Thursday, 28 October 2010

Bad Hair Day Animatic

I scanned in the panels from my previously posted storyboard and imported them into Windows Movie Maker to make this animatic. At the moment its not the most effective since I don't have any sounds or music to help give an idea of how it will flow, but I intend to do a revised animatic later once I've ironed out the kinks in my storyboard. For now I simply wanted to get an idea of the timing of each scene and see how long the narrative runs at a whole, and I think I've planned it out fairly well time-wise. I used my video references to ensure the actions scenes don't drag on too long and tried to match them up as closely as I could to the live footage. All in all the animation should last about 1:40-50, which I think is a good length for a short film at this stage of the year.


Here's my first draft of the storyboard for my animation. I spent a long time drawing out as many of the key poses as I could between the actions scenes so that I can scan them in and use them as key frames for my animation to save time later. Unfortunately the story is far from perfect, and after showing it to my tutor and several of my classmates, some rather glaring errors were pointed out to me that are necessary to correct. The first and most important one was that the ending was far too cliche. Her suddenly waking up and realising it's all a dream rather seems like a cop-out in hindsight, as though I couldn't fully commit to the twisted idea of the hair coming alive, and that's the very last thing I want. Admittedly I think I let tiredness get the better of me when I came to draw the ending, but the truth of the matter was that I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to end the story without it dragging on for several more pages. If I had months and months to work on this then I would dearly love to develop an interesting conclusion to the battle, but unfortunately time is of the essence and I must take my deadline into consideration. If I hope to get this piece anywhere near finished by the time December comes, I need to keep it short and sweet, which it why I ultimately opted for the dream sequence. Luckily my tutor pointed out a way in which I would save the ending while keeping the dream concept in place, since the fast pacing of my animatic (which you can see in the post above) built up the tension of the struggle well before suddenly cutting to the waking scene, which I was told was quite effective. Basically I need to make the dream more meaningful by linking what's happening in reality to what happened in the dream world. Sounds in your room while you sleep can often affect what you dream of, so its only natural other things can make such an subconscious impression as well.

I was also told that it was confusing why the girl was reaching for the scissors on her desk the first time but didn't cut her hair, when really this wasn't my intention at all. The first time she pulls herself up to her desk, its simply to get her hair bands to tie up her hair, but because I'd left the desk so sparse and empty other than the scissors and hair bands, it automatically looks like she's reaching for the scissors since they're closer to her. This can be easily remedied by adding more paraphernalia to the desk to take the focus away from the scissors, so I plan to add stationary and such when I go back and revise my storyboards.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Video References

Since I plan to animate a lot of actions I've never attempted to draw before, I got one of my housemates to film me acting out several of the more tricky scenes I have in mind so I could get a good feel for the movement and use the videos as references for my work later on. This turned out to be even more beneficial than I planned; a lot of the actions proved more difficult for me to do properly than I origianlly thought, so I ended up doing a lot of retakes as I figured out exactly how I wanted my character to move on screen through my own trial and error. Thanks to this I think I am about ready to fully draw and plan out my storyboard, as prior to this the direction I wanted my narrative to take was rather fuzzy.

Despite my hair being far longer than average, its still too short in comparison to my character's hair (which touches the floor) to make a convincing reference alone, so I tied a blanket around my neck and wore it as a cape to create a similar effect, making sure to over exaggerate my movements to make them easy to read even through the mass of hair and blanket. I found this particularly useful as it helped me get a feel for how cumbersome having something floor length attached to you can be, and I insantly felt more clumsy and exasperated while moving around in it, which is exactly how I expect my character would feel in her situation. I made sure to do plently of 'tripping over/slipping on the hair' attempts with the blanket to be sure I understood the movement and the weight of the hair dragging against me.

Hauling myself up to desk level was fun to do; I imagine my character would be exhausted from dragging her hair across the room/falling over it and such, so much so that simply moving from her bed to her desk would be a huge effort for her, especially when she's just woken up. To emphasise this, I made sure to do one hand at a time on the desk before slowly pulling myself up to show anticipation, and then added an extra jerky flop to my head once I managed to do so to demonstrate the 'follow through' animation principle. I always try to act like I'm going to animate, as this helps me exaggerate my video footage accordingly when I come to use it as reference.

I tried to exaggerate pulling my hair through into pigtails as best I could, allowing my arms to flop lifelessly to my sides afterwards to show my annoyance and how little I can be bothered with fighting with my hair.

