Mechanics/Emotion Animation Studies
For assignment 2 of this module, we were tasked with completing two animated studies. One of an action, so we could explore full body movement, and one of an emotion. That one's self explanatory.
We were asked to research in several areas in preparation for this assignment. The first was to gather artist influences, (2D/3D). As someone who doesn't consume a lot of 3D animated content, I really had to pick my brain for something that stuck out to me. Then I remembered my current favourite indie animated series on YouTube by Peruvian animator Joel Guerra, entitled ENA. The series is a blend of 2D and 3D animation - usually comprised of 3D sets, with 2D characters in them. The recent series finale, however, showed a huge increase in quality. There were numerous more sets, an increase in episode length, and the introduction of 3D animated characters. This huge upscale really showed off the unique style of the series; I in particular enjoy the surrealist, whacky, and low-poly aesthetic of it all. Below I've included the 3D animators who worked on the season finale:
- Evan Nave: https://www.evannave.com/
- Alan Flandez: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxM_3cAIGSlOIM8NT8TH99g
- Utu-Nui: https://sketchfab.com/utu_nui
- John Fraser: https://twitter.com/sleepcircle
I also contained the links to other 2D/3d work and artists that inspire me:
- Vivziepop: https://www.youtube.com/user/SpindleHorse
- SpindleHorse Toons: https://twitter.com/spindlehorse?lang=en
- MediEvil PS4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSf_w73um-M (bts look from Other Ocean)
- Into the Spiderverse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_o-EyxAc7gc (animation analysis)
The next area of research was the 12 Principles of Animation. We had already explored these principles last semester in 2D. The obvious difference this time, is that these studies are in 3D. So when researching I not only aimed to give myself a refresher on what I already knew, but also find out how my knowledge would translate in 3D. The links below are the research I gathered:
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywezWYDRMF0 – This video was the most helpful one to me; not only did it recap on the principles themselves, but it displayed examples of them at work in 3D. It also categorised said principles, eg: "The Appearance Principles".
The next area to research was "weight in animation":
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7DA5YtqICY - this video in particular was really informative. It highlighted the importance of timing and anticipation frames.
The last research area was "styles/techniques of 3D animation" - eg: straight ahead vs pose-to-pose.
- https://www.animationmentor.com/blog/straight-ahead-action-and-pose-to-pose-the-12-basic-principles-of-animation/ - from this, learnt about "action photography". This process involves taking footage, and viewing the individual frames all at once, so to observe clear keyframes.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGWdWLw5C-I - I learnt that pose-to-pose ltends to be the better technique to use, as it eads to consistency, and stronger poses/timing. It also encourages one to plan their animation properly.
Following all this research, it was time to decide what I wanted my mechanic/emotion of choice to be for my studies. For my mechanics study: I found myself gravitating towards slapstick movements from older cartoons. Tom and Jerry in particular kept returning to mind, as its comedy is mainly sourced from slapstick. I chose to reference the reocurring gag where a character, (usually Tom) stands on a pointy object. It was impossible to find the specific clip from the older iterations of the show that I had in mind specifically, but these clips were the next best thing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VCSUiTI604 – 2:27 – 2:29
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sLENwc0A5s - 4:54 - 4:58
When searching for irl footage of the action I wanted, I was blessed with this gem of a video to use:
Once I had a good idea of the mechanics movement that I wanted, I used ToonBoom Harmony to whip up a rough animatic of the "Monty" rig stepping on a pin, (definitely not a pin just because I could just.... generate a cone.... nah):
Coming up with an idea for the emotion study was a little tougher as I hadn't got any immediate ideas, and didn't want to go with a super obvious emotion. As a typical uni student, I was browsing YouTube in my free time. I was watching a lets-play series of the recently released game, Little Nightmares 2. I was thinking about the first game that came before it and boom. Idea. In the original game, the character you play as, Six, has intense moments of hunger throughout the game. Remembering these scenes gave me a good idea for what I wanted my emotion to be:
And then, just like I did for the mechanics study, I used ToonBoom to put together a rough animatic.
Now that the animatics and research were complete, it meant it was time to animate thefinal results:
I decided to go with the pose-to-pose technique for the action study, as I thought it would help me put more thought into the key poses. Going into Maya, I began blocking out said poses, using my animatic as the reference. Initially, this was quite easy, and I was able to get on ok with the process. However, when it came to adjusting the keyframes following this so to work out timing, that's when it became tricky. The auto-generated in-between frames weren't great, as usual, and trying to figure out how to hold a pose - specifically the jump in the air - was frustrating. It also lead to me over-editing the feet positions when they were resting on the ground during pass/contact poses. The result was jittery, which lead to a lot of repositioning. In the end, although, I think it still came out good.
(some previews above)
With the emotion study, I followed a different technique than with the action study to see if I found it easier. Instead of blocking the keyframes in first, aka pose-to-pose, I went with the straight-ahead method. This helped me keep better focus, I found. Since I had been finding the timing triccky to get a grasp on in 3D, just taking things one frame at a time really helped. I got all my necessary frames done, then altered the timing before combing through anything I wanted to alter. I found the animation of this one surprisingly harder; initially I had saved it for last as I had assumed less action = less tricky. But nah. Trying to capture the miniscule shaking of the knees was tedious and tricky to make look good - but overall I think it paid off!
Overall I'm impressed with the results that I was able to achieve. Once I found my groove, the process became more natural and enjoyable. I personally like the emotion study more, as I think it better captures what I set out to do, and was completed after I had had more practice through working on the action study. I found timing trickier than I had previously found it in 2D, but not having to worry about redrawing everything, and trying to keep proportions is always nice. Below are the finished Playblasts: