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!

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