Friday Wrap-up: Among the Dream Globes

Just finished another scene and did some fixes on the smoke trails on some of the earlier scenes. I felt that the smoke trails were a bit too uniform so I added some design to them. The latest scene shows the “bubbles” entering the “Dream Globe” area. Here’s a video showing the corrected smoke trails as well as the new scene, “Among the Dream Globes”

I started work on this scene using all painted artwork but felt that the foreground globe looked too flat. So, I decided to build it using the “cc sphere” tool in After Effects. This allowed me to do a subtle rotation on the x and y axis, as the camera moves in. I also put a small y axis rotation on the mid-ground globe using the same technique. Here’s the texture I used to map around the sphere (I explained this process in a previous post).


Towards the “Dream Globes”

For this scene, I wanted to convey a sense of space that is usually associated with 3D environments, but I wanted to do it completely in 2D. The sense of space, is created by moving and resizing the elements at various speed. There is no mathematical formula―the entire thing was eyeballed. I just kept playing with it until it looked right. Here’s a video showing how I go about faking the smoke trails moving on a perpective plane.

Rex and Many Bubbles

Okay, one more scene completed. Here’s the video.

Here’s how I approached this one. First, using the rhythm of the music, I created an animated composition using spheres and trail drawings. All I’m doing here is panning and moving these elements around until it feels right. Here’s how it looks at this stage.

Once I was happy with the way things moved, I applied various blur filters and gradient mattes to get the desired effect.

Now onto REX. After doing hundreds of drawings on the previous scene, I’ve been trying to figure out how to speed up my process. Here’s what I came up with for this scene.

I used the After Effects Puppet Tool to create a slight animation on the body. For this, I seperated the body in two layers (main body and right arm) and used pins to create the motion.

For the tail, I reused the drawings I had already done in the previous scene (When I did the Rex Meets Aven scene, I made sure to animate the tail on it’s own layer so that it could be put in my animation library). Since the ligthing, here, is different than the scene from where the tail came from, I created a new set of tone mattes for it.

For the head, I used a held drawing for the first part. Then, when the animation of the bubble containing Rex slows down, I animated the head turning forward. The animation of the head was hand drawn on 1s (one drawing per frame) and each drawing has a corresponding tone matte (also hand drawn). Here is a video showing the three distinctive part of this process.

This was my first time combining the Puppet tool with hand drawn animtion within the same character, so I was a bit nervous that it would be hard to make it all work seemlessly―but with some patience, I was able to assemble these parts in a coherent whole.

Once I had Rex all working correctly, I positionned him in the bubble, added the electrical effects, and added characters and electrical effects in the background bubbles as well.

Rex Meets Aven Completed

Here’s the “Rex Meets Aven” scene with all the colors and the effects added.

To give you some idea on how I proceed when approaching a scene like this, I created a series of work-in-progress videos.

The first thing I do is the “scene planning”. For this, I just use the raw artwork from the graphic novel and work out the camera moves and pacing of the scene (as well as the hook-up scenes), using the music as a guide. Here’s what it looks like at that stage.

From there, I quickly rough out the main character poses to get a good idea of how the animation will unfold. At this stage, it’s all very rough, but the ideas are starting to emerge.

Once I’m happy with the general flow of the scene, I tighten up the keys, flesh out the animation, add all the inbetweens and tone mattes. When refining the animation, I do my best to bring out the subtlety in the acting and infuse the characters with the illusion of life. I want them to be more than just lines―I want them to live, so I keep working at it until I feel like they are breathing and feeling (see the pencil test video from the previous post).

Once the characters are completely animated and painted, I add a few judisciously placed eye blinks. Then, I create the special effects. In this scenes, the effects includes: shadow under the Blossom (blue ball) and Aven; electrical effects in Rex’s bubble; transformation special effects; background bubbles and trails. Here’s a video of the transformation effects which was a combination of hand-drawn straight ahead animation, and a particles (the big burst).

Rex Meets Aven Pencil Test

After a month of hard work, I’m finally done with the character pencil animation and tones for the current scene I’m doing.

I’m a little shocked how long it took to do this―I was expecting to be quicker. Actually, the animation was done in about four days. It’s when I started doing the inbetweens that production really slowed down to a crawl and the long hours started piling in. I literally spent over three weeks doing inbetweens. I’m not sure that doing the scene, the way I did, is the best use of my time. I need to figure out ways of speeding up that process. Here’s a little breakdown to give you an idea:

Rex is in the scene for 406 frames and Aven for 294 frames. That’s 700 frames of character animation. Each character is a mix of 1’s and 2’s (number of drawing per frames), so rougly, the total count is 500 drawings. If each drawing requires around 20 minutes do do, you can see how crazy this gets. Not only that, but for each of these drawings, I must draw an additional tone matte layer which represents the area of shading.

Now that the character pencil is done, I need to:

● Paint each drawing and tone matte. I’ll also be adding the eyeblinks at that stage.
● Animate a shadow under the Blossom (blue ball) and Aven.
● Add the electrical effects in Rex’s bubble.
● Animate (hand drawn frame by frame on 1’s) the transformation special effects from Blossom to Aven (place holder animation currently there).
● Animate and choregraphed background bubbles and trails (They all start taking off towards the right).
● Composite all these elements (this is where I make everything blend seemlessly together).

I’m hoping to get all this wrapped within a week. Let’s see how well I do.

Still Inbetweening…

I haven’t taken a day off since my last post―trying to finish the scene marathon style. I’m almost done with the inbetweens and should be able to move on to animating the tones, painting the characters and doing the effects next week. I might actually be able to wrap up the scene by the end of next week if I can keep this pace. As always, you guys we’ll get a look as soon as I have something showable. I’m also keeping my various animation tests as I go so that I can show the scene progression in an upcoming post. More in a week or so…