Animation first steps

Although I had only a very brief time to become accustomed to using Adobe After Effects and am not particularly accustomed to Illustrator. I tend to learn best out of necessity. What is clear with animation is that it is usually best to build layer upon layer, starting from background forwards, anything moving, weather, vehicles etc must be created and put behind the main focus of the animation. In this case, Emily.

In creating the piece I had several false starts. I used countless Youtubers tutorials such as Terry White who has a huge range of instructional videos on all things Adobe. And Gareth David at Tasytuts who specialises in graphic and particularly logo design and especially in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop . I tend to find I learn far more when I listen and watch someone perform the action than reading through a step by step guide.

Being very aware that I had limited skills, I decided to utilize all the simple tricks I had learned in the tutorial session with Matt.

I was in charge of the opening scenes of our animation which meant I could play around with the establishing shot. I was slightly constrained by the storyboard however. I decided a simple fade in from the story’s title would be best. Fading from black to open into the room to give context before zooming in to focus on Emily. I wanted to leave her face unseen until the second scene so as not to give everything away all at once.

The clicking finger although incredibly basic, took some time to include as it ended up being on a layer of its own due to a technical issue I couldn’t resolve. I found there were a lot of times when I had to think on my feet and find other ways of doing something. After Effects is such a complex software that there often isn’t a tutorial of website guide for your highly specific problem.

The messages appearing were only very broadly defined in the story board. All I had to work on was the idea that she should receive aggressive messages. As I had only 15-20 seconds to work with for all three of my scenes and I was well over the allotted time frame for each scene. I had to make something visual that needed no reading. My first thought was that everyone of the age this is aimed at (children of internet using age) would be using the same social media. And the largest social media website is obviously Facebook. Over a billion people are currently have active accounts. Using emojis from Facebook would make them instantly understandable by everyone. Why waste effort building it yourself when Facebook has spent billions building up recognition of all its products.

Here in the second scene I wanted a drawn out moment of realisation. The perspective turns to face Emily and is set as if peering out from the computer screen, she is suddenly given a personality. At the same moment she is scrabbling on the computer to find and understand the contents of the messages she’s just received. The wide shot provides enough of a view to see she is alone in  darkened room. This was carefully thought out. Most cyberbullying is a very solitary experience for the victims as those in a position to help, would most often be unaware of it.

I wanted to pan from the wide shot right in to Emily’s face. She is the focus and her expression is key to imparting the message. I wanted her to bow her head, but in two dimensions this was difficult. I settled for having her features literally sink. I was very pleased with the mechanics of the tear. I had it fade in to view before rolling down and pausing at her cheek before dropping.

I was very plkeased with the outcome of my second scene, but after a group meeting with Neil Angove, I decided on a change. We agreed that the unchanging eyes were lacking emotion. To some extent I felt a dead pan face with a tear would be very effective. But I understood the sentiment and I’m always happy for constructive criticism.

Here we have a far more advanced rendering. My first change was to alter the eyes in scene two when Emily cries. But I also decided to add audio. I spent quite a long time selecting the highest quality free audio clips I could and found from numerous forums, .wav files were far better than mp3 format. Website used include:

Although simple in theory, adding audio turned out to be a complete nightmare. The week in which I was animating this section of the video I was way from University and so only had my laptop to work from. For some reason when previewing my unrendered footage with audio files imported, there was no sound. This made aligning it with the visual queues impossible.

After some research I determined it would be possible to add the audio files using other software with rendered footage and then import the file back into After Effects. This would only give me a working model but mean I could share my progress with Laura and Callum using a shared google drive account. The software I used was a free trial of VideoPad, similar to After Effects but far more basic in its capabilities. It served well for audio editing however.

With two of my three scenes complete at this point. The only thing left is to create the last scene and apply final touches before combining them with the other’s work.



Author: David Rothwell

I am a Graphic Communication student at Cardiff Metropolitan School of Art and Design If you like any of my work, have feedback (good or bad) or would like to get in touch, please do

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