Tutorial: How to turn static images into award-winning animation

Nov 06, 2018 at 10:22 am by Submitted

Animation@work tutorial

In this tutorial, we will go through the process of creating “Welcome to Odessa” – a 2D animated short which won the First Prize at Animation@work contest 2018 in Business Animation Category.

I am a 3D specialist. And “Welcome to Odessa” was actually my first 2D animated project and my first real experience with CrazyTalk Animator.

It was a pleasure to work with CTA. It is by far the fastest and easiest 2D software to use!

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We’ll analyze some scenes from “Welcome to Odessa”. You’ll learn how to create custom props and scenes, free bone characters and how to make a facial setup for a sprite-based G3 character with facial hair. So, if you want to know how it’s done, let’s get started.

RELATED: CrazyTalk Animator 2018 Contest: Comic Animation Winner

1. Working with High Display Resolution

I’ve made the entire project on a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 with Display Resolution 2736x1824. It was important to activate ENABLE FONT AND UI option. Otherwise, font size and icons were too small, and it was impossible to work efficiently in CTA. You can find this option in EDIT menu - PREFERENCE - 4K RESOLUTION section - ENABLE FONT AND UI. And then you can effectively use CrazyTalk animator. I was surprized that I could create my entire project on a tablet.


2. Script

The first thing I usually start with is, of course, the script.

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I've tried to make the story as fast-paced as I could. There are so many things that I could tell you about my beautiful city and about Yuliy Galperin and his paintings. But my goal was to attract the interest so that the viewer just wanted to know more about Odessa and about Ukrainian painter Yuliy Galperin.

3. Audio

I needed 3 components for my audio: voice over, background music and sound effects.

For this short film, I ordered voice over on Fiverr.

But the role of my tourist characterwas not very important. So, I decided to use Reallusion's TTS-on Demand service.

For my background music and sound effects, I prefer to use a service called "Storyblocks." They have tons of royalty-free tracks and sound effects with a quite affordable yearly subscription.

Ones I had all my sound components I just mixed them in Adobe Audition.  

4. Create your custom scenes

There are many different scenes, props and characters inside CTA pre-made by Reallusion's team and you can use them in your own projects. But I prefer to use my custom assets. I created all my images in Adobe Photoshop or just purchased appropriate stock images and then combined them into the scenes inside CTA.

You need just to drag your image in CTA’s STAGE MODE Window. And in Create Object window that pops up You can choose an Import option (img_05). For example, in the scene on image 06, I imported all monuments, building and the clouds as props (img_06).

5. Arrange your props

Ones you have imported your props into CTA, you can select them. A red rectangle appears around your selected prop. You can move your selected prop if you left-click and drag in the middle of this rectangle. If you hover over the edges of this rectangle, you can rotate your prop. And if you hover over the corner, you can scale. You can move your prop in Z direction using the black arrow at the bottom edge of the rectangle. Or you can use the Property bar at the top to move, scale or rotate your props.

6. Background sound

I prefer to add background sound before starting to animate my props. So, I can hear better at which point in time to start animating them. To add background sound, go to the Edit menu - Create Sound - Background music.

7. Elastic motions

Usually, we create animations by mean of the key-frame-animation method. But CTA provides libraries with well pre-made Elastic Motions. I used this Elastic Motions a lot. You can find Elastic motions in Content Manager – Template tab – ElaticMotion Template. And with your prop selected, just double-click to apply motion to your prop. Most common animations can be found in the libraries or you can purchase additional elastic motions in Reallusion’s content store. For example, I used a lot the Open Bottom motion from G3 Elastic Motions-Come & Go bundle, Dancing Drop and Turn Page motions from G3 Elastic Motions-Spongy Moves bundle.

8. Characters

There were four characters in my animated short - a simple free bone character, a free bone character with a talking head attached and two sprite-based G3 characters.

9. G3 Free Bone Actor

Let’s recreate the simplest Free bone Character first. This is just a png image of the sailor’s wife monument. You can find this composition of a young woman with a small child at the marina in Odessa Sea Port. Just drag this png image into CrazyTalk Animator. And in Create Object Window that pops up choose G3 Free Bone Actor.

