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Froyd Still Wants Coffee - New Froyd the Cat


Cool Froyd, now simply known as Froyd because I think perhaps he hasn't quite earned his 'cool' yet, makes his second appearance in a brand new CrazyTalk Animator 2 cartoon. This time he's gone a little bit Roger Rabbit and crossed over into the world of live action footage.

Watch the video below then I'll tell you a bit more about the behind the scenes stuff. All you need to know is that Froyd is still interested in getting his daily dose of coffee.



Inspiration

It's no secret I've found it difficult to decide how to use Froyd in a regular series animation. He doesn't have a lot of movement range because the character is essentially an animated painting. Originally I wanted to have him talking to camera sitting in front of his blue background based upon his actual painting as per my first Froyd animation.

However that background felt very limiting and I began thinking about creating other backgrounds for Froyd. Quite by chance I was answering a question in the Reallusion CrazyTalk Animator forums about importing video into CrazyTalk Animator 2 and it struck me. I could combine Froyd with video footage, Roger Rabbit style.

Then I thought, if that worked well, I could literally make videos where Froyd appears as my pet cat talking to me in that weird way Garfield talks to Jon but not really.

The thing about Froyd is that, if I sit around waiting for inspiration to hit, it never does. I want him to be really witty and insightful but in order to test the idea out I decided to ad-lib something after I put everything together.

The first video was about coffee so I figured why not continue the theme. We have a fairly spacious and well lit kitchen so I thought, why not film myself making my morning cup of tea and have Froyd sitting on the bench next to me.

Creating the Video

In filming the video I made no effort to interact with Froyd other than making sure I never blocked out the area of the frame where Froyd would be sitting (and thus spoiling the illusion). I filmed the video using my little HD camera set up on a tripod - a MUST if you're going to overlay a character into a live action scene convincingly.

Once I had the video I had to edit it down to two minutes from about ten minutes that I filmed. Which is why you see sudden light changes in the final video. In hind sight I should have blended the light changes more so the cuts aren't so obvious but I felt it was okay for the test video.

I then imported the video directly into CrazyTalk Animator 2.

Adding Froyd

Putting Froyd into the scene is relatively simple. I have him set up as a character and I literally just drag'n'drop him into the scene and size him to fit. He also has an 'idle' animated action that cycles to look like he's breathing and moving his tail mindlessly.

I then recorded my voice track using Voice Changer teamed with Audacity. To do this I watched the video footage and ad-libbed the lines based on what was happening. It's not genius comedy but it serves the purpose of giving Froyd something a little interesting to say.

CTA2 auto lip syncs the voice file but I did make a few changes to the mouth shapes to try and get more natural looking movement compared to the first episode.

Next I used CTA2's puppeteering functions to animate Froyd (just like controlling a real puppet) making several passes, blending each movement in real time to match the video as it played through. It does take a bit of skill but I think I did a much better job this time around of making Froyd move a little more naturally and in tune with the words he is speaking and his environment.

Does it Work?

Generally I'd say the video looks quite good. Froyd looks like he is in the scene. Sure he's clearly a cartoon character but it works well enough thanks to the way I painted him, with reflected light in his shadows - just as light reflects into the shadow areas of real world objects.

Although the concept is a little similar to Garfield I think it's worth pursuing. It's not exactly the same and I'm sure my own sense of humor will eventually help me differentiate the character into his own thing. I think the real world locations will help too.

The live action is easy to create, as is animating Froyd. It could well be a character I visit every time I need a break from other more difficult or tedious animation projects (like Skate Monkeys).

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