Skip to main content

#XPPenanimationchallenge - How I Created My Entry for XP-Pen's First Animation Competition

XP-Pen's Mascot, Fenix, in A Change of Art by TET.
XP-Pen's Mascot, Fenix, in
A Change of Art by TET.
XP-Pen, the makers of a range of pretty sweet pen display monitors, and Reallusion, the makers of some pretty sweet animation apps, teamed up for XP-Pen's very first Animation Challenge with the theme of 'Change'.

Any form of animation was acceptable with entries needing to be a minimum of ten seconds in length.

Entries closed on June 16th, 2020 (sorry, this blog isn't really a breaking news site, I probably should've mentioned it back in March when entries submissions opened) so it's too late to enter, but I wanted to tell you the tale of how I ended up creating my entry in a really late evening, the day before the deadline.

Watch my entry below. Remember the theme is 'Change' and XP-Pen suggested in the rules that including their mascot, Fenix, somewhere in the animation would be looked upon favorably.
 

The Ideas

Skater - My First XP-Pen Competition Idea
Scenes from Skater - My First
XP-Pen Competition Idea.
This was not my first idea for the competition. That may not be a big surprise but what you don't know is I completed up to a full, finished scene edit of my first idea. To finish it I just need to do all the sound design (which doesn't include dialogue since there is none in that animation).

My First Idea

In my initial idea I wanted to feature characters created by Cartoon Solutions. I have an entire library of those characters and backgrounds that I've never really used, even though I like the art style a lot.

I came up with a brief story about how parents keep changing their minds, getting mad when teenagers spend all their time hanging around the house, and then getting mad when their kids stay out too long as well.

The animation followed a teen boy, kicked off the couch at home by his mother who decides he's spending too much time at home, laying around listening to his ipod.

Later the boy spends so much time out at the skate park his mother has to come over and tell him to go home.

In general, I did like this animation but it didn't quite fit the concept of 'change', and nothing particularly stood out as eye catching to me. Plus the XP-Pen mascot didn't really have a place to be. I was going to make him a skater in the background but it seemed like an afterthought.

Not having a better idea I persevered with creating this animation through six animated scenes all edited into a final cut ready for my sound design.

Still, I just wasn't feeling this as an interesting idea.

The Next Idea

XP-Pen's 3D Model Mascot turnarounds.
XP-Pen's 3D Model Mascot turnarounds
with my painted character rig.
While exploring XP-Pen's website I discovered they sell a 3D, paintable model of their mascot, Fenix. Not only that but their site has complete turnaround images of the model, perfect for turning into a fully rigged character in Cartoon Animator.

I thought, what better way to get the attention of the judges than to animate the company's mascot with the competition sponsor's animation software. So I digitally colored the front facing view of the 3D model and rigged it as a Cartoon Animator G3 character with a front facing, morph based head. (Note this rig even has a full set of hand sprites copied and recolored from one of my other characters).

I really liked the final version of the Fenix character rig but it didn't match the style of my first idea so this prompted me in another direction.

At this point I hadn't seen the idea that was just staring me in face. 

Since Reallusion is currently all about motion capture for 2D animated characters, I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to break out the Facial Mocap Plug-in for Cartoon Animator 4 that I bought but hadn't yet found the right project to use it with.

Fenix in an Office Scene by Anton Bakhmat.
Fenix in an Office Scene by
Anton Bakhmat.
Maybe I could have Fenix sitting at a desk talking about some kind of change... maybe slip in some reference to the fact that this performance was motion captured too.

I set that scene up using an office background by Anton Bakhmat.

Usually I can improvise funny dialogue without too much effort but, for whatever reason, I just couldn't find an inroad into a short, funny dialogue about change. It needed to be either funny or a captivating story to stand any chance of being noticed, since the whole animation would be just a character talking to camera.

This is what I was going with right up until the day before the competition closed. I even had the facial mocap plug-in set up and ready to go should inspiration hit that day. It didn't. At least not for this idea.

The Light Bulb Moment

While sitting around, trying to come up with dialogue for my Fenix/Office animation I was looking at my original colored image of Fenix standing next to the unpainted model image. I happened to think to myself that the white model looked very much like a marble statue next to the more animated looking colored character.

Statue of David by Michelangelo
Statue of David by Michelangelo
My mind immediately went to the most famous marble statue I knew of - Michelangelo's Statue of David. From there it was a tiny jump to what if Fenix swapped out what is, let's face it, a very old statue, for something much newer and contemporary... say a statue of Fenix? It was very much a light bulb moment for me.

With just a day to go before entries closed I got straight to work on what I thought was a fun, and funny idea that was doable in the time I had.

Creating the Animation

Cartoon Animator - Statue of Fenix Scene
Cartoon Animator - Statue of Fenix Scene.

