Sunday, January 15, 2012

Animating! "Little and Large"

I've been planning in some detail my very first 3D CG animation which I will be making in the upcoming weeks. As opposed to the toy cat I was originally planning on modelling, I decided to use my Sackboy model because I thought his shape would give me a good opportunity to practice the basics of animating humanoid figures and walk cycles in a more simplified form.

The concept for the film, which will be around 30 to 45 seconds long, is "Little and Large". I couldn't help but immediately think, obviously, of LittleBigPlanet and all the delightful worlds that are part of it.

As lovely as the detail in these screenshots are, this is my very first foray into computer animation so I'm going to keep it as simple as possible.

A lot of the worlds seem to give the impression of being toy-sized or miniature places in the human world, for example the world set in a giant kitchen. This gave me the idea of my Sackboy character living in a human bedroom or other room, thus being "little" in a large world.

However I wasn't quite sure what narrative to include to draw attention to the contrast between his size and the size of his surroundings. So I played with an idea of him being a part of an imaginary fantasy world and then abruptly coming back into his reality.

For now I have settled on an idea of him being a "heroic knight", but when his lamp's power cuts out we realise he is simply play-acting.

During this part of the process I began to realise how much time I would need to spend modelling the decorative props, and that I needed to focus more on the animation of the character as opposed to the models. However I still liked the idea of including LittleBigPlanet-style decorations. 

I found this image of a level that features a somewhat medieval-style themewith the castles and buildings being simple flat cardboard-cutout-esque shapes. I also fancied the idea of having clouds hanging on strings. I thought that these wouldn't be too difficult to model, as for the buildings I would - theoretically, judging my currently limited experience of Maya - simply need to use the edge loop tool on a flat plane then alter the thickness slightly, and for the clouds a similar method would be used, making sure to use the smoothing tool to ensure rounded edges. 

So after taking all of this into account, I have finalised my first complete set of storyboards. These may change later on.

I've also sketched an idea of the props and settings I'll need to model. There will be two "locations" needed: a simple hill, with the castle and tree "cut-outs" and clouds; and a desk with a lamp, notes, books etc. on it to suggest the toy belonging to a human.

We showcased our ideas in a crit last Thursday and received feedback. The biggest concerns for my animation were the complications in animating a bipedal figure as there are many aspects to take into account, even in a simple walk cycle one must consider the arms and how the body will characteristically move.

There is also the fact that my character is Sackboy, an already widely recognised and well-loved character, and I will need to ensure that I make the character "my own" so that I'm not simply copying directly from an existing source. However I will probably use LittleBigPlanet as a main reference for how he is going to move.

The second concern was lighting. My film will be quite clearly separated between daylight and night-time. Although there will be no clear light source, the dark room will still need some light so that the action is visible. I'll need to spend a lot of time experimenting with this to create the desired effect.

Finally, I will consider the sound and music I can use for comedic effect.

The most important thing though, is that I demonstrate the principles of animation, and make good use of timing, easing in and out, squash and stretch, having action following arcs, and the rest.

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