Flash does the work for you, right? (I’ve been asked that several times). Adobe Flash is a very quirky piece of software. And I know Flash since my days in University, studying graphic design.  Truth be told, Flash does help you to stay more “on model”,  the technical term for a character that hasn’t been distorted. But the way animation works in Flash is very different to the traditional way of animating, and that’s why most Flash animations tend to be “snappy” and very fast paced. That’s the way it works best.  But Adobe decided to change Flash to a more programmer friendly software, and made things insanely difficult for animators (and Graphic designers) so must Animation studios own older versions of Flash to work with.  And that means this:

Flash Crashing

A very feared screen to see while animating. The newer versions of Flash have become more stable, but less animator friendly. So we just keep on saving VERY often.

And don’t get me wrong: Flash Animation is great! I was able to (while learning how to use Flash for animation purposes) to do a film that has the same lenght as my classical film… in one fourth of the time! Yes, that’s right!!! It’s a lot faster to animate on Flash than classically.

Right now Im starting to develop an Idea to do it on Toon Boom Animate Pro, so I can compare Flash against. I’ll keep you posted on that sometime in the future.

Now you know all the work that Animation needs, and it will give you a whole new level of appreciation of masters at Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks and all those studios that make a big effort to entertain you. I’ll post a couple of clips of traditional animation, just for you to see all the work involved, this time around from Disney’s Fantasia 2000 (and one of my favorite sequences!):

Enjoy! And keep in mind that EVERY frame was drawn by hand and then cleaned up… lot’s of work!


First Preview of Hedgehogs’ Dilemma

Sorry for the delay on the posts, but it has been a hectic ride this year so far.

Right after Christmas break and after my New Years post, I dived into finishing my rough animation. some technical difficulties regarding the school being closed delayed me for a couple of days and have been working pretty much non stop since then, until an ear infection knocked me out for a week (more than 40 hours worth of work were used in battling the illness).

But all the work trying to catch up with my great friends of the Classical Animation 76 class has been paying off nonetheless, so I have some cool stuff to show you. I was going to document the whole process, but for the time being I think I’ll skip all the layout explanation and jump right into rough, clean and color animation examples… plus a surprise.

It’s just a sneak preview, the animation is pretty much final at the Clean Up stage but everything else might change, like color, timing and even framing.

First, we have the layout version, which was a perspective accurate version of the storyboard version of the short film idea:

Here we have the rough animation stage, where the keyframes were defined and the suggested timing was used:

The Clean animation stage is next, the final timing is used and also breakdowns and must inbetweens are added:

The first color test is this. There are color issues still, but is a good point to work from:

As an extra bonus, this is another scene (final in artwork and timing, but not quite there in color):


Layout

Oh, layout…

Layout is one thing that can get you right on track or make your animation project a total nightmare. And I really mean nightmare! Basically, layout in animation is the blueprint, the foundation if you will, of the whole short or feature. As where the storyboard helps you define the story and the way you tell it, layout is the process in which you decide ALL the technical stuff to actually make it.

Technical stuff in animation, you might ask. My short answer would be: Yep, and lots of technical stuff indeed! And we haven’t got to the actual animation process yet, we’re still in the pre-production phase. Storyboarding to make the story flow right and then layout, to make it feasible to animate properly.

An example of how layout works: If you have a close up of a character, you might want to animate it in a certain size: not too big (because it’s really hard to control and maintain similar quality overall) or too small (lines start to get all cluttered and messy if you draw it wrong only once). This is where Layout really shines, because you define the size that would work best and lock it! You do all the basic poses of the action “on-model” (the term for “stay-in-the-approved-character-design” in animation jargon) based on the character model sheet and then the animator would have a foundation to make the animation happen. (He or she would go from pose to pose, adding or removing things as he might judge proper, but that’s a different subject and I’ll add more on that on next posts).

Also, in Layout you define all the camera movements: panning, diagonal pans, dutch tilts, zip-pans, etc. and if you have multiplane camera shots or movements, you define all the “layers” in which that action it’s gonna happen. An example of that (and how complex you can get) can be seen here:

Layered composition

layered composition

Every “box” represents one piece of artwork that combined makes a composition. In this particular example, the first red box “level” belongs to the branch at the lower left part of the composition and so forth. Some layers interact with each other and some others interact with the characters, making things fairly complicated really fast: that’s when layout can become a life vest or an anvil in the middle of the ocean.

You also design the final backgrounds without colour and major rendering at this stage. Now, this makes the importance of layout stand out because at this stage, is fairly simple to solve staging or composition problems than trying to make an animation work in a bad planned environment.I’ll post a couple of videos showing a little bit of the layout process later on…

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As a little present, I’ll let Walt Disney himself explain what a multiplane camera is:

Enjoy!


Leica reel signed off!

Sweet!

I know it has been a while since my last post, but it was for a good reason.

After Peter challenged me to do better and improve the way my story was being told,  I stepped up my pace and did the amount of two weeks worth of changes in about 4 days. A lot of blood, sweat and tears but all the good advice of Peter MacAdams, Moose Pagan, Dieter Muller and Marv Newland was enough to keep me going and trying to make it better.

