Project Joy, or Project Joey, is a short animation of a little, two-dimensional girl walking in on a plain, white screen introducing herself. My inspiration for this character came from the desire to have a little version of myself in my own videos of me and my friends. I never appear in my own videos because I am always filming, but I thought having a little character to react to what is going on in the video would be a fun addition. For the class, though, I thought that animating a character into an existing video would be difficult, so I decided on an introduction short for her instead.
Professor Sakr was kind enough to scan my drawing and create multiple versions of my character. She played around with colors and textures for Joy/Joey, but I decided to use the one truest to the original hand-drawn piece. I had to use Photoshop to cut out the different parts of her body: head, body, left arm, right arm, left leg, right leg. Then, I imported them into After Effects and started to animate her.
This animation is far from perfect, but I enjoy the quirks in it that make it seem almost like silhouette animation. Each body part is like a paper cut-out; the character’s movement does not look particularly realistic, but the overall motion graphic has a certain rigid, but fun, style and feel. There is joy and excitement that comes from giving life to something inanimate – seeing something static begin to move – that joy was felt over and over in animating Joy/Joey. The first walk cycle I animated filled me with a surge of energy. I felt proud of myself and proud of my creation for moving. It was like I had accomplished a huge feat and had won something incredible. From there, my brain began to think differently as I pieced together how I wanted the rest of the motion graphic to look.
The final product does not follow the vision I had in my head from my storyboard. In creating my storyboard, I was not thinking ahead to the actual animation. My nonexistent experience with Photoshop and After Effects left me with no expectations. I almost thought that I would be digitally hand-drawing the animation (but this is not an animation class). It was not until I had imported the pieces into After Effects that I began to realize what I would need to do to make Joy/Joey move.
My first stump was in realizing that she was not three-dimensional. This may seem extremely matter-of-fact, but in the moment I did not realize that she was did not have x, y, z planes – I was unable to show different sides of her. With only her front side, I realized my final product would be a little, if not a lot different than my storyboard. I had wanted her to do a turn while walking on screen. Because she could only be animated on the x, y planes, I was unable to animate this action. This two-dimensional block, however, was a huge part of the fun that came with learning how to animate Joy/Joey and how to use After Effects.
After this first stump, I realized that I would have to make changes to my plan. It was similar to rethinking choreography for a dance piece. Instead of having Joy/Joey turn on screen, she would just have to walk more to reach her destination. This is where my second stump came into play.
I underestimated the amount of steps it would take Joy/Joey to get to the center of the screen. Her entrance was supposed to be a peak from the side of the screen and then she would walk to the center and wave, “Hello.” Instead, I had made her peak into a floating, magical, confused entrance. Although this was not my intent, I enjoyed this whimsical look and continued with it. She hides away and I begin to try and figure out how to animate a single walk cycle. Where do I begin? Do I animate the legs first? Or the body? What does the entrance of a character even look like? Figuring out what to play around with first was incredibly intimidating. I remember staring at my computer screen for a long time, unsure of where to begin. After fidgeting with the pieces for a good twenty minutes, I figured that starting with the body would be the best thing. I was able to create a system for myself: body, then head, then legs, then arms. Figuring out how to animate my first walk cycle was the hardest. I played around with the position and rotation of the body and head numerous times. When I would think the movement looked natural, I would add key frames for the legs and then realized that the body cannot move that far that quickly. It took me a good forty minutes to animate my first walk cycle. From there, I was able to animate every walk cycle after in a shorter amount of time. Every walk cycle after the first became more precise and even looked slightly more natural than the one before. This is a small detail that others may not notice, but watching my own piece over and over, even if it looks incredibly choppy and stick-figure-like, the walk cycle appears smoother as the short progresses.
As I had mentioned earlier, the choreography of Joy/Joey changed also because of the text I had put in from the previous sound assignment. Her body movements were dictated by the text I had already set up. I added a hop to the center of the screen to make the sequence a bit cuter (and because she had walked so much already). Her head tilt was because of the question mark, and her body and head rising was because of the exclamation point. The dancing “Joey” text inspired me to move her arms as if she was dancing along to the excitement of knowing her own name.
My final point of critique, but also of positivity, is the fact that Joy/Joey looks like a silhouette animation. The paper cut-out look was another aspect I had not anticipated, but I have come to enjoy it. Her movements look choppy and broken, but it has become part of Joy/Joey as a character. Also, due to my spacing of the key frames, Joy/Joey moves a bit quickly. I am still proud of this short motion graphic because it is my first time animating something truly my own from beginning to end. This project pushed me to be open to change and work around the parts that may not have gone according to plan. It was okay if things were different and it always lead to another learning experience. Overall, it was exciting to see how this project has come together over the course of this quarter. Every weekly assignment brought me a step closer to this project even though I did not have an extremely clear sense of it in the beginning. It was also exciting to see how everyone else’s projects came together and how, because everyone is unique, everyone’s project is unique to them as well. Some are more technically sophisticated than others and everyone has a different eye, but all is art and all tell a story.
I hope to take this character and maybe build off of it, make her better, and maybe continue to animate her doing cute, silly things. This was definitely a beginning for me and this class has developed an interest and greater appreciation for motion graphics and animation in me. I want to play around with more motion graphics and animation in the future and, hopefully, become better at it over time.
Sound & Text
This project has an interchangeable title – either “Joey” or “Joy.” Naming my character was not something I had planned to do in the beginning. I was going to leave the character without a name and that would have been part of the animated sequence. However, the idea of finding joy has been something personal to me since the start of the new year. Mixing Joey, a nickname, and the idea of joy, could be applied to this project.
The nickname, “Joey” comes from a close cousin. Growing up, family members or close family friends would call me “Jo Jo,” hence, “Joey.” Mixing that name with the word “joy” was where my inspiration for the design of the name came from. I tried to find a way to make it look interesting and well blended, but it comes off a little quirky and possibly off. If that is the case, I do not mind changing it.
Joey/Joy began as a simple idea for for this class. I spent my winter break editing videos of hangouts I had had with friends. One such hangout was a 3-day cabin trip in Northern California. I edited footage I had from the trip into two vlogs (the third is still waiting to be put together). From previous videos I have edited for friends or family, I notice myself adding text to the footage during funny moments. Similar to captions on Snapchat that are mobile and can be placed anywhere on the video, I took that format and would have words pop up in my videos like, “lol” or, “Meeyrs Shenanigans.” I thought creating a mini character that would pop up in my videos doing silly things, or reacting to funny footage, would be fun. Because I am always behind the camera, and am camera shy, I thought it would be nice to have a “mini me” appear for me, even in animated form.
From there, the sequence of Joey walking on screen was born. I thought about implementing her into an existing video, but having this introduction seemed more appropriate and plausible for this class. She peaks out from the side and breaks the fourth wall. She’s confused of what is going on and decides to hide back away. Her thoughts appear as text or symbols above her head. She then decides to walk out, face her audience, and say, “Hello.” The question mark comes from before I gave her a name. The exclamation point represents my exclamation point in thinking of a name for her. She introduces herself as Joey/Joy and that concludes the sequence.
Taking comments from last week’s presentation into consideration, Professor Sakr had told me to mix Joey and our “Rock it Out” assignment together. I thought it was a good idea, but was not sure how to bring them together. Simply enough, I have decided to use the song, “Grape Soda” by Snail’s House as background music for this sequence. Joey’s movements will follow the beats of the song similar to the cubes and grape soda pin in that assignment.
Week 5 AE
Storyboard – 1.26.17
Mood Board – 1.19.17