Now that you’ve seen Cloudy and understand its awesomeness I wanted to talk about a group of shots that I animated for the film. In a rare string of luck I was assigned 5 Dock shots in sequential order. It was up to me how I wanted to approach them, I could block them all at the same time or take each one individually to final. I think I had something like 6 weeks to get them all done.
Here they are from the final film(4 seconds of black at the head):
As far as my work flow for the shots I decided to block each one and get approval on the blocking so there would be less surprises as I started to finesse the animation. Of course I had to fight the urge to just jump right in and focus on the eyeball shot. There were a bunch of individual challenges in each shot from how to have Sam sit down between the ladder, how to execute the eyeball gag, and even how to get Steve on the other side of the ladder to hook up with later shots.
I always reference the storyboards for any shot I’m working on. There was something totally awesome about the poses and shapes that the storyboard artists chose. If I saw something I liked I always tried to work it into the final shot.
Nothing too crazy going on here, I needed to animate her turning and walking to the ladder, obviously totally bummed out. Sam was the most difficult character on Cloudy to animate. If you could see her legs while she walked there was a fine line between it looking feminine and like she had spider legs.
I’m not 100% happy with her facial expression at the head of the shot, her face looks very round and bloated, I think I could have done something to make her more appealing.
As far as some animation stuff goes, I had specific things in mind while animating Sam to make her seem sad. I kept her shoulders slumped forward and had her arms swing like pendulums. I wanted her limbs to feel like they weighed a lot. Thats why she doesn’t really pick her feet up as she walks. I wanted to imply a bit of a connection between her and the microphone she just threw into the water. So her eyes stay looking as long as they can as she turns and she gives one last quick look before she plops down.
The plop down works pretty well and I think it has to do with the deliberate hold and lean screen left before she sits. The main challenge I faced was how to get her screen left hand to swing around and under the ladder to match her poses in the following shots. Its a bit of a cheat, but if you’re looking there while watching this, I’ve already failed.
This shot was so much fun to work on. I started by looking at the storyboards, I really liked the first drawing in the boards so I had to apply a lot of deformers to get Flint to match the board drawing. Throughout Cloudy we tried to always change the shape of the pupil if it was pressed against the edge of the eye, this was a stylistic choice that Phil and Chris really wanted in the film.
For the actual heels to the eye gag there wasn’t a magic button that I just pressed on the rig to make it happen. I thought this might be the case, but as I soon found out it was up to me to figure out how to do it. The storyboard panel for the gag didn’t give me many visual cues either so I was kind of on my own. I did remember one thing that Phil said when he launched me on the shot, “If you could have the eyes puff out around her feet like pillows, that would be awesome!” So that became my objective.
*Warning Nerd Alert* The geometry of Flint’s eyes were just simple NURBS spheres. I think they had maybe 6 isoparms that I could use to make the creases. I knew the creases were going to be what would sell the sunken in pillow shape. If I couldn’t get the creases to look right it would just look like a lame intersection. So I created a series of blendshapes for both eyeballs pulling as much geometry from the back of the eyeball forward to create the creases.
The initial shape would key on over one frame and then it would move through a couple other shapes that puffed and then relaxed. Underneath all of that though was a lattice over his entire head so that I could get a good squash on the impact. I also placed individual lattices on each eyeball and also a series of clusters for each pillow section that I wiggled slightly as the eyes settled and the camera pans up to Sam.
That’s just the technical mumbo jumbo of the eyeballs themselves. I stretched his eye sockets so far that it destroyed the skin around his eyes. I had to create another blendshape target and a series of smooth deformers to make that clean. His mouth was also stretched extremely far, but it just took some smoothing out to make the skin feel nice. You might notice a crease on the inside of his cheek, I’m still not happy with that. I could never track down what was causing it. While looking at the mouth you’ll notice another stylistic choice the directors wanted us to follow and thats the shape of the teeth always follows the shape of the lips.