Right now, Im starting the Layout process, which Corey Evans (one of our instructors) has dubbed as the “problem solving phase” of the animation process. It’s kind of annoying, but it’s quite interesting how all of the pieces of this animated short start to fall into place.

Thanks for stopping by! Now, time to go and continue working on some more layout!


Reality check 1… *sigh*

Hi again!

I’ll need to postpone the One sheet post I promised because some more important questions came up yesterday morning.

We have now an assigned Final Film instructor: Peter MacAdams. Peter is awesome! Is the only teacher that constantly pushes me to achieve even more than I push myself (And I have suffered some major drawbacks because I push myself really hard… I try to learn and do some stuff that sometimes grows way out of hand! More often than not, I try to chew more than I can swallow.) So it is great for me to have Peter as my final film instructor because it will help me make it better and then learn a lot more… but I have to control my own perfectionism impulses and keep everything in check so things don’t grow out of hand!

So my first honest reality check was yesterday. We saw the latest Leica Reel together (The Leica reel which I already posted about here) and he was… how can I say it? … Not convinced.  After questioning him a little about it, the truth came very clear to me as I finally saw things the way he did: The story has major composition problems and there are two major points of the storytelling that don’t actually help. This points are there, but it wouldn’t matter if they are removed because they don’t help the story to grow. The great part is that he understood the story just the way I wanted to be so THAT’S GREAT! Once again… time to draw a lot and polish, polish and polish it some more!

Now, that’s a major issue for me. I’m rethinking the whole story as I write down this, and lucky for me, all this happened on this part of the process. Wish me luck, I’ll need it!

On a different note, autumn is starting to leave and winter is starting to come… So sad, I  sure love the colour of winter!


Leica Reel… second round.

Oh, what a day!

Finally, after working more than 8 hours straight on the second pass of the Leica Reel, I was able to finish it. It was a marvellous feeling!

Then again, I had just a few comments regarding poses of my two characters on the first presentation so everything was supposed to go smoothly. That wasn’t the case, but it’s gonna make a stronger, even better film at the end! But, oh boy… was a tough ride!

My timing of the scenes was a whole lot better overall. Specially after tweaking some poses, the time got a lot more accurate. Also, the “acting” part of my characters improved a lot. Apparently, with those changes a lot of new details surfaced during todays presentation.

I won’t lie, I started to panic. It was A LOT of details to fix… and fixing details is as much work as doing it for the first time (and we have to deal with some homework and stuff, besides the classical film). But then I asked Marv Newland for help, and he was generous with both his time and advice. It was actually priceless! THANKS MARV!! He not only helped me with the storytelling part, but he also helped me regain the confidence that I sort of lost during the pitching process…  I felt like I was back on the game again!

I won’t post the Leica Reel until later, but I promise to post my One Piece later this week. More on that next time.


The Leica Reel…and the story

For most people, this is like listening to alien mumbling. At least, that was my case.

In most animated features and animated shorts, in the DVD “Special Features” section, they have all the secrets of how the production was done. First, you start with an idea (usually, the most complicated to define yet the cornerstone of anything in this media). After developing your idea, nurturing it and make it stand by it’s own, comes the next step: defining the style or “feel” of your film.

This is where the storyboarding process and Leica Reel come into play… and that’s exactly what I’m doing right now at VFS.

The first is a storyboard, where you translate all of your visual ideas or/and the script (if it there is one) into a physical state. This process is painful because most times, everything that is your head is close to perfect…and for some unknown reason, at the moment of putting it down on paper and drawing it, comes nothing close to perfection at first. So after a couple of drafts, usually in the form of thumbnail drawings, you’re ready to apply all the technical side of how you’re planning to tell your story.

After the genesis of the idea becoming a coherent storyboard that looks kind of a comic book with camera instructions and some other technicalities, The Leica Reel comes next. Here, you scan the complete Storyboard and you import it to a video editing software program, like Adobe Premier. There, you add a scratch track of music -not necessarily the final audio you plan to use- , special effects, sound effects, basic motion and ANYTHING that helps tell the story. No animation is done at this point.

At this part of the process, all the storytelling issues that may not be seen before are more clear and sound. Usually, the Leica Reel is shown at a producers meeting with the director and his team… or the director alone. There, changes are usually required from both sides and the cycle repeats itself a couple of times. The Leica Reel, though, may not be shown to the public, and usually the final draft is the one on the features at the DVD’s. This is done to save money in the production and to come out with a good product

I’ll leave a couple of examples. One of my favorite movies of all times, Pixar’s Monsters Inc., with a Leica Reel comparison with the movie!

And also the fantastic intro sequence of Tarzan, from Walt Disney Studios:

Did you like them? Wish me luck with mine!

Quick edit: I found the first Leica Reel of the opening of Tarzan. It’s a great example of why this works perfect as a story refining tool… and the previous one I posted was chosen over this one.

Enjoy!