Rice Field Hop the notes

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Rice Field Hop the notes

Post by fracturedray » Sun Jul 25, 2010 7:52 am

I don't know if this will be helpful or not. I do know I'm not a writer so there are plenty of mistakes. :)

These are some rambling notes I took as I work on the Rice Field Hop animation from beginning to end.


Started out by drawing in pencil the character, some blades of grass and rocks. Then looked at photos of rice fields and drew a rice field. Scanned the images.


Imported and traced the man with the large pack. Made him in several layers to make it easy to animate.

Right arm
right hand
right leg
right foot
left leg
left foot
bell rope
pack large
pack lowerstuff
pack canvas
pack wood
pack wood02
pack canvas under(side)

Saved under another name so I could do some test.

Took a look at physics tutorials and tried them out. Then tested out what I could on the pack. Found the best test were with the bone dynamics but also saw that I couldn't move the banner and flag like I wanted.

Basic early physic and dynamic bone test
Added the packs and did more physics and bone tests.
Final bone setup after several test and experiments with the character.

Posted a "how do I" question because I wanted to learn more about chain physics. Learned a lot and made a quick how to doc for others. viewtopic.php?t=16902

Took a break from animation tests and started a new file with the man and pack moved to the side and imported the background sketches and began the long process of tracing with vectors. The mistake was that the rice field sketch was not as long as the pan of the camera would be so I had to make some of it up.

Worked on the foreground blades of grass and rocks.

Next day I sketched some more interesting trees than my originals and scanned and traced them. Duplicated and flipped horizontally all over the scene.

Not happy with the scene, it is to flat. I'm dreading the work of adding shadows because I was hoping not to have to do them.

Saved as a test file and learned more about the camera and how to set up the pan movement. For fun I imported the better version of 4 different pack dynamic / physic test files. I set up the group layers and rescaled the scenes as needed. And made a simple animation of the camera panning.

Then made a simple animation of the character hopping from one rock to another. The file was so busy/big that I had to hide everything but the man to get the dynamics to work and see if it was okay.

Rendered it all out and posted it for fun. Still not happy with the background.

Decided to use the shade options in the layer properties to add highlights instead of shadows. So I tinkered with one layer of trees until I liked the settings and the look of the render. Then set all tree layers to be the same.

Tinkered with the shadow settings in the layers but couldn't get something I liked. So I drew a bunch of vectors for tree shadows. Halfway through I knew I'd have to cave and add shade to the hills. On a separate layer I drew in some shadows for the hills. I realized I'd need to test how I blended the two layers.

On separate layers the shades got darken when they overlapped and it looked bad. So I created a new layer and copied both the tree and hill shadows into it. The render looked great.

For fun I tested the animation movement of the camera and saw something horrifying. The shadows moved faster than the landscape. After some tinkering I found out that the new shadow layers had a -1 added to the z axis (the same as the group they were created in). I set it so all my groups have the z axis changed not the vector layers. So I fixed the shadows z axis and had to rescale and move them around to match back up.

With most of the trees shadows done, I started to slow task of making the cliff shadows. I tried a few different styles until I found something that I liked.

Finished the shade in the background so I added some to the rocks in the foreground and some foam/specular for the water as a place holder. Tweaked masks and moved layers around.

Made a simple test file for a parallax tree to see if it would look good and what issues may come up. It looked good but some branches moved from behind the leaves so i would make certain that leaves layers covered the tips of the branches and had the same z axis offset. May need the z axis to be closer. Should make a group node on 0 z axis. And make three layers for the parallax with tiny z axis changes like -.05.

Made the tree and I'm quite happy with the look of it.

One thing I did was make the shade on the rock and trees with a mask to keep them only on the trees and rock. Unfortunately this made some slight white halos around the trees and rocks when rendering the video at half the size.

Did some reading about compression. Tried to render out frame by frame but for some reason some frames made it look jerky. Did more test. I like the mov results but I get some halo issues where I'm using mask because I rendered at half the full size. Later on I found that avi, used better colors even when compressed so I stuck with avi for the rest of the project.

Setting up the character.
I had already gotten the pack he carried planned out but still needed to make bones for the character and add some more flavor to the pack.

Did lots of tinkering until I got the arms and legs to bend like I wanted. Had to add and remove some points and add some bones in some unusual places. For example the fore arm has a bone specifically to keep the inside of the elbow from getting to small. I also added some bones at the ends of the shorts to make them look better as the knee bent.

