Visual storytelling Evaluation


After undertaking all the different creations in my visual storytelling project, I have self evaluated my self through the stages of the project. I have mentioned a variety of positive features and negative features of my processes, including a variety of problems and tests I undertook to get to the final animation as seen in the previous post. With this evaluation I have mentioned all three production processes to help explain how I got my ideas and how I have developed those ideas to get the final production.

With this evaluation I have mentioned a variety of problems that occurred during the majority of the animation stage of the project, but I have also mentioned how my ideas have gradually developed other the course of the project,  allowing me to develop the final product. In addition I have mentioned a variety of things that I liked and that could have been further improved during the project to help me develop the ideas I had.


Junk of the day final animation

Finishing all of the rough animation sequences in toon boom I decided to apply the animation to the 3d environment in Maya. However in the attempt to make this combination successful I researched a tutorial on how to export Maya files into toon boom harmony. However due to the various plug ins needed I thought it would be best to try the opposite way around. So going into my environment in Maya I added a transparent texture to a plane allowing me to make a sort of image plane for the toon boom files. But because of the amount of meshes and textures already in the model I think Maya reached it’s breaking point as the file kept crashing when I tried to add another image plane.

Therefore I had to think of another way to combine the two animation softwares. The only way I thought I could apply these two together was to export the toon boom files as PNG4 using the render nodes option allowing me to have a transparent background. Then using Maya I would render each of the scenes using a camera view with the mental ray render. Then having all the frames and files needed for my animation I simply added them into premiere pro to overlay each of the video files together. The main issue I encountered with the production was the time it took to render out the Maya files with mental ray. Because of the lighting in mental ray the targa files took a lot longer to render completely than I thought.

But as you can see above I managed to add all the scenes that I had animated and rendered from Maya into one short film. Unfortunately due to my lack of time management I was only able to animate the rough animation sequences for one scene per robot character, with some bird scenes introducing the scene. Looking through this animation I can see that there is some slight issues with seeing the rough animations over the Maya model because they are transparent. However to make it more noticeable to the audience that the characters are there, I added some effect in premiere pro to make them stand out. The main effect I used was colour correction, allowing me to brighten or darken the colour of the character animation. So by using the colour correction sliders I was able to make the blue lines become more noticeable from the backgrounds that they were on. For this reason I tried to place the characters on the flattest parts of the junk piles allowing the audience to see the character clearly without having to try and find the character. I do think next time I should try to improve the Maya textures because they are very stretched out making them very unappealing to look at as they look like they have just been put onto the model without any refinement.

Overall this animation came out quite well, considering there was a lot missing that I had originally planned on making. The character animation looks appealing as the flow of the movement is there. The issue I have though is that I should of added some colour to the characters in order to make it more obvious to the target audience. Furthermore I could of removed the lines of the smaller robots head, allowing the audience to see the character’s facial expressions more clearly. So majority of this animation looks unfinished which is kind of is, but the parts I have been able to make have actually been very successful and go well with the environment. For next time I will defiantly consider rendering the animation in Maya further before the deadline, as leaving the rendering till the last day is not the best option because it takes a lot of time. Furthermore I should consider in future to make my animation ideas a little more possible to complete, as making a animation that should be animating in a group, to animate yourself is not the best option. Overall this animation has come out quite nicely and I like how the animation that I have made goes well with the environment model.

Animating the smaller robot being hit in the face

Using the suggestions and feedback Steve had given me before hand I decided to make the scene at the end with the smaller robot being hit in the face with the ball, that is thrown off screen by the larger robot. Being hit in the face quite hard by the ball, I decided to over exaggerate the scene by having a slow motion action as the character gets hit by the ball. I filmed reference footage for this animation which is in the compilation of all my reference footage.

The first video below is the basic blocking for the animation, so by using the reference footage with frame numbers attached I was able to animate the key poses for the slow motion action. To animate the slow motion effect I simple added the slow motion effect to the reference footage and animated it that way. Worse scenario I would use the effect with this animation to make it even slower. So this part was just to get the key poses of the head being pushed back by the ball.

