Sunday, 22 January 2012

Shot Breakdown

This is a shot breakdown I made in Excel on Thursday. I started by listing all of my shots in a separate file, describing them and then going through my animatic to see how long each shot was in seconds (but not the added detail of frames to give flexibility when animating) how difficult it would be to achieve in terms of levels, special effects and number of characters and any camera details etc.

I transferred this information into Excel, colour coding the difficulty of shots (red for hard, orange for medium, green for easy and blue for a still shot) and the shots themselves are colour coded for the seasons (yellow for Autumn, blue for Winter, pink for Spring, green for Summer, dark purple for Night/Storm and lilac for the storm's aftermath which is approximately Autumn).

I have a printed version of it by my desk so I can check off all of the Rough Animation, Final Animation, Scanning, Clean-Up, Alpha, Colouring and Compositing as I go. According to my schedule, tomorrow begins my rough animation and backgrounds, though Dissertation will have to be postponed until my feedback on it at the end of the month. I'll be tackling 2 difficult shots and approx. 4 medium shots during the week. I will note down my progress to estimate how long it takes me and when I will have everything done by.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Final Animatic, Tests and Part 2 Presentation

After Christmas and the New Year, the second part of our hand-in was not far ahead! The brief was to make a final animatic with better realisation of the final timing and look of the film as well as 30 seconds of animation tests and an example of a cleaned-up and coloured shot against a background to show what the finished film will look like and test its' feasibility and the time it takes you.

This is my result and what I handed-in and presented Monday morning.

For the past week, I have been constructing my animatic again from scratch, completely redrawing all of my shots and changing angles and adding pans to make it more dynamic and interesting. I added colour to it as well to give an idea of the final look and to better show the changes in seasons and clothes. I spread these drawings across several PSD's in Photoshop using a border to show where the margins of the 1980x1080 widescreen frame would be. It was difficult to export these though, the first I exported each layer as an individual PNG with a transparent background so that was separate layers for the character line and colour and another for the background and any foreground element. I used a script to do this automatically but there were issues with the time this took and I had to resave images for pans because the edges were cropped off. The next PSD's I imported directly into Premiere as individual layers which did not take as long so I continued this method but had to split my PSDs into smaller files as there were too many layers to import all at once.

The biggest change for this animatic is probably the ending, where the Spirit is 'reborn' from the planting of the acorn, rather than coming back to instruct Amber, so it is very much her own decision. I spoke to James Manning just before my animatic was edited together, going through my PSD drawings. I originally had a sequence where Amber kept her acorn necklace and planted them all with the first, but this distracted from the importance of her decision to plant the last acorn, so I changed the drawing before I exported them.

The colours I chose were selected from my watercolour studies earlier and from my pre-visualisation tests. I intend to collate them together into a comprehension colour guide and also a colour script by taking key story points and using watercolour to express it with vibrancy.

Most of all however, is that I now have a rough soundtrack for my film which is an original piece by my composer Benjamin Rusch. He has been excellent to work with and really pulled out all the stops to get a recording done for my deadline. We'll be working together in the coming months to finalise this sound and to make it as flexible for editing as possible. There are a couple of points that may change but otherwise I love the melody and it's definitely the right sound.

More of his work is available here:

The presentation on Monday went really well, I was actually quite scared that I would be faced with changing everything after spending a solid week getting it together. Fortunately the feedback was very positive and I was happy to hear that my fellow students and tutors preferred my new version.

The main points to change was for the Spirit to become more angry when Amber breaks the tree and for the storm to roll in at this moment rather than later. There was also a discussion about my ending, some almost wanted the Spirit to die at the end rather than see it reborn, but speaking to my friends, they all prefer the idea of showing the oak leaves springing up from the ground and then ending the film on Amber's reaction, quite similar to the ending of Monsters, Inc. (2001), when Sulley reacts to seeing Boo again and we hear her voice but we don't actually see the reunion. If I end it like this, then it would mean taking out a few of the ending shots and the dance over the credits. While they are cute and nice to draw, it would shorten the film and reduce the workload for the same result and allow the audience to think a bit more which is always good!

