Animating!

After a gruelling time creating backgrounds and other flat static features, it was finally time to start animating. Sadly, this process begins with the looming deadline only 3 weeks away, regardless of planning to start this process nearly 7 weeks ago. I learnt as this project drew on everything would take longer than expected, but now the pressure was really mounting. On the plus side, I finally had no other projects to worry about besides a few book cover designs and I was nearly free all of the time to work solidly on animating.

I didn't know where to begin, I had a rough idea of where to start and was heavily advised by my tutor, Fumio, to start on the most difficult scenes as they would then be out the way, as well as teaching me some more complicated techniques which could make the easier scenes even more easy and more importantly, quick to make. 

Animating is extremely complicated. I had to refresh my memory on nearly everything, even though the last time I animated, creating the advert, was only about a month to the date of writing this. I slowly came back to me but i refreshed my memory through some of the youtube tutorial channels I watched before, such as 'DrawWithJazza' and 'AlanBeckerTutorials'. I also created myself some print outs with tips and 'things to remmber' on which i put on my wall above my desk for easy reference.
Walk and run cycles in particular was something which really confused me, I'd shown through a practice  which I converted into a GIF (earlier on blog) that I could do it and how effective it can be but i couldnt remember just how I'd done it. As such, I decided to go for this animation first, in the form of the second scene in the animation the 'inside office' scene:
I imported my JPEG background, and created each element of Terry's body seperatley as 'symbols'. Where I created slight variations of their movement processes, within each 'symbol'. I could quickly toggle these stages of the movement using an add-on I downloaded called the 'Keyframe Caddy' which was much, much faster than some other means of re-drawing as well as being simple.
I used this process for each movement path and element of Terry's Body, split into different layers which harboured each symbol. The Layers I wasn't using I always locked or hid, so not to accidentally move, as well as helping to focus on the element I was working on. This arm, I created by redrawing as well as using the transformation tools to manipulate the shape, as the arm grew closer to the camera it grew bigger and shrunk as it got further from the camera - basic perspective. I also used the rotation point (the white dot on picture 2) aligned with the shoulder, this meant the shoulder stayed in place whilst I rotated and reszied the arm to allow for a much more natural looking swing motion. 

I tracked and evaluated the motion as I went alon, constanly playing it back over. The translucent green and blue represent the onion skin tool which shows the frames before and after (to choice) of the current frame. This helps judge how the next frame should look.
The walk cycle featured many complicated factors such as timing the legs and arms, in a walk cycle the alternate sided arms and legs match up. This seems a simple concept but i managed to confuse and anger myself attempting this for the first time in a while. The complexity of the walk cycle began to overwhelm me and as I felt myself growing more frustrated I decided to step away and focus on a different scene. I believe doing this will be key to retaining productivity - although I will have to face my fears at some point.

Instead, i turned to a more basic scene. A basic scene that however, would be very important, and actually cover much more footage time.

I started to work on the TV scene, the scene shows Terry watching TV miserably, with an unchanged expression sat through a flashing TV light immovable to some ridiculously scripted adverts - yet to be recorded.

compared the previous walk cycle this would be much simpler, it omnly included the movement of one arm - This movement was slow, as such more frames were needed. I think the actual movement consists of about 8 different poses - made up of re-drawn images and tranformed manipulated versions of the previous frames. I noticed that simply manipulating size and position through the transformation tools looked very choppy and mechanical, particularly as there was no arcs within the movement - something I researched alot when learning about motion blurring and limb movement previously. As such, I tried to keep this to a minimum, and added in a few drawn images which altered the shape of the arm, in this scene, adding more curvature to show the arm bending at the joint. 
I used the onion skin tool to track the movement as I re-drew or transformed.
It was these stages, moving the thumb of Terry top press the button on the controller which were the most finicky. AS it's clear to see with these close-ups they arent exact, the button dosent move, nor would it be the correct button to press on the remote ( i would imagine) but at the speed the animation happens i don't think these minor details will matter.