A test shot of me climbing out of bed and 'standing on my hair', causing my head to jerk down painfully as I try to stand up straight. Naturally I had to fake this, but I tried to keep the movement clear and over exaggerated to easily show what's going on. I also tried throwing my hair out of my face to show how annoyed my character is of it hindering her.

Easily the most fun I've ever had video referencing, this is one of my attempts at showing my hair strangling me, complete with hair wrapped around my neck! I tried to make it as interesting and diverse as possible, staring standing before working my way to the floor as the hair gets the best of me. Since I wanted the action to be spontaneous like it would be if my hair really did come to life and attack me, I didn't really plan this before hand and just winged it, which I think made it turn out a lot better.

For these two I used a scarf to represent the hair wrapping around my wrists, and I found it really useful for limiting my arm movements which I wouldn't have been able to show convincingly if I'd simply left my wrists free and pretended.

And last but not least, the tumble-turn! This was my first time doing one with hair down (I have to confess, I was a little scared of it getting caught in something and me winding up in a tangled heap), so I found it very useful to see how my hair reacted to the roll and followed my head (which I will exaggerate further to demonstrate the follow through principle in my animation), as well as how it landed when I sprawled across the floor on my front at the end.

Acting Research!

Charlie Chaplin was the slap-stick master of the silent movie era and is easily one of the best examples of acting you can ever hope to find. The above clip from his 1931 film 'City Lights' is an excellent example of staging and comedic timing, as well as acting in general. The great thing about Chaplin's films is that he rarely ever changes his expression, yet still manages to convey a wide range on emotions and connect with his audience through bodily action alone. I chose the boxing scene in particular as it relates to my own fight scene I have planned with my character, and I hope to implement the principles used here in my own work in order to make my character more believable. One of the first things I noticed from watching was that the two fighters almost always stand in profile when they face each other, making their postures and lunges very easy to read so the audience has no trouble following the action despite the lack of sound. They also mirror each other, often dancing around the ring in circles rather than actually fighting, and this gives the composition of the scene a nice feeling of balance and prevents it from becoming to hectic, as well as allowing for the comedy to build up as the same gag is repeated to greater effect. The camera follows the two around, sticking to them like glue so they are almost always framed perfectly in the center of the shot, ensuring that the audience doesn't become distracted by anything else in the background as well as, again, making the movement very easy to follow. The poses are exaggerated and defined well; if you were to imagine this film as a story board you would have no trouble understanding what was going on even in static pictures. I think this is the key element I need to focus on - my storyboards must be crystal clear and make good use of staging in order to properly get my story across. I likewise intend to keep my character framed in the middle of the shot during her fight scene, and I want each storyboard to contain a pose at the peak of movement (the accent) so each stage of the fight flows clearly from one pose to the next as it develops, much like Chaplin's boxing. Furthermore, if I do this I would then be able to use said storyboards as keyframes to help get me started animating.

Back to animation, 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' from Disney's Fantasia is another great example of character acting, this time in a similar context to what I'm aiming for with my story. Like my character, Mickey finds himself overwhelmed by what was previously an inanimate object under his control, putting him in grave peril as the brooms revel in their new found lives. What I really love about this, and in particular the scene at 5:03, is Mickey's face as he struggles against the current to try and get to the steps, and later as he tries to climb out the well against the waves of the water being thrown in. Rather than just being a simple change from one facial expression to another, his expression contorts and flickers in between the two accented points as the water hits him; his eyes squint and he shakes his head while gasping for breath, making the struggle so much more believable. I really want to include detailed secondary animation like this in my own work, as I think its the tiny little details that most people often overlook that really make a character come alive.

Final Character Design

Here it is, my final character design! After asking several people (both teachers, students, and friends) their opinions it seems the low tight pigtails were the most popular, and upon further reflection I'd have to agree. While I really like the high pigtail design, due to how short her arms are it would actually be impossible (or at least extremely difficult) for her to reach the top of her adorably huge head in order to tie her hair up in the morning, so the low pigtails are really the most logical decision. I also like how they look the closest to real arms since they tie close to the neck, which is near where her real arms start.

