First of all I’d like to thank everyone for the comments and feedback I’ve received from my last couple of posts. I had no idea so many people would be interested in the specifics of animating a shot and the animation in Cloudy. I posted my Cloudy reel a few days ago and I will use some of my shots to discuss, in more depth, how we approached the motion for Cloudy.
Here it is again if you missed it:
I’ll start off with the slow motion Flint shot, rui37.
I started by moving his root to his chest so as I rotated his chest everything below would rotate with it. With the chest I animated what I felt would be the correct speed, because the shot starts and ends in realtime, but the middle is slow motion. Once I was happy with the relative speed of that movement I started to work my way down his body…this is starting to sound like a sleazy romance novel. Everything was pretty straight forward as you’d expect counter animating the follow through, but once I was finished offsetting everything down the chain to his feet it still wasn’t crazy enough.
Flint had what we called “noodle” controls on his arms and legs. There was an attribute on his knee that controlled how much noodle-y-ness that leg had and then there were two controls, one for his thigh and one for his shin. These you actually translated in space and would pull or push the geometry of that specific section to move the bendy shapes further.
So I ended up animating these controllers throughout the shot to push the curves further. You can see it in the frame to the right how completely broken his legs are to push the wave motion through his entire body.
This shot also contains a good example of the pupil treatment we used on Cloudy. In the sequential images below you can see how his pupil is almost perfectly round and slightly begins to squash as it presses again the edge of his eye. This is everywhere in the movie and I can’t imagine doing a “cartoony” animated film without this.
I didn’t just squash his pupil though, I also subtly changed the shape of his whole eye socket to help show where he was looking.
For the animation on Flint’s face I animated a group of cheek puff controls in conjunction with some blendshapes I made to get the skydiver cheek ripple effect. Its a little hard to see the detail, but its there. For his tongue I created a series of flapping poses and randomly copied them throughout and then cleaned them up to get some nice overlap.
As flint leaves the screen I knew he would become a blurred mess so I stretched his legs like mad to help sell that the FLDSMFR was pulling him.
On Cloudy if you were assigned a shot with background characters you were responsible for animating them. So in the background I had to make sure everyone was doing something interesting. Unfortunately I got in a bit of trouble because I thought it would be funny to make one of them mouth(in slow motion) “What The F#*K”. Haha right? The producer didn’t think it was funny.
I want to point out some very specific things in mee19. This is the first time in the film that we see Earl. Because of this I had to establish how his character moved and what his role was in relationship to Flint.
Immediately I had to show a dominant/submissive relationship. This isn’t really rocket science, but I had to choose how to show that visually. I decided that Earl needs to take up as much of the frame as possible. He also needs to force Flint into as small a space as possible.
Mentally Flint is dealing with a lot in this shot. He’s surprised, he needs to hide what he’s doing, he needs to lie, he needs to appeal to Earl’s sensibilities, and he’s afraid of what Earl might do. I’m not saying this is the most incredible bit of acting ever in an animated film, just that that’s a lot to think about while animating.
We always described Earl’s neck as a piston. It would fire in and out accenting his dialogue. Earl’s movements were always quick and precise: no anticipation and an abrupt start to the motion, followed by a long feathered settle.
To keep the character alive during long holds we would put in a quick and small adjust. In this shot as Earl holds his pose I have small adjusts during the long hold where he inches closer to Flint.
No anticipation and a very quick change into the next pose with an incredibly long settle. No over shoots, get about 90% of the way to the next pose and then just settle the last 10% over about 10 frames. Of course this would be different for different moves, but this is a good example of how the majority of the quick adjusts were animated.
Sometimes the motion blur would give away the quick movement with its preframe blur. To get around this and to create a more pleasing feel to the “snappy” move I might add a few frames of ease into the start of the move like the curve in the second image.
If you look closely at mee19 you’ll notice that anytime the character is profile to the camera you can see through their open mouth to the building in the background. This was another style choice that the directors wanted throughout the film. At times it was difficult to achieve, but there are many shots in Cloudy where this is implemented. The idea was to achieve an extremely clean silhouette while treating the mouth as a two dimensional element. If you could see the other side of Flint’s face its terrifying, the skin is pulled back almost to his ear wrecking all the geometry on that side of his face. In the end it didn’t matter as long as you could see clearly through his mouth.
Facial Detail Examples
There were some very subtle things we did to make the characters more appealing in Cloudy. First of all, asymmetry. This is no secret and without it any character is as appealing as a parking ticket.
We were able to manipulate the character’s head shapes on Cloudy with ease. So the first thing I’d do is throw the default head shape off by moving the top of the head in one direction, or stretching one side of the face. The size and shape of each eye was very important to support the shape of the head and help show where the character was looking.
I had to hide the change in Flint’s head shape within his head turn. During his head turn his nose changes its direction, and the kidney bean shape of his head is pushed in the opposite direction, also the shape of his eyes change.
Sam was much more delicate when it came to breaking up her asymmetry.
Also good examples of the pupil treatment in both of these shots.
Sam’s Glasses Treatment
With Sam’s glasses the trick was to never intersect her eye with the frame of the glasses. If the glasses intersected her eye as she turned her head it really accentuated the fact that the front of her face was pretty flat and its much more appealing to have a clear view of the character’s most prominent eye. To keep this from happening we would animate the glasses to turn against her head, there are some much better examples of this in the jello sequence.
We screened a rough cut of Cloudy in December 2008, mostly storyboards with about 20% final animation. But when we got to the part of the movie when Steve finally realizes his purpose I knew what shots I had to animate. This was the first time I even contemplated requesting shots. I’ve been pretty lucky letting fate do my shot assignments, but I knew when I saw these I had to animate them. I didn’t care so much for the fighting with Gummy Bear shots, the shot I really wanted was Steve realizing whats happening.
I approached the animation director, Pete Nash, and he said he would certainly see what he could do. A few days later I found out I was going to get to animate bly32, Steve seeing the Gummy Bears and as a bonus I get to animate the tripped out happy Gummy Bear shot as well!
For this shot Phil and Chris explicitly asked if I could animate Steve as a 2D card moving upward. They didn’t want any fancy animationy stuff, just Steve poking his head up moving at a constant speed.
So thats what they got, the only other trick was having to get his voice translator lights to clear the top of the door so you can see them light up as he says Gummy Bears.
I referenced the storyboard drawing for this frame extensively. I pushed Steve’s facial rig as far as it would go with the built in controls, but it only got me about 60% of the way there. I created several custom blendshapes and groups of clusters to help push his mouth into that final shape. I had to reconstruct some of the geometry around his eyes as well because scaling his eyes so large started to break the surrounding geometry. I threw a slight wiggle on his mouth as if he couldn’t contain himself, but then I just let the pose and Steve’s insane expression sell the rest of the shot. I figured this was a moment for Steve and the audience to all realize together whats about to happen.
Remote Control Television
Before I wrap this up there’s one more thing, Flint’s failed invention the Remote Control Televsion is everywhere throughout Cloudy. Sometimes its more obvious than others, but anytime we could fit him into a shot the director’s loved it. I only have 2 examples of it from my reel, but here they are.
I hope you enjoyed this post and please leave a comment if you have any questions and I’ll be sure to reply. Also if you have any questions about my other reel shots ask away and I’ll reply, maybe even with some fancy pictures!
and of course: