Understanding the motions of an endangered animal through animation (Part 3 of 3)

Animating the Mexican Long-Nosed Bat

Objectives:

  • Consider different levels of representation and interaction in 4D
  • Dissect form and speak to its aesthetics
  • Work with limited color to create meaning
  • Build a relationship between 2D static and kinetic forms, telling a story

Logistics:

  • 7 colors maximum
  • Use AfterEffects for the animation
  • Final dimensions: 1920 x 1080px, 8 fps 20 seconds
  • Create all sound effects manually

Time-Frame: 2 weeks

Day 1: 03.29.2021 — Thumbnailing Storyboards

Task: Sketch and develop a clear storyboard of a story you want to tell. Decide on the perspective, environment, and how you transition from one scene to another, if you have multiple perspectives.

Bats have a distinct form of movement — different than any flying creature like birds due to their precise skeleton (winged elongated fingers) and flexible thin wing membrane. They move their wings up and down, but also spin in the air to perch upside down. To understand these different movements, I began watching bat videos.

Bats perching upside down

This clip details how bats transition from flying — flapping their wings to being upside down. The wings are extremely flexible and turn fluidly.

Bat flying movement

This video shows their repetitive flying movement which I will use for the flapping of their wings.

Explains why bats move so distinctly — structure

Sketches of 2 different bat states (from initial part 1 sketching)

Drawing from my earlier sketches — these are the bat's two primary states which I hope to incorporate into my animation.

Ideas for the storyboard

Main Concept:

  • Start with 5 bats perching on a branch (calm, peaceful tone)
  • Slowly zoom out of the tree to show a very busy city in the night time (add some ambient noise)
  • Transition to day time through colors and the addition of cars (loud car noises- honking)
  • Since it's now the daytime, the bats begin to fly back to their cave — roosting site
  • One of the bats starts to fly into the foreground — getting larger and larger as the background gets blurrier
  • The bat takes up the whole frame and flaps which transitions to it entering into a cave
  • The bat enters into the cave and then perches again, returning to a relaxed cool state.

Goal: Show the contrast between the calm and busy atmosphere the bat lives in due to the urbanization of the city next to their roosting site; show these different habitats; show 2 important states of bat movement (resting and flapping)

References for cityscape frames

Bats hanging in trees

Typically in urban spaces like cities, bats tend to hang in trees and other areas of greenery

Bat upside down

How does the bat go from hanging upside down to right side up? How do the wings naturally open up?

Understanding the mechanism of the flapping motion

Creating a more refined storyboard

Process (digitally sketched on tablet)
  • Red — description of the frame and actions
  • Boxes — addition of more frames for the smooth transition (ie. + 11 for 1 flap of the wings)
  • Blue — shifts in perspective, color, backgrounds
  • All of the bat's flaps are in the same position? Will this look strange, having them change seems difficult since I already have 13 frames for one flap.
  • Perspective shifts on the bat flying through the city — Instead of having the background zoom out while the bat size stays the same, should I make the background the same as the bat gets larger moving forward through the scene?
  • Have bat take up the whole scene — flap — which transitions into the different background
  • How does bat turn in the air?? The transition from perching to flying is very complex
  • As long as only 7 colors in every frame! Not 7 max total
  • The bat flaps can be in the same position — will go by quickly so no one will notice
  • Have the background remain constant and the bat grow larger in the foreground to show it flying forward
  • Instead of transitioning one of the perching bats to flying, have another bat fly in from the background, coming forward. Don’t have to worry about drawing those individual frames as well
  • End the scene with a calming resting scene — to have a similar beginning and ending tone
  • Consider removing the cars to avoid having to animate them. Instead record Forbes street for all the car noises, etc
  • I’m thinking about having the beginning tree sway a bit
  • Don’t worry about people not recognizing the city from inside the cave — it will probably be obvious even though it is simplified

03.31.2021: Day 2 — Revising Storyboards & Learning AfterEffects

Making Revisions

The storyboard actually became a lot simpler after making a lot of the changes Margot recommended. I believe, the most difficult part will be animating the wings.

In process of making edits

Considering text and the frame, tone, color changes

Starting AfterEffects

I have never worked with Aftereffects before, so it is kind of confusing so far. I have been watching all the tutorials, and I think I should start with mapping out my main bat animation with the different positions the wings will take on for one flap. I’m not sure if I’m going about this the right way with drawing the individual frames in illustrator and then exporting them to aftereffects?

Working on the bat wings

Reference Images

I tried to pause videos and extract frames but they’re all very blurry and fast, so I found some images on the internet I’m thinking about taking the bat forms from. It’s been difficult to piece together the different angles though.

My simplification of the beginning of the series of bat wings

Basic forms of 5 of 13 frames for bat flap

I also began mapping out how my cityscape scene will look.

