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Unlike traditional 2 dimensional art, it is much easier to fool the viewer's eye with animation. Simple tricks can create great effects. For the first project, I'll be taking an inanimate photo and getting it moving. I am going to keep it to a simple 4 frame anim. so that the task wont be too daunting. When finished, it will seem like a much more involved piece of work. With practice, a project like this should take you an hour or less.
My subject will be the truck in Figure A. If it looks familiar to you, it's because it is the truck that was used in the Steven Spielberg film Duel. I tripped over it on a site devoted exclusively to the film. If you would like to work along with something simpler, like a flower, go right ahead. The principles are all the same. I work with Microsoft Digital Editor, and Gimp. The terminology may be different for your photoshop programs. MDE has a GIF(animation) program included in it's package. It is called a flipbook. If your PS package doesn't include one, there are various sites that you can upload them from. Gimp, of course, is free. Though harder to work with, it does contain various dazzling effects that you may not find in standard PS programs.
So let's get started. Our first step is to remove our star from it's background. Simply trace the object, invert the tracing and erase(cut) or paint the unused portionsFigure B1.
We now want to separate all the elements of the truck from each other, the truck bodyFigure B2, the shadowFigure B3 and the wheelsFigure B4. This will make it easier for you to work, and integrate the image into it's new settings.
After that, we are ready to create a rough layout of our landscape. Make a copy of the original image, and cut or paint out everything. This is done to keep all your working frames the exact same size. First, decide where your horizon should be and color in the sky Figure C1. Next, determine where your road border will be and fill in that area(this will be for trees)Figure C2. Lastly, fill in your roadFigure C3. When complete, your images, integrated, will look like Figure C4. (cont.)
It is now time to assemble our background. We will start with Figure C1, our sky. For the simplicity of the tutorial, I went looking around the net for a few dramatic pics of skies. But you can make one very easily in paint. Start with a solid colored background, airbrush in some clouds, use your gausian blur tool to fuzz them up to your tastes, and then distort the drawing to give it depth and perspective. In Figure C1a I simply picked out 2 of the most interesting sky pics, overlaid them by cutting and pasting one over the other, and reducing the opacity by 50% with the transparency feature. Simply copy that and paste it over your rough layout till it lines up.
Skip over Figure C2/C2a for now and go to installing our road. I hunted up a few picks of some roadways and choose the one that had the best textural effect. Simply follow the previous instructions to install Figure C3/C3a. I had to skew the image a bit to get an approximation of the angle.
For Figure C3/C3a I rounded up a few pics of wooded areas and simply picked the one I liked, traced it, copied and pasted over the rough drawing.
We are now ready to combine our background elements inFigure C4/C4a. First, trace your road, copy and paste on to your sky frame. If the road goes too far into the sky area, simply use your transparency brush to feather it in. The horizon will need to be blurred a bit to give depth. Simply trace an area of approximately 6-8 pixels where the sky and road meet, and blur it with the gausian blur tool. I left the curb in the road pic because the color had a nice sandy quality. Again, simply trace it, blur it till it's mostly just a color, and then you can add a texture filter to give it a grainy, rocky look.
To add our trees, take your "magic wand" tool and click on the blank white background. This should get you into all those little branches. Simply invert the tracing, copy and paste into your scene. Take your transparency brush and feather in the ground area so that some of that sandy rock shows thru. Likewise, repair any areas at the treetops with it. (cont.)
For our road, go to your first frame, trace the area, and copy. Go to your second frame and paste an 80% transparency. Now pull it up vertically, feather and copy. Follow the same instructions as you did above for the remaining frames. These pastings will be very slight, as you are only trying to shift the texture of the road. Go back to your first frame and copy your original tracing and return to your second frame. Paste another 80% transparency, but this time pull it slightly to the right, horizontally. Repeat with the remainng frames.
To suggest a high speed, I will add a road line to alternate frames. First go to your shape selector and pick out a square, and fill it with white paint. Shrink it to a narrow rectangular shape. Now skew it to conform with the angle of the road. I added a little rough texture and reduced the transparency about 25% to let some of the road bleed thru. Copy and paste it where you want it. Copy and go to an alternate frame, paste, and then paste an identical one on top. Move the second one up further in line with the first. Now click on the first pasting and delete. Done.
Take your background for a test drive by putting all the frames in your GIF animator. This will show you any problems that need to be fixed before you add in your star. (cont.)