Set Up

Using Affinity Photo brush tools I set about erasing the Statue of David from the image shown above. I then found another image of the statue with the background removed already which I broke up into pieces and mixed in some rock images for my tumbled over statue that was David.

I then stretched out the Fenix white model image to give it a more epic 'Statue of David' height that would give good reason for Fenix himself to be up a ladder sculpting away.

I recolored and squashed a lectern prop for the Fenix statue podium. Then placed my Fenix character at the top of a ladder prop I had with an existing hammer prop in hand.

Animation

Fenix's hammering animation is a looping motion file taken directly from the G3 Human Motions - Occupations Pack. It's actually a motion for a side facing character but still looked okay with my front facing Fenix if I turned his head to the side as far as it would go. The only change I made to the motion was to stop Fenix's right hand from moving so it would remain still and look like he was holding onto the statue to maintain his balance.

His second talking motion is called 'Introduce' from the G3 Human Motions - Smooth Moves pack. I didn't have to change anything about this motion at all.

In terms of actual animation I did, I key framed some of the transition between the Hammering motion and the introduce motion to look a little smoother and to get the layers right so Fenix's hammering arm would remain in front of his face as it moved in front of him.

I linked the hammer to Fenix's hand in the character composer as an attached prop, rather than linking it to him on the stage, so that it would layer behind his hand. The hammer was then key framed manually to make sure it was always in the correct position in relation to his hand.

Fenix's facial animation is about as minimal as it gets. His mouth is auto lip synced to the audio file (I may have tweaked this manually just a little). Then I just made sure his head and pupils were facing the right way in relation to either hammering or speaking to camera, added eye blinks, as needed, and it was done.

Finally I animated the camera which, because it starts with a slow pan up from the rubble of the David statue, meant I had even less animation to do on Fenix. In fact it's the sound of his hammer that makes it seem like there's more going on in the scene without me actually having to show Fenix hammering until it's time to reveal him.

Audio

Freesound is a wonderful website. So much so that I ended up throwing them a donation because I downloaded so many sounds for this and another animation I was working on. I managed to find a hammering sound that not only perfectly fit but matched the timing of Fenix's animation without any need for adjustment.

Other than my own voice, which I recorded about five takes of the dialogue into Audacity and then changed the pitch slightly, the hammering sound is all the sound in the animation itself.

The Edit

The final edit was put together in Movavi Video Editor. Which I really only used to bookend the animation with titles and a fun music track.

The Premiere - Oops, I'm Accidentally Topical

 My focus was completely on getting this made before the deadline. Which I did, with plenty of hours to spare, as it happens. It wasn't until people started viewing it that I became aware my little short was also very topical.

As it happens a new #BlackLivesMatter movement had been gaining momentum worldwide. The week I released my animation the world was particularly focused on tearing down monuments depicting anyone who had owned or utilized slaves.

Without getting too political, I don't particularly agree with tearing down monuments whether they're racist or otherwise. To me it's a form of erasing history. Better to re-contextualize the monuments to raise awareness of this not so shining, 'forgotten' history than remove them. That's where I stand.

I mention that only because my animation isn't a commentary on #BlackLivesMatter or the efforts of some within the movement to remove 'racist' monuments/statues. If anything the Statue of David is a monument to the 'little guy', the everyday hero who took on a giant and won. I don't know what, if any, links the statue might have to slavery - though I expect there probably are some given the time it was made.

The idea behind my animation is, as I said, Fenix thinks the Statue of David is quite old. Failing to appreciate its significance he decides to replace it with a more modern statue, stating that it was time for a change, anyway.

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

As mentioned this animation was created for XP-Pen's first Animation Competition. Winners to be announced on July 1st 2020. You can view all the entries [ HERE ]. I'll let you know if I'm a finalist.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Ultimate Independent Animator's App and Resource List 2019-2021 - Animation and Video Life

Image created with Cartoon Animator 4. Being an independent animator is not like a studio animation job. There's so much more to do that is indirectly related to the actual task of animating. Over the years I've sought out many apps, tools, and services that can help me achieve that one single task, expressing myself through animation. Below is my Ultimate Independent Animator's Resource List for 2019. It started out as a list of free or low cost apps that could help you in every stage of producing either 2D or 3D animation, and then just kind of grew from there. You may not have been looking for a Time Management App as much as you needed something to get you started in 3D animation but when those commissioned projects start coming in you'll have a head start on maximizing your time. All the apps and services on this list had to meet two main criteria: They had to be useful and relevant to an Indy Animator/artist. The base app/service had to be US$200.0

Make Disney/Pixar Style Characters with Reallusion's Character Creator and Toon Figure Bases

