Thursday, 26 January 2012

Business of animation- Italian Month development

For my Business of Animation module, I have chosen the 'Italian Month' promotion as my first project. The requirement is to create a 15 second animation, running in conjunction with provided audio, that advertises a month of Italian food- themed programming for the Food Network TV channel.

The idea I have devised is pretty straightforward and features a simple aesthetic style, in keeping with this module's focus on motion graphics. This seems fitting considering I am required to create at least one more animation by deadline, based on a live brief, for which the second idea I am currently working on is far more complex! It is important that I pace myself well and balance my work. One straightforward project coupled with a second more complicated project seems to me to present a strong balance, both in terms of managing my time as well as being able to show that I am capable of producing work to meet varying time frames. I will detail this second idea in a separate post.

Here is my current storyboard for my 'Italian Month' advert (click to view full screen):

The assets used in this storyboard, as well as the animatic (shown later on) were created in Adobe Photoshop. I am perhaps most pleased with the results of two new techniques that I have learnt recently. The tablecloth pattern was created as a repeating pattern in Photoshop, which can then be assigned to a layer. The shading on the box and pizza, as well as the grease mark inside the box were created using different layer styles such as 'multiply' and 'colour burn'. This is the first time I have really gotten to grips with layer styles, and I can definitely say that they will come in very useful in the future!

The idea ties into the Italian theme immediately showing iconic landmarks. Depicting them as postcards atop a restaurant table grounds them directly into the main setting for the advert, such that they do not feel out of place. It is essential that the animation I create matches the provided audio, in which verbal cues are given signalling when each element needs to be shown.

I decided on the imagery of a pizza due to the instant recognition it provides with the 'Italian food month' theme. Let's face it- when someone mentions Italian cuisine, we all think of pizza and pasta! With such a short time frame for this animation, and such a small space between audio cues, there is virtually no space at all in which to explain details or describe settings. The scene must be set immediately through instantly-recognisable imagery. A pizza will show viewers straight away that the promotion is related to Italian food, whilst the division of the pizza into slices provided the perfect opportunity to meet the cues of the various prizes being read out!

While motion graphics can of course be surreal in the implementation of various effects, it is important that they be given some form of context. The best motion graphics have a very smooth, natural flow, where no effects feel out of place. In short, something only happens when a genuine need and opportunity arises. To have things flying all over the screen for the sake of it risks the animation becoming overwhelming and disjointed, leaving the viewer wondering what on Earth is happening and, more importantly, why?

Rather than simply having images of the competition prizes popping up from off-screen, I chose to tie everything into the overarching 'pizza' theme, using the pizza box as a tool to display information. In my opinion, this helps in the overall consistency of the advert, keeping the whole thing one smooth, logical progression.

Following my storyboard, I created an animatic (shown below) complete with audio. This gave me the opportunity to judge the timing of the advert, making sure that the pace was good and that my idea was capable of meeting all the necessary cues. I am very satisfied with the style of the piece, and how each of the planned actions matches the audio.

There are naturally some points to consider before deciding on a final plan however. With regards to the animation involved, I hope to learn and use displacement maps to animate the flag waving at the end. In addition, use of the puppet pin tool in Adobe After Effects could be a good way to animate the hands when reaching for the pizza, to show them actually grabbing the slices.

Looking at the animatic, I feel the only area where the pacing is off is at the very beginning. There are a few seconds where nothing happens, something that could be easily rectified by the inclusion of an 'Italian Month' title fading in and out, or perhaps the postcards dropping onto the table one by one. I shall spend time coming up with the best solution to this minor issue.

With relation to the end splash screen showing the Food Network logo and web address, I am unsure whether my choice for the background is really appropriate. The green background features a 'grunge' effect, providing additional detail and more interesting colouring than a solid colour background. Whilst I still feel the artistic benefits of using this style over something more plain hold up, I have doubts whether grunge specifically is something that should be applied to an advert promoting food programmes. Grunge itself is an effect adding realistic dirt to something, making it look old and worn. This is, in hindsight, likely to contradict the very cleanliness and good hygiene of food production. As a result, I shall look for an alternative way to have an interesting background.

Lastly, this animatic was rendered at 1024 x 768 pixels. I have heard from my tutor however that, whilst we are required to submit animations in widescreen, many companies like all of the information in their adverts to fit within a standard definition screen size. This way, if anyone is still watching in old PAL standard definition, the important information will not be unfortunately cropped. I am uncertain if this consideration is mandatory and so I shall check from my tutors before committing to this.

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