Hello everyone! I should have done this several weeks ago, but better late than never, right? Oh well, onto what I need to do.
An Indroduction to My Project
My specialisation project is focusing on improving my 2D animations, and to do this, I have decided to do many animation tests, and hopefully make at least one smooth animation loop, but also start animating more than just stick figures with basic attachments.
My before I started this project, my animations looked like this:
It’s blocky, and very simple, and there aren’t many attachments, like hair, clothes etc, and what attachments do exist are me guessing how they move and have no real research behind them. They are also very stiff.
By the end of this project I hope that my animations look something closer to this:
While chunky, it is spaced out really well. One of my favourite artists on DeviantArt is Aileen-Rose, who made the video, occassionally does a live stream, where we can ask her questions about her work. She also takes the time to respond to comments on her art and on her profile. The timing of this animation is great, and the expressions on the characters faces really emphasize the emotions and complement what is happening.
To reach these goals I needed to go back to the animation basics that I learnt back in my second trimester, and use the excercises that I was given then and work on my timing, my smooth in and smooth out, as well as my follow through. I also needed to research facial animation, and more to do with follow through. I also wished to start looking into lip sync and hair animation.
Ideas and Reference
The ideas that had at the start of this specialisation project were very ambitious and it was soon discouraged by my lecturer, who encouraged me to do something that would have been more obtainable. However, though I did listen to my lecturer, I shall share my original idea here.
My first idea was to try and animate a short scene from a book that has never been turned into a movie or tv series etc. And the book, well, books, that I turned my attention to for this were the “Black Magician Trilogy” by Trudi Canavan.
I thought it would have been interesting to try, so I collected a few reference images to add to my pitch, as well as draw my own short concept.
However, with that idea being pushed aside, I had to find new ideas for my new project. So I found all the animation exercises that were given to me back in my second trimester and looked though those to see what I could attempt again, I also came up with a few new ideas that I could make.
Ideas that I came up with were a small things like testing cloth animation, hair animation, and animating something from an old script that I wrote in Grade 10. I also wanted to test facial animation.
So I looked up reference for this. Here’s a few of them, so that I don’t fill up a scroll bar of images.
All the artists that I have seen on DeviantArt have used the same workflow for their art, and I believe that I can convert that workflow from digital still images into animation. The artists that I have watched and asked will often draw the rough sketch, sometimes this is on paper, then sketch over that in a paint or photo manipulation program, such as PaintTool Sai or Adobe Photoshop. After they finish the sketch, if it is a commission for someone, then ocasionally send the sketch to their customer and ask their opinion. If the customer wants changes then the artist will do another sketch, then ask again, if not then they do the line art. I have seen some artists in their live streams colour the background before completing the line art. After the line art is finished then they will add the colour, then shading. Speedpaints on YouTube show this workflow well.
I use this workflow with my own images already, so I feel comfortable using it. I have improved on my workflow over the years by asking artists questions, watching speedpaints like the video above, and watching live streams where I can type questions and get them answered right away. Now I just have to translate it to work for animation. I believe it would look something like this:
– Block-out animation
– Rough animation
– Second rough animation
– Line-art animation
– Colour added
– Shading added
I do not think I will be able to complete the whole workflow, just the first few steps, during this project, but just as I did with my art workflow, I shall continue to improve upon my animation workflow.
Practices and Techniques
As suggested by my lecturer, I picked up “The Animator’s Survival Kit” by Richard Williams, and it has been my bible for animation for the past weeks. It has many tips and tricks in it that I have looked at and tried to follow, and others that haven’t really stuck yet. I’m sorry Mr. Williams, but I’m afraid that I am unable to work in the dead silence that plagues my house sometimes. I need that music, even if the volume is only at 4%.
This book shows numerous ways to do one movement in animation, such as three catagories of sneaks, a recipe to a walk animation, and the different key poses in a run animation. There is also four pages of the same two frames of animation with different breakdown poses inbetween to change the way the expression is interpreted.
One of the most useful pieces of information that I found in this book were the pages on flexibility. “A great way to get flexibility is WHERE we’re going to place the BREAKDOWN drawing.” (Williams, 2009) These pages include the four pages of the same two faces with different breakdowns. The journey from the face going from one expression to another is all dependant on what emotion the animator wishes to convey. Such as making the mouth flat and bringing it up closer to the nose is a gulp, showing fear or aprehension, or making the smile larger and turning the head up slightly before going to the sad expression would be a show of false confidence. “This ‘simple overlap’ gives us action WITHIN an action. More ‘change’ – more life.” (Williams, 2009)
Another page that helped was the page with the breakdown of the run cycle. It helped me block out my own run cycle, though it isn’t perfect yet, and it has shown me the positions that I needed to draw for my animation.
I probably need to colour the arms to make their movement clearer.
This book has also helped my with my “Mr Amazing Invinci-Ball” skit.
Though it has no squash and stretch on it yet, it works in the stage that it is in now. I will get the squash and stretch finished on this one before my next blog post.
“The Animator’s Survival Kit” has been very useful to me so far, and I’m glad I was able to borrow it from SAE’s library.
Another source of information that I used for this project was the old lessons back from my second trimester at SAE, going back over all the principles of animation. It was very useful going back over the basics again. I don’t know how to reference the lessons, but I can reference the the YouTube playlist that each lesson was focused on.
The “12 Principles of Animation” video series by Alan Becker is a very good series to watch if you want to understand these principles quickly. The videos are only a few minutes long, but explain the topic well and get the point across easily.
