Nine Months In The Making

Animation.

My first real animation wasn’t supposed to take nine months. Actually, I was supposed to have it finished in two. But a lot came up, I had a lot to learn, and I went through a period of fluctuating self-esteem that crippled my workflow.

But I’m finally done, and it’s been quite the wild ride to this point. So here we are – the super-duper-animation-post-I’ve-been-thinking-about-for-awhile-now.

Let’s get into it!

Zoetrope_Stories

My Journey To Animation: A Brief History

Like most kids, I’d played around with notepads and stop motions. At one point, I even had this little animation kit thing (it included a zoetrope and was actually really awesome – I wish I had kept it!).

Last year, I made some little animated gifs. They were really REALLY labor-intensive – lots of tracing and stuff. I documented that on Steeplechase in this post.

howl2btest2bcropped

However, I couldn’t keep folding papers into eighths in lieu of a lightboard. I had to face the fact that I needed to use the computer if I was going to take this from a passing whim to a serious hobby.

Now before you come at me with that “but-Disney-cartoons-are-all-made-on-paper-you-tech-spoiled-millenial” snobbishness, allow me to defend myself. Disney is a company made up of hundreds of people. Disney animators don’t have to worry about:

  • storyboarding
  • inbetweening
  • lineart
  • coloring
  • shading
  • backgrounds
  • sound mixing
  • editing
  • producing
  • directing
  • lack of inspiration. (Well, maybe not.)

If you’re an independent animator (meaning you’re a one-man-show), then you have to do all of that yourself. Oh yeah, and animate, too. πŸ˜› A computer program makes it much easier and smoother to make your own animations without a inking, painting, or backgrounds department.

I ended up purchasing a drawing tablet on Amazon. Technically, his name is Cedric, and he’s Constance’s secret admirer. (Clara, I guess I should have warned you about that. ;)) After doing some research, I found out how to legally download an ancient version of Flash, Adobe’s ever-popular animation program.

DSCN0110
shhhh, this picture’s kinda old.

So I was all set! Now – to actually animate something.

I had heard about Multi-Animator Projects (we affectionately call them MAPs), so I decided I should start there.

What is a Multi-Animator Project (MAP)?

Basically, someone takes a song, divides it into 10-second parts, and posts it up for “auditions”. There are all kinds of MAPs (fandom, original character, vent, positivity, beginner-friendly, etc.) for all kinds of tastes. Most of them are kind of edgy or centered on Warrior Cats, but there are more than a few acceptable ones. Most of the time, anyway.

I decided to go out on a limb and just admit my noobiness to a MAP host and beg ask for a part. And he was gracious enough to accept!

So here I was, with my tablet, my Flash, my MAP part – and absolutely no idea what I had gotten into.

Zoetrope_Stories

I started by cutting the audio. I downloaded the song we were using, put it into my fancy audio editing software, and clipped it down to just my part.

Audio cutting
Totally not just Windows Movie Maker. πŸ˜‰ Also you have to set a picture for it so you can turn it into an mp4 and then turn that mp4 into an mp3…and I have a weird sense of humor.

Once I had the audio for my part, I imported into Flash and set it in its own layer, so that I could start animating.

Audio on its own layer

(Layers are just what they sound like – different layers of stuff that you can stack on top of each other. For example, if the tail of your character is the only thing that’s moving, you can put the character’s still body on one layer and the tail on another and just animate the tail without having to redraw the body over and over again.)

The next step was to make anΒ animatic – a moving storyboard. I sketched out all the poses that I wanted my character to be in and put them at the right times for the music. (We call those poses keyframes.)Β As in, I wanted my wolf to stand up at the first “oh-oh-oh”, so I drew him in a standing position and put it at that time in the timeline (the number bar at the top).

(Also, I was a doofus and deleted all my sketch layers. 😦 So I have virtually no pictures to show for it.)

Rough sketches came next. I filled in the gaps between my keyframes with ugly, scribbly drawings. It was important that I made a sketch for every single frame, because I’m not the sort of person who can just freehand pretty drawings.

Before I got into anything fancy, though, I made the background. (It took me two and a half hours and a ton of headbanging, hairpulling, and complaining on how hard it is to do a nice gradient in Flash.) The reason I made it so early on is simple – it’s like painting. You do the background first to get an idea of what your setting will look like before you start coloring things in, so that you don’t end up with a background that looks like a cheap mid-90s green screen job.

