November 8, 2014

L'employé du Moi Animation: Part 5

Okay, my animation for L'employe du Moi is done!  In my previous post I showed the final pencil test, so all that remained was to ink the pencils.  I did this with a Pilot Precise V7 "fine" ballpoint pen for outlines and an extra-fine Rotring Art Pen for crosshatching and details.  I had to spread the work out over a few nights to get it done without going crazy (inking the same thing over and over again).

Once that was done, I scanned everything in and started compositing all the pieces.  It took a bit of work to clean all of the intersecting points (like where Argus's hands hit the cart).  Anyway, here is the finished product, which is 2.9 MB.  It might take a few moments for it to load, depending on your connection:

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how this turned out.  There's a few things I would change if I had to do it over again, but for now I'm going to leave it as is.  I'm leaving this project with pretty much the same mindset I came in with: hand-drawn animation is a crazy amount of work for very little reward.  I have no desire to ever become an animator, but I'm glad I worked on this small project which taught we a ton of new stuff, which I'll definitely be able to bring back and apply to my comics work.  I'm very excited to get back to the world of static drawings and panels and page turns!

Before I sign off, I'll give you all one final reminder that L'employé du Moi is currently doing a fundraiser to have a 15th anniversary exhibit at next year's Angoulême festival.  Currently, they need less than 1,000 euros to push them over their goal, and 16 days to reach it.  It's all-or-nothing, so please consider chipping in if you can!  Thanks.

November 4, 2014

L'employé du Moi Animation: Part 4

In my last post I figured out the backgrounds, so it was time to finish up the character animation.  I did a few passes through the 16 frames of my character Argus (from Basewood) to fix some problems, namely:  1) I cleaned up his head shape 2) I toned down the counteraction in the dagger 3) I took out the blink and 4) I added details like his patches, and the straps on his boots.  Here is my final pencil test:

I can still see some things wrong with it, but at this point I'm going to chalk those up as "lessons learned" and keep moving forward.  This has been a fun little activity while I have been on break between issues of Phase 7, but I'm getting antsy to return to comics (where I belong).  I'm going to ink this up and then composite all the various parts.  I'll report back here with the final results!

In the meantime, check out another one of the L'employé du Moi walk cycles that has surfaced, this time by the incredible cartoonist/carpenter Bulu:

If you can't read the French (I can't...) it basically says that L'employé du Moi currently has a fundraiser so that these animations can be displayed at next year's Angoulemê comics festival in France, along with a bunch of other great stuff!  They've got about 2,000 more Euros to raise in the next 19 days, so every little bit helps!  If you are wondering, it is super simple to donate from the USA, the same as any other online transaction.  It took me about 5 minutes to chip in.  If you do so, thanks!  Or... Merci!  ;)

November 1, 2014

L'employé du Moi Animation: Part 3

After my last post, I took a break working on the character animation to work on the background for this animation.  I'm not even sure we're allowed to have backgrounds, but it's easy enough to export two versions (with and without the background) so I decided to use it as an opportunity to try out some new techniques... or at least techniques that were new to me!

I started off by setting up three looping frames of deep background, using some soft pencils and a layer of gray.  It's a pretty repetitive loop, but I felt it was okay because it'll have a lot of unique 16-frame animation on top of it.  Here's what that looks like on its own (1.4 MB animated .gif, might take a moment to load, depending on your connection speed!):

Next, I wanted it to be snowing in this little loop, so first I looked at some animated gifs of actual falling snow.  I noticed right off the bat that there is a little bit of parallax going on, so I decided to create my snow in two layers: 1) foreground snow, which moves very quickly (close up) and 2) background snow which moves a little slower (farther away).

The only way I could think of to do this was to mark out the picture plane and then make some "paths" that I could animate the snow down.  Here's what that template looks like:

The top box is for the background snow and the bottom box is for the foreground snow.  Along the top and right edge you can see various marks - this was me trying to stagger the entrance of the snowflakes.  In the top box, I tried to make a snowflake take 16 frames to go from top to bottom, in the bottom, it only takes 8 frames for a snowflake to go from top to bottom.  So in the top animation, once a snowflake was halfway down, I started another one on the same path.  In the bottom animation, I just had a new flake start as soon as the other one was done.  So with 19 paths in the top animation, with two passes on each, I did about 40 passes on 16 frames, or about 650 snowflakes.  11 paths on the bottom, getting approximately two snowflakes each (the shorter ends get more), on 16 frames that's about 350 snowflakes.  More than 1,000 total!  Enough stats, let's see how they move!  Here's the slower, background snowflakes:

At first, I had about half of the paths start in the same frame, so there is sort of a horizontal gap at one point, but I'm happy enough with this that I don't feel like I need to redo anything.  This was a crazy amount of work, but it really helped me wrap my head around the looping concept.  If a path had a snowflake introduced on frame 2 and 9 I would just reorganize the stack of paper so that loop started on the top.  Here's what the faster moving foreground snowflakes looked like:

The other thing I worked on by doing all of this manually was my sense of timing/spacing.  Just having to animate a dot moving along a path was a great exercise for this.  You can watch any one flake (easier to do with the background flakes), and it slows down slightly if it's moving horizontally (drawn closer together) and faster if it's falling down (drawn further apart).   

The final step was to composite all of these things together.  This isn't perfect, because these are just pencil tests, but at least you can see what I'm going for.  In the final, the foreground flakes will be white in their centers, with a black stroke around the flakes, whereas the background flakes will just be white dots (as they are here).  Again, this animated .gif is 1.4MB so it might take a little while to load, depending on your connection:

Now all I need to do is drop in Argus!  I still need to do one more round of cleanups on his pencils, which I'll post here before putting everything together in the final animation.

