I had just got a new computer for video editing with
Adobe’s production suite when I was asked to do some drawn animation for
Mount Edgcumbe, a small museum in Cornwall. I needed an excuse to get
familiar with my new computer, so I accepted the commission. Previously,
the only drawn animation I’d done was by cutting separate cardboard
limbs for characters, sticking them together loosely with blue tac, and
moving them between frames. This time I decided to use software - After
Effects. It was a program I had used occasionally and felt could be useful
to get to know better.
Its always a slow business getting a new computer
system to run well and this was no exception, but I did appreciate how
many of the irritating things about my old Matrox system (2001) had been
sorted, without the need for an enormous card and splitter box.
As I got familiar with After Effects, I was amazed
the masks only obscure the layer immediately below – an effect
impossible to do with cardboard and blue tac. The puppet pins were also
amazingly clever, but often too clever – I preferred a more jerky
effect. Generally it all tried to be too smooth for my taste, and I kept
having to make more jerky. However, after many jerky scenes, the bats
looked great gliding around smoothly.
In the middle of the process I got a small
Wacom Cintiq. This is much better than trying to draw with a mouse, but
its still not like using a pen – its just too slippery. It made me draw
so fast the lines lacked the precision I’m used to. I’d never realised
before how the roughness of paper creates the friction that keeps a real
pen under control. The Cintiq was brilliant though for separating scanned
drawings into Photoshop layers, and for adjusting the lines.
Everything took longer than I’d thought, mainly
because the video was to be viewed on three screens, to match the long
thin proportions of the sawmill. This looked great, but I could only see
the effect by rendering the three screens separately and transferring each
one to its flash card player, a tedious business.
On cold dark winter days it was very snug sitting at
the computer, but whenever the weather improved, I found it very hard to
stay indoors. I kept thinking of things I wanted to do in the shed. Near
the end, I asked Ben to do the sounds. This was great. I’d run out of
steam and his input added enormously to the finished effect.
I’m pleased with the finished effect, but realised
I don’t have the patience sitting at a computer to ever be a natural