This week 8 – 14 September wasn’t as productive as previous insanely productive weeks. My shoulder’s still playing up and some mild depression paid me a visit on Tuesday which meant downing tools and dealing with it head-on. Quitting coffee reduced the episodes’ severity, length and frequency but it still pops up from time to time and waylays me, especially this time of year.
This week I did some test animation to put the character rigs through their paces. I worked with two single character shots from the storyboards, producing fully animated versions. I wanted to make sure the rigs were robust enough for production. I also wanted some hands-on experience working with each character, partly to suss out the rig itself, partly to suss out how they should move. I’ve already done walks for each character (Pointy walking; Gronky walking) but this is more detailed acting. Gronky is coming together but that animation test of Pointy just doesn’t pop and zip like I want yet.
I’m close to running out of meaningful work to do without a tighter story reel, and the story reel is still too loose because I haven’t written the music yet; the furthest I’ve got is brief musical sketches. Music’s going to be an integral part of the short (we’re talking 1930s-level integral) so before I get any further into animating I’ll be roughing out a soundtrack and producing a tempo map.
I haven’t ever written a cartoon soundtrack before (I’ve never made a cartoon short before either). My research points towards it being one of the hardest kinds of composing gig in the world to do well. This helpful Sound On Sound article offers the following comforting advice:
Animation music may seem like an extremely dangerous avenue to go down, but if you can cope with it there’s no other medium which will ever cause you fear afterwards.
So, unsure of how to proceed, it’s time to down tools and do some research on how the early masters of the form did it – folks like MGM’s Scott Bradley and WB’s Carl Stalling in particular. I haven’t found much online about the nitty gritty of how they did what they did, but apparently I’m using something called the tick method invented by the esteemed Mr Stalling at Disney. I’m currently doing some analysis on an old WB short (upload pending, unwarranted DMCA takedown order may also happen) to figure out how the tempo maps out, how the music and animation interplay, different compositional techniques the musical director uses.. and generally discovering how these guys run absolute rings around pretty much everything I’ve ever written before.
Not put off though. This will be good fun. 🙂
Speaking of sound, I spent Thursday and Friday night coming up with a voice for Pointy. A big part of the work was pinning down his whole attitude and turning that into a performance, and a lesser part of it was fine-tuning the digital processing stack that turns my “angry rodent” voice into the mosquito-like electronic creation you can hear for yourself in the video above. Thursday and Friday night’s sessions got recorded, and I left the mic on to take some verbal notes as I went. If you want to hear all that stuff – complete with different character takes, swearing at uncooperative signal processing plug-ins and some A-grade procrastination when I translate Pointy’s dialogue into different languages and try to perform it – drop me a line on one of my social medias and I’ll get it online somewhere.
This week’s videos:
- Rigging Gronky, part 42 – just an eye rig, nothing fancy
- Animation-friendly tempos – a presentation about musical tempos that lock frame-perfect to animation, relevant to the coming week’s work!
- Testing rigs by doing animation: one for Gronky and one for Pointy with a bonus blooper video where Pointy’s eye isn’t properly parented and unexpectedly floats out of his head
- Rendered versions of the test animations: Pointy’s all peeved but Gronky’s pleased to see you
See you next week. 🙂