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Post from Animation for Syrian children

Animation for Syrian children | Projects | Julia & Christina | Portfolio

  • When Chrissy and I started working together, we realized that neither of us had any drawing skills. Neither of us had ever animated. We were, however, both very determined to make the best video we could.

    The first week of the studio was full of research and brainstorming. On the first day, each person was responsible for drawing out 16 frames, flip-book style. By the end of the day, our studio had created a mini movie. This showed us how simple animation worked.

    We also watched a lot of videos in the first week. The videos were about the revolution in Syria or about animation strategies. The videos of the Syrian children were difficult to watch. It made us all the more determined to make a great piece. The animation technique videos lightened the mood. We learned the rules of Disney animation and how a single frame can change the meaning of all other frames. For example, if a film shows a mother and baby and then cuts to a man smiling, the viewer may think the man is nice. If the second frame stays the same but the first frame shows somebody punching a kid, the viewer may think that the smiling man is a bully. We also watched the To This Day video, which was the inspiration of the style of our piece of art.

    We then created simple animations in After Effects (the program we edited our final video on -- it is like a more complicated iMovie). For example, we created a bouncing ball animation. We made it so that the ball squished when it hit the ground and stretched when it went into the air. This made it look more realistic.

    Next, we started to work on the final project. Harper created a poem about the situation in Syria, and each group was assigned a stanza to animate. This was our stanza:

     

    If you looked up

    just once

    you would see

    Sleeping Beauty

    the little girl, so restful she seemed

    if you don’t as how she died

    if you looked at her hands, her hair, her face

    and refused to look away

    If you lengthened your drifting attention span

    you would see her

    and us

     

    The first thing we did after receiving the stanza was storyboard; we did a lot of tracing to compensate for our lack of drawing skills.  After we presented our storyboard and listened to feedback, we started to create a digital draft of the video.  We used After Effects for this.  By the end of the first week, the first draft was complete. In this version, Sleeping Beauty was represented by photographs of Julia.  

    After the first prototype was complete, we selected the three most important scenes of our video: the rotation and morphing of Sleeping Beauty, the close up shots of her hair, face and hands, and the shot with the other children.  With a little help, we then began to work in 3Ds max (the program we used to create our camera angles and 3D figures). We started by taking a 3D model of a woman from a 3D warehouse and setting up all of our camera angles.  Using a “dummy” for the Sleeping Beauty at first was important because the final files would take hours to render.  We knew we would be able to easily switch in the real Sleeping Beauty.  We struggled at first because we had never used the program before, but we improved each day. We created a camera to rotate around the model’s body for our first shot.  Once this was perfect, we rendered the file as a sequence of PNG files. Then we imported it into After Effects.  We repeated this step for all our camera shots.

    While we were setting up all the cameras and edits, we were also looking for the perfect body for Sleeping Beauty.  We knew we did not have enough time to make one from scratch.  Luckily for us, one of our coaches, Derek, helped us find a model that would work perfectly after a few adjustments.  For example, we needed to add blood to the figure and edit her clothes.  Fortunately, everything in 3Ds max can be exported as a jpeg and edited in Photoshop. Then it can be placed back on the 3D object like a sticker. To create the bloody skin, we exported our model’s body as a jpeg and added blood to it on Photoshop.  We were also able to re-design Sleeping Beauty’s dress on Photoshop.  After finishing the final touches on our Sleeping Beauty, we rendered the files. We did this overnight to avoid wasting the work time during the day. Switching in the new Sleeping Beauty from the dummy was pretty easy. We then edited and organized the video and audio on After Effects.  Finally, we were able to render the final video and combine it with all of the other segments.