  • Consider having the bats in the busy city fly off the side instead of the front so then the whole video isn't the bats flying directly to the screen.
  • Since it is 8 frames per second, cut down the bat flying frames from 13 to 8 so one flap will fit in 8 seconds
  • Maybe end with the bat taking up the whole screen

04.02.2021: Day 3 — Starting the Animation

Planning Timings

First scene —bats resting (2–3 seconds)

  • tree sways
  • bats rock
  • text shows up

Zoom out to the whole city (1 second)

Third scene —city at dark (3 seconds)

  • tree sways
  • lights start turning on
  • stoplight turns color
  • cars move
  • building lights turn off

Fourth scene — color change to city in the morning (1 second)

Fifth scene — 4 seconds

  • lights turn on
  • moon goes away
  • stoplight turns color
  • car drives into the foreground
  • bats take off and fly over the car (4 flaps)

Sixth scene — bat enters cave (5 seconds)

  • Bat flies through cave (5 flaps) and takes up whole screen

Total: 17 seconds (3 for leeway)

Drawing the bats resting (1 layer per bat)

Drawing the background

What colors for the lights in the back? Should they turn on slowly?

Basic Shapes

Adding in details

Adding in traffic lights and stop lights

Background Drawing (7 colors)

Exploring color changes and compositions
How can I show the color changing throughout the night into the day?

Colors of the day frame

Drawing in a car to move forward

Scene 1

Have the 3 bats rock, have the tree sway as well?

Have the lights of the buildings turn on individually. Does each light have to be on a different layer to animate as it turns on??

Made each light a separate layer and then stagger how they turn on in after effects (probably an easier way to do this??)

Scene 2

Drawing different layers of backgrounds with the lights slowly turning on

Animating the lights turning on (yellow >> brown)

Animating the lights turning off (brown >> blue)

The blue colors blend into the background color (makes it look like they’re blinking) Instead of having blue rectangles on another layer — in hindsight should have just decreased the time on the yellow light frames to make them twinkle?

Scene 3

The colors are so different in after effects??

Changing Colors

I tried a series of different blue purples and red purples and blues and pinks. I settled on this darker pink color. Still doesn’t transition well from the night blue colors

Can you even tell when the stoplight and the lampost change colors and the moon moves down? too many not noticeable details?

Side perspective of the bat as it flies over the cars — after the car starts moving forwards

Exploring more bat movements again in a series

Series based on the image in the middle

Drawing series of 6 bats for the first bat flying series

Putting them on separate layers in a different illustrator file to import as a composition

Drawing the cave and adding more rocks and trees to my illustration (since the size of the video frame is different)

Experimenting with the colors to match the color of the city

Drawing more water ripples — have the water be somewhat ripply as the bat flies above it (looks kind of weird — fix later)

Drawing the series of bats flying from the city into the cave (based on the sketches from my storyboard)

Simplified the movement — removed some frames since it only 8fps

Put each bat on a separate layer in a different file to import as a composition in illustrator

Animating the Bat Flying Series 2

Created a pre-composition of the bat flying which I was able to repetitively put over the cave background, making it get larger and move forward as time passes.

Interesting Animation References

Trying to get ideas for the beginning text
Some frames :)
  • Fix transitions between the scenes (esp the scene with the color change — add more frames)
  • Make small movements more clear — traffic light change, lampost light, moon change — space the movements out amongst the bat flapping
  • Shorten timings — 2 seconds over (22 seconds)
  • Ending cave scene — add some more details to the scene and shorten it — make bat flapping faster to shorten time — kind of boring and repetitive
  • Have the bat get larger in the end, take up the whole screen
  • Maybe make the pink colors more compatible with the blue — think about a better color scheme
  • Fix the text — have more time for it and have it be larger (have to also add my name)
  • Think about adding sounds

Day 4: 04.07.2021 — Revising Animation

  • Bat shaking in the middle, in the beginning, is a little weird — maybe make them not shake as much — one of the legs doesn’t touch the branch — make sure the anchor points are correct
  • In the color scene — darken the pink-purple color to increase contrast
  • delete the lines in the building right behind the bat — gets confusing
  • lower the traffic light so it doesn't interfere with the bats as much
  • Bat size is too big — make them smaller! esp in comparison to the car
  • The car is not as detailed as you come forward — make more detailed
  • in the beginning scene — have fewer lights turn on (not all of them) to focus on the text
  • ending cave scene — have the scene move — camera pans out to the left or right or zoom out as the bat enters
  • make the edges of the water ripple instead of the middle areas
  • Make the sun/ moon move throughout the entire thing
  • Thinking about adding grass to the cave and making it wave? (might be too much)
  • Wind rustling branch,
  • Soft car noises
  • Stoplight?
  • Loud car noises
  • Wing flapping
  • Soft water ripples

Remove lights in the beginning scene

In order to not have all the lights turn on at the very beginning of the scene — leave some into the next scene as lights turn on — also makes it not as crowded.

Bats smaller

Decreased bats to 60% of the original size to be more accurate to proportions in the scene.

70% (right), 60% (left)

Making moon always move

Zoom into the background as bat flaps

Make the last cave scene more dynamic as the bat flies in from the city into the cave — add some perspective change

Make bat get larger faster in foreground (make it take up screen faster) — decreased 2 seconds to be within the 20 second limit!

