After a long day of work, and an hour and a half commute home, the last thing you want to do with your evening is do more work. So I did this during my lunch breaks.
Wow. It’s been a while since I have posted a new animation on here… In fact the last animation I posted was this post from July last year! Does this mean I have been slacking? well… yeah… I suppose so.
A lot has changed over the last year, and I tend to want to do something other than animate in my personal time – hence the posts about writing and illustrations and such. The fact is, when you animate all day, you want to explore over avenues of creativity in your spare time. That is, at least, when you are not exploring in Breath of the Wild or dying in Fortnite.
I’m sure you know how it is.
I have done a couple of animation tests, some dialogue, some body mechanics, but nothing worth showing, just mess-arounds, really. But then I decided to kick my arse into gear and do something new. And it only took me three months to finally get round to finishing it.
I’m a huge fan of the 11 Second Club website. It is a great place to go to test your animation skills and push yourself to do something new. This piece of audio was taken from a show called ‘The Good Place‘ – I haven’t seen it before, but it looks pretty good!
I have wanted to animate something other than the ‘Malcolm’ rig, which tends to be my default for these sorts of things, and this dialogue (the ‘Human Insult’ line in particular) lent itself nicely to trying a new character.
So I searched for any interesting Maya rigs, and found the Cody Dog by Ahmed Elmatarawi and Conan Rig by Tri Nguyen. Both are really great and versatile rigs, so go check them out! I also downloaded a Dog Cage, which is actually nicely rigged, but I cant remember where I got it from!
Here I have included a little progress reel, simply showing the four main points during this workflow. As I have already mentioned, I only spent the occasional lunch break on this, 45 mins here and there, which is why I took me the better part of three months!
The first step was to decide what I wanted to do with the dialogue. I had my initial idea of a dog talking to a man trapped in a cage, but hadn’t figured out staging or anything at this point. So I trapped myself in a small meeting room and awkwardly filmed a quick reference that hit the main acting points; the roll of the eyes on ‘Oh spare me…’, the piousness of the ‘Actual friends…’ and the bite of ‘Ya Basic’. As you can probably tell, I messed the lines part way through the reference, but it was goon enough for the exercise.
Next was the blocking phase – my personal favourite – blocking in the main poses, getting the timing right and making it feel good. However, my main subject of the piece being a dog, and having no reference for such, I had to spend some time online and eventually found some rough, passable references for the motions I needed.
After blocking all of the main poses in, I went through and added as many in-betweens as possible – I’m not the sort of guy who likes to leave the motion to chance, and if that means posing every other frame, then so be it. The only problem with this is when it comes to the next phase – smoothing.
Taking all of those nicely posed, stepped keys and changing them to smooth splines really points out how dodgy some of your keys really are, and to be honest, at this point I very nearly gave up on the piece. In fact I moved onto another exercise for a little while before picking it up again. The smoothing phase is the long task of going through the motion one section at a time, ironing out the keys, pushing the poses and timing and follow through, eventually turning a wild jungle of mislaid keys and erratic movements into nicely slowing animation.
Smoothing takes quite a bit of time, but once I was done, it was time to add a bit of polish, add a bit more life, and an ounce of texture. I also really needed to sort my camera and staging out!
This was all done using an additional animation layer, tweaking the movements and poses in large chunks without disrupting the mess of keys in the original animation. Admittedly, there was a lot of back-and-forthing, tweaking keys on one layer and then the other before I found the sweet spot for the motion I wanted.
When I was happy with the piece, I posted a playblast in a couple of places online, and got some nice feedback, mainly about the ears, tail and hind legs, and once I made these amendments, I jumped to render.
The rendering itself is very basic – literally just an AO pass and block colour pass with no additional lighting or shadow. Comped together with a couple of adjustments, I think it looks quite nice.
And there you have it. The first animation post for almost a year! 😀
I hope you like!