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November 8, 2014

L'employé du Moi Animation: Part 5

Okay, my animation for L'employe du Moi is done!  In my previous post I showed the final pencil test, so all that remained was to ink the pencils.  I did this with a Pilot Precise V7 "fine" ballpoint pen for outlines and an extra-fine Rotring Art Pen for crosshatching and details.  I had to spread the work out over a few nights to get it done without going crazy (inking the same thing over and over again).

Once that was done, I scanned everything in and started compositing all the pieces.  It took a bit of work to clean all of the intersecting points (like where Argus's hands hit the cart).  Anyway, here is the finished product, which is 2.9 MB.  It might take a few moments for it to load, depending on your connection:

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how this turned out.  There's a few things I would change if I had to do it over again, but for now I'm going to leave it as is.  I'm leaving this project with pretty much the same mindset I came in with: hand-drawn animation is a crazy amount of work for very little reward.  I have no desire to ever become an animator, but I'm glad I worked on this small project which taught we a ton of new stuff, which I'll definitely be able to bring back and apply to my comics work.  I'm very excited to get back to the world of static drawings and panels and page turns!

Before I sign off, I'll give you all one final reminder that L'employé du Moi is currently doing a fundraiser to have a 15th anniversary exhibit at next year's Angoulême festival.  Currently, they need less than 1,000 euros to push them over their goal, and 16 days to reach it.  It's all-or-nothing, so please consider chipping in if you can!  Thanks.

November 4, 2014

L'employé du Moi Animation: Part 4

In my last post I figured out the backgrounds, so it was time to finish up the character animation.  I did a few passes through the 16 frames of my character Argus (from Basewood) to fix some problems, namely:  1) I cleaned up his head shape 2) I toned down the counteraction in the dagger 3) I took out the blink and 4) I added details like his patches, and the straps on his boots.  Here is my final pencil test:

I can still see some things wrong with it, but at this point I'm going to chalk those up as "lessons learned" and keep moving forward.  This has been a fun little activity while I have been on break between issues of Phase 7, but I'm getting antsy to return to comics (where I belong).  I'm going to ink this up and then composite all the various parts.  I'll report back here with the final results!

In the meantime, check out another one of the L'employé du Moi walk cycles that has surfaced, this time by the incredible cartoonist/carpenter Bulu:

If you can't read the French (I can't...) it basically says that L'employé du Moi currently has a fundraiser so that these animations can be displayed at next year's Angoulemê comics festival in France, along with a bunch of other great stuff!  They've got about 2,000 more Euros to raise in the next 19 days, so every little bit helps!  If you are wondering, it is super simple to donate from the USA, the same as any other online transaction.  It took me about 5 minutes to chip in.  If you do so, thanks!  Or... Merci!  ;)

November 1, 2014

L'employé du Moi Animation: Part 3

After my last post, I took a break working on the character animation to work on the background for this animation.  I'm not even sure we're allowed to have backgrounds, but it's easy enough to export two versions (with and without the background) so I decided to use it as an opportunity to try out some new techniques... or at least techniques that were new to me!

I started off by setting up three looping frames of deep background, using some soft pencils and a layer of gray.  It's a pretty repetitive loop, but I felt it was okay because it'll have a lot of unique 16-frame animation on top of it.  Here's what that looks like on its own (1.4 MB animated .gif, might take a moment to load, depending on your connection speed!):

Next, I wanted it to be snowing in this little loop, so first I looked at some animated gifs of actual falling snow.  I noticed right off the bat that there is a little bit of parallax going on, so I decided to create my snow in two layers: 1) foreground snow, which moves very quickly (close up) and 2) background snow which moves a little slower (farther away).

The only way I could think of to do this was to mark out the picture plane and then make some "paths" that I could animate the snow down.  Here's what that template looks like:

The top box is for the background snow and the bottom box is for the foreground snow.  Along the top and right edge you can see various marks - this was me trying to stagger the entrance of the snowflakes.  In the top box, I tried to make a snowflake take 16 frames to go from top to bottom, in the bottom, it only takes 8 frames for a snowflake to go from top to bottom.  So in the top animation, once a snowflake was halfway down, I started another one on the same path.  In the bottom animation, I just had a new flake start as soon as the other one was done.  So with 19 paths in the top animation, with two passes on each, I did about 40 passes on 16 frames, or about 650 snowflakes.  11 paths on the bottom, getting approximately two snowflakes each (the shorter ends get more), on 16 frames that's about 350 snowflakes.  More than 1,000 total!  Enough stats, let's see how they move!  Here's the slower, background snowflakes:

At first, I had about half of the paths start in the same frame, so there is sort of a horizontal gap at one point, but I'm happy enough with this that I don't feel like I need to redo anything.  This was a crazy amount of work, but it really helped me wrap my head around the looping concept.  If a path had a snowflake introduced on frame 2 and 9 I would just reorganize the stack of paper so that loop started on the top.  Here's what the faster moving foreground snowflakes looked like:

The other thing I worked on by doing all of this manually was my sense of timing/spacing.  Just having to animate a dot moving along a path was a great exercise for this.  You can watch any one flake (easier to do with the background flakes), and it slows down slightly if it's moving horizontally (drawn closer together) and faster if it's falling down (drawn further apart).   

The final step was to composite all of these things together.  This isn't perfect, because these are just pencil tests, but at least you can see what I'm going for.  In the final, the foreground flakes will be white in their centers, with a black stroke around the flakes, whereas the background flakes will just be white dots (as they are here).  Again, this animated .gif is 1.4MB so it might take a little while to load, depending on your connection:

Now all I need to do is drop in Argus!  I still need to do one more round of cleanups on his pencils, which I'll post here before putting everything together in the final animation.

The L'employé du Moi fundraiser is currently about 75% of the way to meeting its goal!  If you are enjoying these posts, please consider donating a Euro or two.  They've got about three weeks left to raise the last 25% so that this animation can be displayed in L'employé do Moi's exhibit at Angoulemê next year, along with all the other animations by the rest of their authors.