As far as where the hand pose came from, honestly, it came from the fact that I had all this free space on the left side of frame and I needed some other visual element to express pain. I already had him digging his nails into the rung on screen right, but I had his other hand to work with so I put it into the most awkward pose I could fit into that screen space. People dug it and it supports the insanity of the shot so I guess its all good.
Here you can see another example of the eye treatment. When Sam’s eyes are looking straight ahead, they are almost perfect circles.
When she looks down and the pupils hit the edge of her lids I squash them a bit. There was no fancy automated process for this, it was always done by hand. We did this throughout the film as a stylistic choice and it was very subtly successful.
This shot was the one I most dreaded out of the five. I think its because it was less about creativity and more about business. By business I mean that I was driven by having to hit certain marks for shot hookups. But in the end I was able to squeeze in a lot of creative things and try some stuff that I usually wouldn’t do.
Also, take a look at this set how awesome is that? The lighting and textures are sick, there’s even a hint of bird poop on the tires, or is that ratbird poop?
I wanted to continue the pillow eyes and have them deflate in a funny way, but it was just too quick an action. I also had a difficult time exporting all of my deformers from the other scene file. So unfortunately its just lame normal eyes for a few frames.
I was pretty worried about how to get Sam to stand up in a natural/stylish/girly way. I shot some reference, but it didn’t really help. I relied on the the idea she would need to pull herself up with her right arm. I posed out about 3 key poses and then muscled my way through the inbetweens. It was such a quick action that it worked itself out rather nicely.
Again I had to be careful with Sam and her spider legs. (I love the sound effects they added with her footsteps on the wooden boards.) I also remember I was tight on time with this shot, I think I spent a good chunk of my bid days on the eyeball shot. I knew doing all of Sam’s lipsync was going to take a long time…so I searched deep and realized that as an acting choice she might cover her mouth as she steps backwards. HAHA! No one ever questioned that bit of rock solid logic.
There was one part of this shot that got a lot of attention during dailies and that was Sam’s final pose. Some people felt it was too sexy and others liked it just fine. Personally I thought it was awesome. I liked the pose in the board panel, but I’m also a fan of Shane Glines and Bill Pressing’s pinups. To get this I had to rotate her hips way back and create a nice arc in her back. I’m glad it got to stay and I love the locked straight screen left leg next to the slightly bent screen right.
It was nice when I started on Doc 16 because I could finally just do some simple motion and acting. There are some things to look closely at in here though. Notice the eye treatment on Steve, all of his concept art has his pupils as two different sizes and shapes. Also, Flint’s arms have a bit of a “noodle” treatment to them, we always put a tiny bit of bend into his arms it looked terrible if his elbows were sharp corners.
Also, if you like these board panels as much as I do they were done by Kris Pearn.
My first take on this shot was to have Flint rubbing his eye and then turn to reveal a terribly disgusting swollen mess. So I turned to my fellow bearded animator Jeremy Collins and asked him, “How would you draw a gross swollen eye, all Ren & Stimpy style?” He replied with this:
This was perfect, so I created a super gross blendshape for his eye and blocked out the shot with it all nasty when he removed his hand. The reaction in dailies was mixed. Most thought it was hilarious, but sadly it was just too gross.
This shot was my first character “acting” shot on the film. In the end I’m happy with it, but I feel like her thought process gets lost towards the end. Too many poses or something, I felt a little over directed while working on the last half of the shot.
The first hurdle was to convince people it was worth the money to have her tuck her hair back. I thought it was a great unconscious thing for her to do since she was nervous and angry. They ended up going for it and it looks awesome.
The boards had some nice poses and eye direction in them so I referenced them as I animated. There are some good examples of the pupil treatment going on in this shot.
Sam wears a bracelet and necklace throughout the film. You can see the bracelet pretty well here, again no fancy magic button. It had to always be animated by hand.
And thats that.
I hope you enjoyed this post, if you have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment and I’ll be sure to reply. I’ll post my complete reel from the movie soon and maybe do another post talking about a few of my other shots.