Sunday, November 14, 2010


Okay, okay. I know what I said. In the last post I promised that I was done with backgrounds for the semester and that I would do nothing but animation stuff until winter break but I have a legitimate excuse! My cats don't let me animate! It's true, they sit on my light box whenever I try to animate at home so I can only animate comfortably when I'm back in Detroit. So instead of animating the weekend away, I photoshopped up another handful of backgrounds and I'll get right back to key framing once I'm at school again. These two backgrounds are from the beginning of the film so the first few seconds of Dark Circus are almost done! I'm getting a little silly now.

The Culprits!!
Baby Cat (upper left), Stubbins (in the box), Miss Kitty (lower right)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Someone's in the Kitchen With Erin

Fresh out of the out of the oven are some backgrounds from the kitchen scene. Don't they look tasty? These are some of the last ones I'll do for until winter break because now it's time to focus on key framing for the remainder of the semester. I'll wrap up the few backgrounds I already have started and then pick back up on the rest of them once school is dismissed for winter break.

Shot 31 background

Shot 32 background

Monday, November 8, 2010

Progress Charting

I finally found a use for Microsoft Excel other than making silly pie charts. I made a table listing off all the shots and what work needs to be done. I have them color blocked according to what's done, what's not, what's started, etc. When this whole thing turns blue and black, then that means that the film is done. Hmmm, I recall a friend of mine saying that life is all about filling progress bars..

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Background Coloring Process

I've spent a lot of time focusing on the backgrounds lately. I guess I want to get a good chunk of them done before winter break. One thing that I have to think about when I'm coloring these backgrounds of the bedroom is that some of these drawings are seen more than once in the film and at different times of the day. This bedroom shot for example is seen at sunrise and at night.
In this post, I'll give a little insight onto my process for coloring these backgrounds.

Morning Lighting
Night Lighting

First I scan my layout drawing into photoshop at 300 dpi. Because I am atrociously slow and doing linework in photoshop, I like to do all my clean line drawing right there on the layout.

In order to refine the lines a little more, adjust the levels settings. This controls what photoshop determines is true white and what is true dark. This helps eliminate some ghosts of erased lines and any paper textures that seeped in through the scan.

Now that the drawing is all pretty and clean. It's ready for coloring. But first.....

Before I touch my drawing with any color, I need to set the layer compositing mode. I'm using Linear Burn for this drawing because I need the lines to be able to show through the flat color. Compositing modes such as Linear Burn, Color Burn, and Multiply drop the lights from an image (in this case, the white parts of the drawing) and leaves the dark lines in full view. This way, I just create new layers to color on underneath the line drawing layer.

Flat color the drawing. To me, this is actually the most time consuming part of the coloring process just because I'm always messing around with my color choices.

Gradient time! I love drawing with gradients. With the exception of a few touches here and there with the bruch tool, this whole room was rendered with different gradients. Sometimes that means selecting an object, creating a new layer, applying a few gradients to that selection, and changing the compositing mode of the gradient layer just for the shadows alone. There are also gradients for highlights, reflected lights, and cast shadows.
If I were to set all the compositing modes on the layers back to normal, this is what the background would look like. The reason that I shade with value tones like grays and blacks instead of colors is because if I change my mind about a certain color, I can just change the flat color layer and leave the shading layers alone.
Now that all the colors and values are in place, it's ready to see a little sunshine. This shot is first views in the beginning of the film during sunrise, so it needs a pinky-orange cast to it. By laying a peach colored gradient leading away from the window and setting the compositing mode to Overlay, I get a warm morning glow. A few orange sunbeams are dropped in too.
It's a similar process for the nighttime shot. But instead of just a gradient on half the screen, it's a full fill color dropped right over the whole drawing and then setting the compositing mode to Hard Light.

Once the character animations are added in with After Effects, I'll also made a few more lighting changes to the backgrounds. I'll be applying this process to several more backgrounds in the upcoming weeks so I better get my coffeemaker up and running!