Outlines drawn in TVPaint, everything else in EbSynth. Probably my last blog of 2021 (though making no promises!) so if that's the case, see you next year! Have fun, stay safe and all that xo
Thursday, 30 December 2021
Outlines drawn in TVPaint, everything else in EbSynth. Probably my last blog of 2021 (though making no promises!) so if that's the case, see you next year! Have fun, stay safe and all that xo
Monday, 20 December 2021
Singing aside (not often how I start these posts, but Xmas cheer and all that), I full on caved in and treated myself to an iPad and Apple Pencil (1st gen). Not the iPad Pro mind (unfortunately they didn’t accept exposure /s), but the standard 10.2” 2021 edition which is currently at £319 (a pretty reasonable price IMO).
But, I wasn’t really able to find a suitable solution or animation app which would match TVPaint. Until, I finally found my solution: enter Callipeg. Fanfare please! Callipeg is a fairly new animation app on the scene (conceived 2020) which was built/ developed especially for iPad (all versions with iPadOS 13 or later) and Apple Pencil (both generations). The team behind it are all animators/ work in the animation industry and this knowledge is evident in the UI and usability of the app. As a professional animator myself, I can hardly fault it (especially knowing it’s still in development).
I’ve never animated on anything else beside a Mac/ MacBook, so I was pretty apprehensive going in. I mean all the videos I watched prior to purchasing my iPad made Callipeg look/ sound excellent, but I kind of thought there was something too good to be true about it (maybe I’m a pessimist)! Though there was something about it which I thought, what if it is as good as it sounded, so the iPad was purchased and the app was subsequently downloaded. As soon as I opened Callipeg, I was in love. It was perfect for what I wanted it for.
- The choice of brushes/ brush options and the fact that there was a ‘fill brush’ setting.
- The exporting: selecting ‘export with structure’ on the PNG option meant it created a new folder for each layer, rather than needing to do them separately. Please never remove this feature!!
- The interface- really easy to navigate and loved the frame forward/ backward buttons on the side panel- meaning I don’t need to keep going to the timeline to move forward a frame.
- Being able to make colour palettes for each project pretty easily.
- The ease of importing video layers.
I could go on…
Now being a bit picky, I’ll list some things I would have liked to have included:
- Firstly, an adjustment layer/ effect layer where you can change the colour of a layer by selecting all the frames. It would be so useful for adjusting colour choices near the end of the animation if something doesn’t quite look right, rather than having to go in and change them frame by frame. This is me being picky though, because I always had in mind to finalise the shots in TVPaint, which does allow me to do that.
- Another feature I wouldn’t mind seeing added would be an option when using the selection tool to delete what is inside the selection.
- Finally, the addition of clipping masks would be fantastic! These would be super useful, especially when shading.
Though if you check out their roadmap, you can see what they’re working on to add in the future, which I can see some of these features are. Also, their website has a comprehensive user guide in both written and video format, which was great for learning the app.
I also want to say that wow how good are iPads for drawing?! I have been using a trusty Wacom tablet (one without a screen) for all my animating since 2011. I thought having a tablet with a screen wouldn’t really make any difference, so never entertained using anything else before. But seriously, being able to draw directly onto a screen makes such a difference. It feels a lot more like drawing on paper, a feel I never had while using my Wacom. I honestly feel like this is such as game changer for my work. I can produce everything a lot quicker and create the brush strokes I actually want to create. I half wish I had bought an iPad Pro instead, if I knew I was going to like it this much! Next time, eh…
If anyone is unsure whether to get the app, I’d say just go for it. As far as my knowledge goes, it’s the best animation app available on iPad and I’ve not regretted it since. I'll be using it for my upcoming short film.
Below is the first clip I created on Callipeg. I finished it in TVPaint (changing the colours and adding the gradient background). It took 10 hours in total, for 61 frames, full coloured/ shaded- which I think is fairly quick...
Friday, 17 December 2021
So, after dusting off Celtx (yep, still use it), numerous outlines and script drafts later, I have a final version which I am extremely happy with and can’t wait to get filming/ animating.
