Creating an award winning animation

 

This is the animation that allowed me to qualify for Nationals. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go because me and the team decided that Nationals simply wasn’t worth the cost of going to Boston. We’ve been to Nationals before and it’s too much money to be able to fly somewhere else every year. That’s enough about what we didn’t do, this is how we DID do it.

Pre-Production

We started out by doing research and making a storyboard. If you’re looking for inspiration just type whatever into Google and some great examples can pop right up. We had Maggie do the storyboard art based off an outline we wrote together. She used two different art styles to differentiate between the two animation styles we used in the final animation. We then modeled our assets which were mainly, the boat and the human model we named Gerome. We started with base models from BlendSwap. Maggie then rigged, clothed and modified Gerome to make him ready for the animation.

Animation

Gerome being Animated

I did a fair amount of the animation. The boat was modeled in parts and the ocean had a limited area so we couldn’t really move it forward without things getting really messy. We worked around this by animating the wave distortion. So the ocean plane and boat weren’t moving but the image of the waves was tiled and animated. I also added a split particle system to simulate the waves crashing into the sides of the boat. There’s a great ocean sim in Blender that I didn’t use at all in order to save on render time. I think the ocean turned out fine. Gerome was animated with motion capture due to the problems. We put him through Adobe Mixamo to apply open motion capture data to the model. I rendered him on transparent so that he could be composited in After Effects.

Compositing/2D animation

That cool scene

For the more stylized shots we took still frames and transparent renders and put them through some toon shaders in Adobe After Effects to get a more simplistic ink look. We put that on a transfer mode over a paper texture. We also used some moving ink in water so that it could be easily applied to the composition. The ink added a “lively stain” so that the shots looked older and more interesting. On top of all that that we used real paper stop motion that I shot to give it a flip book effect. People at the time probably didn’t really document the Boston Tea Party on flipbooks or in any other animated form. They probably just used words and paintings. This historical inaccuracy has allowed a much more compelling animation however.

Post-Production

The video editor

I cut together the 3D animations and the After Effects compositions in Adobe Premiere Pro. In order to make cutting between the two styles less jarring I used my stopmotion overlay on the last few frames of the 3D style. Once that was all done I made sure to compare my cut to the original storyboard. This is when I found out we forgot a shot and so I instructed Maggie not to bring up that part of the board during our presentation. Finally I added the music which, to save time, was another thing we simply licensed for use rather than make ourselves.

Conclusion

That’s everything that went into the animation that you saw at the beginning of this post. We entered this into the BPA Indiana State Computer Animation Competition and got first place qualifying us as one of the best teams in the nation. Still, in order to improve our craft we’d love to hear feedback. Please leave it in the comments.