Mo-Graph Mentor

{Student Work} Derek Lieu

This project was completed by Derek Lieu, for the Frame By Frame brief. This was completed in Class 1 : Introduction to Design & Animation. The goal of this project was to focus on Spacing & Timing (the building blocks of animation). We explored the principles of animation, then challenged the students to apply their conceptual knowledge to a short animation.

Check out his project below.

For my Frame by Frame project of animating a circle I thought of scenarios where the circle was more like a character that happened to be a circle rather than a literal ball. Of the several concepts I storyboarded I settled on my Old West story that depicts a ball flying through an upstairs window, onto a table and then picks itself up and runs back outside to continue its fight.

My very rough storyboard. I was most excited about animating the crash, and didn’t think much about the rest.

Rather than start in After Effects I first worked on the sound design in order to establish the timing. By trade I’m definitely more of an editor than motion designer. When I’m editing a trailer for a game or a movie, the music is what guides me through. Similarly, for this project I edited my sound effects to create both slow and fast bursts of action to help guide my animation. Also, I just enjoy seeing things in sync with sound because it makes it feel more real.

I initially thought I was going to be using some plugins like Newton in order to allow the physics simulation to do a lot of work for me. But because of the very precise timing of the animation I had in mind, I ended up manually setting keyframes based on the sound effects and then using the graph editor to adjust the timing between the keys.

I quickly realized that I hadn’t set up my project well to make it easy to add squash and stretch animation later, so instead of fixing it, I used my first animated layer as a parent to the layers I would squash and stretch. Not efficient by any means, but it worked. If I was handing this project to someone else I would’ve made it cleaner, but I knew I’d be the only one touching this.

Sketch ideas for how to make the ball contort. I ended up not using any of these ideas and kept the squash and stretch simple.

The sound effects and animation ended up inspiring ideas back and forth while I worked. For example, the time between the glass and the first crash gave me the idea of having the first crash be in slow motion, then how I animated the ball bouncing on the table made me go back to adjust my sound effects.

In my first draft I had the ball sort of wiggle side to side and used some cloth foley to indicate it was dusting itself off before winding up and running out. But during the first class critique, my mentor Colin suggested making the ball more peppy and injecting more personality into it.

So in my final version I have the ball jump up into the air, take a few steps back, jump and then run out. I did my best to channel my memory of old Warner Bros cartoons into that one motion and I’m pretty proud of how it came out. I also received compliments for my bar doors swinging (which I animated by hand using the graph editor). One part I don’t think was entirely clear even in the final was the ball “leaning” which I did from picturing Bugs Bunny leaning forward and acting like a tough gangster.

Another class suggestion was that some glass fragments move while the ball runs out. I initially tried messing with physics plugins and Trapcode Particular settings, but ended with no results. So I just went in, masked out individual pieces of glass and animated them manually with keyframes and the graph editor. I probably spent less time doing it manually than I did trying to find an “easy” way to do it.

One of the primary takeaways from my project is that when animating I shouldn’t be so self conscious of what’s “real” as much as what looks and feels right. For example, it makes absolutely no sense for the ball to jump up so high into the air before running out, but it “looks” right and to me it conveys the intent behind the character.

It’s also important to give animations time to breathe so that the audience can see them. I originally had three bounces on the table, but at Colin’s suggestion, I removed one bounce which made the other two bounces clearer to the audience.

Lastly, I think it’s good to remind myself that sometimes getting a good result is just a lot of tedious work (as evidenced by my glass animation tweak). I’ll be the first to admit I try to find shortcuts first (and maybe there was a way I didn’t figure out), but sometimes you just have to hunker down and do the work.

I’m still not 100% satisfied with the look because design is still my weakest point, but I am very proud of the animation and I’m happy that I went back to add in those little details later because they make a big difference!


Connect with Derek : Vimeo | Portfolio | Twitter


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Tags: Motion Graphics, Motion Design, Online School for Motion Graphics, Motion Graphics Courses