Before/After and some more editing

I spoke to my mentor today for feedback on my animation so far and she gave me the following things to possibly work on (I will try and do as many of them as I can because it turns out these points are exactly in line with what I had been struggling to improve):

  • Make the text at 0:05 slightly larger? Ok for the big screen, but too small for a youtube viewing.
  • Could you make the line of all the animation a lighter colour (grey/brown).  Seems too harsh.
  • Could you add slightly more to the bg at 0:37?  The bg is strikingly empty when it cuts from the previous scene.
  • Motion blur to animation at 0:56 is a little distracting. can you remove it?
  • At 2:51 could you move the BG around?  It appears a fixed camera, but the animation suggests the camera is tracking the bird.

I love the idea of making the linework brown, I think this will fix my issue with character linework vs. background linework.

I’ve been motivating myself by looking at old storyboards and animatics from back in February and how things have progressed!

Shot 7: Storyboard 01/26/2017

Shot 7: Animatic 20/02/2017

Shot 7: Animation 22/05/2017

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Final film!

I’ve finally finished my animation! I am still looking for a child actor for Sydu’s voice over, but provisionally I got an adult actor to re-pitch her voice to match a child’s. She has also done the voiceover for Bana, the caretaker.

I’ve made some sand textures that I’ve added in to almost all my backgrounds, because I loved the way texture is used in the new Ghibli film The Red Turtle.

Still from the Red Turtle. The texture in the sand adds a lot to the image


Here are my textures, which were made following the tutorial on this website.

I will now be rounding up my closing credits list, making nicer subtitles, and maybe adding better shadows to my backgrounds if I have time. Next step is my essay!

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Final animation minus effects

I’ve finally finished all of the most grueling parts of this project and am now on to effects! I’ve checked with a few people who had never seen my film and didn’t know the story whether they understood the ending and luckily they all did, so I can keep it as it is! I still need to find a way to fix the odd contrast between the background linework and the linework of my animated characters as was mentioned by my professors in the rough crit assessment on Friday, but apart from that, I can go on to After Effects now! I’ve figured out that post production is my favorite, favorite part of filmmaking (along with pre-production actually!) so I am very happy to have 3 weeks left for this.

I’ve gotten some provisional dialogue for all my characters though I hope to soon have a real 5 or 6 year old to voice the little boy (currently it is an adult voiceover with pitch changes).

I’m using online guides to help me with my AE effects (I’m using royalty special effects for my sandstorm, debris, sun, etc.). I’m also going back to my notes from first year which are actually super helpful at the moment!

Quickly Keying Out Black Backgrounds in After Effects

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Done with Clean Up

A still of one of the most time-consuming shots. It is supposed to hint at the ending without revealing it too much either. It took me several weeks to have this scene not only cleaned up, but also figured out as a whole. It was hard to make the interaction work.

I’m finally done with cleaning up my animation (link), though I am missing some “secondary” animation like the ants crawling in Shot 12, or the bird flying with the boy in the extreme long shot of the camp (Shot 24). But I am so happy to finally be done with the rest of the cleaned up animation!

How my Shots have Evolved

At the end of the clean up stage it is funny to look back at home much certain shots have changed from my original idea,

Shot 23 from the beginning of March, not yet animated. Ground meant to recede beneath feet.

Shot 32 today. More realistic run cycle, background will zoom out as it does in this reference video.


I also like seeing how the different references I used have come together to make the shot I want. I never trace reference video material, however I often copy the movement precisely. For my bird in shot 23 for example, I copied the movement of this viral slow-motion gif of a parrot running, but I did not trace, and only used the key frames:

And with this dramatic fire-evading budgerigar I end my post, and I repeat, I am done with the cleaning up. May the Fourth be with you.

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After Effects tests

When I take breaks from tracing my remaining rough frames I do these tests on After Effects. The reason I’ve been so strict with my animation deadlines is because I want to have as much time as I can for post-production. I’ve been looking at different green screen effects that are available online, such as this sun, these bokeh dust particles and especially this sandstorm effect and I would like to use similar effects in my shots. Here are some of my tests (wrong proportions):

I will try and learn how to make masks again because these birds fly a bit fake

I will also have the fabrics in the background move with the wind

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Half-way through cleaning up!

