Saturday, March 24, 2012

Drag Princess

For my next exercise, I wanted to get the experience of doing an animation for a director with a specific idea in mind. I went to a friend of mine who's in live action film-making and asked her to come up with a short line that I could animate to. I went to her specifically because whenever I bring my tests to her, she always looks at it from a director's point of view questioning actions and motivations.

It's been a pretty fun process so far and I can't wait to get this finished up because I know with her at the director's helm, it has the potential to be a pretty strong piece for my reel. When she presented me the idea I was a bit hesitant at first, but like on a real production, you're not always get something that you would have chosen on your own, so I dug into it. It was a bit of an exploratory phase for a while trying to nail exactly what she was looking for in the performance. I was given some rough  storyboards to work from, showed her some roughly timed thumbnails, she'd give me notes. We went back and forth like that a few times. Each time I was trying variations, I'd also be exploring it in different ways, at first just drawings:

Then I animated just the torsos to start feeling out the timing of all the actions and start getting a feel for how one character should move differently from the other:

I went from there and did some draw overs and made another, more solidified pencil test of what I was planning to do:

Then even a hybrid of the two as I started to block out more progress in cg:

But while I was close, I seemed to still be missing the mark  on the dance and getting up bit. I think a huge part of it was that I was working mostly from my own drawings without much video reference and that tends to make my work overly choreographed and not as 'real' and spontaneous. I try and counter that by working in a mostly straight ahead fashion, but it still doesn't sit right. So I went back to the drawing table with video reference and now am definitely on track with what the director wants:
[Note, this is just body animation so far, and just my first blocking pass, I have much tying down and polishing to do yet. I also haven't animated the eyes nor any expressions, that's next]

There's always that artistic struggle with using video reference; rely on it too heavily and you're just rotoscoping and not doing anything artistic, don't use it enough and I risk missing out on the subtle things that make the body feel connected. I found particularly with the character on screen right, he's mostly still throughout, but that is actually something that requires the most subtlety and complicated movements to make him both alive and moving, but not distractingly so, so the video reference came in real handy there. Now that I have this base in that seems to be working, I can get in to the fun of pulling things back and adding things in to really make this come alive and look nice.

Wish me luck!

PS: the audio clip she chose is from a film called To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar

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