VSST 108 - Design for Media

Forms in Motion - Animation Project for Value

Create an animated video that demonstrates forms in motion. It will have 15 seconds of action plus title and credits; 20 seconds max. total time. (Forms are shapes filled with value.)

You will create a three-member "cast" of geometric forms of various sizes and values and then use these "characters" to tell a very simple "story" through purely visual means.

You will first do a "character display" and a "storyboard" for your planned animation due at class 5b Thursday 5/3, when they will be individually reviewed.

When that has been approved, you'll move on to full production.

Final animation due 7a Tuesday 5/15.

Part one: Basic Setup

In Photoshop: create a new document: grayscale 8-bit, 9 inches high x 15 inches wide, 72 ppi, white background. Name it <sec-lastname-forms-template.psd>.

Choose the position of your horizon and then fill the "sky" and "ground" with gray values of your choosing. The sky should be lighter than the ground.

Place horizontal guidelines at approximately the 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 points of your "ground." These will represent the baselines for the foreground, mid-ground and background. If you like, you can adjust the background guideline up and the foreground guide down, but keep the mid-ground guide halfway between them.

Make a new layer (which will be transparent) and make sure that it's at the top. Select All and Stroke (Black, 4 pixels, inside). This layer will provide the "frame" for your animation frames. Name it <frame> and keep it at the top.

Create a new type layer; name it <frame number>; place it just below the frame layer.

Create three "characters" that are geometric forms. Use the various "shapes" tools to create your forms (hidden behind the three dots - "more choices" - icon). As shape layers they will remain easily moveable and resizeable. Make these relatively large and place them on the foreground baseline. Shapes made from the shapes tools (polygons, ellipses, custom, etc.) are kept as vector data so they may be modified (rotated, resized, etc.) easily and with no loss of quality. You can also custom modify these shapes (to, for example, put notches on the rim of a circle so you can see it roll) - see this Photoshop tutorial.

To make a form, first make a new layer, then use the shape tool to make a new shape, then set the chracteristics of the shape, then its size, and then its value. The three forms should have different values that are distinctive from each other - and also from the ground and sky - so that they are easily visible. Name the three form layers <form 1-large>, <form 2-large> and <form 3-large>.

Duplicate the three form layers. Place these forms on the mid-ground baseline and resize them so that they seem to be the right amount smaller to suggest how far back they are. They should all be resized to the same percentage new size (for example, maybe 60%). Rename these layers <form 1-medium>, <form 2-medium>, <form 3-medium>.

Duplicate these three layers and place the forms on the background baseline. Resize them (all the same percentage) so that they look correct in suggesting being even further back. Rename these layers <form 1-small>, <form 2-small> and <form 3-small>.

You now have your three characters displayed at their three possible distances. (Note that form 1-large, form 1-medium and form 1-small are all the same chracter - just at different distances. Only one version can be on screen at at a time!) Save As <sec-name-forms-template.psd>. This will be your "machine" for generating the animation.

Your "template" file should have ten layers (note that the larger versions are at the top, so that they will be visually dominant when they may overlap, and medium size in the middle for the same reason):

frame number (text layer)
form 3 - large
form 2 - large
form 1 - large
form 3 - medium
form 2 - medium
form 1 - medium
form 3 - small
form 2 - small
form 1 - small
background - single value of your choice as "ground," another single value as "sky"

Character Display

The exception to the "only one version onscreen" rule is the "character display": arrange all nine forms - on their respective baselines - so that they are all visible and form an interesting compostion. They are allowed to overlap to some degree. The "small" versions can protrude above the horizon line, if you wish.

Zoom your chracter display to 100% size and then do a "screen capture" of it (on a Mac that's command-shift-4, then hold down the mouse button and draw your capture rectangle and then release). This will save to the desktop as a PNG file with a filename beginning "screen capture." Rename it <sec-name-characters.png>. This screen capture process will capture the blue guidelines (which should be visible).

Sample Character Display.

Keep the PSD <template> file with all twelve layers (background, frame, frame number plus nine forms) in resrve for actually making the animation frames.


See the "rules" for the animation and for the "story," below. Write your script, from which you will use short texts in the storyboard.

Make the frame number 000. Arrange your scene as you'd like it in the opening frame. You could have anywhere from none to three chracters onscreen. But remember: just one version of each chracter that you want onscreen.) Save As a PNG file <frame-000.png>. (When you "save as" a PNG file, the blue guidelines will not be visible - this is correct.)

Go back to the <template> file. Change the frame number to 030. Rearrange your characters as you'd like them in frame 030 (3 seconds into the animation). Save As a PNG file <frame-030.png>.

Do the same for frame 060, 090, 120 and 150 (the last frame). Save As for each - as a PNG file.

Make a new file in Photoshop, grayscale, 20 inches wide by 36 inches high, at 72 ppi; filled with white. This is your "board." Call it <sec-name-storyboard.psd>.

Keep it open and also open your six PNG frames in Photoshop. Select All and Copy from each PNG, and then paste onto the "board." You now have your six frames "on the board." Arrange them in a logical way, with space at the top for your name and title info, and space under each frame for a short text description.

When you're done, if the board seems too big, crop it down. Save.

Now, Save As a PNG file <sec-name-storyboard.png> to be submitted along with <characters.png>.
This will let you keep the PSD file as well, in case you might want to modify it.

Sample Storyboard.

Character Display and Storyboard are due in AW Express for class 5b - Thursday 5/3.

The rules for the animation are are:
Forms can start in frame or enter from outside frame.
Forms can leave frame.
Only one size of the form can be on screen at a time.
Form of a given size must stay on its own guide except for temporary vertical movements such as jumping or bounding.
Forms can be rotated, either in place or as they move.
Forms cannot be resized except for temporary effects.
Forms can be temporarily distorted to create effects, but must return to their regular shape.
As forms overlap, one or the other must clearly be "in front."

Your action scene will have 150 frames and run for 15 seconds (at 0.1 sec. per frame).

Decide on your "story." Write a simple script. Think visually - in terms of scale, placement in frame, direction(s) of motion, positive/negative space. The "story" can simply be a choreography of forms (a kind of dynamic composition) or there can be some element of narrative.

Part three: Doing the Animation - after your storyboard is approved.

Use the same technique described above to make each of your 150 animation frames. Put all of the resulting PNG files into one folder <lastname frames>.

Eventually you'll have 150 PNGs in your <lastname frames> folder - plus your title and credit frames.

As you did with your 100 line animation TIFFs, these 150+ form animation PNGs can be imported into a single new Photoshop document - onto separate layers - using Adobe Bridge/Tools/Photoshop/Load into Photoshop Layers.

When you SAVE after creating the Photoshop document with the 150+ layers, you will get a dialog box asking if you want to maximize compatibility. Uncheck the box. This will make a much smaller file.

After you do the title frame(s) and bring them to the top of your layers, make <layer 001> visible and make this your first story frame. Request a new frame; make <layer 001> visible. Request a new frame, make <layer 002> visible, etc.. SAVE ferquently.

Continue until you've created your 150 frames of form animation. Then do your credit and end frame(s).

Select all and set the frame duration for all frames at 0.1 sec. If something needs to run for more than 0.1 sec. (like a title frame) don't change the timing - instead, make sufficient multiples of it (e.g. two seconds = 20 frames).

Be sure to copy all of your work to your own drive(s) and erase it from the working computer.

Then, use Export to video, as you did for the first animation.
Save the result as <sec-lastname-form-animation.mp4>.

Optionally, you can add an audio track in post-production. Files are also acceptable in the .mov format.

Final animation is due in AW Express at class 7a on Tuesday 5/15.

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