Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Wanna Fight?" Pencil Test Animation in 1280x720 - Flip-A-Clip for Android

This project came to be because of fellow G+ member Zee Bee. She's in my Artists' Circle under my alter ego account. Zee Bee posted a short animation test of a character with hair blowing in the wind. I liked the test and we started talking a bit about animation and animation techniques. I decided to do a pencil test of hair blowing in the wind to give an example of what I mentioned in the conversation. The main purpose of this test was to show how animation created on "ones" looks. What "ones" means is one drawing is used for each step of a recorded movement. If the frame rate for a project is 24 frames (or drawings) for 1 second of animation, then animating on "ones" would require all 24 frames to be drawn. But if an animator decided to animate on "twos" then only 12 drawings are needed because each frame would be recorded or repeated twice cutting the workload in half. In extreme cases, some projects will animate on "threes" but this is not recommended because the quality of movement will be subpar more often than not. Animating digitally allows us to simply change the frame rate from 24 frames per second (or 30 frames which is the standard for video) to 12 frames per second which would give the exact same affect of animating on "twos" at 24 frames. I, personally, animate at 24 frames by default.

Animating on "ones" is a lot of work, but the benefit is very smooth motion. Animating on "twos" can still generate good motion but it won't be of the same quality as "ones" usually. In today's computer driven era, the different between animating between "ones" and "twos" would be like playing the same video game at 30 frames per second and then 60 frames per second. 60 is better in nearly every case although 30 isn't bad. No one would ever run their game at 15 frames a second, the equivalent of animating on "threes." 15 frames per second is pathetically bad generating motion that is closer to a slide show than animation

For this project, I returned to the Flip-A-Clip 2D animation app for Android and used my 2013 Nexus 7 which has turned out to be one of the best purchases I've ever made in my life. I gained a better understanding of how the app works and was able to produce this pencil test pretty quickly, over the course of three days, maybe 5 or 6 hours total. One of my mottos in learning new apps or gear is to jump in and screw it up really badly. Then figure out how to recover from your screw up and complete your task. This forces the user to learn, in order to work. It also gives a thorough understanding of a number of functions and a good foundation for building a working process. Nothing is impossible if there's a good process in place. That was the case with the walk cycle animation I posted a couple of months ago and the "Wanna Fight?" piece is no different.  I used the layers feature in Flip-A-Clip to separate the main character, her locks blowing in the wind and the incoming second character. It made it very easy to pace and coordinate different movements. I also changed the way the "light table" function worked. Instead of showing the last frame and the next frame of a movement, I set it to show the last 3 frames and the next frame instead. This made it easier to smoothen out the motion of some parts without screwing up the overall sequence. The lasso tool is a godsend and I wish it were available in ArtFlow as it allowed me to select aspects of the animation and reposition, rotate and scale them when needed. Exporting the animation was very easy, generating a 720p .MP4 file with the option to make an animated .gif. Ironically, I have yet to see any other Android 2D animation app that can actually output a working file. Animation Desk, Animation Studio and a couple of other apps I've tried have all failed to perform that function usually causing a crash, making Flip-A-Clip the best animation app on Android by default. 

I'm going to take this project further as time goes on. I want to really push the Nexus 7 and the app to see how much it will allow me to get away with before running out of RAM. I'll post the new pencil test scenes as soon as they're ready.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"BubbleGum Crisis - Remember" Final - 2560x1600 - ArtFlow/Photoshop Touch for Android

Another piece I had a really fun time creating. "BGC - Remember" was created using ArtFlow for Priss in her hardsuit but the background is a photo I captured many years ago using a HTC Nexus One. I applied a blur effect to the background in Photoshop Touch, and edited the image further in ArtFlow, changing the saturation, hue and adding a "Screen" layer effect. With this piece, again the aim was to get a really clean, sharp look to the character similar to a HD cell animation frame. I used a combination of the hard edged and soft edged pen tool for the entire project. I also used the eraser tool with a lower opacity to control some of the shadows allowing the color of the hardsuit to show more easily. As a result, the quality looks very similar to a frame from a Bubblegum Crisis episode. Working in 2560x1600 pays dividends toward that goal because the image can be displayed on numerous HD screens of various sizes and not lose quality due to the high resolution. 1920x1080 HD is still the standard. I blurred the background because it's only a 5MP (megapixel) image so it won't display that well on any HD display at full sharpness. Especially not compared to the foreground character. 

At some point I may create illustrations for the other Knight Sabers considering the fun I had with this project. 

"Diesel" character edits using Pixlr Express for Android instead of Photoshop Touch.

