Cross-Discipline Contributions!

For the sake of partaking in a quick cross-discipline, I signed myself up to Caitlin’s final project Hand of Rogues! The project is essentially an android mobile game, which features you—the human protagonist—in a vast underground world. It’s represented as an infinite dungeon, where the player will attempt to collect as many items as he can while trying to survive as long as possible, the deeper you go in the dungeon, the better the loot.

There are several packs of equitable items in Hand of Rogues, all of which are represented as cards in the game. These cards can be gathered during game play. They needed us to assist with card creation, so that’s where I stepped in! I haven’t contributed to a game’s project before, so I was stoked to pitch in! And what better way than to play on my strengths as a 2D artist?

From what I’ve gathered from the art bible, the game’s world has this cute, fantasy, whimsical air to it. The palette mostly consists of vibrant colours with soft shading, and the style is very simplistic, leaning on the cartoony side. For visual reference, they’ve provided us with Tap Titans and Sproggiwoord as inspiration for the game’s art!

KyloRenHS-TFA.png

I chose to work on one of the weapon decks, the swords in this case. I was given vague descriptions of the appearance of the swords, so it was an indication that how I design them was entirely up to me. I used Photoshop while working on this deck, since that’s been my main tool of trade lately, it was totally worth the practice.  For extra measure, I compiled a page filled with an assortment of swords that I referenced throughout the time I worked on designing the card assets!

References.png

I tend to have an eye for detail when designing anything ever, so cartoonizing the swords proved to be a challenge if that counts. What I would do is present my progress to Caitlin every time I hit a milestone, whether it’s sketching the designs, linearting them, or colouring them, so I can get confirmation before proceeding to the next step. It was tricky to ensure the designs synced up with the style the other artists used, but after a few trial and error, I managed to put together something that could appeal to the art director!

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3

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… Like I mentioned, I have an eye for detail, and Caitlin pointed out that the designs were a bit too complicated for the game. So I ended up simplifying the last three swords as much as  I can, until I achieved the result that Caitlin approved of!

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So this is the final result of the swords, not too big of a change, just removed a lot of details and really accentuated the colours! It was a fun, easy, quick cross-discipline, and I’m aiming to help out more with the card decks, seeing how many there are. And they were very enjoyable to design!

 

 

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Specialization Post-Mortem

A while go I started my 2D animation specialization, and have even accomplished a fair amount of research to support my processes in my last posts. Since then, my progression has made some advancements, bearing some aspects I’m more proud of than others, obviously. In this post, I’ll be discussing the highlights and points to improve on to ensure more promising outcomes for my projects in future!

What Worked:

My key creative process—which consisted mainly of Adobe Flash—helped the overall advancement of the animation more efficient, granted Flash enabled me to rough out my sequence quickly and with ease. Of course, as I mentioned in a previous post, Flash is fairly limited in terms of its brush settings. I relied on it extremely for the roughing out phase of my specialization, with the intention of later exporting it as a PNG sequence to edit in Photoshop (which I will touch on later). So it was useful in that regard, Flash enabled me to churn through my frames at a coherent rate.

The research I conducted during production assisted me greatly when beginning my animation, as well as improving aspects of my lip sync. I’ve never animated anything to sync with an audio excerpt until this project, so I needed all the help I could get. For the sake of recapping what I’ve learned over the past couple weeks, I discovered the use of Dope Sheets, which assisted me with recording the sequence and order of various cel layers, the movements of the camera, background, or compound. The Open/Closed Wide/Narrow technique, spoken by former Disney animator DJ Nicke, is a lip-syncing method I commonly referred to, to decipher how the mouth manipulates itself according to the phonetic sounds being generated.

I also learned of the importance of subtly in facial animation. I learned that while the eyes of a character can determine what they’re thinking or feeling, the eyebrows, eyelids, and angle of the head can speak volumes about the character as a whole. In the past, I tended to abuse the eyelid movements, and even threw in blinks every couple of seconds, but now I’ve realized that the upper lids should be used to indicate the alertness of a character, and the lower lids to intensity the emotions. And use blinks to indicate whether the character is sad, excited, scared, etc. Their emotions will always dictate the speed of the blink. Most importantly, I learned that character expression should come first before lip syncing. One could have the most accurate lip syncing ever, but if the outward personalities of the characters aren’t as prominent, then the animation as a whole will lack the certain level of realism to breathe life into it. So the research did benefit me in the end, as it pushed me to consider details about the facial animation that never would have crossed my mind before.

