May 30, 2014

Agatha (Sequence and Process)

        My final project for 118B this semester was to produce an animated sequence as part of a group project.
Tagging along with Nicki Yee, Grace Lacuesta, and Kim Mucha, this is what we made in about a month:

Agatha (Short Sequence)
from Youri Dekker on Vimeo.

       I'm pretty proud of what we were able to accomplish, particularly because we were able to really take the idea that we had in our heads and successfully see it through to the final product. It was also cool to see how each of us had particular contributions to the sequence in addition to the animation that made it that much better in the end.

And here is the process behind it all....

We we're actually set on another piece of dialogue before landing on this one. I wanna give credit to Brie Henry though for finding such an awesome audio clip. The monologue  that she took it from was quite long, and so we trimmed and clipped it down, altered the pitch a little, and that made it more our own. We then spent an afternoon figuring out ideas and ways to explore who the character was.

These were my initial thumbnail sketches as I tried to figure out possible acting ideas and story beats. 

Kim drawing out Agatha's character design. 

Grace figuring out how to do the reference.  

Some image reference we used to get the feel for the setting. 

       Grace did an amazing job with all the video reference. You can see the majority of it in the Sequence Progression, which is also posted further below. I ended up going back and shooting some more reference based off of her initial takes, but a lot came out of that afternoon of work...

Next came doing a rough 2D pass to try and enhance the poses and idea. It's always so cool to look back at this and see how far it's come from just a few drawings and an animatic. 

A pose I redrew after my initial 2D pass. 

While Grace and Nicki were off building the set in Maya and Kim was making all the bottles on the shelves, it was my job to finesse and alter the Female Malcolm Rig to make her more witch-like. It took a little bit of time with the texturing and altering her geometry little-by-little, but Kim's drawings really helped me figure out what to tweak and change in order to give a real personality.

Character designs from Kim Mucha.

The first attempt to see what she could look like in 3D.

And then pretty much the final look. 

       After this I decided to go in and try out a few facial expressions and hand poses so that everyone could use them as guides for when we animated them.

Some good ol' squash and stretch tests with the face.

After our first blocking pass, I thought I'd go over some of my poses in Photoshop to fix and tweak them. After doing that for my shot I found it so helpful that I figured I'd do the same for everyone else's shot as well as a way to help them out a bit too.

During all this madness of creating a 40-second animated sequence, we felt it would be cool to have smoke in the shot when Agatha poured in the potion. So Grace looked up a tutorial and used that as a guide to create a smoke simulation for inside the cauldron. We were going to have the smoke in all 4 shots, but that proved to be too much with the time we had, so we only did it for Kim's final shot.

I was also in charge of the lighting for the sequence. Kim had started to light her shot in a cool way with the light from the cauldron changing intensity and color when Agatha poured in the potion, so I used that as a guide for the rest of the shots. She had even created a cool glow coming out of the cauldron, which we were able to work into each shot as well. Some of the initial lighting passes I created had a really warm setting with the reds, but we ended up going with that route because it created a nice stark contrast with the green light at the end, making that laughter moment hit home all the more. 

Rough pass at the final set lighting. 

First attempt at lighting. 

Billionth attempt and final pass.

We really wanted to get an eerie feeling out of the whole sequence, and we found that sound could really help with that if we placed that subtly underneath the dialogue. Grace found both scary cemetery music and a relaxing rainfall piece, and we ended up going with the rainfall one because the calmness of that paired with her dialogue and the thunder was so much more unsettling. 

       I also had fun designing the opening title shot. I used layer masks in After Effects that I offset to slowly reveal the text, and then overlayed that with the sound effect of paper ripping and glass shards dropping on the ground to get a cool scratching noise.  

And here is everything together: reference, blocking, polish, and the final animation. 
Agatha (Sequence Progression)

And that's that. 

It was definitely a wild, crazy month of animating, but it was a lot of fun to create such a twisted character, especially with my good friends. Thanks for being Team Leaders ladies! 


  1. Youri! This is so good! Man I look up to you for real! This is hella tight.

  2. haha Grace's face at the end! priceless!

  3. This is really, really good. Inspiring. I'm a freshman going in to the sjsu program and seeing this really makes me excited for the future. :D