Category Archives: Technical

The decision to add a Vignette

Vignette

a small illustration or portrait photograph which fades into its background without a definite border.

Originally, we wanted the four creatures to be surrounded by smoke and fire to give off an unnatural, nightmarish vibe. However, due to many technical difficulties this proved to be too time consuming and intensive on our systems.

These tests were created by Callum Luckwell.

To counter the lack of smoke, I thought back to the show Hannibal (2013-2015), and noticed that it made use of a more blurred, darker boarder on most of its frames. They ranged from very subtle to incredible obvious, depending on the intensity of the scene.

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Here we can clearly see the dark, faded border surrounding the frame. This is the case for almost every single frame in the show, but it more obvious when the subject matter of a scene is dark or intense.

 

I did a little more research into the use of Vignettes in film and how they can be used effectively, and most importantly, how they add to the emotion of a scene.

https://www.lightsfilmschool.com/blog/filmmaking-tips-vignettes

https://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/masks-and-vignettes-in-cinematography/

Below you can see the how I incorporated the vignettes into the film.

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I achieved these effects by duplicating the movie file, blurring it, then creating a circular mask that cut out the middle of the picture, leaving the unblurred movie file beneath visible. I then added a gradient overlay to the blurred image, and depending on the emotion of the scene, made it subtle or very dark.

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Learning After Effects

I had never even attempted to learn After Effects before reaching the editing and compositing stage of this project. I began by looking at some basic tutorials to get me starting with learning the interface.

It was a learning experience and I did manage to get the hang of the program, and I was able to render the imported frames and apply the correct effects to them.

2D Effects in the Animation (Compositing)

While planning out how each shot would be animated, i came to the realisation that animating some of the shots and effects in the film would be far to complex and beyond by current abilities as a 3D animator.

The most difficult of these shots was going to be the rabbit silhouette transforming into the snake:

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Having a rabbit-shaped silhouette morph into the shape of a coiled snake is easy enough to plan out if we were to animate this scene in 2D, but unfortunately this proved troublesome in 3D.

However, we found a solution to this problem by creating a very simple 2D transparent image of the rabbit shape, and carefully applying a light behind it in Affter Effects.

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A ripple effect was added over the Rabbit silhouette, and I also keyed the opacity so that it would blend seamlessly into the 3D animation of the coiled snake.

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I also used 2-D drawings and overlaid them on the 3-D animation for other effects, such as raindrops and leaves blowing in the wind.

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These effects were composited in after the 3D animation was rendered. They are simple transparent drawings that I carefully placed over each scene to create the illusion of blustering leaves and pouring rain.

Animation – Animation Style Influences

My main goal for the animation in the film was to be emotion-driven, dramatic and appealing to look at. As the film is not a comedy there was no need to have the exaggerated posted and super fast, snappy animation of a film like Hotel Transylvania (Sony Pictures Animation)

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As our film has a much greater focus on drama and emotions I decided to look at animated films and games that focused on creating a dramatic and emotional character.

I was already using live-action footage of rabbits to use as a reference for animating the main character, and despite the apparently obvious comparison, I was not going to use the very dramatic Watership Down as a reference for how I would like to animate the film.

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Though the low-budget roughness of the animation is endearing, I understood that the lack of and arcs or overlapping animation would not translate well into a 3-Dimensional medium.

An animation style that I did really love, however, was from the previously mentioned Ori and the Blind Forest (2015). Though it is a video game, it is during the cutscnes where the staging, posing and movement is at its finest. Everything is very simple but fluid and it results in an incredibly stunning visual treat.

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The animation in Ori and the Blind Forest is incredibly simple, but reads incredibly well. For a game with no dialogue it was very important to convey the emotion of the scene through the character’s interactions and body language, and this game excels in achieving this goal.
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Even with this incredibly simple animation and staging, the game still manages to make the first appearance of the antagonist, the owl Kuro, extremely intimidating and creates an enormous sense of scale.

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Even with such simple yet fluid movements, it is made clear that the character is feeling great sorrow and loss, followed by extreme rage.

It was the simple yet effective animation style of Ori and the Blind Forest that influenced my animation style for the short film more than anything.

 

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As you can see in these two examples I kept the animation as simple as possible, while still trying to convey a lot of emotion and energy. I still took into account the 12 Principles of Animation and implemented them to the best of my ability. In the first example you can see the very clear Squash-and-Stretch of the bunny’s face and brows as he emotes. In the second example there is a very clear portrayal of the Slow-in, Slow-Out and Overlapping Animation with the Chimera’s wings. Ideally there would have been more Secondary Animation and Overlapping Animation with the Chimera’s snake tail but restrictions with the rig meant this was impossible.

The goal in every single shot was for the characters to have a very distinctive and readable silhouette, and I received a lot of feedback for the 2D storyboard telling me I had achieved that, I feel like I succeeded in translating those strong silhouettes into the third dimension.

Animation – Facial Blendshapes

Since our animation would have no dialogue, the story would completely rely on being told through the environments and the expressions of our main character.

In a 2D animated film, it is just a matter of putting together an expression sheet, and following the guide later on by referencing these presets.

expression sheet

In 3D animation the process is incredibly similar, except for the the fact that one must sculpt the expressions needed for facial animation first.

To create the blendshapes needed for the main character, I drew inspiration from the expression sheets for Pixar’s COCO (2017).

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I felt that Miguel from Coco has a similar face shape to our main character, so I used him as a reference for sculpting the rabbit’s face shapes. You can see a lot of squash-and-stretch with the overall shape of Miguel’s face

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This sheet was incredibly helpful when it came to animating the rabbit. The slight asymmetry in Miguel’s face makes the character look more natural and alive, and the clear silhouettes created by the shapes of his eyes, brows and mouth, create a very clear and readable expression. All of this culminates in a very emotive and ultimately likable protagonist.

 

Instead of copying and pasting the topology of the character’s face and sculpting each individual expression individually, I decided to use blendshapes and driven keys while sculpting directly onto the character’s geometry. I found this method much more organic and natural for me, and I was pleased with the results.

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blendshapes

I wanted to give our rabbit very clear silhouettes and cartoon-y, readable expressions. The layout of the blendshape controls wasn’t ideal, but was laid out in a way that the eyebrow controls were over the eyebrows, the eye controls were over the eyes and so forth. It was still cohesive and functioned exactly how it should for the animation.

3d Animatic

All the scenes and cameras have been set up in 3D, following the 2D animatic to the best of my abilities! To achieve this I had to play with perspective a little bit on the scenes; making some characters physically larger than they’re supposed to be to give a greater illusion of depth.

Animation Tests

While we were fixing the paint weights on the model for our main character, I went ahead and did a few animation tests.

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I made a very simple rig consisting of a sphere and two ears to practicing conveying emotion with body language. As ears are a very big feature of a rabbit I decided to practice animating them.

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This run cycle (both are the same animation just shown at different angles) was mage using the most usable version of the rabbit rig. This was mostly to see whether there were any major faults with the rig itself that would affect the geometry. As you can see there is a tiny bit of an issue with the elbows not being able to stretch fully outwards, but apart from that and a minor issue with the hips, everything seemed ok.
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This dog rig was given to me to practice animating with as the model is similar in anatomy to the fat rabbits/warren. I decided to animate a lumbering hop-cycle similar to the walk that I was going to apply to the fat rabbits.