The feedback sessions that I received have played a significant part in enhancing my animation too. Chris in particular shared a couple suggestions to push the body actions even further, such as really exaggerate dipping the female cop’s head even lower, to bring closer to the male cop’s face. In addition, he showed me a method to ensure that the arcs in the animation run more smoothly, and demonstrated it by dotting it out on a layer above the animation. At least with the arcs in mind, I was able to draw the characters frame-by-frame with plenty of expression and plenty of movement.

What Didn’t Work:

Taking into account that the final product of the animation hasn’t met the scope, it’s pretty obvious that I over-scoped. Massively. I overestimated the amount of time I had left to work on the project, as I didn’t officially begin production until the end of week 9. My initial animation originally went on for 18 seconds, which in the end I found was too much for me to accomplish within such a short span of time. I had to compensate by cutting my animation down to 6 seconds.

The general appearance hasn’t reached my polish standards either. I aimed to rough out all the frames in Flash first, then export them as PNG sequences to import them into Photoshop. I tried this for the first few frames, and while it was successful in a sense that it achieved the look I desired, it was far too time-consuming. I would have had to completely redraw over 150+ frames. The result would have looked lovely, but I left it too late to begin the polish phase, which lead me to quickly colour in the characters on Flash instead.

It’s a blatant time management problem (cue eye roll), I became too complacent that I overestimated the amount of time I had left to polish. I know time management is a predicable issue, and I’m not the only one who experiences trouble maintaining a consistent work speed. However, I don’t fully believe it was all a time management issue per se. I did after all, over-complicate the polish phase for me. Using Photoshop as a tool for polishing has its pros and cons, of course. It allows you to utilize its dynamic brushes to beautify your creations. But as an animation program, there are times when it becomes problematic to use. In spite of separating the scenes into different PSD files, it still lags, and there’s always the risk of crashing and losing your progress. Polishing on PS became tedious after the first few frames. I could have finished colouring the frames on Flash with only half the time it took to colour in the frames on PS.

Suggestions For Next Time

I know how to time manage, it’s building the habit that’s something I need to focus on. I feel like the more I accepted and acted upon my responsibilities for projects, the better I became at taking charge of my time. I’ve improved significantly with managing my time, especially when I compare myself to how I performed in Studio 1. Basically, I know what steps to take, it just takes practice overall, but I’m confident that I’m getting there.

Most importantly, I aim to look into different animation software for my future projects. Recently, I remembered programs like OpenToonz and TVPaint existed. I looked into the setup of OpenToonz for instance, and I realized it contained various options for brush choice. I can essentially rough out frames easily on OpenToonz like I would with Flash, but also polish it to the same standards as I would with Photoshop, which makes the production pipeline less complicated for myself. Now that this project is over, I’ll have time to learn OpenToonz, so I can ultimately prepare myself for next trimester! I’ve never had any issues adapting to different programs, I taught myself how to use Flash, Photoshop, and AfterEffects all in the past trimesters after all. So learning a whole new animation program will be enjoyable to experiment with!

 

Lip Syncing & Dialogue Research [part 2]

Animators—mainly 3D animators—from what I’ve gathered, often choose to animate all the facial features separately. For example, they would first animate the basic open and closed mouth movements, then wide and narrow, then eye details, details of the face, then finally animating the overall head movement. While this is a beneficial pipeline for 3D animators to use, the process is significantly different for 2D people, at least for myself. It would be far too time consuming if I animated the mouth shapes, eye movements, and face details all at different intervals.

So what I did was animate the body gestures first, then on a layer above it, draw all the facial movements, including new outlines of how the jaw will move to convey the character’s speech more realistically (Animation Notes #9 Lip Sync (lip synchronisation animation, 2016).

From there, I was practically prepped and ready to begin lip syncing. I was primarily using phonetic mouth charts such as the one below, the open/closed wide/narrow technique, and even had a mirror beside me to assure accuracy. Breaking down the mouth shapes wasn’t a difficult task. It was fairly straightforward once I officially begun keyframing them. But as I was doing this, it occurred to me that the mouth shapes were only going  to be as good as the characters’ miens. Basically, I could have the most accurate lip syncing ever, but if the outward personalities of the characters aren’t as prominent, then the animation as a whole will lack the certain level of realism to breathe life into it.

