My Year Of Animation 1
The Final animations were daunting to start. I was excited and ready but all the work to this point had to be put to the test. When we started working on the animations, Hannah L, Matt and myself sat around and watched through the animatic and decided who would be best working on certain scenes and who wanted which scene.
The scenes that I got was everything from starting to walk to the camp (we’ll talk about that later), to the the scenes inside the truck. Matt and Hannah would working on everything set inside the truck and the opening shots and the credits would be set between two placement year students. My shots involved walk cycles, facial animation and asset interaction. Challenging and I looked forward to it. I feel like I had something to prove going into the final year show. Since I was wanting to specialise in animation I felt like I needed to prove that I could show a variety of skills in animation. More on that later.
Before delegating the shots I made up a shot list on our google drive that would be filled out as we finished and blocked out animations.
This doc changed and was updated as production, story changed and as delegation of shots changed. Green indicates finished and during production white for “to be started” and yellow for “in progress.”
I’ll get to the point and say that after a few weeks of production I hadn’t focussed enough on the walk to the camp scene as I thought it would be better to work on the other shots as they (I believed) would be easier in comparison. I focussed my attention on the pot scenes and the can interaction shots. Hannah then took over the walk to the camp scene and I continued working on the shots I had left. Thankfully, we had meet ups between myself, Hannah and Matt and the problem was resolved and fixed before it became a major problem, i.e not having an animation finished for hand in. Hannah worked on that animation added to her own, i.e opening the door and climbing into the truck shots.
I know now that I should have time managed more efficiently but once I started on the other shots I began to focus on them and get them finished and out of sight and out of mind. I continued working and hoped that I could get the work done and not let the team down.
A lot of animation in the film involves creating believable facial animation.
On placement I would animate a simple blink over 5 frame period. The top lid would move around 2/3 of the way down over the eyeball and the bottom lid would meet the next third of the way. The blink would happen on the third frame and the opening would happen over two. This is a simple character blink and being that the girl’s facial expressions involved a lot more anticipation, excitement or laboured movements I would emphasise the blinking in some scenes such as the opening of the pot and the opening scenes.
I tried to add as much natural eye movement as I could with sometimes admittedly over doing it at points but the Girl is in a place that she has never been before she. She is scanning the area being sure that she will not be in danger. I followed the simple rules of eyemovements and blinking that I have taken from animations like Winnie the Pooh. He never looks directly into the camera because it is horrifying to look at. He blinks as he turns in the direction of the camera and opens when his head is angled away from the audience.
With the girl I would have her eyes blink a little slower than usual at times and then have them burst open to try and show off her childish traits and personality.
After a placement student didn’t produce work, the credits sequence was then completed by Matt.
Collaborating with the Team
Up to this point in the project I had been talking and planning extensively with Scott about the rigging of the Girl. She is carrying a bag, she has a gun holstered, and she is wearing a poncho and among many other things need to have a believable facial rig. Throughout the 16 weeks of production Scott was constantly throwing out about ideas of the rig and asking what was needed and how he could make things better. In regards to her facial features I had acted out what emotions I thought she would be doing and since she is a child to allow for the possibility for her to fidget or to bite her lip etc. These expressions can all be seen in the film and Scott went above and beyond for the rig.
For her bag he allowed for there to be added detail to her bag for squash and stretch as she moves. The handle on the top of the bag to flop whenever she bends over and makes a sudden movement. The poncho had its own controls to tweak if there occurred any clipping into the face as she turned her head.
A sketch from matt of the Girl and lines I drew for scott to give an idea of where I felt the face should be able to emphasise the the best features. Under the eyes mainly, which Scott did, were essential in scrunching her face when hungry, happy and angry. The extra room for movement with individual controllers around the eyes and the eyebrows were great touches to add extra detail, like crinkles on the skin at the furrowing of the eyebrow and under the bottom eyelids.
Myself, Hannah and Matt as said met up frequently to discuss the pre-vis animation and the beginnings of the final animation to discuss consistencies in the animation between shots and which motions lead into one another the best.
In this critique the animator critiquing makes a frequent point about the animation shot leading into one another and how certain poses can look silly if not pulled off correctly.
And after the second placement student didn’t produce work I had asked Matt if I could at least block the animation out and if he or Hannah were to finish it then at least there would be a mainframe to work from. So I blocked the opening shot of the girl beside the tree showing she is hungry as she watches at the yet to be revealed campsite.
This is the scene I blocked before moving back to my other animations. After I finished my other work I went back to this and completed it the final animation for the film.
I found this scene particularly difficult because the animation had to be very minimal and having her act and then react to the pain in her stomach due to hunger and then turning leading into the next shot.
It was important for her to have the extremes of the pain of the Hunger she is feeling then to resort back to a more neutral pose. I think I managed to pull of the pained expression well.
