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Deep thoughts of a warrior

Deep thoughts of a warrior

Lukas Schrader
by Greum on 16 Apr 2022

This video shows my 3rd demo project as part of my final class at the PixlVisn Media Arts Academy. I wanted to create an animation focusing on lip syncing. However the character was intended to give a realistic impression of a cat as well as of a warrior.

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Deep thoughts of a warrior

Revelation in the desert …

The objective of the third Demo Project was to lip synch a fully rigged character, and to include the expression of emotions and cinematic acting. The lecture given by Richard Williams’ “The Animator’s Survival Kit” was used to provide guidance and support; this gave tips and ideas about animating expression as well lip synching a character’s mouth to an already existing audio recording. This new field of experience was really amazing, it was a real pleasure from the beginning to the end. Sometimes I felt a real interaction with the character

If you can dream it, you can do it. – Walt Disney

In this project I collected only a few references; Richard Williams’ “The Animator’s Survival Kit” gave me a huge number of ideas, sources of inspiration and hints. Additionally I watched several Youtube videos, which more or less pointed out the same. One such source, where I had a deeper look at Puss in Boots (Shrek)”. This character really portrays strong emotions, mirroring Antonio Banderas’ Spanish soul, who provided the lip synchronisation. The sentence, spoken by my character stems from M’aiq the Liar, a character from Elder Scrolls IV.

Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

Animation: After choosing the lines from M’aiq the Liar, getting the lip synchronisation right was my highest priority. During the animation I set three cameras around the head, so that I can see the face from the front as well as from the sides. It gives the viewer the opportunity to see any uncommon behavior from all parts of the face. I have learnt never to animate the teeth. Move the jaw first and the lips afterwards. It is important to use the eyebrows and other facial controllers to create emotions.

Cats have 32 muscles connected to each ear

The ears and eyes of a cat are always in motion. If this is not the case, the cat is most likely in really deep thought. Afterwards I animated the arms and legs to emphasize what has been said. I also moved the torso from side to side to achieve a more dynamic look. At the end the animation goes to the little details; for instance the ears are moving, including the ear ring, the cats’ eyes are blinking and the clothes were animated to follow any movement etc. 

Animation Breakdown:

In the “playblast” I put a focus on the lip synchronisation to show the exact movements according to the lines being spoken. In addition, I wanted to demonstrate the great variety of animations on the character. It was my intention to give the Warrior cat an authentic and life-like animation, which might not be visible in all details during the video. To create the atmosphere of a monk sitting in the desert to have a moment of peace of mind.

In the middle of nowhere...

Scenery/Environment: In this project there is only one set of scenery, which is a desert scenario. I created a rock in the desert with an asset from Pixel Megascans. I put it under a dome with a scene from South African desert. It immediately created an atmosphere of eternity and revelation. To create a very bright desert lighting, I put an intensive light from the dome in combination with an directional light. This puts the rock as well as the character into a an atmosphere of clarity. The character is alone with his deep thoughts. There is no distraction, there is nowhere to run. I used one slightly moving camera filming from the front: A typical western shot.

All Cats are Grey at Night

Light: The dome, which I chose had an authentic desert landscape for the background. The dome created the atmosphere of an overheated and overexposed rock located in the middle of nowhere. I used an additional directional light to create clear and sharp shapes from the character on the jagged ground. It was also used to set the correct angle for the light falling on the character.

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing – Walt Disney

I faced the challenge of Animating an accurate lip synchronization with proper expression of character’s emotions and a handsome body language. My approach was to handle one problem at a time. The lip synching was key. After I had achieved a proper timing and pronunciation with the characters mouth, the face expressions came almost automatically. The body language of the torso, legs and arms was another challenge. I started with a thinker’s pose at the beginning, thereafter I used my PC’s camera as a mirror, where I acted out the key poses myself before transferring them to the character.

I learned a lot about character animation.

Accurate timing was the base for all further activities. Each word had to be spoken precisely by the character. Developing the animation of the expression was a real pleasure. I learned this technique from Milton Erwin „Milt“ Kahl, an US animator from the early days of Walt Disney. “Don’t change the expression during a broad move”. The combination of expressions and movement worked best in the way that there is an announcement of a movement to the audience. As an example, the character first moved an ear, afterwards moved his eyes and at the end turned his head.


Desert rock by: Quixel Megascans

Kaju Cat by: Game Animation Academy

hdri by: Greg Zaal on Polyheaven

In case of further questions please visit me on LinkedIn

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