Animating the Intro – Process

18 Dec

When I sent Rich the script, he said he’d be busy for that day but he could get it to me the day after. Perfect, that left me some time to start animating the intro sequence.

Unlike what every person who animates or does motion graphics suggests that you do, I decided not to do a story board, well, I thought about doing one and then couldn’t think of anything to draw in it so I just made everything up as I went along.

This also makes it a bit tricky to explain right now since all my ideas were in my head. I knew what I wanted for Mr Giraffe coming out of his space office to look like, but after that I had no idea whatsoever.

What I did instead, was watch some videos.

A few years ago, I used to really enjoy the animated films of a guy called Jason Steele, he has a site called, he’s also responsible for the fairly well known Charlie the Unicorn animations. Well, I remembered how his style used to be a mixture of photoshop work and mad cgi effects, so I went back on his site and looked at his new stuff and the effects he used.

One of the animations that really struck me was Bino the Elephant. This is a short animation about a mad scientist who sends an elephant to hell, just because. The intro sequence to this just amazed me, the look of the portal to hell, the way the music fit in, how the scientist talked, was scripted and timed, everything was brilliant.

So, in the nicest of ways, I decided to homage the portal effect. Having never done this kind of after effects work before, I set about learning how to do it. I also set this as a nice learning challenge for me, I get to learn new skills while, hopefully, making something fun.

I went on youtube and had a look for some tutorial videos that show you how to make a vortex or portal of some kind, luckily, I found just that.

This tutorial was a big help in getting me started, I animated this part first as I knew there was no voices to be put here. To achieve this look, first I had to create a huge texture map in after effects

This image is animated using an after effects built in animation method called electric storm I think. It just gives it this cool looking effect.

Next I had to map it to the inside of a 3D cylinder (as simple as dragging the create 3D cylinder effect onto the image) and then animate it in 3D.

Luckily the tutorial also covered all of this, so by the time I had an animated portal effect that would zoom in slowly. All I had to do was animate in my giraffe falling through the portal.

For this part, the giraffe just falling would be fine by itself, but for later on in the animation, I needed the giraffe to bob up and down just as he does in my game. For this I made a composition, which in after effects is exactly the same as a movieclip in flash. A contained animation where you can affect the whole thing at once without having to animate everything inside it separately, if that makes sense.

This was simple enough, the way you animate in after effects is actually very similar to flash and kind of close to how you animate in Maya, which, after our sessions with Charlie, I can do basic animation. So having these two knowledge bases let me jump straight in and animate everything I needed to with ease.

Next up I made the giraffe coming home from the space office, well not really. I hadn’t made the image of the space office yet, so I just animated him coming from the top left hand corner to the middle of the screen and made the background move so it looked like he was traveling through space.

Again, this was simple enough to do, I made a few keyframes, moved the images around and applied some easing, all great stuff.

The next part I had to animate was the portal. I made the image of it in photoshop, brought it into after effects and animated it the same way as I did the giraffe, in a composition for easier animating later on.

When it’s flat like that, it looks okay, but then when I use a handy dandy tool like the pin corners tool, I could make it look like it was 3D and facing sideways, great stuff.

Next I animated the leaving the space office sequence. This was the hardest part to put in just because it needed to be in front of stuff in the timeline that I had already animated. I could have put it in separately as I found out I could later on, but thats all part of the learning fun right?

This had a pretty simple effect. I made two images of the space office, one with the lights on and one with them off, I animated them using simple keyframe stuff to make it look like the lights were faulty.

Again, the giraffe was simply animated across the screen using the simple keyframe structure of after effects.

Next, I animated the giraffes fight scene. This scene sets you up for how the game is played. Both the narrator and the giraffe explain how his powers can be used and that by concentrating and looking at targets, they explode.

First off I had to animate the enemies.

This was simple. I used the ripple effect to make the jellyfishes legs look like they were wobbling away. Nice. I will have to use this effect in the main game.

I then animated the laser blasts, something I animated first in game and then brought to this sequence. This was simply drawing the laser shape and animating the end to match the eye position and having the blast rotate on the spot over the enemy

And then, just to finish it off, I decided that the jellyfish would look amazing if they exploded when they were zapped, so I put in a simple, free video clip of an explosion. This is an effect that I will just have to put into the final game as it looks so good.

The last part of animating that I had to do was the lip syncing. I’ve attempted lip syncing before many years ago and it is something that I hate doing. It takes aaages to do and is very tedious. Luckily, I googled how to do this in after effects, and there was a way to do it that made things a lot simpler and was just a matter of changing a number on every key frame. Nice, that saved me a lot of time.

link to lip sync tutorial

So, by using that method, I animated space giraffes mouth.

I could have gotten away with not doing this and giving telekinesis or whatever, but I thought that was a bit of a cop out and that if I put in this animation, it adds to the whole thing and gives it a better, more polished look.

Finally, all that was left to do was sequence everything together.

This was quite simple actually, just a matter of shoving compositions into a bigger comp. Line them up, add some music and you’re good to go.

I’m still not sold on the music yet, that will probably change. But for now, it’s good enough for me.

This is what 3 days of animation looks like. 50 seconds of animation.

And thats how I went about animating a space giraffe falling through a black hole into another dimension.


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