Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lullaby in the Plaza

Helloooooo everypony!

Lionheart doing this post and I thought I'd show a progression as well as a little proof the project's going forward ;)
Today's shot was the Plaza… and here it is in it's infancy.  The first image ideas I drafted at the time and added to the timeline to make sure the progression of the action was consistent and flowed well with what was before.  At that point we have listened to the song a lot of times.. A-LOT-OF-TIMES.  Had we gotten tired of it we probably would have known at this point that we didn’t have something good either visually or in terms of audio for what we were doing.

Luckily for us, everything was honky dory and the imagery that kept coming to mind spoke for itself, so I went ahead and linearted the sequence in animation, directly in flash, again to make sure it flowed AND to use as a template later for animating full-resolution.  Had I done this just before the actual animation I would have had troubles detecting possible problems.  Animation is about testing and testing and testing again to see every little flaws. And even then, you may not see them all.  So the sooner the first test draft is done, the more time you have to foresee problems ;)

Of course, before any real layout work is done, the animatic has to be completed so once it was, I set forward to use the designs of the town and render a full-size layout line-art and ready-to-paint background image.   This is where knowledge of perspective and balance are needed.  Even with a working draft BG, there are major corrections to do in terms of perspective.  And it has to be: otherwise the character won't be evolving in a solid background and will look wonky.  This meant a lot of back and forth.. communication between me and Spirit was crucial to make sure we both liked what was being done, that the composition was working and that we always had a fresh eye on the production.

So when that's done, it's a good step forward!

Animating is what takes the longest time.  Some hate and rue Flash's tweening process.. and I would agree most of the time.  See, the Tweening is an estimation of how something well as a straight line between the two keyframes. So sometime's it's right but for my purposes it's usually wrong and makes a lot of stuff look robotic.  I got myself a little plugin to make the ease-in and ease-out automatically which helps a lot and upon which I can add extra keyframes to reduce the 'blockiness' of the animation.

Luna being a quadruped… which I happen to have quite an easy time animating.. doesn’t make matters easy thanks to Flash's un-intuitive nature.  Drawing a character in perspective is one thing… constructing it out of symbols with a hierarchy is another.  BUT it pays off in the end as the character is always on model AND can be re-used later more easily than a drawing.

Once I spent the better part of a 24h period animating a few seconds of animation, it's off to after effects where it all comes together.  This is where I get to see the fruits of my labor look more and more part of the scene we intended for it.  Color adjustment, lighting, extra shadows and shades, background anims and special effetcs are all done in there.  Not one shot of the project will escape from this place ;)  All that's left after that is to render the composite images and import in Adobe Premiere where I see if the timing from flash to final was lost or has to be tweaked.  Many times I saw mistakes in Premiere as some effects bring up defects or the previous and following shots highlight a problem in that new shot.

Whew.. so there you have it!  How things are being done, how it is and will be for what's left of the project, one shot at a time :)

I hope you like it as much as I do :)


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The early stage of development. Declined scenes

Hello there once again!

Today is my  turn (Spiritto) for posting production art. So here I bring you  some scenes that we decided not to include in the Animatic, or to modify.

Scene:  Under the bridge.

We did like five or six compositions for this scene counting thumbnails and digital media.  This is one of my attempts to it , but it really didn't worked in a sequence. Because the beat was too fast. The idea was to show that there is more than one pony under the bridge, which are not reacting to Luna's song, but the foal get's "called" by the moonbean  just like the others.

This one is from Lion, it was a different view of Luna's flight through canterlot, but we decided to delete it, for not reading as well as it should.

And last but not least, anouther of Lion's propositions. Showing the Pegasi guards falling asleep outside of the castle, if you check closely,  you will see Starswirl the Bearded snoring next to the telescope. 

So that's it for today!  See you on the next post.

Spiritto, signing out. :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

I'll Show Thee the Way

Hello everyone!  Lionheart typing...

We did quite a nice amount of work today!  Plus I managed to finish an extra shot pertaining to Luna. It's the shot we refer to as 'Shot 8' where she makes a dive towards the camera.  Below is how as saw the sweet midnight-colored alicorn making sure nothing was out of place.

