The Bullet Animation – Artwork

In my previous post I spoke about how I was making an animation as a promotional video for The Bullet and I got as far as laying out the scenes and getting the timing right.

For each scene I needed to get something to animate. Pictures, right? Right. Back in the old days (did I just say that?) I used to use some software that came with the Genius Mouse that allowed one to draw, fill, cut, etc. With this I could sketch an outline on the screen using a bunch of connected lines, then apply a fill and, presto! Art! I could save them in PCX format and, well, that was about it.

Enough Reminiscing!

My first thought, when approaching the task of drawing, was to open up Paint and do pretty much the same thing. Paint has come a long way from its 3.1 days (unlike Notepad, but then Notepad++ fills that glaring void) so I wasn’t too worried that I’d be able to get something knocked up. After a couple of strokes, though, I realised that it wasn’t quite suitable for my purposes.

Why not? Because drawing a picture as a bunch of pixels doesn’t lend itself to scaling or rotating or shearing without a lot of pixelation or tearing. Not only that, I freestyle draw a whole lot better with a pen or a pencil than I do with a mouse. So I made a plan that I would draw my characters freehand, take a picture of them with my phone then convert them into some appropriate format. Which format?

Well it turns out that the format I chose influenced the style of drawing. After reading up on Synfig’s tutorials, vector graphics (as opposed to raster) is ideal for 2D animation since the images are a bunch of instructions rather than a bunch of pixels. Without getting all techo, the image can be rotated or scaled or pinched or whatever and it won’t suffer the same fate as a bitmap image. The other really cool thing about vector graphics is that they behave a lot like the old painting program I used to use: The image can be built up from a set of outlines or shapes (paths, I think the lingo is), give it a stroke and a fill and away you go.

So I put the mouse down and picked up my pencil, sat down at the kitchen table and drew the characters I was after.

Sketching

I had to search through a few books and online to find the right kind of face for the job. Then is was a matter of sketching it onto some paper, rubbing and scrawling and positioning the eyes until I got what I was after.ForemanRawSmall

I started with the Foreman, the dude with the cap and moustache, then went onto the Tester, the Courier (neither of which ended up in the final feature) and the Boss.

Before getting too far into it, I took a copy with my phone’s camera, transferred it over to the computer and opened it up in GIMP (www.gimp.org) to make it suitable. I desaturated it, increased the contrast and fiddled with the levels to get it into the form you see here.

So that meant I had a rough, digital sketch on my box. Yippee. Doesn’t look much, does it? It needs colour, of course, and refinement, and a solid tidying up. The chin isn’t a strong as I would like, the cap bulge isn’t in the right spot.

MerchantRawSmallThis is where the whole business of turning the image into a vector affects the drawing style. Why? Because I’m not sketching to perfection, I’m sketching to get an outline. I didn’t need to colour in the picture. I could have left the moustache unshaded, even though it helped visually, since, when I make the moustache as a region, I can colour it any way I want. As you can see from the sketch, the hat has some rough shading, the chin is darkened, the hair is filled, all unnecessary.AssassinRawSmall

So when I got back to making the others, I concentrated more upon the outlines of the elements within the image, and the region of shades.

The Merchant, the bald guy with the awesome chops, has his features marked out like the Foreman does, but there’s a line running from his chin, weaving up past his nose and around the left side of his head, marking a region of shadow or darker skin. I shaded his chops to help out with the visuals for later, but, again, this was unnecessary.

ClientRawSmallThis is even more pronounced in the Assassin, with the glasses and stovepipe hat. You can see his hat just has a rectangle marked out for the ‘shine’, and his scarf and collar are outlines only.

By the time we get to the Client, it’s all outlines and regions. No facial hair for him. Just a warm cloak and a decent hat. That’s the kind of guy he is.

So, to wrap up, I sketched out the characters that I wanted on paper, photographed them, downloaded to my machine, stripped the colour and increased the contrast to get a set of outlines that I could use for the next step.

Stick with me. In my next post I’ll go over how I converted these images into vector graphics that I could then use in the animator.

Adaptation Part 5 is up for pre-order

Mini Jeztyr LogoWell that was certainly taxing. Using every last scrap of my lunch breaks, all the clusters of minutes between responsibilities, and right down to burning the midnight oil, Adaptation – Part 5 is ready for pre-release. It’s a hard trot reading over the same thing again and again, checking for grammar, looking at spelling, making sure sentences are formed correctly. I’m at the point now where if I never saw another computer monitor in my life, I’d be content. I can only imagine what the drafting, proofing, editing cycle would be like without a keyboard.

I looked up from my screen just now and realised that, come tomorrow, I’m not officially working on a book. It’s an odd sensation, liberating and scary at the same time. It’s like my engine is still gunning hard and I just dropped my foot on the clutch – zzzzing!

Even now I’m itching to think that there might have been a few things I missed in the proof, a couple of points that need emphasising or whatever, and that’s were I’ve gone wrong in the past: I didn’t allow for a cool down time, a bit of a mental break to allow myself to step away from the story, forget what I knew so that I could approach it again with fresh eyes some time later.

And so, to catch the free-wheeling energy that’s zinging around in my skull, and enforce my cool down with respect to Adaptation, I’m going to get cracking on the third installment of the Paranormology series. There are a few other stories that I’m really hoping to get writing on as well, but as I’ve only got two hands, one for each side of the keyboard, a decision has to be made. That is the discipline of a writer, I have come to learn: Jot down your thoughts as they come, expand on them if you need to, if a wild and exciting idea comes bounding your way, but don’t lose focus of getting those words down.

Don’t get me wrong: Letting one’s imagination run rampant is a necessary part of creativity, for sure, in fact I’d argue that without time to bust boundaries and think the un-thought, any creative exercise becomes stifled.

With that in mind, there is a time and a place for all things, a Balance, if you will. For while new, fun stories are great rolling around inside a skull, they simply cannot be realised until they worm their way out of a mouth, or transcribe themselves through a brush or a keyboard. If your mind is anything like mind, there are simply too many stories to play with (think minions) and, sadly, some will be neglected and forgotten. As a consequence, one is impelled to leave the wonderful, amazing and sometimes scary world that exists within one’s skull, and take with them a selection of the flora and fauna to share with the outside world.

This requires, too, respect for the reader. The ability to finish what one starts is an admirable trait, and while I do believe a book should take as long as it should, that mantra cannot be used as an excuse to fluff about on frivolous tasks. It can be so easy, believe you me, to have so many things on the go that even though you’re mentally and physically exhausted, you’ve not actually gotten any one thing completed. Which reminds me of a Scrum training session I visited recently…

Bah! Enough with the introspection! I’m off to celebrate with a well deserved coffee and a sit-down with a good dose of pulp fiction.

Adaptation – Part 5 is coming

The wait is almost over. Adaptation – Part 5 is almost here. It will be another week or so before it’s up for pre-order. Good things take time. Without giving too much away, Ryan and Ottavio’s path cross once more, Brother Janus and Sister HanifĂ© become separated and someone turns out to be more than they seem. Of special mention is scene involving Jonathan Von Braun in a most hideous situation. In case you are wondering, I did tone it down a little from the original, but it is still quite graphic in nature.

Here’s a sneak peek of the front cover.
Adaptation5Small For those of you taking note, it represents Ottavio’s Neural Processing Unit, demonstrated to the Board by Professor Jung in Part 1.

The expected Pre-Order date is 1 June, 2015 with a release one month after that. Now, I’d better get back to it. This book won’t write itself, you know.