Background

Background + sketches
Sketches + background! This is a screenshot of the WIP I put on Youtube (I hadn’t decided I liked the heavy lines on the background yet).

After the rough sketches moved the way I wanted them to, I started onΒ lineart,Β the pretty lines that turn this tornado of chicken scratch into an actual wolf. I traced them over my sketches on a new layer.

Lineart

With the lineart moving along nicely, I filled in the color. At this point, he looks flat and out of place, but we’re about to fix that with…

Color

shading! It took me a little while to decide how to do the shading. I eventually decided on running over the appropriate areas with an opaque black (so that the lineart and color shows through, but it’s darker). This was a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that I got through by listening to music.

Shading

Shading is all well and good, but without ground shadows, it was still looking funny. Of course, my wolf goes into a heavily shadowed place halfway through the sequence, so I didn’t have to do the shadows after that point, but I did need dramatic ground shadows for the first half. I have to confess that I cheated a bit – instead of trying to freehand the shadows (and inevidably messing it up, because shadows are my nemeses), I just copied the lineart, turned it all black, flipped it upside down, angled it, and set the opacity. Which was definitely much more accurate than trying to freehand everything.

Ground Shadows

After a few final touches (and a lot of celebration), I converted my Flash file to an mp4, uploaded it to YouTube, notified my MAP host that I’d finished (finally!) and…

*drumroll*

here it is!

PhotoFunia-1530206941
Click the picture to watch!

I know that a lot of you guys are not allowed on YouTube, so Madison has been kind enough to put it into her media files and give me the link, so you guys can watch! If you live in a cave and don’t know who Madi is, be sure to check her out!

(Wait – does this mean I have aΒ sponsor? NO WAY.)

Zoetrope_Stories

Bottom line?

Animation is hard. It’s frustrating, labor-intensive, patience-testing, difficult on perfectionists…

…and SO. MUCH. FUN.

With my first animation now under my belt, I’m going to promptly sign up for another MAP. Why? I live by a little maxim, and it applies to pretty much everything. It goes:

The best way to do it better is to do it more.

So I’m going to go at it again, animate something else, and learn even more than I learned this time around.

Let’s just hope that this one doesn’t take nine months to complete. πŸ˜‰

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

 

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33 thoughts on “Nine Months In The Making

  1. Rebcake June 28, 2018 / 6:01 pm

    WOAH WOAH WOAH WOW.

    sorry, I got a little excited there.
    Your animation is so cool, Tess!! I’m watching it over and over again. I can’t believe the amount of labor you had to put it in, but the end result is definitely worth it!
    I’m actually taking a stop motion animation summer camp right now. So far I’m still doing amateur little works, though. XD

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mya June 28, 2018 / 6:26 pm

    THIS IS SO IMPRESSIVE πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kellyn Roth June 29, 2018 / 1:48 am

    THAT IS ADORABLE AND SO IMPRESSIVE! You have a real future in that, girl!

    Like

  4. Jo @ The Lens & The Hard Drive July 1, 2018 / 10:23 pm

    TESS! I can’t believe I didn’t see this sooner! *goes and clicks follow* My cousin is into animation, so I thought I knew what to expect, but this was… wow. Beautiful!! Go and make more!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kirstyn Todd July 6, 2018 / 5:49 pm

    I think you should make a movie.

    And OH MY GOSH YOUR WOLF IS SO CUTE!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Kirstyn Todd July 9, 2018 / 3:35 pm

        XD Yeah, movies do take forever, but it’d be worth it. Especially if by some miracle it became super popular. XD

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Clara July 9, 2018 / 5:23 pm

    HOLY COW, TESS. I am seriously impressed. That is some amazing animation!!!! I can’t WAIT to see more of your work!

    -Clara ❀

    P.S: Constance says hi to Cedric XDD

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tess (blackiesunshine) July 10, 2018 / 1:56 am

      Thank you sooooo much! ❀ I'm working on it right now! πŸ˜€

      Cedric says to tell Constance that he is very impressed with her recent work.
      (it's an electronics thing)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Enni July 11, 2018 / 10:25 pm

    YOUR WOLFIES ARE SO CUTE AND THAT VIDEO LOOKS SO PROFESSIONAL, AHHH. I love animation – watching it, I mean. I probably could never do it since computer stuff and coding really is NOT my thing. I prefer a good old-fashioned pencil and paper, though I will gladly use a computer to write with – I hate writer’s cramp. πŸ˜›