Being something I’ve not done previously a lot of, I felt I needed a strong dose of validation as to whether it was actually ‘good’- subjective I know, but it terms of whether it reads well and if the story makes sense. One way of getting my head into the ‘short film way of thinking’ (I’ve literally just made that term up) whilst writing was to watch a short film every day, which I have done (and continue to do so) since around October. I watch a lot of features, but only tended to watch short films when at a film festival. Short films are a world away from features in terms of structure and so on, so I find watching a short even day a really good practise. I watch a mix of live action, animation and experimental, so I see a wide array of storytelling ideas and techniques. Watching these has kind of helped towards me 'self validating' my work and whether it could fit alongside any of the shorts I have watched.
My idea evolved from a dream I had and came together quite naturally after that. Though I would say it did take a while to mould the story into something more ‘whole’. Due to my previous experience of writing, I thought that I would be more tentative to edit my film after the first draft/ outline, but I was quite the opposite. I didn’t have much attachment to any of it, because I knew that if I wanted to make it the best film I could, then I would need to be ruthless and I was exactly that. Every edit I made was with intent of making the story stronger, rather than holding onto a shot I liked the look or idea of.
I think this shows a really nice progression in myself as a filmmaker/ director/ writer (whatever you call it), because several years ago I would have likely held onto it as much as possible and be hesitant to go past a couple of drafts. For this, I did 9 script drafts and a ton of outlines before the actual scripting stage. I expect there will be more iterations too going forward, especially after the storyboarding of it (which is next).
Another thing I did was ask for help! I asked my experienced writer friend and collaborator Alan Livesey to read through a few of the versions and provide me with notes on where the story can be improved. I listened and incorporated a lot of these into the final draft and I have him to thank for making it a stronger piece. Again, this echoes the previous paragraph in terms of my self development- I would never have done this before, or if I did, I probably wouldn't have listened or incorporated any of the feedback- probably would just have taken it personally instead.
I really enjoyed the scriptwriting process- it was like a fun puzzle to put together/ solve. At times, tricky, yes, but still a task I thoroughly relished. I liked piecing together the missing parts (from my original outline) and looping plot points back to each other and so on. It’s something I want to do a lot more of- including writing a feature film, which has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember...
See you in the next one, stay safe and all that xo
Monday, 13 December 2021
As an avid sports fan, I like doing clips related to the topic, plus I always think that rotoscope lends itself really well to sports (especially skateboarding)! Fun fact: I have only ever watched one ice hockey game IRL- though I did really enjoy myself and definitely want to do it again. Ice hockey over here in the UK is a fairly niche sport, which is probably the reason I’ve never really caught on to it, unlike say football and cricket which I watch a lot of.
With this piece, I used a continuous outline, rather than the pressure sensitive ones I use most often. I’ve not really ever explored this look before, despite being fairly Julian Opie-esque (one of my favourite artists). I do like the thick outline as it gave a really bold effect, though I think I might like to see it used in a way which is on a person who isn’t playing sport, to see if it could actually translate into any of my films (I know I said earlier that this wasn’t a potential style test, though I guess I was wrong)! So, perhaps more of this style to follow…
Thursday, 9 December 2021
For this one, I wanted to use EbSynth again with the purpose of seeing how long a clip might take from outlines to completion: full coloured and shaded etc. This was with intention of the short film ‘BEAR’ I’m making (more on that in a few posts time) to gauge how long it might take.
When using EbSynth before in my own pieces, I have always used it in a slightly experimental manner, mainly by using analogue materials. Though this time, I wanted to use it in a more ‘normal’ way and create the look of the piece digitally in a less experimental style. This was for a number of reasons- firstly to prove to myself that I can (in terms of creating something more ‘tidy’ or ‘grounded’ perhaps, rather than aways working experimentally), secondly as a time saving device (the analogue ones take longer as you have to scan them in) and thirdly to try something I’ve not tried before.
The EbSynth/ rotoscope process is quite a lengthy one, but when you get it right the results are great (IMO) and you do save a lot of time. Say, if I were to do the colouring and shading of this piece frame by frame in the style I had chosen, I’d probably still be working on it.