So I did a quick animation where I moved the character forward and stopped then moved forward etc etc. This helped me stress test out the dynamics with short fast and long slow movements.

Did lot and lots of different bone layouts for the banner. In the end, I extended the wood on the top and bottom and added bones for each of them. Then I altered the banner shape a bit and added four bones for the cloth movement. It took a lot a tweaking of the dynamic settings to see what looked more natural before I chose this set up. It is barely visible but I did two bones for the flag.

I re-tweaked the rope and bell hanging from the pack to get the best dynamic setting for it. I think it took me about 20 minutes of tinkering until I was happy.

Last and certainly not least was the canopy. This took about half an hour to figure out. I wanted the canopy to move evenly up and down but I had a hard time finding a good dynamic bone layout. In the end I went with an arc that started from the left and goes to the right. Then once I found the right dynamic settings I named the bones and turned on "Angle Control" I targeted the first arc bone with all of them and used various negative settings. The helped make the canopy move nicely but keep the right end from stretching out to much.

Added some bones to the large pack sides to make it distort and move a little.

Saved work and save as another file to start work on the actions/loops. My first walk animation was standard speed and movement. This immediately looked wrong because it ignored the weight of the pack.

Started a slower walk with shorter steps and it looked much better. I then made an action to go from slow walk to standing. The made and idle standing animation. And for fun I tested a jump prep animation but I didn't like it.

I imported the action file into the background one and lined up the new character with the old one and deleted the old one. Now the fun begins.

This is what I've learned about dynamics/camera movement/actions.

At first I added the walk actions with Insert Reference. Problem one. I couldn't see the exact frame animation to get the timing right. No big deal at first but a headache later. I inserted several loops of the walk and the the walk to standing loop. I then selected the layer and moved it across the screen. With Smooth setting on the key frames there was no way to prevent the feet from sliding. So I changed it to Linear. This created an even worse problem. The dynamic bones jumped at the beginning of the layer move animation and at the end. So I eventually realized that layer animation in this case was not a good idea.

Trying to move the main bone with Translate Bone wasn't going to be easy with the actions placed via Insert Reference. I can't see any frame points of the loops. So I thought about it for a while and realized I could delete the references and simply Insert Copy to the main time line and get the key frames of the walk. Had to delete the first set of key frames because these are from 0.

Feet alignment. In the end I made temporary shapes to mark where I wanted the feet to stay planted (this was difficult because I can't make shapes while in the middle of the time line in version 7 pro). I really wish we could make temporary guides. Perhaps a layer type called guides that we can add any manner of shape or guide lines and since it is just guides they'd not render unless wanted. Anyway I moved the main bone for each step instead of moving it from start to finish of the entire walk, this help keep the feet lined up well and canceled the need to lock the feet in place.

One big issue was that the camera was panning sideways as I went through the time line and adjusted the walk. I asked for a temp camera on the forum and heyvern suggested simply using View/Direction/Front. This helped a good deal and I used it many times later.

Next I went outside and made a video of myself preparing to jump, then jumping and obviously landing. I did about five jumps till I felt I'd given myself some good reference material. Creating this reference was very, very helpful in making the jump animations look good.

The jumps and the anticipation of the jumps were much easier than the walk. Once I got done part of it I posted the current work. I got great feed back and was encouraged to go ahead and do the entire pack by hand instead of physics. So I finished the jumps (should have posted this because later on people felt the leaning packs looked odd) and save it all as a different file.

I took a look again at the bones and found that I had to redo some of them on the pack because while they worked well with physics, I wanted some more refined control. I also duplicated the packs and broke them in separate parts. I need to add bone for these as well.

After a lot of tinkering/tweaking/testing I finally got the pack to move around like I wanted. And so I started to animated it in phases.

First I animated the main spine bones of the pack.
Second I animated the rope and bell movement. This was a learning process and I found it more difficult than a walk animation.
Third for a break I did the tiny flag.
Fourth I did the packs, making the sides move up and down as he walked and then moved the whole pack as he jumped.
Fifth I did the large banner and the wood posts holding it.
Sixth I did the canopy and the wood post hold it.
Afterwords I watched it several times and made any tweaks as needed.

