Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Aesop's Fables

I've waited for a while to talk about this on my blog; I finished this project four months ago, and if you've looked at my Vimeo page within the past two months you may have noticed a new video on there called Aesop's Fables. That video only showed the completed animation with the background overlay and not actual footage of the gallery installation in action. Well, today I finally uploaded a video that does this project justice, and I went ahead and updated the older video by adding the same music by Kevin MacLeod that I included in today's video.


>> Watch Aesop's Fables streamed in HD (720p)


>> Watch Aesop's Fables: Complete Animation streamed in HD (720p)

Aesop's Fables is my first 2D animated project. And by "2D animated" I don't mean animated with After Effects or Flash, I mean actually animating a character frame by frame. I loved it. It was a lot of work, but I loved it.

This project was an experimental motion design piece designed by Shane Janz that I did the illustrations and 2D animation for. The concept for the project was to mix printed design with motion design across multiple projection surfaces. The background paintings were printed onto three four-foot high panels with the animations being projected onto them using two projectors, meaning that the final resolution for the video was 2048 × 768.

Once we decided on using Aesop's fables for the concept and established the art style, we quickly realized that the characters needed to be animated frame by frame in order for the style to be consistent; we couldn't use 3D rendered characters. Fortunately I had recently been looking into 2D animation software and found an open source program that would do the trick. The 2D animation software I used was Pencil (except for the crow; that was painted with Photoshop). Compositing and other animation elements were done with After Effects and Blender. Blender was also used to do the pixel-perfect keystoning for the installation, which allowed the projected characters to interact perfectly with the printed artwork, and illuminated only the panels, making them appear to glow without any immediate indication as to why (the computer and projectors were hidden and the panels were only 1/4" thick).

The exhibit opened in the Spori Gallery on March 24, 2008. The response to the installation was extremely positive. One person described it as the coolest thing they had ever seen.

Unfortunately, I had to head back to Utah so I didn't get to spend more than 30 minutes with the final installation or attend the open house, but it was still an unforgettable experience.

I've been delving heavily into 2D animation as a result of this project. In fact I now own six books on the subject. I'm even more grateful for Riven Phoenix's Structure of Man series (which I'm still yet to finish in its entirety) because I was able to animate that human character without any motion or photo reference. I've been so used to doing 3D and Flash-style animation that being able to bring a character to life without being limited in any way, or needing to create a 3D model, texture, rig, or anything else prior to animating, was something that I hadn't experienced before.

I want to do a lot more of it.

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