The Making of Crash! - Part 4

"Animation is passion"
Steven Taylor

Yes, that was one of the most incredible things I heard at VFS from Steven Taylor, a very experienced animation teacher. He was in one of our class just talking about animation and his career, when suddenly he started this speech. It was a very emotional speech where he was telling us about his career in animation and how his great passion is just to bring these characters to life. And it was really good to see him after more than 20 years of animation telling that for us, a class of students being introduced to the animation world. And I personally think that's what happens when you do something that you are really passionate in your life: you just want to do that because you love it.

For me it was the most amazing moment when I did a simple test with my character doing a small jump. It was like bringing it to life. Those who created a character and have seen it animated know what I am talking about. It is the great moment when those hundreds of vertices move are not more a mass of bits, but something really alive:

Now it comes the funny part when everything is ready to animate, all scenes planned, all characters rigged and the environment and the props are ready to fly.

This entire movie was done in 5 weeks and each week was scheduled to corresponded to a phase of the animation project. Of course I didn't wait until the next week to do the next steps. Every time I finished one phase I immediately started another. This would give me more time to fix the errors I would probably have during the process.

One point of my work process is the organization of the work. For me it is a kind of a personal sense of working. I like keep things as organized as possible and inside this organization I will have the freedom to experiment inside this organization I proposed to myself. So firstly I made an schedule to my work. I knew when the animation was due to so I adapted the production phases to my schedule.

The other point in this project it was that at VFS we had the weekly reviews that were meetings were all the class and the instructors were together and they screened our progress and gave us feedbacks and these were the most important meetings because with these we were able to fix the problems in our animations and the story.


Animation to me starts with research and planning and that's why I start with thumbnails of my shots after watching the storyboards and seeing what is the general "feeling" of the scene:

Thumbnails are good because they allow me to plan the scene before I start to animate it and they save a lot of time because in most cases they allow me to know where I came from and where I need to go in the process.

This stage was also how I started to understand my glass movements. I decided to treat him in the same manner as the flour sac exercises I did on VFS. So his upper body would be considered one bouncing ball and the lower body another bouncing ball. This gave the regulations of my glass movements I was defining what he could or not do with his body.

Setting the cameras with my animatic:

To do an animatic is the first phase of this short film production: It is with this animatic, that I placed the cameras based on the 2d animatic done before:

First problems and solutions:

First thing I learned when I had to do this project: scale is the most important thing in 3d. I started well, importing cuppy into Jack´s scene and modeling them proportionally. BUT I forgot to import them into the environment scene and model it in the proper scale... So, when I finally imported my character in the scenario what happened?

Later on I scaled the scenario and everything was ok...

Posing (3 poses)

All my scenes they start with 3 main poses. The first golden pose is the one that tells the story, the one that sell the scene to the audience. The other ones are those which are going to begin the scene story and finish it. These three poses they must sell all the context of the story and frequently I have them planned before I start one shot. In my opinion drawings work as a planning for the scene, but this is not a rule, many animators just go directly to the 3d software and do their poses on it.

(obviously, these are not the same poses as above, just an example)

When I finish my main poses I insert some breakdowns between them just to see how the character is going from one pose to another one. At this point I am not animating in the correct scene time. I usually insert a pose every 10 frames setting a key to all the controllers in these frames. I just want to have an overall feeling of the poses before I start timing them in the next step. That's why my drawings work so fine to me. I usually follow them to create my pose. But I am not stuck to them. If I feel I need to change a pose because it is not so good as it is in the drawing I will change it.

1st pass, 2nd pass, 3rd pass, 4rd pass...

And then I started the animation passes. At VFS we were instructed to do the character´s movements first and when it is done we would start the lip-sync and facial animation. And it was how I started to do this, but not exactly in this way. Due to my animation is so concentrated on the facial expression of Cuppy, at many times I just mixed body and facial animation together, so I would have more control over his movements.

And some changes that I did in the animation during the process made me change my workflow as well. Some scenes were more complex so they took me more time to finish while others were pretty simple and I could finish and polish them firstly.

The other important point it was that during the process the story changed a bit and every shot had a different time at the end of the movie. Below it is possible to see them (not the changes in the story, but the changes in the shots times). And all these things happened due to my general inexperience in animation, mostly in timing and spacing. For some action I was expecting to use 300 frames on them, but when I started the animation I realized that I would need half of it because they are fast actions.


When all the animation is done I started to render all the scenes. At this point I do some adjustments to my scene. As I told, my environment was illuminated by the senior instructor, but in some scenes I needed to create some extra lights to focus the audience attention to my character and to fade some parts of the movie that I didn't want my audience to look at.

Crash! had some special steps related t its render. First my main character was a glass and glasses are transparent. I also wanted the eyes, the teeth and the tongue to be seen only when his cavities were opened not during all the time (my early renders showed me that it was really awkward when you could see these parts through it). Look the example below of my first render test:

Nice no? So what should I do? After a talk to the senior instructor he showed me a way to render a separate pass that would only show the internal parts with a Maya trick called black hole which is present in the Lambert material (pay attention. It is really hard to notice the differences the two images) :) :

Every single scene in this project had also its own lighting and shading, accordingly to the cameras, character's positions and movements and its relation to the scenario, so I could say that I had one lighting per scene.

Putting everything together (Composing)

And after rendering everything in passes is time to put everything together, and do some adjustments to the scene colors and add some depth of field to them. Particularly I don't like to show my renders as they get out of Maya's oven. I like to do some icing in the cake, so, I fixed some lighting and colors directly in after effects:

Some adjustments were done later on by Rob Wood, on his calibrated monitor.


After the animation was ready I sent it to the sound designer (Nathan Gokhool) who did the audio for the my movie and was later on fixed by the sound editor (Matt Thomas). The only point here is that some scenes for sure are much better done when you'll animate to the audio not the opposite, like the bouncing of the glass on the floor, but even when you don't do like this a good sound editor can sync the sounds with the animation.

The final Movie:

Some funny stuff:

What is animation without having some fun?
Sometimes you just want to concentrate and for me animation is concentration. I love the silence and peace to work:

Even if I have to be a little enphatic for that...

Making of: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

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