Monday, January 28, 2013

PEMDAS: The Process, Part 2

Now that my initial brainstorming and animatic is finished, I can finally move into the heavy design stages of production.   For this short in particular, design proved somewhat challenging to me initially.  I know that there was a simplicity that I wanted to achieve but at the same time I wanted to give it my own touch.  Simple can be hard to do without looking bland.  I wanted to incorporate mathematical concepts into the background, but how should I go about doing that?  How 'round' should I make the Land of Pi?  How the hell am I going to design this dragon and get him animated on schedule?  The clock begins counting down...
Some things clicked right away: the Musketeers, the horses, the supporting characters... all transfered from brain to screen, no problem.  Their shapes were easy to communicate and didn't require as much tinkering.

The Musketeers looking mostly enthusiastic.

Early design of Digit Horse (proportions altered further in animation)
Then there was the matter of designing the Digit Dragon.  I needed to make sure that not only was the design appealing; it had to animatable within the time constraints and be able to work within a variety of scenes.

Early design of Puff the Digit Dragon
While elements of the early dragon design made it into the final, he was way too unruly of a beast to animate along with everything else in two weeks' time.  His legs weren't flexible enough to walk and frankly there were just too many numbers to tell what was going on anywhere.  I also realized that the one-tone color scheme wasn't doing me any favors, so I began work on what eventually became the final version.  With a good variety of sizes and shades of numbers coupled with more prominent eyes and an upright posture, I could already sense more personality coming out of this guy...

Close-to-final design of Puff the Digit Dragon
But where in the hell were all of these characters going to live???  I had to figure out how to make this Land of Pi round and full of numbers.  Would they be grounded in backgrounds or float about over colors and textures?  How abstract did I want to get with it?

Various stages in the Land of Pi development.
Above illustrates the progression of how I got from Point A to Point Reasonably Finished over the period of about a week.  The Land of Pi was a lot more difficult for me to conceptualize than I initially imagined, so I kept it simmering on the back-burner while I went ahead on other designs.  When I began production on this project I initially expected everything to be on lined or graph paper to give it that 'doodling in the margins' feel, but as time wore on I realized I needed something more concrete to fit the style of the rest of the design.  Then it was a matter of roundness... what is too round and what is not round enough?  I'm no Antoni Gaudi... my round houses ended up looking more like tiny Hitler faces than something that looked like actual households, so I decided to keep the "kingdom" at a distance and build any extra scenery that might be needed (i.e. The Senate).  I ended up translating the notebook paper into the color scheme and overall feel of the landscape, something I feel I could've pushed more if there were time.

The Land of Pi
Here are a few other misdirections, ghosts of version numbers' past...

The Planet of the Land of Pi -- Nixed idea for opening, complete with golden spiral for The Mathies™
Original Design for "Robot Things" -- Anyone think a pile of old Nintendo Virtual Boys makes for a good joke anymore?  ... Anyone?  Exactly.

Original Tree Design -- back when I was going to go more painterly with the backgrounds... damn you, time allotted! 

NEXT TIME on THE PROCESS, Part 3: Finishing Up, Final Thoughts.

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