Hope Animation Assignment – Development and Evaluation

Initially, when I started this assignment, I created a series of goals in Asana. I organised these by task and date, assigning them certain days and general time-frames to achieve in order to accomplish the assignment in an efficient and timely manner. Once this was in place, I began researching and ideating.

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 When it came to research, I investigated several topics;Hope (meaning, in historical and philosophical context, references that are both visual and non-visual, and how hope is used in an example of art, design,literature and or film), 2D animation (methods, techniques, story and content etc.),storyboards, animatics and software.
Once all that research had been compiled and written about,with references and images gathered, I moved onto ideation and sketchbook work.I started with an idea of a triangle, rising and projecting light in a dark world. This light would fall upon a figure, whom is in despair upon the ground,while several more triangles appear in the distance as the sky lightens. A series of notes regarding the storyline, key points and visual elements were created,supplemented with several sketches and thumbnails. My sketchbook, as it progresses, includes more notes and drawings, as well as storyboards and character exploration.

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The direction I took, stylised and semi-abstract, was heavily influenced by research into colour and shape language, especially in relation to the concept of hope and the emotional connotations of those elements. This is evident in the shapes I chose, with an upside-down triangle for the representation of future hope and a better future, flipping the usual connotation of the violent and aggressive shape language that is normally interpreted through triangles. For hope, I used a circle as a representational tool; combined with white and its fleeting appearances in the story, it puts forth a narrative on the elusive nature of the concept.
With several different shapes and value combination present,I needed to find a way to separate them, as well as introduce texture. To do so, I created several sketches, assigning value groups to certain shapes and foreground, middle ground and background sections. To add further character to the story, the character was developed further, seeking out a consistent style to use in the animation. After much exploration, both into simplified/stylised,realistic/semi-realistic, angular and soft, line and broad/charcoal strokes, I settled on a combination of line and charcoal strokes, with the character moving between both the ‘medium’ and visual style as well. Fluctuations between construction-esque manikins, simplified skeletons, fleshed-out bodies and charcoal strokes were made, each representing a certain emotional state, as well as the position of the character in the story.
The bare, simplified and skeletal styles, as well as the constructionist ones, symbolise the emptiness of the character, with some order being restored to their being when the orb/sphere appears and returns throughout the animation. The charcoal strokes, with the character being ‘filled in’, represents the character before the turmoil and distress, as well as afterwards. This shows the character as ‘whole’, his being undisturbed by chaos and discord. Colour experimentation, as well as storyboard development,was explored as well. The colour-work in my sketchbook was done using colour pencils, with a fine-liner being another medium/tool that I used.
The final storyboard, of which I created digitally in Photoshop, does not deviate too heavily from the one in my sketchbook. It was also used to construct my animatic, making the process much more efficient.
For the storyboard, made in Photoshop, I attempted to create a good indication of the story, visuals, content and camera  angles/shots/movements. I used a template found online, creating groups for each storyboard and its respective panels to ensure better structuring and layering. The first panel, depicting the character while still in a happy state, has bright blue and cyan colours in evidence. The character stands tall and proud, confident and happy. This panel makes use of arrows and a rectangular inner frame to illustrate zooming in, where a transition occurs towards panel two. There, a vignette effect is displayed, showing chaos or struggle that is occurring in the character’s life. The third panel shows the character in a dark, textural void with tendrils of black and red swirling towards him, contrasting the ones found in panel 1. This reflection and juxtaposition of the first panel reinforces the idea that the character is going through a difficult time, with elements of his life that were previously positive now affecting him negatively. Afterwards, a transitional sequence is depicted through several panels, with textural effects, custom brushes,masking, layering and grouping being used to create these visuals. Those abstract and textural images, which will flash upon the screen briefly, are representations of the inner turmoil faced by the character. After a series of those images, a panel depicting the character falling is shown. Here, a dark background with a static texture is evident, showing the confusion and negativity imbued in the perceived chaotic void of life.
However, in the panel after this, a white sphere appears before the character, whom raises their head to view it. The camera angle here is slightly above over-the-shoulder, showing the top of the back of the character’s head with the sphere above and before him. The camera will then cut to a view of the character’s face from the front, lifting his head up to face the orb/sphere in the foreground. The camera, in the next panel, is then further back. Here, the character turns to track the sphere as it moves across the screen. It will then fly up and away from the character as he stretches out towards it. Clearly distraught in the next panel, as he has effectively lost his fleeting glance at hope, he walks in a slumped manner before lifting his head once again to view the orb return. In this next panel, the sphere/orb travels towards and around him as he tracks it, turning side to side as it orbits him before flying off into the distance.
Once again, the character has ‘lost hope’ and struggles togo on, stumbling in the dark void he inhabits. Shortly after stumbling to the ground, another transitional sequence of abstract shapes and textures appears.Following that, a scene where an abstract representation of the character’s ‘soul’ is depicted, showing how he experiences great emotional and spiritual pain from the complete absence of hope. He falls into despair, as shown in the next few panels. Here, several camera angles show him on all-fours, within the dark void he still inhabits. After a while, a light begins to shine upon him.This heralds the return of the orb, of which orbits him once again. He then lifts his head, the next panel showing a much more colourful scene; the sun is rising, with both warm and cool colours bleeding into/washing over the background. Here, the character is still on all-fours, however, strong directional light begins to wash over him. The next panel displays the presence of a large upside-down triangle, the sphere residing next to it as it casts its light upon the now kneeling character. The next panel depicts the character standing up, with the camera showing only his shoulders and up as he stands up.Afterwards, a scene with the character standing is shown, several more characters appearing in the background as the light from the main one is cast onto the character.
During the development of this storyboard, I had to ensure a coherent story that related to the concept of hope, making sure that the theme was communicated not only through shape language and story, but also colour and posing.

