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: