Perception 製作過程分享｜How I made Perception
Perception 是我的研究所畢業製作，全長2分鐘，以 2D Motion Graphics 風格描述一個女孩自我探索的過程，除了抽象及非線性的敘事方式以外，這次專案中我最想嘗試的便是將逐格動畫與向量風格做結合，希望呈現屬於自己的風格。
Perception is my final M.A. project at SCAD. It is a 2 minute animation about a girl and her exploration of life. In this project, I wanted to tell a story in an abstract and non-linear way through a mix of vectors and cel-animation to create a unique visual style.
✎ 使用軟體 Software | Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects
✎ 製作時間 Production Time | 約12週/About 12 Weeks
✎ 影片長度 Duration | 2分鐘/2 minutes
關於角色 | About The Character
此專案的主角酪梨蘋果沙拉是我在之前的專案 Paradox 創造的角色，Paradox 是一系列短動畫的合集，用有趣的角色表演呈現各種常見的情緒，關於製作過程在我的網站有更多說明。
The main character of this project — Avocado Apple Salad — was created while I was making Paradox, which was an animation that portrayed common human emotions through multiple characteristics. For more details of this project, please check my website.
Paradox 完成後，我認為這個角色及其帶點抽象的表現形式還有很多發展空間，於是決定沿用此風格發展更完整的故事，同時想將 Paradox 的片段穿插在新的故事之中，讓兩個作品有所連結，於是 Perception 的概念就大致成形了。
After finishing Paradox, I found that there was more I could do with that character and the style it presented. So I decided to extend the idea and created another project with Avocado Apple Salad, but with a more concrete concept.
That aside, I also wanted to show the animations from Paradox again in the new project to connect these two works and add more fun! That was the original intent of Perception.
關於前製 | About Design
☞ 分鏡 Storyboard
Since the concept and story were decided, the next part was to create the storyboard. The narrative of the project focused on showing the character traveling through several different worlds. To separate those styles, I used multiple colors to distinguish the various scenes. The same colors mean that those scenes are from the same world, so they will be in the same style. It makes it easier to create styleframes.
Following that, I would decide the primary motion and the hierarchy in each scene to decide which part would be created by cel-animation, and which would be done in After Effects (Ae).
☞ 定稿 Styleframes
For the styleframes I used both Illustrator (Ai) and Photoshop (Ps). Most of the vector parts are done in Ai. For the cel-animation ones, I draw them in Ps first before importing it to Ai.
It is important to show the final layout and color in the styleframes. Because that helps me see if they have enough details and consistency. The more efforts made in this step, the fewer the things needed to change during animation.
關於製作 | About Animation
☞ 動態腳本 Animatic
Before diving into the cel-animation, I will create an animatic first.
The animatic is to help finalize the camera movement, duration, and primary animation of each scene. I imported all the styleframes from Ai and organized them in Ae. Since the cel-animation was not created yet, I will sample the position change of the still image to get the idea. After that, I export each scene separately and import it into Ps so I could follow the timeline of the animatic to do cel-animation.
I use the script Overlord which works amazingly if you want to import an Ai file into Ae. I highly recommend it!
I cooperated with a composer in this project. After the animatic is finished, I was able to send it to him so he could determine the duration of each segment to start making the music and sound effects.
☞ 逐格動畫 Cel-animation
And here comes the most important part of this project: to combine the cel-animation with the vector style.
First, I set the frame rate at 15 fps to integrate these two different styles. So that the frame-by-frame animation wouldn’t look weird or not jittery compared with the Ae animation. Following that, I imported each animatic and started drawing each frame in Ps. From sketch, clean up to coloring, all are all finished in Ps. It is the most time-consuming part of the project. It took me 4–5 weeks to draw all the frames that I needed.
Photoshop Animation TechniquesThe animation tool in Ps works for me, but for cel-animation I would prefer to use TVPaint or other professional software. I chose Ps is because it was the most accessible to me at that moment. If you also need to draw frame by frame in Ps, I recommend this tutorial, which show you all the steps and optimize the animation tool:
Photoshop Animation Techniques
It is helpful to create different Artboards in Ps for the animatic and sketch layers. It makes it easier to follow the actual timeline while I am drawing the cel-animation; this is so I wouldn’t draw too many or too little frames before realizing it during the compositing.
Changing the stroke size after exporting the frames is not something easily done. In order to make sure they look good, I added a low opacity styleframe layer under the sketch layer so I could always follow it and reference if I needed to adjust the stroke size.
The frame rate setting in Ps is also 15 fps. I use Video Group (highlighted in the timeline by the purple) to do all the cel-animation because sometimes I don’t draw every frame, but only between every two or even three frames. It is easier to use Video Group to manage or extend the frames in the timeline.
清稿、上色完成之後便是分層輸出，我目前還是土法煉鋼一層一層分資料夾輸出成psd sequences，檔案多又花時間，如果有更好的方式歡迎提供給我ＱＱAfter clean-up and coloring, I render all the layers individually, but it takes so much time and create a ton of files! If you know a better to way to get around this process to render, please let me know!
I have a schedule only for the cel-animation since it is the messiest and most difficult part of this project. The different numbers represent different levels. The greater the number is, the more time the scene takes. After summing up the total number and dividing it by my working days, I would figure out how many scenes I need to finish every day.
☞ 合成及細節調整 Compositing And Final Adjustment
The last step is to combine everything together in After Effects!!
There are no special tips for this part. The animatic’s duration was correct, the cel-animation was following the final timeline, and the files were well managed. All I needed to do was to import everything and it would look good. Of course, there were some details that need to be adjusted, but overall this working process is very efficient.
Following are the animatic, cel-animation, and final version of different scenes.
There are two scenes that I want to talk a little bit more about:
First is the scene where the shapes pop out and transform into the character (00:13–00:17). It begins with Ae motion and then is connected with cel-animation. What I did was to create a rough motion in Ae, and then followed the motion to draw “morphing” part in Ps. After, I would go back to Ae to replace the last half shape layers with sequences that I had made.
Secondly, I want to also elaborate on the swing scene (00:55–01:01). After making the animatic, I drew all the body parts separately in Ps, including the flipping beret and cloth, and then went back to Ae, while animating the body parts according to the position of the swing and the rope.
製作感想 | Conclusion
Perception is my last project at SCAD. It includes everything I’ve learned, felt, and perceived in this one and a half year duration. It was the first time I had spent so much time on a personal project. So I was actually very worried about finishing it. However, I was lucky to have much support from my friends, family, and professors — which helped me a lot during the process so I can complete everything on time.
Also, I love the music so much in this piece! It has elevated my animation to another level! I would especially like to thank my composer for such great work!
This is my first time writing in both Chinese and English. Thank my friend Nicole to help me edit the English version! Love you so much!
This article is mainly about the production process and skills. I will write another one following it to talk about the concept and the meaning of each scene! See you next time!
Give me some applauses if you like this article! 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