Friday Animation Fun: Synaesthesia
Find out how this new short about a fascinating sensory condition was created using a combination of Maya, After Effects and Photoshop. Watch the film here too
Synaesthesia tells the life experience of a synaesthete; a person with a condition where two or more of the five senses that are normally experienced separately are involuntarily and automatically joined together. Synaesthetes can experience sounds, tastes, smells, shapes, or touches in almost any combination. Synaesthesia features a character as a small boy, an adult worker and a retired man, who can see and feel shapes and depicts his different reactions to the phenomenon.
The short was a final year project created by four students – Tien Hee, Kasumi Saito, Leo Chida and Nikko Hull – of Massey University, New Zealand. The quartet had to think of an idea to suit the brief of the school, which had a self-driven component as well as a pre-defined part. “This was basically to pick a topic and find a need or something that needs changing etc,” says Hull. “We chose Synaesthesia.”
Things shaped up nicely
In order to tackle such a complicated condition, the team spent a lot of time researching Synaesthesia and how it was going to affect their characters and set designs. “We decided during the research stage what we were going to do,” says Chida. “Each character was associated with a shape as were the environments. These were contrasting, for example, the first scene the kid was a circle, round and innocent and the environment was a triangle, sharp, scary and alert.”
The team also used many sources of inspiration to achieve the look and style they were after. “For the environments, I looked at lots of animations, Studio 4°C, Team Cerf, Tekkonkintreet etc and mixed them all together to get the end result,” says Saito. “It was hard to simplify the forms to get it right. We ended up mixing all of these with our own ideas to get the style we came up with.”
With set and character designs completed, the team began creating the film’s assets in Maya and UV layout tool, Headus. “This software is pretty awesome, I was really happy with how Headus sped things up,” says Chida. They also adopted a rendering technique which helped with production times.
“The process was quite simple, which also helped in a way,” says Hull. “Each layer was kind of easy, it was just a matter of putting it all together in After Effects. We found the technique demonstrated (kind of) on Deviant Art, I can’t remember the specific artist, but then we tried to figure it out in Maya and it worked quite well. But we didn’t choose that because of its ease, we chose it because of the style.”
The scenes were separated to make the whole process more manageable. “The old man walking down the hall is a good example,” says Hull. “We had the walls, which were all on different render layers. The background and walls were a single layer and frame. Then anything which was moving, so the phone and the character, were on their own layers and were the only sequences. There also had to be a sequence for the shadows so they could cast on the walls. Then we had diffuse, shadows, highlight, AO and particle layers. This all went into After Effects with some lights and colour correction.”
After two semesters worth of work, the student team completed the film and are pleased with the final result considering their prior experience in animation. “Up until the end, you have no idea what it’s going to turn out like,” says Chida. “But it was so rewarding finding out that all the effort wasn’t wasted and the film actually looked OK. I mean, some was wasted but we’re learning so it’s all good. Our degree consisted of lots of general design and even fine art so we’ve only really had about a year of animation training (in total). With this in mind, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.”
Like this film? Check out the selection of other awesome animations in our shorts section
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on Friday, March 9th, 2012 at 3:30 pm under Shorts, Showcase.
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Tags: 3D animated short, 3D animation, Animated short, Massey University, student 3D animation, Synaesthesia