Monday, 30 November 2015

Week 10: It's going well!

As this coming week is the last week of term at university there will be a Christmas screening on Friday in the university cinema for all the students on the animation course. We're hoping to have some good completed animated shots of Alphabet Patch to show as well as lots of interesting pre-production work. So far, everything seems to be going well for us to achieve this aim - in fact we are getting through the shots quicker than I scheduled.

All of the Alphabet Patch crew are now working on assigned shots and delivering some very nice animation. I've been putting together layouts to give to the crew as I assign them their shots, and have created some backgrounds ready for Friday's screening. 

Lots of the backgrounds are close-up backgrounds such as the third one here. It has taken me a little while to get used to the style again as I have not been drawing much recently. I struggled trying to get the background to fit well with the characters and allow them to stand out well.

Producing is taking up a huge amount of my time, but hopefully after a few weeks it will settle down and become more routine. 
For Friday I am working on getting two shots completed - one is more complex than the other and they both involve dialogue.

Here is the simpler shot, I haven't yet done the facial animation nor lip sync. I am hoping to get that finished today as well as the second shot. Tomorrow I would like to have a bit of time to experiment with post production things such as adding flight lines to the ladybird character and compositing the scenes together. 
One of the animators on the project, Aaron Donlon has animated some leaves (designed by Jack) in Adobe Flash to fall down the screen. I will render out the leaf animations separately with a transparent background and alpha channels and then try placing them over some of the animated shots. Hopefully it will add some extra charm and atmosphere to the episode.

Everything is running along quite well, and it's lovely to see the episode start to come alive. I'm very happy with the progress we are making and grateful to have such a hardworking crew - although we must stay on our toes and make sure the good progress continues!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Week 9: good progress!

After several weeks I finally finished constructing and texturing the main characters for Alphabet Patch! This includes creating lots of different mouth, eye and hand shapes for each of the characters for all five angles - front, 3/4 front, side, 3/4 back and back. 
We also had the voice actor for Paddy come into university this week to record his lines, and we're very happy with how he sounds! I was very keen to do some lip sync tests so I used Paddy's voice just to test the lip syncing on all the characters. 
I'm hoping to have another recording session this week with the voice actors for Mrs Beanie and Dotty, and a final session the week after for Tony and Cecil. 

Above is the lip sync test just using Paddy's voice, but testing all of the speaking characters. Below are the complete turnarounds of the main characters with most of their replacement shapes (more shapes will need to be done for particular shots). I haven't had time to export images for Paddy and Mrs Beanie but they are done!
Lead animator for Dotty, Sophie Rippington has also done a great animation test in CelAction using Dotty's completed rig:

They do look quite terrifying with all of their shapes - Tony in particular! He has a special 'ZZZ'  shape as he spends so much time asleep during the episode. Dotty also has replacement wings, and Cecil has replacement 'slimes' which cycle as he moves (see the lip sync test video). Cecil has upright eye stalks as this makes it easier to add a limber to them in CelAction - they can then be rotated.
The original turnarounds where done in Photoshop, neatened up in Illustrator to make sure all the joints were smooth and then textured in Photoshop.

This week I also ran a CelAction training session for my animation crew and created a booklet for them detailing how to working within AP's pipeline and how to animate in CelAction. When I have time, I am hoping to make instructions for the whole pipeline from Photoshop to Illustrator to CelAction as it has taken a long time to figure out and could be useful for others.

For the session I created a test layout for the crew to experiment with and for me to test the pipeline. I will be setting up all the layouts for the animators. Each layout includes; the background or background placeholder; the actors loaded to the correct scale (and with any replacement shapes required for the scene added to their rig); the correct number of frames; any dialogue; and any props.

Above are two example layouts ready for the animators to start work, the props here were designed by Jack. 

Once a week I am meeting with my 'story group' to discuss episode ideas for the series production bible, so I will need to start producing lots of concept art and character designs to illustrate these.

This weekend I am mostly working on producing - so working out which shots are highest priority and a Plan B, and finalizing the pipeline. I'll be printing out big tracking forms for both of the films I am producing - Alphabet Patch and Falling in Love which can be stuck up in the studio for all of the crews to use. AP and FIL have very different pipelines as AP is being done in CelAction and is dialogue-heavy, whilst FIL is a TV Paint animation with no dialogue. I'm finishing off costings for each of the films too, which means looking at the amount of hours work needed vs the amount of crew we have. It'll be nice to have everything organised and ready to go into full-speed production.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Week 8 already?!

A big chunk of this week was taken up finishing my dissertation draft, which I handed in on Friday. The rest of the week was spent working on Adobe Illustrator creating replacement shapes for the Alphabet Patch characters - this means drawing extra mouths (different expressions and lip syncing), hand shapes(waving, holding, climbing etc), eyes (shut, angry, winking etc). I have to draw the replacement shapes for every turnaround angle - so one for the front view, one for the 3/4 front view, side, 3/4 back and back. It's been pretty time-consuming, having taken most of the week and I still haven't finished.
I have also been texturing the characters. It's all getting very repetitive though as I have 6 characters and 5 angles each (Dotty the lady bird has 10 angles as she stands up and also walks on all six legs).

