Monday, 24 May 2010

Final Images

Here you can see the final, cleaned up line art for the photo drawings. Natasha seemed mostly satisfied with the sketches, asking for only a few small adjustments to each such as slight changes in facial expressions and making the boy's cheeks chubbier. I corrected each image accordingly before carefully drawing over the pencil with fine-liner, then rubbing out the pencil underneath and touching up where necessary. I've now sent these images on to Mark who will be colouring them digitally on Photoshop for Natasha to use in her final animation. Overall I'm quite pleased with how these drawings have turned out; I think it was worth taking the time to measure them against the 3D models and I feel I have learnt a lot about adapting 3D designs into 2D from the experience.

Photo Sketches

Natasha originally planned to take screenshots of her 3D models for the photographs on the fridge at the start of the animation, but our group managed to convince her that it would be a lot easier to use 2D drawings, that way she wouldn't have to model several different versions of each character showing aging and clothing changes. I offered to do the line art for these drawings since I've had experience trying to copy other people's art styles in the past (mostly thanks to the Beryl the Peril project back in first year) and I can usually adapt my way of drawing quite well. I also thought it would be excellent practise for the future, since if I ever manage to get a job in the 2D animation industry, changes are I will have to fall into an existing style.

Natasha sent me screen shots of her character models for me to use as reference, though I had to improvise when it came to drawing the boy as a baby/toddler. I actually found it a lot more difficult than I was expecting due to the character's unusual proportions and sunken areas of their faces creating skin shadows that were difficult to convey through line. It took quite a few hours of studying the screen shots and rubbing out mistakes before I finally produced something I was happy with. I've tried my best to keep the proportions as accurate and close to the models as possible and I think they look fairly similar. For the boy I mostly shortened his hair and made his face rounder/eyes bigger to show him at younger stages, as his present incarnation is already quite young to begin with, so I imagined his features wouldn't change that drastically. I also used a few Internet references to draw certain aspects of poses and props that I wasn't sure of, which you can see below. The situations the characters are drawn in were Natasha's choice and request.

Once finished I sent the sketches to Natasha for her to look over so she could tell me if anything needed changing. I won't continue to clean up the sketches into line art until she is satisfied with them.


Above is the animatic I made using the final version of my storyboard. While this is only a rough guess of how long each scene will hold, I tried to keep the timing as realistic as possible in order for the story to flow properly. Overall I think it came out quite well: some of the action scenes are quite fast-paced, but I tried to balance them out by holding the slower shots for a little longer so the audience can connect with the characters. If anything, the entire animatic may run a little too fast... but I'm sure the final animation will be slower once Natasha has added in/animated extra details that I'm not aware of. Either way, I have managed to cut down her original 5 minute+ animatic to about 1 minutes 50 seconds, so I'm quite pleased I've been able to get it down to a more manageable length for her.

Revised Storyboard

While talking the new storyboard over with Natasha and Steve, it was brought to my attention that there were a few problems. The first being that the mother originally appeared far too happy when beckoning the son back into the garden to play with her. Considering she has just given up on her dream of winning the gardening contest so she can play with her son, its only natural what she should look and act rather sad and disappointed. But at the same time, I believe she would try to put on a happy face and smile for her son so as not to make him feel bad. The whole point of the giving-the-ball-back gesture and letting him play is that she wants her son to be happy; being miserable herself and going back into the house will only make him feel sad and alone, like he's the one who's caused her to give up. And while that may be true, I can't imagine the mother would want to put that on her son's shoulders. So I decided to redraw her panel to make give her a sad smile and gently beckoning with the hands rather than cheerful waving; thus showing her sadness despite her trying to hide it.

The second problem was the boy's realisation of what his mother has given up for him and figuring out what he can do to help. My original plan for the scene seems a little awkward with hindsight, as there was no key point to show the switch flicking in his brain. Karina came up with an excellent suggestion of having the boy go to throw the ball to his mum in the garden, then stop just before he lets go as the realisation dawns. I think this will come across as much more emotionally powerful and effective, so I have added it into the revised storyboard which you can see below.


