Progress Journal 18T1.7

Week 7

With the culmination of the Rapid Production Project, the bulk of work for this week was split between revitalising the specialisation work which had been dormant during the last legs of production of the past fortnight, and starting some asset tests for the Colour the City project I am collaborating on.

Rapid Production Project

As my rendering had been finished during the previous week, and with some preliminary feedback that reflected my expectations for the outcome of this project, I did not make any changes to my final submission. This week I briefly touched on the post mortem for Rapid Production, and quickly wrapped it up with the addition of some paragraphs and conclusion.


My specialisation work was mainly comprised of tests following some theory research I had done in the past and some new resources – to do with composition, and guiding lines, used to draw the viewer’s eye to the focal point/s in the scene.


For the following test, I attempted to using “guiding” lines (namely the curve of the landscape) to draw the viewer’s eye to the structure obscured in the distance. The colour was added as an afterthought, and I need to make better use of colour / contrasting values. May potentially look at this scene again in the future, but instead use a grayscale palette to cement the contrast before I apply a colour overlay.

Another concern was that the tree to the far left may obfuscate the directional lines on the way to the focal point. May work better if I had added an additional focal point – perhaps a figure – to the tree area, to explain the abrupt “cutting” of the guiding lines. For now it looks a bit “muddied” and serves as a way to draw the viewer’s eye off the page.

Another test, a bit baseless, more akin to a revision of the previous test. Looked primarily at the relation between a good composition and its use of focal points. Although not necessarily visible at first, I attempted the rule of thirds by placing both focal points (the structure and figure) on one of the lines.


Guiding lines visible in the clouds, which “wrap” around the structure, drawing the eye. I attempt another guiding element with the light source from the mid-ground but blended the values too much and resulted in a muddy look. Need to revise, and mainly look at blocking out the values with darker colours first rather than slapping them on directly after a sketch. In a previous tutorial I looked at, the artist blocked out thumbnails using four values only, with a hard brush at 100% opacity. This technique helps to bolster the contrast values during the early stages of the composition, which is something I should look at applying to my own work.

Further work on guiding lines, used to draw the attention to the focal point, as iterated above. The intention in these thumbnails was to lead the viewer’s eye in a “natural” path to the dominant elements, and to avoid any real indicators that there was disparity outside the frame (e.g. the path curving up to the house). The main goal is to have these framing elements (e.g. the trees, curving rocks, dock pathway) hold attention inside the frame, and have no elements leading outside (whether it be guiding lines, light sources, etc.). Points noted from the following sources (elaboration below):

Santos, D. D. (2018) 12 pro tips to improve your artistic composition. Retrieved from

Ward, P. (2002) Picture Composition. Taylor and Francis. Retrieved via

Feghali, W. (2017) The Keys to Great Compositions in Digital Painting: Understanding & Improving Your Compositions. Retrieved from


Composition test with some personal work. Once again, upon revision, the composition was a little muddied. There are two focal points, but the first one (character’s face) whilst lit up by a light source, has little contrast around it and becomes lost in the activity beneath. The darkest area needs to be shifted from the leg area to behind the face; drawing more interest to this focal area, and to increase its “dominance” in relation to the rest of the image.

May also work to lower the luminosity of the surrounding / lower areas. Although I want to create disparity (for extra interest) it’s currently spread over too much of a larger area, and needs to be localised to the face and anchor focal points.

After Effects

Using the knowledge accumulated from some previous tutorials, I took an older artwork and attempted an “edit” in After Effects, mainly wanting to nail down how the After Effects element of this specialization project can be combined with personal projects / character art in the future. Since I specialise in that already, and it’s what generates the most traffic with my commission work, I want to see if the combination of digital concept art can be combined with motion graphics to potentially introduce a new type of commission onto my roster.

A mash up of older functions, most notably overlays / blending modes in combination with existing resources (the dust particles), fractal noise generation and mask feathering / restriction, colour grading (and keyframing the curves so that it changes colour subtly over the course of the sequence) and puppet pinning my artwork.


  • Fractal noise map generated using existing After Effects plugins. Looked into some different fractal maps, may elaborate on them next week.
  • The background was created in the original artwork. It was scaled upwards, rotated, and animated using a fractal evolution which was then track matted to its opacity.

I noticed a slight issue with the puppet pinning, where a portion of the image was separated from the pin that was moving. Need to look into some additional options, and potentially see if I can adjust the area of effect per puppet pin, or just increase the radius to which a puppet pin can affect in a single image.

Chromatic aberration experiment, following tutorial discussed below. The sequences were provided from Action Essentials 2 (Source: Video CoPilot). RGB splitting created using a set channel modifier. Could alternatively be created by eliminating the RGB layers so that each duplicate layer represents a single channel (can be achieved by apply a solid red on top using a shade layer, than setting the layer as screen / add, a technique I have used in personal work before).

Some simplistic script writing involved to make the “wiggle” effect, saves having to key-frame it individually. Can also be achieved using the Duik plugin, which is a technique I used in the Rapid Production Project final sequence on the character rigs, mainly to emulate growling.


Some preliminary test assets for the Colour the City project I will be collaborating on. Looking at refining a low-poly technique, which I have not experimented with yet. The Aftermath project from a previous trimester looked at low-poly objects, but only at a small scale. Most items were of a mid-poly range, as it was a singular-room environment with several hero assets. Have to look into separating detail that can be added via normal maps and essential detail that can be built into the silhouette of the object.


These were drafted prior to the creation of an asset list, which will be iterated upon in the coming weeks. Shrine ornaments are based on some image reference gathered on Pinterest, loosely based on the shrinework from the Shinto period and the architecture found at Osaka, Japan.


Bridge test; although likely to be scrapped. Mainly an experiment looking into how low-poly I can achieve whilst still maintaining the level of detail I usually strive for. Need to look for a balance between the two elements.


Did some extensive personal reference finding, mainly with the intention of looking for assets to model, and to wrap my head around the scope of the project. Details are separated by category; vegetation, pathways, motifs, architecture, scenery, low-poly references, characters and brutalist architecture (which will be a major feature in the city / university areas of the game map).


Personal work process. Part of an ongoing character portrait series focused on dramatic lighting highlighted by a background motif (such as the circular pattern behind). Looking at the contrast between the flat colours and the first pass of the shading, I might need to increase the brightness before I start the detailing, potentially by adding additional luminosity or by lowering the multiply.


Character from concept experiment above. Applied flat colours. Will look into shading this next week once I fully settle on a composition idea / layout, as I need to make note of light sources to draw attention to the focal areas.


Miscellaneous character portrait for a friend.

Viewed Resources

GDC (2017) Low Poly Modeling: Style Through Economy [Video]. Retrieved from

  • Low-poly is essentially a low-fidelity art form; moreso focused on economy than any other aspect. No hard poly limit, but generally: 8k per asset.
    • Increase in scope output


  • “Low Poly First” the low poly aesthetic is “baked” into how the game looks.
    • First run of the asset can sometimes be used in the final game.


  1. Stylistic compatibility
    • Working with a set style e.g. woodblock paintings, cubism translate well into low-poly
  2. Resolution consciousness
    • Consistency with how the polygons are handled – not just through computer reduction / “lowest” amount you can go for – allows you to push the style
  3. Considering the silhouette
    • Approximation vs. accuracy. Conveying them as “what’s important” versus “what they are.”
  4. Supplemental / “Old School” Rendering Tricks
    • Faking things through particles / shaders / textures
    • Incorporating other “lo-fi” / NPR techniques

Resolution and Consistency

  • Aim for a middle ground between high (an accurate representation of the data) and low (economic representation of the data) fidelity.
  • Atomic size: communicating that there’s a finite amount of detail to be expended in any given scene. Take into consideration the scale of the object in regard to the polygon amount.
    • Once you get down to smaller scales, there’s less to work with. Accrues a sense of order and cohesion.
    • Each model can have its own local atomic size.
  • Dispersal vs. Accumulation


  • Detail >> commodity. Can experiment on this to create / further the art style of the project.
    • Fitting… Roughness versus accuracy.
    • Atom size…Global (dispersal) versus local (accumulation), wherein you try to keep the size of the polygons comparable.
    • Density…Richness versus sparseness. Sparse density (e.g. the right) allows for “innate composition,” whereas the other scene is more “muddy.”
      • Accumulation allows for clarity, and can be used in level design to draw the player, convey story, etc.
    • Accumulation techniques reserved for hero / large prompts. Polygon density used for “breadcrumbing”; having more details in hotspots to guide the player towards them.
    • Dispersal techniques applied to litter the environment, populate it. Can also be used to catch additional light / shadow.

Silhouette Consciousness

  1. How legible is the overall shape?
  2. How should light / shadow interact with this?
  3. Am I (over/under) selling curvature?
  • Decimating a model using pre-set functions will render the geometry useless, hard to work with, etc. it becomes less deformable.
    • Think “reductively” about the model and its requirements; rather than just cutting down based on the technique of a modifier.


  • Low-poly complimented by low resolution rendering.
  • Colour palettes as textures – per face colour.
    • Batch materials in an atlas, reduces rendering time, particularly with low-poly assets.
  • Playing with normal maps.


Ward, P. (2002) Picture Composition. Taylor and Francis. Retrieved via

Every shot must consider:

  • The competition of visual elements against the most dominant element in the shot. Do they distract, compete?
  • Does the framing hold the audience’s attention to the frame, or do composition lines draw them away and/or are there indicators of activity beyond the frame?
  • How visually dynamic does the shot need to be, and what is its story-telling purpose?

Santos, D. D. (2018) 12 pro tips to improve your artistic composition. Retrieved from

  • Basics
    • Root of compositions >> relationships between forms; causing disparity between forms >> giving viewers a means to compare.
  • Rule of thirds
    • Elements in the centre of the image usually dominates the canvas. Draws focus away from key elements placed along the junction lines.
    • as divided into arrangements of foreground, middle-ground and background. Restrict a range a value (favouring black / white / grey).
      • Muddy values >> inability to discern shapes. High-contrast compositions always used in examples such as trading card art.
      • Reserve the “purest” colours e.g. white / black for the focal points.
      • Triptych value schemes >> arrangement of black, white, grey to emphasis the difference between foreground / middle-ground / background
    • Imbalance of values >> used to create tension. Same logic applies to highlights of colour.
      • Disparity between levels of saturation > tension. Greater tension > greater attention.
  • Bisecting an image in half >> decreased interest. Everything is equally balanced, negative space and imbalance cannot be used to draw the viewer’s eye.
    • Too balanced >> boring. Area of dominance >> tension >> interest. Makes your eyes move around the canvas more to compare all of these relationships.
  • Implied lines
    • Illusion of contour >> result of different values / colour contrast. Eyes will follow regardless; until another line is met, etc. Good composition >> makes use of this attraction.
    • Dip the horizon / camera angle slightly to angle towards focal point. More weight applied to the character.
    • Create a path, where to end, etc. Keeps the viewer’s eyes in a “current,” holding their attention.
      • Useful compositions >> guide their eyes around every key element in a painting.
    • Reinforcing focal point
      • Implied lines that draw the eye around the composition can also be used to draw them to the focal point.
        • Lines can either point, or frame a focal point.