 Diesel is a character design I created a very long time ago. I created a new sketch of him using Sketchbook Pro on a Motorola Xoom when the Xoom was shiny and new. I never did anything with the sketch so after digging it up earlier this year, I transferred it to my Nexus 7 and rendered it. I inked it similar to how I would on paper with the Pen tool which can be seen below. 

Diesel 01 - Outline completed in ArtFlow using the pen tool.

To test the capabilities of ArtFlow, I used the pen tool further at various opacity settings to color render the piece, which can be seen in "Diesel 02" below. I like the way the pen strokes overlap and create texture when the opacity is less than 100%. But I'd like to try it again with the soft edged pen tool instead of the hard edged pen tool. The hard edged pen tool is great for when you want your images to look almost like vectors instead of bitmaps but the soft edged pen tool allows more flexibility. 

Diesel 02 - Original render using ArtFlow's pen tool.

In Diesel 03, I processed the image in Pixlr Express with various filters. Some of my favorites are "Antonio", "Karen", "Amy", "Chloe" and "Danie", just to name a few. For Diesel 03 I used a combination of two filters and then "Stylize" listed under adjustments and then "Poster - Retro Poster" 

Diesel 03 - Variant created using Pixlr Express for Android

For Diesel 04, I simply took the 03 version and added a "Adjustment - Stylize - Pencil" filter. Generally, I don't recommend using this particular filter or any filter that tries to simulate pencil strokes. It almost always comes off as cheesy because the strokes are universal throughout the piece with no variations which is a dead give-away that it's a filter. Too many people on G+ use these types of filters on photographs and pimp the results as if they actual illustrated the piece. Total fail. Diesel 04 just happened to actually work using the "Pencil" filter and I don't feel like a loser because I actually created the original. Keep in mind that the filter effects can be rotated, flipped and adjusted for strength. Pixlr Express also supports frames, additional overlays and traditional adjustment tools (brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, blur etc). 

Diesel 04 - Variant created using Pixlr Express for Android

Although I still recommend having Photoshop Touch installed on your device for image processing, there are alternatives. Pixlr Express and Pixlr Editor are excellent alternatives that give great results. Also, if you happen to be one of the increasing number of people finding a lot of love with Chromebooks, Pixlr is free for Chrome OS as well so you can start your project on your tablet but finish on the Chromebook. It's even more convenient if you backup your work using Google Drive. Chromebooks use Google Drive as if its local storage as long as you have a data connection. Save your work from your tablet to Drive, then transfer it from Drive to Pixlr on Chrome OS. Now you have proper mouse and keyboard support. Have at it. 

Sketch Session Sundays - ArtFlow

After I finished the BubbleGum Crisis piece, earlier today, I decided to do some sketches as it was still early in the day. I ended up with a version of Captain America and Captain Marvel a.k.a. Photon. I may come back to these later with some clean up, corrections and finish them similar to the "Uncivilized" image I posted a couple of weeks ago.

Sketch Session Sundays - Created using ArtFlow. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Priss/ BubbleGum Crisis WIP - 2560x1600 - ArtFlow

Priss is from the anime series BubbleGum Crisis/BubbleGum Crash. I've always liked that anime because it's a Japanese take on Blade Runner. Unfortunately, the entire concept fell apart when BubbleGum Crisis 2040 debuted as an ongoing series. It's utter shite. Bad redesigns for the characters, horrible animation, horrible soundtrack which is really sad because the soundtrack to the original BubbleGum Crisis OVA is awesome. But I still love the mech designs and the characters (from the original OVA). So I decided to try my hand at Priss in her hard suit.

"The Dark Twin*" - 1280x800 - Sketchbook Pro

This started as a drawing in a very old sketchbook I still have from many years ago. While learning how to render in Sketchbook Pro for Android, I took a picture of the sketch, Android beamed it (NFC transfer, yes Apple is late to the game) to my Nexus 7 (2012 version) and tested out a few palettes with the image. During the course of this experiment I totally wrecked one of the layers but it was a happy mistake. It caused the image to look as you see it now. It made the character more ominous while doing weird but cool things with the lower lizard creature in the piece. This worked out really well considering the nature of the character. She's a devil that one. The initial design includes this...

