Buoy has finally reached completion! this is a final analysis of the production and what I have learnt during it. I suppose it might come in useful for myself in the future to see how I’ve developed my skills but might come in handy for someone else planning to start their own independent short animated film.
Buoy was the biggest animated production undertaken by me, as a novice animator becoming a master qualified animator. Taking on roles, such as director, concept, storyboards, backgrounds, animator, editor and 3d animator. One of the main ambition behind this project has been telling a convincing story. So the important stages for me were
- concept art
The story is told without a narration or dialogue between characters it is purely expression and actions.
The other ambition was to turn watercolour storybook style illustration into 2d animation. So the important stages for this were
- character design
- line tests
- 3D texturing
What I learnt so far is that preparation is very important. It helps me in understanding the story so that I can explain the story to others. Because I had a team it was necessary that I could explain what was happening for all stages of production. During preproduction I found that it was never right to lock things down early on because there is always someone there to tell you something that will improve the story. I would sketch the storyboards on my own but also go through them with my other animators to see if they made sense.
I want to talk about the production. I decided to use Flash to do my animation early on because of its integration with After Effects and how simple it was to work with SWF in After Effects. This was a great time saver. I know it was less fussy than using other software like TVpaint or toon boom were I’d have to export image sequences and import them to after effects.
Here is the breakdown of the flash animation. I did the rough animation and then clean lines using the pencil tool. I liked using the pencil tool because of the clean lines and it’s ability to be adjusted after drawing. I would fill the colours on the same layer because there was no need to have them on a separate layer. I chose to use the brush tool to rough in the shadows, this was a style choice, which fitted with the watercolour look. It resembles what happens when colour drys in one area.
I wanted dynamic backgrounds, which shifted with the camera movement. This was done with a parallax technique of dividing the background mid-ground and foreground and setting them in 3d space within After Effects. I could then place a camera and have it pan across giving the illusion that the environment had more depth to it.
Here is a good example of one of the underwater backgrounds, which has that parallex effect. I set up the background, mid-ground and foreground as layers in photoshop and imported the PSD into After Effects retaining the layers.
3D Background (Boat)
There were 2 render passes which I used for all the 3d boat scenes and they are the texture pass and the depth pass for the fog effects in After Effects. You may notice the bright colours; green and magenta, these were keyed out in After Effects so they could be replaced by a 2d Texture. This is a technique I was inspired to use from “Song of the Sea”.
Something I learnt from reading about story writing or watching tutorials was how to link actions. Once you understand that the scenes are not just a series of events.
It shouldn’t be…
This happens ‘THEN‘ this happens ‘THEN‘ this happens
Thats too predictable and boring it should be more like..
This happens ‘HOWEVER‘ this happens ‘THEREFORE‘ this happens
You can see how its working for these connected scenes, without much explaining. In example 1 the boy is looking through the spy glass HOWEVER he drops it THEREFORE he ends up in this scenario were he’s falling off the boat! And because we know that this method works we can make it go faster and link in something else. While that’s going on, in example 2 the wheel spins and releases the buoy THEREFORE the crab pot drops into the water HOWEVER the boy goes in after it. This is because the mind can make these connects quickly when watching the scenes.
Here is how some of the storyboarded scenes resemble next to the final shot. At the start I didn’t know exactly what the fog effects would look like.
What I have now I am pleased with and I think it has all the strong visual set pieces I wanted to include. I have been able to achieve so much and it’s been a pleasure just learning a lot of new skills.
What I have learnt…
- Editing starts in preproduction that is just the nature of animation. You have to edit and get timings right from the start. It is too late to be dealing with editing in mid production never mind post!
- Have a very clear terminology. It might seem simple but I was confused about what: animation vrs keyframing was or inbetweening and rough animation etc. And it’s even more confusing for people that I am dealing with if I use a name for something out of context.
- There should be more than one solution to anything in production.
- Don’t end up relying on one person to get one thing done, which is holding up production. In a team of 5 this is never a good situation. People can sometimes not be easy to access and you might be waiting for them to get something done. I have found that in these moments its wise to have something else to get you occupied and just trust that they will get back to you.
- I have up skilled in the following applications: Maya, After Effects, Premiere, Flash and photoshop