Thicker Than Water

It is no secret that we live in a very divided world. Whether it be nationality, ethnicity, gender, or any other social factor, people will find reasons to separate themselves from others. Even so, we all crave connections but are too scared of the unknown outsider to reach out and make them. This story is my way of communicating the idea that the outsider is not to be feared, but rather loved.

 

The story of Little Red Riding Hood is one that everyone is familiar with, and that is exactly why I have chosen to retell it. I want to show that the people we separate ourselves from are the key to forming the connections we need. The wolf represents the mysterious outside entity that is perceived as hostile by Little Red, but through shared experiences, they overcome their differences and form a strong bond.

Production Process

Character Sheets

These character sheets fulfill multiple roles. For one they act as a style guide that defines the shape language the characters are made with. As you can see, there are also color swatches that are unique to each character. Perhaps the most important aspect of these designs, however, is grey height lines because they allow me to measure the characters consistently when modeling them.

Layouts

The first two environment layouts are painterly because I had not yet decided on a visual style for them. To match the character designs with their simple shapes and flat toon colours, I decided to settle on a simple geometric shape style for the environments, but the first two layouts are still helpful for deciding the colour palette.

Story Board

This actually wasn't the first storyboard I made for this animation. The first one didn't illustrate the theme that I wanted to portray in this animation so I had to rework it. I am aware that there are directorial issues with this storyboard, such as the breaking of the 180 rule. I have taken note of these and will change them during production, but the storyboard itself will stay like this.

Character Rigs

A LOT of time was spent on the character rigs. I am of the belief that characters should be very expressive to communicate an emotion or feeling to the audience. This requires character rigs that allow for a wide range of motion. The most time-consuming part was making arms that could blend between IK and FK handles, which are just two different ways joints bend in Maya. I wanted to implement both to allow the arms to move in a variety of ways. Facial expressions were also important, so I added different blend shapes for different parts of the face so I could mix and match to create a variety of expressions.

Scene 1 Environment

When I model environments I have a philosophy: If they won't see it, don't bother. That may sound lazy but it's actually for the sake of time constraints. Modelling everything would take a lot of time and rendering would become exponentially slower. I model environments separately according to scenes to make it easier to navigate while also cutting down on the file size and I limit how much I model to cut down on render times. It helps to keep camera angles in mind to know what will and will not be seen. To that end, it pays to think of camera angles from the beginning of preproduction.

Walk Cycle

When a character is particularly expressive, every movement is a full-body motion. Walk cycles are more complicated than you would think at their bare minimum because you have to make the feet alternate in a symmetrical and natural way. Add on top of that the movement of the arms, the torso, and the hight adjustments that are required to make it look not only natural but expressive and unique. With all this in mind, you might be looking at an hour's worth of work to complete one cycle. Luckily it's possible to copy and paste frames to get the desired duration in a relatively short amount of time once you have the initial cycle complete, though slight adjustments are often needed on account of differences in terrain.

Animatic

Following my Thesis Defense, I was told to make an animatic to get a sense of timing. I wanted to do this earlier but felt like I was behind on tangible progress. It's fortunate I have it done now though, as it has helped me plan out my future work schedule. It turns out that the full animation will be around a minute and a half, which is much shorter than I had originally anticipated. I want to add more close up shots of the two characters' faces to highlight their emotions at different moments, but for now, my focus is getting everything here animated and rendered out.