Monday, 12 August 2019

Elephant Animation

While waiting to start work on my next animated short film, I have decided to work on a number of rotoscope test pieces to develop various styles and see which one(s) I'd like to work in, in the future. Rotoscope is a very versatile medium and effective original results can be created under a wealth of different styles and techniques. This is really exciting as I love to experiment in my work, so any opportunity I get to push what I do further, is a good thing.

I filmed some clips of animals at Cologne Zoo back in March and thought that these would make for appropriate testing grounds! It would also save me from more terrible acting and allow me to work with something other to people- I don't often animate animals.

I started with this clip of an adult elephant. Specifying adult, because one of the other clips is of a baby or younger elephant. I don't know much about animals, but clearly one is younger than the other! Anyway, biology(?) aside and onto the animation:

I decided to play it semi-safe and go for a style I've used before, but already know I'd like to develop further. I chose a style which doesn't use a full black 'cartoon' outline, but only the inner lines, with a silhouette completing the rest of the image. I wanted to develop this style for a number of reasons: a) doing a full outline and full colour takes a lot longer, especially if I'm working on my own and b) in real life not everything a has a black outline around it! 

I used this style in my short film Cardigan's Corner Shop and as you can see, it works well here (or at least it does in my opinion):

When I say it 'works well', I mean you can still tell what the objects or person is in the animation, without the need of an outline to enhance it. I also think it works with the elephant clip as there really isn't much of a point in adding an outline, as it's quite clear as to what it is. If it was just a silhouette without the inner detail lines maybe it would be a little unclear, but the inner lines separate the detail and features of the animal and I think we all know what we are looking at.

To colour it I used a block textured colour, made out of painted paper which I scanned in and made into an image sequence. This was because when I was drawing the inner lines, I was looking at the elephant's skin and it was really textured. I thought it would enhance the animation if I decided to carry this texture through into the final piece. I definitely think it adds to the animation and gives it an extra layer of depth. I'd like to work more with textures going forward.

With the background, I decided to have an experiment in After Effects, to see if anything struck me as a) something which would complement the elephant and b) something I've not used before. This was because I feel it's good to try new things and force myself out of my comfort zone. There are ways which I often work in and confidently know achieve the effect I'd like them to, but if you always use the same techniques, your work may risk end up looking quite 'same-y'. You also never know by trying out a new technique, you may find one you really like, but would have never thought to use before.

For this, I ended up with some bubbles, against a textured (yes, more texture) background, which I had scanned in:

Bubbles After Effects render, no texture
Final render, composited in Premiere pro
As the bubbles were mainly made up with an effect on After Effects with a bit of extra parameter tweaking, I'm not sure if it's the most creative solution I've ever come up with, though I feel it is effective for this clip. The pink contrasts nicely against the grey and black of the elephant and the idea of bubbles is also a contrast in terms of weight and density, compared to the heavy animal in the foreground. I'd be less happy with my choice of background if I'd have just used it straight out of After Effects, though I made it my own in Premiere Pro and I think I can just about get away with it!

Overall, I'm happy with the piece and think it's a great start to a series of small clips which are there to push my skills further. I think there are a couple of ideas used here which I'd like to progress and explore, being the textured background and the use of animating without an outer line. It was also a bit of fun to try making an animation which isn't human centred, which is what I usually produce. I'd like to animate more animals in the future- looks like another trip to the zoo is in order- unless anyone wants to let me animate your cat ;)

Some of what I listened to when making this animation:
Ed Sheeran - No.6 Collaborations Project
Test Match Special
Kermode and Mayo's Film Review (a number of episodes)
Feeder - Pushing the Senses

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