This post follows on from part one and two of the story, if you would like to read them first, they can be found here - Part 1, Part 2
Wednesday Morning (Hours worked = 48.5)
Submission - [V04]
EL 01/07:Yep, carry on… the breathing should make a BIG difference on Soren's emotional state, act out big, broken and shuddering incredulous breaths and see how they drive your core, so the snake would be going along for the ride on some of the hits of his reactionary breathing body movement. Also, make sure the look to cam in your dead spot is a bit more incredulous, currently it's a tad on the goofy side. Soren should still be breathing at the end which would carry over into the next shot.
Cool. Looking all good I thought. Ok, so he wants the breathing to be more accentuated, that was a bit more than I was thinking but it was achievable. Looks like he’s happy with everything overall, I can start to lock things down. So I added some breathing and tied down the animation and I finished splining everything out, I felt pretty happy. I had three days left of just refining and polishing what I already had, I might even finish this shot early!
I felt I could relax a little and start to enjoy the process of animation. I always love finding places to incorporate the more traditional principals of animation to my shots even if they are in a relatively realistic style and one idea I was looking forward to playing around with was using Mr's P's body to go from straight shapes to curves. Going from a straight to a curve is always desirable in animation, it adds life and visual interest to the shot. However, there is often very little opportunity to use the idea as literally (especially in naturalistic animation) as when you have a character's body that can be simplified into a single line of action.
A straight line held for a long time would not look particularly natural for a snake so I only used it briefly, holding for just a couple of frames at high energy moments. I saw two suitable occasions - one when Mrs P. jumps toward Soren and another on Mrs P's "snatched" accent; moments that would benefit from extra energy and impact.
Another idea I was keen to incorporate involved the lip sync of the Mrs Plithiver. Lip sync is another great place in animation to experiment, I find that the character's mouth shapes must be accurate in terms of timing and the shapes must be clear, but due to something called the McGurk Effect liberties can occasionally be taken with which shapes you use.
Miriam Margolyes - The voice of Mrs Plithier
I really liked the way the actress, Miriam Margolyes, had read the part of Mrs Plithier. She had subtlety implied not only the age of the character but also added some accentuation to the 's's and 'th's of words. This gave it a nice snake-like quality which was something I wanted to emphasise.
Snakes flick their tongues out to taste the air and I wanted to incorporate this to Mrs P's character but instead of having her doing it arbitrarily I looked for places in her speech. I had started to play around with the idea in a previous shot and had found that it would occasionally work if applied to 'th' sounds even though Miriam's tongue was not visible during the reading of the line.
Shot sound file -
If you listen you can hear the nice accentuated 's' sounds as well as the 'th's in 'then' and 'this'.
Close up showing tongue flick on 'this'.
I would also have to remove the way Mrs P's body was sliding around on Soren. I'd found no other way to do this but by eye; line up one of Mrs P's stripes with a point on Soren and laboriously key every frame, using the translation of a control at the u-turn on the far side of Soren's body. However, I would leave this job to last.
I spent Wednesday and Thursday working into the animation then submitted this version with the following comments.
BB: All splined! also added breathing and changed look to camera. To come - remove sliding around in Mrs P's body. Push Soren's breathing at end of shot more. Other general refinements.
Friday Morning (Hours worked = 64)
Sumission - [V05]
EL 02/07: Let's get one more pass before Rough [animation approval], refine snake sync, and crank incredulous where you can, esp, with Soren's broken up, shuddering, gasping breathing. Make sure this breathing comes from his core and that the rhythm does not get too even. (time-wise, focus on the end.) The look to cam still plays odd, too defined in and out, too present (almost plays like embarrassment) Try breaking it up in steps, and spread it out longer, perhaps use body rots more in the turn as well, but trailing one step behind the head... and counter animate the snake head position back in world-space to keep the same read/ focus on her as he shifts around underneath. Also, still need more wide-eyed, jaw dropped incredulous on Soren's look to the others.
Ok. I was hoping to have rough animation approval and that's a little more amendments than I was expecting. As I read the notes I was weighing up how long each thing would take ... snake lip sync ... hmm .. an hour or two ... more broken up breaths ... tricky ... maybe a couple of hours ... change look to camera ... an hour maybe ... then I read the part that made the blood drain from my face.... turning Soren's body toward camera! ... Uh oh ... counter animating the snake. This was bad. This was making a big change that wouldn't really work with how I had set the shot up. Turning Soren's body would expose the mess that was on the other side of him, and trying to keep the same performance in Mrs P, while counter animating her against Soren's body turn was a big job. Don't get me wrong, I thought the idea was cool. If I had the time it would have made the shot far more interesting to have Soren turn around more, but I was worried about time - I only had two days left to work on it and I still had a lot of work in terms of refining what I already had and to try and meet these other notes. I spent until lunch on this but it wasn't working out, the turn didn't look natural and I was loosing the readability of Mrs P's performance. There was some pops appearing and other unwanted movement coming out of her counter animation. I felt I had to give up. I hate not meeting the notes I'm given, I felt awful but with such a tight deadline and no room for movement I felt I had no choice. I spent the rest of the day addressing the other notes. I then got a new camera from the lensing department at 5.00pm and I submitted the following animation with these apologetic notes -
BB: new camera, spent a few hours trying to rotate Soren's body and counter Mrs P. but in vain, sorry, would need a couple of days for this. Broke up the head turn to hopefully feel more natural and changed expression. Tweaked Mrs P's lip sync, tried to push breathing a bit more, pushed jaw dropped expression to others at start.
I had just one day left on the shot, if Eric didn't like this new version, there would be little time for me to remedy it. I was now feeling extremely run down which meant my emotions were heightened, at times I felt hopeless and upset that I seemed to be failing at this task, all the worse as it seemed to be going so well just a few days earlier.