In this blog I’m going to share how I made a 7 minute animated music video using a variety of animation styles and techniques.
I worked on this project on and off between March 2015 and February 2016. I didn’t keep track of the hours, but it no doubt took hundreds of hours to finish. For most of the Summer I took a break from this project to animate Pala Leda’s song Janzilker, so I didn’t work on Diving in a Sea of Light for a couple months. But the concept was gestating in my brain.
Technique and Tools
I drew this scene with pens, markers, and colored pencils on 3 X 5 notecards.
I inverted the colors in post production to make the white of the paper black, so that the creatures appear to be in the deep dark sea. Since the colors are inverted, I originally drew the blue shark with an orange marker. I had to think of the scene in it’s opposite colors as I animated.
Diving In A Sea Of Food Coloring
In this section I filmed food coloring being dropped in water in slow motion. I then messed with the colors in Final Cut and drew some minimal rotoscoped animation over the footage (Rotoscoping is a technique were an animator traces over live footage).
Norman McLaren Inspired Jazz Sequence
Norman McLaren was an innovative animator who was constantly evolving and creating new effects. He often drew images directly on film, which would move in harmony with the soundtrack. The image below is from A Phantasy in Colors (1949) which consists of an explosion of abstract pictures moving in sync with the music.
Although I didn’t draw directly on film, I tried to imitate the technique during the jazz sequence of the song by animating abstract shapes to match the rhythm and “color” of the instruments.
I’m most happy with the final minute or so of animation. There are a bunch cel-shaded creatures. I never animated shadows and highlights like this before. I animated the dark-tones, mid-tones, and highlights on separate layers to create a cel-shaded look. Including the line-drawings, this meant a minimum of 4 layers needed to be individually animated for each frame of character movement.
There’s a 3-eyed laughing monster who alone took about 3 weeks to make. He has a fully animated face and complicated movements that took a lot of planning to execute.
Once the loops of the creatures were finished, I panned the creatures all around the screen with the camera tool in TVPaint. Complex camera movements in animation traditionally required several people to operate and was very expensive. Now a single person can use a computer to manipulate the movement of things like backgrounds and animation cycles. Although planet earth is a chaotic place to be, It’s a very exciting time to be an independent animator.
- Micah Buzan
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