This semester the tone of our project is very different to that of Life in the 21st Century meaning that the style of animation is going to change completely, it will have a much more realistic and subtle nature to it rather than the exaggerated and dramatic animation of Kimmy. However there is one similarity between the two projects and that is that neither of the main characters speak, so their emotions and reactions to events will have to be expressed through facial animation alone.
Within the team this semester there are three animators, Dan (Lead) Matt and myself, below is the shot list that Dan had planned out of who would be animating what. Some of the animation we’ve planned is quite technical and complicated and with the high standard we are aiming for we knew that it wouldn’t be achieved without a bit of help, Alec gave us the names of some placement students who can animate – we ended up bringing two on to complete some of the less complicated sequences of the main and secondary characters.
Within the opening scene the animation isn’t too difficult, the character would be looking ahead and scanning the camp with her eyes, her stomach would rumble and she would react. The last shot wold be a little bit tougher than this as it was a walk cycle but then again only 32 frames would need to be animated and then the walk would be put on an infinite loop – the character’s full body is never fully visible in one shot meaning she never actually has to move along the ground, we would animate the backgrounds instead – which makes the animator’s job a lot easier. We delegated out these two scenes thinking that the placement students would be more than capable of completing them, even if they weren’t to the standard we would need them to be one of the three of us could take the blocked out file and work from there.
As mentioned in a previous post for environment influence I’ve found that Inside by Playdead is a great source for subtle and charismatic animations that add a whole lot of character to the model. Below is a link to a post showing some of these animations:
The two that I found the most influential and just outright appealing were the window and the trap door.
The window shows the character reacting to the environment around him. The way the character touches and leans on the glass, the little looks over the shoulder all pull on the audience to empathise with and feel sorry for this character. It’s little touches like these that will help to encourage our audience to empathise with our girl. We don’t want the audience to predict the ending, as far as they are concerned she is just a young, hungry child wandering through the forest alone, we want their to be an air of innocence about her that will come through via the animation.
The trap door animation shows an excellent sense of weight, it is evident that a child and not an adult is lifting this door. The weight of the door is shown through the shift in strain that moves through his body as the door is lifted, it is this movement that really helps to convince the audience of the heavy weight of this door, it also add a quirkiness to the nature of the character and his animation. This clip in particular can give me a great reference as to how the girl is going to open the jeep door – I have to remember that she is a child and that a car door would be much harder for her to open than me. The weight movement throughout his body would be a good technique to take and apply to this scene when it comes to it.
Below is a link to our google drive folders containing some of the reference footage for the little girl’s character:
When animating I chose to pay more attention to the details in the reference footage Hannah took of her cousin rather than my own reference footage. Mine was ok to use when blocking out the shots and figuring out how the character was moving to where she needed to be within the scene, however, Hannah’s footage was much more valuable due to the fact that her cousin was the right age for the role, she’s not having to pretend to be a young age so there are certain characteristics and movements which will come naturally to her that I may not even think of when trying to get into character.
I also looked into the character animation style of Tangled as even though Rapunzel wouldn’t be as young as our character she still has an air of innocence about her that would be useful for reference, especially when it comes to animating the face, which is an area that I haven’t really explored that much as I much prefer animating body mechanics and movements but I’m eager to learn and tackle the facial animation and attempt to further my animation skills. Alec reminded me that many animators will keep pocket mirror at their desks, so that they can act out the expression they are trying to create – this will help me when it comes to animating the face.
I built up a small library of a few poses similar to the ones that I intend on using with our character:
I also came across an article focusing on the analysis of the character animation within Tangled which contained really useful and informative techniques that I would later try to apply to my approach to animating.
“The character motion is often very subdued with actions that are relevant to the context of the story and the character’s intent. According to Bishko characterisation is authentic when there is “congruence between a character’s intent and its resulting action”. (15) An example of authenticity in Tangled can be found in how Rapunzel reacts to seeing the floating lanterns in the lantern scene.
Rapunzel’s reaction to seeing the lights is important to maintaining the authenticity of her character. This moment not only resolves her life long dream of seeing the lights but also shows a transition to her new dream…”
The quote taken from the article above can be applied to the scene where our character notices the cereal box for the first time and we see her face change to pure joy which is then contrasted with the moment she realises that she’s been grabbed and flips into survival mode, it is here in the extreme close up of her eyes that we realise her intent, she grabs the gun, pushes it into the strangers chin and finally we have congruence between her intent and resulting action.
Another technique that I came across was storytelling through poses and stills…
“Tangled contains many strong story-telling poses that are often held completely still for several frames. The technique is known as a ‘hold’ and is common practice in 2D animation because a hold allows the audience time to absorb the attitude of a strong pose (16) and as Williams explains, “very often a hold is the strongest statement we can make”. (17) Holds are therefore a technique typical of 2D animation where an animator may slow a character into a pose and hold that pose for several frames. Held poses typically are a problem in the 3D CG medium because as Lasseter explains the combination of the realistic look and smooth motion causes the motion to “die” when the character enters a held pose.”
This is something I tried to apply to the scene where she opens the car door and notices the cereal. She bends slowly into the car, focusing her eyes before shooting backwards when she realises what she’s seeing. It is here, just before she licks her lips that I tried to create a hold so that the audience can realise just how much joy finding this cereal has brought to her:
“The weight and physicality of the characters is portrayed through a sophisticated use of timing and spacing with the moments of physical interaction between characters and objects appearing to plausibly influence each other through various forces acting on the body…” This statement was particularly helpful to all of the animation that I had been assigned, if we want to have this character appear as though she belongs in this world, that she is a part of it we need to get the physical interactions between the character and assets to a believable standard.
A few of the classics helped a lot with my posing and staging so she was always easily identified, remembering to use the lines of action to keep her poses dynamic:
Keeping the line of action dynamic with contrasting lines and angles within her body would to convey the cuteness and innocence of the character to the audience.
Alec was passing by one day and happened to mention that I should look at the silhouettes of my characters – this will help with the readability of my movement throughout the scenes.
“The importance of a good and readable silhouette is of extreme importance no matter in it’s simplest basic forms or in the complexity of a highly illustrated visual development piece! A clear readable silhouette will allow you to speak without words and to answer anyones questions . . .” Mark McDonnell.
I found the animation study linked below here incredibly useful as it goes through every important detail that went into animating Micky’s christmas carol in a lot of depth. It explains the importance of a line of action to make dynamic posing, their position and posture, using silhouettes to make every pose readable, how overlapping shapes and negative shapes can be used to create some clear silhouettes – after explaining the importance of each of these details it goes through a mickeys christmas carol scene by scene showing how the animators applied the techniques above to create such a beautiful piece of animation. This site really helped me to push my animation skills much further than before as it contained a lot of information on the importance of techniques and explained them in a great way.
“So when I watched Mickey’s Christmas Carol on television last Christmas, I knew I had to take a few screen captures from this classic. As shown here in these 150 I’ve put on display, these poses help illustrate the power of this imaginary line extending through the main action of the figure. You can clearly see how the body bends and forms their emotions, for the purposes of effective body language and visual storytelling techniques. The characters’ moods, behaviors, intentions and acting are all enhanced from these strong lines of action.”
some images from the link above:
some animations that I found useful when animating:
Below is an updated animation shot list and some of the scenes were passed onto to another member of the team for various reasons but one of the mains reasons for this was because of the placement students that didn’t do the work they had agreed to which was disappointing and annoying for us. Matt ended up taking on a lot more of the animation that he intended to just because of how heavily animated our film was. Matt ended up taking over as animation lead but his feedback and direction were great as usual, he was very clear on what he wanted from us as animators.