2D Animation vs 3D Animation

Since starting animation, I was always drawn to 2D because a pencil had always been an extension of my hand. Drawing always came so easy to me and I had always loved it. However, I knew this project would be the only chance for me to experience 3D with such a supportive surrounding.

I always also thought the worst thing I would go through in 3D animation would be the rig. I dreaded that the most.

Before starting the proper animation, I was advised to watch hours of videos from 3D animation professionals explaining the basics of 3D animation.

In 2D animation, I had a control and freedom to draw what I wanted, exaggerate what I wanted, change anything at any time, just draw what I felt. Every animator had its own method, what I would do is first put my key poses, check the timing and then just fill in the rest, sometimes drawing by drawing, sometimes adding breakdowns and then putting in betweens.

In 3D animation however, everything is different. The freedom is not there anymore, you can be restricted by the rig, the topology and the computer. It is very hard for me to get used to this. Because I used to be able to control everything before, the animation was completely different. It is now more technical. I need to key every control, put strong keys and breakdowns and check the computer is filling the rest properly. Because this is my first 3D sculpt and rig, I obviously have little mistakes here and there, but it would send me back too much to correct them so I have to work around it.

I have always been very picky and strict in my work always, and I had always been in control. In this project though, it is all about working with what I have and making the best with it. I am sure this is a technique to get used to, but as a traditional artist, it is a radical change that I am happy to work on while a student.


Alita Battle Angel

Everytime I go to the movies, it feels like work. I catch myself trying to study the animation and the special effects.

It is almost impossible nowadays to see a movie that does not require some background computer animation. In Alita Battle Angel, I set myself up to some headache.

The movie is based on a manga by Yukito Kishiro. In 2563, a cyborg is rescued by a doctor and nursed back to health while trying to remember her past. The action is set in Iron City, a trash city under the glorious Zelma, a flying city no one can get up to.  The whole movie features robotic bodies and weird human machinery, all this in a futuristic world.
The most surprising is not how freakishly real those robotic/human bodies look, it is the performance of the main character Alita. The contradiction is maximal. An actress performs and is then rendered into a 3D character that needs to look real. Her eyes are bigger, but that is basically the only thing you would notice in her human face.

I watched some reviews and behind the scenes videos of this huge production, produced by James Cameron and in partnership with Weta.

Alita’s human face had about 5000 iterations to make her emotions look real and the animators had to meet with plastic surgeons to fully understand what was happening behind a face to then re translate it in animation.  Alita was all about motion capture and performance capture meaning that not only her body but also her face were closely recorded and translated in 3D the way it was many years ago for Gollum in Lord of the Rings and for Avatar. The difference here is we needed for her to almost look like a human, making her reactions as close as Rosa’s. The main focus was faithfully re translating the nuances of human acting.

Once again the advancement of computerized animation go beyond my belief.