The second video below is how I have used the key poses and the reference footage to fill in all of the inbetween frames, allowing me to have a better guide to the timing of the slow motion action. Using the frame numbers on my reference footage I simple did the middle frames between each of the key frames and then the middle frames between the inbetween/ break frames. This allowed me to create a basic animation sequence where the action was relatively clear on screen.

Below I have fully animated the action sequence for the ball hitting the smaller robot in the face. Using the reference footage I was able to fill in the rest of the gaps in the frames to help build the over exaggerated swing of the head as it gets hit in the head. I have tried to consider moving other parts of the body more dramatically but at this time I am mainly focusing on the head as that is where most of the exaggeration will take place.

Below I have then taken that fully roughed out animation and added the overly exaggerated facial features on top. Because the ball is moving quite fast as it hits the character in the face I thought about going that one step further and adding the eye pop out from the head to show the power of the ball as it hits him. Having this overly exaggerated face shows the a more comedic side to the animation allowing the scene to be more appealing to the audience as it is something that would not generally happen if you got hit in the face.

Looking over this animation I realised that the face in some places is slightly covered by the eye lines that I used for reference when drawing the character. So next I should consider editing that out if I have time, but right now my main priority is getting the animation finished in it’s roughed out stage and then adding it together with the other scenes.

Large bot swing and miss x3 edits and line work

Previously I animated the scene for the large bot swinging for a ball and missing three times in a row. Getting feedback from both Steve and Dan I decided to add some of their ideas/ suggestions. So the first animation clip below is the same animation that I made before, however I have changed the animation by adding some small pauses when looking at the ball. Dan’s suggestion was to have some short pauses for about half a second (12 frames) to pause the actions. This is because he said that the animation was good but there was no stops it was just continuous actions, so moving some of the frames around I added some short pauses to make it look like the character is thinking but also staring at the ball after he misses it, showing that he is in shock that he missed.

Furthermore this next animation is a developed version of the previous clip above, but instead I have attempted to add some line art over the top to in a blocking format allowing me to fill in the other frames. Because this particular clip is 30 seconds long (780 frames) I had to stop refining the line work for the character because at this stage where the deadline was far approaching, I was getting too stressed out and trying to do more than one animation scene at once. Although I got the basic movement of the torso, head and neck I wasn’t able to block out the arms or legs.

But having this clip shows I have attempting to refine the line work for the character in the scene. But because I wanted to have some decent animation that still told a story I decided to stop the production of the line art for this scene and work on the smaller robot being hit in the face, as this is another crucial scene in my animation. Therefore my next task will be to animate the smaller bot being hit in the face and then come back to the refinement of this scene later if I have time before the assigned deadline.

Toon Boom character deformation

Thinking of ways to animate my characters over the top of the rough animation I made previously, I decided to try out using curve and bone deformers. Limited on the amount of time I have left to complete the animation in time for the deadline I tried to think and use faster methods of animated the characters. So in the top menu i right clicked and selected the deformer menu. Using the hammer tool I was able to add the different deformers to the character that I had previously drawn out using the pen tool on multiple vector layers for individual body parts. However because I was new to animating the character using deformers I decided to look up a tutorial to setup up and use the deformers for a cut out animation.

Making a cutout character rig setup

Following this tutorial I made all the relevant components for my character, as by using multiple vector based layers I was able to draw out each of the body parts with the pen tool. I also added some colour using the paint bucket tool on the colour layer. To do this I selected each of the drawings and closed the gaps using Drawing> Close gaps. This provided me with the option to make the colour using the make line art into colour art button. This allowed me to go through my swatches that I made for the character and add them to the drawings on the colour layer.

Bone deformer

This tutorial allowed me to add all the relevant bone deformers including a curve deformer and bone deformers. Plus I used this tutorial to add the deformers to each of the body drawings layers, combining them into one posable rig.

Animating a cut out character

This tutorial above helped me in the attempt to move the character using the relevant body pegs to move the character around and pose it so that I could animate it in the similar positions to my rough animation.

Node view- attaching pegs and drawing layers together into one rig

So the image below shows the final hierarchy of the nodes in my character rig. This is where all the individual drawing layers and their pegs are attached together. So following the three tutorials above, I made each of the character drawings separately using the pencil tool in a vector drawing layer. Then having all the individual parts of the drawing onto their layers I went through and added pegs to each of the drawings. This allowed me to move the drawings without making keyframes on the drawing layers, but rather on the peg layers.