Feghali, W. (2017) The Keys to Great Compositions in Digital Painting: Understanding & Improving Your Compositions. Retrieved from

  • Rule of thirds >> natural and visually appealing
  • Negative space outlining the important subjects;
    • Remain balanced; do not clutter the scene.
    • Maintain a focus on the positive space
  • Guiding lines >> lead the viewer’s eyes.
    • Reinforce the focal point
    • Lead the viewer’s eye in a natural path to the dominant points; do not have any lines leaning away from the painting
  • Nail the composition during the early stages. Detail cannot save a bad composition.

After Effects

SonduckFilm (2016) After Effects Tutorial: RGB Splitting – Glitch Effect (No Plugins) [Video]. Retrieved from

  • Drag footage, pre-composed. Duplicate the layer within this composition.
  • Apply: Effects > Channel > Set Channel modifier.
    • Set the duplicate layer to show only one of the three pre-specified channels (R, G or B). Repeat this process until you have three layers each corresponding to one of the RGB channels.
    • Set the blending mode to “add” or “screen.”
  • “Wiggle” effect demonstrated in the video, use either the following expression: wiggle(10,20), or the Duik plugin.
    • Shortcuts: Alt + Click the stop watches of the position element and paste.
  • Pre-compose the aforementioned layers.
    • “Split” the layer by using Control + Shift + D. This will split the layer at the current time. Alternatively this can be achieved by selecting the layer itself, going to Edit, Split Layer. Works on any layers, even audio. (Source)

PremiumBeat; Shutterstock (2017) Animating Audio Reactions in After Effects | [Video]. Retrieved from


  • Audio layer in composition >> double tap L on the keyboard to bring up the audio waveforms.
    • Convert the audio to keyframes: right click on the audio layer, bring up Keyframe Assistant.
    • “U” for channel slider on the Audio Amplitude null object.
      • Alt + Click the stopwatch; enter the following expression: ease(value,10,30,15,30)
        • 10 / 30: corresponds to the average amount of units being reacted at the highest and lowest spectrum of the graph editor.
        • 15 / 30: corresponds to the minimum and maximum amount of reaction.
      • Apply the audio amplitude to the image layer. (Pick-whip the scale expression to the slider in the null object).
        • Change the scale by pre-composing. Alternatively scale up the logo by using Effect > Distort > Transform.
      • Specifically generate an Audio reaction: Shape layer. Convert using Effect > Generate > Audio Spectrum.
        • React Null Object: Audio Layer Source should correspond to Audio Track.
        • Shape change of this spectrum >> by using masks. Mask must be set to “None.”
          • Path in the Audio Spectrum Effects Panel >> Set to mask.
Catalogued Resources

RocketStock (2018) Free After Effects Template: Split Layers. Retrieved from

Legaspi, C. (2017) How to use the rule of thirds in art. Retrieved from

Creative Bloq Staff (2018) The designer’s guide to the Golden Ratio. Retrieved from

Toggl Report


Rapid Production Project | Post Mortem

I. Introduction

This project, cementing the roles and context of a working production environment, was assigned with the intention of accelerating the animation process in order to expose students to the entire pipeline. From chosen audio tracks, an animated sequence approximating five to ten seconds long was produced; with an emphasis on a minimum of two shots and a simple character subject. The bulk of this project was completed in the five weeks following pre-production, and was solo in nature.

This particular sequence was created using a 2D medium.

II. Deliverables

III. Reflection

a. Positive Elements

Several highlights characterised this project, with the most notable being the smooth transition between preproduction and production; maintaining a consistent idea of the project (although with minor modifications) that carried all the way to its culmination. As asserted by the lecturers during the early stages, this project was first and foremost characterised by its accelerated nature, and this, naturally, puts an emphasis on the project’s scope; needing to have been concise and simplistic from the beginning.

My approach to defining the scope was to aim average but do it well; aiming for an animation that fell under all the right requirements but enhancing it further through some additional work. Preserving the scope fed into a steady workflow that scarcely changed throughout the five weeks of production, also reflected in weekly hours logged. Smooth communication and lodged feedback meant that any drastic changes were addressed almost immediately and did nothing to hinder the overall progress of the project. I hope to encapsulate these learned values in future projects by insisting on a simplistic, but well-achieved approach to projects. Even with a chance at mediocracy, it is often easier to aim for the median than run the risk of crashing and burning. It essential to maintain the delicate balance between aiming high and remaining within the capabilities of project participants.

A branch of my work for this project fell under some personal research, with the intent to enhance the sequence using a series of After Effects functions, with weight on the backgrounds and visual effects. This was mainly due to the fact that the audio chosen was simplistic, requiring no lip-syncing, and the majority of the shots were driven by a rig rather than hand-drawn frames, which meant time opened up to look into the other elements. Using a plethora of tutorials found during my self-directed research, I delved into functions such as blending modes, fractal generation, blurring, masking and other basic operations of After Effect’s video editing suite. When combined with a hand-painted background and other video processes (such as dust particles, colour grading, light leaks and volumetric lighting) the backdrop of the sequence becomes one of its highlighting features.

Shot 3 background tests; cycling through different functions and colour grading to test the mood of the final shot. The third test was the most visually appealing than the remaining tests, and was the basis for the final cut.

Particularly of note: the lighting changes dramatically between the first, second and third shots. The first is vignetted to the extent that it becomes difficult to process shapes that aren’t immediately in the foreground, to the second, whose red values enhance and then detract at the beginning and termination of the intense growl. The third shot opens to set the scene and further the reveal constructed at the end of the second shot: that scariness of the situation is merely a pretence for the machinations of a small cave monster, reinforcing the sneezing gag.

The visual effects did not eat into my time more than planned and served to enhance the quality of the composition rather than bog it down as a desirable. Furthermore, it aided in enriching the mood and shifting atmosphere between the shots, and generally assisted in constructing a cohesive sequence style.

A lot of the success of this element can be attributed to defining the scope and maintaining consistency, as stated earlier. Setting a good scope combined with almost rigid time management and setting minimum work hours bolstered the ability to look at other project elements that dipped into desirables territory, such as the sheet extent to which I experimented with background, etc. despite the brief warning against it.

Despite some hiccups during the rigging process, the final animation achieved a high level of quality, with minimal differentiation between the shots (bar some of the shading on the hand-drawn frames). Using the rigging method supplied, supplemented with some alterations of my own, the character rig used a combination of both squash and stretch and Duik functions; the most notable of which was the controller null objects and ‘wiggle’ function, which employed a script that allowed for ease in change the properties of the operation, rather than manually editing in an expression (which was a technique used for other elements, guided by online resources). One thing to take away from this element of the project is the process in which I was able to work around the errors received by both After Effects and the Duik extension. When their processes were unable to satisfy my desires for the rig animation, I looked into alternate pathways to work around it, and was able to use a combination of bone assignment without the addition of an IK Duik rig (in essence, they acted like puppet pins); moved using the controller objects. It is important to maintain a similar approach to projects such as the one discussed is essential to keep a project steady and on track, and will likely be the method I utilize in the future.

a. Negative Elements

Due to an unspecified disk error, my progress on the Rapid Production Project was halted during the work up to the animation stages during the end of the second week of production. After a slurry of browser errors, my computer elicited an error message upon restarting, revealing elements of the disk problem. An attempt at a preliminary automatic repair failed, and despite reoccurring attempts of the same process, yielded no result. The next technique was a system restore, which should have theoretically allowed the administrator of the system to revert the computer’s state – system files, applications, settings and registry – to that of a previous date, a common approach to recovering from extensive system malfunctions on online forums. This attempt also failed, as a system restore needed a previous save point established or an internet connection to generate one. In spite of having a connection prior to the restart, the system was unable to find an access point to generate the save. One of the last remaining options was to perform a system reset – which wasn’t an issue that would incur data loss, as I had a backup on both an external hard-drive and on an online hard drive – but once again, an unspecified error caused it to fail, undo the current changes being made to the system, and returned the screen back to the previous menu.

Drudging through the advanced settings in the HP system menu, the option for an additional back-up to an external hard drive which allowed me to back up non-essential files, namely personal art, etc. Furthermore, the system reset option specific to this menu was successful, reformatting the Windows partition of the hard drive, copying the required files to the identified hard-drive and then performing the restore. User files were deleted in their entirety – including any additional programs – and Windows was restored to the factory settings, after subsequent uninstallation and reinstallation. This process incurred a penalty of about 18 hours spread over several days, and although I managed to accommodate for some extra hours through theory works, it cut my time down heavily and impacted on the steady flow of the project, the likes of which were not fully caught-up until mid-week following the Sunday night.

I am still unsure as to why this error occurred, as my personal computer has barely reached a year old as of the writing of this piece, and I have yet to determine whether it was a user error, some external virus or simply the result of faulty hardware. It is a possibility that this error could not have been prevented, as I did not anticipate or predetermine this by taking any risks (such as downloading suspicious hardware, etc.) and have typically avoided such complications with anti-virus firewalls, ad-blocking extensions and regular scans / disk cleaning.


Rigging was a reoccurring issue that pervaded a large portion of the production process during this project. Despite a smooth 2D rigging workshop and installation, I ran into concerns with the generation of the inverse kinematics (two layer and goal) rig, eliciting script errors concerning the selection of bones. Despite cross-referencing the selection choices with the official and Lynda tutorial, the method and order of selection did not differ from that of the tutorials, and was not the issue. Under advice of a lecturer, the entire sequence was re-composited and parented in a separate After Effects file from scratch, with no change to the error messages. The system restore mentioned in the previous paragraph seemed to have corrected the issue, as after a clean re-installation it no longer persisted. This has led me to believe that this issue may have been to do with my set-up options, or potentially to do with the settings that I altered.

During the re-rigging process post-system reset, I encountered some distortion errors with my rig after making use of Duik’s auto-rig limb function, rather than using the full-body auto-rig which previously had been notoriously infamous for causing me distortion errors. The rotation of the shoulder controller led to some odd deformation, which potentially had something to do with the puppet pin being rotated rather than the arm itself, which was the intention, as all the puppet pins were parented to the controller. I found no discernible work-around for this distortion despite several hours of trouble-shooting, and I was once again reduced to going back to a previous copy of the composition and making some edits to the rig.

