Saturday, 17 July 2021
Wednesday, 30 June 2021
…And shortly after that, I started working on another. In between then and now, I got a full time gig animating on a super amazing project, I bought some shoes which don’t have holes in and I learnt how to use EbSynth. I also painted all of the 103 frames for this second hand-painted piece, along with having drawn all the outlines frame by frame in TVPaint.
|The hand painted frames (some of)|
So, the title of this post is called ‘EbSynth Test #2’ and you’re probably thinking, ‘right, so she’s pretty much done all the leg work for this, why is she even talking about her new obsession in this blog post’?
Ok, so I basically didn’t want the outlines or the paint work to have gone to waste, but at the moment, realistically I would never have found the time to produce a piece in the same way I did the first painted one. So I thought this would be a great opportunity to practise colouring with EbSynth. Using it ‘just’ to colour a clip still saves a load of time (it literally took hours to scan and clean up all the individual painted frames in the previous one).
Side note: I am currently working on a piece to get smooth outlines using EbSynth- once I’ve managed that, then there’ll be a post here, so keep an eye out in the next few weeks!
Having the outlines down already put me in an advantage, because it meant I could give EbSynth something more workable to urm, well, work with. Also, another side note: I coloured in her facial features in TVPaint such as eyes, brows, lips etc as I was working quite small when painting this piece and knew painting all that detail would have added on a lot more hours. If I were to do the keyframes again, I would have painted everything as I would only be needing to paint it a couple of times, as opposed to 103.
As you can see above, I exported the PNG sequence of both the video file and some of the outlines for EbSynth. Having a solid outline for it to follow, I’m assuming made it easier for EbSynth to give a cleaner output. I also brightened the video slightly, along with adding a little contrast, to make it stand out more.
Once I knew what PNG sequence I’d be putting into EbSynth, I needed to create the keyframes. Like I said at the start of this post, I had already painted all the frames, so it was a case of picking out a couple and scanning those, rather than all of them. As this shot has a head movement and an arm movement, I wanted to make two keys which would give EbSynth enough information of each.
I made keys of the first frame and the last frame:
|Frame 1 (with outlines)|
|Frame 103, no outlines (what I fed to EbSynth)|
I scanned in the painted frames at 1200dpi and then exported the outlines from TVP of the relevant frames to Photoshop (this would act as a guide so I could resize the painted versions to match the outlines). Here, I cleaned up some blemishes on the paint work and also erased the white paper surrounds. EbSynth works well with an alpha channel and I didn’t want to sit there afterwards and remove the background of 103 frames or it totally would have defeated the object of using EbSynth. If I removed the background for the keyframes, EbSynth would use that information and keep those sections as an alpha channel too. Cowabunga, dude!
Once I had nice clean versions of the keys, I ran them through EbSynth and waited patiently for it to work it’s magic and 10 or 20 mins later (my computer is crazy slow) I had the frames ready to import back into TVP. Also, with the keys, I switched off the outline layers before inputting them to EbSynth. This was so there wouldn’t be an outline on those layers, as it wasn’t needed and would have made it look messy.
I had no idea how it would turn out, but wow I was happy with the result. It was a lot cleaner than I was expecting. Though it definitely still needed touching up in places:
Ignore the pink background- that’s just a placement background as a neutral colour to allow me to see the bits I needed to clean up better. Most of it was a case of just erasing the parts which came out of frame, though there were some bits (mainly on her hand) where EbSynth completely missed the mark. To fill these in, I used the cut brush and made a custom brush from it, allowing me to use the right colour and texture from the painted frames without the new bits standing out or looking weird. Think of it like the clone tool in Photoshop basically.
|Where it missed on her hand|
I also added the shading using EbSynth which I did on a separate layer. I used 3 keyframes for this and then blended them together. I don’t really add shading to my work mainly due to time constraints, though of course EbSynth allows me to add shading without much extra effort. And I must admit it looks a lot better than the stuff I’ve done previously without shading. So shading is going on everything from now on!
An improvement for this would be that perhaps I could have added the shading as I painted it or digitally added it in a more painterly way. Or even used a blend mode to make it feel more ingrained. Anyway...
So what does this mean for an independent animator like myself?
