In this personal development project I am required to animate a scene to improve and build on my personal practice and development. I may use audio to influence performance/acting. I can use audio lines, music and sound fx to do this. Within this project I am required to research a style of animation to try out, animation video/acting reference for additional study, and to problem solve/self-critique my work. By the end of this assignment I hope to produce a 8-12 second long animation to an audio line that helped to improve my skills and development.
First of all, I would like to decide if I should create this animation in 2D or 3D, as this will massively determine my workflow approach. I would like to try out 2D animation again, but in a different approach with different programs. I will research the traditional hand-drawn 2D animation look within projects online to see how artists have approached their techniques, and how it is effective with audio lines or sfx.
To start, I searched through the website, 11 second club. This is a monthly character animation competition, where animators and artists animate a clever take on the provided audio line for each month. The winners chosen by vote are awarded with professional animator critiques to help them gather great feedback and improve their development. I found a couple of entries that had interested me.
September 2012 winner Aju animated this sequence of a woman performing in an audition while forgetting her lines throughout. I love the clever use of the breaks in-between the audio line to establish that the woman is looking back at her script to remember her lines again.
October 2014 winner Yonatan Tal animated this sequence of a ‘ A sugar dough racer tries to protect his car from being eaten’ with an audio line exclaiming ‘don’t eat the car!’. The artist successfully captured the desperate tone of the audio clip, and contains great exaggerated poses to further express the emotion.
July 2020 winner Johnathan Fontaine animated this sequence of an astronaut not happy about fixing the ship, as a fellow astronaut pilot, notices a warning light, not knowing it is the astronaut flying away. The first character has a very clear bothered expression that translates well with the audio, and the timing of the ‘warning light’ and the astronaut floating away works very well.
Watching through other artists 2D animation reels and projects is also great to observe their takes on principles and lip-sync. Here are a couple of artists and studio work that stand out to me.
This showreel by Daniele Dinezio has some interesting and smooth sketched and rendered animations showcasing performance, body mechanics and weight.
This showreel by ‘Sleepygrim‘ combines soft and neat illustration work into practices with animation principles, experimenting lots with walk/run cycles, squash & stretch and timing.
Studio Meala always produces extraordinary visuals and expressions with their signature sketchy look and fx designs.
I particularly enjoy the projects ‘TAILS at Animal Airport’ and ‘The Reindeer Feeder’. They both include limited frames but capture movement and expressions well.They also both have lovely colour schemes and sketchy line-art. These are parts of of a style I would like to try to capture in my work.
Next, I started to look around for videos explaining techniques used when animating frame by frame, and the approach of lip-sync. I figured since I have not attempted 2D animation lip-sync properly before, it would be good to learn a bit more before producing it.
Firstly, here is an insightful video on a couple principles of animation within digital 2D animation made by Bam Animation. They run through easing, overshooting, squash & stretch and anticipation. They are principles I have learnt before but getting a refresher on the subject is going to help progress my work.
I learnt about some great tips in this video such as:
Positioning in-betweens based on the ease-in action that occurs. For example, the arm will swing from left to right, adding an in-between closer to the left pose will enhance the ease-in action.
Drawing an arc guide will help pinpoint your arc flow, if it looks jittery. It also helps to guide where to adjust their position of key poses.
Drawing a stick figure version of your character will help with quickly producing your first rough poses without worrying about the visual of the character – that it can come along at a later stage.
I found this video by Toniko Pantoja about different approaches to dialogue/lip-sync in animation, more specifically 2D frame by frame. He mentions the types of approaches are:
- Limited mouth shapes – where the mouth would usually move up and down – saves time and gets point across for an aspect that is higher priority. Is most known for being used in anime where voice acting is recorded after the animation is made.
- Mouth chart – where a chart for each pose of a mouth based on the word/sound being spoken (ou sounds, ai sounds), is provided for animators to reuse following an audio line. usually the shapes are held for as many frames needed, and snaps to other shapes. This is mainly used for western TV series where guides such as mouth charts would be sent to animators outside of the studio.
- Classical – Where characters are fully animated along with the mouths where they can change and morph into different shapes. Focuses on accuracy and better pronunciation of words. Mainly used by Disney, or highly animated productions.
Each one of these approaches are all quite similar in a way that it requires us to think of how the poses will communicate thought and feeling, does the sound present interesting ideas, and how do we emphasise these ideas.
Toniko expressed the importance of understanding our audio clip by analysing the key words within the clip, and produce rough ideas of posing and expression to emphasise the words impact.
When exploring our thoughts through thumb-nailing, Toniko also encouraged the idea to make multiple expressions of the same word/phrase to see if new ideas come around.
Lastly, I am making use of Linked-in learning to learn some tricks within animating in Photoshop (course made by Dermot O’ Connor). Going through these lessons will improve the performance of my animation in the software I may use.
Some ideas I learnt from this course was:
The frame animation timeline functions – How ‘exposures’ are set up and how they can connect to a layer each in the photoshop file. Here you can also set the frame time in seconds etc. 0.04 – 24 frames a second.
Thumb-nailing or planning the action before starting the animation helps to process the steps you will be taking. It also helps to plan the main key frames from start to end.
Eventually, I started my lookout for an audio line I want to animate to. I am looking for an audio that can express great emotion that I would be able to translate into body mechanic movement, and emotive face expressions. I would also like to find an audio line that I can grasp context or a theme from, to make the animation more entertaining.
I had a look around any kind of audio clips I like or find interesting from online sources.
‘You look dope’
Youtube video: ‘I gave myself a Claire’s makeover’ by JennaMarbles
This audio clip sounds quite fun to capture a performance between two characters. One personality is sassy, and the other is encouraging but concerned by the end. I like the casual conversation between the two and how it smoothly goes back and forth from one another. I think this would work quite well with two characters at each side making this conversation. The clip is around 8 seconds long which fits the time limit. However, I am worried about taking on two characters at the same time, I would have to work a lot more on each characters performance.
‘I can’t and I won’t’
TikTok video: Brittany Broski @lostmymarblesagain
I think this audio would be really fun to express this same kind of emotion throughout the whole audio. She exclaims she won’t and can’t do something, but we don’t know what it is, which I find quite funny. There is 19 seconds of the audio which could be cut down in certain places. It has got one character which would be great for me to use my time to express all this exaggerated ‘disgust’ emotion all the way through. It would be great to have expressive arm movements too to separate each part of the audio line.
I have decided to go for the ‘you look dope‘ clip. I think it will be a fun and interesting clip to animate to, and I already have some ideas of posing, and characters in mind.