Misadventure In Time

UK based illustrator and animator Lee Daniels’ new short “Misadventure In Time” is fun and smartly animated using Adobe After Effects. I asked Lee to give us some insight into how he created the spot.

Which software did you use?

After Effects (Animation), Illustrator (Character Assets), Audition (Audio FX), Premiere (Final Edit), Garageband (Score), VideoCopilot Element 3D  (Time Machine animation), Trapcode Particular (Warp Lights), Puppet Tools by Greg Gunn (Character Rigs).

What is you general workflow?

That’s correct. For all of my cartoons I create the general look of a scene first in Illustrator or Photoshop. I used Illustrator on this occasion because of the classic basic vector look I wanted to achieve with the design. This style would also be achievable using nothing but After Effects solids and masks, but I find it a much faster workflow using dedicated image software such as Illustrator and then importing assets. The Adobe Creative Cloud software is so well synchronised these days, it almost seems like one piece of kit.

“The Adobe Creative Cloud software is so well synchronised these days, it almost seems like one piece of kit”

What were the main tools in After Effects you used?

The largest amount of time was spent on the character animation, so the main tools I used were the system of puppet pins and null objects that made up the character rigs and the position & rotation keyframing associated with those elements.

What is your workflow in After Effects?

The imported characters are split into 6 basic parts on this occasion – Head, Body, Legs L + R, Arms L + R. When imported into After Effects, the anchor points are shifted to the correct joints (shoulders, hips, neck etc.) and then parented to the relevant parts. Once this basic rig is set up, I use the Puppet tool to set 3 pins on each limb, one either end and one in the middle.

Using the ‘Puppet Tools’ plugin, I convert these pins to Null objects and then activate the IK (Inverse Kinematics) for each limb. I then parent the body to a ‘Body’ null. Then I parent all nulls to a ‘Master’ Null which moved the whole character. This completes this basic rig setup.

As for the background, I used After Effects’ native 3D layer options and a camera to distribute the elements in 3D space to get the zooming camera look I wanted to achieve. The Time Machine asset was created using VideoCopilot Element 3D. It’s made up of just 2 parts, an Egg for the main body and a Pill shape for the legs. I stripped out all of the light, shadow and diffuse options for the 3D objects, therefore keeping the illusion of vector style until everything starts moving.

How long have you been using After Effects?

About 8 years in total.

Do you do your own sound design? What do you use?

I do create my own sound elements but I also use stock sounds that are packaged with software I use, be it Garageband or Adobe assets. I also use sound effects and scores from Videocopilot. For my own voice & foley recordings I use a ‘Samson C01 Studio Condenser Mic’ and a ‘Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface’.

Lee has just started a range of tutorials on his LeeDanielsART Youtube Channel and two of these tutorials cover similar processes used for this piece, specifically, Parenting & Keyframing and 3D Layer Creation & Distribution. I’m also planning a tutorial dedicated to this particular style of basic vector character rigs. You can check out Lee’s other work and other After Effects tutorials here.

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