Big really hard project looming - planning?

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Jkoseattle
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Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by Jkoseattle » Fri Jan 17, 2020 4:26 pm

Except for near the beginning when I went through most of a Udemy course on Moho, most of my time spent animating with Moho has been working on my own projects, either for fun or for animations for tutorials at my tech day job. This, for example, is a sample of the project i'm currently working on:
https://youtu.be/o6YWWcVdSno

However.... a big project just landed in my lap which, though there's no money involved, will have significant exposure to people who live and breathe animation. The project involves living characters, multiple character angles, some special effects like translucent figures and a melting effect and reflections etc. and will be about 5 minutes long, about 40 separate shots. I'm being given a storyboard and all the art to work from. The project is a demo of the artist (my daughter, actually) who wrote, drew and storyboarded it. I do have some say in the drawings themselves, so I'm free to tell her this or that object needs to be drawn more simply to make it easier to animate. I also have a lot of control over the style of the animation. Technically, I could make it very static, with very little character movement, but we don't really want that. Stakes are high for her, but I'm really just a vessel to show off her character and storyboarding work. Still, we both know how good it COULD look and want to realize that vision as much as possible.

My questions for people who have done a lot of these kinds of projects are:

What are some of the things you wish you had done up front that will save time and effort down the road? Should I build all the sets first? Should I catalogue all the character movements? etc. What might be some of those "If I'd only done _____ up front...." type things?

Which Moho techniques should I really know like the back of my hand before I start ( as opposed to those I can learn if and when they come up)? I'm most nervous about rigging, because I've never really gotten good at it and now the characters (some people, a flightless bird, and plant that has to move a lot) need to, like, you know, do stuff. In the above example, the clunky movement of the dancing Klingon at 3:40, which is borne of lazy rigging, works in my favor because it's funnier, but I can't get away with that when a delicately drawn bird needs to peer around a corner at a crying girl, for example.

Which techniques would you recommend I try to steer clear of? Specifically, are there certain techniques which are difficult to get right and can be done simpler some short-cuttier way, and that therefore I probably don't need at all?

I need to plan this daunting project out well to increase likelihood of success.
Most of the time I'm doing music stuff. Check me out at http://www.jimofseattle.com/music.

Thing I did for work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgFYGqifLYw
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neeters_guy
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Re: Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by neeters_guy » Sat Jan 18, 2020 9:35 am

Having the storyboard and cataloguing your characters’ movements are good ideas, so you won’t waste time building unnecessary features into your rigs. You’ll likely have multiple rigs of the same character for different actions.

Looking forward to seeing a work-in-progress or the completed work. Good luck!
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Re: Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by slowtiger » Sat Jan 18, 2020 10:47 am

Really good storyboarding helps a lot. Which movements are involved, how can they be shown the best way, and is this way easy to do in Moho? Side view walk cycles and any rotation around Z are simple, everything else not.

Don't know how much emotion is in the script, but take care to be able to express them: pupils easily animatable, convincing blinks, animated eyebrows. If there's emotion, see that you express it through body language (good poses), then rig accordingly.

Don't overrig. There's no need for that perfect 3D head turn in 120 slow frames. Do a convincing front - 3/4 - side switch layer which also works seamlessly when mirrored. Same for hand poses.

Stuff which is often forgotten while rigging: feet have 2 bones so they can bend in a walk. Have bones for hips and claviculae. Place pivot points where nature does it.

Plan with camera movements, but animate without. (I often set the camera keys first, then shift them after end of scene, then animate characters, and shift back camera keys in the end.)
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Jkoseattle
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Re: Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by Jkoseattle » Sat Jan 18, 2020 4:11 pm