9716d93c757ad7007b88b3d7957a64a6Phonetic_Victors.png

In the tutorial I referenced featuring DJ Nicke, he mentioned that the open/closed wide/narrow technique is a method he learned from another animator named Jason Osipa, who wrote an entire novel on how to create facial animation for movies, video games, and more. The book is called Stop Staring: Facial Modeling and Animation Done Right, and in specific chapters, he goes through the importance of the brows and eyes, considering they tell us all we need to know about what the character is thinking.

Before I discuss this, here’s an older version of the animation snippet before I applied the facial enhancements.

There are quite a few notable segments I’ve taken from Stop Staring and from British Academy award winning animator and director, Tony White, to assist me with improving my animation.

  1. The brows have two major movements aside from up/down, the brows squeeze as well. Up/down alone doesn’t convey a whole lot of emotion, they are often used in conjunction with the brow squeeze and different combinations of the lids (Osipa, 2010, p.2).
  2. The eyes are truly a “window to the soul” in this instance. “We can tell so much about a person, how they are thinking and how they are feeling, from the expression in their eyes” (White, 2016). It enriches a character’s performance.
  3. The upper lids indicate the alertness of a character, and the lower lids intensify emotions. The subtext of where the character’s looking can lead to some powerful emotion, “but the eyeballs themselves don’t say a whole lot; it’s the entire eye area acting together that creates a feeling” (Osipa, 2010, p.2).
  4. The angle of the head can make a significant difference to an animation. It can change the viewer’s perception of all things too (Osipa, 2010, p.2).
  5. In addition, a common mistake when animating blinks is timing them much too fast. Suddenly it’s not a blink, but more like an eye twitch. Before considering making your character blink, you need to consider, are they sad? excited? scared? Because their emotions will always dictate the speed of the blink (Masters, 2013).

These changes are very subtle to say the least, but they’ve made a significant difference in terms of fleshing out the personality of the characters, as well as making their overall facial movements more believable to the audience—at least I hope, haha.

To sum up my progress, I’m continuing to inbetween all the other sequences, as well as tweak the facial animations according to the knowledge I’ve gained through this research.


References

  1. Animation Notes #9 Lip Sync (lip synchronisation animation). (2016). centre for animation & interactive media. Retrieved 22 November 2016, from http://minyos.its.rmit.edu.au/aim/a_notes/anim_lipsync.html
  2. Masters, M. (2013). Animating Believable Eye Blinks. DigitalTutors. Retrieved 22 November 2016, from http://blog.digitaltutors.com/animating-believable-eye-blinks/
  3. Nicke, D. (2009). Animation Salvation: How to make Lip Sync and Facial Animation Easy. Retrieved from http://www.animationsalvation.com/how-to-make-lip-sync-animation-easy/
  4. Osipa, J. (2010). Stop Staring: Facial Modeling and Animation Done Right (1st ed.). Alameda, CA. Retrieved from http://www.3dcgi.com/press/StopStaring.pdf
  5. White, T. (2016). A beginner’s course in the principles of 2D animation. My Animation Desk. Retrieved 22 November 2016, from http://web.archive.org/web/20051023070403/http://www.tonywhite.net/lesson014.htm
  6. White, T. (2016). Lesson 012 (“Eye Movements”). My Animation Desk. Retrieved 22 November 2016, from http://web.archive.org/web/20051023064622/http://www.tonywhite.net/lesson012.htm

Lip Syncing & Dialogue Research [part 1]

BRIEF

With my specialization project underway, I’ve chosen to do a 2D dialog sequence, partly because 2D animation is obviously my most prominent strength, also partly because I’ve never animated a piece to sync with a recorded dialogue until now. That being said, I picked an excerpt of audio from Despicable Me 2, particularly one featuring an interaction between Gru and Lucy Wilde from the cupcake shop scene.


(Scene starts at 0:50)

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The exchange between the two—in terms of one scene— are relatively brief and I wanted to compensate for that by giving them plenty of expression and plenty of movement. I chose to use two original characters since they very much demonstrate a similar nature between the two characters in the audio clip, by which I mean one is certainly more optimistic than the other. While dodging the characters being complete cookie-cutters of the Gru and Lucy themselves.

Around this time, I was exploring various ways in which animators begin their production phase, and this one method in particular grabbed my interest: Exposure (X) Sheets, otherwise known as “Dope Sheets”, meaning that it’s so simple, even a dope can do it. Admittingly, it wasn’t my immediate thought when I first discovered X-Sheets, but as I got into it, I soon discovered how handy a tool X-Sheets truly are.

