Keyframe Animation with After Effects
At the university of Applied Arts in Vienna, I attend a lot of courses on subjects which are not animation related at the first glance. I do font design and typography here as well as book binding next to flash animation or media theory. To me, Graphic Design is an important part of Screen Design as well. I often don’t want to use already existing things and that’s why I’m learning how to do them myself – not always on a pro level, but enough to understand what’d be necessary.
Due to the font design class we had to develop a display font while we were also learning about the history of using fonts and typography, how to digitalize it and finally, how to do some kind of final presentation. I made a small book (because now I can… hehe…) containing a disc with the True Type Font file generated with Font Lab software and a tiny piece of animation to show how it might me used.
Referring to all the other things I’m currently interested in, I call the font Styx, like one of the rivers of the ancient greek underworld. And while doing so, I remembered my character’s concept drawings and came back to work for the Orpheus project. A part of the story will be taking place in the underworld, and I had the idea to make this part a silhouette film like i.e. Lotte Reiniger did, or Anthony Lucas in The Mysterious Geographic Explorations Of Jasper Morello which is a beautiful steampunk silhouette film made in 2005. They combined traditional puppet animation with computer generated backgrounds and compositing.
Doing the font presentation was also helpful to me to understand that I certainly wouldn’t do the silhouette animation digitally but definitively animate the puppets by hand. I did some silhouette animation on a lighttable under a rostrum camera in the studio here before which are supposed to be posted next week. The advantage of software is, it’s clean and easy as long as you know what to do. There are a lot of disadvantages to, like a hurting neck after several hours in front of a screen, cold feet, slow machines rendering even tiny pieces for ages, and software which is not doing what you want because you both truly speek a different language…
And CG keyframe animation simply isn’t as great fun as animating with my hands. I love working with my hands which is one of my reasons for doing the book binding course. And I can control the animation so much more if I don’t have to think of these abstract things like a timeline and keyframes… It’s much more natural to me to simply move things further in time. With the software you can go back and forward and you doesn’t have to care about your next steps since all is removeable… It always seems to be weird to me, although I sometimes really like to spend several hours in front of my computer until my neck is hurting.
So here is the final font animation and with this, my CG silhouette test:
For all of you who don’t speak German, there are to pieces of text in the clip, which could be translated like this, “River Styx. It cycles Hades nine times.” The text is very small and due to the extreme bastard type I designed, hardly readable in this size. I copressed the original PAL standard format video to the web size and .flv format, so you may excuse this.
I did the keyframe animation in After Effects. The problem is that the software would interpolate the keys in a linear way. But natural movement, however, would never be just linear, it always has an ease-in and ease-out, speaking in software terms. For example, an arm moving starts slow, getting faster to its highest speed and then slowing down until it stops again which is determined by how our muscles working. Spectators often don’t really know but have a unconscious awareness that a linear animation would always seem to be unnatural or to us. So I changed the software settings to interpolate the keys with bezier curves which is a more natural way the things would move. The music was composed by Felipe Vila, a friend of mine who is going to be responsable for the Orpheus soundtrack.
The Styx clip in higher resolution is now available on my vimeo website.