I wanted to add some cartoon emphasis on the thumb as it pressed the button, I did this by using arc shapes, as I have with all of the limbs in Fish Terry, started with an overeacted pull back (photo1) into a hover (2) before pressing the button (3). Although the motion is fast, I wanted it to be fluent, the pull back also freezes for a few frames in practice before swinging down to press the button to draw some emphasis.
Next I created the flash of the TV, I created the shape using the paintbrush tool with the smoothening feature helping to create some sleek curves. Animate works in a vector format unlike photoshop which works in pixels so smooth curves are mathematically created and look very sleek and proffesional in comparison. I emphasised the flash of the light by adding dark shadows under areas, as it would happen in real-life I think this made a world of difference:
I seperated every part of Terry's body into symbols within this scene, just in case i want to animate past this basic stage but I think as a whole the motions I have captured thus far work well and are funny. I can add to this scene and adjust elements to the audio once i add it.
I really like Terry's posture in this, I think it's funny to look at with his expression, it really gives an insight to his character. I've found making short GIFs as I go along a good way to re-evaluate as spot any flaws. I can also share them online with friends to get feedback, which could be constructive but in the most part is just excitement which is great for keeping up motivation!
A productive area for me to start next i felt would be animating Sharon's Dad. As a character he has a total of two talking scenes. In both scenes he speaks but his body isn't required to move too dramatically, but with animation I have learnt even the slightest movements take a lot of prepartation and time! the slight movements of the body such as shrugging of shoulders in time with speech etc. I've found are the touches that really add autheticity to the characters so I didn't want to avoid any details. 

The two scenes Sharon's Dad is in are the table scene, where he asked about his day, whilst sat at the table and the flashback scene of his gangster memory, showing him standing against a forest backdrop.  The obvious differences in these two scenes are obviously that he is stood in one and sat in the other, However, the angling of the camera in the table scene and gangster scene are the similar, he is facing head on in both. Meaning that I could create one figure, which i could re-use across both scenes which will save me loads of time! He also features from a different angle in a different camera angle of the table scene but he isn't active in this scene.
I created Sharon's Dad in Animate seperating each body part into layers and symbols as always, so I could edit each body part individually - this was particularly valuable as he would be animated differently across the other scene this figure would be used for.

Part of the reason I chose to animate this character as this stage was i knew he would be a challenge. The facial structure in particular the mouth is particualrly unusual so it would be time-consuming!

However, difficultly aside, when creating my characters and getting feedback from people he was head and shoulders the favourite of most I asked, so changing his design wasn't something I considered!

Lip Syncing

Lip Syncing character's to voice recordings is an incredibly tricky and time-consuming element of animation but one that really helps add depth and proffesionalism to a piece and as such I actually love doing it! However, the difficulty really varies from character to character, or more particularly mouth to mouth. 
The basics of lip syncing with cartoons revolve around representing the basic movements of the mouth to certain sounds, almost all can be covered in most circumstances with these basic interpretations:
I grabbed this image quickly from Google images for the purpose of this blog but previously in my research and practice I'd also learnt these basic mouth sound shapes through other sources such as Youtube video tutorials.

Obviously, the style of mouth varies to each artist' style and character. Quite dramatically so in my case as my characters are mainly fish and all have large lips or mouths that arent often facing forward like these.

Obviously as a head turns, the mouth turns and the shape of the mouth has to be manipulated with this, this usually means it is needed to be redrawn. When you consider that these 9 mouths are needed to be drawn as a near minimum just for facing forwards, it's immediatley clear the sheer work that goes in to animation - this is only the mouth!
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The beauty of Adobe Animate's Symbol feature is you can create each variant of the mouth 'within' one mouth symbol. When then using the 'keyframe caddy' extension, you can then simply juggle through your mouth options on your main timeline, where the sound file (character voice) is.

