Initial Style frames consisting of hundresds of hand painted, hand cut and folded paper elements that were assembled in Photoshop giving the images an intricate and charming look.
For the animatic, I created more than 350 individual ink images of the protagonists in action within the environments. I then edited the pictures together with sound elements and voice recordings. The animatic pre-visualises mood and structure of the short film and it will hopefully help us to receive the last part of funding we need in order to go into production.
Photoshop sketch of the hallway layout.
Several test miniatures were built during our one week of test shoot.
First round of Wanda character design. The head was shaped in plasticine, then photographed, assembled in layers and painted in Photoshop. Finally, we rigged the body parts in After Effects and did a few short animation tests to see how far we could get with this technique.
Unfortunately, this technique didn't quite please us since it was limiting when it came to the choice of camera angles and framing. Additionally, lighting and perspective between the miniatures and the characters would never properly match. We decided to do a second round of animation tests where we scanned the entire hand sculpted puppet and transformed the scan into a digital 3D version making it easier to match with the sets.
The first step was to convert the sculpted clay model into a 3D model. The budget didn’t allow us to get a proper laser 3D scan, so we used Autodesk’s free Catch123 App. We took photos of all the individual sculpted parts from every possible angle, uploaded them to the server and got 3d models back. The models that come back have the correct basic shape but are very rough so we had to manually add details and tweak the raw scan result in Zbrush to match the clay model. We also had to uv-map and re-texture all the parts since the textures we got from the scan software were far to low res.
The next step was to rig the character. To avoid having to do the whole rigging manually we used the Exocortex Species plugin for Softimage, where you basically only have to give it the proportions of your character and the plugin will automatically build the main rig and do a pretty good job of enveloping the skin. We then did test animations to figure out where the envelope weights had to be adjusted and did so accordingly.
We also played around with incorporating animal hand puppets that were shot on green screen into our test videos.
At this stage, we have tried out various techniques and we've come to the conclusion that both for budget reasons and for the sake of a simpler work flow and time constraints we will go with the technique that I had first in mind. We'll be hand painting most of the backgrounds and build them up in digital 2.5D worlds. The characters will be created as hand painted puppets which will be rigged, animated and composited digitally. Sometimes, it's a good idea to go back to basics. Most importantly, we want to create a good story with a simple, beautiful style that supports the message and that will lend the final animated short film charm and depth.