Men O’ War: Animation

With all the foreground elements created, it was time to begin animation. Now I’m not going to go into too much detail of the nuts and bolts of 3D animation since there are many wonderful animation resources on the internet already, and I’m trying to teach more about the production process we used than the nitty gritty technical stuff.


click to enlarge

However, it’s similar to stop motion and even live action in that you have a 3-dimensional stage to lay out your scene in. I can load the ship into Lightwave, put the sailors on the deck, and position lights and camera just like real life. However, there is a bit more control in the computer, since I can scrub back and forth through my frames as I animate to check my progress – something that’s tricky to do with claymation.


Thanks to the storyboard and animatic, I knew exactly what needed to be in each shot, and exactly how many frames long it should be, so for shot 12, I have the Cap’n, Bosun, and Cabin boy standing on deck with a telescope for 77 frames. The Bosun is speaking, and so I need to make sure that his head and body movements match the his animation and dialog. Animating such simple characters is harder than I thought, since they only have seven joints, and each of these can only turn in one axis.

I also need to animate the camera, since I don’t want any static camera positions. The ship itself needs to move as well, and so everything that is not stationary needs keyframes in order to move. Watch this clip to see how that camera is animated. At frame 0 it is in one place, and at frame 77 it has moved slightly to the left. You can also see the ship rocking back and forth, which took three keyframes. This clip is from the camera’s view and shows how the characters are moving.

With such simple animation, it didn’t take long to animate and render the characters and foreground elements for every one of my 50 shots. I loaded those into Adobe After Effects and put them on top of the animatic. This was the second edit, and we needed it to add sound effects to. We had begun to write the music to the animatic, but specific sound effects needed to be matched to the animation.

There are a few shots missing, and a glitch or two here and there, but the editing works, and the animation seems to be working. Next step: Backgrounds.

  1. what animation program did you use?

    - lego fan

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