Here are a few examples of the mouths I created for different sounds for Sharon's Dad. He is a bit of an exception to the basic mouth shapes as he does not have a typically shaped mouth, he also has a cigar in his mouth. having tested what its like to talk with a cigar in your mouth:
As stupid as this looked, i often look in a mirror and physically mouth out sounds to see how a mouth should look. I realised with my cigar (tablet stylus) that the easiest way to get across the basic mouth shapes would be to make Sharon's Dad talk through the corner of his mouth. Without using a tongue and teeth it's very hard to show certain sounds, so although it's not strictly realistic that they would be visible with a real-life person talking with a cigar in their mouth, I think it is okay to do in a cartoon.. about a gangster fish.

I created these different mouths. The head shape of the character meant I didn't really have acess to the top lip within this symbol. I had the top half of the head as a seperate symbol, However, I have learnt through research before that it's actually only the bottom jaw that really moves when speaking so whether I would need to add movement to the top lip, at this stage, remained to be seen.
Some of the mouth types are more obvious than others to see what sound would be assosciated with them. I felt as though using the corner of the mouth for the main movement as well as altering the right corner of the lip holding the cigar slightly as well as the cigar slightly itself. I also edited the chin and jaw slightly on some mouths - in hindsight i would've liked to have had more time to go into greater detail with each mouth.
Character's with a more obscure facial structure are much more tricky and frustrating to animate. Most cartoon character's are humans, as such their mouths are often situated on their face and are surrounded by.. face. A tricky concept even to explain, the advantage of having a mouth which is free to animate as it has something behind it is much easier than animating a mouth over an open edge for example. For instance:
I simply rotated and moved the cigar slightly in sync with the different mouths I created.
The complexity of the mout meant that it was made up of a number of layers, including 'chin cover' which was to stop lines colliding with the body below and 'inside mouth' a dark red shape as well as elements like teeth and a tongue which were under the main mouth layer.

Layers on layers on layers...
I imported the character's voice file into the stage which appears on the timeline as a wavy red line (above [layer 6]). I then re-listened to the track using the the cursor to track back and forward as well as the loop tool to replay the sound and help determine how the mouth of the character should look to look as though they are speaking each sound. The voice typically goes at incredibly high speed as well as being slightly off-sync to the frame rate so it's impossible to get the 'lip-sync' exactly right but the closer the better, it's a very addictive but long process!

Each notch within the 'mouth' layer above, represents a mouth type, in alot of cases, with words that are stretched out the same mouth will continue over a few frames but the real difficulty comes in the more high speed areas of speech where a new mouth in used nearly frame by frame. I always use a 24fps rate anyway, but I think lip-syncing in any lower would be near impossible!

Furthermore, some mouths that are radically different appear very unnatural when next to each other so it's good to have an 'inbetween' phase between these. This character in particular had a more complex and unusual mouth shape so this character looks  slightly unorthodox in speech.


I used the keyframe caddy extension go juggle between all the mouths i had created. I can't underestimate the time I save using this extension! 

It's a free tool (a paid version is available) but definitely something I would recommend to anyone using Animate cc.
Of course, as someone speaks not only does there mouth move but so do other areas of their face. Some areas of the face move naturally with the mouth such as cheeks might come up with a wide smile. But equally, portraying emotions as certain words and sounds are said is a really great way of adding autheticity to characters in animation. 

As such, I used the keyframe caddy to alter the eyes and cheeks of the character at certain stages of his speech. I wanted to convey these natural movements of the face as well as some emotional implications. Movement of the face and in particularly the eyelids and cheeks definitely makes the character seem much more 'alive' and believable.
Certain sounds are naturally emphasised with moods, such as F' s with anger. They're often drawn out for effect:
It's clear to see the difference altering oter elements of the face can have in partnership with mouth types.

After adding in the background and a colour overlay, I created this GIF. Although it's obviously silent, I think it's interesting to look at still to analyse any areas the mouth might look unnatural. If the lip sync is good enough, then you might even be able to guess some of the words.
Overall to get this character to this point it took me about 5 hours of solid work - a frighteningly long amount of time but I hope the other characters will be easier to animate speech for!  This scene I would also like to add maybe some further movement to the characters body and maybe some smoke from the cigar although he is a fairly stern character and standing arms folded i feel is a good look for his personality.

