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Water Valet 2 - Funny, Animated Short About Robots, AI, and the Failure of Office Automation.

Water Valet 2.
I never particularly planned a sequel to my animated short, Water Valet, but after purchasing some of Garry Pye's all new All Star G3 Characters for Cartoon Animator 4, I needed something to test them out.

As with Garry's Bendies Characters, the first thing I did was customize an All Star to look like my TET avatar. Once that happened I thought, why not do a second Water Valet animation? People seemed to like the first, and it's a great, short project, I can do in a weekend (you think I would've learned that it would take longer than a weekend from the first time).

It helps if you've seen part 1 but it's not essential. All you need to know is this office has a robot water cooler valet whose primary role is to push the one button on the water cooler that fills your cup with water. Watch part 2 below and then read the behind the scenes of how it was made.



Behind the Scenes

1. TET's All Star Avatar Sources.
Everything started with me creating my All Stars TET avatar, which is a mashup of All Star Andy (Office), All Star Amy (Office), my TET Bendie Avatar, and a little custom detailing of my own.

If you look at image 1, showing my TET Avatar's sources, you'll see he's wearing All Star Amy's shirt, jacket, and glasses. His hair is lifted directly from my TET Bendie avatar and resized to fit. Additional customizations include recoloring, and adding a little bit more to the top of Andy's tie (also a discrete breast reduction).

The Script

Coming up with the idea for this second episode wasn't difficult at all. It seemed obvious to me that the robot valet has such a simple job, what would happen if it could no longer actually do it?

Then I thought about who else pushes buttons for a living? While it's a bit of a stretch for an office building to have an elevator attendant, it's not impossible. I imagined a young guy who maybe had a little more ambition than to be an elevator attendant for the rest of his life.

From there the script pretty much was a breeze. I think I wrote it in a couple of hours at most.

The Scene and Andy the Elevator Attendant

All Star Andy the Elevator Attendant
and aspiring Water Valet.
Content creator, Frank's Pencil, released a pack called Toon Buddies that I purchased a while back. The Office backgrounds included in the pack I felt are ideally suited to Garry Pye's All Stars. There was never any question about using anything else for the background scene in this short.

Andy the Elevator Attendant, is simply All Star Andy (Office) with different hair that I got from some other G3 Character (not sure now which?), and a hat that I added from an accessory pack for G3 Elastic Folks called Hat & Belt Systems.

Creating the Animation

Since this animation, just like the first, is mostly characters talking it was animated pretty much in the same way as the first animation, so I won't go into that in detail again here. The basic process was:

  1. Record the Audio.
  2. Place all the characters in my scene.
  3. Add the voices to each character and refine the auto lip syncing.
  4. Add predefined motions to each character that most closely represents how I want them to move. Also adding facial expression templates.
  5. Go through and customize all the motions so that hands and arms, specifically, move to accentuate more what the character is saying, and look a little less random.
  6. Because these are All Star characters I had to go through and realign all the necks (or more accurately, face sprites, because the characters don't have a neck sprite - which is why this step is needed) so the heads didn't remain weirdly disjointed.
  7. Add in eye blinks and other small details.
  8. Export as an MP4 to send to my video editor app for titles, sound design etc.

Hiring a Voice Actor

Usually I try to voice all my characters myself. However half way through animating this I decided I needed a voice actor for Andy's voice.

Initially I recorded his voice through Voicemod, an app that can change your voice in real time to sound very different, but I wasn't happy with it. The voice wasn't clear, and had 'metallic' feel to it. Andy had some good lines and I wanted to make sure they were clear.

So I hopped over to fiverr.com and found DrywVoiceOver after a bit of searching (unfortunately Dryw is no longer on fiverr - maybe I should have tipped him more?). His gig was exceptional value, delivering 200 words of audio within 24 hours for just US$5.00. I only needed him to record 68 words. Which he did and delivered them in less than three hours!

As a side note, while fiverr still offers exceptional value, fewer voice artists are offering their service for just US$5.00 these days. While I'm not opposed to upsells I do think it should be mandatory that everyone offers at least a basic service for $5.00 since that is the draw of the site.

Once I had Dryw's audio as an MP3 file, I cut it up in Audacity and replaced my audio in Cartoon Animator with Dryw's performance.

Final Words

Nothing worse than a Water Valet
coming up empty... unless you're Andy.
There's not really much more to say. I once again imported the Cartoon Animator MP4 exports into my video editing software and did virtually the same sound design as the first animation of adding the same office ambient noise and other small sound effects.

I can boast that, despite being a few seconds longer than the first animation, I finished it in a week, instead of two weeks.

There is every possibility you'll see more in this series as I have had a few ideas on where things might go next for my dysfunctional Water Valet A.I. robot. However it's likely to be an occasional series that I work on when I need the lighter distraction of a shorter project.

Next up I really want to get back into developing Bat Storm now that I finally have a redesigned version of that character that I'm excited to animate.

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