Now that our crazy quilt background has been assembled, it's time to make some sense out of it, by putting in our star. Go to the first frame of your animation and make a copy of it. Now return to Figure B1, the complete cutout of the truck. Using your magic wand tool, click on the white background and invert. Paste the image verbatim into your copied background image Figure E1 Although the image is close to where I want it, it still looks a bit out of alignment with the background. Click on your pasted truck and use the skew tool to get it in the exact position you want. This might cause a little distortion, and depending on how much effort you want to put into the animation, can be corrected more delicately. Once positioned, paste it. Return to image Figure B2 use the magic wand, and retrieve the truck body. Paste it over the whole truck, line it up with it's new position, and copy and paste it into the 4 frames of your animationFigure E2 .
Now that we have the body in Figure F1,2,3,4 it's time to add our shadow Figure B3. Repeat the same steps as you did with the truck body, remembering to skew it to it's new position. But this time, before pasting it, you'll want to reduce it to between a 30-40% transparency. This will allow some of the road animation to show thru for a more realistic effect. Paste your image into the 4 frames Figure G1,2,3,4. You will notice that the shadow now has the hard edge of the original image. This will be corrected a little later with the clone brush.
We are now ready to place the wheels into our frames. But there will be a little bit of animation involved. To suggest tire movement, we will simply shift the holes in the tire rims, in alternate frames. Make a copy of your image in Figure B4. In the copy, erase the holes in the rim, either with a clone brush or paint. You can now go to the original, copy and paste into your copy a skew version of the holes, or simply paint new ones. After completing that, simply paste your 2 tire images into alternate frames Figure H1,2,3,4. You can now go into your 4 frames and clean up any mistakes, either with a clone, paint or blending brush. I've repaired the shadow, and there was a little bit of shrinkage that exposed gaps. Once your frames are seamless, take your star for a test drive. (cont.)
We have our background finished, and our truck rolling along at a nice clip, so now it's time to add a few finishing touches to add realism(and hide a few minor flaws). Our truck seems perfect, except for one thing- it seems to be driving itself. Of course we could add a driver, but in the original film, the driver was never seen. The best way to hide that is simply to darken the windows. Trace out your windows and simply darken them by reducing the midtones, shadows, etc. You can also increase them for a very high reflection, but since our background gives the appearance of late afternoon/early night, darkening looks more logical. I kept the shadows light enough to keep the steering wheel and a few minor elements vaguely visible. Once you have it the way you like it, copy and paste over the windows in the other 3 frames Figure I1,2,3,4.
We are now going to kick the dirt up a bit by adding smoke. Simply make a copy any of your frames and reduce the transparency to 80%(or more if you like)Figure J. This will allow you to see the layout while you work, and the original image will help create a bit of motion. Go into your transparency and trace a shape around an area you would like to see smoke billow from. Intricate artistic skill is not required, just make random amorphous shapes. Copy and go to your first frame and paste Figure K1,2,3,4. Using your gausian blur, turn it into a fuzzy blob. Now reduce the opacity to your tastes, less for thick smoke, more for thin wispy smoke. Paste it permanently to your image and copy it to your next frame. In this frame, you can skew, twist and distort the blur to your tastes, copy and paste to the 3rd frame. Repeat the process. You can create one overlay after the other until your satisfied with the movement and look of the piece.
You'll notice that on the truck's stack, I have a darker charcoal smoke being emitted. Simply make your blob and reduce the midtones. I have also added a phantom road line with about a 90% transparency reduction. Check all of your frames for any problems, and when you're satisfied, your monster truck is ready to roll. Put your 4 frames in your GIF animator, set it for 4/10th of a second(gifs only allow 10 frames a second, as opposed to the 2 frame minimum allowed in WMVs, which means they tend to animate at a more natural speed. Standard film will show 30 frames per second.) and save. Your mini-movie should come out looking like this-
If you want to add a little extra drama to your animation, go into photoshop and apply some interesting filters to each frame. Here, I added a sepia tone and some graininess to give it an old movie effect.
If, later on, you would like to make a few changes, simply upload your animation to Windows Movie Maker(it uploads as a picture file) and take it apart, one frame at a time by clicking the "Take Picture" button. You can also change it into a standard movie that can be uploaded to YouTube or other movie hosting sites.
Stay tuned to this thread for future animation projects.
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