After watching Natasha's animatic through several times (which can be found here), the first thing I realised could definitely go was the shed scene. While I understand Natasha's reasoning for having the mum give her son a job to do (to make her feel guilty for not allowing him to play with the ball), a mother leaving her young son to saw up planks of wood with a dangerous tool and build a shed all on his own doesn't quite ring true to me. There's just too many possibilities for accidents and him seriously hurting himself; I believe it's the sort of thing that would require constant adult supervision. I also felt that the mother didn't really need to give him any hard labour in order to make her feel guilty. I know from experiencing my mum's rage whenever me or my brothers used to mess up her hard work as children that mothers can get frustrated very easily, especially when trying to work against a deadline with constant distractions and setbacks. The easiest way to eliminate those obstacles is to temporarily get rid of the child causing them, usually by sending them to their rooms, which is a punishment children identify with imprisonment and banishment from the wonderful place where they wish to play. This alone is usually enough to make the mother feel guilty later (usually once she's finally finished her work or achieved her goal), as she realises she put herself before the desires of her children when all they really wanted to do was play. No matter how angry they get in the heat of the moment, mothers love their children and have a soft spot for them, especially if the child in question is only young. I think the mother in Natasha's animation would feel guilty enough to return the ball to her son simply by banishing him from the garden while she finishes her work. Just seeing her son sitting miserably on the curb outside the garden gate would probably be enough to make her feel she'd been too hard on him, especially considering his young age. After all, all little boys want to play. Perhaps he can even be poking/rolling stone over with a stick to show how much he really wants to be playing with the ball.

I also got the impression that she probably doesn't get to spend as much time with him as she'd like, due to her being a single mother and working full time. So the fact that he wanted to play with her and she pushed him away to do the garden will probably also make her feel sufficient guilt. I don't know if that was the boy's original intention, but the way he holds the ball up to the mother pleadingly at the start instead of just running outside with the ball suggests he wants to play with her rather than on his own.

In order to shorten the introduction, I decided to move the photos showing the boy growing up with his mum from the hallway to being stuck up on the fridge. Not only will this save Natasha the time of modelling the hallways and all the photo frames, but it also allows the camera to move straight from the photos to the gardening competition poster and the calendar (which will also be stuck up on the fridge), effectively cutting out the need to have the mother standing in front of the calendar marking off the days. This way the calendar (and necessary date) can be clearly seen as the camera pans down over it towards the title spelt out in letters on the fridge below it. I also thought it might be nice for the photos and everything to be pinned up with novelty fridge magnets portraying the interests of the two characters (flowers/gardening magnets for the mum, football magnets for the boy), thus introducing the viewer to their motivations at the very beginning before throwing them into the main story. I think subtle hints like that will add depth help people make sense of the interactions between the characters, since there will be no dialogue. As a result of cutting the mother from the calendar scene, I moved her first appearance to outside, where the boy pops up in front of her asking to play.

I ended up cutting out most of the domino effect (when the boy's ball causes chaos after he kicks it) simply because I didn't think it was really necessary to be so elaborate. I think the reason for the mother's anger could just as easily be one large thing going wrong rather than lots of little things setting each other off, so I opted for the lawnmower mowing down all her newly planted flowers. I also cut out the scene where the boy plays football with his mother after she gives him the ball back because, again, it didn't really seem necessary. It was needed in the original storyboard because the boy needed a reason to go outside the garden and see the other pretty gardens in the street to get his idea, but in my version he was already outside the garden anyway when his mother sent him out. So I thought it would work just as well if he had his idea after getting the ball back, while he was still in the street. I think this makes things flow faster and smoother while still getting the point across.

Lastly, I cut the scenes of the two creating the football garden together as I felt it was rather long-winded and would require a lot of time and effort to animate, which I don't think Natasha really has at this stage... I think the result could be shown just as effectively by cutting to the flower delivery truck blocking the view of the garden, and then having it drive away to reveal the garden fully finished in all its football glory. It can then cut to a shot of the boy finishing off a section of the garden to show he's helped, and have the mother come hug him so they can fade into the winning photograph.

Helping the Third Years

For this module we are supposed to partner with a third year whose area of animation is similar to our own so we can learn from them and help them with their final major project. Unfortunately only one third year seems to specialise in my preferred area of 2D Flash animation, and there doesn't really seem to be much I can do for him at this stage. So instead I have offered to help with the pre-production for Natasha Williams' 3D animation since she needs help rewriting/drawing her storyboard due to her current animatic being far too long. Her character designs and general story idea have already been formed, so it is simply a case of me going through her story and removing any scenes I feel are unnecessary, while reworking the remaining scenes to maintain the flow of the story after the cuts. I feel quite confident doing this as I've had experience in cutting down my own storyboards in order to fit advertising time slots (as most TV adverts only run for about 30-40 seconds and my initial ideas where usually far too long-winded to fit into this time frame) for past projects. Considering Natasha's storyboard currently runs over five minutes and she hopes to cut it down to 1:30-2.00 minutes, I think some rather harsh cuts will have to be made in order to make this animation possible in the time she has left.