Sunday, May 08, 2011

My latest short and working in Toonboom

I haven't really animated something of my own for ages. I've done some scribbly things using my iPad but nothing planned and executed. This short is part of an ongoing series that I want to do throughout this year but it is also part of my convoluted test film for a test film for a film.

Apart from the points listed, it is also to learn the software Toonboom. To understand how far I can push it, getting used to drawing and working fast in it and how to mix it with other programs. Also a big non software/technique point is to become a better filmmaker.

Oh one thing that I did before this film was to try and improve my drawing confidence. Surprisingly working in commercial animation I've found my drawing skills had dulled. I think that comes down to mostly working on symbol pushing flash shows where at most I'll draw a hand or an arm or adjust the eyebrows. Also staying on (very strict) model means I do the bare minimum most of the time and that doesn't push artistic growth. So to boost my skillzzz I invested my hard earned $1 into a scribble pad. I've tried to draw a little picture each day using no planning and work straight onto the pad with a felt pen. I really feel that this worked fantastically and I encourage everyone else if they want to improve their drawing skills the $1 investment is a good one. You can see my close to 100 drawings on my twitpic

Ok back to the above short. It has some obvious weaknesses (number 1 is it should be funnier) but I never regret a film or drawing that I've made. I figure at the time I made it that was the best that I could do. I learn from it and try to not make the same mistakes on the next ones. It was easier to learn from my earlier films as they would screen in festivals and you could sit amongst the crowd and listen to when you have them and when you lose them. Online films are harder to judge as a facebook like button doesn't tell you what was liked. From what little I could tell, things that worked were the scream, the expressions and the look. So that's something to build on for the next short.

Now I'm going to write a few things about working and using Toonboom Animate pro so that might be a bit boring to non animators or 'never going to use toonboom' animators (you were warned).

Ok compared to flash, it's a dream to draw in. You can set the brush tapering (0.5 and 6 or 8) and the smoothing (I set this very low so low it doesnt really do anything) to pretty much emulate your natural drawing style and you can draw a hell of a lot of lines. So yeah, it's fun to draw and your lines don't look amateur when you use the brush tool.

At the start spend a lot of time setting and labeling your colours, probably the only chore. That said, once it is set it is quite powerful. It becomes really easy to tweek or even change the colours across the whole animation. My workflow with this is to do all the colours in photoshop then to eye drop and manually transfer the details into toonboom. I don't know if that is the best way though.

It also has one of my most favourite features the rotate canvas (you hold ctrl+ Alt, you can push shift x to reset the view). It's so hard to go back to not having this feature.

Every single line you draw is an object that you can click on and delete. this makes editing you lines really easy. It's good to flatten the lines once you're happy with it though as it saves memory.

When you draw you draw without anti-aliasing so it looks a bit rough. This probably allows the large amount of drawings. Also you also have to each drawing 4 layers to use. An ovelay layer (good for highlights) your line art layer, your colour art (I dont use this layer as it puts a weird lines around the colours... I should probably find the option to turn that off) and an underlay layer (where I do my colouring).

With the animation I just do the line animation first and once that is cool I do the colours. You can see with my lines I was able to add in some line details like shading hints. Something I can't do that in flash. Like at the moment I'm trying to do a loop animation in the same sort of style and I get that draw one line everything disappears thing and those little lines just morph into a blob ON MY SECOND FRAME!!!

I do my colouring under the line art in the underlay layer which is great because it means my lines dont have to be closed and can be quite rough. Also when you erase you don't affect the other layers (unless you turn that option on). When I was colouring I worked out that if I started with the little overlay things like highlights and shadows then (with the brush set to paint under) do the block colours. I think this is how old cels were painted. With this style I was able to add a white highlight as well as a shadow. I think it's a nice touch, better than using just gradients for shading.

It has some cool things with the shortcuts as well. Like to change to a tool you have to hold alt (ie alt + b switches to the brush) but if you just hold down the shortcut you can use it for a brief time till you let go of the short cut key (ie hold down 'i' for the eyedropper or' k' for the paint bucket for quick use while drawing). It also has some great options for selecting and fill bucket by drawing a lasso line over the areas you want to select or paint. That makes more sense when you use it, but dang it speeds things up. Oh and I had to dissable the 'z' shortcut key as that was doing timeline things (that I didnt want) as well as being the zoom shortcut (weirrrrd).

