Holographic Projector Activation and Toon Boom

Here’s the video of my last completed scene.

As you can see, I’m using the music temp track as a way to time and choreograph the various elements in the scene. I can’t stress enough how important music and sounds are for me when it comes to doing animation. I get a lot of inspiration from it. The trick is to make sure that I select the right musical piece to go with the visual. That’s why I spend hours listening to potential music until I hit one that brings out the imagery of the film in my head. This time, I feel so right about my musical selection that I have gone ahead and bought a license for those pieces just in case I decide to keep them in the final film. We’ll see what happens there.

The next video, shows how I set up the scene in Toon Boom. I’m not going into great detail, but it will give you a good overview of how things are put together. There are so many elements in this scene that it’s quite a headache making sure everything is working in unison, and the only way to make sure is to do a final render, which takes about one hour for this particular scene. One little change and I have to render the whole scene over again. Since I’m never completely happy with my work and keep tinkering with details, that process can be frustrating at times, but at least it’s a lot better than in the old days when a re-shoot would take up an entire day and cost thousands of dollars.

Finally, here below is a screenshot of the node architecture of this scene. Toon Boom is a node-based system where each node represents either an element of the scene or a modificator. The light blue nodes are associated with animation levels, the dark blue with filters and compositing, the light green is for the camera, the white one for output information, and the dark green nodes represent pegs, which I use to create camera moves. Looking at the module library, I can see that I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible with the software but I sure look foward to continue my exploration.

Holographic Projector Activation

Just a little heads up on where I’m at this week. I’m currently working on the scene where Rex’s bubble land on the Dream Globe Holographic Projector and activates it. The scene is fifteen seconds and will feature a wide range of animation techniques. I finished keying the animation for REX and I’m back in “Inbetweening Hell”, but anticipate being done with that part by Wednesday. Then, I will get to the effects which should be a lot of fun.

This week has been a bit difficult as I’ve also been working on a presentation I will be giving in Portland on Saturday. If anyone is in the area, you should come by. Click here for all the details.

Until the next post, I’ll leave you with the graphic novel panels that form the basis of the scene I’m currently doing. The whole thing will be treated as one single continuous shot.


Into the Dream Globe

Just completed the sequence where Rex is carried inside the Dream Globe. Have a look!

And here’s a look at the original panels from the graphic novel which were the basis for the sequence.

This sequence uses a mix of animation techniques ranging from hand drawn, puppet tool, warping and matte reveals. My goal with this, was to convey a sense of scale and space. The last scene where Rex enters the inner part of the globe was a particular challenge. I’m sliding various elements against each other to create depth and an illusion of speed. Because everything is eyeballed, I have to keep playing with the ratios until satisfied. This can be quite maddening at times, but when everything starts feeling right, it’s pretty rewarding. It took a lot of effort for that last scene to sing, and it wasn’t until I added the pulsing lights (which were completely inspired by the temp music) that it all came together. This final touch is one of the reason I love working with a temp music track―ideas and ways to improve the scene will come to me from listening to the music. It also provides a rhythm for the cutting and animation beats.

As I was putting that last scene together, one of the thing that bugged me was the fact that the robotic sphere looked quite flat when the camera zoomed in. I didn’t want to build the thing in 3D but I did want to get some three dimensionality as the camera closed in. I raked my brain to find a solution to that problem and was happy to solve it in quite an unorthodox manner. Here’s a little video I made to explain how I went about it.

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).