The Anatomy of a Scene

I decided to animate the next two scenes simultaneously, since they are a match cut. Here are the two panels from the graphic novel.
From there, I built my plan of action. I began by listening to my music temp track and cutting in the still panels in my editing software. There, I made notes on timing and visualized both scenes in my head. Once I had a very clear picture of where I was going, I created all the art elements in Photoshop:

● Background
● Clouds
● Distant Mountains
● Distant Fog
● Mountain
● Fog
● Bubble Trail Paths (6 different designs)
● Grad Matte
● Bubbles With Creatures (6 different designs)
● Big Bubble
● Sparkle

These levels were then imported in Toon Boom where I finessed my camera move timing and created the animation of the trails by moving my “Grad Matte” over the “Bubble Trail Paths”. The “Bubbles With Creatures” were positionned at the tip of the trails and moved accordingly. The sparkle effect was created by using a single drawing that I sized up and down. Here’s the scene at this stage.

After this, in Photoshop, I created the art for both creatures keeping the eyes seperated on their own individual layers. I imported these in After Effects where I create the animation using the Puppet Tool. The Blossom animation was created using a texture matte and the “cc sphere” effect (see older post). Once the animation was completed, I rendered everything as PNGs and imported the files in Toon Boom. There, I hand animate the eyelids closing up and down. I combined the eyelid animation with the eye layers using the “Cutter” node. This erased the eye wherever the eyelid was drawn, giving the appearance of a blink. Here is the video of the After Effects layers composited in Toon Boom with the blinking effect.

Then, in Toon Boom, I hand animated, frame by frame, the magic effects and Blossom trail using my Cintiq and Stylus. I also imported the previously hand drawn electrical sphere effect located in my effects library (discussed in a previous post) and positionned it over the bubbles as required. See video of these layers.

To finished up the scene, I added an exploding effect created with the software, Particle Illusion. This effect is used when the Blossom changes shape. Here’s the effect.

All of these elements combined with the music track makes the final scenes:

Saucers Unloading Cargo Final Scene

The “Unloading Cargo” shot, as well as the following scene (which I call, “Many Bubbles”) are now completed. I’m using the music temp track to help determine the lenght and pacing of the action. It’s very important for me to have a score in place before attempting any of the animation. The music really helps me visualize how things unfold.

To make sure the saucers didn’t look completely static when they come to their rest spot, I added a small up and down movement to simulate a kind of hovering effect. The sparkle effects are created with just a couple of drawings (a plain sparkle and a sparkle with a ring, as seen in the “Many Bubbles” shot) that I scale up and down and rotate over a ten frame period (see diagram).

The trail effect is created by moving down a gradient over the trail path. The gradient is matted out so it is only visible along the path (see diagram for more details).

Trail copy
I also hand animated some pixie dots in the foreground trails when the bubbles leave the ship. It’s hard to see but it adds a little bit of texture.

And now, here’s the scene in motion:

I now have six pages of the graphic novel completely animated. Here’s the next page I’m going to be tackling:


Faking a Perspective Shift

The shot I’m doing right now features a foreground Saucer descending to a stop. Because the saucer is supposed to be closer to the camera than the others in the background, I wanted to simulate a bit of a perspective shift as it comes into the screen. For this effect, I stretched the image of the saucer vertically and positioned it just above the frame (see Frame 1 from the diagram below). Then, as I move it down into the frame, I squash the image back to it’s normal aspect (see Frame 70). By planning the timing just right, this gives the illusion of a shift in the viewing angle that would naturally be occuring with a 3D object.

Here’s the scene in motion.

Entering the Atmosphere – Final Scene

Here is the final scene with all the elements put together. I paralaxed the Guardian-Shepherd at a slightly slower speed so that I could get a bit more depth. I also added a glow around each blossoms to make them more magical. The video below also features the previous scene which I have been tweeking a bit (faster rotation on the green saucers and more perspective on the last green saucer entering the screen).

Breaking Up the Elements of a Scene

Here’s the graphic novel panel of the scene I’m currently working on.
Panel_Enter_AtmosphereTo determine the length of the scene, I import the panel in Premiere (my editing software where I’m slowly building the film) and time it by visualizing the action in my head. I’ve also laid out a musical temp track which I use to determine the pacing of the action and the cuts. I spend a lot of time listening to potential music so that I can first build the film as a score by visualizing the images that will go with it.

Next, I break down all the scene’s elements that need to be separated and animated. First, in Photoshop, I paint the separate layers that will not require special animation:

● Background Layer
● Cloud Layer
● Mountain Layer
● 9 Separate saucer Layers
● Fog Layer
● Foreground Layer

I import these layers in Toon Boom. There, I work out a small camera move downward, with all the various levels paralaxing to create a nice sense of depth. I also create a different timing for each saucer entering the atmosphere. The timing of the whole thing is influence in great part by my temp musical track. Here’s the video of the scene at this point:

Once, I’m happy with this, I begin work on the Guardian-Shepherd. I visualize the action in my head to determine the best way to approach the animation. In this case, since the character is not making any rotation, I think that once again, the Puppet Tool in After Effects is going to give me the best result. In Photoshop, I proceed to separate in individual layers each of the various elements of the character that will be “pinned” and animated. The more elements I have, the greater the flexibility I will have to animate something cool. Here are the layers broken up:Shepherd_PuppetAs far as the Blossoms go (floating bluish balls), I use the sphere tool in After Effects as demonstrated in a previous post, using this texture:Blue_Ball_TextureIn the animation, I make sure to rotate all the axis (x, y and z) so that the movement is a bit wild. I bring the light height to 100 so that it is directly in front of the ball so that I get a minimal amount of shadow. Then I create a highlight and a shadow level in Photoshop that I composite over it. The reason I do this is because no matter how much I try, the lighting inherent of 3D always has a CG look that stick like a sore thumb when placed in a hand drawn environment. By controlling the exact look of the lighting using painted elements in Photoshop, I managed to sticks out to the finished look I want. Here is the Blossom rendered from After Effects and with the added Photoshop elements:BlossomI’m currently animating the Guardian-Shepherd and the Blossoms and should have the final scene for you to look at tomorrow. See you then!

Towards the Planet – Final Scene

After rendering the saucers and planet, I painted three layers of space (so that I can move each one at a different speed in order to get more depth). All the layers and animated elements were then composited in Toon Boom where I choregraphed the scene. At that stage, I also added a glow around each ship to help them integrate better in the environment. Here it is.

Now onto the next scene!

Making a Planet Turn with 2D Animation

One of the main element in the scene I’m currently doing is the planet where the saucers are flying to. I wanted to create a slight rotation, instead of using a still painting. Here’s how I achieve the effect.

First, I create a series of layers in Photoshop as shown below.
Then, I import them in ToonBoom and performs some digital magic (see video).

And here’s the result fully rendered.