Whether you are animating smoke, fire, water, dust, snow, branches, leaves, a dangling rope, a fluttering cape, a curtain swinging closed, a dog wagging his tail, or a billowing dress, all of these effects have within them the basic whip/wave principle. It is a simple flowing, overlapping action that occurs wherever energy interacts with matter which is not entirely rigid. Just take a piece of rope maybe a few feet long, or a garden hose, lift it up quickly and then snap it back down even quicker, and you will see a wave travel through the rope or hose, just like a wave travels through the water. We can move our arms much in the same way,
Soon after you know what it is that needs to be made you have to answer the question of how it is going to be made. Producers and accountants may drive this part of the process but as director of the project you no doubt will be involved in the next steps of the process: budgets, schedules and hiring the creative team. This is where the creative and the business come together. If done properly (and with your help) the project will successfully find life outside your head.
Determining the budget can be a very difficult part of the process. It is dependent on as many known elements as it is unknown elements. One rule of thumb is that the budget will change as fast as a car depreciates when you drive it off the lot, but it is necessary to be in the ball park and be as prepared as possible for the surprises that arise in the process. Since time is money, the schedule is one of the first things to help determine the budget. How long do you have to create your project? If not dependent on a release date or client expectation then how long should it take to produce? Determining your schedule will also help in answering the next question of how many artists, technicians, and production people will I need? “Head count” as it’s called is based on your schedule and funds. If your project has a tight schedule then you will most likely need a higher budget to afford more artists and tighter overlap in your departments. A longer schedule should mean fewer personnel and therefore, more consistency in the animation. A longer schedule on an animated project is usually always preferred for a higher quality of work but rarely seems to happen in Hollywood. The famous visual effects director John Dykstra sums it up nicely when he said, “There are three ways to do any shot. There’s fast, there’s good and there’s cheap. But you can only work in combinations of two. You can have it cheap and you can have it fast, but can’t have it good; you can have it fast and you can have it good, but you can’t have it cheap; you can have it good and you can have it cheap, but you can’t have it fast.” (more…)
Unfortunately, certain serious mistakes tend to be made during the development process. Some of these errors are caused by inexperience. Others may be fueled by the team’s admirable intention of making something remarkable, yet being unable to rein in their ideas and set reasonable limits. And quite often, problems arise because the creative team is eager to plunge into preproduction and is too impatient to invest sufficient time in planning. Based on my own experience and on interviews with experts, here are five of the most common and serious errors that occur during the creative process.
“Blick” is defined as a look or glance. In film, illustration, comics and graphic novels it can be a frame that enhances action, speed and atmosphere—a fast glimpse into the story.
A blick is:
– Incomplete in itself.
– A part of a series or a single fragment.
– A clue to the content and meaning of the series.
– A scrap of information that contributes to milieu.
– It is secondary to the story line not primary.
The base rig acts as the first layer of our multi-layered rigging approach. This is by far the most important layer, and it consists of three main components:
1. Joints and bones
3. Exported version
Nothing flashy, exciting, or particularly complicated lives in the base rig. However, get something wrong at this stage, and all subsequent layers will inherit the problems, sort of a domino effect.
At its core of the rig is the skeletal system that is used to drive the creature’s fleshsurface deformations. Correct placement of joints and bones is what matters here. Using our research and development, as well as anatomical studies, should allow for optimum placements to allow the best articulation to be achieved. Changes to the skeletal structure at a later point cause a lot of repercussions, not only to the other layers, but to the components that make up this layer also.
What is the mood you want to create for your piece? Is it night or day? Are we in a happy place or a scary place? What is the atmosphere, the weight of the air, the temperature of the space? As soon as the film fades up from black and begins, an impression, emotion, feeling, or dramatic effect is created by the texture, color, lighting, and design elements of the location.
Everything in a location has a texture—the hard surface of a desk; the smoothness of a flower petal; the coarseness of a brick street. Texture is the fabric, material, fiber, grain, pattern, flexibility, or stiffness that gives a tactile surface quality to the objects in the world. The amount of texture defines the level of detail and reality in a scene. The more texture and detail present, the closer to reality the scene becomes for the viewer.
In The Animator and the Seat, there is a relatively low level of texture. This supports the boredom of the cubicle and desire of the animator to leave the space. The lack of texture also means there is a lower level of reality present which supports the believability of the unusual occurrences that take place in the space.
