'Ugly Joe' by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

Getting My Head Around Adobe After Effects

Whilst lamenting the problems I was having recently animating in Flash someone suggested a better program to try would be After Effects. So yesterday I decided to give it a go!

After Effects has been languishing on my PC for quite a while now as, like Adobe Bridge and Soundbooth, it was part of the Adobe Creative Suite. Despite the fact that I had heard great things about the program, I have never been sure quite what to do with After Effects. Part of this dilemma came from being slightly unsure what it did! I had originally been introduced to it as a motion graphics package but quickly discovered that it was equally, if not better, known as a VFX tool. However, since neither VFX or motion graphics were my immediate concern when I got the Suite my attentions strayed to Photoshop and Flash and After Effects was put to one side.

A much more significant part of the problem I had with After Effects was, since I had never had need of it, I had never learnt it and thus hadn’t the foggiest how to use it! But yesterday, with an intimidatingly hefty tome on the subject beside me and a screen full of free video tutorial, I started to find out what dark magic I had to master to master After Effects and today I tried to implement what I had learnt on a completely new project.

Here’s the result…

Ugly Joe himself was created in Photoshop and the sequences were put together and titles added in Premiere Pro, but all the animating was done in After Effects… possibly proving that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing ;P

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Why Woodland Animation

Britains native broadleaf woodland is disappearing fast. Broadleaf trees, such as oak, ash and birch, have been part of the British landscape for hundreds of years and support a diverse and complex eco-system not found elsewhere. If we let our broadleaf woodland disappear through dereliction, mismanagement or convertion to fast growing non-native conifers then we will also be saying goodbye to the sight of bluebell woods, autumn colours and the home of countless lichens, birds and insects.

I created this 2D animation for Why Woodland, to help raise awareness of the threats to the British broadleaf woods. To find out more and show your support visit them on Facebook.com/whywoodland or on Twitter @whywoodland

This was animated using a combo of Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro CS5 and, after loosing the battle with the CS5 version, Flash CS4. The process has sustained my love for Photoshop, made me begin to appreciate Premiere (despite the complete debacle that was rendering) and, after hours fighting with animation in Flash CS4 and CS5, made me desperate to master animating in After Effects!!

As with all projects I loved and hated this project by turns and in equal measure. There are always little moments that punctuate a project and the fustration  and anxiety that I felt when faced with constantly crashing software, unfathomable formatting errors and render troubles was set in stark contrast against the fun of designing the tree-gobbling-money-machine (every home should have one!), the satisfaction of making the squirrel talk and the thrill of discovering the chromakey function in Premiere.

Enjoy!

First steps to a walk cycle

Not Just A Flash In The Pan!

Adobe’s Flash has been a little contriversial of late, having sparked the ructions between Adobe and Apple as to whether web content created with it would be usable on the latters products. When Adobe lost the battle it was kind of assumed that Flash was probably dead in the water but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Now with HTML5 making interactive web content a different ball game Flash’s future is in question again.

I can’t comment on whether the Apple debacle or the introduction of HTML5 will once and for all dispatch Flash as a tool for interactive web creation because I don’t know and, if I’m frank, don’t really care! My interest in Flash has nothing to do with interactive web content and everything to do with animation.

The Right Tool… Not A ‘Right Tool’

So why am I rabitting on about Flash then?

I have recently been commissioned to produce a piece of 2D

animation for a client – all the details of which will be kept on the QT until the project is done and dusted. I am not doing this endeavour alone, instead roping in some old friends to help me cope with the projects large volume of work and inevtiable crazy fast turn around. Together we decided that the best tool to use for this was Adobe Flash. Well, when I say “best” it was the appropriate tool for the job, however “best” would imply a certain familiarity and fore knowledge of the product which isn’t exactly the case. So to make sure I didn’t look a right tool I’ve been cracking on trying to wrap my head around the new features.

Don’t get me wrong, I have done training in Flash – I have a little certificate and everything – except it was a long time ago, before I had any real notion about studying animation or David Cameron had any notion he’d end up as Prime Minister or anyone had used an iPad! I spent two days learning Flash CS4 and then two subisquent days trying to work out how to adapt those lessons for CS3 which is all I had installed!

Now I have CS5…

One of the features of CS5 that I’m not so familiar with is the, cringely names, ‘boning tool’, which creates an armature that can be used for animating any jointed thing… from people, to cats, to cranes (both bird and machine!).

First Steps

So here’s my first attempt at creating something that uses the boning tool in Flash CS5…

I emphasise it really was my very first attempt and I know I have lots more work to do but it was, in more ways then one, my first steps with Flash!!

3D modelled playing cards - Cinema 4D

Model Career Wanted – 2 years of 3D!

Pride cometh before a fall, the saying goes, but throughout my time studying how to create in this medium I’ve always been a little short of pride… but not short of falls.

For those without the God-given gift of “natural talent” in this area, and trust me when I tell you I don’t, the way to creating 3D models is strewn with pitfalls. Let’s start with the software in which the magic happens. These are colossal, computer-crashing behemoths of programming, with complicated interfaces, swelled from years of innovation and expansion, redefine the term un-intuitive.  Take industry standard Autodesk’s Maya, for example, not only presents the user with several rows of icons framing the stage but also incorporates layer upon layer of secret menu options, only accessible through obscure short cuts as obvious to the newbie as mason’s handshake!

Of course, there is a reason that these programs have become SO complicated, it is because they have become so powerful.  In a single application you can build, rig, texture and animate something, you can add particle effects (like dust and smoke), cloth effects (self explanatory, right?), sound and lighting, you can even composite real footage and CG objects! Mind blowing! The product you have on your desktop computer, or even your laptop, is the same thing used to create big name box office animations and VFX spectaculars, from “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Shrek” to “Avatar” and “Transformers” ! None of which is any consolation when you are staring at your early attempt at character creation and wondering why the things arm has suddenly and inexplicably turned inside out! It is like discovering the buried treasure and finding its in a safe with a combination lock!

But it’s worth slogging it out, win your fight with Zbrush, Cinema 4D, Maya, Modo, 3Ds Max and you have the keys to the kingdom! I think for me it is safe to say that the jangle of those keys is still some distance away but this is some of what I’ve managed so far…

Zbrush –

Zbrush

Maya –

Maya

Cinema 4D –

Cinema 4D

… and I’m still only getting started!!