Saturday, 27 June 2020

Windrush Day 2020

Some images from the important and significant 'Raising the Flag' event in Preston 22/6/20 for Windrush Day.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Style Development

In a recent post I discussed my process of creating a short clip using a 'new' (to me) realistic, less 2D style. Since, I have made a second, developing on the previous one in various ways. This is that video:

Again, I used footage from Pexels. The main points I wanted to improve upon from the first one, was a) the line thickness and b) how real it looked. I also wanted to speed up the process. I'll start with that.

As described in more detail in the previous post the process is to use TVPaint for the outlines and colouring, then use Photoshop to 'cartoonify' the original footage, which sits below the TVPaint coloured layers which I then blend together. Finally, composite in Premiere Pro.

Last time when I took the layers into Photoshop, after cartoonifying (definitely a word) them I used the pen tool to cut around the figure on each layer. All 83 of them. This was so the footage would directly match both the outline and colour layers from TVPaint. I did this, because at the time I couldn't use After Effects to use a mask, as when I brought in the PNG sequences, the amount of frames was coming in at a reduced 60 something, rather than the 83 frames the sequence contained. I couldn't work out how to solve this straight away, as I wanted to get the clip finished and 'published'. This resulted in me manually cutting around each one.

After a break and a little bit of help from my good friend Google, I found the solution. It turned out that After Effects was bringing in the PNG sequences at 30fps, rather than the 24fps my film was in. I had to just right click on each sequence and 'interpret footage', setting each to the preferred frame rate of 24. Hopefully this might help someone else out if you're too struggling with the same problem! This then enabled me to make a mask so I didn't have to cut out each frame, therefore speeding up the process.

In the previous video, I felt the black outline was too thick for the full length character shot. I used a 3% line thickness with pressure variation, drawing at 100% zoom. Looking back, I probably should have used a reduced brush size, such as 2% or less. As this one was a mid shot, rather than a long shot (in terms of shot size), I did actually keep with the 3% brush, but I felt like this was the correct choice as it doesn't look too thin or thick. Going forward, I will use 3% for this size, thicker for closer and thinner for something more full length.

Lastly, I said I felt the previous one was a bit too realistic looking, especially when watching it on a small screen like a phone. As I didn't want it to become too realistic, for this clip I turned the opacity down just enough so the pattern on her shirt came through, along with highlights/ shadows on her face and torso, though not enough for it to lose it's animated aesthetic. I feel the result of this clip is much stronger than the previous one.

Going forward, I would still like to develop this style and see what other ways I can push it in. As ever, watch this space for more of similar! Any questions or comments, drop them below :)

Monday, 15 June 2020

Black Lives Matter

Some images from Preston's Black Lives Matter protest 14/6/20. Link to some resources/ ways to help HERE.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

New Way of Colouring

Being as I apparently can't stop working(!), I have completed *yet another* rotoscope test clip. Well what else am I to do when there is no football to photograph eh? I've always been one for constantly improving my style and learning new techniques, so here I present you with 'Woman Walking Down Steps':

Sorry, should have mentioned the spoiler alert in the title!

This clip came about, because I wanted to add more depth to my animations in terms of colour. If you are familiar with my style then you will know that I usually keep the look of them very 2D and simplistic, with little to no shadow or lighting on the characters. This is usually a time constraint issue rather than a stylistic choice, though has inadvertently developed into a style over time.

I was having a bit of an experiment with ways to add shadow to each frame, though didn't want to draw the highlights, low lights and mid tones separately on each image. Or I would still be doing that and probably not stop doing that until some time in the future where I will have grey hair and have probably lost interest in said shading! Nothing was really working that well or displaying the effect I wanted, until whilst re-watching the greatest animated series of all time (don't @ me) 'Undone', I had some inspiration.

As you can see in the above trailer, the outlines are drawn like I would usually outline an image, though how the characters are coloured is very painterly. I didn't want to replicate this exactly, because it's not my place to do so and would be plagiaristic, but I decided to do my own version of this effect. I thought that I could 'cartoonify' (totally not a real word, but whatever) the original footage, add my outlines to said footage, cut around the layers, composite and voila, I would have a nicely rendered animation.