Driving Scene

After the intensive work of lip-syncing, I decided to move on to a slightly easier prospect, or so I thought - the driving scene. This basically consisted of Terry sat in his car driving with his classic miserable expresion. I didn't want him to be too animated so I knew the main animation of this scene would come from the background and other features. I took the PNG image i created in photoshop of the car, featuring translucent windows, meaning /i could create a moving background behind it:
The car has black translucent windows which should act like a tint. I created the background in photoshop as well where I had the advantage of being able to work with textures and gradients to create this evening sky.
I created two foreground features, a dashboard and a steering wheel - the dashboard I made in photoshop and the steering wheel within animate using the oval tool.
Next, I imported the Terry I created for a walking scene I'd been working on. Obviously being sat down, his legs weren't in shot, so they werent added. I'd already created some internal variations within each body part to toggle through such as the eyes to show a blink.

I place the character infront of the Car and Sky background, with the steering wheel and dashboard sat on top of him. i then created a hand shape, which sat between the steering wheel and dashboard - already the layers were mounting up!
My idea with this scene was to animate similarly to how some films animate car scenes. I planned on creating a moving background which would look as through the car was moving. This concept of moving the background rather than the forergound is also key with run and walk cycles etc. it makes the action much smoother.

To create my moving background I needed to create some outside features that might be along Terry's drive home. I went for the easy option in trees. I really liked the stylistic way I was drawing trees through my background work, so I was comfortable drawing these knowing they would tie in well. I created 5 different styles - I didnt add too much detail as I knew they would only be in shot for about 2 seconds at a time and they are also not the focus of the scene. 

I drew them quickly within animate.
I created the effect of the Trees passing by by moving them from the side of teh screen to the center and shrinking them, like they were dissapearing into the distance. I used the transformation tools for this along with the onion skinning effect (blue and green translucent trees) to help understand the path the trees would take and how it would look as well as eliminating any errors. I toyed alot with where the vanishing point should be but in the end I settled for it being just behind the back of the car, the positioning of the vanishing point would effectively show the direction and angle the car was driving at, so this made a big difference. 

I used this effect on both sides of the car, whilst cycling through my different tree styles I'd created.
I used motion tweens (the blue arrow) to move the trees, essentially meaning I only had to create the beginning and end phase of the tree, addding the tween animated all the inbetweens for me. The only down side to tweens is they can get confusing and hard to edit as well as making the file size much larger.
I copy and pasted the tree paths multiple times, in most cases changing the style of tree using the keyframe caddy - this was a very fast way of adding in the total of 16 trees in the sequence. 

I also decided to add a rock to the car, to simulate bumpiness of the country road - I did this by tweening a gentle sway in all the foreground features, Terry included. 

I added blinks and gentle hand movement on the wheel to Terry to help him appear more alive.

I downloaded some sound effects from the internet of countryside ambience, a car running as well my title song track. I wanted to give the title track the effect of it being played through the radio, to do this I edited the downloaded track in Audacity using various effects to try and give it a muffle - I'm not sure at this stage whether I will use this creation but it works okay.
My knowledge of sound-editing software is bvery limited so creating the muffle effect was very much luck! varying some effects like the 'phaser'.
i also edited the track within Animate using the edit envelope. Essentially, the graph shows the variation in volume. I felt varying the volume would add a more authentic radio experience, especially as the character appears to be driving in the countryside. 



That partned with the other sounds going on, the countryside ambience and car driving i think creates a relatively realistic experience.
As I do with most scenes, I mocked up the driving scene in to a GIF for evaluating. I was unsure of this scene, so seeked the feedback of others,
most was positive - thank god.
This GIF was created from a snippet of the scene so it actually cuts-off and dosen't work particularly well as a looped GIF but it is okay to analyse I think - I had to trim the scene as the file was so big mainly down to all the tweens.

