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Rise - Demo Animated Short Inspired by Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Teaser Trailer #1

Rise recreates the opening scene of Star Wars:
The Rise of Skywalker, Teaser Trailer #1.
My animated short, Rise, came about because I wanted to showcase my newly redesigned, Desert Scavenger for Cartoon Animator 4. Rather than do some lame demo like I did for the original version of the character I wanted to do something that would actually demonstrate the character's potential.

After seeing teaser trailer #1 for Star Wars, The Rise of Skywalker, I thought it would be really cool to try and recreate the opening scene with Rey, in the desert, facing off against Kylo Ren's Tie Fighter.

My version was never intended to be an exact copy of the trailer. What I set out to do was use the backgrounds I'd already made (which feature the crashed Star Destroyer on Jakku) to create pretty much a shot for shot similar scenario as best I could, within the limitations of my character. Watch my short below then read about how it was created.



Redesigning the Character


The original character design on the left.
The original character has been available in my Reallusion Marketplace store for quite some time and has not been a great seller. Partly because I think the original head design was a little too much in a style that didn't blend well with other developer's content.

There's also been a big swing toward characters without outlines as it's easier to hide the joins between the limbs etc. As such removing the outlines was my first priority.

Second was to redesign the head to something a little less oval in shape, and I also wanted to give the character the new 360 Head function launched with Cartoon Animator 4. You can read more about that in my previous post.

Creating the Animation


The animation itself uses two CA4 project files. The first contains all the scenes up to the close up of the character's feet breaking into a run. The second has the last three shots after that. I could have done the whole animation in one project file but the last three camera angles required a little more effort on the backgrounds and I felt it would be less confusing to put them in their own project.

Every shot was created in a linear format in the order it appears in the trailer. I loosely tied the timing to the trailer but if you play it side by side with my animation you'll see it doesn't line up at all.

I had toyed with the idea of matching the timing exactly so I could just use the audio from the trailer but I knew I would be dropping the title cards that appear in the middle of the scene, and I would be dropping the scene showing Kylo's hands on the controls of his Tie Fighter.

The Set


Top: Original iClone Set (with sky turned off).
Bottom: How the set looks in Rise. That dark
hill you can see in the foreground (bottom) is
the largest hill nearest the camera in the top image.
The actual set I used is a single image I created for the original version of my character several years ago.

You may be surprised to learn that it isn't just a still frame from The Force Awakens (remember I mentioned Jakku earlier?). It's actually a 3D desert environment I put together in iClone with the Jakku crashed Star Destroyer as a backdrop.

This may seem like overkill but when I first designed the character I had planned to make a series of animations with it, and use this 3D environment to create different desert backdrops. This would save me time in painting my own backdrops.

Throughout the Rise animated short this single images is stretched, zoomed in upon, and distorted to create all the backgrounds in almost every shot.

Wide shot set for my running scene at the end.
Here you can see the tree that moves across the foreground,
and an alternate sky. The original Jakku desert backdrop
has the sky removed, is flipped and stretched across the
bottom of the frame.
At one point I stretched it really wide so I could do the side tracking shot of the Tie Fighter zooming past the camera.

I had thought I'd made the background blurry in my graphics editor but actually it was made blurry using iClones depth of field camera settings (something that CA4 could really use).

Character Body Animation

The majority of the character's body animation is done with pre-defined motions with minor adjustments for specific small movements. For example, the majority of the first half of the animation is a standard 'idle standing' loop, with the character's right arm custom key framed to unhook the lightsaber from her belt and fire it up.

If you have really quick movements you can
fake quite a lot in a similar way hand drawn
animation uses 'smears' to show fast motion.

The top image show my characters arms are
completely disjointed at the start of this turn
and move into place by the end.

The bottom image the character is looking
over her shoulder, except that's the front
of her body you can see not her back.
There are only two sections where the body movement is completely created from scratch. The first being when the character turns and crouches, ready to run. The second, is the final leap at the end. Both these scenes I tried to key frame as close to the original actions in the trailer.

It's worth noting that when the character turns and crouches you never actually see her back or side view like you do in the trailer. The character only has one body angle view (315 degree view).

However because the turn is so quick you can kind of trick people into thinking they're seeing the character turn in the same way hand drawn animation sometimes uses almost comedic 'smears' to depict fast motion.

You can see in the still frame sequence that the character's arms are completely disjointed at the start of the turn and move into place by the end.

Also note that the very next shot is the character looking over her shoulder, except, if you look closely at the start of the shot, that's her front, not her back you're looking at.

Naturally to finish off the body animation there was a lot of sprite switching and sprite masking (for example, where you use a prop hand on top of the characters hand so it looks like they're holding a prop correctly).