The Extraordinary Tourist Classic Coat outfit created using Reallusion's Toon Designer for CC3. I've talked before how I've wanted to get into 3D Disney/Pixar style character animation since I first saw the animated cutscenes for the very first Tomb Raider game back in 1996. It's why I initially bought Reallusion's iClone 3D studio app as soon as I could afford a computer that would run it. But then Reallusion released their 3D Character Creator (CC) for iClone and I wanted to create my characters with that (and I did try with Bat Storm ). But the focus of CC was realism, even with ToKoMotion's stylised body morphs . Now with Reallusion's Cartoon Designer bundle for CC3 which features two packs, Toon Figures , and Toon Hair , designing Disney/Pixar style 3D characters just got a whole lot quicker. The two packs are the bare essentials for creating Toon style characters. Five body morphs (2 male, 2 female, and one adolescent body morph that w

Three Image Overlay Apps. Do More with Your Reference Images While You Work

PureRef's image overlay in action with Cartoon Animator 4. One thing Cartoon Animator 4 still does not have in stage mode is the ability to onion skin previous and next frames.  For those complete animation newbies among you, onion skinning is the ability to see through the current frame to your previous and/or next keyframes so you can see the progression of your character or object's movement as you create and adjust each keyframe. Usually the previous and next frames appear lighter so your current frame remains the key focus. This prompted me to look for a tool that could overlay an image over my work to use as a reference while still allowing me to work on the app underneath the overlay. I had seen, and even used such apps in the past but it had been some time so I decided to see what was out there, preferably free and/or open source, with versions for Mac and Windows. Overlay 2 There are actually a number of apps that do nothing more than overlay an image but the only one

Run Your Favorite Android Animation Productivity Apps (and Games) on Your PC or Mac with BlueStacks

BlueStacks Android Emulator for PC or Mac. There are many free and low cost mobile animation productivity apps for Android in the Google Play Store that would fit right into your workflow if you could access them directly from your PC/Mac  desktop (or laptop) computer. Even if those apps can save their output to the same cloud storage you use with your PC or Mac, just the divide of using a separate device makes them inconvenient and disruptive. Worse yet, what if your Android device is underpowered for the apps you want to use, or worse still you don't own any Android devices because someone convinced you Apple Mac's, iphones, and ipads are 'cool' (they are, but you pay for 'cool'). BlueStacks is a free, open source Android emulator for Windows or Mac (currently only BlueStacks 4 can be installed on a Mac but BlueStacks 5 for Mac is coming soon). If you're not aware of what an emulator is, it's basically a piece of software that mimics another devices

Artbreeder - Using AI created Character and Background Content in your Animations

A selection of User/AI generated images from Artbreeder. If you're looking for an endless supply of 2D character and background images for your animations then Artbreeder , an online Artificial Intelligence (AI) that generates image mash-ups you can tweak as much as you like, could be the ultimate content library. What is Artbreeder? Artbreeder is free to use though there are various paid plans, that give you additional features, such as higher resolution download images or more settings to play with. All images created on the site are Public Domain (CC0 License) and can be used in commercial projects. Using Artbreeder's online app you can generate head shot portraits, full body characters, landscapes, and other scenes simply by choosing two or more existing images to mash together then, using a series of sliders, to select which traits from each image you wish to lean toward in the final image. Photo Comparison - Top is my original uploaded photo. Bottom is Artbreeder's ap

Stylish Stick Figures for Cartoon Animator 4.2 - New Characters by TET

Stylish Stick Figures by TET. Animating stick figures is almost a right of passage for any animator who has ever made an old fashioned flipbook or discovered the free stickman animator app, Pivot Animator . There's also the hugely popular viral stick figure animation, Animator Versus Animation  and its sequels by Alan Becker that continue to inspire variations more than 12 years later. Back when Vyond was GoAnimate they had a stick figure theme that was popular site wide despite having many other themes with much more refined Saturday morning cartoon style characters. I even had my own stick figure series, Harry Chalk , on GoAnimate. Long story short, I was looking through the Reallusion Cartoon Animator Marketplace and discovered there really weren't any well designed, traditional looking stick figure characters. That's not to say there weren't any at all but I wanted something similar to GoAnimate's stick figures which included full facial features and male and

Review: CrazyTalk Animator 3 vs Moho Studio Pro 12

Reallusion's CrazyTalk Animator 3 or Smith Micro's Moho Studio Pro 12. Which of these 2D animation applications is right for you? Regular readers of this blog will know I'm a strong supporter, and fairly proficient user of CrazyTalk Animator since version 1. It's a great piece of software for producing 2D animations from purchased content quickly and, with version 3, is easier than ever to create animations from your own art. Lesser known is that I first purchased Moho Studio Pro 12 (then known as Anime Studio Pro 9) back in October of 2012 and have been upgrading it to the latest version ever since because I believed in it as an application for creating great 2D animation to TV quality standard. As such, it's a much more complex application than CTA3 that I only got around to learning properly late last year. I'm still in the process of blogging my progress . Despite this I feel I've learned enough of Moho to compare it to CTA3 to help you determ