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Animation Strategies - Mechanics Studies

For this assignment, we were to create 3 animated studies in any medium of our choice. The first was to be a walk cycle, the second a run cycle, and the third an animation showing any action at all.

I was excited at the chance to do 2D work again, as I believed I’d improved on it tons over the summer. I had a rough idea in my head as to what I wanted to animate, as follows:

  • walk cycle of my two twin characters Yele and Blu. Probably set in a field or something similar, and obviously a looped animation.

  • Run cycle of my character Redd running through an art gallery with a painting he stole; also looped.

  • Mechanics animation of the same character going through a transformation as such from his main form to another.

Overall, I planned on keeping the frame rate manageable and what I call “chunky”. I wanted to animate at 12fps, animating on twos bar in instances where I wanted to add extra anticipation frames or similar.

Easily my inspirations were namely Joel Guerra and Vivienne Medrano. Joel Guerra is a Peruvian animator - namely known for his ENA series. The style of the series is an incredibly unique blend of 2D and 3D - very much an homage to the game “LSDream Emulator”. The frame rate is low, and the movements of the characters are simple but exaggerated. Similarly to shows such as OK.KO, or the original Teen Titans series, you can tell its animated - in the same sense as a painting with thick brush strokes; neither obviously aren’t photo-realistic regardless, but the fewer frames gives a more hand-drawn feel - which I particularly love.

Vivienne Medrano is best known as the creator of both Hazbin Hotel and Helluva Boss - my favourite being the latter. The show really opened my eyes to how detailed cartoon series could be - especially in terms of design. The character designs are vastly more complicated and different when compared to most standard TV shows, and is a unique exception to the “KISS” rule (keep it simple, stupid) when it comes to character design. The composition stages are also really beautiful to me - adding those seemingly simple highlights ties everything together for me, and the lighting and overall colour choices are a huge inspiration.

For the walk cycle, I knew I wanted to animate two fox characters I had, Blu and Yele. As they were inspired by the Animal Crossing series, I felt it fitting to have the walk cycle take place in a simple environment that mimicked the games' style. I was also interested in blending 2D animation with a 3D environment, as I'm not the best at 2D background art.

(Preexisting refs of the characters:)

I used Blender to model some simple clouds, as well as the sphere that would act as the ground.

For the ground itself, I wanted to mimic the Animal Crossing style, and have a vivid green base colour, with triangles of varying shades of green/yellow as a pattern. To animate the ground, I simply keyframed the sphere at different rotation points, and had this cycle loop several times over. The clouds followed this same process. I adjusted the sky-sphere settings in order to create the effect I wanted, before rendering out the image sequence.

Following this, I imported the footage into After Effects to render it as an mp4, to which I then brought into CSP. Working at 12fps, I then roughed out the walk cycle frames, using the universal guide for a walk cycle as an example:

(First two examples by Richard Williams' "The Animator's Guide to Survival")

After producing the rough animatic, I took the frames and cleaned them up to produce a first pass. For cleaning up and lining the frames, I decided to experiment with what brush I used. I ended up on this, what I call, "tilted" pen brush. I found it sped up the lining process for some reason, which I couldn't figure out the reason for - be it the differing line weights or otherwise. Overall, the clean-up process was rather straightforward, as was the colouring stage. I exported this animaton as a PNG sequence, before taking it into After Effects as well as the background mp4. It took some jigging about to have the cloud appear over the boys during the first few frames, and then again at the last few frames to produce the looping effect. Eventually I got there, and was able to render the final cycle.

Overall, I'm pleased with how the walk cycle turned out. I imagined it to turn out perhaps a little smoother, and if I were to redo it again I'd allign the ground's rotations better with the angle in which the twins are walking, but all-in-all I think the outcome was cute and well-executed.

Following this I began work on the run cycle. My goal for this cycle was to have my interpratation of Crazy Redd, (Animal Crossing) running along a hall in an art musuem, before stealing one of the paintings from the walls and then running off screen with it. I produced an animatic of what I hoped to do initially, although it isn’t terribly great as I was using an Intuos, and the change from a Cintiq that day was more jarring than I thought. :P I’m pleased with the result, but I did realise watching it back that I should probably cut out the bits at the end, as I could see it getting more complicated and high in frames than it needed to be.

Creating the 3D background was simple too. The walls and floor was created using cubes with simple colour textures, and the frames were also made from cubes. I used different material slots for each frame's front face after duplicating the mesh to the needed quantity - in order to have different paintings be shown in each frame. I added some simple lights, then began animating a camera to simply pan across the scene. Following this, I rendered out the image sequence, and took it into After Effecrs to export it as an mp4.

Overall, I wish I had managed time better for this animation in particular. I overestimated how long lining each frame would take, and was unable to finish it. Cleaning up different parts of different frames at different times was an erratic method - and I wish I'd just taken the lining frame by frame and stuck each one through to completion before moving on to another.

Finally, I started on the mechanics animation. Firstly, I produced the animatic on CSP. I was surprised at how easy I was finding it, as initially I’d wanted to tackle a transformation animation as a personal goal of mine to use the skills for in my own projects. I figured it would be a lot harder but I actually ended up having a lot of fun with it - especially doing the in between frames when it came to the first pass. I particularly enjoyed animating the tail, for whatever reason. I approached clean-up by keeping the tail on a separate layer, as well as separating the torso, legs, and head. Next, I took the references of both forms and blended the colours of each component together between forms. This meant I had colours to use for the frames in between both forms. I wanted the overall colour palette to be teal, to reflect the cold, dark and isolated mood that the character is feeling. I added a simple background before lighting and shading, which was more complicated than it needed to be due to all the separate folders. But overall, I love the final result. I think in hindsight I would’ve made it longer - perhaps having the character “twinge” a few times before transforming, but either way I’m proud of being able to tackle what I thought would be the most challenging animation of the three.

In conclusion, I’m really happy with all 3 studies. They tested me in ways I hoped they would, and I think I would’ve found such animations I tasked myself with to be a lot harder this time last year. I’m pleased with the level of quality I achieved, but the time management could’ve been way better. I ran into a lot of complications in my personal life, and let this assignment take a back seat for other assignments. Now that life is looking a little calmer, I hope to finally find that balance between motivation, work ethic, and time management.