With our already pre-established work setup the background was already painted by the time I got to the shot and thanks to that, once Luna was animated and ready to take off, only the effects and ambiance was left to add over the rendered frames.

What you see above is the composited shot which I rendered to make sure I was not cheated by the editing program's compressed preview.  So much work went into a character that is small on the screen.  but I figured: Never underdo it.  Never give it up!

The list of things to do keep going down and the amount that's put together as final keeps going up.  We're well on our way to finishing and I'm.. I mean WE are quite proud of what it gives so far :)

Stay tuned, we'll update as regularly as we can!

Lion, Signing off.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Children of the Night, The Foals

Here are the character charts for the children that are going to follow Luna through the skies.

Six fillies, six colts, a total of four of every kind (Pegasi, Unicorn and Earth ponies).

Fly-By-Night is a design provided by our good friend Trish Forstner, which ponysona happens to be Gari as well.

Now, let's add some fun to this: Some of them are 100% pulled out of my  designing hat, but most of them are directly inpired in an existing pony or a famous cartoon horse, are you able to tell the refereces?

Even if they don't have much screentime, for the challenge of character design I have each one of them a distict personality, hopefully, if I did my work correctly, you can get a good hint of it just by looking at the charts.

On a side note, just as an anecdote. I considered including Wildfire in COTN as a surprise in the project, but after becoming an official canon character, that would have been an anachrony (meaning that it would be an element that cannot belong to the time period in which the events unfold). So, I developed Maggie instead, and I must say, I am very happy with her. She is a pegasus with a very particular coat, and a slight obsession over shining things.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The production gears

Aaand, here we are, hands at work in our work stations ( it doesn't seem so i n the photos, but we are in the same room, which is fairly small). Lion is in the first picture, animating Lulu and I am in the second one, taking care of shot 15.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Animatic now Available!

Heythere!  Richard here.. (y'know, Lionheartcartoon)

And have we got a treat for you!!
The animatic has just finished uploading to Spirit's youtube channel.

Let us know what you think!

Keep in mind that this is our main reference and that suggestions are likely not to affect the final product.  We're already in production as you could see from the still frames we are currently showing.

It does give you a good idea of what's gonna be done, however, and also reveals the song we chose :)

Some shots in there are upgraded shots from what was originally draft to make sure the layout was still working with a detailed version of the background.  The keyframe animation in there was all done by me for timing purposes as well as reference for final animation.

So there you go!  Enjoy! :)

-Rich signing off

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Designing a character, Moondancer

Here you can have an insing in our design process.

Moondancer is one of the six fillies for our movie, (six fillies, six colts, making a total of twelve foals).

She is a character that comes from the G1 ponies, and we had a lot of fun redesigning her. Again, every character in the shortfilm is carefully tinkered and reviewed several times by the two of us. 

(Please, don't get confused by my design sheet) Moondancer is NOT gonna appear as a ghost in this project)

Developing a character, Filly Gari

We have several foals In "Children of the Night". One of them is Gari (short for Cougari). This one is a little bit different than the rest, because it is a ponysona from our friend Trish Forstner (she was a finalist in the Hasbro Pony design contest, and we sure hope her to win, she definitely deserves it, :)  )

For a change, when I started working on Gari's design I had a starting point, and that was the original art from Trish.

Originally, her ponysona is a variation from her Cougar character, so it had a lot of animal features, which I had to remove in order toblend it with the rest of the cast, for she is a regular filly).

 It was a very nice surprise to find that she drew her character with the modifications that I introduced afterwards.

Here you can see an example of her original art

 parting from the original cougari, I watched some CMC episodes and some of Sabrina Alberghetti's sketches, to come up with a filly version of Gari, modifying the cougar pattern to make it suitable for Flash animation.

I did a full development sheet for the matter,  exploring the personality and seeing how the design worked when in pose, I did this for every one of the characters.

Once we are happy with the design, we start with the Flashbuild, which is kind of a slow and painful process (for the record, FLASH doesn't love Cintiqs, so we have to jump through hoops and modify our Nostromo keyboards just for our deares vectorial software).