Close to the final animation. After watching these video I tried my best to show that her pain was in her stomach due to hunger and not an injury. I tried to get that she was unsure or uneasy of going into the camp.
I tried to hold her facial expressions to emphasise certain poses. I watched at lot of 11 second club reviews with AnimSchool lecturers for any advice in facial animation.
Although the critiques in this video are based around facial animation involving dialogue I could still apply some of the advice towards holding or quickening a movement, e.g her reacting to the pain and her mouth strains and then closes. After she reacted to the pain I wanted her to try to get her composure as if she, in her own head, is trying to will herself on.
Lifting Pot Scene
For this scene I had underestimated getting the motion and weight right. I hadn’t thought exactly how difficult it would be to do this simple animation.
Time – 1:08 to 1:10
I don’t know what exactly it was that had me struggling with this animation at first. I took reference footage and tried to get the right action and couldn’t mimic it. The footage above has not added the facial animation which thanks to a year of doing just so I pulled off rather quickly.
The facial animation still not started. Just getting the animation to a point where I knew there was still a lot of work involved but decided to move on and build the rest of the animation based around the rough timing that I had from the above animation.
For the facial acting I actually found it much easier and found Scott’s control setup to be very easy to understand and use and I managed to get some great actions and key poses from the animation.
The close to final animation. Still a lot to change in regards to the weight of the arm after she lifts the lid and as she rests the pot lid by her side.
I didn’t intend on expanding on the animation as it is different from the animatic. I just wanted to extended the animation to allow for changes in production if need me. For instance, the original cut would move too quickly and we would need some extended animation to allow for a smoother transition to the next cut. Matt and Hannah were happy with I did and didn’t feel like cutting out the animation as it showed a bit more of her childish personality.
Walk To Can Scene
Early stages of the animation. For the setting back the pot lid I always found that I was animating too slow or too fast and struggled to get the perfect medium. For this shot it took a lot focus as there was facial animation, different kinds of full body animation e.g idle, walk cycle, bend down and pick up the can. Getting the facial animation right was difficult enough because the girl had to change from one extreme, (upset and scanning the area) to happy at the sight of the can. The walk cycle also had it difficulties as I struggled to get the weight of her walking up and down on the uneven snow mound. Which was significantly more difficult to animate than walking on a flat surface like in pre vis. Thankfully thought I had been animating walk cycles for the past weeks and had developed a routine for working through walk cycles which I adapted for the different stages of this war, i.e walking on high, low and uneven ground.
Throughout animating this semester I ALWAYS HAD THE GRAPH EDITOR OPENED. When blocking animations i had tried using the Dope Sheet but I find it much more coherent using the graph editor. During placement I always had the graph editor open so now it has become a subconscious effort to always adjust and tweak the graph editor tangents and keep on top of keyframes to make sure the scene doesn’t become cluttered, messy and unmanageable.
Throw Can Scene
I struggled with the weigh of the animation here whenever she throws the can away. I acted it out and couldn’t find out what the problem was until Scott and Hannah advised me how to fix the problem with throwing the can in my animation. See Bottom of post.
My Final Animations
The opening shot I tried really hard to get looking right. Obviously we were set back with the placement students not doing the work but we recovered with very little delay to our timeline of production. It was a hard shot she was essentially just staring and acting a little curious and uneasy about going towards the campsite. Getting the eye movements which Matt and I went over keyframe by keyframe to add, adjust and remove unnecessary and vice versa movements.
The first animation in my showreel is the opening shot.
I’m happy with the opening shot. I think there is a lot more room for extra details and adjustments but considering, I think that all the right poses are there for the most part and the important part is at lest clear. SHE IS HUNGRY.
Final Animation of lifting the pot lid.
In the end I had a lot of fun animating the facial expressions here. I think that the scene came out really well. Matt made few adjustments before rendering as the model of the pot stand had changes so I made the lid lift much more fitting to the angle of the handle. Getting the weight of the pot lid was difficult because the lid was supposed to have the appearance of snapping back as she lifts it because she is so eager to see what was inside.
Final animation as seen in the final film. Some timing issues yes but if you look at the subtleties of the face when she sees the can the animation reads well. For the action of her turning away from the pot towards the can was particularly difficult. As it turned out I was animating the character turning off on the wrong foot which threw off my animation significantly. By fixing this change in the early stages and acting out the action I saved myself a massive headache and lots of time deeper into the production timeline.
The eyes throughout my animations were something that I tried my best to look as good as possible. Obviously given the timeframe I cannot produce perfect animations throughout the film. However I can try to make everything look consistent. I think that with certain expressions I had her act appropriately and made the expressions as clear as possible, e.g. lifting the pot lid. Hannah and Scott both gave good advice in this scene. In earlier stages of the animation I had a larger reach back to throw the can away. When we acted it out after some thought it clicked that she would be more casual in the action. It was a real eye opener and fixing the rest of the animation proved to be a lot easier to adjust not that this crazy swing had now been removed.