The issue I encountered with just trying to animate using the pegs was that the character did not move all together but as individual parts, making it difficult to move each of the parts as one. Therefore using the tutorial I used the node view to parent all the pieces together so that things like the; Upper arm, lower arm and hand moves together, and also being able to move as separate pieces. Having this hierarchy allowed me to animate each of the parts together, having all the character together. Below is some screenshots of a closer look into the nodes being parented to one another and how each part has been attached.

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After parenting the nodes together I started to go a little more complex by adding some kilomatic outputs and individual groups of body parts together. For instance I attached the head and the facial features into one group and then inside that I added the eyes into a separate group. Adding the kilomatic outputs allowed me to attach the curved deformer and the bone deformers in the arms together making a fully movable rig. Furthermore having the kilomatic outputs allowed me to move the torso and the arms would move with it. However it took me a few attempts to get this to work, as the arms would not connect to the torso properly, so the torso would move without the arms. Plus as seen above I attached all of the separate body pegs (with drawings attached) to 2 individual groups. So the first peg was the upper body which included; both left and right arms (with attached lower arm and hand), torso, head (with facial features) and the ball.

Then in the lower body peg there was the; waist, both left and right legs (with lower leg and foot attached). Having these attached in the hierarchy allowed me to close the pegs in the timeline, reducing the amount of visible drawings and pegs at a time. The reason I chose to do this was so that when I start animating I could animate each of the layers at a time easily, without scrolling down all the layers. In addition to these pegs I made one final peg called the Master peg. This peg hand both the upper body and lower body pegs attached, meaning that everything will be moved by the master peg all together. For instance if the character moves from one side of the screen to the other I could use the master peg to move all of the character rig and then pose the other parts individually.

Head and facial feature groups inside hierarchy


These two screenshots above show the process in which I added the two groups inside the head group to make the head and facial features move together. So using the tutorial as a guide, I added some other groups inside the hierarchy for the head, meaning all the features such as; the head, face, and jaw could move together with one peg. But inside the head group I made another group for the facial features e.g. the eyes, eyebrow and pupil. This allowed me to move the eye around using one peg that was separated from the head peg.  Another issue I encounter before animating was that the ball was in front of the hand and the only way to make it go behind the hand was to attach it to the arm hierarchy which broke the arm movement. So after thinking about a way to resolve it I decided to add a extra drawing and peg that was in front of the hand for the fingers. This mean’t I could have the ball in front of the hand and behind the fingers. Using the composite I moved each of the attached files around in the hierarchy so that objects closer to the left are at the front and then ones to the right are behind. Furthermore having the layers laid out in the composite does not mean that they will break the hierarchy in the arms or legs as the parented drawings still are attached.

Bones and curve deformers attached


For the spine to work naturally I used the curved deformer to make a 4 jointed spine from the waist upwards allowing the spine to bend naturally. The problem was when I used the curve deformer the character drawing looked very unnatural when you used the deformer making it bend in a strange way. The bone deformers were used for the arms, so that I could have a bone at each part of the arm; the shoulder, elbow and wrist. Using the bone deformer tutorial I attached each of the bones to the hierarchy allowing me to have the arms bend naturally using the deformers. However in using these deformers I found that a lot of my drawings deformed in a very odd way making the movement I had roughed out very hard to animate. Furthermore I attached the deformers to the legs like the arms so that I could bend the leg using the three major joints; the hip, knee and ankle.

Deformer animation test

Using the deformers I was able to make a quick test of the main arm movement as the character lifts the ball from one hand to the other. I used the deformers quite easily to move the arm into place, making a natural movement. But the hand was a little more complicated. The issue was I could not use the pegs to rotate the hand or fingers as it just looked unnatural for the movement. So by using the drawing layer, I duplicated the drawing on each of the frames a drew out a new hand and fingers pose for the frame. The issue I had was that this was very time consuming as I drew out the pose using the pen tool and then coloured the drawing using the convert line art to colour art and the paint bucket.