Dope sheets were commonly used for traditional ‘cel’ animation, which often consisted of hundreds to thousands of individual painted cels or images. It’s “a fastidious and precise system for recording the sequence and order of various cel layers, the number of exposures given to these layers, and the movements of camera, background, or compound” (Animation Tech Notes #2 ‘Dope’ Sheets or Exposure Sheets, 2016).

The dope sheet essentially enables you to account all of these components,  and aid you in the planning, creation and timing of your animation. I attempted assembling my own dope sheet for scene #3 of my animation to test the waters.

_dope-sheet

Using this method for the most part, ensured frame-by-frame accuracy with the audio excerpt, as well as phonetic breakdown of the major mouth movements. Overall, I found that dope sheets are a practical extra measure if you’re someone like me, who likes to meticulously plan out everything before diving head first.

Of course, dope sheeting only took me so far as pre-production goes, because when I finally begun the production phase of my specialization, I realized I needed to learn how to break up the workload into simple steps. That’s when I came across DJ Nicke, a former Disney animator, who even said in his lip sync tutorial “nothing is that complicated when you break it down into easy steps” (Nicke, 2009). He proceeds to just that in a way that is simplistic yet very telling.

  1. Foundation – Know your material. Memorize your material. How they say it, why they say it, when they say it. What do you want it to look like? Think of the exchange. One does not simply put it all down without first theorizing how it should look.
  2. Structure – The blueprint and skeleton when it comes to animation. Open/closed and Wide/Narrow is the technique in which you would put down before your character speaks and during the dialog. What makes this technique unique is that you place your chin on your fist and say what your character is saying. There is more to dialogue than the mouth, it’s the entire head and sometimes even the entire body. These small gestures are important and give some depth to the animation as a whole. Open/closed and Wide/Narrow points out the where and when when it comes to lip syncing.
  3. Details – Referring back to how the whole face is incorporated into dialogue, a fine example would be the eyebrows. They’ve already been established as a necessity for expression and thus fits into this category. The eyes also project plenty of emotions and can’t be ignored. These are all fine details to add along the way and signal the transitioning of emotions. Completing this step is finishing the basics.
  4. Polish – Undoubtedly the longest, most complex step of animation. Steps 1-3 were the starting point, but this is where the time devotion is more crucial. The broad details added in step 3 are still present, but with every color comes the shading. Or in this case, every character has their quirks. In the words of DJ Nicke, the character might not simply have a smile, but a crooked smile. The personality is now more visible. And of course, there’s always the physical details like the actual teeth. To put it bluntly: Things can be modified to fit the personality.

 References

  1. Animation Notes #9 Lip Sync (lip synchronisation animation). (2016). centre for animation & interactive media. Retrieved 22 November 2016, from http://minyos.its.rmit.edu.au/aim/a_notes/anim_lipsync.html
  2. Animation Tech Notes #2 ‘Dope’ Sheets or Exposure Sheets. (2016). centre for animation & interactive media. Retrieved 22 November 2016, from http://minyos.its.rmit.edu.au/aim/a_notes/dope_sheets.html
  3. Nicke, D. (2009). Animation Salvation: How to make Lip Sync and Facial Animation Easy. Retrieved from http://www.animationsalvation.com/how-to-make-lip-sync-animation-easy/

The Masque of the Red Death ; Post-Mortem

Final Product: Here
All Deliverables: Here


Reflect on how you (and your team) have performed with regards to behaviour, collaboration and the major events/issues that occurred during the project:

Throughout the production phase of Worldbuilders, it was quickly made evident how vital it was to maintain a certain art style for the duration of the animation. Initially, we planned to separate our shots into different sections, for example, person A will be responsible for completing shots 1-4, person B is shot 5-8, and so on. Each of us were responsible for mimicking the lineless, storybook-like style we’ve referenced in our Moodboard. This soon proved to be an issue, due to the fact all of us had contrasting art styles, therefore it was a challenge to preserve some consistency.

We then decided that perhaps while all of us drew our own draft assets, one other person will need to be in charge of polishing/”correcting” the art styles of each draft to ensure they were all cohesive to each other. I was assigned this task, partly because my team mutually agreed to use my style throughout the animation, also partly because I insisted that I be given more work, since I was fortunate to not have CIU responsibilities on the side like the others do. However, this responsibility itself became a problem for me, for I didn’t receive any draft assets from team members until it was dangerously close to when we needed to present our progress so far to facilitators and peers.