Due to several failed attempts of using EbSynth to create outlines, I have decided that I will do those frame by frame, leaving EbSynth purely for colouring and shading my work. I have decided this, because from my experience, using it in this manner works a lot better for the effect I want to create. Personally, I like my work to be neat/ clean and I dislike the amount of smudges/ blurs/ deformities which come when using EbSynth to create the full piece (including outlines). Plus, even if it didn’t blur or go wrong in that respect, I found it gave off a real ‘uncanny valley’ vibe, which isn’t the kind of thing I want to go for in my work. Whereas when doing the outlines by hand and using EbSynth as a shading tool, it gives a more natural look.
Using it in this way still speeds up the process and allows me to shade/ colour the characters in a way which might have previously added on hours. As I’m very practised at creating roto outlines due to my experience with doing so, I don’t find those take all that long anyway. Plus I love the process (means I get to listen to music and podcasts all day, yet still being able to create something)! Win win situation. And it’s also pretty relaxing.
For this clip, I went onto my go-to free stock footage site, Pexels (still not sponsored by them) to choose my piece of footage. I selected this video of a woman in a supermarket. I really liked the aesthetic of it, plus thought I could create something cool with it.
I always start by creating the outlines- these took just over 12 hours to complete. The clip was 55 frames long (I work at 12fps), so if my maths is correct I make it a 4.6 second clip. I don’t feel that is especially excessive- meaning I can probably complete just under 20 seconds of outlines a week. Obviously varies depending on shot size/ amount of detail/ characters in each shot.
Then it was time for the fun bit- creating the styleframe. I already had quite a strong idea of the look I wanted to go for going in to this clip, so I only did one styleframe and went with that straight away. I had in mind to do a sort of comic book/ graphic novel kind of style- clean colour blocks etc. This is what I came up with:
When EbSynth was working its magic, I made the background. To be honest, I was just kind of messing around with the mechanical pencil tool in TVPaint- a brush I’ve never really taken advantage of before. I just kind of started roughing out shapes in a pretty scribbly manner. It was never meant to be the background I actually used, but I really liked the contrast it created against the full coloured character.
Once EbSynth had finished, there was a fair amount of touch up to do. It doesn’t always create the cleanest results, especially when there is movement in the shot, so there are usually bits which need correcting. Obviously this is all cosmetic and it really does depend what style you're going for and whether you think the minute details matter. I guess you just need to figure out what’s important to what you’re wanting to go for in your work.
I must admit that I’m a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to this kind of thing, so the touch up took around 2.5 hours. Which thinking about it, for a 4.6 second clip, was probably a little too extreme. Maybe I need to work on toning this down a bit for when I make my short film- or it’ll take a lot longer for me to finish than I intend!
In conclusion, I feel like I achieved what I set out to do (and at a high standard). I proved to myself I could create a clip in this manner and not always be super experimental with what I make. I do actually really like the look here and it will be a way of working I’ll continue to develop.
Here’s the result:
Wednesday, 8 December 2021
Sunday, 5 December 2021
Friday, 26 November 2021
This was because, as regular readers of this blog may know, that I’m always striving to learn new things and improve my skillset, especially when it comes to animation. One of the main pulls for doing this though, was because it would massively help when creating backgrounds for my 2D animations- in terms of perspective, lighting and layout etc. Especially when mine are rotoscoped and lots of the backgrounds will needs to be made from scratch afterwards if I film in a studio.
With it being an open source software, I decided to just go for it- it has been in the back of mind for a while, but never went for it until now. I, like many, started with the Blender Guru’s infamous doughnut tutorial. It was a thorough and detailed course, perfect for beginners like myself.
I wasn’t sure if before starting the course, I would be able to complete it or it would look terrible or something, but how wrong I was! If there are any experienced CG people on this blog seeing the images- I expect you think it probably still looks very amateur (and I expect it does), though from a viewpoint of a complete newbie, I am really pleased with it.