    In case you’re wondering about how long this comment is about to be, I will say that not much, not much…600 words, to be precise. I’m not sure what length I’m at now but I’m going to make it extra long just to be sure. XD It’s for the Summer Bored Games – are you doing it? Also, just because it’s a challenge does not change the sincerity or honesty of this comment in any way! πŸ˜€ I seriously thought I commented on this already.X D

    I think that the hardest challenged for me was to mix three foods that started with the same color and eat it. I chose the letter S, but we didn’t have too many foods that started with S, so I decided on spaghetti sauce, strawberries, and sugar. It didn’t taste too bad…at first. But then…it really kicked in and I would recommend NOT trying it. It’s-it’s nasty.

    Well, it’s July the 11th! I was going to get a free slurpee from 711 (another sbg challenge) but I forgot and now we’re at home so I don’t realllyyyy wanna go out again. πŸ˜› Maybe I can convince my brother to pick one up for me on his way home from work? He works at Starbucks and from what I hear, it’s a very enjoyable yet still rather stressful job. Hmm.

    I think that I’d like to work at Starbucks – seems pretty fun, though from what I hear it’s a lot harder than most people think. Well, that’s understandable. πŸ˜›

    Ahh…I’m not even close to 600 words, yikes. Uh…what else should I say? Animation. This post is about animation. Animation is really cool, don’t you think? Well, did I really say that? And obviously you think it’s cool. I do too! *hums* Hmm…let’s see…

    How was your day today? How’s your Camp NaNoWriMo novel going? Mine’s going pretty well, I’m proud that I wrote every day. *angel face* It’s a lot different from April’s…I skipped several days and then would put in about a bajillion words at a time on one day. It was very, very stressful and I ended up having really low-quality writing which, obviously, isn’t good. So…this month I wrote an even amount everyday and can I just say that it’s so much less stressful and also…actually fun? Gosh, I hope I’m almost there I’m already getting typer’s cramp. (Just kidding) (Actually not)

    I’d copy and paste this comment to word if I could to make the word count’s there but the last time I copied and pasted something I deleted 2000 words of my novel so…yeah, not doing that. *shakes head*

    Umm…I guess I could post this part and if the words aren’t enough I’ll write part 2? *shrugs* Worth a shot!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Enni July 11, 2018 / 10:28 pm

    ARGH. I was soo close, just 100 words! *glares* *grumbles* Anyways…what’s the weather like in Texas? Here in Washington, it’s a combination of freezing cold and rain and boiling hot with sunshine. Right now it’s a whopping 80 degrees! No joke, yesterday it was 60 degrees. I told you, we have VERY changeable weather, okay? XD

    Do you like rain? I kind of like rain? Yet I don’t really like rain. here’s the thing – when I think about rain I always believe that I absolutely love rain and that’s it’s so cool and mysterious and mystical and all that…but when it actually rains I mostly groan and moan and feel miserable. XD Well…this is 600 words so I guess I should go now! Bye! πŸ˜€

    Like

    • Tess (blackiesunshine) July 12, 2018 / 12:38 am

      Okay I lovvvvved reading this! I feel so priveleged to be your SBG subject (victim?)! I’m not doing it (I have literally no time at all rn) but I love hearing about what you guys are doing!

      Texas is freaking hot. As in, it hasn’t gone below 70 degrees in months. Right now it’s 95, but during the afternoons it gets to be 100+. (The hottest we’ve gotten this summer is 118 – so yeah, boiling to death over here.)

      With all that heat – YOU BETCHA I LOVE RAINNNNNN. I get so excited for a thunderstorm, I sit out and watch it, I splash around in it afterwards, I get so hyped up when we have a 1% chance of a light shower…and I get super disappointed when I giant storm misses us.

      Geez, if I keep this up I’m going to give you a 600-word comment right back! XD I loved reading this! Thanks!

      Tess

      Liked by 1 person

      • Enni July 19, 2018 / 11:11 pm

        Awww, thanks! Yeah, I had to drop out. πŸ˜›

        My gosh, that’s HOT. It’s super cold today – about 68 degrees. πŸ˜› I just checked the weather, and I had a bit of a heart attack when I saw that it was 20 degrees…Celsius.

        Thunderstorms!! I WANT ONE RIGHT NOW. In fact, I just finished writing about one in Blizzards. XD

        Liked by 1 person

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