In addition to the animatic, I compiled some of my earlier character tests (walk cycles and tail movement) and a test of the camera tracking through my background with rain over the top in After Effects. I also took two of my shots in the animatic and keyed them out. The first, shot 17, shows the Spirit hesitating after leaving Amber which is fully animated in blue Prismacolour pencils. Perhaps it needs some refining, but I may not have the time once I'm doing the rest of the workload. Then I scanned it and composited against a background in Photoshop, alpha channeled the background and colourised the lines a warm brown. I prepared each frame as a PSD and sent them in a zip file to my younger sister, Eleanor to colour. Her work is online here:

I asked her to use a brush with slightly soft edges so it wouldn't boil too much on the stills. It still does a little however, so it might be a better tactic to duplicate the colour layer to the next frame and edit it rather than repainting the whole frame. I also key framed a background pan for shot 36 where Amber runs up the hill in her Spring dress, this was challenging as it involves perspective in addition to a camera move, but it came out well.

I initially thought I would paint watercolour backgrounds, but the digital wash also produces the desired effects and is quicker so that is probably how I will continue my backgrounds.

After speaking to Matthew today, he encouraged me to begin production even if the animatic still needs changing. As an independent film, I don't need a solid animatic to secure the film for other people to work on, so the best thing for me is to start animating and see it evolve. So I will be posting again soon with animation tests as I finish them!

Also as a point of interest, I pasted the entirety of my blog into a word document to submit as my development and it filled 132 A4 pages with 15,596 words! That's more than my dissertation! If only I could use it...

Monday, 16 January 2012

Spirit Pencil Test [S017]

Just exported a pencil test for shot 17 from my new animatic when the Spirit hesitates and turns to look back at Amber--the turning point of their first encounter!

I'm using blue Chromacolour pencils for this which I am colouring a warm orange/brown on the computer and applying colour washes to each frame and the background for the final shot. I'm working on this and one other shot for the film for my 'feasibility' study to hand in tomorrow. The aim is to show enough tests and examples of final shots to prove we have what it takes to see the project through to the end!

It didn't take too long to animate and there are some held frames. The tail was proving difficult, especially to give the sense of flow when the Spirit is running. I think this could do with a few fixes but I'm not sure yet if I'll have time to go back and change things!

Apart from animation I've just finished my new animatic with original sound from my composer, Ben Rusch. It took all week to draw and composit and edit the frames, but it's been so exciting to see it finally come together, I'll have it uploaded tomorrow!

In the meantime, I'm off to finish this hand-in work!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Amber Walk Cycle and Spirit Tail Tests

This afternoon I animated a new walk cycle for Amber, as I haven't animated her since her redesign a few weeks ago, so I figured she needed a new walk cycle test. She is now about 5-6 years younger and has different outfits for each season.

I drew her with some new blue Prismacolour pencils I got from Chromacolour recently. I really enjoy the loose feel of these pencils and although blue is usually for key animators to then be drawn afresh on new paper by clean-up artists using lead pencils, I will be colouring my lines an orange/brown colour, so the colour I use to animate will not effect the final look. So I may just draw everything in blue!

I decided to give her baggier and more oversized sleeves from what I drew in my model sheet, I think I prefer it this way and it gives some interesting options for character performance, so I may amend her 'Autumn' design later!

After this, I did some rough key frames of how the Spirit's tail might move (from side-to-side) to give a watery, lava-lamp style. I used a lava-lamp as reference to see how it could break apart and join up again. The first result is not working as well as I hoped, it appears like bubbles as opposed to watery droplets. The second is an improvement, so if I get good feedback on it then I will most likely take it further. Otherwise it's back to the drawing board!