Thursday, 27 March 2014

Current McSqueeze Progress: March 2014

Progress has fallen behind schedule, I have filmed 3 shots off the storyboard and all 3 are basically stationary shots. 
I have most of the props I need and the green screen with which to film the characters on, 
the main things that need doing are:
  • Finishing off backgrounds in Photoshop and FireAlpaca.
  • Filming the rest of the scenes and creating a very rough edit for timing.
  • Source some sound effects and replace temporary voices with final ones.
  • Take into after effects and add special effects, stabilize footage and comp characters against backdrops.
 There aren't many weeks left on the course, so I'm going to try and at least get a rough cut done which has as many of the backgrounds comped into it in order to at least give someone watching it a sense of what the visuals will look like.

Comparing the storyboards to my ideal visuals, I have the shots I've filmed which are my attempt at capturing the quality I hope the final product is:

I think the final look is both accurate to, and better quality than the storyboard. My particular favourite part is the background, I have many problems drawing backdrops but this very abstract style seems to compliment the puppets surprisingly well.

At the very least, if all the shots in the trailer have this sort of look to them, I'll be happy.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Essay Research 1: Get a Horse!

The essay which I have chosen to write is on the trend of reviving old franchises, and it's possible effect on the future of the industry. 

'Get a Horse!' is a 2013 animated short which takes visual cues and animation style from the classic Mickey Mouse cartoons of the 1920s. While there is a largely CGI element to the cartoon and it's main focus is computer animated characters interacting with traditionally drawn ones, the 2D elements of the short are deliberately designed to feel and move as if the animation was produced in those very early days.
Footage is artificially aged with film grain and blurriness, and initially starts out in a 4:3 aspect ratio before cleverly shifting to widescreen. The production goes as far as to use archive recording of Walt Disney's original portrayal of Mickey Mouse to make it even more authentic, and the inclusion of the original title card from Mouse animations from 1928-1930.

The project came out of Disney's desire for new Mickey Mouse products for television, while the final result was 2013's Mickey Mouse series which combines retro visuals with more contemporary animation production, 'Get a Horse!' is Disney's first attempt in a number of years to straight-up emulate an older animation style, to the point the film was originally announced as a 'lost' Mickey Mouse cartoon which featured Walt Disney as the voice, when in reality it was almost a recreation using new or archived material, rather than a unreleased cartoon produced at the time.

What 'Get a Horse!' means to my essay is that even the giants of animation such as Disney are in on the trend of reviving the past. It's not as if this short's going to be the most profitable and attaching it to Disney's biggest film of the year is going to bring in far more viewers and far more money, but seemingly the reason it exists is as a nod to the era it's self, made and directed by people who have an appreciation for the old work.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

McSqueeze storyboards

The storyboards for McSqueeze are complete and I'm incredibly happy with how they've turned out. I didn't have to colour them but I felt it lent to the presentation of them if they were as close to a finished visual as possible. Not to mention it makes for a handy reminder to myself of colours and lighting to help me create a final shot that's as close to the storyboard as possible.
There are a number which weren't coloured due to time constraints, but I think that I at least have a structure to follow in order to make the final trailer. 
I think overall it's a good visual representation of the script and it's much easier to understand for people whom I'm explaining the short to.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Post for myself, McSqueeze Targets.

With a deadline of January 17th and filming ideally starting on December 9th, this will leave me with basically a month to film and edit the entire project. It's going to be one busy month, so i've set myself a few targets to hopefully keep me on the straight and narrow and finish in time.

  • Create a GANTT chart to organize time so that it's not wasted, if we can get at least 2-3 shots a day during filming, then ideally that will leave enough time for the animation of the faces and arms, as well as editing and special effects done in after effects.
  • Don't rush, this is something which is going to be in the showreel so if there's at least half of it done to standard which is good enough to show to employers, then that's what can get marked.
  • IDEALLY have filming done by December 19th, so that the remaining time both at home and in college can be spent putting the rest of it together. 

Making up for absences.

Been away from this blog quite a while, I've been working on a project which I don't think has been mentioned here yet: 
Lime and Plumishment.
It's a cartoon about a disgraced cop whose wife is killed by the mob, causing him to go spiralling into depression when he is forced out of his premature retirement by his chief in order to take down the crime outfit who destroyed his life. Also, he's an orange.

The cartoon's being produced with marionette puppets against a green screen background, where various scenes in this trailer for a fictional movie will be chromakeyed in.
The faces and arms will be hand-animated and placed ontop of the puppets in After effects.
 The aim is to create something that plays it's self as seriously as possible, but in reality is just stupid to the point of being funny.

Currently the script is completed and the storyboards are being produced, with the idea being that filming the actual shots we need will begin on the 9th of December.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

SUPER BLOG POST: Evaluation of the college year

Overall I would say that the college year hasn't been too bad. There were several units that I was very enthused with and I felt like I was in my element, equally there's been a few units which I struggled with a bit more.

