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.

Updated Animatic (Animation completed)

This is the version of the animatic with all the animation (minus some environmental animation) completed. There are still some aspects such as leaves rustling and brambles slithering that need finished.

You can see some of the completed backgrounds, and also an example of how the entire film will look while rendered, as the first two shots have been completed in this version of the animatic.

As you can see, I copied the posing and framing from the original 2D animatic to the best of my abilities, and put a lot of emphasis on creating good strong silhouettes with the characters.

 

 

Below I have shared examples of some of my personal favourite shots from the entire film. I think they show off my skills in layout, posing, timing and expressions quite well.

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Environmental Textures

The plan was for every single background of the film to be completed in a very painterly style, with thick, visible brushstrokes and bright colours.

Part 1: Skyspheres

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This Skysphere is used in Scenes 1 & 2. It is the pleasant, normal sky that appears when all is calm and at peace. As you can see I used very vivid colours and thick brushstrokes to paint the fluffy clouds to create a very fun and carefree sky.
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This second Skysphere is used during Scene 3, when the rain begins to fall. The colours are still natural, signifying that the situation is not so far from reality, but the swirling vortex of the clouds tells us that the worst is yet to come.
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The colours have gotten even more intense and surreal for this skysphere that is utilised during Scenes 4, 5, 6 and 7. The contrasting colours create a sense of unease and create an overall unnatural feeling for the setting.
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This Skysphere is used during the climax of the film. The colours are incredibly harsh, vivid and unnatural, giving off an almost nightmare-ish vibe.
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The underwater sphere. The effect I am hoping for with this sphere is that the sudden shift from the loud, vivid reds will be so contrasting with these deep greens and blues, will create an emotional response from the audience; like they too have been suddenly plunged into cold water after being exposed to a lot of intense energy.
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The Final Skysphere. It is quite literally the calm after the storm. The colours are muted and the clouds are sparse. My intended effect here is that the heightened emotions of the previous scenes have calmed. The rabbit is no longer afraid and full of doubt, symbolised by the sparser cloud cover. The sky colours is also a very faded blue and cream gradient, similar to the skysphere from the first scene, symbolising a return to the real world. The subtle sunbeams also represent a return of hope, as we have not seen the sun since before the storm began.

 

Part 2: Grass and trees

As you can see, like the skyspheres, the ground, grass and bark textures are all incredibly painterly with large, distinctive brushstrokes.

As we can see in these render tests, the 2-Dimensional painted background almost make the setting look like a stage for the action to take place on.

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As we can see in this render test, the characters and the background appear to belong in the same art style, but the rabbits stand out from the rest of the assets with painted features because their textures are a lot smoother.

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.

Animation Student and Notorius dragon enthusiast