My character design in Flash. I found her surprisingly easy and pleasant to draw into Flash with my tablet, which I think shows I made a good decision to simplify my design what what I had previously... Hopefully she should be enjoyable to animate. For now I'm keeping her black and white with a only a little shading to emphasise her eyes and hair ties, but I may add colour later if I have time. I'm also pleased to discover she looks very distinctive in silhouette, making her easily recognisable in a variety of poses. I think adding the gaps to the corners of her hair above the hair ties was a good idea, as this not only allows me to animate her hair flowing more freely (rather than just as one clumped together mass) but also makes it more obvious where her hair is in silhouette form.

Turnaround of my character so I know how she looks from each angle.

Thursday, 14 October 2010


A little late, I know, but here's my official proposal for the project:

For my first specialist study I want to produce a short character animation based around my idea of a girl struggling against her overly long hair: a living entity in itself which is fighting back against getting cut. Rather than being sinister or twisted, I want to take a more light hearted and comedic approach, portraying the life-or-death battle in a very cartoony manner using a cute character design. The target audience will be young adults around my own age, especially girls since I’m fairly certain every woman in existence can relate to having a bad hair day. I will show my work to my classmates as it progresses to get feedback and ensure I’m on track. The animation will be 2D and drawn digitally on Flash.

Through this project I intend to learn the principles of acting in detail by researching body language and studying the works of practitioners who are known for their acting and character animation skills, such as Ed Hooks and Charlie Chaplin. I will use the knowledge gained to convey my story purely through acting and without the aid of dialogue, hopefully compelling the audience to connect and empathise with my character through her actions alone. In addition I will look at previous animations that have centred on inanimate objects gaining lives of their own and either fighting back or causing trouble for the person who’s supposed to be controlling them, such as the works of Patrick Smith and possibly Don Hertzfeldt. I want to implement humour through exaggerated poses and facial expressions in an attempt to make my work feel more fluid, since my previous animations have felt rather stiff and controlled. For the character herself I’m going to look at characters from games and animation that I know to have hair that moves independently from the body and study how each variation differs in design, purpose, and movement.

Character Refinement

I decided I needed to simplify my character while still keeping the basic shapes and ideas from my last design, as well as refining my narrative to fit the character. Its all well and good to have an epic struggle planned out in my mind, but time is of the essence and since character animation is the focus of my specialist study 1, I need to ensure I can animate the action scenes well enough to connect with the audience rather than relying on gags such as hands popping off. With enough time and planning, that idea could possibly work well, but with how short my animation will be, I feel it'll probably disrupt the flow of the fight and feel disjointed, so I'm shelving that idea for now. Going back to the basics, I asked myself what the defining character traits of my girl needed to be, and I came to this conclusion:

1. She needs to be young and small. Youth will make her innocent and easy for all ages to identify with, not to mention more clumsy and inpatient with her long locks. If age has taught me one thing, its that I'm a lot more patient with my hair now than I used to be as a child or teenager. Making her short will also exaggerate her hair trailing along the floor and pooling around her, making it easier for her to get lost in it, so to speak.
2. She needs to be cute. Some may say this is a given in order to appeal to the audience, but the cute factor will serve a far greater purpose. That is- its so much more fun to Break The Cutie than it is to be mean to a mean, grisly looking character. A mean character deserves bad things to happen to him, but a sweet, cute character doesn't. I find this makes them much easier to sympathise and empathise with when bad things do happen to them, not to mention a whole lot more interesting. And hopefully, the humour of the little cutie getting attacked by her own hair will appeal to the people my age (who I imagine will mostly be male) who don't find cute things endearing and would rather see them squished anyway. This way I'm hoping I can get my character to appeal on multiple levels to all kinds of people of both genders.

With that in mind, I expanded my character research to look at squashed, cutesy character with large heads, expressive eyes, and very simple clothing. I especially like how the image below just has the character in a hooded dress and nothing else, its sweet, simple, and gives the character a charming innocence. Also, considering that my character will most likely start her day getting out of bed, its logical for her to have nothing on her feet.

(Atashi - Chobits)

(Pon and Zi)

(Town residents - Animal Crossing)

Below are my revised character designs influences by the new references I've gathered. I much prefer how this new design has turned out, and after showing it to several classmates and other people my age, I've gained a positive reception saying she's endearing and seems like she'd work well in the narrative I'm planning. I've drawn her in several different poses with three different pigtail hairstyles since I wasn't sure which would work best, and even now I'm honestly now sure... I think the bottom design with the low loose pigtails is probably the least suitable since, again, it'll be difficult to distinguish clear 'arm' poses with such loose hair. For now I'm going to ask more people in my target audience to vote of which hairstyle they prefer in order to get some feedback.