This rig made use of puppet pins being assigned to null objects (Duik bones) and reutilising the controllers from the previous rig to allow for rotation and movement without using the goal method in the IK counterpart. This method, however, allows for squash and stretch for exaggerated movements in the animation, despite having to rely on sigh and key-framing of the pins to ensure they remain roughly the same length. The result of a user error and misunderstanding of the functions of the extension, this issue was quietly resolved and did not a massive issue like the disk errors prior. The obvious solution to this would be to re-examine the functions of the extension to more in-depth rather than approaching rigging without a full understanding of the program.

IV. Industry

a. Large Scale Productions

Although this project was an accelerated version of the animation pipeline, it reflects the reality of a larger animation industry. As always, a typical animation project (whether 2D, 3D, etc.) is divvied between three main stages – pre-production, production and post-production – and then sub-categorised into further incremental tasks that are often handled by different departments of an animation studio.

The conceptual part of pre-production encompasses major components such as storyboarding, layout maps and model sheets, followed by the animatic and previsualization of the final composition. It is during these stages that any drastic changes can be made without impacting too much of the overall budget. In a larger scale production, the story-boarding could either fall under the guidance of the project’s director, or potentially managed by storyboard artists specifically assigned to the role (albeit under the supervision of said director). Depending on the scope and contents of the project, concept art would be handled by a myriad of highly-specialised artists, dedicated to branches such as environmental composition and character design, who handle the model sheets and layouts (although it is highly likely that layouts are sent to an alternate department who work with location and environment design, showing the best method of showcasing character positions within each separate shot). For the mock-ups of the final working animation, the animatic and pre-vis / 2D layouts are handled by the pre-visualization department, whose responsibility it is to cater to any major changes during pre-production and to execute the vision laid out by the storyboards. For 3D projects, the last process may also be considered a part of the production process, as modellers begin to construct block-out versions of the scenes and focus on specifics such as camera movement and position.

Heading the 3D production stages, modellers handle the modelling of the set pieces and characters within the scene. This is likely split into different roles, such as with concept artists, e.g. character and environment modelling, working in conjunction with the art directors and animators in the next stage in order to make a workable rig. Texturers take hold of the next process, giving life to the otherwise greyed out models, and then onto the rigging department, in preparation for the implementation of the models into the scene. Once again, it is a possibility that a duty as broad as “texturing” could be split into more incremental elements, likely divided into normal mappers, shaders and albedo mappers.

In the case of 2D, rigging feeds directly into the animation process. 2D riggers might not be an industry-specified job opportunity, and might simply be the task assigned to 2D animators working within a program such as After Effects.

For a large-scale project, the animation for a 3D short-film could be divided into specific functions, such as facial animators, character animators (and even further divided into character / humanoid animators), non-organic animators, etc. and could potentially make use of motion capture, which further adds another element to the mix (employing stunt actors, footage revision, etc.). Lighting artists additionally come into play around this time. The 2D animation process is similarly rigidly separated between roles, with head animators directing the animation of specific characters to their underlings, and other animators focusing on producing an animated environment.

Post-production typically encompasses all the editing and visual effects elements of any animated project. This may also include remapping of timing, editing scenes, cutting, choosing specific transitions, etc. and compositing the shots. In more complex projects, sound and video editing may play a part. It is at this point colour artists perform colour grading, and tweaks to fit the envisioned aesthetic of the film.

b. Most challenging role

Although I had a relatively smooth experience with this project bar some unavoidable computer difficulties, the majority of my problems were rooted in the rigging process and would likely be the most challenging role had this project been a large-scale production. As I had never approached this method of rigging, let alone 2D rigging at all (excluding some secondary animation in a previous walk cycle project) this project was characterised by unfamiliarity, and at times, frustration. This can be traced back to simply a lack of knowledge of the extensive processes conducted by the Duik function, and even when backed up by a multitude of tutorials and a separate overview workshop, the small time-frame meant that experimentation, execution and trial rigging was not an option inbetween cross-discipline projects and the initiation of the specialisation project. In the future, of course, this process would be cut down in both effort and time, as I have looked into the basics and can start conducting research into the more complex areas of 2D rigging.

V. Conclusion

The culmination of this project marks preliminary exploration into the world of 2D rigging and VFX using After Effects. For future 2D animation projects, I will gather my accumulated knowledge to further execute After Effects functions in combination with those introduced with my specialisation project. Thus far, I have catalogued notable functions such as blending modes/layer styles, track matte application (luma / transparency), overview of the Duik character animation pipeline (creation of the rig, bones, forward / inverse kinematics, etc.), puppet pin tools, time remapping, 3D layers, fundamentals of lip-syncing, application of VFX overlays (volumetric lighting, dust, light leakage), masking, fractal map generation, AE camera-work, colour grading, expression / script basics, adding presets and pre-composing within an existing composition. The soft skills discussed in previous trimesters also came to fruition during this project, and have maintained the importance of scoping correctly, time management, maintaining a positive attitude despite hiccups, and above all preserving a solid work ethic. I have definitely sensed an improvement in these elements, mainly due to a lack of stress.

Progress Journal 18T1.6

Week 6

Rapid Production Project

Final tweaks made on the Rapid Production Project as it came to a close. Main points consisted of a first pass of the shot 2 hand-drawn animation, subsequent timing revision, finalizing said animation and some animation adjustments for the shot 3 rig.

First pass of the hand-drawn animation:

Had to make a revision of the timing of the second shot (hand-drawn frames). Based on lecturer feedback and self-assessment, it was found to be too much of a delay between the end of the sneeze and the recoil in the second shot. I removed approx. 4 frames from the end of shot 2, and introduced a revision of the animation in Shot 3 to show the same motion from shot 2, but from a different angle.

  • Technique is often used in action films to “cement” the action. Shown from two different shots to avoid viewer confusion, etc.


Final hand-drawn frames for the end of shot 3. Reduced the frame count on the last image and also removed one of the frames entirely.

Final Project:

I was researching how to import a single composition from an After Effects file into another one, and ended up stumbling upon the following resource. My main goal was to transport an older, non-rigged character composition that had been animated onto my final background sequence. My current character, whilst rigged, has not been animated, and would not showcase the shot properly without the animation (which I am aiming to complete later on during the week (I am writing this as of Monday 12/03)).

Lynda (2018) Using Pro Import After Effects for projects from other applications [Video Tutorial]. Retrieved from

The character will be inserted underneath all the lighting effects, etc. so it is integrated into the scene. If I had chosen to approach this by just rendering out the background and chucking it beneath the character, it would not look as cohesive, and more like I just ‘plopped’ the cyclops on.


Reference gathering; mainly dedicated to finding similar motifs, stylistic choices and environment sources. Particularly inspired by the background artwork of Samurai Jack, and the unification between lineless and texturing, mainly relying on colour / palette choices to differentiate the forms in the background versus reliance on linework.


  • Several reoccurring themes in the environment pins I saved, mainly straight, dead trees obscuring the horizon and the midground having a very saturated palette.

Background concepts (Round 1). Refining the look of my current sequence; trying to capture the “blood forest” concept discussed in the treatment.


  • Based on the feedback by both the animation director and director, this will likely be the composition I explore with more
    • Change values, etc. lean less towards a “warm” composition; needs to feel cold and isolating.


  • Discarded concept. Felt too muddied and chaotic to really be considered.
    • Perhaps it might suit a different environment; such as an alien planet. Too unsuitable.


  • Discarded concept 2.
    • Aesthetic colour palette, feels cohesive; angry, etc. which meets the environment brief.
      • Failed to achieve the “cold” mood I desired. Might come back and tweak values in Photoshop to accommodate.
      • Looks “angry”; but I wanted to portray anger as an isolating experience rather than a warm one.
    • Lacking in any real environmental structure; little visual appeal. Looking at reusing this palette for potentially my own project.


Current work in progress for client.

Personal Art

Miscellaneous character art.


Current personal work WIPs


(Gift art for a friend)


Personal character. Looking at turning this into more of an experimental piece, with some thematic elements combined with symbolism. Currently considering some tarot card influences (such as the hanging man, fool or reversed empress) to reflect their planned narrative arc. Might discard this in favour of some other symbolism depending on what I look into during the coming week.

What have you learned?

Briefly detail what you have learned about your practice or the industry this week.

Viewed Resources

After Effects

Lynda (2018) Using Pro Import After Effects for projects from other applications [Video Tutorial]. Retrieved from

  • Projects using AAF, OMF final cut pro FMXL format or Apple Motion format can be imported using the Pro Import After Effects plug-in.

SonduckFilm (2017) Free Fog and Smoke Overlays from PremiumBeat | After Effects Tutorial [Video]. Retrieved from 


Catalogued Resources

After Effects | Resources & Packs

Motion Stacks (n.d.) Minimal Call Out Title 05_03. Retrieved from

Motion Stacks (n.d.) Minimal Call Out Title 04_02. Retrieved from

Motion Stacks (n.d.)Free Glitch Title 01. Retrieved from

Motion Stacks (n.d.) Free Clean Infographic – Percentage 01. Retrieved from

Motion Stacks (n.d.)Free Electric Burst 08. Retrieved from

After Effects | Tutorials

Video CoPilot (2017) Advanced Electric VFX Tutorial! 100% After Effects [Video]. Retrieved from

Video CoPilot (2017) Realistic Rain Drop FX Tutorial! 100% After Effects! [Video]. Retrieved from 

Video CoPilot (2013) Translucent Glass Tutorial [Video]. Retrieved from

Aleya, I. (2017) How To Create Atmospheric Particles in After Effects Without Using Plugins Tutorial [Video]. Retrieved from

Aleya, I. (2017) How To Fake Atmospheric Smoke Animation Effects in Adobe After Effects using Fractal Noise Tutorial [Video]. Retrieved

Spoon Graphics (2017) How To Animate a Still Photo like a Plotagraph in Adobe Photoshop [Video]. Retrieved from 

Toggl Report 

Progress Journal 18T1.5

 Week 5


Rapid Production Project

For the theory side of this project, I finalized my Animation Planning with the addition of thumbnails and accumulation of some additional resources. Elaboration can be found here.



These will serve as the basis for my animation, etc. which will be revised over the next two weeks. Already I’ve noticed some additional movement that could be incorporated into my Shot 3 animation, and these have otherwise acted as a guide for how I’ll look at approaching the frame-by-frame animation at the end of the second shot.

Whilst going through and doing a review of my latest Rapid Production Project render, I found that there were certain areas of the sequence that were lacking in background noise, as the audio track provided does not include any ambience (or at least any noticeable ambience). To remedy this, I went searching for some royalty-free audio resources that I could add to my sequence to make it better-rounded and set the scene.

Premiumbeat (2016) 15 Free Ambient Background Noise Tracks. Retrieved from

Although the chosen track was actually “windy desert” I edited it with a low-pass to make it sound more akin to cave ambience / wind outside the cave. I may keep searching for alternate tracks if time allows, but for now, I’m happy with leaving it.

