Finally we arrive at animation!
As soon as our models and rigs where ready to test, our animators, lead by the indefatigable Michel Rainbaud, started testing them.
We test the models for a number of different reasons: to find what faults there may be and how to fix them; to find the limitations of the model; to find the style of animation we want for the project; to find the essence of the character's personality.
Below Michel with the team working on the Yellowbird animation
This last one is of most importance as each character has to have an individual and different personality, mannerism, timing.
It is from the actor's voice recordings, the director's brief, the reference collated that we build the springboard from which each character is borne... But it's from the animator's creativity and skill that it truly comes alive.
Yet each animator needs to follow certain rules and briefs (both technical and creative) or we risk having characters move in similar ways, or gesticulate in similar ways, feel and look the same.
This is why we try and avoid generic gestures and try and impose an individual mannerism to each character.
At times characters in films are given to individual teams of animators, each team animating only one character throughout the movie in order to keep it consistant throughout. Yet this is time consuming and costly, so generally every animator will have chance to animate most characters and situations, whether they'd be an action scene, an emotional one, or even a crowd shot or generic character scene.
This variety of situation relays heavily on the animator's ability to be versatile and to understand swiftly each character, and to follow the briefs given well, while adding their own verve.
I had one main rule for Yellowbird: if it makes me laugh it's going in!
Within the parameters of the style I set, I wanted each animator to have fun, to explore the cartoony possibilities when possible, yet remain within the anti-anthropomorphic rules we had set early on.
Animals should move like animals, we should strive for realism but mix this with good old fashioned cartoon animation.
For this we needed models and rigs that allowed us to push the extremes when needed, but also responded well to life like bird movements.
A great help came from the ornithologist Guillem Lesaffre, who advised us on bird behaviour as well as the skeletal and anatomical construction in order to design and build models and rigs that reflected well how birds move in real life.
A lot of what Guillen taught us influenced the models and their movement, which mixed with my briefs, and the odd video illustrating how I'd want a character to move, act, how their mannerisms should be, gave the animators all they needed as a springboard to produce some of the finest animation TeamTo has created to date.
Below you'll see some of the early animation tests, testing rig and movement and also aimed at giving some personality to the characters at the start of the animation process.
More animation posts to come soon!