Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Animating a Shot: Part 2

 100Th Hubble
Universe showing off it's still the best at creating beauty

     So it's easy to DO the work in your head. Like right now.. Bam! just created a master piece. (in my mind).
     But to actually start on your work is a very crucial step that most artists never get to. Last post I talked about 'planning' your shot and making it specific conceptually. But now it's all about planning your work technically and executing your animation. Last post I talked about the very very first stages of starting an animation piece, here I will continue that post..

     I had just finished story boarding my shot so I know what camera angles I want. The next day I sit down at my computer and think about my acting. I do rough poses and draw them into my storyboards. Then I play them to see if they 'feel' right in the time given. 'FEEL' right referes to, does it feel aesthetically correct, is the timing rushed rushed? Do I read the acting as a viewer? Is the tempo of overall movement complimentary to the tempo of the dialogue.. All these things have to come into play.
      Think about it, if the tempo of my movements in my animation are beat for beat that of my dialogue, then on each word or accent I will have movement. First off, that is not natural and it will be too distracting. So After an our or two of getting the beats and acting right, I came up with this (you might call this BLOCKING):

     The timing is pretty close to what I had originally proposed with my initial storyboards. The cuts work, the characters are not over acting, every choice I made checks back to the very specific background story I had came up with. This part of the process did not take that long, but I still stop working for the day because I know the NEXT step is the most difficult....

     "My project is 24 frames per second but for every frame I make I duplicate it so that it comes off as 12 frames per second. But when there is a movement or an action I will not duplicate and animate all 24 frames per second thus giving me more control over my timing and the ability to make the action read better."

    I'm thinking this to myself as I get out of bed... I 'm recalling how Disney animators use to animate during the golden age of animation. Mostly on 12's, but on 24's when the action was complex. If you do not know you're multiples of 12's, 2's, 6's and sometimes even 3's, you are going to be animating blind when it comes to planning out movements and timing. Math plays a SMALL role in animation but a crucial time saver if you use it correctly.
     For example. In my first shot I want my character to lift up it's head. I do not want it to happen in one frame as it is right now in my story boards but in a normal like manner, but not too slow that it feels mechanical. So I think in my head, "one second is too long for a head lift, so maybe half a second.. (I try lifting up my head at the speed I want) It took a little less than half a second to lift up my head. So that means when animating my head lift it should be 3-4 Frames. Why 3-4 frames? 4 frames is 1/3 of a second. It's not quite half, which would be 6 frames (because 6 is half of 12.) 12 frames being one whole second. four frames would be pretty damn close to the timing I am looking for.

If that was confusing, that should be a red flag.

       (This is the part of the process where all new animators rush too and they skip all the prior steps I have done.)

My Order of Operations:
Movement, Stills, Facial, Mouth Dialogue, Specifics (clothes, hands, hair etc)

      So I animated. I animated all day. The first things I animated were the movements. Movements are the most eye catching elements in animation and they have to be timed out right so that they do not catch your eye at unwanted moments after your dialogue is done. (I DO NOT start animating dialogue yet) So once I get the physicality and acting believable then I would move on to dialogue.
     When I animate I will usually draw out the first and last pose, (lets look at the first head lift again) I will draw the down position of the head and the final up position. Then do in-betweens. BUT LET ME TELL YOU ONE THING, I actually tried to takle this with straight ahead animation but I re-did it many times (5 times). Because when you do straight ahead you do not have constraints and limits. So each time I would play what I had just animated, It would over animated. I had way too much of an anticipation, or I had an overshoot I didn't even need, or worst, I threw in an arc that was totally unnecessary. I was getting very frustrated, because it all looked good but it wasn't the FEELING of acting I had in my story boards. I asked my self what did my storyboards have that this animation does not. It had simplicity. The story board JUST had a simple head raise, not some fancy dance move of a head raise. I stood up in front of the mirror and did the head raise, I was right, not a lot happens during the head lift. So after an hour and 37 minutes I animated the correct head lift in 9 minutes.

     Remember to not be satisfied with you're work UNTIL YOU GET WHAT YOU DESIRE. That said, there is another side to that piece of advice. While I was doing the part, "you never, cross the finish line.." I had other ideas come up as I was animating... a lot of ideas matter of fact. I had thought of many more acting choices that my character could be doing on that line instead of a head shake. So I animated them to see if they were better than my current idea. They looked good, but again, in the whole big picture, it didn't feel or compliment the whole project very well. But I still had ideas and I kept animating them out. If you have time, always explore other solutions. At first I did not realize they were not working because they didn't flow with my animation piece as a whole, I thought they didn't work because of my animation ability, and I re did it and re did it soo many times I almost threw my pencil at my cat. Everything gets better when you walk away from your computer and come back later :) 10 minutes later or an hour later, it all does the same good... My original idea ended up being the best solution, so after 4 hours.. I finished animating the right solution in 1 and a 1/2 hours.

Duchamp, animating within a painting? hmmm.. think about it..
      So this is where I am at now in my animation process. Here is a video showing what animation I have done so far. The things I have not mentioned about my process are things I take for granted. I should be telling you:
      I ALWAYS check that my drawings are somewhat consistant, that my forms hold the same volume in each drawing and if I'm in doubt, use guidelines on the face to help out with the construction of the character.  I tend to draw past the edges of the camera to make sure my pose and proportions are right. I try my hardest not to hold frames. and if I do they are only to show timing bookmarks and not to be left in my animation for the final product. Try cycling 6 drawings before you EVER hold a frame.                      
     I also write notes to my self on the page. Timing quirks I come across, notes on the eyebrows I did not want to waste time animating right now (remember I'm only doing physicality, even though I have a big urge to start animating the face and mouth I have to keep myself from doing so.)
Sometimes the notes have nothing to do with animation. I write down things I think of for futre projects or write down ideas that inspire me. You might also just see things I wrote down because I want to wikipedia them later!

And before you ask, I do listen to music and podcast while I animate. but when I do dialogue I do not have anything else playing.  What podcast? Today was the podcast "Things You Should Know".

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