Monday, March 17, 2008
I think that this phase of the project was the most demanding, exhaustive and hard, but also it was the one that I've learned the most from. From the use of the peg bar and punched paper, to taking decisions about if I should or shouldn't buy an animation disk; from learning to use the left hand to check and control the time and motion, to maintaining the proportions and look of the character.
Well, I think this post is gonna be a long one :)
I read in "The Animation Book" by Kit Laybourne the importance of having a production book or log, so that you can keep track of your advances, your doubts, and even catalyse your anger, discouragements, etc. I think it was some of the best advice this book offered, at least to me. So I started mine for this project. And this part of the process was the time I wrote the most. I think I'm gonna post later some of those notes, but right now I wanna point out that writing my goals in the book was really important. Sometimes I felt lost and when I read again the notes about my objectives with my project, it set me back on track.
One of the first notes (actually, the first one) was about the importance of being familiar with the characters, the movements, and so on. When I did the pencil tests of the 1st and 2nd scenes, I thought it was a waste of time, but at this point I realized how useful it was. I have to confess that I'm still not satisfied with the female cat. I can tell now that I never drew her enough before the final animation, so some parts, mostly the face, are kinda strange to me.
At this part of the project, I've suffered many depressions.
In order to meet the deadline, I made a formula to see how many frames I should draw per hour, and how many hours per day should I work. I even made a schedule detailing task to be completed daily or weekly. In the middle of it, I was delayed. That was stressful, but I tried to continue to make it happen.
There were days when I couldn't draw more than 5 or 6 frames cause they were really complex for me, and I felt like I had many empty spots in my animation knowledge and skills. But I tried hard and harder to get through, and I've learned one of my greatest lessons: the best way to learn how to do animation is by MAKING it. It sounds pretty simple, but it's not. I've read a lot, I've seen many cartoons, even frame by frame, I've read many blogs, etc. But it's only when you face yourself with the paper, with the problems, and when you feel that you have no idea how to do something that you start to learn for real. When you do your own project you face problems that no book or film has encountered, so you have to figure it out.
This can be really stressful. I read one of my notes that says : "I can't animate, I'm not good for this". It was a hard day and I almost gave up, I lost the will to keep working, and I wondered if it was a good idea to leave my job to do this, and that I would never be able to make a good animation. Boy, this stuff is really demanding and can mess with your head, hehe.
When I realized that I couldn't finish it for my birthday (13th October, just in case any of you wanna send me gifts hehe), I promised myself that at least I would finish the pencil animation by then.
The prior week was really hard, and my hand was so sore that at night it was numb and sometimes cold. I was kinda afraid, but I didn't pay much attention and I kept working. On my b-day I had like 50 or 80 frames to draw. I started to draw at 6 am (or I went to bed at 4 am, I really can't remember). In the morning, my girlfriend came to my place and ask me what I wanted to do. I answered "I have to finish this, this is my own gift". And I started to draw again. But then I realized that there was no use spending my own day doing this when instead I could go out knowing that I really was good at this, and that my goal was in some way accomplished. So I celebrated.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
After I almost gave up, and before I made any further animation, I knew I had to fix the story. This required me to make difficult but necessary decisions.
First, if I really wanted to finish the project then it should be shorter, cause doing animation on your own is very demanding, so I made it last one minute. It also was a "commercial" decision, cause this way I could send it to shortfims AND filminute festivals.
Then I got rid of the second passenger-cat. It was a tough decision cause I was kinda in love with him, but I realized that his part took precious seconds and was a distraction from the main story.
I wasn't really happy with the first ending - here the cat gets into the bathroom, and when he sits back, the other cat accidentally splashes his trousers, so the stewardess thinks he peed his trousers. If the fat cat was gone, the only way make it possible was that the cat asked for another drink and splashed himself, but if this happened, the stewardess was there and she knew that it was an accident... the story was getting longer and more complicated. So I decided that he never entered the bathroom.
As I started to make the animation, I kept taking out some situations that are shown in this version but never make it to the final version. Anyway, this was almost the final story.
When I saw this test or animatic, I was happy cause the story was clearer and hadn’t lost its humor.
The next step: making the production, I mean, the final animation... a hard task, indeed!
After the first test, I kept my idea of making these pencil/motion tests. This time I had a block that was a little bigger (thanks to Diana), but I kept drawing and not paying much attention to the details. At this point, I started to have doubts upon the direction of my film - I didn't know if it was the right one. I mean, I got a little discouraged when I saw both of those tests. I thought that the story of the short was missing and that it didn't made sense. So I showed it to No, Ángelo and María to see what they thought and, well, they had mixed opinions. All of them loved the movement, but Ángelo told me that I had already accomplished my mission: to prove that I could make pencil animation. María told me that I couldn’t complete the project only in pencil; "People will ask you, 'When are you gonna finish it?' trust me". And No said "Finish it, you have started, go ahead, fix it and finish it". Those were hard times for me, I felt discouraged, like a failure, and I almost gave up. However, I talked with Diana and it cleared my mind, so I made the decision to finish it.
María told me that I shouldn't keep making the pencil tests. Pencil tests can help if you have many people making the film, but as I was the only animator, director, messenger (hehe), etc., she said I should stop, as I would be drawing the film twice - once for the test and once for the actual animation on the actual paper size. I had my doubts, but her arguments made sense, so I started to make the final animation.
After making the story, I started to make the layout... but it turned out to be more sort of a pencil or motion test. I drew this on a pad block, because I wanted to focus on the general movement, not on details. This was my first scene, and even when I found that my idea wasn't clear, I was so happy to see my characters moving in such a fluid way.
I believe that the creative process can be (and most of the time is) chaotic. I mean, sometimes a great idea appears the moment that you are paying the account at the supermarket, and you can, and should, use the receipt to write or draw what you just thought, because maybe if you wait until later, it will lose its magic, or worse, you could forget it.
Also, I find it easier to make doodles, so I can focus on the idea instead of worrying about the aesthetics, form, proportions, etc.
This story was made on the other side of a xeroxed Softimage XSI manual. That's funny cause it kinda made a stand about my current interest in animation. I drew the story of my first hand-drawn short film on the manual of a 3d application :)
As you can see, its very loose and hard to figure for anyone besides me, but that was the idea - to let it be as organic, fluid and spontaneous as possible, so that later I could make it more concrete. To let the right side of the brain do the magic and then the left one make the adjustments.