I was a bit nervous at first, due to being so use to 2D programs, so was kind of afraid to touch anything at first incase it went wrong(!), though by the end, I not only had a doughnut I am quite proud of, but also a small animation to accompany it (see below). Yes, in true Flora Martyr fashion, I decided to go a bit further and have a play with the key frames to move the light around. After all, the animation side of things is partly why I decided to learn Blender in the first place.
I loved seeing the progression as the tutorial went along- kind of how it went from essentially a mesh circle, to something which looked kind of edible, and everything in between!
I'm really excited about learning this program- the things you can do with it are quite fascinating. I understand it'll take some time to get to the place where I want to be with it, though it's definitely a journey I'm willing to take...
Here’s the doughnut animated:
Thursday, 25 November 2021
Monday, 22 November 2021
I think it was a mixture of several things, such as firstly it felt a bit pointless/ directionless. Before working on the feature, I had been perfectly content with creating these ‘test’/ portfolio pieces, which I did in aid of enhancing my techniques, developing my style and experimenting with different ways of creating rotoscoped works. Though since stopping the feature (or at least in the first couple of weeks), it just felt pointless, because it felt that I was no longer working towards anything- I had basically achieved what I had always wanted to do up to that point and it felt like, ‘okay so I guess I made it, now what’.
Another reason was, because it felt like I needed to be creating my ‘best work ever’, or that this first piece ‘back’ so to speak needed to be the best thing I’ve made, especially after having worked on a feature. This, of course, put on an enormous amount of unnecessary self inflicted pressure, which also hampered me from carrying through a piece unless I knew it was going to turn out ‘perfect’. After a strict word with myself(!), I decided that this was nonsense and I needed to get back to creating work just for the fun of it, which is why I do what I do in the first place!
I decided to alleviate any pressure and just create a piece of work which I was to finish. Finishing is very important, because it shows you can carry something through. Sometimes I admittedly am not very good at, usually because of the high standards I put on myself, though it’s something I’m working to improve.
I chose a piece of footage which would allow me to experiment on, something which felt quite freeing/ loose and could have some fun with:
I selected this clip of a busy street (from the free stock footage site Pexels) as it ticked all the right boxes. At times, when animating, it did feel a bit of a slog and took a while to work up to working full days again. But suppose I did need a break as I was working super intensely for the best part of the year. It took a fair bit longer than what I would have liked/ hoped. Not that it matters anyway- it’s all arbitrary!
First, I made a styleframe to test out several styles, but opted for the one with plain block colours as I knew that I’ve not really worked in that manner before (I often use outlines), so knew it would be a great clip to loosen me up with and do something slightly different. I also thought the bright, bold colour blocks would look really effective.
I used the filled stroke tool to block out each section of the character, such as hair, skin, trousers etc, all in my trademark bright colours (I change them to more realistic later- I use colours which contrast well with the footage or I won’t be able to see what I’m doing if the colour I’m using is too similar to the reference). Another way I could have done it would be to use a brush outline and later fill in via CTG. I decided against this, because I most likely would have been tempted to use the outline after all! Plus it would have taken longer.
|Before recolouring the characters|
Several days, hours of music and podcasts listened later, the first stage of my clip was complete. Yay! It was now time to add the texture. I know I didn’t do this in the initial styleframe, but while I was animating, I thought I wanted to give the clip a little extra something. So decided to liven up the whole thing with some hand-made grain. I just wanted to make it feel a little more ‘busy’. I did this by using one of the brushes under the ‘dirty shadows’ section and created five frames filling the whole screen and then repeated them the length of the clip. I then silhouetted the character out of the grainy footage and used the blend modes and reduced opacity to merge it with the characters. Again, there are plenty of ways to created such an effect, but I decided to do it this way!
I toyed with adding cast shadows and shading, but decided against it as I knew if I kept adding and adding things, I’d never move on from this piece and spend another week or more altering it, taking away time I could spend on another piece. I had already achieved what I wanted to, so why keep adding to it?
