Friday, January 13, 2012

Animation Dreams

The other day, I decided to dust off some old software I haven't used in quite some time. The software, Anime Studio Pro 6.

I don't know what made me do it. There's not much time to be had, what with living and all that. But, learning to create animation has been sort of a dream of mine.

It started years ago, when I first learned to do an animated GIF on an old piece of software. The name of it escapes me, though it was part of an earlier version Photoshop. ImageReady, or some such item. Nevertheless, Out there on the web somewhere, there are likely several of my early GIFs floating around. They aren't very good. Still, the experience was enjoyable.

Shortly after the episode of GIF love, came the earlier versions of DrawPlus. Now you're talkin'! Finally, real animation could be created and saved as movies. I still use DrawPlus from time to time. I can create some nifty SWF movies. The other day, just for fun, I created a small machine of some sort. If you like, you can look at it HERE. It's a wee little thing, complete with sound effects and a couple of buttons. On the webpage, you'll notice my scrawlings alongside the "machine". Yeah, I have way too much time on my hands.

So, the project was a bit time-consuming. I had to re-learn how to start and stop the sound effects, as well as, the animation of the different elements. Still working on that. I'm a tinkerer, to be sure, thus the whole process took far longer than it should have. Hopefully, I'll retain what I've learned and won't need to learn it all over again the next time! Pretty much the whole project grew from my curiosity about layering SWF files within and under an image.

My latest project took much less time than "Machine". However, I'm certain it could be improved. I'm not very good at this animation stuff. Though I guess it's okay since anything I know about it is self-taught and, well, it's not my day job. Haha!

The slightly technical part of it:
I used Anime Studio Pro 6 to create the animation. The mouth, eyes and eyebrows were animated using switch layers. A switch layer is a layer containing different interpretations of say, a mouth. The software can synchronize those images to music or other audio, such as speech, automatically. Basically, what needs to be done is, the mouth needs to be drawn in its various positions; opened, closed, wide open, etc. Those images are placed into a switch layer. The software sorts it out to a degree, matching it to the audio. Although, a bit of tweaking must be done. I really want to do a tutorial on this. I've seen other tutorials about it, which are pretty good, but seem show it a bit more complicated than it really is.

Anyway, the following video is the result of my latest "animation dream". The audio is me, reading a blog post. The music is "How It Begins" by Kevin MacLeod from This short vid is a bit wild with the particle animated background, I realize. I had no idea it would turn out that way, since the particles were created using a script. The final four hour rendering of the movie differed slightly from what I saw whilst editing. Yep, four hours! That's why it is left as is. ;o)

I just found the "reduce particles" option for better rendering of the above video. Yippee! Here's the improved version.

Just for reference, the video below is an earlier attempt at animation using audio sync and switch layers.

There'll be more of this in the future.

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