Something different I did this week was the sketch turnaround for the ant character, which I will then give to a crew member to divide up and neaten up in illustrator.

Tomorrow we have an exciting voice recording session with Paddy's voice actor so in next week's blog post I should be able to share some lip sync tests of Paddy with you. I am also running a CelAction class on Wednesday for my crew for which all the rigs need to be complete for them to try out, so again next week I should have lots of animated goodness to show you. 

The last few weeks have been a bit of a struggle as the character construction and rigging is taking much longer than I expected, but the top of the mountain is in sight. Just have to keep going for one more week to get the characters completed. Lead animator for Dotty, Sophie Rippington has begun testing out her rig and doing some animation which I can't wait to see.

In conclusion, hang in for next week's blog post because it will hopefully be chock full of animation tests where the characters finally come alive after weeks of construction, and hopefully I can show some new backgrounds and design work. In the meantime, check out Jack's blog to see some of the props he has designed for Alphabet Patch, and animator Leigh Juggins hopefully will upload some of the animation tests he has done on his blog - these will be used as reference by the CelAction animators.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Week 7: Busy busy

Sorry for the late post this week, I was very busy over the weekend.
This week has mostly been a mix of dissertation writing, creating production documents, neatening up the character turnarounds in illustrator and testing the pipeline for Alphabet Patch.

Producing-wise I have made tracking forms, shot breakdowns, background and prop lists, and costings for the two films I am producing on: Alphabet Patch and Falling in Love.
AP and FIL both have nearly 90 shots each.
I've found Google Drive very useful to create and share these documents with the relevant crews.
Below is a small amount of the shot breakdown I made for AP, it is not yet completed - the editor Sophie Rippington is in the process of filling out the 'duration' and 'sfx' boxes for each shot. The shots are colour-coded to show the level of difficulty of each shot - this may be due to the action or due to the amount of characters in one shot and/or how much lip sync is required. The shot breakdown identifies the shots needed for the animation, the background for each shot, props, which characters are in each shot, VFX, SFX, dialogue etc. This makes it easier for me to divide up my crew's time and to start scheduling how to complete this animation.

Below is part of the tracking form for AP, we have decided to have an lead animator for each character to keep the movement consistent. This form will be filled out as we begin to animate and hopefully will be all green before the deadline.

There's still lots of to plan, I am still working out costing and assigning roles to make sure we have enough crew and time to complete the animations in time. The next big production document that I need to make asap is the schedule, but it is causing me a bit of a headache working out how to do that especially with 90 shots per film.

Besides the dissertation, the other big task this week was preparing the characters in illustrator ready to rig in CelAction. The good news is that so far the pipeline tests have been mostly successful and the rigs are turning out to to be very flexible and lots of movement can be achieved. Hopefully I will have more to post on this next week - I am hoping to make some videos showing how the rigs can be used, as well as some tutorials for my crew members to help them animating.

Throughout the week I have been designing my first business card. I'm hoping to work in children's animated TV so I choose one of my designs that was relevant to this. I was going to put 'CelAction rigger' on the card but was advised that this is quite a niche job that is usually done on the side, hopefully I will get the opportunity to do it someday anyway.

My design, I would love some feedback on this as I haven't sent it off to the printers yet so there is still time to improve it.

Anyway, I'm back to work now :)

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Week 6: Reading Week

This week gone was 'Reading Week', a chance to concentrate on researching my dissertation and that's exactly what I did. I feel that I am in a very good place with my dissertation and feeling confident about writing it up over the next two weeks.
Also this week my editor Sophie and I created another draft animatic which we will be presenting to the story group tomorrow. From that there will be some more changes to make (hopefully not too many!) for the next draft.

One thing I didn't get a chance to do this week was cleaning-up the Alphabet Patch characters ready for rigging. I have crew member Aaron Donlon doing some of the characters, and we will spend this coming week finishing them off.

The week after next week (9th November) I aim to begin animating, so I will need to do a shot breakdown of the animatic. As I am producing Jack's film too, I will also be scheduling his animation process. This heralds the start of a more hands-on producer role for me, as previously Jack had been getting on with his preproduction without much prompting. With the advent of a more involved crew, heavier producing will be required to make sure everyone knows what to, when to do it by, and that they do it.

The plan for this week coming is to get to the studio early to work on the characters, then when the studio gets busier in early afternoon to head to the library and work on my dissertation, before heading back to work in the studio again when it is quieter in the evening.

Sorry there are no images for this week's post, it  has mostly been writing and reading. But here is a picture of the pumpkin I carved for Halloween:

Jack's is on the left, mine is on the right