In the original story for “Midnight Mischief” the root characters wake up and prank a whole bunch of sleeping animals in the forest before being caught at sunrise. The story was then cut down into two short clips about individual pranks. The second Midnight Mischief short is what would have been the final prank that “goes too far.” The menacing tone of the root character lighting a match and lowering his welder’s mask to burn the family of birds is swapped for a more harmless scene of the two root characters trying to impress each other. After seeing the birds nest the root characters each take a turn messing with the sleeping birds. When one of the roots attempts to light the nest on fire, he is met with a shower of bird poo… Here is the final:
This short feels more like a complete story than the first. I am not completely happy with the backgrounds (I always have trouble with backgrounds) but enjoyed putting the piece together. I hope to eventually make another short with these characters getting in to trouble, but for now I will be focusing on other projects.
A friend shared a really cool story idea with me about ginseng roots that come to life at night and play tricks on the sleeping animals in the forest. I was encouraged to make an animated piece about it, and found an opportunity to do so recently. Initially I wanted to make a short film detailing the adventures of three root characters during one night of mischief, they would prank a bunch of animals in silly ways, and end up getting caught as they go to sleep during sunrise when the other animals realize what they had done. The idea was cut down to two characters in a more “web series” format, with one quick prank per short.
Here are some initial concepts for what the character should look like along with the thumbnails I used to plan the story. The scene would open with a background shot of the sun setting over the treeline of the forest, the camera would pan down the tree line to where the plant guys are sleeping in the soil. After waking up they would run across the street into the dark forest and begin a montage of animal pranks including spraying silly string on a deer’s antlers, throwing hummingbirds at a board like darts, spraying graffiti over a skunk’s home, and passing chewing gum down a line and putting it in a venus fly trap. The final prank would be the escalation that goes too far, the scene would show a family of sleeping birds, then cut to one of the root characters lighting a match and lowering a welder’s mask in a menacing way as if he is about to burn the birds. One of the other root characters would place his hand on his shoulder, or arm and shake his head in an effort to say “hey man this is too far..” The joke didn’t read as well as I wanted it too and the overall tone seemed to violent or evil so it was eventually changed quite a bit in the final version. The end of the short would have been the characters, still in the tree, noticing the sun rise and back tracking to their sleeping spot. This would be followed by the sleeping animals waking up seeing the aftermath of all the mischief and the plant characters being arrested by a bear in a policeman’s costume. Below is a rough animatic of the first short.
The first short feels more like a test and slightly incomplete without the context of the rest of the story. The silly string deer prank was one of the first I thought of and I knew I had to include it somehow. Here is the final:
I had a lot of fun studying a reference video of a cheetah sprinting in slow motion and translating the poses to an animated character. I started by taking a clip from the cheetah footage and making a loop-able segment, then I drew over the key poses and important frames in Flash. I started with the hips and the chest and animated the up and down motion to the same timing as the reference. I then went back and posed the contact, lift up, and passing poses for all the feet separately. The rig is the “Nico” rig, which was a lot of fun to work with, and I will probably end up using it again in a future acting test.
I did run into some major issues near the completion of the cycle where the front-right foot seemed to collapse in on itself. It seemed as though a joint or “bone” was somehow deleted from the rig, and even effected previous saves of my file. I was able to copy and paste frames from the controls on to a fresh rig to somewhat solve the problem. (which is what you see in the video)
For now these short tests are making me feel more confident in my 3D skills and with Maya, I hope to have some more cool stuff to share soon!
This quarter I was fortunate enough to get into a quadruped animation class. Not only is this a great opportunity to expand my 3D skills, but I will get a shot at animating animals and learning how they move. Our first couple assignments are looping walk cycles which can be a little annoying in Maya and require a lot of tweaking in the curve editor. We were given a cool cartoon fox rig and encouraged to study the crap out of our reference videos. Here is the result:
I was a little unsure of how to present this animation in video form, it is only 20 seconds long- not quite long enough to add a camera move, and all my attempts to lengthen the timeline seemed to ruin the legs or shoulders or some part of the rig’s animation. This is simply my lack of understanding of Maya, but for now this triple camera view approach seems to work alright.
In an attempt to make myself more marketable, I have created an alternative demo reel that showcases only my 3D work. I am currently taking a 3D quadruped class and hope to fill this reel up with some great work in the weeks to come!
This past week my 2D effects course has been experimenting with animating splashes and water. Our test was to lob a small rock into a pond and try to convincingly portray a primary and secondary splash along with ripples with the correct perspective.
I am overall satisfied with my first attempt. Unfortunately I think my rock and the primary (the first splash) splash are a little larger than they should be. My secondary splash could also benefit from more forward movement, it feels a little too vertical at the moment. It was challenging tracking the splashes in perspective, especially the parts that move toward and away from the camera. I am still not convinced I portrayed the water transitions from sheet to string to beads correctly, they happen very fast but perhaps my test could use a couple more drawings.
My next test will have fire, smoke and water so I am anxious to begin and improve on what I have learned with the past few tests.
One of our first big challenges in my 2D effects class was to create 4 seconds of smoke emitting from an incense stick. To prepare for our assignment we studied lots of reference, particularly from Disney films like Mulan. Smoke is interesting because successfully animating it is more about making it believable than realistic. Live action reference is important, but replicating it exactly how it appears in real life is not quite the answer, we were asked to simplify what we saw and create sort of an appealing caricature. On my project I struggled with keeping the speed slow and consistent. I keyed out my movement on 6’s then went back to in-between it on 2’s. In-betweening the smoke ended up being a huge time sink I had not anticipated, the frames barely changed from one to the next and I found myself more or less drawing the same image over and over until my hand cramped up and I had to take a break.
My final product was a decent first attempt, but I made the scale way too small which probably accounted for why it took me so long to complete. The smoke is so small it is almost hard to see all the little details without zooming in. I think the timing is pretty close, but in an effort to get my timing right I neglected to play with the shape of the smoke and expand it to create little poofs. This resulted in a majority of my smoke trail being pretty straightforward and simple.
I have already begun work on a new version which I hope will be bigger and better! For now, he is the first test: