Friend and animator Ted Bracewell has graciously put together this brief how-to-create an animation cartoon for 10. The actual video for this how-to is right here. To get a glimpse of some past cartoons and one of my personal favorites check out Constipated Johnson. Now, I will let Ted take over.
It begins with a basic idea, usually something simple and small. But, inevitably the final product is never what I originally envisioned. I tend not to think of a project as a whole, but rather as a series of small steps. Most times I don’t know what direction it will go, or how it will even end. But, I always know how it will begin, and that’s the most important step.
Once I have an idea, I do a few storyboards to get things rolling. Some storyboards are very detailed, while others can be nothing more than a series of hastily drawn sketches (most are usually stick figures J).
Once several storyboards have been completed, and a basic sense of the shots that will be required has been obtained, the elements (characters, backgrounds, etc) that will be needed to achieve the necessary shots are hand drawn on paper and scanned into Adobe Photoshop for coloring.
The characters (namely the pilot and the wasps) are created using a series of images that are moved together to create expressions and motion. Each character is broken down into pieces. The face, eyelids, nose, torso, arms, hands, and even fingers…
…or in the case of the wasps, the head, torso, stinger, wings, and leg segments.
All of the character elements are placed together into a single Photoshop composition.
That composition is then imported into Adobe After Effects where the individual pieces are placed into an animation composition where they can be manipulated. To create facial movement the eyes, nose, mouth, and eyebrows are moved independently of each other to achieve the desired expression. It’s almost like a digital puppet. Tilting the eyebrows one way can create an expression of worry or sadness, while tilting the other creates a look of anger. Motion is achieved by selecting the position in the After Effects timeline where you want the motion to begin, then clicking the key frame icon. This creates the motion starting point. You then move further down the timeline to where you want the motion to end. If you rotate or move the element (eyebrow, mouth, nose, etc.) a key frame is automatically created at the new point. The total motion then occurs between the two created key frames.
The backgrounds are created the same way, still elements manipulated to create motion. In a panning shot the elements that are meant to appear closest to the camera are panned quickly, while objects in the distance are moved at a slower rate to create the illusion of depth.
Shots that appear to be 3D, for instance the scenes where the ship is flying through a tunnel towards the camera, are done using the Basic 3D filter (found under Perspective in the Effect drop down menu), which allows you to smoothly zoom in or out on an image. A single tunnel image is drawn and colored.
The image is then imported into After Effects and placed into a new composition. By using the Basic 3D filter to zoom out on the tunnel drawing it creates the illusion of flying through it. The single tunnel image is then repeated dozens of times to suggest a long tunnel that stretches for miles. Additional effects, such as motion blur, are then added to enhance the illusion of movement.
As each individual shot is completed they are placed into a main composition where they can be shortened, lengthened, sped up, or slowed down until an even flow is achieved from beginning to end.
Once the animation is fully complete, a low quality video is rendered out and imported into Adobe Premiere where sound effects and music are added and synched to the action. Using a website such as www.findsounds.com , I search for the various sounds that will be required to create the audio track. When a sound that fits is found it’s downloaded, then imported into a program such as Sound Forge where it’s cropped and enhanced to improve the quality. Sometimes a change in pitch or the addition of reverb is used to create the desired effect. Once all of the necessary sound effects have been obtained, the low quality video render is placed into the Adobe Premiere video timeline, and the sound files are placed in the corresponding audio track at the appropriate place in the timeline and synched to the action in the video.
Additional effects are added to certain sounds during this process. For instance in a shot that shows the ship flying across the screen, an audio panning effect is added to the ship sound to create a stereo effect when you watch the video. If the ship moves from right to left onscreen, the ship sound will move from your right computer speaker to your left. Once the entire sound effects track is complete it’s rendered out as an uncompressed .wav file.
Next is the most important audio track of all, the music. There are countless music-licensing sites on the internet, but I prefer www.musicbakery.com. Once I’ve found a track that suits it’s paid for and downloaded (the prices of the tracks are relative to the length, some being as low as $10 and others as much as $50). The music track is imported into Adobe Premiere, and edited and remixed to match the action in the video, and to create the most dramatic effect possible. The music track is then rendered into an uncompressed .wav file, the same as the audio track.
Both the sound effects and music .wav files are important into the original Adobe After Effects project and added to the main animation composition. The last step is to render out your final video and show it to the world.