Thursday, May 7, 2015

Disco Worms - Animation

Let's wrap up this small Disco Worms potpourri with some animation.

I'm not really a CGI animator, even though I did have some encounters with the technology back when it was quite new in the early nineties. In 1990-91 I did some simple modeling and animation on a Silicon Graphics "Personal Iris" computer with software from Thomson Digital Image (TDI). And as Autodesk's 3D Studio became available for DOS-based PC systems a couple of years later, I also played around with that for a while, doing the mandatory jumping architect lamp test. In the end, not much ever came of my 3D animation career.

A decade and a half later, however, having been deeply involved in the designs and facial setups of the Disco Worms characters, I couldn't resist the opportunity to brush up on my 3D animation skills. So I selected a sequence of my own storyboards, which I was particularly fond of, and set out to animate it using Autodesk's Maya software.

The animatic of  the sequence that I ended up animating.

Every animator on the project had to produce 12 seconds (18 feet) of animation per week (after all, it was a low-budget production). I thought that would be easy-peasy, since I was used to outputting large quantities of classical hand-drawn animation. But I must admit it wasn't as simple as I had expected. Especially animating the worms' bodies caused me some headaches when, after having set up my main key poses, the inbetweens were worming around in a completely uncontrolled manner. The lesson I drew from that experience was to only touch a very minimum of controls to ensure a smooth transition between the poses.

I also got a healthy taste of the challenges caused by our own slightly amateurish facial setup. Anxious to provide the animators with a maximum variety of expressions, we had produced a large number of different mouthshapes. But they were mostly built as complete expressions (as opposed to isolated movements of the different parts of the mouth), and the shapes didn't necessarily blend together very well. It took a bit of getting used to, but after a few months of solid 80-hour working weeks, I think in the end the sequence came out fairly decent.

Barry and Gloria are tidying up Gloria's room after a dress rehearsal for their demo video. Gloria confides in Barry that she met someone very special who really understands her. Barry is quite disappointed when he realizes that it isn't him, but rather the famous beetle crooner Tony Dean.

Here is a "playblast" (rough animation rendering) of the entire sequence. The soundtrack is the original dialogue in Danish, which matches the lip-sync. I have added some English subtitles for our international friends.

Except for the technical challenges, animating the sequence based on my own storyboard was rather straightforward. An animator at heart, I couldn't help throwing a bunch of animation key poses into the storyboards, so most of the action and acting was pretty much planned in advance.

Below I have crammed both the storyboard and the animation into one video, so you can see how closely the two correspond. This time I have included the English dub of the dialogue. You can watch the "dual video" with the original Danish track on YouTube here.

1 comment:

  1. I've always liked the demanding footage-count of danish animation.

    Journey To Saturn I think was around 26-29 s/w at the end
    The Great Bear I think was around 24 s/w
    Ronal the Barbarian... 35-40 s/w

    Teams really figure it out, whether it'll be development of fluent workflows or just tools, such as mouse-capture.

    I feel like it is easier to let the footage flow in cg, since one don't have to "model" the character every frame. Modelling has been done earlier, and the animator can concentrate on movement and movement only, which is fantastic!

    Boy I love movement... -_-