Looking at the background I had prepared for the third shot, I felt that it was a bit static and looked into adding some life to it with volumetric lighting and the like. The following video details some testing, experimenting  mainly with blend modes, the volumetric lighting and dust resources I had found, tinting, colour levels and blurring.

I used a variety of blend modes on the different overlays used in the following tests. It was mainly a combination of previous recommendations (detailed in preceding research notes) and some self-guided experimentation. The light leaks were modified using either overlay or screen blend modes, in addition to restriction their areas of spread with feathered masks. Sharper overlays, such as the dust particles were added using “lighten” and tint to modify the colours to match the scene, combined with opacity tweaks depending on how subtle a look I wanted to achieve.

For the lighter dust particles that were mainly used to “fill” the scene rather than dictate the light leaks / ambience, I used a “lighten” blending mode, which essentially turns black pixels transparent. In accordance with my concept images, I aimed to have the dust look like little “fireflies” or just fantasy-esque floating lights, rather than just dust caught by the light; and this effect is particularly evident in the second test.

I found the colours of the first test to be quite nice, but I lacked in conveying the atmosphere I wanted to achieve. Going back into the curve editor, I found that I had added a bit too much red in the RBG levels, and it ended up looking “cooler” than I wanted it to be. I found that adding more green (as seen in the last experiment) made it feel less inviting, which is what I aimed to achieve. In addition, I felt that it was a bit “empty” especially in comparison to the last experiment. Although I added two dust overlays, it felt empty in the darker areas of the composition, particularly seen in the left side of the background. This was achieved by adding a feathered mask to restrict it to one area. I had originally aimed for the dust / volumetric lighting to only be visible in the lighter areas of the composition, but it just ended up imbalanced and not cohesive enough for the final sequence.

Despite the second experiment having much less in the way of overlays, I liked the subtly of the “lights,” which served as a strong point of interest without detracting too much from the light source in the background. Another point of interest I enjoyed is the “pulsating” colour levels, which made the background light source look interesting in comparison to static levels. The main fault I drew from this test were the colour levels. Aside from being too dark overall for the character rig I had made previously, I also found it to be too warm for what I intended.  The contrast is nice, but I feel that I should lighten it with some volumetric lighting / light leaks if I chose to use this test as the basis for the final sequence (which, at this point, is unlikely).

The last test is probably the standard for what I want my final composition to look like / achieve. The sheer amount of overlays means that the character rig underneath them all will definitely look “tied” to the scene. Although I originally had reservations about the colour of the scene, when combined with volumetric lighting (using an overlay blend mode) I enjoyed the result. Aside from some issues with the light leaks (which I can restrict using a feathered mask or opacity keyframes) I’m satisfied and will likely use this composition as the basis for my composition. I will extend the composition length, add / lengthen keyframe duration, before adding my rigged character (with ease as it was animated in a separate composition).

Upon revision of the rig, I found that there were several distortion errors around the neck / shoulder area.


I’m still not entire sure what cause this, as I had modified the rig myself and avoided using the auto-rig (which had caused by distortion issues in the past).

Even after trouble-shooting for several hours, I found no discernible solution to the error, and ended up going back to a clean non-rigged version of the same composition, and made some edits. This does mean that I will have to rely on puppet pins to animate the limbs of this rig, but I will still be able to utilise Duik’s controller options for the rotation / movement of elements such as the tail, head, neck and body. I will have to rely on sight and key-framing of the puppet pins to ensure that they remain roughly the same length. On the bright side, I’m able to add some squash and stretch for the more exaggerated movements in the animation.

Premiumbeat (2017) 21 FREE 4k Fog Overlays for Video Editors and Motion Designers. Retrieved from

  • Creative license: free to use in personal and commercial projects, but restricted in redistribution / reselling. “By downloading, you agree not to resell or redistribute these free assets.”
  • Most effect when changing the layer style / blending mode of the footage layer to Screen, which displays the black values of the sequence as transparent.

I used a similar mask technique in the following, around the portion of the fog I wished to include in my rapid production project. The mask was feathered so the fall-off blended nicely into the background, and then I edited the colour correction using the Curves effect.

  • The overlay was colour-graded to match the background, and also key-framed to slightly change over the course of the shot.
  • In one of my specialisation projects, I used a tint colour effect to match it to the theme of the composition.

Most recent update of my Rapid Production Project. I’ll add in the volumetric lighting tests done in the above tests within the next week, in addition to refining the third shot animation, finishing some rigging tweaks and get onto animating the frame-by-frame animating needed to complete the third shot.


I used built-in plugins to create the following experiment, without the addition of any external features, snippets or resources (save the font used on the text). Expanding on the example, I used the same technique to add multiple fractal overlays and light sources so that the text shadows overlapped each other, etc. This experiment was not intended to be visually appealing, but rather a means of getting a grip on the techniques discussed & utilised in the aforementioned video.

The prominent topics I learned was the construction and implementation of a 3D scene in After Effects, using masks to bind light sources, the employment of said light sources, using fractal noise (and keyframing the evolution so it appears animated), feathering masks, adjustment layers, the radial fast blur effect and adding expressions to bind effect layers to light layers.

Accumulating some of the resources listed below (including the Video CoPilot action essentials 2) I did a quick experiment using a piece of art provided by a friend (Source).

I used a similar method to animate the fractal noise and bound it with a track matte to the red colour layer. In addition to the evolution animation / keyframing, I added a blend mode (shade) so that the red appeared from underneath. Alternatively, I could have used a Luma Matte so the lighter values were transferred into transparency. The volumetric fog layers were downloaded from a source listed in the resources section below, whilst the fire was taken from Action Essentials 2. I had a fun time incorporating some of these After Effects functions to bring some “life” into character art, and will probably look into integrating this into some of my future personal work.

Personal Art

This week I mainly used my down time to complete some personal character art rather than delving too deep into commissions. The following character is part of an original game with several others over the net, and following some design changes, I wished to really hone in on their current look, accompanying an outfit reference with an “official” profile shot.

Using a lace resource I had found a few weeks ago I added a blur filter and tucked it away in the background, hoping for it to act as more of a featurette than detracting too much from the face. I made use of my soft shading method again here using Paint Tool Sai, before going into Photoshop to mess with the colour levels until content. I’ve found that I have been switching between the two programs a lot more recently, relying on PS for post-processing elements such as blurring, text, colour levels / curve editing and filters. Hopefully in the future I will become more comfortably with the program to look into painting with it.


I did a variety of staple outfits (with some variations of the same one) in order to accommodate for the journey this character undertakes. Over the course of the story, they will travel from a Southern, humid continent (likely using a pirate ship or the like for passage) to a much dryer (albeit cooler) northern continent.  I am thinking of using the body reference as a basis for a character turnaround if I want to use this design in more serious original projects, but for now, they’re more of a fun design to bounce around and draw without any real connotations, as is the like with “unofficial” original stuff.

From left to right; sailor’s casual wear, commonly paired with an undershirt or swapped for a heavier jacket in colder climates; variant on the sailor’s casual wear, which is most commonly worn on the journey between continent; empress’ palace day gear, usually buttoned up during formal encounters and paired with jeweled accessories depending on the company; “adventuring” gear, used for hunting trips and ventures into the province, drab and plain as to not draw attention, but still sleek enough to be held to their high standards.


After Effects | Plugins / Scripts / Miscellaneous

Kramer, A. (2016) [Updated] New Workflow Plug-in: FX CONSOLE. Retrieved from 

  • A designated keyboard short-cut is binds the effects tool console; allowing you to access the Effects & Presets tab without leaving the composition.
    • Effect is quickly applied to whatever layer is selected
  • “Favorites” option; useful for regular use of effects / those with complex names, etc.
    • Bound to an individual keybinding that can be viewed once the FX Console is active
    • Can alternatively ‘blacklist’ functions based on the way you want to use After Effects.
  • Screenshot function; serves as a quicker way to render out screenshots rather than going through menus and having to export via the render queue.
    • Can additionally be copied to a keyboard and pasted instantly
    • Stores screenshots in a ‘gallery’
      • Hold shift + down arrow key to bring up thumbnails of specified sizes


In preparation for my specialisation project, I gathered several special effects packs and After Effects templates to experiment with once I get into the meaty parts of my After Effects experimentation. I plan to combine my own artwork (most likely environment compositions) with these effects. I have done some preliminary experimentation with 1-2 singular packs in my Rapid Production Project, and plan to expand to include other elements that aren’t restricted to just dust and lighting overlays.

One resource I found of note was a master collection of over 220 free assets, sourced from Shutterstock Video Editor Toolkit.

Maher, M. (2018) Video Editor Toolkit: 220+ Free Animations, Presets, Overlays, and More. Retrieved from

  • Contains the following:
    • Animations and Transitions
      • Icons (46)
      • Shapes (34)
      • Transitions (9)
    • Look-up Tables
      • .cube LUTs (52)
    • Overlays and Elements
      • Light Leaks (21)
      • Dust (2)
      • Volumetric Light (14)
      • Sparks (45)

Maher, M. (2018) Video Editor Toolkit: 220+ Free Animations, Presets, Overlays, and More. Retrieved from

  • Animations are already packaged and ready to add to compositions, etc.
  • Transitions can be applied using Track Matte Keys either in After Effects or Premiere (converting to Luma Alpha).
    • *Remove the track matte key at the end of the transition footage, or, alternatively, place a copy of the footage underneath it.

Greer, D. (2013) Free HD Stock Video: Smoke Effects. Retrieved from

  • 4K resolution of smoke stock video clips; created by photography director Mitch Martinez.
  • The black background in these resources were stripped by using layer effects. Personally, I used a lighten blending mode, and then applied a tint effect to change the colour of the smoke.
    • The tint effect automatically defaults to a black and white tint. In the event that I wanted some more ambient light, I would have changed the darkest value to accommodate for the light & corresponding tint I desired.
    • I used several elements of this pack in one of my specialisation experiments, adding a tint effect and lowering the opacity to fill in the background.

Gree, D. (2015) Free After Effects Template: Distortion Kit. Retrieved from

  • Contains a “template” to create digital distortion within an After Effects template. Mimics the look of an outdated television graphics / found footage film.
  • Filters include: Noise, colour boxes, flicker, tuning, turbulence, rolling distortion, pixel blending, rolling bars, chromatic aberration and colour TV pixels.
    • Effects can be customised within the scene options, using a modifiable slider.
    • Although I have yet to use this template in a specialisation experiment, I plan to hypothetically add several of these effects into a science-fiction-inspired composition that I will possibly draft in the coming weeks.

Nguyen, V. (2016) Free Light Leaks Pack: CREATIVEDOJO.NET. Retrieved from

  • Creative license: free to use in personal and commercial projects; but may not be redistributed in your own commercial/free products. Only available from the source linked.
    • Light leaks are pretty much a staple of any video composition. I used several of these resources (albeit subtly) in my rapid production project, in conjunction with other dust overlays.