Each of your main layers (ie paleguy) is like a flash symbol and every new drawing is saved into it. You can cycle using '[' and ']' to go back and forward between the drawings. I didnt really use this much but it's pretty handy when doing lipsyncing.

Background and depth

My background (as I said in an earlier post) was done in photoshop.

Now if you want to do this and keep your layers (especially for doing camera move parallax stuff) each layer needs to be put into it's own folder. Those folders when they come into toonboom, become their own drawing layers. A cool thing is that all the layers in a folder when brought into toonboom become frames on the timeline. So if you wanted to add in an animated element, or a bunch of hands or mouths that's how you do it.

So yeah, a cool thing is the addition of z space. 'Depth'

Now once in toonboom you can bring up a side view and after pressing Alt-6 move each layer back to approximately the distance it would be from the main action without changing the scaling. A nice touch is it has a visual representation of each layer at the top that you can click on to select making it easier to chose the right layer.

Oh a cool thing was that I created a focus module and attached to the main action and depending on how far (on the z axis) the other layers were from the main action would affect how much they were in focus (blurred). Its a cute trick that could lend its self to some concepts.

You can also micro nudge layers back and forth on the z axis by clicking the layer and pressing Alt + Up arrow = go back in space Alt + down arrow = go closer to camera. This is great and fast for character interaction with props and other characters.

Exporting and After Effects
I've had problems exporting video out of toonboom like it crashes at 90% or something hair pulling like that. Doing frame sequences however are pretty good though. Since I was going to take this into after effects and I wanted some control over where the effects would be I wanted to export layers with alphas. Apparently any format with a 4 at the end means it has an alpha (4 meaning the amount of channels). The tga4 file didnt work but the old faithful png4 did. I really like png files, they are clean and they render fast in after effects. When I export out of After effects to go to premier I use Tga files as it seams to be the only stable file premier can handle

So this is a nice visual representation on what I did in after effects. I made it a lot  warmer, changed the tree leaves. I had to create a specific mask to keep the glass looking like a glass and not lose that blueness. The grade was mostly about balance and tone. There was a version where there was a heat ripple on the scene. It looked great but didn't really suit the feel I was going for. I also moved the output view between my computer monitor and my cintiq to try and make sure it looked good on both screens (I should really properly calibrate these screens).

Bits and bobs
 I did the sound mix in Audition and I used a lot of sounds that were recorded from my film 'Existence'. With the sound, it had to have a unique feel and it was great that my sound designer (Adrian Tolman) recorded all kinds of things for 'Existence' that I had a whole bunch of things to choose from. Real recorded sounds are 100 times better than sound cds and stuff you pull off the web. Oh I had a horror theme going when I first started the soundmix, but that was craaaazy. I did the voice acting because I was too lazy to get anyone else to do it. That scream was based on Raiden from Mortal Kombats flying headbutt yell (the most ridiculous yell in videogames haha)

I'm trying to get better at adding in effects into my animation, things like flares, speed lines and in this some water. My effects stuff moves a bit too quick so I need to add in more frames and think about exactly what is happening and do a simple pass first and then do a detail pass. I'd love to be a lot more stylised with my effects like this guy though.

I wrote in my notes 'varied frame rate'. If you're wondering it means working with different frame rates rather than doing everything on 1s or 2s. I think you can get away with this as long as the drawings are funny/over the top and sometimes it can add bit more weight to the movement. When working on some of these tv series I would find myself laughing at my blocking but not laughing at the finished animation. The extra frames were softening the impacts. I know a lot of my animators friends have a strongly different view to me on this and love their disney sleek but if I'm animating these films for myself I'm not going to kill myself drawing hundreds of frames to not find it funny anymore. Eff that haha

I took a lot of inspiration from the character styles, poses, expressions and animation style from the Lupin tv series that I've been watching. Those guys behind that are crazy and it's going to take a lot of hard work to get to their level.

Well that's the overall film breakdown. I'm going to try and get the storyboard done for the next film done soon but this month there's a whole bunch of work happening, which is good since I like to have money coming into my account sometimes.


Rabbit Town Animator said...

Ooooer! You make me jealous that I dont have Toon Boom and the short film was awesome! Can't wait to see more.

Andrew Buckley said...

Thanks Tim that's a really helpful post!!!