In the process of deciding on a personal project to take on, I was originally aiming for something along the lines of my typical style of 3D - complex, technical, and realistic. But over the course of a few days, I started to be pulled in a different direction. Why not tackle something that I am not used to? Something where I can practice and freshen up some skills I have not used in a while. So, character animation it was! It had been quite some time since I had ventured into character design, rigging, weighting, and animation, and this was the perfect opportunity to brush up on some of my skills that had lost a step or two.
I chose to do a short video celebrating El Día de los Muertos. There is something inspiring and infectious about this celebration of life every year in Mexico, and all of the magnificent design and colors that follow it. And what better way to show that than with a bunch of stubby bean-people with ornate masks dancing around?
With a timeline of two weeks, I set out to design, model, rig, storyboard, animate, and composite a 20 second short that attempts to capture the joy surrounding this holiday every year. What followed were late nights and weekends filled with some of the most fun I have had in quite a while working with animation. I hope that watching this can bring you as much joy as I had while making it.
Thank you for watching, and Happy Día de los Muertos!
Below you will find two different videos from the beginning stages of this project. First, the (hastily) hand-drawn animatic that shows my initial vision for what the shots and timing would be. As you may be able to tell, a few things changed from this first edit to the final animation, but this formed the groundwork from which I would work from.
Next, you will see the animation pass. By animating the characters and rendering playblasts of each shot, I was able to finalize timing and camera movement from shot to shot before moving to final lighting, shading, and set dressing.
Here you can see the progression that each shot takes on its way to the final edit. Starting out in the animatic stage, shots are quickly arranged to get a rough sense of composition and timing. From there, animation is done on each shot without shading or lighting - allowing the final timing to be locked in. From there, lighting, shading, and rendering leads to the final image that you see in the video.
Another fun element to design was the papel picado that surrounds a multitude of Mexican festivities. Incredibly ornate, delicate, and colorful, this cut paper decorates the streets during the festival, and I wanted to make sure to dress the set with it as well. This meant designing a few options of different sizes and orientations that I could place around the piece. The designs are filled with hearts, flowers, and skulls, showing the harmony and celebration of life and death. All of the banners were designed in Illustrator and then taken into Photoshop to generate alpha maps, normal maps, and bump maps to make them feel realistic in 3D.
So how about the masks? I first designed a collection of masks with as wide of a variation I could manage while still maintaining their cultural significance and traditional patterns. From here, I was able to select which ones fit the theme the most and take five of them to the next step. Here you can see some of the masks that made it and some that were cut before moving into 3D.
Para Félix y Rogelito
I want to dedicate this video to two very small humans that just came into my life. My friends Rogelio and Sydney Salinas just had a beautiful baby boy, Rogelito, and Juan Arenas and Desirée Gilewich are awaiting the birth of their magnificent Félix. I moved from Seattle to London right as all of this happened, and it has been difficult to miss out on these huge moments in their lives. So until I return, I hope this short video can keep Rogelito and Félix smiling and laughing. Congratulations Rogelio, Syd, Juan, and Des!