However the reason I am not using the deformers now is because I wasn’t confident in making my animation using the deformers, plus the animation kept going wrong. This is because when I moved the hand in the frame before the hand in the previous frame would move too. I thought it was something wrong in the node view, but there wasn’t. So I tried to fix the issue but it just was not working out. Thinking that I was going to run out of time to animate I decided to go back to hand drawing my animation because I felt I could make the movement more natural using my reference.  Therefore my next task will be to make a new version of this file and animate the line work using the pen tool and my roughed out animation to get a natural looking animation with the character design over the top.

Final cut down animation plan

After getting some feedback for the large bot animation I asked Steve to get some feedback, I was able to cut down the animation for the final time. So using the feedback I cut down the animation to about 42 seconds allowed me to make a animation that will be both in time for the deadline and relatively detailed. So using the blocking animation combined video I cut down the animation to include only the three opening bird scenes, the large bot swing and miss video and I have added an additional scene to the end.

Using Steve’s feedback I created a animated scene where the small bot gets hit in the face with the ball the large bot throws away. However this is not a simple hit in the face, instead I have made a overly exaggerated facial expression, where the small bot gets hit in the face and it goes into slow motion sequence of his facial expression. Plus for comedic effect I thought about using Steve’s suggestions to have perhaps a eye pop out or some gears flying out to show how fast the ball is being thrown. Furthermore as it was suppose to be the small bot gets hit in the face and has an idea to play catch, I thought about changing it to have the small bot do the motion of thinking of the idea but then collapsing on the floor/ passing out from being hit. This means I could then fade out and the animation would make sense to the audience.

Therefore my next task will be to animate the hit in the face sequence so that I can have tow roughed out scenes to work with or perhaps refine if I have time, while still having a story to show to the target audience.

Feedback from the LargeBot rough animation

Looking at the animation from the previous post I spoke with Dan and Steve to help me figure out what to do next with my animation ideas. Originally I thought about making a long animation, but putting it together I realised that over 3 minutes of animation would not be suitable, especially in meeting the deadline. So after playing around with shortening the idea as seen in previous posts, I decided to focus on one specific part of the animation idea. So as seen in the recent previous post I have focused on the large bot animation where he swings at a ball and failing three times, until eventually he throws the ball.

So showing both Dan and Steve my animation I got some rather interesting feedback, helping towards my final production. The main issue I came across was that I wasn’t sure how to make the scene I have fully roughed out into a shortened story without feeling like a animation test. Steve’s suggestions were having the small robot being hit in the face after the large robot throws the ball off screen to show that comedic side to the film. Plus he suggested having the small bot being hit in the face with a slow motion reaction like in hotel transylvania, with gears flying out or an eye popping out to show a nice end to the animation.

Dan’s feedback on the animation was that the animation was well planned out and animated, but his issue was that there should be some pauses before moving on to the next movement to help show the idea of the character thinking before another action. As it seems to be that everything is moving and there is no pauses or no movement in the character so perhaps having some pauses would help show the character thinking. My idea is to have the character stare at the ball for half a second and then start on the next action.

The issue I discussed with the ball was that there seemed to be no weight on the ball as it did not bounce, so steve suggested filming some footage of the ball bouncing on a carpet or in long grass to help show that weight value. Thinking of new ideas I finally fought of having the bird intro flying over the junkyard and then having the swing animation, and then having the slow motion hit in the face. This showed a promising storyline within a short animation, allowing me to keep some of my original ideas and not completely redesigning it. Using this feedback I shall use the blocked out animation of the small bot being hit in the face but edit it to have the slow motion action with a exaggerated facial expression and gears flying to help make the animation more appealing to the target audience.

Taking on board all of this feedback my next task will be to continue animating on the scene I am currently on. As well as animating the slow motion hit in the face scene, so by editing the blocking animation for the hit in the face I can change it to have a slow motion over exaggerated facial expression. Finally I need to film the slow motion reaction and the bounce in the ball getting that level of weight into the scene.

