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!

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