Test examples:

  • Author Nguyen recommends playing around with blending modes (specifically add, screen and colour dodge) in combination with colour grading to increase visual appeal within compositions, e.g. colorizing the light leaks and combining them to form “longer / random” leaks (which is a technique I experimented with in RPP; combining opacity keyframes and multiple light-leak overlays to hopefully create a “random” and surreal lighting effect).

Vegasaur (2015) FREE Light Leaks & Film Burns for Beautiful Optical Effects. Retrieved from

  • Creative license: free to use in personal and commercial projects, but restricted in redistribution / reselling. Attribution not required.

Premiumbeat (2017) 15 FREE Camera Shake Presets for After Effects and Premiere Pro. Retrieved from

  • Creative license: free to use in personal and commercial projects, but restricted in redistribution / reselling. Attribution not required.
  • I could potentially use this effect on a science-fiction-inspired composition, or an ambient-horror-inspired one. I aim to include camera shake effects / Duik wiggle effects in order to add some “life” to an otherwise still scene.
  • Contains the following (all contain heavy, medium and light movement variants, bar the zoom camera, whose presets have been linked below):
    • 24mm Camera Shake Preset (4K and HD)
    • 35mm Camera Shake Preset (4K and HD)
    • 50mm Camera Shake Preset (4K and HD)
    • 85mm Camera Shake Preset (4K and HD)
    • Zoom Camera Shake Preset (4K and HD)
      • “Crazy” Zoom
      • Light Slam Zoom
      • Light Slow Zoom

Other resources:

Although the following resources do not correlate directly to any of my existing products, they could potentially be useful in future projects, potentially in commercial work, as most of them are royalty-free. Even those that do not allow for commercial use, I may utilise them in personal sequences in the future.

Maher, M. (2015) Freebie: Movie Marketing Pack. Retrieved from

  • Movie Trailer Rating tag
    • All organised under the layers tab.
    • Standard film ratings are already pre-edited and customised.

  • Movie Poster Template

Ward, C. (2015) Free Animated Icon Set for Video Editors. Retrieved

  • Pre-rendered footage; created in After Effects, most suited for use in that program.
  • Creative license: free to use in personal and commercial projects, but restricted in redistribution / reselling. Attribution not required.

After Effects | Lighting

Noel, J. (2016) After Effects Tutorial: Lighting Basics 101 & How to use Lights [Video]. Retrieved on 8 Mar. 18 from

  • Parallel Light
    • More “advanced” version of a spotlight.
    • Generally scene can be illuminated better when using this light than with a spotlight.
  • Spotlight
    • Typically the most common light used in lighting compositions.
    • “…will shoot light inside its cone, but sometimes will fall out to the edges.”
    • Fallout depends on the light settings. The specular (brightest point) will be most evident in the middle of its cone.
  • Point Light
    • “…will shoot light in every direction from the light source.”
  • Ambient Light
    • Will expose every 3D object evenly in the scene, akin to a ‘fill’ light.
    • Can act as a method to subtly change the colour of the entire scene.

Adobe (2018) Create a camera layer and change camera settings. Retrieved from

  • Light types are divided into the following:
    • Parallel lights emit directional light from an “infinitely distant source.” Can be likened to a distant star, such as the sun.
    • Spot lights are typically constrained by a cone, and can be likened to a flashlight / spotlight.
    • Point lights are less defined, unconstrained, omnidirectional. Can be likened to a bare light bulb.
    • Ambient lights have no direct source and casts no shadows. Serves well for filling up the entire scene as a fill light, adding to the overall brightness rather than serving as an actual light source.
  • Other settings of note:
    • Cone feather: correlates to the edge softness of a spotlight. NOTE: this is only applicable if the light is a spotlight.
    • Casts shadows: defines whether the layer can cast a shadow or not
      • Accepts shadows must be on for a layer to receive a shadow (which is the default option). Casts Shadows material option must be on for a layer to cast shadows (which is not a default option).
    • Shadow diffusion: softness of a shadow in correlation to its distance from the ‘shadowing’ layer. Only applicable if cast shadows is selected.

Premiumbeat (2017) Use Blend Modes to Layer Footage + 16 Free Overlays | [Video]. Retrieved from

After Effects | Cameras

Adobe (2018) Create a camera layer and change camera settings. Retrieved from

NOTE: Cameras will only affect 3D layers (or 2D layers with an effect with a “Comp Camera attribute.” This enables the active composition camera/lights etc. to simulate 3D effects).

  • Custom variables such as Focus Distance, Aperture, F-stop and blur level can be manipulated using the Depth of Field settings…used to mimic realistic cameras, etc.
    • Aperture: refers to the size of the lens opening, tied directly to the depth of field; e.g. increasing the aperture also increased the depth blur.
    • F-Stop: ratio of focal length to aperture; aperture changes to much this value when it is modified.

After Effects  | Volumetric Lighting & Dust

SonduckFilm (2017) After Effects Tutorial: Volumetric Light and Dust (No Plugins) [Video]. Retrieved from

  • New composition; acting as a placeholder so that it can be easily switched out later.
  • When using the provided resource pack, high contrast elements can become easily overlayed through the use of layer modes.
    • Using something like ‘hard light,’ as shown in the following example, will ‘bring out’ the lightest colours as a transparent element, whilst preserving the darkest hues. (The narrator noted that this is typically his favourite function, as it ‘blends’ with the underlying layer rather than being completely transparent over the top).
      • This layer effect “multiplies or screens the input colour channel value…The result is similar to shining a harsh spotlight on the layer…” (Adobe, 2018).

Creating a ‘fog’:

  • A new solid is created, then a noise and grain effect (Fractal Noise) is applied. Increase contrast at your discretion.
  • Under the effects tab, set a keyframe for “evolution” at the beginning and end of the timeline; with the end keyframe set to ‘1x.’ Under the ‘transform’ tab, a keyframe is added for offset turbulence. The offset turbulence in this example is set to the right and downwards but can depend on your preferences / nature of the composition.
  • Opacity is lowered, and a blend mode is applied (most commonly screen or multiply depending on preference).

Creating an ‘introduction’ layer:

  • Layer >> New >> Adjustment layer.
  • Under the effects tab, you can apply whatever effect suits the composition, e.g. Gaussian blur. With the effect selected, click ‘U’ on the keyboard to bring up the keyframe.
    • (in this example, remember to click ‘Repeat edge pixels’ in the effects tab).

To add a camera ‘wiggle’:

  • Parent all the composition elements you want to move in accordance with the camera wiggle to a null object.
  • Inside the null object, Alt+Click the position expression in the bottom composition layer panel. Remove the text inside the expression box, replace it with “wiggle(.5,5)”

To correct colours whilst inside the composition (and prevent having to go and edit images outside After Effects) simply go to Effects > Colour Correction > Curves, to bring up the following:


NOTE: remember to turn on motion blurs on all your layers before rendering out the project!

TipTut (2017) Fire Sparks Particle Effect [No Plugins] | After Effects Tutorial [Video]. Retrieved from

  • New Solid. The effect “CC Particle World” is applied.

Premiumbeat (2017) Detonate: 40 FREE Explosion SFX and VFX Elements. Retrieved from

  • Compatible for just about every NLE; including but not limited to: Premiere Pro, FCPX, After Effects, DaVinci Resolve, etc.
    • 15 Free Explosion VFX: Canon Blasts, Fireballs, Groundblast, Oil Rig Fire, Large Plumes, Shockwave, Smoke
    • 25 Free Explosion SFX: Blasts, Bombs, Mine Explosions, Grenades

After Effects | Layer Styles

Adobe (2018) Blending modes and layer styles. Retrieved from

  • Blending modes are divided into eight sub-categories (mainly based on the similarities between their functions; and do not appear in any one Adobe program, and the following only act as a guide).
    • Normal: the layer is typically not affected by the colour of the layer beneath it unless the source layer opacity is under 100%.
      • Dissolve blending modes, however, may turn some of the pixels transparent depending on their colours.
      • Normal, Dissolve, and Dancing Dissolve
    • Subtractive: tend to darken the colours first and foremost (may also mix colours depending on the type selected).
      • Darken, Multiply, Colour Burn, Classic Colour Burn, Linear Burn, and Darker Colour
    • Additive: tend to lighten the colours (may also mix colours “much in the same way as mixing projected light,”).
      • Lighten, Screen, Colour Dodge, Classic Colour Dodge, Linear Dodge, and Lighter Colour
    • Complex: performance is dependent on the different operations applied, underlying colours, and also if the colours are lighter than 50% grey (?).
      • Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light, Linear Light, Vivid Light, Pin Light, and Hard Mix
    • Difference: creates colours based on the differences between the hues of the base layer and the layer being applied to create a new result.
      • Difference, Classic Difference, Exclusion, Subtract, and Divide
    • HSL: transfers the components of the HSL (hue, saturation and luminosity) from the base colour to the result colour.
      • Hue, Saturation, Colour, and Luminosity
    • Matte: as discussed before, these blending modes can be likened to a “stencil.” These convert the matte layer into a ‘stencil’ for whatever underlying layer it is applied to.
      • Stencil Alpha, Stencil Luma, Silhouette Alpha, and Silhouette Luma

Stencil (left) shows all layers below the stencil layer through the frame of the alpha channel of the stencil layer; silhouette (right) cuts a hole through all layers below the silhouette layer,” (Adobe, 2018).

  • Utility: serve “specialized utility functions.”
    • Alpha Add and Luminescent Premul

Character Rigging | DUIK

Lowery, O. (2015) After Effects Duik: Rigging & Animation Tools [Video tutorial]. Retrieved from

Auto-rig with bones

NOTE: Duik cannot create IK rigging straight from the Puppet Pin effect. Each pin is connected to a null object, or “bone.”

  • Bones should be renamed from the generated default names to correspond to the body parts they represent; ideally something that Duik can reference simply.
  • In the Auto-Rig panel, there are options that detail the ‘recommended’ naming conventions for the bones in your rig.
    • Prefixes / suffixes are also applicable using this method. Generally, as long as you have a clear mention of one of Duik’s keywords, it will recognise it.

  • Select all the bones; head to the Auto Rig tab > Full Character rig option. Select plantigrade / digitigrade / ungulate depending on the type of character rig.
  • Even if you have not named the bones accordingly, Duik will provide you with the option to go in and edit the hierarchy individually, but will obviously miss out on the time-saving auto-fill function. The naming should be completed prior.
    • “Remove all” should be the option used if the character is lacking a body part that the auto-rig provides.
    • Bones do not need to be parented at this stage. Duik will complete the parenting hierarchy automatically.

Bloop Animation (2013) After Effects: How To Build a Mouth Rig for Lip Syncing (2D Animation) [Video]. Retrieved from

  • Shortcut for trimming layers are the left and right brackets, which correspond to either direction.
    • Set timeline to show keyframes rather than seconds by clicking the time in the composition panel whilst holding “control.”


