Friday, 15 November 2013

Loop De Loop - And the creation of Rocktopus

As a break from our main brief and as part of our work based learning, I was asked if I wanted to join with the animation students in designing and animating a character for an online bi-monthly animation contest called Loop De Loop. I thought it would make for a nice respite from the level I'm creating in UDK as it has been taking up my every waking thought. I sometimes find it's better to have a break from such a project and then come back to it with fresh eyes. It was also an opportunity to learn more about After Effects, animation, and character design restricted around the choice of supplied music.
I chose the track 'Bionic Commando', a mix of electro, rock, and retro 16-bit computer game music. With only a week to do the project I wanted to keep the character very simple so I could concentrate on the animation, which had to loop.
I created a variety of characters based around a 'Rock' theme, but the music had a slightly 1950's alien section to the score, that inspired me to create the character that I've dubbed 'Rocktopus'. I imagined a cartoony version of Cthulhu rocking out, but that evolved into an octopus that has taken control of the body of a dead rocker, whilst throwing a little bit of myself into the shape and personality of the character.

I began to ink up the character in Adobe Illustrator, taking care to separate each element that would be animated, when importing the file into After Effects.

After completing the illustration I then imported it into Photoshop to separate each element onto their respective layers and to prepare the file for import, as After Effects will keep the Photoshop layers intact.

In After Effects I installed a plugin called DUIK, that enables you to set up IK rigging in a similar way to IK rigging in 3D. I used it to create bones and controllers for my character to make the animation easier. Moving the controllers moves all the bones along a chain rather than moving each limb individually. The other challenge whist animating was to make your character move in time to the beat of the selected track. Luckily the Loop De Loop site provided a link to the site All8 which allows you to tap along to a beat and work out your frames per beat at a selected frame rate, 24 fps for this project.

I made a rod for my own back when it came to the character I chose as it's essentially two characters to animate, so each limb had to have it's own IK chain and controller which became a bit overwhelming when working with the layers in AE.

In relation to the brief my final animation fit all the entry requirements, it looped, it danced in time to the beat, and the character was unique. Given more time I would've liked to have put in some strong highlights and shadows but this would have required more elements to animate and given the time constraints that wasn't possible.

Surprisingly my submission was chosen as a finalist for the competition, and after seeing the quality of the other entries I was really happy, even if I didn't win, especially as I'm doing Games Design rather than animation, and I was the only one in the college that got chosen. It has spurred me on to get more of my work out there, and enter as many competitions as I can.

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