Sunday, January 14, 2018

InMotion: Snippets of Nature

8 Seconds of Animation

I spent 4 days this week working on 8 seconds of animation. Why?


InMotion is a series of very short animations documenting movement in a variety of organisms or natural objects for Anim8Nature, a resource to explore science with art. Many are creatures I see regularly but others are new discoveries for me, like the seadragon.

I strongly believe that we all benefit from carefully observering the natural world. Part of my natural world are piliated woodpeckers. I hear them sometimes on my walks in the woods and see them when I'm lucky.

I want to inspire others, especially children to be careful observers of their immediate environment and beyond by creating these shorts and suggesting ways to explore the science facts with art and animation. We do this on our websiteYoutube and in workshops for kids and families.

Kids are spending 50% less time outdoors than they did 20 years ago. There is significant evidence that time in nature and unstructured play are essential for healthy children and a healthy environment. Help us play a part in encouraging careful observation and exploration of natural science with art.

My Process

The process of creating an animation like this starts with lots of research and then drawing the artwork to be animated. Below is the first illustration I did of a piliated woodpecker using Procreate on my iPad. The layers functionality let me do see my gesture drawing as I keep working but lose it when I am finished. I am striving for accuracy but don't want to images that are stiff and unexpressive. Procreate lets me save my work as a Photoshop layered document which is where additional editing takes place.

With this new image I started using the twig brush in Procreate and found it a great asset for replicating the feel of feathers. This is a male because of the red patch coming off of the beak.


This was how the drawing evolved over a few days of carefully observing many videos of piliated woodpeckers at work.

Lessons Learned?

I have been creating animations for over 25 years but each one can be an education in itself. My style and objectives are evolving. I work primarily with AfterEffects, not exactly known for character animation but the software I learned years ago. It is an incredibly robust tool and I really like the challenge of learning new aspects of how it works and fine-tuning how each critter/object moves.

What did I learn in this process? If you think you are doing down the wrong road; stop and regroup. I tried to make fixes that took many hours and what I needed was to just go back to alter the illustrations to meet the needs of the animation. I wanted to try to capture the erratic movement of the head as it pounds away. My original approach wasn't the problem, the problem was how I had built out the body part to integrate with each other. I appreciate the lessons learned. Trying to save time sometimes does exactly the opposite!

Learn more about Anim8Nature on our website.

Here are all of the other InMotion shorts; a chicken, oak leaves falling, maple leaves falling and sea dragons swimming. New animations being added regularly.

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