  • Each mouth should be one frame long. The entire composition needs to be shortened to the total amount of frames that correspond with each mouth (This can be achieved by dragging each mouth a frame forward on the timeline). It should only last for as long as the mouth shapes are on the timeline.
  • Once the composition has been trimmed in this manner, right click in the timeline tab and use the “trim composition to work area” option.
  • To crop the composition to solely fit the mouth area:
    • Use the “region of interest” option located at the bottom of the viewport.
    • Going into the Composition settings, select the “crop to region of interest.”
  • To enable time remapping: Layer > Time > Enable Time Remapping. (Tab can be found at the top of the window).
  • Null object is created and scaled to match the mouth composition size.
  • To add the slider, go into the Effects panel, type in “Slider Control” or, alternatively, go into the Effects tab on the top of the window > Expression Controls > Slider Control.
    • Basically generates an empty slider that doesn’t do anything by itself.
    • To link both properties, Alt + click on the Time Remap function, and drag the pick whip to the Slider control in the null object above.
    • Go into the original mouth composition, paste in the following expression:

a=thisComp.layer(“mouthCtrl”).effect(“Slider Control”)(“Slider”)


  • …and make sure that the “mouthCtrl” variable matches the name of the null object with the bound property.
  • Edit the slider range by right-clicking, selecting Edit Value, and then making sure the value corresponds to your total number of layers / mouths / elements / frames.
  • To make sure the slider doesn’t cycle through all the keyframes after, right click and select “Toggle Hold Keyframes.”


Torculas, D. (2017) (:60 Second Tutorial) Adobe Premiere Pro CC: Audio Muffle/Underwater Effect (Sam Kolder, ValDays) [Video]. Retrieved from

Catalogued Resources

School of Motion (2017) 5 Free After Effects Tools [Video]. Retrieved from

Noel, J. (2017) How to Create Audio Reaction Effects. Retrieved from

Ward, C. (2014) Free After Effects Preset: Ouroboros. Retrieved from

SonduckFilm (2017) Top 10 Text Presets in After Effects. Retrieved from

Toggl Report 

Progress Journal 18T1.4

Week 4

Unfortunately, due to an unspecified disk error, a lot of my Rapid Production Project progress was halted during the end of the week. At first, I started experiencing browser errors, wherein no matter what browser or webpage I attempted to load, I received page errors stating that they could not be opened. Upon restarting my PC, I was met with a menu that stated my PC was “being diagnosed,” that revealed elements of a disk problem. When the automatic repair failed, I attempt a system restore; but most typically a system restore needs either a save point already established, or an internet connection. Although I did have a connection prior to restarting, the laptop could not find an access point when I tried this method. It was at this point I decided to perform a system reset, but once again, an unspecified error caused it to fail, and undo the current changes, bringing me back to the previous screen.

Going into the advanced settings, I found a HP option that allowed me to back up my files to an external hard drive, which is what I did preceding the final attempt at a system reset, which worked. After fiddling around with the HP files, I found a ‘System Recovery’ option, which would reformat the Windows partition of the hard drive, copy required files (back-up) to the identified hard drive and restore said files. All programs installed by the user were uninstalled, and Windows settings were reset to the factory standards after being uninstalled and downloaded / set-up from scratch afterwards. This process took the equivalent of about 18 hours, spread out over two days. I managed to accommodate some of the lost time by doing some extra theory work, but, overall, cut my time down to a meagre 30 hours in comparison to last week’s 50 hours.

I did not achieve as much as planned this week, and will hopefully get back on schedule next week.

[Picture evidence available on request]

Rapid Production Project

An additional problem came when I was struggling to complete the Shot 3 character rig. Despite being able to create bones from puppet pins with ease, when it came to the IK (2 layer and goal) option, I ran into several script errors concerning the selection of bones. I cross-referenced my selection with three separate Duik tutorials to secure the fact that I was using the right method, and the order of selection turned out not to be the issue. Despite re-compositing the entire After Effects file from scratch again, I could not find the direct error which led to this issue.

An attempt at rigging the bones in class revealed that it was most likely an error with the Duik installation on my personal computer. Further internet research and forum browsing did not reveal any other solutions, or even come close to the same problem I was having.

In the end, I settled for some preliminary pre-vis animation, which was then rendered out the following Monday. This consisted of some primitive puppet pin animation, re-parenting the individual limbs to correspond for this method of animation, and re-timing certain shots based on feedback received from lecturers.

EDIT: After the system reset, the problem seemed to have corrected itself, and I have been able to do some preliminary rigging tests prior to the completion of the final rig, which should be completed and back on track to completing the project by the end of Week 5.

On the theory side of things, I began drafting up the extended plan detailed in the Animation Planning Blog Post, mainly gathering resources and introducing the approach I plan to tackle when animating the individual shots in this project.

Character Expression Workshop

Although primarily dedicated to people with dialogue animations, I attended a character expression workshop during contact hours, mainly to cement the values of things like facial cues and lip syncing for potential future projects.

We covered an overview of a 3D lip-syncing workflow, with an emphasis on utilising reference at almost all points of the pipeline in order to cement the animation as realistic as possible. Similarly, it was recommended for us to create or gather video reference before approaching the animation of our Rapid Production Project. Once the project descended into the practical 3D work, I switched to focusing on my specialisation study because it was not applicable to my own project. If I approach 3D facial rigging / lip syncing, I will follow the pipeline noted above.

Lecture notes:

  • One usually blinks when moving the eyes
  • Eye-lids come down fast (zero in-betweens) and take longer (one or two in-betweens) to rise from the blink. Easing must be applied
  • A “disbelief” blink can be achieved by dropping the upper eyelid and raising the lower lid so both lids meet at the centre of the eye.
  • Eyebrows will often have a lot of overlapping action. They will often “lag” behind the eye movements.


  • Should not rely on the face to communicate expression alone. Start off with the body animation, and treat the facial aspect as a way to enhance what is already being achieved by preliminary animation.
  • Generally, nothing should be moving in isolation e.g. the jaw can compress the whole face. When applicable, make use of squash and stretch.
    • Don’t limit yourself to one or two controllers (when using 3D). Try and aim for as much asymmetry as possible. As a general rule, offset equals organic.


Following last week’s cross-discipline meeting, a team member and I dedicated several hours to revising the unnamed project (as of yet); mainly serving as a brainstorming session for this short animated featurette. This session specified some preliminary story pitching between the two of us, as well as detailing some short descriptions for each idea that was then relayed to the director / screen-writer and other team members; detailed in a Google document.

In the following week we will elaborate on the ideas, and potentially modify the existing pitch with other ideas.


As mentioned above, the technical side of my specialisation practice was brought to a standstill due to a disk error that culminated in a system reset, which took out a chunk of my time dedicated to both the Rapid Production Project and Specialisation work. The majority of my specialisation work this week consisted of resource viewing, the likes of which are detailed below under the Resource section.

Personal Work


Using a screenshot of a game I play, I did a mini ‘redraw’ of a cutscene with my custom character. It was mainly an experiment in lighting, as well as preserving the same colour scheme from an existing background without necessarily colour picking the background / character.


This was a character drawn in the previous couple weeks. Whilst I had done a simplistic outfit reference prior, I have neglected to really nail down their body type / create a reference for it.

With this first attempt, I was dissatisfied with their facial structure, and in addition, liked the sketch way more than my lining attempts afterwards.  I ended up scrapping it at this point, but may use the sketch for a revised version wherein I will re-draw the head and extend it to include the legs.


Shortly afterwards, I tried another full-body shot that would act more as a showcase image rather than a full-body reference / turnaround. This would likely serve as a stand-in reference picture if I choose to commission other artists / draw them at a later date. I attempted a little bit of a perspective shot, but as I evidently didn’t incorporate reference into my process, it is a little wonky, particularly with the the upper chest / arm areas. I am, however, happy with the forward-most foot.

Art Trades

As the title suggests, this was an art trade with a friend over another social media site. This was the sketch sent, which will be revised in the coming weeks before completing the final picture. I will likely attempt some changes from my own accord regardless of the feedback, as I have noticed several inconsistencies (mainly with the eye size and body).


Viewed Resources

After Effects

Kramer, A. (2016) 27 – 3D Room [Video]. Retrieved from

  • Turn the image into a 3D layer by hitting the “cube” icon next to the ‘parent’ label in the layer tab.
    • Once transformed into a 3D layer, rotate the layer and push it to the side e.g.: creating a wall.
  • Duplicate the layer, and move the 3D layer to the other side.
  • Once again duplicating the layer, rotate it on the X axis so it forms a “floor.” You want to overlap the “walls” with the floor so there is no spaces in between.
  • At this point, create a camera. (Settings: 35mm preset).
    • Use the track Z camera tool to “pull out” of the room, and bring it back into view.
  • Duplicate the layer again to create the back wall. Rotate it on the X and Z axis. Push it in Z space to the back.
    • Check it is aligned with the back of the room by going into the top view and manipulating the layers from there.

In the following example:

  • Light: intensity 150%; colour: blue.
    • Go to the Light Options > Intensity > Expression: Intensity (Alt+Click). Add in the following script: wiggle(3,40). The lighting will flicker minutely.
  • For camera wiggles:
    • Camera > Alt+Click on Position > wiggle(0.5,35).
  • Camera drop down options. Turn the “Depth of Field” option on.
    • Nothing may happen straight away, as you will need to increase the Aperture in order to see a noticeable difference. Increase the blur level as desired.
    • To achieve a “focal point”: you can adjust the focus distance until desirable or, alternatively: open the position function on the focal point. Open the camera options, finding the focus distance, and Alt + Click on it. Delete the current script, and type: length(. Take the whip and drag it to the position of the final image.
      • Once the text looks like this: “length(thisComp.layer(“FINAL IMAGE”).transform.position” add a comma to the end, and drag the whip to the camera’s position. End it with a parenthesis.
    • Turn on the motion blur switch (?)
  • Take the back wall; make it invisible.
  • Going into the Effects and Presets tab, type in “motion tile.” Apply this to all walls, floors and ceiling layers, changing the output width to 500, for example.
  • Push the back layer to the end after the edition of the motion tile function.
    • To alter the colour of the back wall (as the light will most likely make it brighter than usual) go to Effects > Colour Correction > Exposure. Turn the exposure into the negative values.
  • Control + Click the time stamp to change it to frames. You may need to do this multiple times.

Kramer, A. (2016) 54 – Advanced Camera Tips [Video]. Retrieved from

  • P; Shift + A correlates to position of interest. Set a keyframe for the both of them.
  • Use the track camera tool to move the position, etc.
  • Parent the camera to a 3D null object layer.
  • Effects and presets: Separate XYZ Position. Drag and apply to the null object. In the effects control tab, the null should now have options that separate the X, Y and Z position, allowing for it to be animated separately. Rename the effects tab to “Camera Controls.”
    • The “E” shortcut should bring up the settings in the composition tab below.

