I needed to make an animation within the spirit of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with an emphasis on music, jokes and a few form of existential disaster. I knew the manufacturing would hinge on having a robust script. Regardless of how good my fashions look or how delicately I animate the characters, if the story is boring or if the emotional beats do not resonate, then it might all go to waste.
Once I wrote the script, I numbered every scene and every line of dialog. This got here in helpful later when organizing my lip-synch efforts and scene information. As soon as the script was executed, I made a spreadsheet of all of the belongings I would wish to make. I resolved to make each single mannequin myself so as to get extra apply.
I knew I might be engaged on the undertaking all yr, an hour a day, in my free time, so I needed to be organized about it. Though I used to be working alone, I broke my undertaking into separate information for every mannequin. This turned out to be an important thought as a result of it saved every file small, which meant they’d load and save quicker when modifying. I save them into Google Drive, which handles backups and versioning, and since every mannequin is in a separate file, I can restore an outdated model if I have to, with out shedding every other work.
I additionally animated every scene in its personal file. This meant I might render one scene within the background whereas concurrently engaged on one other scene, with out concern of messing one thing up. This additionally saved fabric simulation knowledge separate for every scene, which made issues a bit extra manageable.
The story is about some Christmas collectible figurines. Some are outdated and carved from wooden, others are new and plastic, or porcelain, or fabric. This meant I acquired to make use of various totally different approaches when modeling the characters. The crude picket characters of Nutcracker and Mary have been hard-surface fashions. Extra natural shapes like Santa Mouse and Black Santa have been sculpted. I checked out classic collectible figurines on eBay for inspiration.
I discovered a tough lesson too late within the undertaking. When designing the characters I ought to have thought of their actions and never simply their shapes. My design for Nutcracker turned out to be very problematic as a result of there wasn’t room for him to show his head with out clipping. Ultimately I simply let his head clip, however subsequent time I’ll positively suppose forward about vary of movement when designing non-organic characters.
Mary was a particular case. As a substitute of getting her face transfer, I needed her face to be drawn on with ink, and the ink wanted to circulation throughout her face to vary her expression. There are tutorials for doing this with a set of fastened expression photos, however I needed her face to maneuver easily. I rigged some easy Grease Pencil shapes for the eyes and mouth, animated the rigs, and rendered that animation into a picture sequence that may very well be included in Mary’s face materials. So after I lastly rendered the precise scene, Mary’s face materials itself can be animated along with her mouth and eye actions.
I modeled the hearth mantel, garland, pinecones and different props utilizing exhausting floor modeling, following numerous tutorials on-line. I discovered some tutorials on the way to make flickering candles and blinking Christmas lights. There have been a couple of methods I couldn’t discover tutorials on and needed to provide you with my very own methods.
I had a star decoration that appears like it’s made out of copper wire. For this I modeled a star decoration out of planes, then used a particle system to distribute factors throughout its floor. Then I wrote a python script to attach the factors with line segments and a subsurface and pores and skin modifier to show the segments right into a steady flexible wire. I used to be actually pleased with making this work and it was the primary time I used to be capable of remedy an issue myself as a substitute of utilizing another person’s tutorial. Now that geometry nodes can be found I feel I might re-do this in a means that’s extra versatile and automatic.
At first of the brief we see some “tissue paper” Thanksgiving turkeys fly previous the digicam. These are a little bit of American Thanksgiving kitsch which yow will discover on Amazon. To mannequin these I made a airplane, made a sequence of loop cuts and bent them right into a zigzag. Then I carved it right into a turkey wing form utilizing the knife software. A mirror modifier and array modifier turned it right into a honeycomb stack, after which a curve modifier wrapped it round an axis. This labored surprisingly effectively; it is a very transient sequence within the movie however one of many moments I’m most pleased with.
Earlier than I began the sluggish and laborious technique of animating the characters, I blocked out every scene, inserting the digicam and the characters in order that I might perceive the place they’d be in relation to one another and the viewer. This was an enormous assist as a result of I did not need to spend a single minute animating one thing that wasn’t on display. The blocking part was additionally an important studying expertise since I’ve no background in movie and even easy subjects corresponding to framing the characters and utilizing depth of area have been new to me.
There have been a couple of parts I did not hand-animate. One was Mary’s scarf, which was a fabric simulation. This was my first fabric sim and I struggled lots to get it proper. I began every scene with the fabric flat above Mary and let 100 frames go by to let it fall and drape throughout her. This ensured it began every scene in a pure drape over the figurine. However I had a couple of circumstances the place the material acquired caught on a mesh by some means and I used to be by no means capable of remedy the issue. That is one thing I hope to realize experience at as a result of the fabric simulation is so helpful.
Within the scene the place Santa Mouse is throwing holly berries at Snowie’s hat, I used a physics simulation. This labored rather well in making a pure trajectory for the berry and a sensible deflection off of the hat. I’m continuously amazed at Blender’s broad vary of capabilities and was actually grateful I did not need to animate this by hand.
Snowie, the snowman, strikes round by rolling the underside ball of the snowman, like “BB-8”. For this I wrote a Python script that calculates the right roll for the ball in any course based mostly on the place Snowie has moved because the final body. This meant I might merely drag him round when animating, and my script would accurately roll the ball later. I used to be glad to lastly use some highschool trigonometry 25 years after graduating from highschool.
My laptop was not very highly effective and in the course of the animation course of I discovered the significance of low-poly proxies. This was the one means I might animate easily within the viewport and get the suggestions I wanted to make inventive selections.
Rendering the brief movie was essentially the most painful a part of the method, however loads of the ache was self-inflicted. I saved discovering errors in my animation and sometimes needed to re-render segments after making a correction. Subsequent time I’ll enhance my workflow for proofing the animation in order that it’s excellent earlier than rendering. Ultimately I reached the deadline for our native movie pageant and needed to submit the brief despite the fact that it was removed from excellent. However, as they are saying, “it is executed when it is due”.
I’m happy that my brief has featured in a couple of movie festivals and received “greatest animated brief” in certainly one of them. I hope different freshmen shall be inspired that you do not have to be a full-time 3D artist to make a brief movie. It simply takes the self-discipline to do some daily, and naturally a limitless urge for food for studying!