Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TektonTV Behind the Scenes: Part 1

Time for a little fun. I’ve decided to do a series that is more of a “behind the scenes” sort of thing in which I explain how the vids on TektonTV come to pass. We’ll be looking at some of the techniques I use for art and production in particular. When I first signed on to YouTube late last year, I had some basic knowledge of how the pros did animation, but no clear idea how to implement those ideas at this level of production. Now, with some help from a reader who is a pro, and also with some trial and error, I’ve come up with ways to do things that are faster and more efficient than the “bad old days” of October 2010. How times change (heh heh).

Let’s start with this still, which is from the opening scene of my vid Elisha and the Two Bears.

My idea here was that I wanted a moving tableau at the end of which “old Elisha” would let out a grouchy roar. The tableau itself involved some work that may be good for another post in itself. What I’ll discuss here today is how I got Elisha to do that roar.

This is the first stage of the process:

Um – yeah, you’re asking; where’s his eyes, mouth and beard? That’s part of the trick. In planning stage I knew those were the parts that would move when Elisha let loose with his roar. So, the trick is that all moving parts are drawn separately – in their various stages of movement. So for this, I drew two sets of eyes (one half open, the other fully open), three mouths (one closed, one partly open, one fully open) and one beard – with two extensions, one for each open-mouth position.

You’ll notice there’s no background either. That’s also drawn separately; what I do here is draw objects separately, then surround them with transparency, and layer them over each other. Layer 1 to start: Background. Layer 2: Eyeless, mouthless, beardless Elisha. Layer 3: The eyes, mouth and beard on their various positions.

If you already do graphic arts or are a pro yourself, I’m sure this is all kiddie stuff to you; and in a way it is. This is the sort of animation that was done for shows like the Flintstones too. They frequently didn’t redraw the whole character – all they did was redrew the mouth or eyes or whatever part moved. (You could sometimes see they erred by using a slightly different color tone of paint, so Fred’s mouth would be a lighter shade than the flesh around his mouth.)

Primitive, yes. But it does turn out pretty sophisticated for YouTube. (Except that some people have a computer program do the mouth movements for them. I consider that cheating.)

I’ll pick a few more interesting examples as this series progresses; or, if there’s some scene you want a “how to” on, let me know with a comment.

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