Thursday, January 17, 2013

PEMDAS: The Process, Part I

I've recently posted some pre-production goodness over on my site for my TED-Ed animated short, PEMDAS or How To Defeat a Dragon with Math (YouTube).  I wanted to take some time in this blog to walk thru how I go about making a project for TED-Ed from start to finish.  It may not be the model way to do things but it gets the job done, son!  Overall the whole process from pre-production to final posting takes anywhere between a month and a month and a half.

To get things started, TED sends me an audio file -- sometimes of my choosing, sometimes not -- and from there I begin listening to it over and over annnnd over.  I'll listen to it while I'm on the train, in the shower, grocery shoppin, etc etc so I can start brainstorming ideas & listening for workable rhythms in the narration.  I rarely cut up the audio, to whatever benefit or downsides that may provide.  Mainly I don't do it because I'd rather present the material as how it may play out in someone's head during a lecture.  Plus I don't need it to be any longer than it already is, I have a lot of ground to cover in a short time.  Initially, I start sorting out what could make for funny sight gags and what the characters might look like.

And then I let my brain crap all over my notebook for a few days, like this.

The scribble at the bottom eventually became the last shot in the animation of the desert.
First dragon drawings
Working out how I wanted to represent the musketeers
Fleshing out the dragon, if time permitted I was originally aiming to make him much more complicated.
More musketeer work where I decided on making parentheses 'just arms'
BONUS: Brain Crap isn't just for math design, here's an elephant from my last TED-Ed short.

Ahhh... wasn't that refreshing to get that all out?  I'm always jealous of some of my artist friends who keep amazingly well-kept sketchbooks full of beautiful drawings and proportion studies.  Mine looks like a four-year-old's with randomly fleshed-out drawings peppered in...
Due to the compressed nature of my TED-Ed productions (i.e. just me & producer) I usually start on storyboarding before or during initial character design, so my animatics typically end up looking nothing like the final product.  Certain parts will get chopped up, reworked or removed altogether.  This is true of all my TED-Ed projects but especially this latest one, with a much higher concentration of character interactions and backgrounds than my first two, which had long spans of charts and text animation.

Here are a few select storyboards and screenshots to compare storyboard vs. the final product:

My original design for the imperial senate.  The robot things were ... just that.  Overall, it looked too small and confined for me in the end.
The final design for the senate.  I added a truck with the words spelled out to better flow with the narration and changed the robot things to Star Wars® trash can droids for ease of animation.  Plus -- the guy was making a Star Wars reference and I needed to give it some sort of acknowledgement.  EXTRA NERD BONUS: The Imperial Senate has imperial units of measurement worked into its design. 
This was the animatic's original "Happy Ever After" shot... I had no idea how I was going to represent the Land of Pi design-wise and didn't have it down solid until about 10 days before final delivery.  So instead I had numbers and balloons.  Creativity.
The original "PEMDAS! There's another spot!" ... I wasn't really sure who I wanted to have yelling that line out so I just made a generic person.  The mouth was fun to draw.
This was the way I originally intended to show the musketeers riding their steeds toward the dragon.  After I got around to designing the horses, everything looked too jumbled up and busy so I went with the following design instead... 
The final version of the musketeers riding their steeds.

Finally, we come to the storyboard that eventually became the first image of this blog post.  This went through a few different changes, from the phone yelling to a wanted poster to a Street Fighter-style VS. screen to the musketeers sliding down a fire pole onto their horses.  Sometimes it's better just to keep it simple.

.... to be continued!

TOMORROW:  What Was I Animating 10 Years Ago?
MONDAY:  The Animatic! 
NEXT WEEK:  The Process, Part II  

No comments: