During the independent study week, I finished off the fairly dormant inanimate objects project, which I had put on hold for the most part whilst I finished the motion graphics project with my group, attempting to make it easier for myself, and others, by getting that project finished and done. I was really happy to see the result of my efforts for this project, although there is a lot I could improve on. The final product unfortunately undergoes some compression when uploaded to YouTube that ruins the experience for me, but perhaps it wouldn't be so bad for someone who is only viewing it for the first time. The resultant film is cheesy, as intended, more so for me than anyone else. It made it fun to animate, playing on the tropes that make something cliche, that also make it relatable, the reason perhaps we go back to watch effectively the same movies over and over again in the cinema- but that sounds like a topic for another project.
The project of course had its ups and downs, but creating such an in depth project (where in year 1 I had only used it for walk cycles), was an experience that taught me a lot about both mine, and the program I was using's capabilities. I used Toon Boom Studio 7.1, which hasn't had an update since 2012, as far as I can tell, although it is still totally viable for making animations, this created a few hindrances specifically regarding the background, and shadows. It wasn't necessary, but in my ignorance, I made a background using adobe illustrator, specifically because both programs primarily use vector graphics. I knew I would be using large zooms for the opening of my animation, and thought I might try and create a background using vector graphics, instead of creating a huge bitmap file that could allow for such zooms (I think the first problem here is that I wanted to use a zoom at all, and perhaps could have found a better way of overcoming the storytelling restrictions of this project). Adobe Illustrator is definitely more tailored to creating backgrounds than toon boom studio, and within Illustrator, I was able to create interesting effects, like light rays from outside creating a silhouette of the window on opposite wall. Toon Boom emphasises the compatibility of these two programs within their manual, but again, this was in 2012, and it took me about one hundred tries to realise that my background created errors when I tried to import it because of translucent layers, such as the light rays hitting the wall, although it is possible to create translucent layers within Toon Boom, I had to remove this effect from the Illustrator file, making the layers instead opaque, and trying to match the colour they were when they were translucent. Because there was a light source, I wanted to create shadows projected by my characters. I later realised that I couldn't give the layers blurs, like a Gaussian blur, in order to create a more believable shadow. The shadows didn't look nearly as good with sharp edges, so I had to bin that idea, luckily I had the foresight to test if shadows worked before I made them for every frame of the animation. I don't think the lack of shadows detracts from the animation however, so I'm not to bothered by that, but I would like to find a way around this problem in the future. I also couldn't export a version of the film that after effects would accept, so I had to export an image sequence and create a version from that which after effects would let me edit using adobe media encoder, which isn't the WORST thing to have ever happened to me. I think the most challenging parts of this project were the technical problems produced between these programs, but of course I have learnt how to deal with these, which should make any similar problems in the future much easier to handle.
Regarding the actual animation, I think I tackled some problems I both dealt with really well, and could definitely improve on. I think the first problem was my composition. As a result of the project's stipulations: 3 shots, 1 wide, 1 medium, 1 closeup, I tried quickly to come up with the most efficient method I could, and of course, haste makes waste. The introductory shot I committed to doesn't provide the scene much depth, which creates a very blunt feeling, and makes the view much less visually interesting. It would be possible to create depth, even using the same setting, if perhaps I'd lowered the "camera" angle, to create more drastic lines, perhaps make the other objects in scene tower over the character's making them look smaller, or even moved the camera angle in the same shot, so we could see the setting as I originally had it, then move in to create more intense shots of the characters- although that does sound fairly time consuming. I also used the zoom, which I think does what I want it to: allows us to see the setting, then introduce the characters, all in one shot. The zoom is however, ugly, as are the other pans and tracks I use to move throughout the shot. These are similarly blunt to the shallow composition of the shot, and these negatives unfortunately don't pair to make a positive, as efficient as they are, I forgo visual appeal. The problem is rectified instantly by the removal of the background, and far more interesting pans and cuts, which almost adds to the experience, going from a boring situation, to a far more interesting one. The juxtaposition creates a kind of relief in myself, although that sounds a bit dramatic. It was unfortunate that the background I put a fair amount of time and effort into became the bane of the animation.
I am, however, very pleased with the movement of my characters, which I think are reasonably believable. It was an interesting challenge, to create their movement without squash and stretch, which resultantly adds to the authenticity. Instead of squash and stretch, the characters had to follow through on their actions, like when the compass stands up, he wobbles for a little bit, because he stood up too quickly, and the protractor much slower, with more control, which also creates their character. The compass is almost too energetic, perhaps young and naive, and the protractor more experienced. The most challenging aspect movement wise was making the the compass run, as it had some many aspects to consider: the perspective, the many sides, how does a compass sway when it runs? I wanted the compass to seem almost human in its movements. I gave the compass a small bob up and down as it runs, like a humanoid walk cycle would, as well as some ease in and out with each step, which created a weight and believability for the character. I also paid a lot of attention to keeping the lines between frames consistent. In one of my earlier products, the lines on the compass jiggled between frames, which completely took me out of the moment, so I went back over them again, and if I saw a jiggle, I altered that line until it stopped- at least to a standard I though appropriate for the project, it isn't PERFECT, but I'm sure this blog would be a lot shorter if it were, and either way I was fairly happy with the consistency I was able to produce.
I was also pleased with the effects I created, like the background emphasising the rubber as the prized object, and the clash between the two characters before the compass makes a mad dash at the protractor. the screen shake adds to the impact of the this shot, and I utilised this again when the protractor fell, which looked decently boring before I added that. It was an easy, but effective fix. I could have perhaps given the compass some bounce, but that seemed like a lot of effort for a little pay off that was already gained by the screen shake.
The title sequence was also a lot of fun to make. Having just been introduced to shape layers and the potential behind After Effects in the motion graphics project, I had to go and try something new, namely set the words on fire (which is just super extra cheesy), I didn't want the effect to be obnoxious, so I made it as brief as I could, without the effect being just non existent, and even if it is a little obnoxious, I think it's quickly discarded by the final punch in of the text. I added a subtle blob dissolve transition between the beginning and end cards, and the main animation, which I think subtly added to a kind of creepy ninja vibe I was going for. I created the Introductory riff, and credits riff, making these similarly distorted and kind of epic, to add to the cliche feel. I used a pentatonic scale (I think), played in a way that is reminiscent of oriental music. I also created the sound a few of the sound effects, namely the compass tapping, simply recording a pen tapping on my desk, and the air wooshes, which I created by swiping a long ruler past the microphone. I can't take credit for all the sounds however. I the battle music I found at:
I cut searched for a part of the song that was consistent with the conclusion, lacking any other noise other than the drums, and cutting this down to fit the short fight scene, stitching the end of the song onto this, which timed pretty well with the fall of the compass, creating more impact as it falls. Other sounds, such as the sword slashing sound, and the stabbing sound when the text in the title screen punches in, I found in the university's own royalty free sound effect collection.
I put the final product into after effects, and applied a few effects to make it more cinematic. I slightly lowered the exposure, and increased the contrast. I also added chromatic aberration, which I understand is probably very easy to overdo, so I kept that to a bare minimum. I also added a slight film grain, which I used mainly to detract from very subtle abnormalities in the exports I was having, and whilst it doesn't make them totally invisible, I think it helps to mask them slightly, as well as provides a classic high stock film experience.
this is my development reel for this project:
I, again, am very pleased with the outcome of our first really meaty project, it taught me a lot, and has prepared me for future projects. If I'm more patient with planning these projects in the future, paying attention to composition and cinematography, there would be a real improvement from this project.