10. Adding bones

The character appears on the screen and we have the Bone editor that pops up.

I needed to animate only the child’s arm. So, I made a simple bone's setup. Press Add Bone button in Bone editor and left-click to add bones. To stop adding bones, press ESC or right-click. If you select Add bone again, you can see a little PLUS cursor. If we click on a node, we have the option to extend a bone another way.

In the Scene Manager double-click to rename the bones.

Ones your bone setup is completed, go Back to Stage.

11. Key-frame-animation

Select the actor and open 2D Motion Key Editor.

Use 2D Motion Key Editor button on the left-side Functional Tool Bar or K keyboard shortcut.

Select forearm bone with your left-click and open the Timeline (F3).

Let's assume that our initial pose is the strait forearm position.

Go 10 frames forward and rotate to the right.

Go to frame 20 and Press Reset in 2D Motion Key Editor to straighten the forearm. Go 10 frames forward and rotate to the left. 10 frames forward more – and Press Reset to straighten the forearm.

12. Timing

This is now animated but the timing is even.

I want it to be fast in the middle and slowdown in the extreme right and left positions.

So, let's select the first extreme keyframe in the timeline (frame 10) and right-click. Select Transition Curve and in Transition Curve Editor that pops up change transition to Decelerate.

Use Accelerate transition for straight forearm positions (frames 20 and 40) and Decelerate for the next extreme left position (frame 30).

13. Create an action clip

You don't need to repeat this process.

Just make an action from this and then you can loop an action as many times as you need.

To do this press Collect Clip button in the Timeline and select all animated frames except the last one just because this last one is the same as the first keyframe.

Right-click and Add to action menu. And name this clip "Wave", for example.

14. Looping animation

Go to the first frame.

Right-click and Remove object animation.

Then right-click ones more and choose "Wave" action from Action menu.

Press the Motion button in the timeline and here you can see this action clip. Activate the Loop button in the Toolbar of the Timeline and hover over the end of this action clip. You can see little arrow cursor that pops up.

Just left click and drag to loop this clip as many times as you need.

And hit the Spacebar to play the animation back.

And here you have your finished looping animation!

15. G3 Character with facial hair

But the most interesting character for me was Odessa citizen. And that's because of his facial hair.

I've managed to move this hair with character's facial animation.

To do this I just added facial hair to all his mouth shapes.

16. PSD template

There are many ways to create a G3 character. But I created my Odessa citizen using a PSD template. You can find tutorials about how to make such templates on Reallusion’s YouTube channel. So will not recreate this template for you now. Just drag your finished PSD template into CrazyTalk animator.

17. Face depth

And you can see our character appears on the screen with all the bones we need for our animation.

Select this character's face and press Face Preview button on the Property Toolbar at the top. If you move your mouse in Face Preview mode, you can see huge gaps between character’s face and facial hair.

And you can reduce this gaps if we Face depth all the way down to one.

18. Facial animation setup

Select character’s mouth with facial hair and press Facial animation setup button on the Functional toolbar on the left.

You need to tweak all these expressions in Facial Animation Setup Editor that pops up. To do this just left-click and drag little circles on the Deformation grid. You can select and move multiple circles by holding CTRL. Sometimes you need to press Decrease Strength button in Facial Animation Setup Editor and then to move some circles.

19. Camera

There is only one camera in Crazy Talk Animator and we can switch between the shots just using camera movements in Camera Record Mode.

To manipulate the camera use Camera Tool Bar.

The toolbar contains buttons to switch between Preview Camera Mode and Record Camera Mode, zoom in and out of the scene, pan or rotate the camera, switch to different view modes of the camera, or enter the 3D mode.

20. Combine your shots

I prefer to create separate Crazy Talk animator projects for almost each shot. And because how I like to combine my rendered shots, I use Adobe Premiere Pro.

However, this is not necessary.

You can create a new Crazy Talk animator project to combine all your rendered scenes inside.

Viktoriya Nesterenko is 3D specialist from Ukraine who won the First Prize at Animation@Work 2018 Contest with her first 2D animated short made in CrazyTalk Animator. 

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