Friday, March 6, 2009

The Bear Necessities

Has anyone noticed that 99.9% of the time, all my post titles are really bad puns? 

For an animation assignment two weeks ago, we had to animate a pre-made puppet in AfterEffects. You know, like they do on shows like Wonder Pets or Little Bill. For the assignment, we were given a puppet of a cartoon bear, which looks like this:

Like in some Flash animation, to make the character move you have to move each part individually. This bear had around 15 separate moving joints, as well as interchangeable mouth shapes, eyes & eyebrows. Each part is anchored (or in AfterEffects terms: "parented") to the main body or linked to each other. Example: The wrist is parented to the lower arm, the lower arm is parented to the upper arm at the elbow joint, & so on. To have a character lift its arm, let alone act & emote realistically, you have to move each piece one at a time, as well as have plenty of patience to do so. It seemed hard at first, but once I got the hang of it, it became a piece of cake. 

Specifically for the assignment, we had to have the bear speak about 10 seconds of dialogue, as well as move accordingly with what it was saying. I chose a bit of dialogue from one of my favorite current cartoons, Chowder. I chose this particular line because there seemed to be a lot of emotion & force in the delivery. Here's the audio clip:

Since I had to work with the dialogue, I animated the lip sync first. Then I animated the eye blinks & squints, then the torso & legs, head tilts & finally the arms. The only part I didn't animate were the brows, because unfortunately the nulls (aka controls) for them didn't work, so I left them out. 

I'm prone to over-animating things a bit too much, & on my first pass I went absolutely wild. The arms were flailing all over the place & were way too distracting. While in the studio, I asked my friend Carly for some help. She acted out the scene for me, as well as drew a few rough thumbnail keys to help plan the poses out.

With Carly's help & a little more patience, I finally finished the thing. I do think he moves a little bit too much, especially in the knees making him go up & down. But for a first try, I'm happy with it.

By the way, if you haven't already, go check out Carly's blog & deviantART page. She's a very talented artist & gifted animator. THANKS AGAIN, CARLY!

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