That sounds wayyy simpler than it actually was, so I'll take you through the steps I took to create it. Firstly, I drew around each frame in TVPaint, like I normally would when animating:

I then made a separate 'colour' layer:

I exported each of those layers separately into PNG sequences, plus exported another sequence of the original footage. These original footage layers are the ones which I imported in to Photoshop. For each of the 83 frames in Photoshop, I added a number filters to make the image appear like a cartoon. First, I added an Oil Paint effect, followed by Paint Daubs, Angled Strokes and Sponge, altering the parameters of each. I then added the outlines to each layer and used to pen tool to cut around the subject (took approximately three minutes for each). I repeated this 83 times and then removed the outline layers:

As this test wasn't especially about the background, but more about the character, I just quickly drew some colourful step layers in TVPaint and exported those, too. I wanted to have something in the background, but didn't want it to be overbearing or excessively time consuming, so these colourful blocks would suffice. I then imported all four PNG sequences in to Premier Pro. Outlines at the top, the plain colour layer second, followed by the cartooned original footage layers and finally the steps.

I used a 50% opacity on the plain colour sequence, so it blended just enough with the cartooned layer, leaving enough of each to show through. I tweaked the brightness, contrast and curves on the cartooned layer, so it would look even less realistic.

As a first test, I feel I achieved almost what I wanted and it does definitely give my animated work a less 2D look, with texture and shadow. I probably could have upped the contrast further, to enhance this, as I think the outcome appears a little too realistic still. I also wish I had used a thinner outline. All of these improvements can be applied and I am well on the way to achieving a look not only which I am happy with, but also has a feasible workflow. I think colouring the characters like this adds a lot more depth to them and is a style which I want to take into future projects. Footage is from Pexels. If you have any further Q's, then just drop them below and I'll try and answer!

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Testing the Water

I am the animation director of a short film which is currently in it's development stages. The project involves a lot of water. In every scene. And of varying types: sea, swimming pool, bath (and others). Despite the project being in it's early stages, I felt it was (and is) important to experiment or test how to portray the water and also how to produce it, as water is notoriously difficult to animate. I like a challenge! There are also numerous ways of creating animated water and wanted to settle on an aesthetic myself and the team are happy with, before shooting the assets to animate. This is because the way I choose to animate the water might affect how we shoot the film.

I have animated water previously, though in very limited ways:


The second (above) being more of an impressionistic/ abstract take. I have never animated it for more that one scene though and definitely not as a prominent feature of the film, like the one I am currently working on.

Obviously as it's a 2D animation, the water doesn't need to be extremely accurate or realistic: I'm not trying to recreate water in a photorealistic fashion. What I do want to do though, is illustrate it in a way where it's not distracting to the viewer and fits within the animation style and feel of the film.

For this attempt, I wanted to practise with a quite basic shot, so I used my hand in my bathroom sink (welcome to the glamorous world of animation):

I used TV Paint to drawn the hand, which comprised of two elements: the hand over the water layer and the hand under the water layer. Between the two layers will then sit a blue fill layer, representing the water.

Hand over water
Hand under water

With the hand over water layer, I used a 3% line thickness and on the hand under layer, I used a slightly thinner, 2.5% line. This was because a less 'heavy' line would give a stronger appearance of it being under water. I like to think this translated well in the finished piece.

I wanted the background to be a sea bed, so created a sand effect in Photoshop, coupled by a slight blur and vignette effect when brought it into After Effects, which I used to composite the elements:

To make the water look slightly more realistic, I added a fractal noise:

Then a tritone effect:

And finally CC glass, which gives it an extra shine:

I feel it mostly achieves what I want it to, though there is definitely room for improvement- perhaps I could tone down the fractal noise, so it doesn't look so obviously generated by After Effects. I would have also liked to have added some ripples as the hand moves through the water, otherwise it looks a little odd. I did add a shine to it in TV Paint, which does emphasise the hand movement, but I still think more can be done.

Watch this space for more tests in the next few months!