Creature Animationreel by Jenny Nguyen
Hello everyone, Welcome to my entry to the Rookie Awards 2021! I recently graduated from PIXL VISN media arts academy in Cologne, Germany and specialized in animation. With this entry, I want to share a detailed breakdown of my workflow. How it starts with an idea and ends with complete animation.
Idea and Storyboard
My plan was to animate something dynamic and intense so I choose to animate a monster that chases a woman. In the beginning I did not have any specific reference in my mind.But during my One-on-One talk with my animation teacher he showed me some good movie references like "the Faculty" and "The Maze Runner". Especially "The Maze Runner" became a huge inspiration for my project. But I will come back to the point later.
My first step was to draw a storyboard. It looks messy but I would say it is kinda....raw? A storyboard is the first step to visualize the idea in your head onto paper.
Drawing a storyboard helped me to get a better picture of the whole animation- an overview of the action. It shows the most important elements of each scene. What is going to happen in each shot? How the camera should be placed. The framing. Some notes.
As you can see the storyboard and the final outcome are quite close.
I spent a lot of time searching for good references and analyzing them.
References are essential to achieve a believable animation. To learn and understand how the human body moves and reacts. Such as with animals.
The first challenge for me was to make her look scared while she is running away.So I looked up movie scenes where characters run away. For me, they needed not be just running away because they stole something and do not want to get arrested. I searched for scenes where they were running for their lives. Scenes where you know that if they do not run fast enough they would get killed. I want to see the fear in their faces.
The creature I chose was the Lurker from Starcraft. It is an amazing rig by Truong CGArtist. I looked up the videos of the game animation itself, but it was a bit hard because it is tiny. Luckily there were other animations by great animators which used the Lurker rig. I also want to get some inspirations from real animals. If you look at the Lurker you can see some similarities with crabs and spiders. Since crab movements are not suitable for this animation, because they are moving sideways and can not jump, studying the behaviour of spiders was the best choice. But I am really scared of spiders and cannot watch videos of them. So I decided to study the movements of scorpions and ants which are a bit similar to spiders despite the fact that spiders can jump. For the jumping/running part, I added references from brown bears since they are large and heavy animals.
Blockout to Final Animation
I started with the rough blockout to get my cameras and the timing right. After my blockout is getting approved by my teacher I worked on the basic movements and then the details.
I realized that everyone runs slightly different. It also depends on the situation. Who is running away? Why is somebody is running away? What is the current mood? Is it a professional runner who optimized their shape to win a race or is it just an ordinary person who is panicking and scared? The movements of the scared person are uncontrolled. Especially the shoulder movements are way stronger. After paying attention to those things and adding facial expression, the woman I animated indeed looks scared.
The biggest challenge of this project was the monster itself. I could not decide whether the monster should run or jump. It took a lot of time and effort to try out both running and jumping. Neither of them satisfied me. The running animation did not feel intimidating enough and the jumping version felt too light. I tried to change the timing, added anticipation, overlap and more rotation. It did not work and took a long time to animate all the legs. So I asked my animation teacher for help and he told me that zigzag movements might work. I ended up deleting half of my monster animation, did the zigzag and added a lot of sliding. And it worked!
I really like the outcome of this project. It is my very first demo reel project and definitely a lot of work and struggle. But I have learned a lot about working with references and adapting to them.
Gorigori is a extraordinary muscular and powerful gorilla with horns and reptile skin. I want him to appear as strong and intimidating as possible. The animation should work as an entry or an introduction. I want the viewer to know in the very first seconds that Gorigori is someone you should not mess with.
So I decided to make him jump from a high rock, land with a huge BOOM, continues with a nice chest beating and finishes off with a powerful roar.
The first thing I did to prepare for this animation was going to the zoo. I thought since GoriGoris body is based on a gorilla and there are some gorillas in the zoo nearby I could drop by and get a personal impression of their behaviour and movements.
In addition to that I collected references from ape movies with amazing gorilla animations such as King Kong, Kong: Skull Island, Planet of the Apes etc. and also used gorilla animations as a reference from great animators like Laurent Benhamo and Navdeep Singh.
Blockout to Final Animation
I started with a very rough animation to get a feeling for the timing and to set the main poses right. For the jumping part, I wanted to exaggerate the time he is in the air to finish it off with a quick and impactful landing. He should shake the ground with his landing. I saw some animations where the gorilla lands on his fist but I decided not to do that but to make him smash the ground beneath him instead.
This was my first project where the model and the rig were done by fellow students. I had some difficulties to deal with the rig and it was quite hard to avoid intersection because of the muscular arms. But I am so glad and thankful to be part of this project since I got the experience working together with other people within the pipeline.
Definition: a T-Rex with a lot of SWAG
The Term 'flexen' is some teenager slang in Germany which means someone who keeps showing off his wealth, telling everyone how much they earn, wearing expensive cloths and even telling everyone which brands they are.
For this animation, I did not draw a specific storyboard. Since this is a group project where we discussed together how the overall animation should look like and what kind of personality T-Flex should have. We decided him to be a young Rex who is a show-off but actually more likely cute than cool. T-Flex should roar towards the camera in order to appear powerful, he wants everyone to think he is the boss, but then falls down because the blowback of his roar is way too strong. His facades fall and he reacts surprised because he did not expect his roar to be that strong.
The first thing I did was to study dinosaur animations. I animated a walk cycle to get familiar with the body mechanics of a Rex. Since the animation is supposed to be cartoony and cute I chose to use Simba and Bambi as a reference when they were young. In addition to that, I watched a lot of puppy videos. For the show-off attitude, I watched some parodies of How to Gangster videos to get into the mood.
The main reference for this animation is a video where I took a video of myself feeling the T-Flex vibe and following the action which we discussed as a group. Since I obviously do not have the anatomy of a T-Rex I bent my arms kinda like T-Rexes. The other parts like the tail I adjusted in the animation.
I think it is kinda hard to see the blockout poses since I mostly do not start with pose to pose animation. My focus, in the beginning, is always to get the rough poses of the body and the timing right. After those feel right I continued to fine-tune the positions. Added more details of his hands and toes but also his facial expression. Did the overlaps of his tail and overall body and finally added some offset his hands, fingers such as feet and toes.
Out of all my Reel projects, this one is my favourite! I loved creating my own reference and also really enjoyed preparing for this role.