Small bot wakes up blocked animation

After animating the large bot attempting to hit the ball three times and missing, I decided to animate the small bot waking up from a powered down state in the junkyard. I decided to add the inbetween frames into this animation because I thought it would be a key part of the animation, as the character needs to be introduced to the audience. Therefore I have animated the small bot waking up after the bird taps his eye. So using my reference footage I was able to get the key eye movements for waking up/ powering up and the getting up sequence. Using onion skinning I filled in the break frames using the keyframes as a guide to fill in the frames. Having the key frames roughed out I was able to get a clear sense of where the inbetween frames need to go for this sequence.

However after getting some feedback from my peers I decided to stop animating this scene. The reason for this is because I already have 30 seconds of decent animation and this scene is going to be too time consuming to finish. Plus I thought with the 30 second animation I have already made plus the bird scenes I thought I would able to tell a short story. The main issue was the amount of time I have left before the deadline because I am trying to animate multiple scenes at once plus another couple to make the 1 minute long animation I planned to do. Furthermore due to the limited time left before hand in, I have decided to once again cut down the animation. I think by cutting down the animation it will make it easier for me to get a decent amount of clean animation, but keep the attention span of the audience. For instance if I had kept the animation at three minutes and it was unfinished then it would be really dull and boring.

Whereas if I make a shorter maybe 40 second animation with natural but rough animation drawings it may be more appealing to watch or keep the attention of the audience. Therefore my next task will be to cut down the previous cut down and get some feedback on how I should go about shortening the film.

Rough Animation: LargeBot catch, throw, swing, miss x3 then dog throw

For the past four days I have been animating this scene for the largebot attempting to hit a ball 3 times until getting very angry and throwing it away. After putting all my scenes together I realised that my idea would be way too long, as it turned out to be over 3 minutes long. Therefore looking into my different scenes I saw this was the longest scene and considered using it for the final production. This is because it had the most interesting movement to animate as well as having multiple animation principles included. This includes; Anticipation and follow through and overlapping action, so the main stages of this process was to go through and add the inbetween frames to the blocking I had originally made.

Insert in between frames video.

Then after adding all the inbetween frames I went through frame by frame and added the rest of the frames. Furthermore using my reference footage I filmed with the frame numbers added on top I was able to go through my toon boom file frame by frame and make a similar action/ movement in my animation, providing a natural looking animation. However after looking through my original ideas for the final video, I thought about changing the animation making it even shorter than I originally planned. So I will need to get some feedback on my animation to help me figure out how to go on from this stage to make this scene tell a story, so perhaps adding some of the bird scenes in front, but I’m not sure yet.

But I like how this animation has come out because the movement flows nicely and looks natural. However I do think the ball seems to be edited as there is no weight to the ball at this time. Mainly because I wanted to focus on the character animation compared to anything else, but next I need to add some weight to the ball animation helping to make the scene more natural. Plus I need to get some feedback on the scene, to help me figure out how to improve this movement and the final animation.

Cutting down the animation

Seeing that the animation is way too long to animate completely in time for the deadline, I decided to cut down the animation to make it more achievable to animate. Seeing in the previous post that all the rough animation blocked that is combined, is over 3 minutes long. This is defiantly not achievable to animate in time for the deadline. So looking through the animation I decided to cut it down to about half the time, to about 1 minute 25 seconds. So to make it shorter I had to cut out the kick into the distance and the large bot being hit on the head. This is because I felt that the animation in this cut down still tells a clear story and the kick animation is not necessarily needed.

However I did feel like the animation would have been more appealing with the kick motion in it, as it made a comedic side to the animation. But looking at this animation I can see that the video story still tells an appealing visual story about a large robot that cannot hit a ball. I decided to keep the main opening sequence because the bird helps to make a interesting establishing shot for the scenery, allowing the audience to see the scale of the junkyard environment. I think that this animation being shortened could have more potential to be finished in time compared to a 3 minute animation. Furthermore shortening the animation I have considered more about quality than quantity, so if I only manage to get one scene animated I shall make sure the animation is the best it can be.

Looking at this sequence I shall start to add some inbetween frames into the robot scenes, allowing me to have the main actions roughed out before refining. Using my reference footage I will be using toon boom harmony to animate the small robot waking up and the large bot attempting to hit the ball. This is because these are the largest scenes in terms of frames so they need to be made first. Worse scenario this will allow me to have a long scene for a character that can be made into a clean animation.