The L'employé du Moi fundraiser is currently about 75% of the way to meeting its goal!  If you are enjoying these posts, please consider donating a Euro or two.  They've got about three weeks left to raise the last 25% so that this animation can be displayed in L'employé do Moi's exhibit at Angoulemê next year, along with all the other animations by the rest of their authors.

October 26, 2014

Weezer EWBAITE Pinball T-Shirt

Last week I had the good fortune to design a t-shirt for my all-time favorite band, Weezer.  Some photos of have started to surface of the shirt (already on sale!) so I thought I'd do a quick post about this design, which was one of the craziest illustration jobs I have ever done.

At this point I've drawn a few things for Weezer, plus I recently completed my Weezer Fan Trilogy of comic books, so a few weeks back Karl asked me to submit an idea for a Weezer T-Shirt.  The design needed to focus on their (AMAZING) new album, Everything Will Be Alright In The End because the EWBAITE tour was fast approaching!

For a few years now I have been putting out a pinball fanzine called Drop Target with my buddy Jon Chad.  In the middle of each issue we have a "Dream Machine" section where we draw the playfield for an imaginary pinball machine that we wish existed.  There is so much great imagery in EWBAITE, I thought it would be cool to represent all of the songs in a single pinball playfield.

On October 13th, I sent Karl a little PDF that laid out my sketch and explained the concept, so that he could show it to the band and their management or whoever makes these decisions.  If you can't tell, I  based the layout on the 1984 Williams game Space Shuttle (a secret nod to The Astronauts for any Weezer Fan Club members out there).  Here's the page where I laid out all the features (click all the images in this post to see them bigger):

I really wasn't sure if Weezer would go for this design.  For me, it's the intersection of so many cool things that I love, it almost makes my brain explode to look at it, but I knew I wasn't seeing it objectively.  I love Weezer and pinball way too much, so I just left it up to them to make the call.

On October 20th at 10:30am Karl emailed me to say that the sketch was approved but also that the design was being "fast tracked" and that he needed it "tonight" if that was humanly possible.  I told him I might be able to get it in before the printers got to work the next day, so we set a deadline of 8:00am the following morning.  I canceled everything I had planned for the rest of the day, and started drawing at 11am.

It ended up taking me 20 consecutive hours of drawing to finish the t-shirt and do all the production work.  It was pretty brutal, (and honestly I don't think I would have been able to do it if I didn't draw a 24-Hour Comic every year!) but I kept telling myself "This is the coolest thing I have ever drawn!!! For WEEZER!!!" so I gave it my all, and worked through the night.

The hardest part was the lower playfield, which showcases the last three tracks on the album, The Futurescope Trilogy, which are mostly instrumental.  Luckily, this Weezer Fan Club member named TJ McDonald did a 5,000 word analysis of those tracks, which really helped me figure out some visuals to use (thanks TJ!).  By 5pm I had the lower playfield penciled in.  By 10pm I had the whole playfield penciled and then by 3am I had it all inked.  If you look carefully at the process pictures above, you can see me sneaking more and more stuff into the playfield - deep references from lyrics, or the packaging of the album, or the teaser videos that led up to its release.  I tried to put as much cool stuff in there as possible, for my fellow Fan Club members.

From 3am-6am I worked on digitally coloring the playfield and then separating out all of the files for the t-shirt printer.  My idea was to use a brown shirt and then print white, orange and black ink on it (colors from the album cover).  I sent off the final, print-ready files at 7am on October 21st, an hour before the deadline, and then finally went to sleep!

Last night Weezer played their first concert of the EWBAITE tour in Philadelphia, on October 26th and they already had my shirts for sale - "fast track" indeed!  Here is a photo of the merch table, by another Fan Club member, Nick Lombardo - you can see my shirt in the upper right corner (also, the epic Luke Pearson Rebel Weezer Alliance poster front and center!):

This was obviously a dream job for me, and I'm pretty pumped to see this t-shirt in person at the Weezer show in San Francisco a week from today!

October 19, 2014

L'employé du Moi Animation: Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, my French-language publisher, L'employé du Moi is currently raising funds for their 15th anniversary exhibit at next year's Angoulême International Comics Festival.  As part of that exhibit, each of their authors is working on a small animation based on their logo.

I was hanging out behind the table all day today with my wife Claire at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire, and I brought this project along with me.  I was able to tape my peg bar to a clip board.  I didn't have my lightbox, but I got on okay by just flipping really quickly between two drawings.  Here was my setup:

I was able to make it through all sixteen frames, cleaning up the rough animation.  There are still some problems with the legs, but at this point I think they are as good as they're gonna get.  I also tried to add some "counteraction," which I think was pretty successful in the tip of Argus's beard and his hood, but got pushed too far with his dagger.  I also added a blink which I'm gonna take back out. With a sequence this short (16 frames) it just happens too often.  I'm learning to "Keep It Simple, Stupid." Anyway, here it is:

I'm gonna blame the squishiness of Argus's head on the fact that I didn't have a lightbox.  I'll probably make one more pass to tighten that up a bit, and then also take out the blink, mellow out the dagger movement and add the final details. Then I'm going to ink it!

I took out all of the extra movement from the cart (swinging handle, bouncing carrots) and just inked four frames of this to loop on its own layer.  The jiggling you see is just natural human error in my hand, which I think looks cool.  I also moved the little lump of built-up snow in front of the sled to the ground layer (animated with Argus) so that it has a unique 16-frame pattern instead of looping every four frames, which I think would have been distracting.

I've probably already spent too much time on this thing, but I still have a lot more I want to do with it, so I'll continue posting as I work on it.  Onwards!