I had a project to create a 5 part kids video drama each episode being around 2 minutes long. I had a lot of real sets to build and props to make. It occured to me that perhaps I could switch to doing animation. Not having done 2D cartoon animation in over 15 years, I decided to diarise it to see if I could really meet a three week deadline.
Also, I also wanted to see if I could use mostly free Linux based tools for as much of the process as possible.
June 11, 2007 Monday
Sketched a rough Dr Potty character on paper. Ugly but the start of the thought process.
June 12, 2007 Tuesday
Sketched and improved the generic character likeness and body structure. Scanned the hand-drawn images. Imported these into Inkscape to trace the images. Saved as SVG curves and loaded into into Blender. Cleaned up the curves and colourised them. Did a test walk animation, rendered at 25fps and post-process in Avidemux down to an xvid 10 drawings per 25 fps for the cartoon look. Looked ok.
June 13, 2007 Wednesday
Sketched library, street market & restaurant backgrounds while on the train. Scanned the hand drawings. Experimented with mouth movements. Recorded all movement timings to work out how many frames to move an arm, leg, etc. Created mouth shape actions.
- One leg movement for walking is 10 frames
- Total walk cycle movement is 20 frames
June 14, 2007 Thursday
Completely re-did the head and mouth again. All parts are now one mesh and have Smile, Sad & Talk actions. A lot easier to manage. Mesh Actions are great! Created actions for the eyes (one unit) which can blink, look left and right.
Created the beginnings of the library background in Inkscape by tracing my hand drawings with bezer curves. Did a sitting test in the armchair in the library. Created actions for hands and feet to allow them to twist around so the character can be posed in more different positions.
Did a lipsync talking test and found I can sequence one second of sound in one minute. Might need to improve this somewhat. But it's faster than animating rough LPO's by hand and getting into a mess. Built the Sam character in Blender based on the Potty character.
June 15, 2007 Friday
Completed the Postman & Seller characters in Blender. Started building props: Urn, onion piece, letter.
June 16, 2007 Saturday
Imported the remaining background notepad sketch scans into Inkscape the start the inking. Created the Market background. Created the Camp background. Developed a good walking lpo for the characters.
June 17, 2007 Sunday
Created the Cave, Restaurant, Pot Shop backgrounds. Finished Library background. Some character position tests. Properly named all objects within the characters in the Blender files to make it easier to animate each element and not get lost. Created the relic detector prop.
June 18, 2007 Monday
Recorded all the voices with the voice actors. Firewired the files to the PC using Kino and stripped all audio to wav files using Avidemux. Rough cut all audio into their 5 day files using Audacity. Imported day one audio into the Blender library scene for a lip test.
June 19, 2007 Tuesday
Lipsynced day 1 audio to mesh actions in Blender. Worked the animation poses and blinking for all three characters. Best blink is 000 002 004. Made a thorough edit of day 1.
June 20, 2007 Wednesday
Finished renaming animation for day 1. Finished lip sync for day 2 (both market & restaurant scenes). Started test render for day 1.
June 21, 2007 Thursday
Finished all animations for day 2 (both scenes). Need to fix some layering problems where Mike needs to be behind the counter. When designing the objects in Inkscape, I forgot that a Blender object can't site behind it. Fixed Potty's letter position problem from day 1.
June 22, 2007 Friday
LipSynced all day 3 scenes. Finished all four day 3 scene animations. Created a zap prop for the seller appearance. Created a table in Blender (not Inkscape) for the seller to stand behind.
June 23, 2007 Saturday
Lipsynced both day 4 scenes. Created a street backdrop using a combination of market and camp backdrop elements in Inkscape. Almost completed the animations for day 4.
June 24, 2007 Sunday
Finished the remainder of the animation for day 4. LipSynced all of day 5.
June 25, 2007 Monday
Finished almost all of the animation for day 5, minus the final walkout. Just can't stomach all the lpo movements tonight. Turned out to be a reasonably complex scene.
June 26, 2007 Tuesday
Finished remaining animation for day 5. Created an individual shot of Sam picking up onion pieces. Started intro animation for each episode.
June 27, 2007 Wednesday
Continued intro anim. Didn't spend as much time tonight. Too tired.
June 28, 2007 Thursday
Created background chairs, tables and wall in Blender for the restaurant scene (as opposed to Inkscape) so that the characters can appear on top of those elements. Started a complete batch render of all episodes through the night for error review tomorrow night.
June 29, 2007 Friday
Finished remaining intro animations & title. Picked up guitar for working on music. Reviewed scenes from day 1 to day 4. Rendered day 5 in the background. Fixed all remaining problems in each day with hands/feet etc. Rendered overnight.
June 30, 2007 Saturday
Fixed problems with day 5 but rendered the wrong format for title. Re-rendered in the background. Converted all to DV format with Mencoder, then into DV AVI format using Kino for Adobe Premiere. Cut up all video and intro in Premiere. Found small errors in day 2. Did the credit titles in Premiere.
July 01, 2007 Sunday
Worked on audio, creating a title track, recording drums, doing a final mix. Imported audio in Audacity. Located extra sound samples and reworked them to fit. Completed the final cuts in premiere and rendered out the final files with intro and credit titles. Did a test export using Avidemux to reduce the animation to 10fps and to mpeg2 dvd format. Background created in Inkscape and edited in The Gimp for the DVD title. Packaged up in DVDstyler and sent to DVD disk and tested.
So there you go. Around 10 minutes of animation in three weeks with a pretty good result. Freaky that it was exactly three weeks as well.
The open source software tools used: Blender 2.44, Inkscape, The Gimp, Audacity, Avidemux, Kino, and DVDStyler all under Fedora 6.
The only commercial package which I own that was used was Adobe Premiere under Windows XP which was for final assembly. I would have like to have gotten familiar with Cinelerra which appears to be very capable, however as time was short and I knew I could whack it quickly together in Premiere, Premiere was the winner.
On average I spent maybe 4 hours working on it so that comes to around 84 hours in total. My wife got flowers for being so great about it all. :)