The big one: it saves so much time! I can get more done in a shorter amount of time, allowing me to spend more time focussing on style, look and story, as opposed to that energy going into drawing each frame. It literally is a game changer! To make an independent short or feature, it will really help speed the process up, meaning I could make something in a fraction of the time it would normally take. How cool is that?!
I also don’t think a program like this will be something which takes jobs away from animators. As I have just outlined here, a lot of human work is still needed to create an effective piece. Yes, it speeds up the work, but just think of how a program like this can help the independent feature and short film industry. Less time to produce work = less cost to make work = more independent work produced without having to rely on funding = more diverse, cool, interesting animations. Win.
Ps. I know this post was kind of long- I hope I was able to explain everything in a fairly concise or at least clear manner. If you’ve any questions after reading this on EbSynth or my process, then just drop them below and I’ll try and answer as best as I can.
Saturday, 12 June 2021
Monday, 7 June 2021
I wished I had opened it sooner!
Spoiler alert: the results aren’t great, but for the short time I’ve spent using the program so far combined with what I have seen on YouTube and Instagram, I can tell that I’m going to have a lot of fun using it and it has massive potential. It’s also open source, meaning it’s absolutely free and you can download it for yourself HERE. This is not a sponsored post by the way(!) I genuinely am loving it so far.
So basically, EbSynth is a program (or software- do they mean the same thing?!) which allows you to create altered videos from essentially one keyframe via a texture synthesis algorithm. Pretty cool. I’m not here to really explain the ins and outs or terminology of what it can do (check out their website) for that as they can totes do it better than me, but I will explain my process and my thoughts about it etc. Also there’s loads of tutorials on YouTube about how to work it, so check those out as well!
To get EbSynth to work, you need a piece of footage you want to manipulate and then at least one altered keyframe, such as something painted or hand drawn, or whatever style or medium you want the finished video to look. It’s kind of like a Snapchat filter, but more hi-tech!
|Frame from the footage|
For EbSynth to be able to do its thing well, you need to pick a frame with as much readable information in, meaning you don’t want any objects to be hidden, mouth to be closed, eyes to be shut, something overlapping the character etc. My clip had a fair bit of movement in it and a head turn, so I actually decided to make 5 keyframes.
|One of the keyframes|
I did this because I wanted to give EbSynth as much information as possible for it to work as well as it can. As there was a head turn, it was important that I keyed both the profile view and the back of his head, or EbSynth wouldn’t have the information of what the back might look like, therefore the animation wouldn’t look as smooth. Or maybe even super glitchy and weird. I didn’t stay to find out! Perhaps I could have got away with less keys, but for someone who is so used to drawing every frame all the time, five out of 57 felt like pretty much nothing.
I sketched them out real quick in TVPaint with a bold line. I just wanted to see the parameters of the program in this first venture and then later I’ll do more experimentation with styles, colour etc etc.
Anyway, once you have the keys and the image sequence (note: sequence, not a moving image file) of your footage, then that’s where the fun can begin.
As said, totally new here, so it took a little trial and error to get a clip I was happy with. The interface of the program is pretty basic, but don’t let that fool you! The settings take a bit of getting used to. Anyway, for this final version, I found that it was better to output each keyframe sequence into separate folders and blend them myself in Premiere after, rather than let EbSynth blend it for you by locating them all to the same folder, which I did in the first go.
I mean just look at this frame it created:
Also, apparently EbSynth doesn’t like bits going out of frame/ edge of frame or it doesn’t really know how to handle it. If I’d have known this prior to using this clip, I would have chosen a different piece of footage which didn’t touch the edge.
For a first test, I am happy with what I’ve achieved, though I definitely want to push it further and get more creative with styles and techniques. As said, this was a super quick test to see what I can do with it (or if I could even work it for that matter!), hence the clip not being the most exciting thing to have ever graced the internet!
I think I can implement it not only in an experimental way, but also in a practical way, once I get the hang of the software. This would mean (in my case) colouring and/ or shading my rotoscoped line work (as those are the things which seem to add on the most time). As always, keep an eye out on here for more developments in my rotoscopy stuff!
