This is a film about the threats that the andean bear have to deal with every day. Human beings heavily disrupts his existence and represent its biggest threat. The Andean Bear foundation is one of the few organizations that is continuously working to protect the andean bear and bring peace to their lives. This project began as a Class 2 project for mograph mentor and thankfully found its way into the organization. Every element on the film was hand made and animated in AE.
pre-production and design
Everything started with an extensive research. It was important to have the big picture of what are the fundamental issues that the Andean bear is going through and also what does the Andean Bear Foundation actually does regarding this issues. It became clear that the biggest threat for the Andean Bear is the human being. They hunt them down, cut huge amounts of trees in their habitat, expand agricultural activities deep inside the forest where the bear lives. The bear is a shy animal most of the time but when they come close to this farms they are hunted down due that they eat some of the crops and the farm animals as well. Considering all of this I created the script and the storyboard. I wanted to capture all this problems and give a little hope in the end but I turned out to have a greater impact by giving more focus on how the human being disrupts the bear existence.
With all this information I began doing some art test. Following the idea that humans create all this problems I went for a handmade look for the film. Kind of ironic how humans can create so much and destroy everything at the same time. Here`s some test.
Now, it wasn`t going to be a lot of time for the whole process. Initially the idea was to make it look hand made but it was going to be a mix of shapes with textures built in Photoshop and After Effects to have absolute control and flexibility on the colors and the materials.
However, with a little time to spare I went and bought some materials (mostly fabric and foam) to make a test with real objects. Finding the colors you want is incredibly hard and in this case impossible. I had to use what was available.
The process was pretty straight forward.
1. Illustrate a reference with some basic colors.
2. Split that into different elements.
3. See the materials available and use what fits better in each part.
To me this clearly became the better option. The real objects brought so much life to the picture!. It was going to take a lot more work but it was going to be worth it and also it`s quite rare to work with physical objects in animation so it was pretty fun. We had 4 main scenes and since the first one was doing well I proceeded to make the others. These are the pictures of the scenes put together.
First task was to figure how some technical stuff. The look resembles stop motion animation and I picked it up from there since 24fps wasn`t looking good at all. At 12fps things improved but there was this uncomfortable smooth sensation that was breaking the experience. At 8 fps things felt just right. Also was going to be helpful for the bear animation. Here`s the test.
Process for building the scenes took the next direction:
1. Take the picture of the scene completed.
2. Take pictures of every object separated.
3. Put everything together and compose into After Effects just like the reference picture.
I took the liberty to modify the composite a bit in the end. This dark blue things where trees and they worked better by setting the shadows in a way that the resemble some altitude from the ground. Also the bear lost the white edge because it was setting him too apart from the rest of the elements.
The bear was a constant evolution. With the animation done in Photoshop it was time for composition. The bear now looked like it was made of fabric too but doing a mask of the fabric on top of the animation to make it look like I did cut it. The plan was to print every frame, cut the bear in one color of fabric and put it back together but It didn`t work because it was pretty hard to tell where were the arms, legs, etc. It was hard to read the movements so I separated the bear into 6 different layers and composed each in AE. If I did cut every part I was going to be around a thousand objects so It was just not possible to do that at the time. Fortunately the rest of the objects were pretty simple to animate.
Sound design was made at the very end since it had to match all the animation. It was a progressive film. We went from a happy marimba to strong machines grinding trees to the bear screaming at the end. Every single person that had seen the animation says "poor bear" in the end which was the objective. Voice over was made by Scott Antonucci before the animation began. It did fit the mood of the film perfectly.
The final film have been quite successful in delivering the message intended and also has been helpful for the Andean Bear Foundation which is fantastic!.
This is a quick overview of what went thought because it was a lot more work done in every step. I`m not a very skilled stop motion animator (stop motion is tough!) but I`m pretty happy to have found a way into the stop motion look that allows me to keep flexibility to either make changes on the art and the animation. It`s like a non destructive workflow for stop motion.