Which ties into the next major issue I experienced, which was the workload not being divided up equally among the team. Our team consisted of four people including myself, and it seemed like only half of us steadily contributed to the project week by week. I ended up having to redo most of the draft assets from scratch, because they were far too vastly different from my style for simple tweaking. On top of that, I assigned myself the task of animating our assets (except for one), which was more time-consuming and painstaking that I thought since I’ve never animated on Photoshop until now. I was conflicted about the situation, because I didn’t know which was the better option: split the workload among other 2D artists in the team, so everyone has something to do, and we could stick to working on our individual shots on PS and AE, but risk having an incohesive style. Or I continue to redraw assets and animate them so they’re all cohesive, but that will mean I won’t have time to help this other team member who was practically spending long hours compiling and setting up scenes in AE and Premiere.

In the end, I decided to polish and animate only the more vital assets, because I doubted I was going to have enough time to completely redraw all the assets. I managed to finalize the important assets, and even got around to “correcting” prop assets. Overall, everything came together beautifully, and we pushed through to collaborate on in animation we’re all proud of. There were just some aspects about the production progress that I personally wished were done differently. I worried more for my contributions to the project at first, hence why I willingly accepted more responsibilities, and worked diligently to completing them. It was just felt kind of disheartening and unfair not seeing everyone pull their weight towards the end. It just seemed like me and this other team member were the only ones pushing to complete the project, granted it’s mostly been me and this person present on slack during the final week of polish.

Arguably, this could be the result of a communication problem. While we did communicate frequently to each other, and even hosted Skype call meetings, perhaps not all of us were on the same page. I’m given this impression, because I recall a time during polish when one of our team members approached me, stating they were unable to assist me with polishing because they were struggling with mimicking the art style, and they were experiencing troubles using Photoshop. Perhaps if I had taken the time to walk my team members through my PS processes, they would feel more confident in contributing to 2D asset creation. That’s what Aidan did for us, after he spent three solid days researching AE. In light of the situation, being assigned all these tasks did push me to become flexible/adaptable to programs I don’t commonly use in my processes. For instance, ever since I’ve begun working on this project, utilizing Photoshop’s functions has almost become second nature to me. I have a far clearer idea on how to draw and animate on PS than I ever did before. The same can be said about AfterEffects, which wasn’t as nightmarish as I fretted it would be. In fact, the program is more straightforward, and I found it works similarly to Photoshop in terms of layers and effects. So all in all, this project was a useful learning experience and has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone.


Identify and reflect on the Final Output of the project and overall effectiveness of key Creative Processes:

To accomplish what we achieved in our Final Output, I experimented on two different animation programs, to be certain to which process will prove to be most reliable. Before I considered animating on Photoshop, my mind was immediately set on Adobe Flash. In the past, I’ve relied on Flash to execute my animations, particularly because it’s a rather straightforward and efficient program to use. But the issue I immediately encountered with using Flash during Worldbuilders, is that the brush settings couldn’t be manipulated enough to suit the art style we were aiming for. Flash is limited to its basic, simple circle brush, which wasn’t going to work out because our preferred style included more papery, dynamic brush strokes. Photoshop thankfully offered us more variety, granted we were able to download unique brushes onto the program to use. We were much able to achieve our desired art style through Photoshop.

Photoshop is the program which worked best for us. The only deal-breaker with PS is that it isn’t primarily an animating program, therefore using it to animate proved to be twice as tedious and painstaking than using Flash. PS wasn’t difficult to use, but it was extremely time consuming and slow at times. For instance, the onion skin settings, no matter which option I picked, would slow me down when colouring the frames, for I had to constantly turn it off and on just to correctly pick the colours and ensure continuity. Animating dynamic poses was hard for this reason, and also because the layer setup was far more complex than the one in flash. Flash at least enabled me to turn on onion skin settings without it interfering with my process, and it was easy for me to switch between frames and edit them with ease. I suppose realistically, Flash would’ve worked best for me personally, but Photoshop was more appropriate for the task since it helped us achieve the style of the world precisely to our vision.