On the other hand, Respire, Mon Ami, is filled with semi-realistic, heavily textured locations. The reality of these spaces magnifies the weak grasp the boy has on his own sense of what is real.
High texture and detail give a sense of realism. Respire, Mon Ami, Chris Nabholz, Ringling College of Art and Design
As this book is not focused just on background design but rather on background design aimed toward storytelling, I thought it would be best to take this section and, just as we studied our layout grids to better set up our environments, take the time to set up the building blocks of visual storytelling to start understanding how to better connect these layouts with narratives. In doing so, I hope you get a better sense of purpose in terms of the layouts presented previously and have a sense of confidence when applying them within your work.
Before we jump into the subject of storytelling with layouts, however, let’s go over some of the fundamentals of visual (or for that matter, all forms of) storytelling. To do so, I’m going to make some assumptions about you and say that, at some point in your life, you’ve experienced (either through reading, watching on TV/film, or through the evolving narrative of a game) at least one story. There are many different types of stories—some scary, some funny, some tragic—yet all of them have a similar purpose and structure, which makes them understandable and relatable to their audience. Therefore, a lot of the following will definitely be familiar to you, even if you don’t know these concepts by name.
First of all, it is important to know that all storytelling derives from conflict, which is a specific issue or concern that provokes the entire action of a story to take place. Basically, it’s a motivation that causes your main character to react to the world and either set things right within his/her world, or change his surroundings and his/her status quo. In superhero stories, for example, those conflicts are usually expressed physically (bad guy shows up, does something bad, hero hears about said bad thing, hero engages bad guy to stop bad thing). These are called external conflicts. There is also a different type of conflict that is called an internal conflict, which is more of a personal, philosophical concept, and it could motivate your character beyond the physical issue presented in the story (usually it’s traumatic or concerns a situation the character either has trouble overcoming or uses his/her new role in society to try to remedy).
Well, I can hear you chiming in from the back, looking all frustrated, saying “Okay—we were doing well, just learning about layouts and horizon lines and all that crazy stuff and then you got all English Lit on us! What gives?!” Allow me to explain:
This is a drawing of a male skeleton, with the muscles overlaid on one side. Study the sizes of the bones in relation to one another, and then notice how the muscles fit over and attach to them. When parts of the skeleton are moved, this has an effect on the shape and form of the muscles relating to that area. This can be seen in the drawing of the arm muscles as the arm bends at the elbow; the bicep contracts and bulges as it pulls the lower arm up, but the tricep located on the back of the arm is stretched and so appears flatter. This is essentially how all the muscles of the body work, they contract or stretch, and as each muscle deforms one way, there is another muscle deforming in opposition to maintain balance and physical stability. It’s an amazing system, well worth taking lots of time to study.
What is a storyboard? Author, Mark Simon, explains that it is the “visual blueprint of the director’s vision that the entire crew uses to be able to work towards that one singular vision.” Check out this interview where he explains AND shows the art of storyboards.
Check out the book here.
Pixilation is one of the most popular techniques for anyone who wants to jump right into animation with little or no experience. Having a camera is about all that is necessary to begin this process. Naturally, there are more possibilities if you have a well thought-out idea, a computer, capture software, and a tripod, but capturing images on a compact disc in the camera and the ability to sequence those pictures into a movie is all it really takes to shoot a pixilated film. Even an experienced stop-motion animator can pare down his or her equipment to a single camera and create an interesting film. Having some knowledge of how to take advantage of this technique makes a huge difference in the final outcome. The early trick film artists, like Melies, knew how to utilize the unique qualities of single-frame manipulation. We explore some of these “tricks” and advantages of pixilation in this chapter, and it is not just the equipment that we explore but the ideas and execution of your next pixilated film.
What exactly is pixilation? Remember that Grant Monroe, who worked with Norman McLaren on Neighbours, coined this term. Monroe and McLaren used the human body as the animated subject. Unlike model animation, pixilation, the animation of humans, requires no intensive model building, armature building, or even character designing. Everyday objects like kitchen appliances, cars, books, or any premade physical form can be moved or animated frame by frame, and this would also be considered pixilation, which is a subdivision of stop motion. Animating humans appears to be the most frequently used subject of pixilated films. As you can imagine, the variations are limitless. (more…)