I made animation tests that explored more into the principles, looking more into follow through and arcs.
I was looking at follow through here, trying to imagine the way that long hair would flow if someone was falling. It seems to have worked somewhat. Perhaps it would flap more wildly. I’m not in a position to ask someone to freefall safely however, so other animations, such as anime or cartoons will have to do for future research.
When looking at arcs, I tried my hand at a head turn again, going for a creature this time.
I think I made it a bit too fast, I could extend the two ends of the head turn so that there is a nice pause, breaking up the speed a bit. That would make this animation better.
There was a bit of research done into little details as well, I looked into cloth animation, to see how to animate cloth movement around a body. For this I found this tutorial on YouTube, that showed how to draw out the frames so that the cloth followed through more naturally.
When I tried to replicate this tutorial I tried on flatter cloth, just to get a feel for it first, and not have to worry about folds.
I don’t think I really succeeded here. It’s a bit stiff, and very unnatural. This requires a lot more research into the topic before I will be entirely happy. Though this is a good first attempt, it seems very surreal. I might have been restricted by having two separate animations in the same loop, hence limiting the fames I had to work with, since they had to match in length to make a complete cycle.
Another thing I looked at was facial animation, and I looked up several clips from different anime such as “Sword Art Online” and “Assassination Classroom”, where the characters faces are very expressive.
I also went onto Pinterest and found a board full of different expressions for animation. So with the help of a reflective surface, I found one of the expressions on the Pinterest board and twisted my face to look like it, then tried to animate the expression in a suitable fashion.
There’s something off about this animation that I can’t place my finger on, I think that generally in animation tears aren’t looped, and just run down once and stay, signifying an endless stream of tears.
Looking into expressions also closely ties into lip sync which I researched a bit. The expression on the character’s face can change the meaning behind a sentence, just as the tone of voice that is used. The “Animation Notes #9” page of the Center of Animation and Interactive Media website explains the importance of body language in a character as well, the unnamed author says ‘give your character something to do during the dialogue sequence.’ (“Lip Sync Animation”, n.d.) Even the smallest guesture can show something about the character’s personality while they are talking, accenting details that give life to the character. The author of this webpage also states that ‘the delivery of the dialogue during recording will often dictate where these accents should fall.’ As such, you wouldn’t give furiously spoken dialogue to a depressed expression, just as a cheerful grin doesn’t match dead toned lines.
One article that has really helped was “10 best animation tips & tricks” by Kenny Roy on the CreativeBloq website. These are very useful points, some of them I discovered first hand how useful they were, such as ‘a mirror is a dangerous thing’. Roy states that it is very dangerous to use in lip sync, but in any animation, I have discovered, it is dangerous, as when you slow down your movement to try and capture it, you are far more likely to overexagerate the movement or even underexagerate it, making it less natural.
The last tip on this list is ‘do more of less’. And it suggests doing more shorter shots for practice, and to practice the length of shot that you are most likely to encounter in the industry, which Roy says “will rarely be more than 10 seconds.” I find this is a very good piece of advice that I believe my lecturers and old teachers have been trying to teach me for quite a while. My apologies to them.
Different Animating Software
During this project I also started looking at different animation software that I could use, other than Adobe Animate, to work around some of the limitations in Animate, such as brushes with very few size options and no opacity on layers. The first thing I researched in this was animating in Adobe Photoshop, which is what Aileen-Rose uses to create her animations. I found a tutorial on YouTube that explained the basics to animating in Photoshop. Hamilton Cline, the video’s author, goes into detail about video layers in Photoshop. I did manage to find the timeline window in Photoshop, while experimenting with one of my images that I have many layers on.
I haven’t experimented further with this however, choosing instead to look for more software that I could use, but since I already own Photoshop, this seems to be the most viable option.
Another program that I found was Moho (Anime Studio), for $69.99. This program, in the Debut 12 version, allows for 2D bone rigging, contains a window that shows every variation of a body part so that they can be changed between quickly between the different poses, and tools that assist in the freehand drawing. Anime Studio also has a setting to do automatic lip syncing. This feature apparently lets you load in a sound file and Anime Studio calculates the rest. Anime Studio has a review on the Top Ten Reviews webpage, where it praised for having both beginner and pro programs. “The beginner program has a collection of tools that are tailored to novice animators. It covers the basics and gives you what you need to build a foundation in the art of animation.” (“The Best 2D Animation Software | Top Ten Reviews”, 2017)
Top Ten Reviews’ second listed animation software is Toon Boom. “Toon Boom has a huge and versatile toolbox for animators that provides many choices to customize the look and feel of your project.” (“The Best 2D Animation Software | Top Ten Reviews”, 2017)
Toon Boom Harmony has many different animation tools to use, and looks like it is a great program for animators. It has a 21 day free trial, which is a tad strange, since most free trials are either 7 or 30 days. Toon Boom, like Adobe, is a subscription based program, starting at $15 per month for the Essentials pack, $38 for the Advanced pack, and $73 for the Premium. In comparison to Anime Studio, Toon Boom has a much neater appearance and appears to be easier to navigate.
Of these programs, Photoshop still seems to be the easiest to learn, mainly because I already have it, and am paying for it. Though in future, these other programs will be good to look at, even recommend to others looking for animation software.
This has been a very long blog post, perhaps not my longest, but still long. I hope I haven’t killed your interest. I’m sorry that this is so late and so long, this blog was meant to be in two parts, but I chose to place both parts in one post due to it being so late. So I thank-you for reading this long post, and I’ll see you all tomorrow.