“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” – Albert Camus
That quote from the famous French philosopher sums it up beautifully, how we feel about autumn. It’s a bittersweet moment.
It signals the end of summer in a slow riot of evolving colour that you don’t quite notice is happening until one day you look up and see the leaves aren’t as green as they once were; now they’re yellow, red, orange and brown.
As the herald of winter, autumn has a slightly sombre side too; the cold and dark are on their way. The end of the year is nigh. This last flurry of fading leaves is a wave goodbye.
But rather than let it fall by the wayside and be forgotten, we asked one of animators, Beth, to translate the moment into animation and share with us her thoughts on how she approached it.
1. Why an autumn animation, as opposed to any other season?
Well it was started with a suggestion to do something animated for social media based on summer, but I wanted to skip ahead a season. I like all the seasons for different reasons but autumn is in a way the most romantic as a concept, it’s this weird purgatory between life and death prettied up with pumpkin soup, nutmeg, warm jumpers, bonfires, cinnamon coffee on a cold day, warm woody colours and showers of leaves. It’s melancholic but also comforting, you know?
I think that’s why we find it pretty. There’s something really nice about wrapping up warm and sipping a hot chocolate on a chilly autumn day, cold enough to feel the day’s breath on you but not so cold you can’t go out at all, and I wanted to give that feeling. It was also a chance to play with a colour palette I wouldn’t usually choose, there’s this chill to it but also a soft warmth.
2. What steps did you go through to concept it?
That was it first, just what says autumn, and the first thing I saw was this big open grassy area, like a park, with of course a shedding tree and someone in the centre of this cold and lonely composition being warm and content.
So with a few sketches I worked out how that composition would best look, then took those sketches into Illustrator and tried to illustrate over them. I hit a wall when I was trying to work out the colours, so had to flick through a few art books and spend a lot of time going through palettes until I’d found an appropriate one. There were plenty that I liked but that one had the balance of cold and warmth I was after, and the colours weren’t too different in hue.
3. What animation techniques did you use?
A mixture of tweening, some expressions and some effects. For example, all the leaves have a subtle “wiggle” expression on them, even the ones that don’t get caught in the wind, and the ones that do float off are just manually tweened.
The moving of her clothes was done with puppet pinning to make them flexible. Her hair has a wave effect on it and the steam was done using a particle playground effect. As it’s all very still, the things around the character and setting gives it life, something more like an animated postcard, than a movie.
4. Why that visual style?
I wanted something that would push me to work with Illustrator more so I could get some better experience, hence why it’s more of an animated image than a movie, so more focused on illustration than animation. That animation style had me working with masks and textures and a palette, and deciding what things should have lines and what should be block colours. So mainly something to try out new skills but still hopefully looking like it works together.
5. What influenced the style and why?
I just looked around for some landscapes done by artists in Illustrator, different seasons, art based on autumn and I liked the style of using textures and solid shapes with no lines. I also looked at work by BlexBolex, particularly the “Seasons” book, and the Colour Index for ideas for colour palettes.
6. What about the sound, how was that designed?
You’ll have to ask Drew about that, I was just after some cool, misty ambience, with some rustling of leaves. I like the sound though, I think he knew what I was looking for more than I did.
7. What software did you use, at which stage and why?
After I’d planned how I wanted it as a sketch, I brought that into Adobe Illustrator and created the digital illustration over the sketch. We use Illustrator as it translates well over to After Effects for animation, and I wanted to improve my skills in Illustrator so it was a good chance to practice. Then after organising the layers in AI it was animated in After Effects. Since we often use the program here and it’s always good to practise it, but also it’s a good tool for animating illustrations in a variety of ways as well as offering the effects I wanted for it.
8. What would you change if you had more time and why?
Maybe I would have tried a different selection of colours since I’d made a lot of options during the design process. Or added more to the background, so more trees, to add more colour but when I discussed it for some advice during the design process, the minimal approach was preferred as the space helped create that lonely feeling in the composition.
9. What next?
Aside from anything client related, I’m trying out some more frame-by-frame animation as it’s not often we do it. And of course, there’s also Wolf-O-Matic to work on.