Recently, I discovered through a friend that apparently you’re able to rough out an animation on Flash, export it as a PNG sequence, upload the sequences on Photoshop, and go over it with the brushes of your choice. It’s a process I would certainly try out in my future projects, since it combines the ease and simplicity of roughing out animations on Flash, and polishing it with the appealing, dynamic brushes and colouring in Photoshop.

With the intention of improving my creative practices for future projects, I aim to stray significantly further away from perfect imitation of reality, so my animations don’t appear as static and dull. I believe practicing more exaggeration, by welcoming wilder, extreme forms, will truly make the animations flow better. Researching the psychology of movement could also benefit me, in a sense that it’ll give me a clearer idea not just for the process, but the intention of movement. I’d also like to improve my animation process as a whole, now that I’ve recently discovered that I can import Flash PNG sequences into Photoshop. I’ve learned that I can adapt to new programs fairly easy, so learning from well-acclaimed animators and their processes for programs such as OpenTooz and TVPaint could give me a boost of confident and knowledge with my creative practices.


Reflect on the roles within the production process:

Judging from how I’ve handled my experience working on this project, I seek to improve my ability to work well under pressure. It’s a bit complicated, because I’ve learned I CAN work fairly diligently under pressure, but when there’s no pressure involved, my complacency slowed down my progress, meaning I’ve had to cram in work as punishment. To avoid this in future, I could cut the time I have to complete my tasks in half, which means working steadily on the task at hand first and foremost, and allowing myself enough time to gather feedback and polish.

I believe everyone in my team owned up to their roles in the project for the most part. Our team lead was approachable and very organized, and assigned us tasks which all played on our individual strengths. The other generalist in the group arguably did most of the heavy-lifting in the group, spending long hours researching and perfecting our scenes the best they can. Our other generalist only did the bare minimum of tasks assigned to them, and wasn’t very present in class nor on slack unless we tagged their name for responses.

I was just another generalist, which I think suited me in the end, since I ended up doing more for the team than just concepting and drawing my own assets. I become their concepter, polish, and animator. Our team lead assigned me tasks which were complementary to my strengths, so being able to work proactively has made up for the minor inconveniences along the way. Of course, as mostly a 2D artist, I took great pleasure in concepting the characters and the environment, and I’ve always welcomed feedback so I could cater more to my group/facilitators/peers’ liking. Polishing is another factor I’ve been told by others that I’m significantly skilled at, and all in all, experienced no problems with the polishing of assets alone. And I’m fairly proud of the animation I’ve managed to produce for this project! Worldbuilders has certainly been the project I’ve enjoyed the most throughout the year by far.

 

Shot Deconstruction

A new trimester, means a new project. For the past three weeks, we have accumulated into groups, and have entered the pre-production phase of our World Builders project. The primary objective of this project is to create a World Concept Teaser that is based on the description from a novel. With that in mind, we’ve settled on a short story, The Masque of the Red Death, written by Edgar Allan Poe. We need to illustrate and develop the environment, taking the reveal, lighting, effects and animation into consideration. We aim to successfully capture the visual style and mood of the world, therefore it’s vital we make efficient use of cinematography. In this blog post, I’ll be exploring thematic ideas, in regards to shot composition and lighting used by experienced filmmakers. I’ll be drawing inspiration from these ideas, while also attempting to implement them into my own camera shots.


The first shot composition which came to mind is a low angle camera shot. A great example of this includes a scene from The Dark Knight (2008), where the Joker repeatedly beckons Bruce Wayne to hit him with his batcycle. This is one of the many scenes in The Dark Knight where a low angle shot has been utilized to emphasize the Joker’s “sincerity as a villain and his indestructible nature” (Saporito, 2016). Typically, a low angle shot is often used “to make characters look dominant, aggressive, or ominous” (Moura, 2014). The sensation of looking up at someone in this shot can make the audience feel as if they’re being towered over, it also serves as fuel in making the hero of the story appear less significant as the person being gazed upwards at. This scene from The Dark Knight effectively used this shot composition, because although the Joker repeatedly tries to coax Batman into running him over, he knows deep down, that Bruce Wayne would never bring himself to kill. He wouldn’t have the willpower to break his “no killing” rule. Therefore the low angle shot accentuates the Joker’s dominance over the situation, because he’s confident in himself, and that the event will turn out the best in his favour.

