For the Extended Practice module we where asked to come up with our own briefs and set of criteria to follow and fulfill. It is a very large project, worth 60 credits, therefore the task we set ourselves to produce had to be complex, challenging but in the same time interesting.
I have decided to produce an 2.5D short animated video, up to minuted long. My main software choice was Photoshop and After Effects which I am familiar with.
As for any moving image, I had to came up first with the story script. I have decided to get inspiration from Slavic mythology and folk-tales and after some time I came up with a story that is loosely based on three different tales. From that I wrote a more detailed script, bullet point all key events. Based on that I drew a storyboard. Again this task it is somewhat familiar to me and was not a struggle. However, looking at it now, with the whole experience, I feel like there are things in terms of composition and framing that could be improved.
Next step was creation of characters and props. As an aspiring concept artist it was the part I definitely enjoyed the most. In terms of art style I have decided to push myself a bit out of the comfort zone. By making my characters looking like paper puppets I could not take my usual approach to the characters or colouring. I had to change and improve my work flow in order to produce all needed assets on time. I became more fluent at using lasso tool in Photoshop and creating quick selections which helped me speed up colouring process. Each part of the puppet had to be a separate layer, which was hard at the beginning. I had to think animation while drawing. Moreover, due to the nature of the design, I had to colour in all spaces by hand. Lines where drawn with the chalk brush, so there are spaces between, making using a bucket tool to fill in impossible, as the colour bleeds out. As for the brushes – I have a large collection of sets from various artists. I used a chalk brush from one of the sets as a base and changed few values in a brush editor window to make it more unique and personal in terms of line quality. I did same for my main colouring brush, which also had a little bit of texture to it. I tried to use subtle colour palette to imitate paper nature of the dolls. Again, switching my brain and staying away from the bright, vivid colours was hard but also refreshing.
Animation took probably the most time since it is a task less familiar to me than drawing. First I had to figure out the way to animate my puppets. Initially I thought about puppet tool, but later came to the conclusion that all movements can be done by changing rotation value. To make it work properly I had to move anchor point of each part, usually a bottom of the design, where the pin was drawn. While animating I tried to preserve the puppet feel of my characters, imitate the way they could move in real life. I have also attached a string to each character to better explain the way they move.
Making movements look good took a bit of time and a lot of testing. The best way to make it look decent was by offsetting some of the frames to create a sense of anticipation and follow up.
Run scenes where the hardest one to complete in my opinion. At the beginning I used a front view puppets, which was not a good idea. Front view puppets running sideways was a strange combination and did not deliver a message properly. At this point I still had the time to change it, so I have drawn a side view of both Boy and Girl. Second pass for those scenes, done with side views, worked a lot better. Making the motion look believable was another difficult task which required a lot of testing, changing and moving frames, adding ease-in and ease-out.
After completing most of the scenes and showing it on one of the critiques, many problematic areas appeared. For example the story inconsistency. Opening scene was not showing river or rocks, just a forest. There were not mountains in a background either. All of these elements were introduced later in a story which was confusing for the viewer. Re-doing an opening sequence was a must.
All the elements needed was first compiled in Photoshop and then transferred to After Effects. The file itself was large and caused some issues. Camera could not render out in After Effects. First I thought it is the issue of my home computer and low number of RAM available, but after taking the scene file to the college same problem occurred. The way I solved it was by key framing position movements the way it imitates camera movement.
With all the scenes I did quite a bit of acting to better visualise motion, but did not record any of that. However, during the course of this project I have learnt a lot about After Effects and working efficiently. My familiarity with the software improved and, as mentioned above, I got challenged with different challenges.
Sound design was a thing I left for last, which itself was a big mistake. I did sound editing by myself and picked few new skill in Premiere.
Definitely there are things that could be improved. With my current knowledge I can tell which parts should be approached in different way and which decisions I should have made earlier. All this experience I will carry to my future personal projects as I wish to make more puppet stylised animations. This module pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged with multiple tasks that had to be completed on time.