A brand new animation I finished at home 2 days back. It was supposed to be an exercise in subtle character dialogue animation.Its about a spy and his assistant having a chat at the bar. Given below is the process about how I went about creating this piece of animation.
First was the hunt for a nifty dialogue piece that showcased the kind of a chemistry between the characters that was quite subdued and yet showed them in a little bit of conflict. So I head on to MovieWavs! site. It has a great collection of clipped dialogue pieces from many films, old and new. I always manage to find an interesting one whenever I visit the site. Truly a great animation resource!
So, after weighing the pros and cons of various dialogues, I settled on this piece of dialogue from the movie, Spy Game. It’s one of the coolest spy movies I’ve seen so it was a thrill to animate dialogues by Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. Though, I do not remember the scene in the movie where the dialogue takes place, which actually is a good thing because I didn’t want to beat around the same idea as in the movie and be married to the original idea and not create something different and better, as it would not serve the main cause of creating this piece of animation, i.e. force myself to think of better ideas than the obvious ones. But, there is one thing that I wanted to keep the same, i.e. the bar feel of the shot. I’ve always wanted to animate a bar scene for some strange unknown reason, seeing as I’m not the kind of person to drown myself in booze every now and then. I guess it stemmed from the fact how Rango left me with a dropped jaw and a hole in my mind, that I wanted to try a scene in a bar. Also, I’ve learned very recently about how really important music really is to a scene. It just elevates the whole thing to a super high pedestal. Try watching a movie with the sound off and you will notice how you miss the real cues that music gives to our minds and manipulate us to make us feel what the character is feeling. Music is a very powerful tool in a director’s kitty. Music does deserve a blog post of its own. Maybe someday soon, heh !
Moving on to planning the shot, I had an idea in my head and I went about doing rough scene planning and layout on paper. I kinda knew what I wanted so I went for it directly instead of beating around the bush that happens when you are being directed by someone at work. I sometimes also try creating specific characteristics for each character which surely help in nailing down how the character will react to certain situation. I try to look for the ‘subtext’ in the dialogue. Subtext is a very very powerful tool that each animator ought to learn to find. Subtext, in simple terms, means looking for beyond the obvious something, that is actually at the core of a characters beliefs. What the character is saying, and what he really means/ or wants to say, but doesn’t due to certain rules of their universe/paradigm. Subtext is definitely GOLDEN ! GOLDEN ! GOLDEN !
Practicing at home is a cool way to do what your heart desires (but we should not be oblivious to that fact that there would always be better ideas/suggestions and we should never run from criticism. Criticism is the most powerful tool one may have, if taken positively) The following are scans of my drawing pad which outline the basic planning I went through for the shot.
The following are scans of the keys I thought I would be using in the animation. Since I do not posses great drawing skills, I do not rely on my drawing to give me the best poses possible.
I do add on to the poses when I work in 3d space since the poses I draw are nowhere near what I want. I do a lot of work in my mind than I do on paper. And that includes a lot of planning. I can’t and never will be able to get anywhere without planning. Planning is at the core of anything I do. Although, in this particular piece of animation, I may not be able to show all the steps I went through, as I hadn’t planned on doing a walkthrough for it.
Then, I proceeded onto making my scene setup, where I set the characters and the props, etc, the way they ought to be. I set the cameras and cuts the way I want them to be and I’m ready to finally animate (though there are some parts I’ve not planned out yet, which is something definitely not recommended to beginner animators) I block the scene out as per the basic poses I had sketched and enhance them. After the main story telling poses, I added the breakdowns.
Ok, here is another golden tip – Try to tell as much of your story as you can through your keys and breakdowns combined with timing. If your keys and breakdowns aren’t able to portray what you want them to, then no amount of anything else in the world can save your shot from doom !
After the breakdowns, and much of tweaking them, I was happy with what I ended up with. And then it was just an easy time splining the keys from the stepped mode. Many veteran animators suggest to go from stepped to linear to spline mode. However, it is quite subjective to what works for each of us. It is very important to develop your own workflow that makes you feel comfortable and yet provides super speed to your work.
And then, for the nuances that elevate the scene to a little higher like adding the spectacles to the yellow fox to make him look a little less serious yet smart, and the weird slimey liquor in their glass. The liquor was done by giving a simple blendshape shape for it to tilt its surface left and right to simulate a liquids motion in a glass. I didn’t want to spend much time on the modelling so I found an image online that resembled what I wanted the look to be. A wall fully stacked with liquor bottles. Applied the image as a map on a plane and put it behind them. Since I wanted a bar feel to the shot, I wanted dim lights, and hence, reduced the intensities of my lights and gave them a blue tint. And off we go for the render.
It took me a total of about 15 hours to get this done during a span of 3 days working part time. I hope this was helpful to you in some way as I always wished to have walkthroughs like this one, when I started out animating. Since doing this is new to me, I’ll try to be more concise the next time. Till then, take care, have fun animating and never let go of your passion ever, no matter how hard it is. Never stop practicing !