30 January 2012 Previous

Grey Justice - 48 Hour Film competition

Gmail was taking its time to load -again- as I sat there half dazed starring at the screen.  It had just gone 06:30am and I had just woken up to check my mail.  I had been looking for excuses to animate as I hadn't been practising in a while.

There it was, from Jason: 'This year's 48hr film competition...', the time had finaly come.

Watch the competition entry here

In 2009 I had helped animate for Handturkey Studio's 48hour entry - Oversaturated, their second successful entry.  This year was going to be bigger and better than before.

Being the nut-cases of Handturkey Studios, however, we produce an animation piece.

The Richmond 48hour film competition is a competition to produce a 5minute film within 48hours.  On the day a genre is randomly picked and your team is given a line of dialogue and a prop which has to appear in the film.  Being the nut-cases of Handturkey Studios, however, we produce an animation piece.

This years team was bigger than before, and would involve collaboration from all over the world.  A core team would assemble in Richmond, Virginia and be the brains behind the operation.  We were going to be using blender 2.5, which was still in development and so we had to get all our ducks in a row to make sure it ran smoothly.  The render farms were being warmed up, the character designs were under discussion and we were brewing to go.



Being animation, we don't have any actors.  The goal was to model two characters prior to the weekend, which would then be rigged on the Friday while the story team came up with a script to incorporate the prop and dialogue... yes, dialogue... but this year we wouldn't be doing any lip-syncing.  Collaboration at this stage was done through the mailing list, and discussions were held as to directory structures, svn integration, sound assets and rendering.  The render scripts were tested on the farms to make sure all the libraries were being picked up from the directory structure, as this would be our achilles heel.

Berto had come up with some chosen designs which Jonathan had modelled.  I found the Grey Justice character a lot of fun to work with, he's a hero with a boep and thin duck feet... how much more playing ground could one ask for?

The Weekend

I kept checking my internet connection.  It hadn't been holding up much in the last few days as the SECOM cable was being tested.  I am, like most, painfully locked into Telkom.

Everyone was gathered in an IRC channel, except Roberto - the director - who the international team wouldn't see for the entire weekend.  As the Richmond team proved to be so strong it didn't matter, everything filtered through to us when we needed it.

As the script and storyboard had been completed, the animators started picking shots.  I grabbed a couple which had been left over - sequenced shots for continuity.  They involved Grey Justice running up a flight of stairs and punching a guard, he would then continue to jump over a pit, dodge swords, break through a wall of stone, knock out a guard and break through the door to the Bad Guy's Lair.  All in the style of a platform arcade game.


Animation Process

I chose a different animation technique to what I had previously used.  This time I decided to just use splines and animate straight ahead.  There wasn't much time for polish, and moving from blocking to splined would give me too much to rework.  It proved to be much more efficient, and a style i'll use again and again on projects like these.  It's also geared towards cartoony humour, which is less prone to critiques of error.

The character has a beer-boeped torso, is hard-core and unstoppable.  So why not balance the 'kickboxer' with a prancerly elegance?
Everything would relate from his torso, his weight would provide follow through for his limbs.  The duck legs would be spindly with a ballerina's prance. His powerful arms would direct his focus but his wrists would be loose - as if he sipped lots of English tea.  I decided to make his movements exaggerated and cartoony, making specific use of follow through and overlapping action as this would be easy with a splined FK torso, head and arms.  His feet, in IK, would follow from this.

If the movement became convoluted and unclear I would switch to start animating an appendage responsible for helping the movement along.  It becomes like a game of leap frog.

I would start with his torso, and move it along the set, concentrating on 'timing and spacing'.  His limbs were distracting at this point, but had to be ignored.  If the movement became convoluted and unclear I would switch to start animating an appendage responsible for helping the movement along.  It becomes like a game of leap frog.  If the motion is clear and 'readable' but becomes confusing 10 frames later, i'll go back 5 frames and start working one of the arms (if he had to swing), legs (if he had to jump) or head (if he had to anticipate a dodge).  It involves constant scrubbing back and forth to feel if it's working or not.  Very often it won't be and you have to change to another limb and adjust the timing on the keys by a few frames.  Synchronising everything is the key, flowing from one movement into the next by leading different body parts in at different times.  Tweening and having all keyframes on the same frame becomes my cue for what to do next.  Tweening tells me to do something spontaneous and different, and I will often - impractically - swing the arms in opposite directions purely to hold interest.  Nice movement can be achieved rather cheaply if you use follow through on the extremes of his limbs (wrists, head, and toes) to do this I start from his center and move outward, which prevents all the keys being on the same frame.

You can watch a screencapture of the process here - mind you, it is a little fast:

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