For the background, I just kept it super simple, by creating a water colour effect using the water colour brushes in TVPaint. I didn’t want the background to be pure white, but I didn’t want to clutter it either, conscious of not wanting to take the attention away from the characters. After a little trial and error, the water colour style background suited it best.
The whole thing took a whopping 82 hours, which initially sounds a lot, but considering it being a 16 second clip with 12 characters, plus also counting the time it took for me to create the textures and to colour change each character, it was actually a quite quick clip (wow, that’s hard to say out loud) to create.
So, what do I think? I do really like it: I think the colour block characters are very effective and it was definitely the kind of thing I was aiming for. I would say I would have liked a few more characters, but then there’s the whole ‘where do I stop’ thing and I feel for a test piece such as this, I had populated it enough to sort of ‘prove’ my experiment, if you like.
See you in the next one, oh yeah, and here’s the clip:
Saturday, 23 October 2021
One was a (men’s) Vanarama National League game, the other was a Women’s Super League game. I thought after a fairly long break that the photo’s would come out terrible, but I was actually really pleased with both sets.
The editing took longer than usual though- I edited both sets over the course of several days as I found it easier editing in bitesize chunks, rather than the daunting prospect of doing them all in one go. Hopefully this won’t be the case every week, but at least I got them done, right?!
Another sports photographer I know, going by the name of Onion Bag photography happened to be at the same WSL game on the Sunday and snapped this one of me. I love this picture and it’s nice to have a high quality image of me doing what I do (finally)!
And below those are the images from West Ham United Women 1-1 Birmingham City Women. The full set can be seen HERE.
Hopefully full sets will now be a weekly thing, so do keep an eye on my Flickr and Twitter for further uploads...
Wednesday, 20 October 2021
Sunday, 10 October 2021
Friday, 8 October 2021
Thursday, 30 September 2021
Sunday, 19 September 2021
Unfortunately no one besides my boyfriend turned up for the event (which was still super fun as we had a brilliant afternoon drawing horses together!), but quite disappointing on the whole. I put a lot of planning and preparation into the workshop and in all honesty it was quite an anticlimax when I realised that I wasn't going to get any attendees. Perhaps it was because of timing- I mean a Thursday afternoon might not have been the best time for this kind of thing. Or maybe I didn't promote it enough (though there's only so much I can/ want to spam my IG/ Twitter accounts). Or perhaps lack of friends in Preston (maybe I should spend less time in my room animating and do more socialising). That thought scares me..!
|Me in my element. Look at that smile!|
The other events I attended were the Cyanotype workshop with photographer Nicola Lewis-Dixon. This was really fun as I've never done one of these before (basically cameraless photography). I'd love to try this out more in my own time.
The writing workshop hosted by writer and filmmaker Su Moffat. I've not attended many writing workshops (or at least not as an adult- I remember a few when I was a kid) so I didn't quite know what to expect. Though Su was really good at encouraging ideas and offered some great tips/ prompts for improving creative writing and pulling out a story.
|Still went for abstract colours though didn't I|
If I had the time, I would have loved to have attended more of these events- they all sounded fantastic and from the photographs afterwards, they looked great, too! I really hope this momentum and community of creativity in Preston continues, because it actually feels really good and positive at the moment.
Lancashire Encounter is happening right now. Head here for the line up. There's also a lot of top class poetry/ comedy/ performances coming up, hosted by Enjoy the Show events promotion. Preston has also just released it's 12 year cultural strategy- read more about that here.
Saturday, 4 September 2021
Friday, 3 September 2021
The workshop is a drop in from 1-3pm, where you can be part of a BIG collaborative animation. Also, you don’t need any prior animation experience- just the enthusiasm to create! How cool is that?! All materials and assistance will be provided. Hot drinks and refreshments are available to be purchased at the venue- would recommend!
This is part of the #collectiveweekender, a 4 day creative festival across Preston, celebrating the diversity of the creativity that goes on in and around Preston.
The events range from photography to poetry, from dance to drawing and EVERYTHING (yep, everything) in between!
To see a full list of events and to book your FREE places, click here. To see all the creatives involved, click here.
Hope to see some of you down there xo
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.