It’s worth discussing the usage of lights and composition in this scene, as I believe it will enhance the visual appeal of my shot. In spite of the street lights establishing the emotional atmosphere and illuminating a clear path for Batman to propel towards the Joker, the Joker himself is illuminated by a much different, serious, high intensity lighting. The Joker has stronger, high contrasting shadows cast on him, while Batman in comparison is filled with a softer light. The setup truly pushes forward the emotional tension between the two rivals, as well as the reoccurring theme of Chaos vs Order with their conflicting compositions. This type of lighting “implies that the actors are discussing a serious situation” (Nulph, 2000), adding to the drama.

The Dark Knight contains all the common elements normally used in films of the superhero genre. Such as the general story format that a community is threatened by evil, normal institutions fail, a superhero emerges, victory restores paradise, and the superhero recedes. In The Masque of the Red Death however, the hero doesn’t succeed in protecting the community. Spoiler alert: The Red Death kills Prince Prospero and all the revellers. But the same principles apply at least in the beginning, where a big bad (Red Death) emerges and disturbs the community, and it’s up for the hero (Prospero) to confront evil. So ultimately, this shot for Worldbuilders will be taking inspiration from the superhero genre, and re-appropriating it to complement the horror/thriller genre we’ve established for TMOTRD.

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I found that this particular shot can be utilized during the climax of our animation, when the Red Death’s identity is subtly revealed. Before this happens, the revellers awareness of the Red Death’s presence in the ballroom has heightened. Upon seeing the phantom, the revellers are surprised, their expressions gradually twisting into that of terror, of horror, and of disgust. The Red Death’s appearance is described as tall and gaunt, shrouded head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. This strikes fear into everyone in the room, believing that the mysterious phantom who has intruded onto their celebration is the embodiment of the Red Death plague. All the revellers at the mercy of the Red Death, even Prince Prospero, despite showing rage towards the phantom, rather than fear. My justification for using the low angle shot is that it emphasizes on the Red Death’s superiority over the situation, and it also makes those looking up at him (the revellers, Prince Prospero) appear small and vulnerable.


References

  1. Moura, Gabe. “CAMERA ANGLES: The Art Of Manipulation”. Elements of Cinema. N.p., 2014. Web. 6 Nov. 2016. Retrieved from http://www.elementsofcinema.com/cinematography/camera-angles-and-composition/
  2. Nulph, Robert G. “LIGHT SOURCE: IN THE MOOD? CREATING MOOD WITH LIGHT”. Videomaker. N.p., 2000. Web. 6 Nov. 2016. Retrieved from https://www.videomaker.com/article/c13/7980-light-source-in-the-mood-creating-mood-with-light
  3. Saporito, Jeff. “Q: The Filmmaker’S Handbook: How Are Low Angle Shots Used?”. Screenprism. N.p., 2016. Web. 6 Nov. 2016. Retrieved from http://screenprism.com/insights/article/the-filmmakers-handbook-how-are-low-angle-shots-used

2D Pantomime collab!!

Pre-visualization played a significant role in prepping up for the 2D flirting animation between me and TK. Almost immediately after coming together to collaborate, I got busy with throwing together a solid storyboard to work off of, which TK has taken and turned into an animatic with timing!

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The use of storyboarding helped a lot when staging the flirting animation. Me and TK were able to plan ahead the kinds of compositions and timing that will be implemented. For example, we utilized long shots when introducing both characters for the first time, which gives the viewer a more specific idea of the setting, which in this instance would be a public space—a park. These full shots contain entire views of the characters, so the viewers can take in the characters’ costumes and observe their relationship with each other.

The following sequences contain more medium to close-up shots. The medium shots grant viewers to see the characters’ faces more clearly as well as their interaction with each other. While the close-ups are there to enable viewers to understand the character’s emotions and also allows them to feel empathy for the character.

It was enjoyable to jump back and forth with these shots, as it also gave me a considerable amount of practice with both timing and facial expressions! Effective use of camera angles are vital to 2D/3D animation pipeline, since there’s limited amount of time in an animation, each sequence, scene and frame must relate to the overall story.


In my spare time, I’ve been doing my own personal study on human anatomy, specifically with posing, and depicting the natural flow of movement within the poses. Since I spent a great deal of time portraying certain relationships through drawings, I found that this assisted me with brainstorming ideas and possible outcomes for my pantomimes, especially with me and TK’s collaboration.