This is good advice, thanks.
slowtiger wrote:
Sat Jan 18, 2020 10:47 am
Plan with camera movements, but animate without. (I often set the camera keys first, then shift them after end of scene, then animate characters, and shift back camera keys in the end.)
I'm not sure I understand what you mean with this point. Shift them/shift back?
slowtiger wrote:
Sat Jan 18, 2020 10:47 am
Really good storyboarding helps a lot. Which movements are involved, how can they be shown the best way, and is this way easy to do in Moho? Side view walk cycles and any rotation around Z are simple, everything else not.
Here is a sample page from her storyboard. I think it's good, plus we're talking through every frame. But what do I know?
https://www.dropbox.com/s/zlu2uqpb15l5o ... 9.JPG?dl=0
slowtiger wrote:
Sat Jan 18, 2020 10:47 am
Don't overrig. There's no need for that perfect 3D head turn in 120 slow frames. Do a convincing front - 3/4 - side switch layer which also works seamlessly when mirrored. Same for hand poses.
That's definitely good to remember, especially since the bird is the biggest character I'll need to work with, and birds move like that anyway.

Thanks again!
Most of the time I'm doing music stuff. Check me out at http://www.jimofseattle.com/music.

Thing I did for work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgFYGqifLYw
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Re: Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by neeters_guy » Sat Jan 18, 2020 6:21 pm

slowtiger wrote:
Sat Jan 18, 2020 10:47 am
Plan with camera movements, but animate without. (I often set the camera keys first, then shift them after end of scene, then animate characters, and shift back camera keys in the end.)
I'm not sure I understand what you mean with this point. Shift them/shift back?
This is a simple idea actually. Before you animate, set your camera keys. Then select the keys on the main timeline and move them to after the end of the animation. This serves as a temporary place to hold the keys. Animate the scene as usual, then move the camera keys back to the original location. Neat!

You could also save the camera moves as an action, delete the keys, and re-insert them after you’re done animating.

The idea here, I think, is that working out camera movement first helps you focus on where the action occurs, but when animating it’s best that the camera remains static.

Such a clever idea, slowtiger.
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Jkoseattle
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Re: Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by Jkoseattle » Sat Jan 18, 2020 6:25 pm

Got it. Couldn't I just mute the camera keys instead of moving them to the end? Also, why do I not want camera movements when I am animating?
Most of the time I'm doing music stuff. Check me out at http://www.jimofseattle.com/music.

Thing I did for work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgFYGqifLYw
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Re: Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by neeters_guy » Sat Jan 18, 2020 6:46 pm

Jkoseattle wrote:
Sat Jan 18, 2020 6:25 pm
Got it. Couldn't I just mute the camera keys instead of moving them to the end?
Yes, of course. The shifting keys method can be used on earlier versions of Moho (Anime Studio).
Also, why do I not want camera movements when I am animating?
When I animate I constantly zoom in and out of the workspace as I tweak the parts of the rig. But zooming in the workspace while the camera is also moving can be frustrating, so keeping the camera static/muted is helpful.
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Jkoseattle
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Re: Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by Jkoseattle » Sat Jan 18, 2020 6:53 pm

OK, I see. Fortunately I am thinking there is minimal camera movement going to be needed. After rigging, my biggest source of trepidation is to come up with the overall look and feel, and then figuring out how to translate that look and feel to Moho. We haven't determined how we're using color yet, for example, and it needs to have a semi-dreamy quality. Anyway, thanks again!
Most of the time I'm doing music stuff. Check me out at http://www.jimofseattle.com/music.

Thing I did for work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgFYGqifLYw
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Re: Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by uncle808us » Sat Jan 18, 2020 7:21 pm

neeters_guy wrote:
Sat Jan 18, 2020 9:35 am
Having the storyboard and cataloguing your characters’ movements are good ideas, so you won’t waste time building unnecessary features into your rigs. You’ll likely have multiple rigs of the same character for different actions.

Looking forward to seeing a work-in-progress or the completed work. Good luck!
What do you mean by cataloguing your characters? Thanks
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Jkoseattle
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Re: Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by Jkoseattle » Sat Jan 18, 2020 7:39 pm

Good question. I took that to mean like making lists of all the different poses a character will have, and how many separate rigs that will require. I was thinking of making a table like this:

Code: Select all

Character    Pose                                          Rig          Scene
Spock          Profile Vulcan salute                  Profile     12
Spock          Profile laughing                         Profile     14
But maybe cataloguing means something else?
Most of the time I'm doing music stuff. Check me out at http://www.jimofseattle.com/music.