I definitely realize the importance of compositions and pre-compositions.

Day 4: 04.09.2021 — Next Iteration

  • The street scenes are too complex — too many different objects makes it less visually appealing — remove some things — decrease the contrast between the back buildings and the front ones
  • Beginning scene — maybe don't have the lights turn on yet (add an element of surprise)
  • Consider near the end adding in a simple jump scene to a bats face simplified
  • Look into photoshop expression for the lights
  • Cave scene add a reflection on the water that follows the bat through — maybe make more things in the cave move subtly?? tree sways
  • Moon moves slower?
Q’s recommendation on color changes — changing the background color to decrease contrast

The color correction tool Q taught me was very interesting to be able to change colors in after effects itself to experiment before changing the Illustrator files — especially because the auto-update feature usually didn’t work.

First scene changes: Fewer lights, Moved bats down and slightly smaller, Made bats wiggle less and more smoothly, Removing the lights right behind the bat on the building

In order to give more space to the text and decrease complexity with fewer lights turning on.

Simplifying the city background

Decreasing the contrast between buildings (darkening the back buildings), Removing trees in the foreground, moving the lampost and traffic lights downward so it doesn’t interfere with the hanging bats anymore, Putting the moon on a separate layer so I can make it move throughout the whole animation

Daytime scene simplification changes: Carrying the same scene changes over to the daytime scene. I had to redo all of the changes because it had too many layers and components to easily change all of the colors at once

Exploring New Colors: Darker foreground purple (straying away from the pink) with a lighter background — more reminiscent of daytime

Now that I changed the background color, I realized I needed to change every single light to match the “on” color now. I started grouping the lights together though to avoid this problem in the future.

Final simplified frame with the mentioned color changes

Making the flying bats smaller in after effects

Cave Scene Drawing Changes: Update all of the colors to match the color changes to the previous scene (Darkening the cityscape, decreasing the contrast between the water and the ripples, highlights of rocks and shadows)

Fixing the highlights of the rocks on both sides

Making the water ripple — Drawing different ripple stages for different parts of the water

(Left side of water)

Ripples middle stage left side of water

(Right side of water) — 3 stages of ripples

3 stages of ripples — then put them on separate layers

Drawing bat shadows (diff shadows for different wing positions)

Different positions and sizes of shadows as the bat moves throughout the frame

I started to insert some of the clips I have been recording for some of the scenes. I’m curious about what night sounds should entail.

Doing some research on how to manipulate audio in after effects — changing speed, volume, trimming

Drawing another ending scene with a bat close up

Experimenting with backgrounds for the bat

Making the feet move so it is more dynamic

Trying to improve the transition cut to the final scene

Moving Forward

Changes Made
  • Improve the transition from the bat flapping to the final scene — maybe slowly turn completely brown — add more frames
  • Fix colors for the daytime scene
  • Find sounds for the very beginning scene — what sounds are suitable? leaves rustling? Improve sound for the nighttime scene
  • Maybe the flapping sounds sound too much like paper?

Day 5: 04. 13. 2021 — Revising Iteration

  • The color transition from day to night — add some in-between frames
  • Definitely fix the transition to the last jump scene — maybe end the flapping earlier and then add wing-flapping for the last bat

Sound effects

  • The rubbing noises in the beginning — make the bats move more to have them fit
  • The water noise isn’t distinguishable — find better water noise
  • record some honking noises for daytime
  • Nighttime noise — see if crickets exist

More things to change

  • Remove 2 seconds
  • Make moon continuously move
  • Too many colors in the daytime scene — reduce some

Fixing light animations on the color frames

Turns into full brown to transition to the ending scene as the bat flaps

The option on the right seems better to decrease contrast

  • Went cricket hunting for the nighttime scene

Went to Tepper, Gates, Donner, the cut, and a little plot of land where the goats were — there were no crickets! Maybe because it had been raining for the past couple of days. I also went to Petsmart but the crickets there were not chirping; so I decided to blow into my microphone to make wind howling noises instead to depict the nightime.

  • Redid water — different ways

I re-recorded the water since Daphe mentioned it sounds squishy. Instead of shaking a water bottle, I poured water into a bowl and lightly made waves with my hand. I also tried recording the sink and the shower but it sounded more like a waterfall rather than peaceful lake water. I also recorded the drain but the noise was far too harsh.

  • Redid flapping

The flapping sounded too much like flipping through papers so I recorded a page falling from a book — which was a little more realistic.

  • Redid wind noise

Blew into my mic instead of recording actual wind — too much disturbance.

Reflection

I really appreciate being able to learn after-effects as well as practice with vector graphics and illustration. I think if I were to redo the animation, I would simplify some of my scenes. I definitely realized how much work animation is to do, drawing frame by frame, but it was enjoyable and I hope to do more in the future. I never realized I would have to put each light on a different frame as well as the movement of the wings, and how even little details can be somewhat noticeable in the story — especially sounds! I definitely improved in breaking down complex objects into translatable frames — especially with the bat movement.