Thursday, 13 May 2010

Feel Good Evaluation

The Feel Good drinks project has been a challenge from start to finish, but ultimately an enjoyable one. At the start it was my first time working on a live brief for an actual client, and it proved to be a lot different from the briefs created by the university tutors which are usually based around the idea of showcasing what you’ve learned throughout the module. In this case however, the client expects you to already know what you’re doing and to create something that could actually be used in real world promotion; something finished and polished. So far all my projects have still been quite rough even at the point of ‘completion’, all of them lacking sound and having various cut backs due to time constraints and deadline pressure.

Admittedly the Feel Good project was no different in that respect, as when the deadline for the contest came I still had not managed to produce an animation near enough completion to make a serious competition entry. This was due to various factors; the primary one being me underestimating the time it would take not only to animate the character frame by frame, but also to create convincing backgrounds and search for suitable sound effects. Up until now I have only ever had to worry about character animation alone, usually leaving them either hanging in the white void of negative space or having very minimalistic backgrounds which didn’t require any movement like in the Fruit Pastilles project. Full, layered backgrounds also brought along design problems, as I needed the cave backdrops to be detailed enough to look interesting, yet too much detail resulted in the simplistic stick figure character getting lost and becoming difficult for the eye to track. I soon realised I had to find a balance and ended spending far more time than I originally planned (or than I could afford to) simply on the backgrounds for each scene and making sure the composition worked well with the character in the foreground. However, amidst the panic over the ever-approaching deadline, I did enjoy the experience of working out how to best relate the background to the foreground and I think I learned a lot from the procedure. This was my first time tying to use lighting effectively, and I soon found myself mastering the colour gradient tool and building up scenes of multiple layers and depth. I also challenged myself with the storyboard as I tried to incorporate camera angles and movements which where far more interesting and (in some cases) extreme than I had ever used before. While I realise that when looking at my final animation none of the angles may seem that impressive, they still felt like a big leap for me who has never done much more than basic front, back, profile, and ¾ angle shots before.

I found video references to be invaluable throughout the project, even more so than I have done previously, as without them I don’t think I could have animated most of the character actions convincingly. The one I relied on most heavily was the reference of water/juice pouring from a bottle, as this was my first time attempting to animate a body of liquid greater than a droplet. At first I found it incredibly difficult, making the ‘juice’ appear far to thick and move too slowly, seemingly like goo. It was only after watching the real juice pour from the bottle than I learnt how to make the water movement flow better, taking into account such details and the changing concave-to-convex shape of the juice stream as it pours out the neck of the bottle.

But as useful to my personal development as all this was, the learning curve cost me valuable time and the advertisement I handed in before Easter was not completed to my satisfaction. The main glaring error was its lack of any kind of music or sound effects, making the entire concept of the idea seem rather dull and lifeless. As much as I’d tried to animate the scenes well, without a catchy soundtrack to draw in people’s attention, it simply didn’t work as an advertisement and lost much of its intended effect on the audience. There was also some amateurish sloppiness that I was unhappy with such as zooming in over the static shot of the people reaching to the sky to give the ‘illusion’ on movement. It was also pointed out to me that the hand written “Shrine of Feelgoodness” on the sign in the cave looked very unprofessional, and some scenes of the cliff outdoors looked far too sparse and needed more detail to differentiate the different levels of rock. So for my final three week project I decided to continue and complete the Feel Good animation to the standard I intended it to be.

To do this I went back and animated the people’s hands open up and reach to the sky in the scene I mentioned before, as well as doing further research into rock detail both in real life and other animations and adding extra background detail to my scenes accordingly. I finally learnt how to properly motion tween thanks to my experimenting with the cloud movements and some instruction from Kieran, and I researched into the fonts used in connection to the Feel Good brand and replaced the hand written sign with professional looking type. Adding the scene I had to previously miss out (where the character goes to grab the bottle) taught me a lot about how to make convincing ‘camera’ movement by moving the backgrounds round appropriately, and I found this addition to be the one of the greatest and most satisfying challenges of all. Lastly I felt the inclusion of effective music has really made a positive difference to the animation as a whole; bringing the entire story to life and really helping promote the power of ‘feelgoodness’ as the as the bottle rolls out into the sunshine. Overall I am pleased with the final outcome and think it’s a great improvement on the first version I handed in before Easter; I now feel that the animation could stand confidently as a competition entry (if the competition was still running) and looks a lot closer to a real advertisement you would find on TV. I am aware that it isn’t perfect; even now there are small details that could be improved. But I believe animation can always be improved no matter how ‘final’ or ‘completed’ it seems, it’s simply a case of how much time you have to spend on it and when that time runs out. For now I am satisfied, I feel I have learnt a great deal from this project and have improved my skills as an animator by working on it both before Easter and for these extra three weeks.

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