I think I produced this shot four times before I could get it right. This should have been very simple as there are only a couple of moving elements. I either have animation fatigue or I am being a perfectionist. This was one of those shots that relied on a lot of audience feedback and I had various friends and family watch it until their eyes bled. I produced four different versions with different timings and motion paths. The main problem was faking Nellie’s jump, as both the balloon and Nellie are single frame illustrations moving in 3D space. There were a lot of adjustable attributes to consider such as scale, opacity, curved motion path vs straight path, plummet vs glide and her position in the layer ladder, as there were a number of clouds that could act as overlays. What I believed was the most effective version was actually the least audience-friendly result. My storyboard version had Nellie pause mid fall, a dramatic technique to draw focus to the text overlay and also a chance to show off the artwork as this is the most detailed version of Nellie in the entire animation. Something just did not look right when I ran it through and the shot had my test audience confused. I took the curve out of her “flight path” and made it so she slips straight off the screen (only 1.5 seconds in view so she is moving quite fast). Now it seems like she is actually falling, not floating. It also means I avoid having to complete secondary animation as she is not on screen long enough to justify the effort. There is a slight consistency problem with this shot which I’m hoping the audience will simply overlook. In the shot prior smoke and flame are billowing from the balloon. Despite my best efforts I could not get a particle engine to produce an adequate result for this shot. I even tried to fake it with hand key framing tablet-painted images. I fiddled with opacities, scales and colour correction for over two hours trying to get this to look right, but it always stood out like a sore thumb and took attention away from the Point of Interest (POI). I’ve dropped the smoke billows from the balloon completely. I will reconsider this in phase two but at this stage there doesn’t appear to be a way of including this without spoiling the compositional balance of the shot.
The landing sequence is the concluding part of the animation. The sequence was storyboarded across six shots, but shot 20 has simply been extended to accommodate them all. The fast sideways pan has been removed as it is a bit sickening to rush sideways and then upwards and then downwards again – it just looks like the camera operator is drunk. It looked good on paper but it’s not right on screen. The landing sequence was one of my earliest tests, so very limited work was required to complete shot 20. Nellie is hand-key framed. The original artwork was on the small side and she looks a little bit “soft” or out of focus due to the strong camera zoom. This is passable as the animation sequenced is frame-by-frame and the softness isn’t noticeable when running at real time – it could also be mistaken for motion blur, which is entirely suitable given the context. If I do have to fix this at a later stage it will only be a matter of running a sharpen filter in either PS or AE. I placed the dialogue into the shot and cleaned up the camera movement and timing. Consequently, I probably won’t have to run a phase two eye over this particular shot. I introduced a progressive fade down to black at the end of the shot, which will allow me to insert a credits sequence if I have time. I would like to put the original The NY World article as a back plate for the credits as the headline sums up Nellie’s successful journey. This will be considered further down the track as it is one of those less important tasks I need to avoid until the very end. If I let myself wander too much, the animation would be twice as long and only halfway finished!