Solid Objects

effects (SF/X) can add realism, drama, and atmosphere to animation, and are thus an important skill to master.

It is difficult to indicate wind unless you have such obvious props as flags or laundry on a line, which are affected by the wind's movement. An animated character, however, can also be affected by the wind. If, for example, a man is walking into the wind, then the stronger the wind, the more he must appear to lean into it to make progress.

Props can be added to emphasize the power of the wind. If the man is wearing a hat and a long raincoat, they will be affected by the wind. As the man walks, he will have to hold the hat on his head, and the hat may even be carried off by the wind to emphasize its speed and direction. The coat will be pushed back and will flap if the wind is particularly strong.

The flapping movement of any loose material caught in the wind is best shown in the animation of a flag. When the wind is not blowing, the flag hangs limply. But when the wind blows gently, the flag bellows out slightly. And if the wind is really strong, the flag is pushed straight out.

Always let the flag fall to rest occasionally, because a gust of wind usually dies down before the next one arrives. Variation and lack of consistency are

the key things to remember when animating wind. This should be reflected in your animation, whether it is a flag or the coat on a walking figure.

Another effect that might be worth trying when animating wind is to draw a number of vertical lines across the screen, each set on a separate eel, of course.

These can then be doped at random, so there is no repetitive pattern. If the eels are shot at less than 100 percent exposure over the scene, they will be seen just enough to give an erratic sense of direction to the wind. To obtain the right exposure, direct the cameraman to shoot a wedge test of the effects artwork over the background—that is, ask for the effects artwork to be shot at varying exposures from 0 to 100 percent on separate frames of film. You might, for example, request that the exposures rise by 10 percent on each frame (from 10 to 20 to 30 percent, and so on). From this test, the best frame of film can be selected and the final exposure of the animated effects can be determined.

Filming animated effects at less than 100 percent exposure is a technique that is frequently used to simulate effects in real life. This is particularly true when you are animating flowing water. On a simple level, the effect of flowing water can be created by first establishing a plain background color for the water and then animating a series of shapes across it to simulate the feeling of movement you get when you watch a running stream. The shapes can be abstract, stylized, or realistic.

Whatever shapes you select, they should flow in a consistent way, following the chosen path of action. They can be repeated on a cycle if you are restricted in time and budget, but because water action, like wind, is never mechanical, it is advisable to produce a number of cycles and repeat them at random so that there is no observable repetition. Once animated, these drawings should be colored in a darker shade of the background color and, perhaps, shot at less than 100 percent exposure.

If the water action is more violent than a simple flowing movement, you can add another level of animation, depicting whitecaps at the top of the waves.

The whitecaps are best placed on another eel level. Then, if you are using cycle animation for the wave effects, you can at least vary the whitecaps (preferably animating them straight ahead) to avoid similarity and re-petitiveness. Drawing the whitecaps on a separate level will also give you the opportunity to experiment with the percentage of the exposure, since 100 percent white might be too strong.

These basic techniques are applicable when animating all flowing water, including waterfalls, running taps,, and moving streams and rivers. Of course, the techniques must be developed according to the demands of the scene.

Another simple, but extremely effective technique can be used to show shimmering sunlight or moonlight on the surface of a lake, river, or sea. Basically, all that is necessary is a series of eels with varied interpretations in white of the reflected light.

After the eels are completed, the animator merely dissolves from one to the other, at random, on simple mixes from two frames per mix to ten frames, depending on the speed of the effect required. This produces a beautiful, changing pattern of reflected light on the surface of the water. Greater sophistication can be achieved by having two eel levels at the same time— one mixing, perhaps, on four frames per mix, while the other might be eight frames per mix. This gives a constantly changing image in which the regularity of the mixes is more difficult to detect.

The same technique can be used to indicate the moving surface of a lake or sea, when a random effect of small moving waves is desired. Several eels—the more, the better—are drawn in black or colored line in the required style:

Then they are mixed one to another, at random, at the required speed. This technique can be highly successful even with a minimum of cells.

Reflections can be achieved by reversing the animation to be reflected so it is upside down and shooting it at a percentage exposure in the required position. A character might, for example, be walking along a river bank on top pegs.

It would be quite possible to trace, upside down, the identical action on a separate eel and then shoot it at less than 100 percent exposure.

Unfortunately, this method can be used only when the surface on which the reflection is to appear is perfectly smooth. If the water is moving or rippling, the reflected image should become distorted in proportion to the amount of disturbance present. The rougher the water, the greater the breakup of the image.

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