Sonduck Film (2017) After Effects Tutorial: Volumetric

Character Expression / Lip-syncing

AnimSchool (2011) Animation School – Animschool: Chatacter Eye Blink [Video]. Retrieved from

  • Upper lids primarily moves when blinking, with the lower lid slightly coming up to meet it.
    • The upper lid leads the movement.
    • Meets in the middle; (65-70% “down” mark of the eye) the upper lid pushes the lower lid down, before retracting up.
  • The brow and cheek push down / rise up accordingly very slightly, achieving a nice ‘organic’ feel.
    • Additionally, the pupil and the iris slightly “follow” the lid direction.
  • Very subtle offset of the blinks between separate eyelids. A nuance that can be added at a later stage.
    • Rest the pupil against the eyelid when looking in extreme directions.

Osipa, J. (2006) Stop Staring: Facial Modeling and Animation Done Right. John Wiley & Sons.

  • The brows and eyes generally indicate / hint at a character’s thoughts.
  • The brows have two primary movements: alternating up/down and brows squeeze.
    • Up/down generally doesn’t convey a lot about emotion, but when used in combination with the squeeze and different combinations of the lids can form a holistic expression. Typically the squeeze is the biggest denote of thought regardless of the type of emotion.
  • Upper lids reads the “alertness” of a character; lower lids intensify the emotions.
  • The angle of the head can change the nature of the expression entirely, and dramatically shift the viewer’s perception of the aforementioned features.

McNutt, J. (n.d.) Lip Sync. Retrieved on 1 Mar. 18 from

  • Don’t animate every syllable.
    • “However the idea is not to over work the poses, get the shape of the word and make sure the viewer can read it.”
    • Select and focus on the most important mouth shapes; “blend” over the rest. Commonly referred to as ‘phrasing.’ Humans rarely articulate every letter. Words can be “glossed” over into syllable combinations.
  • The lip sync should be offset for readability.
    • “For the audience to be able to read the lip sync you’ll want to offset the jaw opening one to two frames before the audio is actually heard.”
      • The jaw opening / closing in direct correspondence to the audio will usually result in the lip sync feeling “ahead” of the audio.
    • The closed mouth shapes are one of the most important aspects to lip syncing, that needs to be nailed.
      • These cannot be “blended” over. Needs to be held for a couple frames, before “popping” to the next frame.
    • Other aspects of a good lip sync:
      • Exaggerating the movements; taking care in planning, etc. and when to hold the movement. Once happy with the basic timing, go in and exaggerate the facial movement in conjunction with the lip syncing.
      • Eyebrow animations should not be overused and moving during every word; rather, a few “important” eyebrow arcs.
      • Blinks should be added with purpose, and with correct timing. Think about the emotional state of the character.

Boyer, W. T. & Kelly, J. (2009) Phoneme Mouth Chart. Retrieved on 1 Mar. 18 from


Lango, K. (2001) Principles for Lipsync Animation. Retrieved from

  • Principle #1: Letters are not sounds. Sounds are not letters. There are NO letters in lipsync animation.
    • Letters are the “representative symbols” that are strung together to form words.
    • Animate speech, rather than letters. “There are no letters in speech, only sounds, and the shape our faces take to make those sounds.”
      • Even when simplifying a dialogue piece to sounds, when animating each individual sound it will make for a “poppy” mouth. Despite some poses only appearing for a single frame, it is often too much information for the viewer to interpret regardless.
    • Beginner’s mistakes: often they will make a “phoneme” that is an exact replica of that sound in isolation. The problem with this is that often doesn’t take into account the combination of phonemes that occurs when a word is said.
  • Principle #2: Mouth Shapes for Sounds Must Be Animated In Context.
    • Context meaning: “The preceding sound shape affects the current sound shape. Likewise, the following sound shape is anticipated in the current sound shape.”
    • All shapes shown must be in the context of the previous shape and/or the one that follows it. You must take into account the “flow” of the shape needed to present the sounds in an organic manner.
    • Grab the essential elements of the recording. Lango suggests a method called “squinting your ears” to try and gather the overall feel of the dialogue, rather than an isolated element.
  • Principle #3: Interpret the Lipsync Animation Like an Impressionist
    • Get the major impressions of the speech across and you can often let the smaller details slide.
  • Principle #4: Get the Opens and Closes Done Right and Build On Those
    • Even just hitting the opens and closes / wide shapes of the mouth at the right time can serve as 75% of the way to a well-rounded lip-sync.
  • Miscellaneous tips:
    • Don’t go from open / closed in quick succession (in one frame).
    • The mouth shape should never remain static
    • M / F sounds with a closed mouth should be held for two frames. If the sound is extremely tight, “steal” from the previous sound.

After Effects | Character Rigging

Lowery, O. (2015) After Effects Duik: Rigging & Animation Tools [Video tutorial]. Retrieved from

Unfortunately, this tutorial did not cover the specific function I was hoping to explore; which was the combination of using the puppet pinning method and the IK goal function. I was having persistent errors regarding the selection of bones and the control object, mainly that my selection was not registering and I kept receiving an error message (Titles refer to the corresponding tutorial the notes were taken from).

Adding puppet pins to a morph character:

  • Delete the key frames automatically generated by puppet pin creation.
  • Make sure the pins have different names to ensure the expression (Duik plugin script) does not reference two separate bones. It usually defaults to “Puppet Pin 1, Puppet Pin 2…etc.”

Creating bones from puppet pins:

  • “Bones” in a Duik context are just null objects or a solids that a puppet pin is linked to within the layer. Duik cannot create IK rigging straight from the puppet pin method.
  • In the settings tab, there is a “rigging” sub-menu that allows you to edit the type of bones created, including their placement (over/under layer), size, type (solid, etc.) and more specifics for controllers, including their type and placement.
    • Null objects are preferred so they are less visible.
    • The “E” shortcut can quickly bring up the puppet pins.
    • The “hashtag” symbol next to the bone layers in the composition menu indicates that they are “guide” layers, simply references that will not render out with the final animation. All null objects have this pre-set.

When the IK goal tool is applied to a layer that’s parented to another layer, it will cause the child layer to no longer rotate based on the connection to its parent.

Effects panel options for the IK control layer

  • Clicking the effects panel enables you to switch between the “direction” that the limbs will bend. Most often “broken” limbs can be fixed by either selecting or deselecting the clockwise option underneath the IK forearm label.
    • You can additionally set keyframes to alternate between clockwise and anti-clockwise by clicking the keyframe icon beside the clockwise label.
  • To prevent the layers from being stretched out beyond their “boundaries” when bound to a control object, you can disable “auto-stretch” in the effects tab.
    • You can additionally control the distance it is being stretched, potentially pushing the limbs further apart or closer together.
  • Auto-shrink does a similar function, but instead of basing the distance on how far away the layers are from each other, it focuses on the distance of the control object.
  • Goal hand checkbox. With the checkbox enabled the goal hand rotates independently of its parent. When unchecked, the child will point in whatever direction the parent points in. Its orientation and rotated are based on that of its parent.

Motifize (2017) How to rig a character with DUIK [Video]. Retrieved from

DuDuf (2014) Duik tutorial – IK [Video]. Retrieved from

  • Forward Kinematics
    • A rig in which one can animate a limb using the rotation of each part. \
      • Anchor points are first placed in areas where the rotation will look “natural”
      • Layers are linked in a parenting hierarchy (e.g. hand linked to the forearm, the forearm linked to the upper arm). The arm can then be manipulated by rotating each separate part.
      • Main problem: when the body rotates, the hand won’t stay in place on the ‘table’ (?)
    • Inverse kinematics
      • Enables you to animate limbs by moving the position of the bone; with the rotation of each part being automatically calculated.
      • Create a control object to “guide” the limbs in the rig. You can still move the layer, but as long as the controller doesn’t move, its orientation will be fixed towards the controller. Alternatively called the “look at” effect.

Animation Workflow | Video Reference

Shum, J. (2017) Workflow Tips for Planning Animation [Video]. Retrieved from

  • Gather reference; no filter. Prioritise a wider search versus specifics at this point. Most common places to find reference: youtube, vimeo, pinterest, thumbnails, shooting your own video reference, etc. “…net is going wide…”
    • Thumbnails are useful for fleshing out the idea in your head as an expansion of the storyboard, before moving onto more specific and realistic movement with video referencing.
  • When everything is gathered, start to filter out your preferences from the rest; have a clear view of what kind of style, energy, and mood you are planning to achieve in this animation. More specifically; match up poses, etc. up to your thumbnails and adjust according. Mixing it up, make it your “own.”
    • Shoot video reference and edit timing in image plane. This can be achieved in Maya.
    • 2D thumbnails (grease pencil, 2D software)

CGTarian Online School (2015) Animation Workflow with Christopher Cordingley (CGTarian Animation Masters) [Video]. Retrieved from

  • Think your animation of having a beginning, middle and end to gauge things for how interesting they are, so you have something a little more suitable for a demo reel, and shows a little bit of storytelling.
    • Especially in animation, you need to be able to “hone in” on storytelling beads, no matter how simple the shot is.

Czajkowski, M. (2017) Moribund Malediction [Video]. Retrieved from

Maybe an example of a character animation project I could try in my own personal time. Segmenting stuff by layers, etc. and then using either Duik or the Puppet pinning method to manipulate the images into animated “stills,” to construct a narrative? 🤔


Uncomfortable (2015) Composition 101 [Video]. Retrieved from

  • Deals more with two dimensional forms and their positioning rather than the imitation of three-dimensional rendering commonly seen in environmental pieces. Many stunning environment compositions are let down by their poor, or lack of composition fundamentals.
    • Foreground helps to “bring the viewer into the scene.”
  • Composition, particularly in environments, should be broken down into shapes. You should be seeing shapes like the following…
    …to view it clearer, it may be useful to draw outlines of the shapes in your thumbnail, remove the values / painting layer, and view the composition from that perspective.

