I haven’t posted in awhile because I’ve been going a little bonkers trying to get the film version of the book done.  I’ve mostly been animating … and there’s a whole lot to animate in this film, with the talking characters and all.

For those of you who’ve never done it, animating is all about setting keyframes.  Chareva had to draw all the characters in pieces-parts: head, limbs, eyes (open and closed), various hand shapes, seven mouth shapes for dialog, etc.  To animate them, I have to link all the pieces-parts in Adobe After Effects, set rotation points, and create parent-child relationships.  Then I have to make things move with keyframes.  Each keyframe tells one of the pieces-parts to do something … change position, rotate, get bigger or smaller, appear or disappear, and so forth.  Here’s a shot of the keyframes for one character in one short scene.

I’m getting the hang of it (this is my first attempt at animating characters), but WOW, it’s a lot of work just to finish, say, a 20-second scene.  Matching the mouth shapes to the dialog would have been a ginormous task all by itself, but fortunately I found an add-in piece of software for After Effects called lipsyncr.  Feed in a sound file of the dialog and the text, and lipsyncr sets the keyframes for the mouth shapes.  It’s not 100% accurate every time, but I usually just have to fix a keyframe here and there.  I wouldn’t have stood a chance of getting this done by late May without it.

As it is, I’ll merely have to work like a madman for the next several weeks.  Commuting to Nashville five days per week for a full-time programming gig isn’t exactly helping, but that’s the situation.  If all goes well, perhaps the book and film will relieve me of that necessity in the near future.

The book is officially released on Tuesday.  I’m thinking to recognize the launch, I may post the introduction online, and perhaps the first chapter or two in later posts.  The blog won’t accommodate Chareva’s lovely two-page spreads, but you’ll still get the idea.

Back to work.

17 Responses to “Checking In …”
  1. Brian Klein says:

    I’ve done a little animating in my time… I’m an AE artist/video editor that generally focuses on motion design. A few things that might help you out: Have you heard of DUIK? It helps set up IK in a snap!! Plus it has a lot of other little fun tools. And you might also check out rubber hose. I’m not sure if you comments section allows links so I didn’t include them, but a simple search should get you there. LMK if you need them.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I came across DUIK some months ago. Awesome set of tools, and yes, I’ve been using it. Haven’t seen rubber hose, but I’ll look it up, thanks.

  2. Jeanne says:

    Amazon informed that my copy will be delivered in Thursday. Can’t wait!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      After all those months, it’s hard to believe the book is finally a done deal. Let me know what you think.

  3. Walter Bushell says:

    Just think of how it was in old days where *every* frame was drawn separately.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I’m certainly not complaining. Yeah, it’s a lot of work, but not too long ago, animating a film myself wouldn’t have been an option.

  4. Walter Bushell says:

    Ever give an estimate for a computer programming job in an unfamiliar language or application area. You seem to have done the equivalent here.

    OTOH, “Work expands to fill time available for its completion.”

  5. Amberly Chirolla says:

    Amazon just notified me that they have shipped my copy. I am so excited!

  6. Dianne says:

    Wooohooo! Amazon just sent me an email saying that my copy of the Fat Head Kids book has shipped and will arrive Tuesday the 18th. Sometimes their stuff comes sooner than they say, though. Guess I’ll be camping out in front of my box at the post office for a while.

  7. Linda says:

    I’m excited! Just received an email from Amazon saying my copy of the book will be delivered on Thursday, the 13th! I’ll let you know what I think.

  8. Bruce says:

    Why not do the ‘Clutch Cargo’ technique?

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Nothing moves but the mouth. Yeah, that would save some time, but I don’t today’s kids would like it much.

  9. Firebird7478 says:

    I was an editor in sports broadcasting. Pre-digital we were given one hour per one minute of edited content. I never had to do animations but things like dissolves and wipes, white bursts, etc. were time consuming. Now it is just drop and drag. You might need to adjust keys for custom special effects but back then we had functions like “time tracking” in which the editing system had to match video or audio frames in order to perform the effect. Of course frames would slip and we’d have to do them again.

    The movie and tv viewer have no idea how much time and effort it really takes to produce a news segment, music video, film, documentary, animated cartoon, etc.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I did some video editing in college back when it was all tape-driven. Very slow process indeed. I don’t think I’d be doing this if not for the ease and speed of digital systems.

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