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Moving forwards, I started to work on my animatic. To do this, I used Photoshop’s Timeline with the workspace set to Motion. I then created several groups, referencing the ones created for the storyboard, as well as copying over the folder structures from the document for the storyboard. Having the storyboard done beforehand made the process of creating the animatic much more efficient, cutting down on the time required to make it.In this phase of the assignment, I worked mainly upon getting the timing of the scenes right, acting out several actions and timing them to ensure accuracy.Some changes were made during the animatic phase, however the visuals remained mostly the same to the ones for the storyboards.

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Once I had created the animatic, we went into a feedback phase. Here, we created Google Forms where we created a series of questions that we then had out peers respond to, essentially gathering feedback and critique.

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The feedback was rather helpful, highlighting the areas thatI needed to work on and re-visit. Afterwards, I moved onto the actual animation for the assignment. Before I begun animating, I took reference videos me performing certain actions. This is to ensure accuracy regarding the motion and timing, creating believability. Not only did I take videos, but pictures as well. Those images helped with specific poses, added to the ability to useAdobe Premiere to dissect the video reference, I had a decent amount of reference to use when animating.
Animation Tests and In-Class Exercises/Tutorials:

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When it came to animating in Photoshop, I had to do quite a bit of research, as well as trial and error. To help with organisation, I organised the animation into several scenes, each with their own folder structures inside. To animate, I had to create video layers using Layer ->Video Layers -> New Blank Video Layer. Within this, I could animate frame by frame, navigating with the arrow keys and seeing the next and/or previous frames using Onion Skinning, of which is accompanied by several options in an expandable menu/drop down menu attached to the animation panel/timeline.
When I needed still images that were to persist over certain periods of time, as well as have certain transformations applied to them, I created a normal layer and converted the contents within to smart objects,allowing me to manipulate, edit and transform them more freely when it came to the Timeline Panel.  Some of the scenes required careful planning and layer structuring due to the overlapping nature of some elements, this was aided by the ability to group layers, as well as structure them in the Timeline Panel, moving them around, layering and lining them up with each other.

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When it comes to animating, I am still quite inexperienced.I faced many challenges, of which having reference helped solve. I used AdobePremiere to navigate my reference videos, pausing it at strategic points to view the ‘key frames’. One area of particular difficulty was the scene where the character is seen from the side view and moves from left to right, stopping and then breathing rapidly. While I was animating, the depiction of breath was initially quite unrealistic, however, as I was drawing I got into a rhythm,realising how to animate the movement better by acting it out myself,exaggerating the movements. In order to depict rapid breathing through the chest, I raised the rib cage and flattened the stomach for the inhalation, and vice versa for when the character exhaled.
To animate the ‘growth’ of the triangles, I created them as smart objects, used the transform option and created keyframes, starting them out small and ending them at a larger size a short period of time. To ensure accuracy, I created a separate layer for guides, placing dots at the original points of the ‘original’ triangles before transformations. To show a gentler fade, I used the gradient tool to fill in a selection when creating the triangles, of which was enhanced by the use of a soft eraser.
In comparison, animating with lines was faster than using the broad charcoal strokes. When using the broad strokes, achieving proper proportions and body shape was difficult, especially when using only a few limited values. The lines allowed me to create more gestural shapes and forms,allowing me to create flowing frame by frame animation. The broader strokes were more suited to the still images and shorter scenes, especially ones affected by lighting and the heavy use of colour.
The use of lines also helped with accuracy, allowing me to break down the movement and scenes more-so than if I had predominately used the charcoal strokes. Ease-in and out, as well as timing and the position of the body and its individual parts during movement are important factors to pay attention to, as these help add realism and appeal to the animation.

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The audio, created by my friend Tristan, is used to emphasise the chaotic and discordant nature of the character’s journey, as well as the fickle nature of hope. The electronic and unsettling notes sound out during key moments, signalling shifts in tone and visuals, persisting even through the times of supposed hope and happiness. The gong that sounds out during the transitions of despair hints at the finality of death, something linked to the feelings of hope and despair, a driving factor for humanity.
Compared to most professionally produced animations, mine appears un-finished, with line work and animation errors throughout. Colour-wise, the use of flats combined with clean line-work would of been beneficial, providing a cleaner look to the overall animation. An example of this would be Snow White, where the use of clean lines, flats and painted backgrounds create visually interesting scenes, as well as fluid animation. Instead of using charcoal strokes, I could of filled in the lines of the characters, applying lighting using the lasso selection and gradient tools. The  backgrounds in my animation are rather simple and abstract, with only a few values used to separate the ground from the sky, and in some scenes only two values are used to divide the ground and the sky, with textures applied to add visual interest. Further along, the background become slightly more complex, with coloured gradients, a sun and several triangles being introduced. However, compared the Snow White, these backgrounds are simple and abstract, lacking the traditional painterly quality evident in the animations of old.
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