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Sunday, 16 November 2008

Character Animation - Week 3-8

As promised the next article... Character performance or acting is what this project is all about. Its our first real encounter with proper acting, and the techniques of acting. And goddamn its difficult...

So the project's objectives is to find an audio clip with someone speaking, develop a suitable character for the dialogue, and animate the character.

The first task of finding the audio clip was a bit more challenging than I initially expected. Although we had all forms of media to choose from, ei. radio, movie, audio book, interviews etc. The problem was in the specifications that we were recommended to follow. Firstly its a single character talking for 10ish seconds, which limits a lot of dialogue. Secondly it had to be interesting, and that's not interesting as in what the person is saying, but how its being said. We basically needed to find a character talking for ca. 10 seconds, whom experiences an emotional change expressed through the voice.
I finally found a piece of dialogue I was happy with. The audio clip is from a movie called "Boondock Saints" with Willem Dafoe playing a detective trying to solve some murder cases (there is only black screen, so you can hear the audio on its own):-

With the dialogue clip in place, I could proceed onto developing a suitable character for the performance. My initial idea for was a teacher. The setup would be the teacher having a go at a pupil. This idea I developed further with design sketches. Though when I had discussed the character with friends and mentors, I found the idea to be weak. It was too generic to just have a teacher. I then went back to the idea stage, and explored other ideas like a caveman, psychologist, priest, TV presenter (at Countdown or the danish "Lykkehjulet"), Jesus, judge. The one I found to be most promising was the idea of a priest. Then after some further exploring, I combined the two ideas to a sunday school teacher at a catholic church. The designs and the rest of the preproduction can be view here:-

Further in the this stage there is the figuring out who your character really is, like; his age, his name, his upbringing, sexual orientation, temperment etc. All this is never shown on camera, but it helps me to understand who this person is and how he might react in a certain situation.

The next thing to do is the acting. This is an extreme weak spot of mine, and my god I need to get better. Just need to practise I guess. After this project I have a much greater respect for actors/actresses for their performances on screen. Anyway here the best reference I did:-

As you can see I didn't give myself very much to go on. So the caricaturering and nice poses need to be created in the thumbnails. The thumbnails can be see in the flatwork at the end. To get a better understand about whether a pose or the whole sequence works, you need to make an animatic. An animatic is a simpel animation, usually drawn since its easier to draw a pose than having to pose a character. This stage is used to determine when, and how long a pose should read. The animatic can then later be used a blueprint for when you pose the character in a 3D application. Here's how my animatic looked:-

Since this is my first animatic, I learn a lot during the process which I can use the next time. One thing in particular is the level of detail I should but into the animatic, which is a lot more than I did for this one. One of my teachers alerted me to the second function of the animatics, which is for the directors. The director or superviser should be able to watch your animatic, and get a pretty good sense of how the final thing is gunna turn out. This way they can adjust the changes before the animator gets too stuck in the animation (even then they might change a lot of stuff). So for the next time I should be more descriptive in the animatic...

We can now move on to the blockout stage. Here I follow a well tested process of creating the animation, which originated from Keith Lango. In the blockout stage you focus on creating the keyposes and breakdowns, and more technically your animation jumps from pose to pose. This makes is easier to focus on just the poses, and not worry about inferior animation like lip-sync. Here my blockout:-

There is quite a difference between this and the final thing. The whole process is a working progress, and poses are constantly changing because of feedback from the director/audience. I had a quite a few people to look a the different stages, which provided me with incredibly important comments and changes. So if you are one of those people then I thank you for the awesome input and I'll most likely ask again for some feedback:-)

Alright so the next I want to show is the final thing, BUT before I do that I want to make sure that you might understand the amount of work that is put into this (6 weeks of my life:-s). The process of going from the blockout stage to the final thing is a big step, so I'll show you a screen recording of one hours worth of work. The video is fastforwarded about 20 times realtime:-

This is a really boring video to watch cause I don't do a lot. I just seem to fiddle about with the head/neck/eyes. But this is nearing the completion, so its a lot about adjusting small details, and not actually creating any poses. So I'll hopefully remember to make a more interesting timelapse the next time around, maybe early in the blockout stage where you can see the creation of each pose.

I think I have been ranting on a while now, so I'll just show the final rendered version:-

And now you might say; "You SPEND 6 week of you life on these measly 13 seconds of animation!?!?"..... but hopefully I have given you a bit of insight of what I have been doing with those 6 weeks. Apart from the animation, I have learnt a ton about acting and character performance. So I'll be able to make some more interesting animations from now on. Further I have been working on other personal projects, which I will be able to show at some point in the future (what a tease:-)

Hope you enjoyed the random brainjuice spilled onto this article, I will leave you with the original video clip from the "Boondock Saints":-