 The two lizard creatures were powerful sorcerers (a male and a female) sent to destroy her but failed. Instead of destroying them outright, The Dark Twin* cursed and possessed them both. Forced to serve and protect her against all threats. Any pain she feels, the female sorcerer will feel pain 100 fold, the male sorcerer will feel pleasure 100 fold. Any pleasure she feels, the male sorcerer will feel pain 1000 fold but the female sorcerer will feel pleasure 1000 fold. If she dies, both will live as they are now, but their entire lineage will die painfully upon her death. If her hold on them is somehow lost and either sorcerer attempts to be noble and kill themselves, their souls will be trapped on this plane barred from moving on to the hereafter. The only known way to free themselves from the possession and curse is to devour the person they care for most and pass the curse to them. The Dark Twin wants their torment to last for eternity even if her immortality is broken in some way. She is powerful, but patience, calculating and diabolical. Not a person you want to piss off. 

I decided to keep the piece as it was because my original plan for the rendering was good, but not as good as the mistake. I have other drawings and sketches of her and other characters in the story but they need to be compiled. I'll post those as soon as I am able. 

Happy mistakes are good. Bad mistakes should be remembered as to not repeat them. 

The Dark Twin - Created using Sketchbook Pro for Android

Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Fro Appeal" - 1280x800 - Sketchbook Pro

This is one of the last pieces I completed before switching over to ArtFlow almost exclusively. I struggled with rendering an afro in an earlier piece and was trying my hand at it again trying to find a best practice. Midway through the piece I noticed how the back half of the fro reminded me of clouds and decided to run with that idea. 

"Fro Appeal" - Created using Sketchbook Pro for Android

"Souls of the Hellbound" - 2560x1600 - ArtFlow

In keeping with the anime theme, I decided to try something a bit more gothic in "Souls of the Hellbound." I have an interesting story concept for this character that I'll explain in a later entry. I didn't really try any new techniques with this piece. It was more of using simple techniques in interesting ways. Japanese style coloring using flat shades with no soft edges, blends, or color transitions, bolder lines for inking and a dark background to punch up the contrast between it and the lightsource/highlights. I based the design of the eyes in the background on the eyes of a cat. I had a lot of fun with those. I've been a bit lazy with eyes lately so I'm moving to change that. If time permits, this is another character I'd like to animate at some point. 

Souls of the HellBound - Created using Artflow for Android

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"My Muse" Version 2 - 2560x1600 - ArtFlow

This is an updated version of the "My Muse" portrait I recently posted. There was too much light underneath the form in certain areas with the eraser hatching. The original was too light in general although it has some interesting things going on in the face area. The contrast of the dark hair with the light rendering of the face creates an interesting contrast. The nose and lips turned out well showing a lot of depth. 

 I went back in and added more alternating layers of pencil facets and better controlled eraser cross hatch lines. The idea is to tighten up the rendering to give a better sense of the 3 dimensional forms set in space with a stronger sense of light and shadow. This is the new result. 

Below is the original. At some point I may work on the lines again and beyond that, I may attempt a color version. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"DragonBall - Full Spectrum Dominance" 2560x1600 - ArtFlow

I haven't used an anime style for a very long time. I've fallen out of love with it many years ago once I learned how to animate. But from time to time I like to revisit it just for the memories of yesteryear. I was never a DragonBall fan but I decided to go with DragonBall for this piece because I do find some of the characters interesting. I am a huge fan of Donnie Yen. I used him as a reference for this piece. If DragonBall characters fought hand-to-hand as well as Donnie Yen does, then I'd be a dedicate fan of the DragonBall series. 

For this piece, I used the pen tool at 100% opacity to color the character. For the background I used a combination of the pen tool at 40% and 20% opacity and the airbrush tool at 30%. I alternated between the two for the overlap of strokes to create texture. The challenge with this piece were the trees and mountains. Both took a bit of patience because I didn't want to rely on the airbrush tool to render those out. The airbrush tool can be a bit too forgiving at times. So I stuck mostly with the pen tool for the challenge of creating texture. Ultimately I was going for an animated cell feel for the character but something a bit different for the background. 

"DragonBall - Full Spectrum Dominance" - Final-ish. Created using Artflow

"DragonBall - Full Spectrum Dominance" - Early version

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"Uncivilized" WIP - 2560x1600 - ArtFlow

This piece started as a really fast, really loose sketch in ArtFlow. I decided to take it further yesterday and this is what I have so far. I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do with the background so it may be some time before I call this "finished."

"Uncivilized" - WIP

Monday, September 1, 2014

"My Muse" 2560x1600 - ArtFlow

Digital crosshatching practice. This was a very difficult piece to complete. I used a similar process as the "Do as Ur Told" project but with more layers of hatching.  I tried to keep better control over time. I'm finding that's one of the hardest parts of using the line/facet/crosshatched eraser technique. Maintaining focus and control over time. This process takes a lot of patience. 

"My Muse" - Created using ArtFlow for Android

"My Muse" Close up to better show the line work.