Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Business of animation- Sugar Rush Sundays

Over the past few weeks, I've been a bit busy with several different projects (not all for university!) on the go at once, so I apologise for having not updated my blog for a while!

Anyhow, in my last post for this module, I explained that due to the short duration of the briefs available to me, I have chosen to create another advert animation to boost my portfolio of work. This was a good idea I think! In the past week or so, I have managed to devise a concept, create the storyboard, animatic, and for the most part the final animation- though some improvements have been suggested which I have yet to work on. Here is my work so far:

Another advert for TVs 'Food Network', the 'Sugar rush Sundays' promo is all about promoting a weekly run of programming based on sweet, sugary foods. Naturally, the promo should be bright, fun and lively. The idea that I devised (after a fair amount of thinking) was that of strawberries and sugar. As explained on my image above, what better way to show someone has a sweet tooth than by turning even healthy fruits into sugary food?

The art style of this piece (though perhaps more noticeable in my most recent version of this animation at the bottom of this post, as opposed to the storyboard itself) was heavily inspired by the videogame 'Rayman Origins'! The new Rayman is a fantastic game with astonishing hand drawn aesthetics, remaining simple whilst still having a level of stylised detail that does not go amiss. Check out the game's visual style for yourself below:

The provided audio for this piece features lots of exaggerated squeaky voices screaming as if travelling really fast! A bit obscure to say the least, and something which did not give us a great deal of freedom. Obviously, we would need to include some form of character to 'create' the noises, something which would in turn represent a rush for sugar.

The idea of bungee jumping strawberries arose from the fact that people dip them into loose sugar. I thought for a while about a fun way for this to happen, which featured the strawberry moving fast. Everything seemed to meet the brief and I myself looked forward to doing some more character-oriented animation.

To help judge the timing, I created the following animatic based on the storyboard images:

From this animatic, I noticed that the sound did not match up exactly. For the beginning of the animation, the strawberry is not really making any noise (as he prepares to jump), and so I decided that for the final piece I would simply begin the provided audio a little later. This was not a problem for me- the range of available 'Food Network' briefs were defined as five to fifteen second pieces. This meant that my animation could be up to fifteen seconds even though the audio was only five. With mixed feelings about the pacing of the piece following my animatic, I decided to lengthen the animation as appropriate, and add in some extra sounds and actions to really bring the concept to life.

The extra details included motion blur, strong gusts of wind at the beginning helping to show that the strawberry begins high up, the classic cartoon falling noise and some more comical audio to make the piece even more cartoon. The last, and perhaps most significant change, was to add a crowd of strawberries cheering for the jumper at the bottom. This was a good idea, for many different characters are distinguishable in the given audio. It does not make a lot of sense for all of the noises to be coming from a single source! With the inclusion of extra characters, the sound is far better matched by what is shown on screen, and the animation as a whole is far more believable. Here is the animation so far, complete with these changes:

I am very pleased with this piece! The character was created as separate assets in Adobe Photoshop, before being parented in After Effects and animated with the puppet pin tools. The puppet pin tools were also used for the strawberry lace bungee chord- for which the source image was completely straight! The use of these tools enabled me to achieve what I feel is a very convincing waving motion. The background assets, such as the table and sweet packet, were too created by drawing directly in Photoshop.

As I use Adobe After Effects more, I can definitely notice how much learning new techniques has impacted my workflow, increasing my efficiency as well as the range of effects I can create. Particluarly (no pun intended) this project has seen considerable focus on the use of particle effects such as Particle Playground. This effect was used to generate the small cube-shaped 'sugar' particles that are thrown around the screen when the strawberry lands in the bowl. In addition, I am now far more comfortable with the idea of precomposing work- you will notice that the falling sugar itself comprises of several different particle effects, masked accordingly, to create the impression that they impact the table and settle on its surface (as opposed to falling straight down through it).

All in all, with roughly five weeks still to go for this project, I feel I am making excellent progress! Whilst I have a few tweaks to make here (namely changing the font at the end, as suggested by my tutor, cutting the amount of time the berry falls for, and keeping everything within a screen safe area (such that important aspects would not be cropped off were the advert viewed on a non-widescreen TV)), the difficult stuff is done!

I might have been a bit hasty in calling my most recent 'Italian Month' video the 'final' one too! My tutor has suggested improvements for that animation as well, and with time remaining I shall revisit that animation and touch up certain elements soon. Again, this will be nothing too drastic. Within the next week or so, I hope to have both 'Italian Month' and 'Sugar rush Sundays' finished, at which point I can put all of my remaining energy into my on-hiatus 'Kino 10' piece.

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