Designing the Old Canterlot

When we got to the layout phase, we had to face a very difficult challenge:

Our story takes place in the ancient Canterlot, about 1000 years ago. After checking the "Friendship is Magic" episodes carefully, we concluded that Canterlot is not fully entablished (visually speaking).

So to sum it up, we had: one Castle, some hints of the city and a taste of the old times from the "Family appreciation day" show, courtesy of the memory of Granny Smith, which was sweet, but not much to work with.

It was the time to be imaginative and taking some design decisions was a must. We wanted a vertical look upon the old town , for which a citadel structure was mandatory meaning that the castle would be surrounded with ramparts of some sort.

The reason for us wanting very high buildings (for the time) was to create:

A) Create certigo when we would show Luna flying around the town
B) Contrast with the eventual children (Foals), to make clear that the city is not a friendly place for them.

Also one last tiny detail was to be taken in count; this is OLD Canterlot (like we said, about 1000 years ago), so it had to show a very old city, with a "rich" and a "poor" zone.

Luckily for us, we had just what we needed , and that is Santiago de Compostela (Galicia, Spain), which is very close to Spiritto's hometown.

Santiago was the Main reference for the Rich zone of Canterlot, while Betanzos (also close to Spiritto's home town), was the reference for the poor neighborhoods.

Here you can see some of our initial design sketches. While Richard worked digitally, I decided to take the old fashioned way and draw in my sketchbook. Of course, the photos were just a reference for architecture. We needed to incorporate a lot of FIM style elements in those buildings, and adjusting them to have a stable look, for their residents are ponies, not humans.

In this sketches you can see our initial drafts for the city architecture and logic (my husband even drew a map of the whole environment, to make sure that continuity and style would flow nicely through the animation).

All this work finally lead to the depiction of Ye Olde Canterlot, as you can see in this Layout sketch

And here is the final painted background.

Developing a scene

Here you can see the full development of a scene.

We started thumbnailing the full project in a brainstorm, drawing very loosely and brainstorming ideas that would tell the story in the best possible way.

Once we are pleased with it, we test it in a first animatic pass, watching the timing carefully and how it flows. Seeing things in a video is the first test for seeing if a thumbnail idea works or not. If it does, timing in Flash is added. 

When we have the scene timed in the animatic, we proceed with the layout. Drawing each shot very carefully, focusing in the perspective and  mood that we want to express. In each shot, we try and push everything to the best of our abilities. Richard is the specialist in perpective and technical drawing; while I am more inclined to do characters. So every lineart drawing that you will see, is his fantastic craft.
Note that we had to do a design phase for Canterlot before entering the Layout stage, I will talk more about that in the next entry.

After reviewing the layout, it is time for color and here is when I take over and pick up the work, for I am the color key artsit for the project.

The first thing I do is the flat inks. Though this appears to be easy, there are a lot of things that I have to mind. One of them is to mix warm and cool colors, in order to avoid a monochromatic (only one hue) look. I also have to combine them properly to help the scene express the mood as best as it can, and of course, alter them to be believable at nighttime.

Whenever a show element appears, ,like the castle, I take the original inks and modify them following all those principles too. 

After the colors, is shadow time!. In this project, one of the key ideas was to follow FIM style only partially; fleshing out the backgrounds a lot more , and using lights and hues to create an atmosphere. Most backgrounds have at least two sources of light. 

Once the shades are done, it is time for "Da Magics of FX". Which means integrating everything in atmospheric perspective, reviewing the values (black and white) and adding extras such as stars, streetlights... etc. 

And the final touch!  Adding our dearest Lulu and determining her color key as well. Why this? Well, that is because our production does have lighting on the characters, and her tint and lights must be determined in advance.

Children of the Night, a My Little Pony Fan animation project

Hello everypony!

Welcome to the official blog of "Children of the Night"

This project was developed exclusively by two people; that would be me, Spirit, and my husband, Lion.

This project is not associated with Hasbro or DHX media in any way. This project was made for portfolio purposes.

This blog will keep you updated about the progress and production of, what is to this day, the most complex project that we have ever made.