Tuesday, 30 November 2010

11 second.. finished at last!!

11 Second evaluation

One of our main projects for our first term was a brief that ran alongside the 11 second club, which is a monthly animation competition that provides a specific sound clip, and people from across the world can submit their own animated interpretation of the script using whatever software and style. At the end of each month, the most popular animation is selected as the winner of the competition, which provides animators across the country an opportunity to get their name and work out there in the business. So we were given the task to have a go at animating the November competition, which is in fact a shortened clip from the popular film 'planes, trains and automobiles' (though it is advised to put aside any previous knowledge or impression you have of the clip, in order to prevent it affecting the final outcome.) I like the clip that we have been given, because it contains some humour, drama and isn't too 'fixed' so that we can be a bit inventive with it.

For the first few weeks after being given the clip we had to animate, I was pretty much clueless about how start the project let alone choose which techniques and software to use. I admit I struggled to think of a good idea that would work well with the content within the clip, but for a while I just drew a blank and focused my attention on the experimental project. I was thinking about it way too much to start with, and my inspiration ran dry as no ideas seemed to be appearing! Eventually I sat myself down and listened to the clip over and over to try and gain some sort of understanding on what could be happening in the clip which consisted of two main characters squabbling about something. The script of the clip was very vague, which is good because it gives you the freedom to do whatever you want, but sometimes that much freedom can be very daunting! I spent a day mapping out all of the sounds on some dope sheets which helped a lot because it broke down all the sounds and allowed you to plan how the animation would fit with what was going on in the clip. After a lot of thought I finally decided on a scenario for my characters: a man walks into his bathroom ready to have a soak, but finds out that his flatmate has in fact stolen a walrus and is keeping it in their bath tub (supposedly an act of kindness) The man becomes extremely frustrated and angry and the flatmate and walrus cower. It’s a very random idea I know, but I wanted to do something that was a bit light-hearted and fun to animate.

Initially I really wanted to do my animation hand drawn on my light box because I think that you can create some really lovely fluid motions with hand drawn 2d animation. But I left it a bit too late seeing as I spent a bit too long trying to sort out what I was going to do; therefore I thought it would be better to use flash instead due to our time limitations. To really get to grips with getting the characters’ movements and expressions looking realistic, I drew out lots of different faces and planning sketches on how I wanted the characters to react, and tried to add a bit of personality to their final designs. I then drew out some thumbnails of the main scenes that I wanted to include in the animation, fitting them into the timing on my dope sheets. To avoid making my animation look too flat, I created two backgrounds in Photoshop of two different angles, to give the final outcome a bit of depth and vibrancy.

I tend to struggle getting to grips with timing, and my key poses always seem to look a bit wooden, so I filmed my house mates acting out the scene for me which ended up being really helpful because I could use the clips as references on how movements and body language is affected by what the person/ character is reacting to. So, by using these reference videos, I was able to plan out all my key poses in flash and get started on the actual animating.

At first I tried to go straight into a very detailed style of animation, but inevitably I just confused myself and the movements that I animated looked very unrealistic and unnatural. But then Andy advised us to just start animating very basic shapes first before adding any detail, so that we would focus on the movement rather than worrying about making it look pretty. I found this quite hard to do at first because I had to break out of my ‘neat’ comfort zone and not worry about the animation looking shabby, but it did actually really help me break down all the movements and get them looking smooth and realistic. I did a few rough versions including an animatic, and then when my animation was looking pretty accurate I began to neaten up all the lines, added colour and concentrated on adding the final detail. Although I do like the colour that I have used in my 11 second project, I do kind of wish I had left it as just basic lines because they looked very expressive on their own, whereas the added colour has seemed to have lost some of the characters’ energy and emotions.

I deliberately left the lip syncing until last, because previously I have found it very difficult to get my head around and I thought I would only confuse myself! Before I started the lip syncing I made sure I had every mouth movement drawn out on each frame of the dope sheet so I wouldn’t get muddled, but despite doing this the lip syncing doesn’t look quite right. It was a pain because the flash software that I used seemed to crash constantly for some reason so I kept losing frames and sections of the animation, and also the ‘scrubber’ on flash didn’t work so I couldn’t test how it was looking unless I kept exporting tests. Eventually I managed to get it all finished, and exported it as a quick time movie. But for some reason quick time makes the animation lag a bit, which makes the lip syncing look even stranger!

I actually enjoyed this project because it gave us the opportunity to focus on the styles that we were interested in, and although I got extremely angry and stressed at times I did actually learn a hell of a lot over the duration of this month. If I were to do this project again, I would try and plan my time more carefully and not spend so long dithering on what idea to go with. I would also try and be more ambitious and move away from flash next time, and force myself to try and get to grips with other software so that I can really achieve the styles that I want to explore.

Here is my finished 11 second project, the timing is a bit out for some reason but it seems to work ok :) Oo and also here are some of the dopesheets that I used for the animating, I forgot to put them up earlier!

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