Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Grabbing the Bottle

My initial inspiration for this scene came from the Disney film Aladdin, when Aladdin goes to grab the lamp from its resting place in the Cave of Wonders. I really like how he slowly approaches the lamp almost apprehensively, holding his arms out as both hands slowly cup around the lamp rather than just picking it up immediately with one hand. It really gives the sense that the lamp is a precious and mystical object which should be handled carefully, and I wanted to imitate this body acting in my own animation since the character I'm working with doesn't have facial expressions, thus making it difficult to show the hesitant wonder he should be feeling upon seeing the bottle before him. Below I've posted a video showing the Aladdin clip in question(please forgive the sound, this was the shortest clip I could find) which I have used as a reference.



I also felt I needed to act the movement out myself to properly understand how the character's hands and arms should move, so I once again got someone to film myself attempting it which you can see below. I found the exercise particularly useful for figuring out how to position the back arm so it could be clearly seen despite the silhouette nature of the character. It also helped to see my back curving as I bent down slightly to pick up the bottle, something I realised I could exaggerate while animating to make the movement clearer.

video

My attempt at the movement was tricky to get right, mostly due to me wanting to give the impression of the camera moving around the character as he went to pick up the bottle. Naturally this would be easy to do with a 3D model, but I found it difficult to draw the character at the correct angles frame-by-frame to make the movement (both of him and the 'camera') look smooth and convincing, especially since he has no features to show the difference between the side and the front of his body. And again, there was also the problem of keeping him limbs clearly distinguished from his body at the awkward angles. I achieved the outcome first by key framing the action(effectively splitting the movement into three parts: turning from front view to profile, bending down to put his hands around the bottle, and lastly picking up the bottle) and then by filling the in betweens through a lot of trial and error, but I have to say I'm quite pleased with how its turned out. The only problem is that the action is far too fast since I've been working in ones rather than twos, so I intend to go back and try slowing things down.

video

Here is the same scene again but with most of the drawings held for two frames, slowing down the movement up until he grabs the bottle. I left the last few drawings as he brings the bottle up to his face on one frame each simply because having them on twos looked too slow. The slow movement works perfectly for the build up to him putting his hands around the bottle, but once the bottle is in his hands I want to show his excitement by having him pull it up quite quickly after an initial pause. He's finally got his hands on this wondrous sacred artifact, or course he's going to be excited! The idea is he's so exhilarated by his find that he throws it into the air in celebration (hence the dropping of the bottle and the rest of the story that follows), so it makes a lot more sense for the final few frames of this scene to play faster to show this. I also made sure to curve his back towards the bottle as he picked it up to give the impression of his chest being pushed forward and his shoulders being pushed back, as I noticed myself doing that as I pushed my hips forward slightly in the video reference I made. Obviously his hips aren't shown in this shot, but the action can still be implied by the movement of the upper body, and its the little details like that which make the finishing pose look convincing. Pushing your hip/stomach forward as you hold something to your chest gives the impression that you want to hug that something close because its dear to you, and the bottle is clearly supposed to be important to the character. Overall I'm pleased with the timing and general feel of the movement; at the moment it looks more like he's turning to the side rather than the camera's moving round him, but that'll change once I have the background moving round behind him as well.

video

Before starting on the backgrounds I scaled up every frame to the correct size for the scene so I can how everything should be placed in relation to the character and the bottle. Below is the re-size test.

video

I began by drawing the background for the first and final frames in the scene so they could act as key frames for me to fill in between. At first I thought I might be able to get away with just using the transform tool to skew/distort the first background slightly for the second and third background frames, but it soon came apparent through the test below that that would look awful. Not to mention that the background needs to move around a lot faster than that.

video

Backgrounds for each frame are now fully drawn (again, a lot of trail and error) and held for two frames each to match the movement of the character. I think it works quite well; its more obvious now that its the camera moving round rather then character himself turning int he spot. But I can't help but feel the sweeping movement of the background is a little too... jerky. I might try adding extra frames and having the background play on ones rather than twos to see if it improves it any.

video

After adding the extra background frames I think the sweeping movement works a lot better... its a lot smoother and appear quicker now, which I like. I think I'll keep it this way. However doing this has made me notice that the lines of the cave wall move in the wrong direction (right instead of left), which is probably what made the previous test look rather jarring. I'll fix that next.

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Final version of the scene with the wall lines fixed and the light added. While I know I could push this a lot further by exaggerating the character's actions and slowing him down even more, I feel this could ruin the flow of the animation as a whole. I need to keep in mind that this is being made for a TV advert that will only get to fun for about 30-40 seconds, so I can't afford to drag things out too much or I'll never fit everything in without rushing it. For now I think this will fit well with the scenes I already have.

video

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