Head and Face Animation


The majority of this was key framed by hand. It's not as complex or as difficult as it sounds.

Much of the head movement is just marking a key frame where the head begins a turn, and a key frame where the head ends the turn. The 'magic' of how 360 heads work does the rest automatically.

Most of the facial expressions was again done with templates. If you want more information on how I do that I explain the process as part of my Lip Syncing Hands video tutorial.

Using Deform to open and close the mouth
in the Face Key Editor.
Probably the only point of interest in the facial animation is that I did use a little bit of deform keyframing on the mouth just to make her mouth open and close a little with each breath.

The Tie Fighter


To create Kylo Ren's Tie Fighter I simply did a Google search to see what I could find. Two images suited my needs perfectly.

Top two images are my original source
images. The next three are how they
appear ready to be placed in the
animation. The last image shows just
how fast that fighter looks to be
travelling even though it's a still shot.
One is a product shot of the toy which I had to edit out the Kylo action figure. The other is a nice 3D rendering by Matt Donie that gave me the front and side views I needed.

To the side view I added excessive motion blur which really makes it feel like the ship is moving when it zooms past the camera.

The front view I added depth of field burring to match the trailer, and the three quarter view of the toy I added very minimal motion blur since it's moving in slow motion in the trailer.

All of the animation on the Tie Fighter was done through the transform track. Marking key frames for start and end points since it mostly moves in a straight line, and using transition curves to make the movement seem a little more natural. For example I used an acceleration transition curve for when the Tie Fighter moves from in the distance to up close because it would naturally appear to be moving faster as it gets closer.

If you look closely though, you'll also notice I added a little side to side rotation as the ship flies. Kylo may be a great pilot but even he wouldn't be able to hold the ship perfectly level at such a low angle.

There is an animated dust cloud around the Tie Fighter as it moves. Initially I tried to create this using Reallusion's Weather Effects content pack which includes fog.

While my fog attempts are still there I overlaid a better smoke animation in my video editing software that isn't perfect but still looked a whole lot better than what I had.

Lastly I should mention the little gleam effect that you see when the Tie Fighter first appears. In all honesty I have no idea what pack it came from but it's simply an animated gleam effect that looks pretty cool.

Animating the Camera


It surprises me that I get requests for tutorials on how to animate the camera in CA4. To me it's the simplest part of creating an animation. If you want the camera to zoom and pan just place a keyframe at the start and end points of your movement. The bigger the gap between the keyframes the slower the camera will move.

To make a jump cut from one scene to another place you keyframes right next to each other.

Here you can see the 'Gain Momentum and Damp' Transition curve
has been applied to the selected keyframe on the right. The curve is
applied to all the frames from here back to the previous keyframe.
If you want your camera moves to be more natural apply transition curves to the keyframes. These curves will only affect the camera movement between the current keyframe and the one that came before it.

The most obvious point where I did this is when the camera pans down from my characters face to her unhooking the lightsaber from her belt. You'll notice the camera first moves up slightly, then pans down, overshoots a little, and then pans up slightly. All in all giving a more natural feel, and all done with a single 'Gain Momentum and Damp' transition curve applied to one keyframe. Takes a second of your time for a great looking result.

Putting It All Together


None of my animated scenes had any sound added in CA4. They were all exported and assembled in my video editor, Movavi Video Edit Suite 18 (I don't recommend you buy this editor. The only reason I stick with it is that it'll import almost any video format into the timeline directly).

Movavi Timeline: All that green is Sound Design.
Blue is the actual video track.
In Movavi I did an extensive amount of sound design trying to approximate the mood and feel of the trailer with the licensed music I'd purchased with the editor. There's a number of different tracks chopped and mixed together. My music is a little more hopeful than ominous.

The only sounds I directly lifted from the trailer were Rey's opening breathing (on a loop in my animation) and the sound of the lightsaber being removed from her belt.

The lightsaber and Tie Fighter sounds came from various Star Wars sound compilations on YouTube while the wind noise came from Freesound.org.

As I said previously I added a smoke effect here for the dust that the Tie Fighter kicks up as it flies across the desert.

Top: Original Video.
Bottom: Retro Filter applied in Movavi.
The final pass I did was to apply a retro filter to all my scenes to make them more gritty, colorful, and cinematic. The original coloring felt too bright and airy to me.

Beyond that was the usual adding of my logo at the start and credits at the end.

---o ---o--- o---

The entire animation was created over three weeks but if I had to condense the actual time down into days it would amount to about 5 days work (excluding the redesign of the character).

I hope you've found this behind the scenes overview useful. Feel free to leave a comment below, particularly if you have a question about how something was done in this animation.


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