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!

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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.

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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. 😛 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.

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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.

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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. 😉 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 an 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.) 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 on lineartthe 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!

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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 a 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. 😉

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

 

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Zielle’s Questions & ‘Stuf’

This is that post that comes in between all of everyone’s exciting posts that no one will probably read because everyone else is making much more awesome posts. Oh well, here goes.

Zielle gave me some questions as part of her “Guest Interviews” thang, and so that’s the first order of business. Who doesn’t love to answer questions about oneself?

Zielle: What brought you to name your blog ‘Steeplechase’?

Tess: Oh wow, these questions are personalized! Epic. I had always loved the word, and I thought it reflected the random nature of my blog without being “Tessie’s Random Crazy Stuff Blog!!”

Zielle: How was your blog born? Who/what inspired you to start one?

Tess: Well, I had already made an AG doll blog (still running, btdubs), but I found a bunch of posts that weren’t AG related were falling through the cracks, so I bucked up and made a PB. And now I love it.

Zielle: What quote do you live by if any?

Tess: Literally anything that Winston Churchill said. In particular:

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”


“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”


“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”


“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
(used in the literal sense of the word, btw)

Okay, that wasn’t one quote. That was five. Bad Tess. *spanks hand*

Zielle: Who are some bloggers you look up to or who inspire you?

Tess: I look up to anyone who’s been blogging longer than I have – Madi and Hayley in particular. As for inspiration, my inspiration comes from all of my followers, all of the people I follow, any random visitors that stop by – in short, every blogger is an inspiration to me.

Zielle: What are some of your blogging goals for the year 2018?

Tess: Finish what I start XD. I have five random drafts in my folder right now and I need to get better at that. Make a two-minute animation for you guys to enjoy. I also want to get to one hundred followers. But that’s just a selfish wish. I don’t even have 50 :P.

Zielle: Are you just naturally good at drawing, or did you have to learn?

Tess: *thinks*
Big Important Drawing Rule One: There is no such thing as natural talent. There is such thing as extensive practice. I’ve been actively drawing since I could scribble. My mom always nurtured me by providing clean paper to draw on and good tools to draw with.

Big Important Drawing Rule Two: Copy. Hold it! There’s a difference between copying and plagiarism. Go to Google, search what you want to draw, and pull up an image. Now draw it as best you can. Think about what it would look like as a coloring page. Also, try to draw from life as much as possible. If you can’t draw from life, then watch someone else draw what you want to draw. Steer clear of ‘drawing tutorials’, though, because those will teach you how to draw that thing in the creator’s style. Not good. You want your own style.

Big Important Drawing Rule Three: Be unique. Do things your way, not someone else’s. That’s the only way your drawings will look like YOU.

Big Important Drawing Rule Four: Block. If you want to be able to draw something from every angle, learn to block. Go look it up. Art Ala Carte is a great Youtube channel for learning how to block.

Big Important Drawing Rule Five: Don’t buy expensive stuff until you’re sure you’re serious.

(This was an essay. Sorry. :P)

Zielle: How many times have you flown in a plane? (#random)

Tess: Only once. I didn’t get a window seat though. So that kind of stunk.

Zielle: Do you stall reading until you’re in bed, or do you read whenever you can?

Tess: It all depends on what I’m reading. If a book is meh or average or not really that interesting, I wait till bed. But if it’s so enthralling that I can’t wait to see what happens next and can’t put it down, then I read it whenever I can (including while getting dressed).

Zielle: How old were you when you wrote your first story? (if you’re okay sharing)

Tess: I was nine. I wrote out a story about bunnies that now, remembering it, sounds mysteriously like Alice in Wonderland…even though I hadn’t read it at the time. I sadly don’t have it anymore. 😦

Zielle: Do you have a book in progress that I can beta read and devour???!! ;P

Tess: Almost. Once I make my Julynowrimo Brother Robin cohesive (not perfect, mind you), you’ll be the first on the list of beta readers!

In speaking of which, I am hiring beta readers! I need some useful crit on the aforementioned story.

Beta Reader Information

– The story is fifty thousand words long and falls under the heading of sci-fi histfict.
– The content is appropriate for ages 8+. There is mention of death, some people in love, and an injury, which is not described in great detail. (EDIT: There is also mention of alchoholic beverages. Not a horrible lot but they are present. This is 1876, guys.)
– The story is a DRAFT. It is not my best work. It is not even close to my best work. It’s complete rubbish, drivel and garbage. But I don’t want to waste a bunch of time editing and fixing a story that will need more fixing later.
– I’ll be sending out the story in December of this year, after I’ve made it cohesive (going back and fixing things that don’t make sense.
– I really don’t want grammar criticism. I’ll fix that m’self, thanks. If something’s not clear, then tell me, but if I use the wrong form of ‘there’, don’t correct me, please.

I’m looking for at least five readers, so jump on it!

And now…the ‘stuf’…the reason why I haven’t been blogging…there’s so much interesting stuff to do and so little time! I’ve gotten some new things that I can’t wait to show you guys.

Books!

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One trip to Barnes and Noble later…I got some books! The money was worth it.

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Wreck This Journal. Guys. This is so so so so so awesome! I’m not going to show any pages until I’m done. Then I’ll do a #rekt tour!

And F nish Th s B  k. I am not going to say anything about this one. You have to go get it yourself. Not being lazy, it’s just that you have to see it to believe it.

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle is a crazy book that takes itself really seriously. Like it’s completely normal to shave yourself with a broken bottle, Doctor! But it’s a ton of fun and really lighthearted in comparison to a lot of fiction.

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The best part, though, is that my collection of aesthetically pleasing Sterling edition classics is growing!

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Ahhhhh….the spectrum….it’s so……

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SATISFYING.

*wipes brow*

Art Stufs

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Alright, I broke down and bought a sketchbook. I haven’t drawn anything in it yet, but that will change as soon as I finish this post. 🙂 I also got some new pencils, as I wore my others down to nubs…

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And they are also fun to photograph. This is the 6B (not like anyone cares).

And now….

…the grand finale…

…the thing you’ve been waiting for…

…please welcome…

…the newest member of my entourage…

…the one who will help me realize my dreams…

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This is Cedric! He is a Monoprice 10″ x 6.25″ Drawing Tablet and is a real amazing guy (though he can be tempermental). Don’t tell him I said that, though. I got some old Flash MX2004 and am making some babystep animations. But that topic’s for another post.

What’s your favorite thing to do (besides blogging)? Did you sign up to beta read?

Sayanora,

Tess