Major project development

We’re in the thick of it now, with some major changes and adjustments along the way. As noted in the previous post, I dove into the research and ideation stages of the design process and began to converge my thinking in the first stage of the double diamond design model. I found that I preferred to narrate myself through my animation drafting, noting descriptions of scenes I was visualising while listening to the accompanying music of the sequence and having my visual references available when I wanted some visual stimulus.

Descriptions of potential concepts for Ratatouille

As I worked my way through this process, I had two critical moments that ended up pivoting the project into a completely new direction. The storyboarding process was important in gaining a better understanding of how much time and work I would need for the project, and discussing the project direction with my tutor was the final push I needed to realise that I was invested in a concept that wasn’t necessarily the best way to respond to our project brief specifications.

The likelihood of unfortunately creating a ‘worse version’ of an already existing, beautifully animated closing sequence was a little too high and my current skills are (obviously) no match for Pixar’s animators, timeline and budget.

Initially, I adapted my original design plan for another movie with similar themes, and chose the film Julie & Julia. Set in New York and Paris with plenty of cooking and food-related themes, I reasoned that my original ideas would translate nicely and wouldn’t require a complete overhaul.

Descriptions of potential concepts for Julie & Julia

However, we encountered another critical moment leading me to again adapt the design plan, this time due to some miscalculations in perhaps focusing on the wrong goal. With the general concept being largely illustration based, I felt that I had miscalculated the level of non-motion design work in order to bring this project through to the end.

Draft illustration for opening ‘commercial kitchen’ scene with layers to animate light switching on and hanging pots

It was time for a complete overhaul and reconsidering of the form and function of the project in order to better meet the project brief. I specifically wanted to utilise a TV show or movie with a more dynamic, bold energy which would lend itself to the more stylistic and vibrant format of sequences in The Incredibles and Catch Me If You Can, rather than the more traditional illustrative style of sequences like Ratatouille and Pink Panther.

With my train of thought still somewhat focused on busy vibrant cities, I decided on the television series Sex and the City to create an original animated opening and closing sequence. The themes of the show around dating, love and city life, as well as its bold sassy music lends itself to the graphic and motion design I was aiming for and could complete within the scope of the project. I started with a mind map jotting down images and concepts related to the show and listed out my key visual goals for the overall animation. The music was on repeat as I visualised various sequences to match the rhythm, and I again kept the key motion design concepts in mind to ensure varied and dynamic movements.

With this switch of aesthetic approach, I directed my attention away from illustrating in Photoshop to learning and applying some new skills directly in After Effects and creating vector images in Illustrator. Some techniques I didn’t explore in my first project were the ‘Trim paths’ and ‘Repeater’ functions, and experimenting with this function along with stroke variations sparked my utilisation of ‘drawing out’ images as an animation style. I’m aiming to utilise this for the majority of the closing credits sequence making use of simple, one line illustrations styles, which also allowed for the motion of individual lines to add more detailed and subtle movements.

Vector illustrations of city buildings
Testing with ‘Repeater’ functions
Playing with stroke tapering and trim paths
Initial tests animating footsteps
Testing and iterating by utilising the ‘Copies’ function

As I continue to build my composition, I also want to apply more levels of subtle movements to add (hopefully) a level of sophistication and subtle organic motion to bring these assets to life, rather than simply moving in and out of view. Adding these movements will keep everything in motion at all times, creating a more dynamic and interesting quality.

Conceptualising the new direction for the project meant taking a step back again through the design process and double diamond back to ideation and distilling ideas, but it was a necessary step in order to progress through to the final stages of the composition. Once I had redefined my aims, the rest of the design process fell into place as I moved through ideating, prototyping, selecting and implementing, reiterating the notion that design work often feels like 5% designing, 95% producing that design (Lupton 2011, p. 180). We’re almost there!


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