Happy first day of fall! So I'm just about over the hump of the hardest part of completing an animation piece. Yes yes, I had the beard going, blood shot eyes, the zombie stare, the anti-social anti-food anti-TIME feelings flowing freely in my mind. I was in the Zone. It doesn't look pretty from the outside (ask my girlfriend haha) but on the inside, it's wonderful, my mind was 100% on creative mode.
If you think physical/acting animation is alone the toughest part of the whole process, you haven't animated dialogue yet. Not harder but it's almost the same level of difficulty as acting and physicality. I believe it takes the most amount of attention and concentration. Your background music, podcasts and side conversations must be put on hold when you are listening and drawing mouth shapes for dialogue. So in tradition of the first person story telling style of the last 2 posts, here I go:
I know mentally this is the most draining part of the process. So as I prepare my desk by setting up 2 mirrors and an extra pillow on the seat of my chair, I'm mentally thinking of all the mouth shapes one see's through out the day. The funny thing I noticed is that YOU DON'T SEE mouth shapes. You kind of interpret the shape when it flashes by. And in a sentence you only see the Major sounds take shape in the mouth.
-You will see the 'F' shape very clearly and is mainly the only shape you have to nail when generally animating the word. The rest is just jaw and a general 'UGH' mouth shape.
So I'm going over all I know mentally before I start. When I start animating, I initially want to exaggerate EVERY LITTLE SYLLABLE. But a quick trick where you put your hand under your jaw, and say the line of dialogue and take note how many times your hand dips. The points when it dips/or opens wide, are the points to exaggerate the jaw opening. This keeps me from animating my characters mouth opening on every syllable. So I first draw in the key poses when the jaw opens in my animation. I time those poses out to match the dialogue perfectly. Then I move on to other major mouth shapes such as the M's B's F's P's V's. I make those shapes very clear so that they can be read at a moments glance.
IN-BETWEEN THE LINES
While animating the mouth you always have to be aware of a very important thing. That the mouth is connected to the face. If you are just animating the mouth and not moving the head, nose, or jaw; your mouth would look like it is floating on the surface of the face. So all it takes is a small stretch of the nose, or a blink on a hard accent, or countless other tricks to make your mouth feel connected to your face. Also (to those 2D animators out there) always check the distance from the top lip to the nose and bottom lip to the chin and try to stay consistant. Many times I found my mouth drifting closer and closer to my characters chin with out my knowledge.. Lots of erasing... lots of finger cramps..
Here is a video of the dialogue (90% finalized)
If dialogue was the biggest mental drainer, then finishing up and 'inking' of a piece is physically draining. As i finished up doing my dialogue I was OVER my piece. I wanted it does, I wanted to be done, I was ready to start on something new. It's a very trying time. I took two days off my work. Went outside and got some sun, I went to Santa Cruz and visited my brother, caused some trouble and just messed around. I was not eager to start the process of drawing wrinkles in clothing over and over again for 150 frames straight. I was not eager to draw an oval of a head 500 times and keep it consistent, I was not eager to sit 10 hours at a time and kill my hand tracing and erasing and tracing over and over again...
But I went online, read a book (King Lear), watched a movie (The INSIDER) and went on a campaign to inspire myself again. And that's all it took, at eleven at night after watching a movie with my lady, the surge and energy of inspiration hit me and I immediately took advantage of it because i know in the morning the inspiration it would be gone. 'Aren't you coming to bed?" she would ask, "No, I feel like [I gotta work] work, I have to get it out of me."
When I animate and I'm nearly done, I POLISH as I INK. which means as I am outlining my animation with black, I take notes on what can be pushed or tweaked. But I don't always fix them as I come across the mistakes for fear of ruining the momentum I have at the time. If I was to stop to solve the problem I have found, it drains the clock and it also drains my motivation. One hour and finishing a scene of 5 seconds? or spending an hour fixing 4 frames (5 percent of a second)? What makes you feel like your being more productive?
SO here is me while I am finishing up, hopefully I have time to really polish the hell out of it. It's the last push so I'm going hard: more hours, harder concentration, and keeping constant pace. I do still see mistakes in my animation but I'll try to finish first then go back and fix them.
How I feel right now: tired, motivated, and a urge to push until I break which comes from insperation