I made myself a production schedule last month and I’m about 5 days behind what I wanted to get done by the end of April because I got sick. But I’m quite happy with what I’ve done so far.

I realize that I’ve been working a bit according to what feels right at any time and not strictly “in order” (animatic -> keys -> inbetweens -> cleanup -> background) but so far it’s worked for me. I’m currently doing mostly cleaning up, although technically I am still missing a couple keyframes, but I realise that when it comes to subtle movements and detail I prefer doing these during the clean up phase rather than earlier, when I feel much more inspired. I like seeing the character clearly and feeling closer to a finished film.

So as I go along with the cleaning up, I’ve been adding details in the motion of my bird character to make him more realistic and to smooth out the excessive still frames.

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Cleaning up

I finally finished in-betweening (minus a few frames here and there that I will only do during the cleaning up phase or else I would loose time, such as repeats or very subtle movements). My animatic also contains some scale issues (e.g. the boy is too small compared to the bird at the end of shot 7), but this is also something I want to fix while doing the clean up. I’ve added a few sound effects to my animatic, some might not be final sound effects but I wanted to test some ideas for scene transitions.

Transitions are currently an issue for me, as I do not want to revert to fade outs for all three major scene changes, and I want to find something creative for the transition from the extreme long shot of the camp (shot 3) and the sudden medium shot that follows it.

This animatic has therefore a few tests in it. I also deleted the dialogue because I still need to fine tune the script and find 2 arabic speaking voice actors. At the moment I am looking on Fiverr for this.

I also forgot to mention that what is currently a blank sand-coloured square as my film opens is actually supposed to be a sandstorm that slowly fades to reveal the camp. I am hoping to buy (or find royalty free) some sort of sandstorm vector or green screen type footage. Or I’ll animate a few little bits of things going across the screen to ‘show’ the wind (as in the opening shot of this animation by Robert Loebel).

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Updated animatic


I reached my goals for my 6 most difficult shots, and some I cleaned up as well. I feel on track although I’m not too sure ill finish ALL of the rough in-betweened animation by the 15th. Still hoping!

I looked up some of the foods available in refugee camps (the red and green package at the bottom left is one that I used in shot 11) to make sure I did not insert things that refugees don’t actually have access to.

I also used more online references, like this little girl throwing a ball, for my most important shots.

My most precise way of using references is placing keyframes of the reference video next to my own keyframes, and making sure they match in movement and timing.

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Updated Animatic

I’ve updated my animatic with my current progress. I plan on finishing keyframing by April 4th, and my goal is to have finished inbetweening my 6 top-priority shots (the ones that need the most detail and effort) by this Saturday 8th, my 7 medium-priority shots by Monday 10th, and the remaining 18 shots by Friday the 14th. I want to have the rest of April to clean up and color as much as I can, to end up with most of May freed up for editing and sound.

Top priority shots: 23 hours for all keys/inbetweens (approx. 3 days)
Medium priority shots: 11 hours for all keys/inbetweens (approx. 1.5 days)
Low priority shots: 18 hours (approx. 3 days)
Least priority shots: 4 hours (approx. 1/2 day)

I have not made a proper model sheet for Bana, the woman who appears in one scene in my film as Sydu’s caretaker and to whom he shows his bird. Instead I drew the two close up shots she appears in (Shot 17 and 19) by placing them next to each other to make sure facial features matched properly despite the very different angles. In Shot 17 she is passive and unconcerned, and in shot 19, very sad.

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Color Script

I recently found out that Pixar uses “color scripts” to determine the overall look of their film in terms of colors, how the colors change over the course of the story, and the way color helps evoke different emotions over different scenes. I found this extremely helpful for my project as I have a lot of backgrounds and was struggling to keep a sense of unity in my color ideas for each scene. This took me 5 full days to complete, especially due to the many trial-and-error moments I had, but making thumbnails of every single shot on one page like this has saved me probably 2 weeks if not more of work. I’ll now get back to animating, but making a color script has motivated me a lot.

The time of day changes throughout my film, from afternoon to sundown, and sunrise to morning. The most difficult part of making the color script was transitioning properly from one to the other, especially the transition between sunrise and morning, which had to be very quick, but subtle as well.

Here are examples of my process for some of the more difficult shots:


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