Posted this and sent it to friends, people liked it but made more comment to help me improve it.

So now I needed to make the weight balance of the character leaning forward better. Reduce the time he preps except for the last jump.

I did all this and it took a while because I had to redo the individual pack animations a bit as well. This did however give me more of a chance to refine my skills and make several improvements.

Once done I did about an 11 frame hand drawing of the water splash. I have a light box and used blank index cards with a clip to keep the cards lined up. I have been practicing this (4 other splash hand drawn animations) so this time I breezed through it. I scanned them in and made a separated file with the scene rendered and imported for scale reference. I then traced over the water and made a switch animation to play doubles.

other water splash studies...

Helpful resources for FX animation.

Imported it and lined it up with the animation. It looked great and I only needed to tweak the colors a bit.

I spent some time testing and tinkering with different ways of making the waves but none of them had the fine control I needed/wanted so I ended up doing all the wave animations by hand. This took a while and I was getting tired of the project so it was hard to keep the fire going. :)

some tests...

After I got the waves I made some shapes for the wave on the characters feet as he tries to walk on the slippery water.

I was going to add a blob like shadow for the character but I had made the shadows so complicated that I couldn't get what I wanted without having to redo some work and as I said I was struggling to keep motivated.

I was told that the water still looked dull so I tried a few things and finally went with making the ripples with a single line that animated the points and line weight. Then made that a particle effect.

Added some very small particle effects for the water splash on the rocks.

Tweaked the style color on the background and sky. I'm very glad I used styles but the list was so long I wished for group nodes.
Last edited by fracturedray on Sun Jul 25, 2010 6:56 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Post by slowtiger » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:00 am

Well done! Always interesting to see how others solve their problems.
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Post by Tagirijus » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:10 am

Very nice animation. I liked the movements a lot! So smooth and authentic. Moreover thanks a lot for letting us know your workflow. Very interesting and kind. :)
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Post by fracturedray » Sun Jul 25, 2010 7:01 pm

Thank you, glad you liked it.

I took a little time to clean up my typos and I also added a few more links to animation test and added the gif of some of my water splash studies.
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Post by PARKER » Sun Jul 25, 2010 8:11 pm

That water animation looks great, it should have been hard to do.
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Post by fracturedray » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:52 pm

lol parker. If it makes you feel better all the splashes were based off experiments at my apartment pool. I'd record dropping/throwing a ball and water bottle into the water for reference.

The first water splash took me 5 hours to do. And I gave up half way through it.
The second one took about 2 and half.
The third, which I will never show because it was awful took about 2 hours.
And the last one, that I did use in the video took about an hour to draw and an hour and a half to trace and improve on.

So it actually was only easy because of practice.
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Post by fracturedray » Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:16 pm

Hello jacklinjones

A few animation tips...

One thing I always hear from the professionals is to build a foundation of classical animation studies. This is because technology will always be changing but the root of animation still all comes from knowledge and practice of animating frame by frame in pencil.

Also start simple and build up. Making a simple ball bounce animation using flip book (post-it notes or blank index cards or any paper will be fine) is a good place to start.

Before you do anything at all. Look at other people's animations of a ball bouncing. See what looks good and what looks bad, think about why they look good and bad. Also just simply drop a ball and watch it bounce until it stops. Once you've done this you will be better prepared to make your own animation. It does not need to be perfect either you are just getting started so make all the mistakes you can. :)

After that, you need to decide what you would like to focus on. If you want to animate people then you need to study/practice drawing people. Hundreds of books out there for that. And after you get used to drawing people you can begin to watch how people move and how they balance themselves to keep from falling over. What leg is most of their weight on?

If you want to make special effects, like the water splash. Then study water. Fill the bath tub with water or go to the pool and drop balls into it. Watch how the water re-acts. Record it with a camera and watch it frame by frame. Then as I said before, look at how other artist animate water. See how the made the water splash a lot more simple than a real splash is.

There are plenty of animation books out there that will help a lot. I also recommend you look at youtube so you can see other artist animation studies in action. Do a search for “2D animation how to #” and where the # is add what you want to learn, like water, people, cat, dogs etc etc. I also had fun looking at people's videos of “flip book animation”.

Hope that is helpful in getting you started.
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Post by rogermate » Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:49 pm

Thanks for sharing your awesome animation work, and a look behind the scenes is really helpful for us beginners.
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