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It’s also worth noting that me and TK collected reference material while deciding on the type of characters we were going to animate. For instance, TK took inspiration from the character Flynn Rider from Rapunzel as inspiration for Henry, the poncho-wearing man in the animation. As for the character I animate, I took inspiration from Chel from El Dorado, in terms of how she typically moves hips first, and has an exaggerated “sexy” sway to her action sequences. This meant having to study Chel’s moxie and how she delivers it from mere body language, as well as study how dresses naturally flow and fold.

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While working on the collaboration between me and TK, I did a little research into motion graphics and 2D animation, particularly with how to achieve a cleaner workflow. So far it seems we had the right idea, considering that bigger industry professionals such as the olden Disney studios used the general idea that the workflow goes along the lines of: Concepting, script, voice acting, storyboards, keyframing, inbetweening, clean lines, then colour.

I was already aware that animating programs such as Flash, Toonboom, and openToonz are typically the to-go for all animators to utilize. What I wasn’t aware of, is that After Effects and Photoshop were also handy tools for animation. I learned this by reading the Awesomenauts’ animation pipeline, seen here.

I found it interesting how the characters were first drawn on photoshop into separate parts for animating, then are imported into after effects, which allows for easy re-importing of parts to make revising drawings later simpler. Granted this pipeline is mostly for a games perspective, someone such as myself who chose to do a 2D pantomime will need to make extra drawings for new angles or poses. Though it’s still all the same an intriguing way of achieving a potentially faster, cleaner animation.


For the cleanup stage of the collab, me and TK will be finishing final lines, as well as blocking flat colours with monochromatic greys, to add depth and appeal to the characters. This is partly because we want to avoid the background being seen through the characters’ bodies, and also to break them up and enhance their visual appeal. We also aim to include shadows and highlights to add further depth to the flat colours. So in the unlikely case that we don’t manage to complete the shadow and highlight stage, we still have the flats to fall back on.

Using both Ava and Henry as examples, shadows and highlights are easily applied to give the illusion of volume on an otherwise flat character through adding a source of light and shading to accommodate. Because the light source is up in the top right, the shadows are guaranteed to be at its deepest in the bottom left corner. I did a bit of research into values using visual art elements and principles, and quickly shading a sphere to prove my understanding.

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Looking into the kinds of shading we believed would best suit the style of our animation, we found that cel shading and gradient shading would be best suited. Referencing this tutorial, we thought that the use of soft shadows on the characters won’t be as effective as how cel shading will put more emphasis on the shadows and lighting. However, gradient shading may prove more useful for the background, making it appear less of a flat surface. If soft shading was implemented on the characters, it’d make them look more 3D, and that’s not the visual look we’ve trying to achieve.
The look we’re aiming to accomplish is more along the lines of what you’d see in video games such as Okami, that sport the cel shaded look, as well as the thick linework.

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In regards to interdisciplinary practices, me and TK have been communicating with Taylor—an audio student—for a music piece to couple with the animation. We’ve been sending her updated progress during the project, which includes early animatics for timing, concept art and descriptions of what we’re aiming to achieve. The anticipated result of the final track should be a lighthearted call and response type of track, with a piano melody representing Ava, and a violin for Henry. That way, the music behaves as a non-verbal conversation, emphasizing any visual signs. We’d like to have the final track made audible outside me and TK’s showreels, therefore we can exhibit the music without disrupting the flow of the showreel.

References

Camera Shots, Angles And Movement, Lighting, Cinematography And Mise En Scene” Film Overview, Skills By Text Type: Film, English Skills Year 9, NSW | Online Education Home Schooling Skwirk Australia. Skwirk.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 18 Aug. 2016. Retrieved at http://www.skwirk.com/p-c_s-54_u-251_t-647_c-2411/camera-shots-angles-and-movement-lighting-cinematography-and-mise-en-scene/nsw/camera-shots-angles-and-movement-lighting-cinematography-and-mise-en-scene/skills-by-text-type-film/film-overview

D’Silva, Pasquale. “Kirupa.Com – A Guide To Shading In Flash“. Kirupa.com. N.p., 2007. Web. 18 Aug. 2016. Retrieved at https://www.kirupa.com/developer/flashcs3/guide_shading_flash.htm

van Dongen, Joost “Oogst”. “Joost’s Dev Blog: The Character Animation Workflow For Awesomenauts“. Joostdevblog.blogspot.com.au. N.p., 2013. Web. 18 Aug. 2016. Retrieved at http://joostdevblog.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/the-character-animation-workflow-for.html