Thing I did for work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgFYGqifLYw
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Re: Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by slowtiger » Sat Jan 18, 2020 7:53 pm

I recommend to do a lot of thumbnail sketches for the different poses, that*'s better than just describing them.

If you do some movement you've never done before, it's a good idea to test it in a separate file first, with simple shapes, this will give you a good idea about how to design and rig it.
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Re: Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by Jkoseattle » Sat Jan 18, 2020 8:02 pm

Ah ok, like some ovals and triangles to represent the bird? The problem with sketching out the poses is that I'm not the artist, I'm just the animator, so anything I need drawn she has to draw. So then I suppose a solution could be to write them all down and then hand her my list and ask her to do sketches of all of them for my reference? Her drawings have a great deal of gesture emotion and nuance as her comics are all stories without any dialogue. I'm worried I won't be able to capture all the personality of the original drawings. Then also I'm going to have to split her drawings into usable layers, which presents more complexity.
Most of the time I'm doing music stuff. Check me out at http://www.jimofseattle.com/music.

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Re: Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by Greenlaw » Tue Jan 21, 2020 7:24 pm

Storyboard is a necessary start, and the next step is to cut an animatic. Basically, you need place each storyboard image on the timeline of a video editing program like Vegas, Premiere or whatever, and add an audio track. You don't need final audio, you can use a scratch track, which is just temporary reference audio that may not even have the real actors voices. The purpose of the animatic is gives you a clearer idea of the duration of each scene, the flow of each sequence, and of course how long the final project will be.

I can't stress the importance of this stage for animation production. When an animatic is edited well, its timing should be nearly identical to what the final project is. You should consider it a blueprint for the final production. Without an animatic to follow, expect to flounder a lot, throw out many needless scenes, and maybe never even finish the project.

After cutting the animatic, mark the in and out points for each scene on the timeline, and the output a reference for each scene with it's audio. (Some editing programs can batch the i/o points to render to separate scene files.) These files can be saved as video clips but I prefer exporting a jpeg sequence with a separate audio file for each scene because I find the latter streams well over a network and can be more frame accurate. Then, when I'm ready to animate a scene, I import the scene's footage and use it as a reference to animate to.

Tip: Scale the reference to one corner of the workspace and set it to Do Not Render. I only set it to fill screen when I need the image for placing my final elements, but most of the time I prefer to keep it out of the way.

You should also track all your shots in a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet should have columns for the shot number, a brief description, dialog and sound, general notes (what assets to use, special animation instructions, changes, etc.,) and the status of each shot (animatic, in-progress, completed, etc.) This can be prepared after you complete your animatic. As you work through this list, change the status of each shot. I like to add color coding which can really keep up morale as the spreadsheet quickly fills up with the 'completed' color. (I use red for 'animatic', yellow for 'in-progress', and green for 'completed'.)

Hope this helps.
Last edited by Greenlaw on Wed Jan 22, 2020 1:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Jkoseattle
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Re: Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by Jkoseattle » Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:04 am

OK, this sounds doable. One issue with it though is that there will be no dialogue. I'm scoring it and doing the sound as well. I want to do the score only after the animation is done. But I still think it would be a good idea to build an animatic even without sound. Does this change your advice above?
Most of the time I'm doing music stuff. Check me out at http://www.jimofseattle.com/music.

Thing I did for work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgFYGqifLYw
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Re: Big really hard project looming - planning?

Post by Greenlaw » Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:37 am

It depends on how tightly you wish to choreograph the animation to the music and sound design.

To me, it's all the same thing. In recent years, I really enjoy animating and editing footage to the beat of the score. I don't mean I obsessively time every event to the music track but just enough so that the visuals and music flow like they're parts of the same animal. This can be much more interesting than just dropping in 'background music' to fill space. Yes, it can be extra work but I think it's worth it. Animating and editing to music can make even 'okay' animations look lively and energetic.

You can see how this works in my demo reels and in some of my previous shorts. I'll be applying the same techniques in any personal animation projects I release in the future.

Good luck and I hope this advice is helpful!
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