Here’s the final version:
And here’s a side by side, so you can see the comparison:
Sunday, 9 May 2021
I sometimes go through these stages where I look at my work and think that it really needs loosening up. Or it’s boring/ same-y etc. When I have these feelings, I decide to give myself small exercises to get me feeling less like what I’ve just described. Sometimes these go completely ‘wrong’ (or not what I intended), resulting in feeling worse about my work, though sometimes they turn out quite nicely and makes me feel like I’ve moved my work forward. This is the latter.
I decided to do some silhouettes of a flock of birds flying, because it seemed like a fun clip to make, plus completely aside from anything I’ve ever done before. Or at least aside from a lot of my recent work. I also knew it would be a fairly quick clip to create, whilst still being effective. To be able to produce something quickly was important for me in this exercise, because I didn’t want to be working on something for weeks just doing an hour or two here and there, feeling I was making little progress. It needed to be something I could do in a weekend.
Completing a piece of work was an important factor of this exercise, because it feels like I’ve not managed to complete anything of my own for a while (besides that of what I’m doing in my day job), despite me working on a few bits and pieces- though all are taking a long time.
This clip was great for pushing me away from my usual work, plus it was nice to finally have completed something new outside of my amazing job (which is also animating, but unfortunately can’t share anything from it just yet). Keep your eyes out on Netflix for it’s release later this year.
I decided to go super simple with this one in terms of both style and colour palette. I don’t often work with silhouettes, but this shot of birds lent itself to working in that way nicely and I feel it really paid off for this clip- and definitely something I’d love to bring into future projects of mine. I also inverted the colours- usually I’d do black on white, not the other way around, so this clip was really useful in helping me try techniques I usually wouldn’t.
I love how the end result looks and I especially like how it’s shown me that a clip doesn’t have to be over complex for it to work as a piece. More like this going forward then, perhaps…
The background this time is a collage from old art of mine and sudoko puzzles, which I cut up and scanned in. I liked the fact that art which doesn’t have much meaning to me anymore was able to take on a new life in another piece of work. Plus a great way to be able to recycle (or maybe upcycle is the preferred term?) some of my work, before it gets put in the waste paper. I love the textures this created and is also very much in keeping with my love of merging analogue and digital techniques.
Saturday, 24 April 2021
|Scenic: Burton Thistle FC|
It has been really enjoyable being back thus far, especially for the photography side of things- I don't really take photographs of much else besides football and architecture these days (read more about why here), so this was a welcome return not only for fulfilling my football fix, but also satisfying another of my creative outlets. Keep an eye on my Twitter and/ or Flickr for more- I don't tend to blog about all the games I go to, just a select few.
Friday, 9 April 2021
Saturday, 3 April 2021
|Festival organiser Garry Cook (@gazcook)|
Friday, 2 April 2021
Saturday, 27 March 2021
The next clip in my 'every day' series (I mean in terms of what the characters are doing in each shot, as opposed to what I create every day [even though I do animate every day]) is a woman eating cereal. Action packed as that might be! But I just love animating people doing 'normal' kind of things, but then playing around with style and technique to see which direction I can take it. Animation aside: porridge is totes my favourite breakfast cereal (can't beat something warm to eat first thing IMO), flavoured with cinnamon and a few sultanas. And I have the cooling time down to a 't', so Goldilocks, HANDS OFF!
There aren’t loads more of these clips I'm intending to share despite the fact that I have a fair amount left. This is because I completed them in autumn 2020 and although I felt they were, at the time, a ‘jump up’ from some of the earlier work I created that year, having metaphorically ‘jumped up’ another level or so since, I am not pleased with all of the clips and therefore won't be publicising them. Even though I enjoy sharing the work I create, I don’t feel the work is ‘wasted’ if I decide not to share it anywhere. Each piece I complete is something I learn from, thus enhancing my practise and making me a better animator, whether anyone else sees it or not. I guess it’s a bit like the whole ‘if a tree falls in the forest’ thing, maybe..?!
Saying this, at times you might see a post on this blog where I do write about work I am not that pleased with, but that is more for reasons of personal reflection and it is usually something current, rather than digging through older, ropier stuff purely so I have something to share on social media. On the whole though, I prefer to put out work which I feel best represents my skill set or level of competence at the time of sharing. But I am fine with leaving my older work up, so I can see a clear path of progression to where I am at presently. I love learning!