Most of the films i looked at in my research so far which utilise 3D printed elements appear to celebrate the rough look of the printing material. I think this is an interesting aesthetic decision, which ultimately makes the already lengthy process easier, and keeps the characters looking consistent instead of having to paint each individual model, many times depending on the length of the animation. But i would also like to explore the use of colour in this process and how that could affect the final look of the animation, so i am going to have to do some painting no matter what!
- Short Animation experiments. I am going to do a walk and/or run cycle to start off with. I would also like the character to actually interact somewhat with the environment and it not just be a background to the animation. I cannot print endless models though, as it is not exactly a totally cheap process either so that is something i have to consider when approaching this project.
- Something different. 3D printing each frame from a 3D computer animated animation is not new. It is a relatively new technology which is becoming utilised in the industry and still being experimented with, but it’s a bit of an unnecessary process if i’m totally honest. It is a creative way to bring 3D animations to life, but it is kind of gimmicky. I think it looks cool and would be a lot of fun, so i want to explore this process anyway.
- Not just a gimic? When is it not just a visual choice to take 3D animated character animation and 3D -print each frame to be shot like stop-motion, if ever. I think by squashing and stretching the character, it could make sense to animate in 3D and then 3D print those frames if you were making a stop-motion film with traditional stop-motion puppets, but this will require some more research as i am not totally familiar with all the techniques utilised in stop-motion animation and how lengthy the process is or how adaptable the armature is and how they get around these problems in the first place. Stop motion characters like morph are made almost totally from a clay substance and can be pulled around all over the place, but in other stop motion films that is not the case anymore as they use other materials and means to animate their characters.
I want to create a back story for my animated character, who i know is going to be a pizza slice who has come to life. So i want to decide how he comes to life, and then get him moving somewhere so i can use the 3D printed run cycle in a story, rather than just an experiment. One of the main aims for this animation is to improve my character animation skills, and produce work which can be shown in my portfolio at the end, so it needs to be high quality and good animation.
I really like the idea of using portals to transport the character to different environments. The portals could be digital, or coloured cardboard/paper or 3D-printed pieces. I really want to take this run cycle to a few different environments and I could reuse the same run cycle frames i have printed in different locations and use different lighting and see the character from different angles. I think this would be more visually interesting and engaging for the audience and a good excuse to show off the run cycle in different places.
The basic idea would be a portal appearing in front of the character and he goes through it and is transported to a new and entirely different location. The character could be reacting to things in the real world, maybe escaping something, all of which of course would mean i would have to print more frames of the character and prepare them for animation. The character could change colours in some environments (one full colour, one black and white, one unpainted showing the 3D printed material off, one pop-art style, etc). The character could create the portal or discover it.
The character could notice the portal and react to it; look around to see if anyone saw and then inspect it more carefully. Then perhaps accidentally fall in or gleefully jump into the portal and then appear somewhere else, perhaps repeating the process to travel to other locations. Of course this would mean i would want to 3D print more frames of him going through the portals. I can minimise how many extra frames by doing two ways he moves through the portals and reusing them. How he is brought to life will inform how he feels about them.
When the character is going through the portals i would only need to 3D print the parts of the character which are visible, which would cut down on printing material. He could run through solid walls in the real world and i think it could look really neat.
I could also just have the character morph into new locations, and this could confuse him and the audience, as he races around trying to figure out what to do next. This would mean i wouldn’t have to animate him actually going through portals, which would be easier, but unless i am seriously running out of time i would prefer that he travels from world to world through portals or something. I think it would be more interesting and make a bit more sense.
What brings the pizza to life?
I could do this a couple of different ways. Either the pizza just spontaneously comes to life or he is brought to life by something. I think it would be more fun to have another character bring him to life, but depending on time i could just have some laser or lightning come down from the sky and zap him to life.
I like the idea of the character who brings him to life being a cute little robot. It could fly up to the pizza and zap him to life then it zooms off and the pizza, all confused with his sudden being aliveness, jumps up and runs after it. This would give the pizza a reason to be running and the portals could be created by the robot, which we would either see, or assume as the pizza chases after the robot.
Some design ideas for the pizza slice who was brought to life:
I want this character to be quite cartoony in the way he looks and moves. With noodly arms and legs, giant unusual eyes which stick out from his face, a strange shaped body which will be more of a challenge to animate, but will be a lot more fun and hopefully more interesting as well. I want to do something different and weird, and challenge myself as an animator during this project. I want his bendy body to react as much as his facial expressions, folding and becoming rigid depending on what he is feeling and doing.
I am going to need his eyes to be really expressive, as I don’t want him to have eyelids, and if he needs eyebrows they will be added on in post rather than having them floating around as a 3D object that needs to be printed with each model and then mask out the stalks in post. Either way would require me to do some work after and i think simply drawing on eyebrows would be quicker and more effective than printing them and painting them.
How does he feel about being brought to life?
The way i imagine it, when the pizza is brought to life he is like a new born baby and would start crying as a reaction to suddenly existing. But just as quickly as he starts crying he would become distracted or interested by other things and start laughing. His behaviour could be quite manic. One moment he is content on the floor he was brought to life on but then he must get up and move around! Maybe he is scared about being all alone and then becomes determined to figure out what is going on or chase down whatever brought him to life. I want him to go through different emotions so i have an excuse to animate them, but i also want it to make sense and not look like a total weird mess
What about the parts that are not going to be 3D printed?
So only the running parts are really going to need to be 3D printed. The whole build up animation will be just 3D animation and then rendered out. I would also like to do some 2D animation somewhere (maybe just the laser effect that zaps him to life but maybe some character animation as well), so i need to think about that as well. It would also be pretty cool to use a real slice of pizza in the beginning, and maybe use some cheese or modelling clay to make his arms and legs sprout out of his body. I could do some experiments to see how this will look and decide then how i feel about it after.
Mostly it is going to be totally 3D animated and then i will be taking specific frames from that animation and 3D-printing them. So decision about which parts exactly will be 3D printed will be made later depending on how expensive it is, and how long it takes to prepare the models, along with probably a bunch of other unforeseen issues which will crop up as i play around with this style.
How does the story end?
Using the ideas i have outlined in this post, if he is chasing after this robot through portals, what is the end result? Does he catch the robot? Then what? Does he lose it in the chase and give up? Or does a portal close before he reaches it so he is stuck in whatever environment he is in and that’s the end?
I’m not sure how i want this to end at this point. I don’t want to keep adding more and make this animation too complicated and not give myself enough time to finish it. I think having him stuck as a portal closes in front of him leaving him stranded would work fine. He could be scared at first, looking all around him, and then he takes a deep breath and stands tall, ready and eager to face any difficulties which come his way – fade to black.
Maybe one of the portals he ends up in space, and would be 3D animated and not printed, floating around space making friends with the far off stars and planets, and the final frames are him struggling to breath. His lifeless body floats by as the credits roll. I personally think that tragic and kind of horrific ending could be really comical if done right, and the absurdness of it appeals to me.