The main units which I was very much interested in mainly revolved around drawing. The 2D animation unit at the beginning was my first real foray into Traditional animation, which I found to be quite fun as well as a good way of combining animation I'd learned how to do using Flash and the more hand-drawn stuff I liked to produce. I found testing motion and adding in details later to actually be a much more efficient process than I thought it would be and not dissimilar to what I'd done previously on the computer. The main thing which I learned from that unit was about how to construct a walk cycle, as before, my walks looked less like walks and more like skipping which would be alright in circumstances which called for it but otherwise just looked silly.

I felt like I was also in my stride on the storyboarding module, as storyboarding is something that I had done before and had brought over previous skills from another animation I did to create fully coloured storyboards. I did enjoy trying to capture the action in a frame and I think I did well enough, with enough variation in each frame to make it interesting and the action not too much of the same thing.
Where it was different from what I normally do is when we took the storyboard assets and combine them in After Effects to make an animatic, I normally make animatics in Flash to sort out timing, however this was an interesting approach and it certainly looked closer to what I would hope a final product would look like. After Effects was surprisingly easy to use once I got the hang of it and was very compatible with Photoshop which made importing assets to be animated a really simple task, I also thought about the possibilities of using After Effects for actual animation.

 The character design unit was a mixed bag, as there was a large component of creating a character, designing the back story and then illustrating a turnaround sheet. This part was what I'm usually used to, my character ended up actually going through more design changes than I normally would do for a character and I ended up finding the value in just sitting down and sketching and doodling and then not stopping until there are pages of ideas for each body part. The advantage of my character was that, being a robot, it made sense that parts of the character could be mish-mashed or interchangeable as is often the case with electronics. This allowed me the luxury of being able to swap around heads, hands and other body parts until I created a robot which I felt had enough personality. The second part of this unit was that the characters would then be taken and recreated in 3D using our model sheets as reference. We used Cinema4D, which is a program I've used before, although my understanding of how to model and animate characters was much less than it was before I started this unit. I learned how to model, rig and animate my robot. Modelling was actually easier than I imagined it would be, once I learned how to do it. Luckily for me, my robot was already designed to be very uniform and had many straight edges which allowed me to model in a much more boxy style, which I felt might be easier than modelling organic characters. The other advantage of my character's design was that his arms were basically tubed, which meant that when they were modelled and rigged, they were basically pipes which could be manipulated on the rig and had several bones places along side it to make the arm bend much in the way a hose does, the same goes for the legs, however from the knees down were large calves and feet, which were harder to rig and animate.
Rigging it's self was a nightmare, I thought, I rather struggled which it because when I eventually figured out how to set it up, there were difficulties getting everything to move the way it was supposed to. Particularly with the knee and shoulder joints, there was a lot of misshaping and warping with the former, and clipping with the latter. The main problem was trying to set up and foot roll which was controlled by a slider, I found that I actually couldn't achieve it because every time I connected the joints together in a hierarchy and told them to roll, the leg would shoot off in an insane direction. To remedy this I went with a much more simpler approach; I created several joints inside the foot and rooted them to controllers which could be manipulated and then I manually keyframed in the foot roll, it was a bit more primitive than the slider but I felt like it did the job in the long run.
The actual animation was pretty straightforward as I was able to block out the basic movements first and go back later and put in the fine details, this was very handy as the timeline preserved everything and I was able to test movements before I finalized them, the only problems with the animation process were caused by my rig and the way I'd set it up.

The practice enrichment module was a unit which I got a fair amount of simply because I found that I could draw human likenesses better than I thought I could. The life drawing was a new experience because I'd not actually done any proper life drawing before, the part where I think I succeeded was the gesture drawing as eventually I got used to the idea of quickly attempting to recreating poses and I hope that's helped me to be able to capture action better. Some of the drawings were better than others, I had a problem with proportions at first, which seemed to be rectified the more I practiced. I also found that the more I actually filled the paper with a larger image, the easier it was to maintain proportions and to add detail.
Life drawing is something that I would want to try again because I think it would definitely help, even if I am primarily a cartoonist, it helps to look at reality if I plan on distorting it.

The unit which I had trouble on was the Cut-out unit because while it was straightforward, it was a unit which I just wasn't entirely sure about because the style of animation wasn't really suited to me. Overall however, I think that I've learned a fair amount of new things in order to expand what I already know. The hope is that I'll improve more at drawing and illustration and that this will benefit my animation skills.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Personal reflection: Why does my work look less vibrant?

I can't help but feel that when I ink my rough animation it loses something in the process, I really like the vibrance and the real sense of movement that you get from the sketched animation (Not to mention that since there's no definite lines, the characters don't tend to wobble and become off model), this doesn't really occur with animation created using premade assets, however it does tend to affect hand-drawn animation a lot more.

Looking at it, I think learning how to ink individual frames is important, but I have a much easier time inking single drawings on photoshop than I do in, say, Flash. Switching over to Flash MX to make the final lines is much easier, as the brush tool in later Flash version is actually worse, surprisingly!

Above: Flash CS4. A curved line becomes squiggly when zoomed in, this is made even worse when using pressure sensitivity on a tablet!
Below: Flash MX. It at least looks a lot better, you give up pressure sensitivity but I still think this looks like a much more solid, defined line.
I can't help but feel that's just going backwards. It's something I need to work on, although I do think using Flash MX has at least helped in a small way, but I still feel like my work loses something when I ink it in.