The Story of My Life:
With the theme self-portrait, I wanted explore my relation with books and how it has shaped who I am. I’ve always loved to read when I was young, be it English or Chinese books. Some books have left particularly strong impressions on me and I’d revisited them over and over again, always finding something new each time. As such, I wanted to express my lifelong relationship with books — not just a specific phase of my life but the evolution of my relationship with them. Thus, I chose to depict my relationship with books chronologically.
The first stage would of course be to identify the books that I want to use. I came up with the following list:
- Piggy Book by Anthony Browne
- Lily of the Forest by Brian McConnachie
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
- Perfume by Patrick Suskind
- Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
- The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin
- 金庸武侠小说 by 金庸 (actually a pity that I didn’t add this in hmmm)
Eventually, I settled on 4 books: Piggy book, The Little Prince, To Kill a Mockingbird and Perfume.
Having decided on the gist, I decided to express the chronology by presenting them in a literal picture of a timeline — where I walk through scenes and through time.The motifs of the books are deliberately drawn out in an absurd and almost surrealist style— to symbolize the fact that while they may have shaped me, I have retained my own unique understanding and takeaways from them. The constructed book world becomes a literal representation of my internalisation of the books. This is seen in the repeated emphasis of peculiar items, such as the nose in Perfume. The background was layered in space to provide depth and an illusion of parallax scrolling when moved to the left.
inspiration and reference
At the beginning when I was still undecided on the style and mood and presentation of the video, I chanced upon @thegalshir instagram, whose simple animated illustrations really caught my eye. It was then that I decided to make my video in a similar sort of surreal, quiet atmosphere. However, I didn’t quite manage to get the minimalist feel.
? Just added a little animation to my latest illo! I’ve made some color adjustments in Photoshop, and then used After Effects to create these solid movements. ? I guess the legs movement turned out the best… Would love to know what you think! #illustration #animation #dailyarts #drawingaday #digitalarts #illustrationartist #digitalillustration
I was inspired by the way the video “Community Standards – Facebook” convincingly presented a parallax scrolling effect. Some inspirations that I added include the scrolling “text” floor to make the characters look like they are actually walking across ‘something’, as well as indications of a ground (eg rocks) here and there.
My colour scheme was heavily inspired by “Supergirl”. I also really liked the animation and transitions :”)
Storyboards were more loosely drawn because there is no need for a clear visual image of each frame since the placement of individual motifs are isolated and unrelated. I was more interested in identifying the main motifs and deciding the position of particularly important ones.
I drew each book world on 7880 x 1080 px canvas on photoshop and layered each element so that I can animate them individually when I move over to after effects.
Each world has a distinct dominant colour. More than just a transition in hue, it also represents how I feel about it. For instance, I chose green for To Kill a Mockingbird because I read it as a coming of age novel and it had a very formative influence on me in terms of shaping my moral view. Thus, it symbolises a period of personal growth and maturity, and green resonates best with that.
I placed bookshelves to mark the transition between books and phases of my life. Each shelve is different in that it depicts stuff that I was engaged with at that point in time (eg diapers, Pri 1 math book or JC Physics). It also foretells the mood of the next scene.
For the scrolling text on the ground, it was literally a long stretch of text that was scrolled past. Excerpts were chosen from each book.
Here is one example of an excerpt I extracted from Perfume. It’s amazingly descriptive and I can’t imagine how the original text is like when the translated version is already so exquisite:
His discerning nose unraveled the knot of vapor and stench into single strands of unitary odors that could not be unthreaded further. Unwinding and spinning out these threads gave him unspeakable joy. He would often just stand there, leaning against a wall or crouching in a dark corner, his eyes closed, his mouth half open and nostrils flaring wide, quiet as a feeding pike in a great, dark, slowly moving current. And when at last a puff of air would toss a delicate thread of scent his way, he would lunge at it and not let go. Then he would smell at only this one odor, holding it tight, pulling it into himself and preserving it for all time.
Moving on to character design, there were actually 7 characters initially (I was crazy).
I outfitted them based on what I wore during that point of my life, e.g. 3rd and 4th girl in Tao Nan School pinafore, 5th girl in Nanyang Girls’ uniform, and 6th girl in Hwa Chong uniform.
The crawling baby was animated using the puppet tool. Pins were added to her torso, head and limbs and then individually keyframed. This took way longer than I thought because she was just flopping around with arms at weird angles at the start. It only started to make more sense after I studied some baby crawling videos online (which I really should have done first).
The walk cycles for the other characters were created using Adobe Character Animator which I happen to see its tutorial on Lynda.com when I was learning the puppet tool. It was a lot more straightforward than I thought — match the part of the body to the software’s preset and the software will animate the walk cycle for you. However, I think this is a tool that should be seen as a short cut when you don’t have enough time because honestly the walks are still quite awkward even after experimenting many times with different placement of the pins and manipulating the behaviour. On a different note, the dynamic link between photoshop and character animator and after effects was extremely helpful when I had to go back and edit the character for whatever reasons.
When I transferred the photoshop files to after effects, I’m not sure why but the sequence of the layers will be reversed. As such, I could only resolve that by adopting this weird naming convention of ‘front’, ‘mid’, and ‘back’ so I roughly know how to resequence them in the right format.
To achieve the illusion of space and the parallax scrolling effect, I arranged the individual assets such that some are nearer to us and some are further. As seen from the top view, the elements are all spaced out. I then used the 3D cameral tool to scroll from left to right. However, this was an extremely tedious process as I had to rearrange the elements again, and because the elements near the front will scroll past faster (hence need to space out even more).
The scrolling text was actually a big headache because I couldn’t bare to leave the words unreadable for the viewer but at the same time I didn’t want it to be occupying even more attention when there is already a lot of things happening. As such, there were a million attempts of the same text but in different font, different colour, different font size, different width of the entire text box, and different orientation on the 3d plane. I’m just glad I found what I wanted.
Music wise, it was straightforward — I chose them based on the mood of the book.
I am very satisfied with the final product, especially since it was very tedious and time-consuming. It was really cool to see stuff that you drew coming to life. I particularly like the little prince sequence as it looks really surreal and the sense of space is stronger. The music was a good choice too. That said, if I were to improve this further, I will improve the pacing of the scenes — seems too long (almost boringly so) at the front before transiting into the book world, and the assets nearer the front flash by too fast in some cases. I will also introduce simple animation to the assets surrounding the character so that it is more interactive and immersive.
And also, thanks Erwin for the ultra-clear and helpful lessons this semester!!!