Preparing More Characters For Speech

I decided I wanted to take a different approach in the coming days to animating each character. Having got to know the power and efficiency of the 'keyframe caddy'. I decided to 'prepare' my characters for animating by drawing them and seperating them into layers and symbols the same way as I have so far, in particularly Sharon's Dad who was the first so far to include speech.
Firstly, I created Sharon. Each part of her body is split into individual layers, with the layers split into two folders - head and body. the head folder includes all of the components of the head, eyes, mouth etc. by placing them all in one folder it makes the multiple layers easier to manage as well as being able to move them all at once, this means I could more easily move sharons whole head, for a nod etc. However, as she dosent have a neck, her head links to her body so moving her head seperately to her body may look strange, these are defnitely limitations within my character design.













The colour scheme and colours can also be hard to track through creation, however, Animate now offers a unique ability to not only be able to save colour swatches but 'tag' them. By using tagged swatches you can change the swatch colour and it will change the colour of every area it is used, across multiple frames. I am happy with my colour scheme but should I need to edit it, I have used tagged swatches just in case.


Sharon will have pupils! I havent added the pupi on a seperate layer and I'll only really know what direction to face them once Sharon is in the context of a scene.
In many ways Sharon's more complex face shape created similar issues to Sharon's Dad, when creating mouths. Perhaps slightly less tricky but still challenging, Sharons resting mouth shows only a very pronounced top lip. Up until this point I hadnt attempted to draw how her mouth would look open - very poor planning on my part. I left asking myself questions like; will she have a bottom lip? will her mouth change her face shape? how can I create a mouth that wont look too irregular? will this mouth cause me alot of grief and time?

In the end after around two hour of drawing and rubbing out (within Animate) I decided on her having a large bottom lip, to match her top lip, that conviently tucks underneath her top lip when back to her resting face.

I used the same mouth shape references as Sharon's dad to create a selection of mouths:
I think the mouths work. They look slightly unorthodox, the teeh especially. However, it is incredibly hard to portray certain sounds without the inclusion of teeth - In real life I don't think you'd be able to say them without teeth! So although it does look a bit strange, I needed to include them.

Next, I moved on to eyes:
I used two layers within the eye symbol, one for the eyeball and lids and one for the cheek and brow.
After I'd created the basic body part symbols for Sharon as well as a selection of mouths and eyes, ready for lip-syncing, I did the same for Dylan, Sharon and Terry's son.
Dylan was actually alot easier to create, his natural, fairly spherical, body shape was very simplistic and easy to draw as well as work with. His legs sit under his body, meaning there was no need for a 'cover-up' between his legs and pelvis area like Terry has. Most notably however, his mouth was much better positioned and pronounced and easy to draw from:
Having known the importnace of including teeth and a tongue to portray basic sounds I knew they must be included with Dylans mouth also. 

His mouth was much more free to work than Sharons as it was less 'pinned' to his face, it didnt dictate a change in the layer below as much.

The only issue with Dylan's mouth I found, was that his markings underneath included a dead straight line, which looked a bit odd when exposed for the last two mouths, the "W,R" and "O" mouths.
I had to portray Dylan being upset later in the animation and having the idea of him being a bit of a geek/cry baby I thought a quivering lip would be a cool idea. For this I created a 'waved' lip mouth then used the onion skin tool, to redraw the mouth with the waves placed alternatingly (up areas on the down areas) as well as some movement in the strain markings. I believe when played, the lips will look as though they are quivering.
Next, I created a selection of eyes:
I created these basic eyes, mainly focusing on the eyelids, the range of eyelids means I can show a range of emotions as well as a variety of blinks, the slower the blink the more frames its would need to use, for instance.
Similarly to the quivering lip effect, I created a teared up eye, which had a wave of water inside, which would move in a wave motion smoothly. I created 3 frames this time just to ensure a smooth wave motion.

For another level of depth I created the glasses with a translucent blue tint:
I used the 'Alpha' tool within the colour selector in Animate to colour the two circles I created using the elipse tool. I kept the line of the glasses thinner than Dylans base lines as I felt this created more depth and suited the glasses better. I toyed with the idea of using really thick lines similarly to 'Dexter' in 'Dexter's Lab'. However, I decided this was the best design - I think it's a nice touch to the character.

'Dexter' from 'Dexter's Lab' 

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