    • If you were to remove all the specific context, detail and information, and fill it in with other, differentiating detail, the composition should, theoretically, stay good (if it was in the first place). Similarly, it is often hard to fix up a bad composition by changing detail, etc. without altering the composition guiding lines / blocked out shapes.
    • Importance placed on how the shapes are laid out. There is a lot of influence from the general position of shapes and the kinds of negative space it might create – it’s “just as important as the positive space.”
  • It’s more productive to avoid what makes composition boring, rather than focusing on what makes it interesting – it’s easy to get wrapped up and neglect other aspects which can bring down your composition.
    • Symmetry –> boring; bland; predictable. Predictable because everything stays the same. No movement. “When you have asymmetry, you have change across your piece.”
      • Think about where the horizon line sits. The horizon line should be level with where your eyes are.
      • Positioning of the horizon line has a great impact on the mood invoked by the composition. A low-set horizon with a larger area of the sky invokes a “sense of grandiose,” dynamism, movement, incitement, energy, etc.
      • Having the horizon high à wide view of the ground beneath you. You feel “in control of the scene,” grounded, etc.
      • An equal-set horizon tends to make for a boring composition; and makes the scene difficult to relate to. You don’t know if you’re part of the scene, observing it, you’re caught in the middle, etc.
    • Balance =/= symmetry. Achieve balance without keeping everything equally spaced out.
    • image.png
      • Having a flat composition / static shot isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you need to do it intentionally, e.g. when you need to focus on the interaction between two characters. You don’t want the viewer to be distracted by “angular drama” when the focus of your composition is elsewhere. Make sure your composition decisions are conscious.
    • Focal points…how the viewer’s eye moves around your frame. Framing can be used to direct a path onto the focal point in the composition.
      • Having guiding lines that direct off the frame will make the eye lose interest quickly.
    • Contrast… e.g. image.png…lots of hard, clean edges, values directly contrasted against the background, etc.
      • When applying detail à do not detail too heavily outside your intended focal point. Detail tends to create a lot of unnecessary contrast outside the focal point…painting ends up being “noisy.” Tends to be back-and-forth, hectic, etc. Give clear directives towards the focal point.
        • Can be achieved with motion blur / blurring (?)

Uncomfortable (2015) Thumbnail Painting Process [Video]. Retrieved on 27 Feb. 18 from

  • Atmospheric haze, also commonly referred to as “aerial perspective,” – the atmospheric phenomenon that dictates that the further the object away is, the ‘lighter’ it is. Directly tied to perception of depth.
  • Jumping in with a lot of subtle gradation earlier on can often mess with the perception of depth in the scene, and it is recommended to block out atmospheric haze values before continuing with specific details.
    • *Other artist techniques include starting off with lighter values before even touching the foreground, as demonstrated in this tutorial: Feghali, W. (2018) Painting Environment Concepts in No Time. Retrieved on 13 Feb. 18 from
    • Helps to set the standard for the value of objects.
Catalogued Resources

After Effects | Character Rigging

Balda, K. (2009) 3D Animation Masterclass: Acting Tutorial Highlights [Video]. Retrieved from

DuDuf (2015) Duik Tutorial – IK Tips [Video]. Retrieved from

Linear / Spatial Interpolation

Toggl Report

Rapid Production Project | Animation Planning


Storyboard for shot reference:


Approach to Scenes

The approach to each individual shot will vary quite heavily between the second and third shots, as 2D rigs have heavy limitations when it comes to excessive movement. More specifically, the shot 2 rig will be swapped out in favour of some frame by frame pictures, as there are restrictions to how much I can distort the facial area, particularly the mouth, without it looking too deformed.

The shot 3 rig will most likely be adequate in itself without the need for animating individual frames in addition to the rig. Even taking note of the pre-vis animation, it is evident that with a few 2D rigging tools and some additional key frames should be sufficient to create the final pass of the animation, perhaps with the addition of some other After Effects elements.

The main workflow will consist of a similar, if not identical approach to the compiling of the animatic and pre-vis scenes. Each scene will have a separate file that will be iterated upon, updated with the most current assets and animation, etc., the shots of which will be rendered out separately. In my case, I plan to render the second half of the second shot in a separate After Effects composition, likely reusing some of the previous frames, so that the individual frames, etc. do not encumber the original composition too much, particularly considering I am running After Effects on a laptop that does not have the strength of an average desktop computer.

A master edit of the compiled footage will be updated and reiterated upon to not only showcase regular progression over the duration of the project, but also to have several back-ups if a fail-safe is needed (however unlikely this may be, as I have retained several backups of the projects in different areas). With the shots assembled in Premiere, the ‘original’ edit of the sequence can simply be revised with the updated shots and will eventually become the final sequence.

Note: the establishing shot (first) will not be discussed in the following, as it does not detail any character movement, only a background.

Shot 2.1
  • Shot 2.1:
    • Extreme close up
    • Slow zoom in
    • MONSTER narrows eyes & bares teeth.
    • SFX: growling, 2nd arc

The following video details an ill black panther; rather disturbed and agitated. The most notable aspect of this video is how the panther grows, observing the facial movements, particularly that of the mouth. Over the course of the growl, the cheeks gather around the nose, rising up and ‘vibrating,’ depending on the intensity of the growl. Additionally, the cheek being ‘pinched’ means the bottom eyelid is subsequently pushed upwards. The facial squishing, in additional to pulling the upper and lower lids together, should achieve a notable angry growl to accompany the audio. Lackadaisy artist T. J. Butler recommends drawing lips down at the corners; as a “strong indicator of displeasure or even anguish…the upper lip added, it becomes a snarl,” (2011).

Another example of intense displeasure:

Messerschmidt, F. X. (1771-83) The Ill-Humored Man. New York: Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. Retrieved from

Note the lips drawn down at the corners, and wrinkles around the nose / corners of the mouth, as well as the brow area.

This growl is so strenuous that the gums become visible as the perioral area rises. This may be another feature that I include to further stress the ferocity of the growl.

Although my character lacks a distinguishable nose, it would be useful to mimic rising the corners of the mouth, trying to capture that intensity / ferocity displayed in the following. The baring of teeth is also likely to encapsulate the expression. Using the rig, I plan to have the teeth extend downwards from the gums, and use a track matte to bind them to the alpha of the mouth layer. The jaw will be a separate layer above it, and will most likely make use of puppet pins to distort the image so the corners of the mouth appear to be pulled down over the course of the shot, before settling back down as the sneeze initiates.


As noted by the reference, the upward corners of the mouth will gather upwards whilst the bottom corners will be pulled downwards to form a snarl. If possible, I will add some scowl lines, although at this point this is more of a desirable.

The head will be “pulled down” to indicate leaning forward (although you can’t really see it from a front-on view) and the shoulders will hunch upwards, most likely via puppet pin tools, rather than using the Duik method.

The bottom eyelids will follow the mouth, and be pushed upwards as the upper lid comes down.

The rig will most likely be insufficient to also animate the sneeze, and it is at this point where I will switch to animating the frames individually. This short duration before the cut to the third shot will mainly be focused on the lurch backwards / the facial expressions accompanying it, and not having to animate anything below the waist will aid in matching the time constraints provided.

Shot 2.2
  • Shot 2.2:
    • Smash out
    • close shot
    • MONSTER reels back
    • SFX: none
  • Shot 2.3:
    • S/A Shot
    • MONSTER lurches forward, sneezing
    • SFX: sneeze

Notice that with each sneeze, even without the addition of cartoonish exaggeration, reels back quite noticeably.


There is a clear arc between when the figure throws their head back and then leans forward at the culmination of the sneeze.

The following video demonstrates an even more noticeable ‘arc’ from the initiation of the sneeze all the way to the end. It is important to note that even though the recoil from the man is very slow and often deliberate, I want to make use of exaggeration and overlapping action to have the character move with his entire body, rather than just the upper area. Because he is quite short, it would make sense to have his entire form involved when moving.

The (first) video reference demonstrates some anticipatory action – most noteworthy, the ‘scrunching’ up of the face, and the closing of the eyes. As the head reels backwards, the person’s eyes throughout all the video subjects squint, their brows furrowing to the point that it causes creases in the face. I have found that in my current animatic and preliminary pre-vis animation, I have neglected to incorporate this anticipatory action in the shot, and may cause some confusion when the camera pulls out to the monster looking shocked. Of note is also the movement of the body. Even if the reference is only a bust and upwards shot, over its course there is a distinct leaning forward of the body following the motion of the head. I could potentially make some use of overlapping animation, or even some delay to enhance the exaggeration.

My current plan is to tweak the existing animation in future passes to include this squinting action at the pinnacle of the arc, when the character is at its ‘highest’ point, and to overall include more exaggeration, although at this point I might be testing the limits of the rig (which is likely a cue for me to switch to the individual drawing of the frames stage of the shot).

The mouth movements of each individual have a tendency to vary, if not wildly, between people. The main approach I want use for this sequence would be to ‘pinch’ the mouth into a very small ‘o’ shape as the sneeze comes to an end, mainly to showcase as much squash and stretch that the mouth can achieve in the short sequence.


Shot 2.2. The first phase of this shot will consist of moving the features of the preliminary rig upwards, before transitioning into drawn frames when the perspective comes into play.

The mouth will quiver a lot between the first and second thumbnails, making use of Duik’s ‘wiggle’ function (example of which can be seen in the preview). The face will scrunch up, potentially making use of squash and stretch, before going forwards and cutting at the last second to the third shot, before the character can recoil backwards.


Action detailed from a 3/4 view angle to detail the full body movement.

As noted, the arms will swing backwards whilst the body lurches forward, the knees squatting down as the body leans close to the floor.

Shot 3

This shot mainly details the recoil of the sneeze (previously touched upon) from a different angle; 3/4 view, full-body shot. Like I had mentioned, I wanted the recoil to be first and foremost exaggerated; almost comedic in nature.


This shot will likely replay some of the “previous frames” (essentially, repeating the action of the last moments of the second shot) before the character recoils, as per lecturer suggestion. Making use of overlapping action, the arms will move in a slight delay in comparison to the body, detailed by the thumbnail sketches above. The swing forward quite dramatically, with movements that are heavily exaggerated.

Misc. Workflow Notes for Planning Stages

Shum, J. (2017) Workflow Tips for Planning Animation [Video]. Retrieved from

  • Gather reference; no filter. Prioritise a wider search versus specifics at this point. Most common places to find reference: youtube, vimeo, pinterest, thumbnails, shooting your own video reference, etc. “…net is going wide…”
    • Thumbnails are useful for fleshing out the idea in your head as an expansion of the storyboard, before moving onto more specific and realistic movement with video referencing.
  • When everything is gathered, start to filter out your preferences from the rest; have a clear view of what kind of style, energy, and mood you are planning to achieve in this animation. More specifically; match up poses, etc. up to your thumbnails and adjust according. Mixing it up, make it your “own.”
    • Shoot video reference and edit timing in image plane. This can be achieved in Maya.
    • 2D thumbnails (grease pencil, 2D software)
      • Gives context and opens the pathway to feedback

References cited

Butler, T. J. (2011) Lackadaisy Expressions. Retrieved from

Clow (2008) Coughs and Sneezes (1945) [Video]. Retrieved from

I’m M (2016) Angry Black Panther in a cage [Video]. Retrieved from

LouiseVixan (201) Magnum Black Jaguar Growl [Video]. Retrieved from

Shum, J. (2017) Workflow Tips for Planning Animation [Video]. Retrieved from

SlowFastMotion (2009) Slowmotion: Sneeze [Video]. Retrieved from

Messerschmidt, F. X. (1771-83) The Ill-Humored Man. New York: Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. Retrieved from