02 June 2013

Lukas Animation Puppet Development

To practice with After Effects, I've started working on an animation featuring Lukas and Bianca.  Since the initial test, I have been experimenting with designing a functional 2D puppet for Lukas in After Effects.  I've attempted using the puppet warp tool, however the arm became too noodly.  Lukas' arms are boney, and should have a distinct edge in the elbow that the puppet warp tool can't quite successfully create.

I have tried cutting the limb into pieces and animating them the same way I would in Flash, as individual parts.  It works alright, but very recently McArthur Freeman, an animation professor at USF, brought to my attention a very interesting, free script for After Effects called DUIK.  For any of you 3D rigging enthusiasts, the extension allows us to create IK (Inverse Kinematic) controls for the arms and legs.  The latest version requires it to be used in conjunction with puppet warp - or at least it appears to from my initial tests - but the results are promising.

At this current stage, I am running tests on a rough draft of Lukas' arm and leg to see if I can get the motion I want out of it without breaking his model.  I will post an brief animation rigging test on the blog at a later date.


In the meantime, there's an issue with his eyes that I've always sort of known about but now have to address if I want to try and animate with him.

In his older version, Lukas has distinct eye holes in his mask, and his eyes emote inside of the eye holes.  Functionally, this is fine and I can set up the puppet to work.  However, I find that it's harder to emote with him especially since his mouth and 'eyebrows' are essentially covered. 

When I roughed out the storyboards for his animation, I found that his expressions read well when the 'eye holes' of his mask simply conformed to the shape of his eyes, like with Deadpool or Batman in the cartoons.  The caveat to this is that it requires more suspension of disbelief, especially since Lukas wears a hard mask (like Cubone or Slade).

I also wasn't sure if, when he closes his eyes, whether you'd see the green outline around his eyes at that point.  It looked strange to do it when the image was placed in conjunction with the others up here, so I tried just having them blink without a visible eye hole.

What I wanted to ask is if you'd still be able to take him seriously with this simplification in his mask design?  Does it hurt him as a character, or does it make it easier to read his expressions?  He is a character who can be both quirky and creepy.  When he's at his creepiest/most serious, would this design still work?  Does the mask still look like a mask?

I may try another set of drawings coming up to test Lukas with a more rigid eye hole shape, and emoting his eyes underneath to see how that looks.  I want to have that element of his head design finished by the time I get to his head in the rig.  The Lukas puppet won't be his 'final' by any means, but I'd like to optionally use it beyond this one animation.


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