Good progress yesterday. I spent two hours doing research for the yellow, white and red sequences, picking out Victorian train images and references for China. I got down to the artwork in the afternoon. After fooling around for an eternity with low-resolution images, my dad took pity on me and went and found some plans from his model railway. He is currently working on a British train from 1881, nine years before the animation is set, and also had the blueprints for passenger carriages that match. The images are perfect as they are direct profiles. Most train imagery is taken on a 3/4 angle, which is no good for the shot I have planned. I was particularly struck by this train image from France. I’ve gone through this station in Paris a few times and can’t even imagine the reaction of the people on the street!
I completed most of the white sequence – rendering the backplates, motion planes and ferry for the northern europe shots, though I realised I can save time by using my own photos from Norway, Finland, Estonia and Rusia to fill in the gaps. I also completed the carriage for the yellow sequence and spent a good hour placing the Nellie frames into this in prep for the transition animation. I’m struggling with the animatated elements behind the window due to complexities already discussed but for now have placed some photo fillers in there until I have more time I properly consider the artwork.
I also started on some secondary elements for the red sequence (china), completing a dragon kite which will fly close to the camera and some chinese lanteens. The dragon is layered, with each disk of his tail able to be independently animated, but for now I have saved him as a single png and will look at extra motion in the second pass.
Another task was editing Nellie out of the close-up basket shot and digitally reworking the space she vacated. This will allow me to use the same basket empty, and so with the half-body smoking Nellie at the end of the story. I was pleased with the result as it has saved me at least two hours and will improve consistancy. I couldn’t have completed this job without the pressure-sensitive Wacom stylus, as it involved getting right down to the pixel level and a lot of minute repatching. A mouse can’t simulate the hand-drawn outlines. Despite my best efforts, the mouse feels like drawing with a brick.
In the evening I went back to the Nellie-landing frames I completed yesterday and composed these into an animation in After Effects. Amazingly, the handdrawn key frames actually worked wonders and the clip does what it is supposed to do. I drew these using sheets of tracing paper so that the movement was in alignment. The crepe paper parachaut was a bit stiff in comparison to the Nellie frames, so I had to distort and cut this up a bit in Photoshop so that it looked correct (I salvaged three of the four handmade frames). I’m still getting the hang of the camera in AE, as I’m too tempted to move the animated pieces and always find one or two frame where the black abyss or the scuffed edge of a plate shows through. It is basically just a matter of being clever and shifting elements as needed – you definately have to go frame-by-frame unless the camera path is very simple. I am having an awful time with compression tests. One file came out at 135 mg for a 2 second clip – amazing considering the actual elements in the file could have added up to no more than 4 meg. It doesn’t seem to matter what compressor I use. The files also come out looking awful – grainy, blurry, discoloured. I’m leaving this issue until after mid-semester and will consolt the studio supervisors and some textbooks. I never had these kind of issues when exporting from Flash, even when I used raster images. Keep this in mind when you look at the little animation test video below, as it actually looks clean, crisp and colourful on my screen!