Complex Animations: Combining the Techniques

You'll often encounter a project that requires you to refer to the application of several techniques. Animated subjects always have to go somewhere or do something that will require obedience to at least one or two of the basic physical laws described in this chapter.

This project uses several of the physical motion techniques. It's a bowl of popcorn sliding across a surface before it grabs quickly and tips slightly, spilling out some of the popcorn onto the surface. The sliding bowl speeds in and starts to slow down (friction and drag) before it catches a small bump at the end and tips slightly while popcorn continues to fly in motion (inertia). Some of the popcorn falls and lands on the surface, bounces, and comes to rest (gravity, collision, and drag), while a few pieces roll back into the bowl without escaping (recoil).

Note: For more detailed examples of character animation, see Chapter 5,"Exaggeration Equals Characterization."

The original image was a flat TIFF file that had an existing alpha channel of the outline of the bowl of popcorn against a white background. It was cut into smaller pieces, including the bowl and about half of the popcorn, while about 20 pieces of popcorn were extracted from the top half of the bowl (Figure 4.20).

Figure 4.20 Cutting out individual pieces that will later be animated

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Figure 4.20 Cutting out individual pieces that will later be animated

Each piece of popcorn had to be cleaned up and its missing parts cloned back in (Figure 4.21). Most of the pieces fell back into place where they were first extracted, but it didn't matter too much because they were all realigned in After Effects later.

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Figure 4.21 Great care is necessary to re-create each piece of popcorn in Photoshop.

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Figure 4.21 Great care is necessary to re-create each piece of popcorn in Photoshop.

Import the finished Photoshop file, PopcornLayers.psd on the DVD, into a new project in After Effects as a composition. Double-click the composition in the Project window. Because it's cropped down to the bowl, it will appear quite small in the Comp window. Change the Composition Settings to increase the comp size to 640 x 480 NTSC. This won't affect the actual layers, only the background and frame size of the composition.

Now we'll set things in motion:

1. In the Timeline window, select all the layers; then drag them in the Comp window off the left side of the frame, out of sight.

2. Press the P key, and all of the layer's Position settings will pop down. Select the Position Stopwatches on all layers. Move the Indicator to the Frame 15 mark, and drag the selected layers straight out near the halfway point.

3. Apply an Easy Ease In Keyframe Assistant, and set the Keyframe Velocity to 10% (Figure 4.22). Run the RAM Preview to see that all of the layers move exactly the same all the way through to the half-second mark. They should appear as one moving image.

4. Deselect all of the layers except the bowl layer, and press the R key to show the Rotation settings and click the Stopwatch. This will set the rotation of the bowl to 0 degrees during its slide. Move the Indicator down a few frames and slightly rotate the bowl up (clockwise) a degree or two. Move two frames down and rotate back (counter-clockwise). Add a couple of "wobbles" by repeating the added frames and slight rotations in small increments until the bowl comes to rest back at 0 degrees.

5. Select all the layers again and apply the Directional Blur filter, with the Rotation set at -90° and the Blur Length at 12 pixels. Click the Effects Stopwatches for each layer. Move the Indicator to Frame 10 and set the Blur Length to 10 pixels. Move to Frame 15 and set the Blur Length to 1 pixel (Figure 4.23). Run a RAM Preview to make sure all of the layers' motion blur is in sync.

5 ■ COMPLEX ANIMATIONS: COMBINING THE TECHNIQUES

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Now comes the fun part! You may want to open the existing After Effects project file, Complex_Popcorn.aep on the DVD, to see how the individual layers are positioned, rotated, and blurred. Each piece of popcorn that is separated onto its own layer is manually moved in a path that looks believable when played back in real time. You'll have to apply any or all of the techniques used in this chapter to decide how each piece will travel and bounce, rotate, and slide (Figure 4.24). Use the Indicator to scrub the animation paths as you create them. Make sure to keep each piece on its own random motion path and use your creativity!

Make sure a few pieces move in the bowl and roll back with the static kernels that are part of the bowl layer. This will add dimension and movement in the focal point of the animation subject (Figure 4.25).

Make Your Work Easier Visually

Take the complexity out of a large project: Hide the layers you're not currently working on by deselecting the eye icon on the Timeline.When there are several small pieces in motion in a group, as there are in this project, concentrate on only one layer of animation at a time in the Comp window. Things can be a bit confusing if you see too many paths crossing all at once.

Figure 4.24

Apply the techniques in this chapter to each individual piece,using random paths.

Figure 4.24

Apply the techniques in this chapter to each individual piece,using random paths.

Figure 4.25

To help disguise the largest static layer, keep a few kernels in motion in the bowl.

Figure 4.25

To help disguise the largest static layer, keep a few kernels in motion in the bowl.

Exaggeration Equals Characterization

Have you ever noticed how classic cartoon characters are so exaggerated in their actions? Everything seems like it's made out of rubber! Cars bend around corners and spring forward when they stop. Characters don't just drop off a cliff but hang suspended in air and stretch out in length before finally disappearing out of sight. How do you make a simple object that has no facial features come to life? It's all a matter of exaggerating the timing of motion, scale, and distortion of the object or character you're animating.

Chapter Contents

The Classic Sudden Stop

Bouncing and Falling: Defying the Rules of Gravity Rubber Planets: 3-D Animation Effects Kinematics:Human Figure Character Animation x

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