With full 3D buildings out of the question (we simply do not have the time to make what would effectively be several towns in Maya!), we began to think about other ways to achieve similar effects. We very much liked the idea of the backgrounds turning and twisting in 3D space, the question was whether we could create a similar feel without actually building models. The solution came when we decided to use 2D animation for our walking person instead of pixellation. Though it had been our original idea to have a real person change outfits to move between time periods (a good example being the recent Hovis bread advert depicting the last 122 years, featured below), we thought it would be far more interesting visually to change the visual style completely for each period. For example, the Victorian era section would feature a person drawn in a typical Victorian art style- why should the buildings not follow suit? After the video, you can see a few examples of Digbeth in a Victorian crosshatch style.
Our proposed solution is to make use of ‘planes’ in Maya (basically flat walls with two dimensions), and to apply 2D drawings of (Victorian) buildings to these planes as textures. We will be working with flat pictures, but able to position them in 3D space in Maya, thus creating perspective and enabling us to make an animation that turns around that space for use as our background layer in Adobe After Effects- Similar to the work of Rob Chiu in his animation ‘Black Day to Freedom’:
We can be more creative, deciding on the building layout ourselves, and it should be easier to implement objects moving right in front of the camera (giving rise to a change in the time period). Furthermore, it should prove relatively easy to create an animatic using quick sketches- once the layout and timing is correct, creating the final animated background will be as easy as changing the textures on each plane.
With our final idea now seemingly in place, we will proceed to research the aesthetics of each of the chosen time periods, including their respective art and drawing styles, and generate a storyboard to follow when creating our animation. Here is a plan of what we have in mind for this 3D/2D hybrid technique, using an image of 1953 Digbeth as an example:
There are some considerations to be held; firstly, certain objects will pass between the walking person and the camera. Since the person is to be added separately in Adobe After Effects, the foreground assets might need to be added separately too. In this case, timing and position will be crucial.
Once the animatic (with rough sketch buildings) is complete and we are happy with the timing and length of the animation, a dope sheet can be easily created based on the timeline in Maya. We can then follow this dope sheet when animating the person.
Lastly, as mentioned on my diagram previously, I anticipate that occasionally a basic textured 3D model may be required, for example buildings that will be seen from multiple sides as the camera turns. A still image would not suffice for such a shot since perspective would be constantly changing.