vCase Study with Digital Arts Projects
Client: Random Act of Kindness
Project: RAK app
Time: 4 months
In the Digital Arts Project this semester we had the fortune to meet with the internationally recognized organization, Random Act of Kindness. Random Act of Kindness is a unique organization that seeks to inspire random acts of kindness as a way of creating positivity in the world, and provide resource for those looking to create their own small contribution to others. Those who share their stories and experiences on the organization site are known as RAKtivists (a combination of activist and RAK) which helps to create the sense that those involved in small (or big) acts of kindness can help shape the world. As part of the classes goal to work on project that required a team effort, RAK wanted us to create an app that could be used like other existing apps such as Instagram, and Twitter. It would serve as a platform in which people could quickly share their RAK stories via pictures and video to the larger community. The website already had stories up on their site, but was looking to create the app to help make sharing an easier and more immediate experience, creating more of an incentive to share stories.
As a team, the class was split up into teams of web developers and animators. My role on the team was primarily as an animator. As part of the possibility that this app might eventually made public so as to seek funding, we knew we would have to create an accompanying video or animation that would have to explain what this app did, and what role in could play in a person’s life. As an example we took a look at an app called Wayz which was an app used for sharing traffic updates. It’s information video was animated, and had charming conceptual characters which helped explain the apps function in elegant but simple manner. We were also considering however in making the explanatory video live action, so we took a look at a half animated video called “The Story of Solutions”, by The Story of Stuff Project, a group which had morally similar goals like RAK in creating a better world through a more sustainable economy. The class agreed that it’s combination of a live announcer and animated backgrounds worked well together and set out to emulate its approach.
Originally we were going to have a live action announcer and animated background, but the decision about that perhaps animating background might require too much time, so we could cut down time by having the announcer animated and a example story live action. When creating ideas for characters that would be the announcer, I thought a young female character would be a good choice to serve as a voice, since kindness seems to be generally more associated with females. Interestingly my design was chosen for the organization group we spoke with, so the animation team took to task animating various parts of the characters. My function was animating the characters arms that would mimic the “Story of Solutions” video .
The first thing I had to do was create a three angle perspective of the character in Illustrator so that if she needed to turn, the animators would know what the ending and beginning point should look like. I then sent the Illustrator file to the animators creating symbols that could be imported to Flash.
In order to animate for various scenes, I created several separate main graphic symbols which would be used in separate scenes. When we received the audio of our chosen actress for the character, I broke the audio into short clips and set my animation to those clips. It was necessary that all scenes be in their own symbol because at any point we might need the character to increase or decrease in size, so a single symbol would allow for easy zoom ins and outs as necessary.
The main concern with animating arms I found was that perspective of arms were more complex than one would think. I originally animated the arms using Flash’s bone option in CS5, breaking the girls arm into the shoulder upper arm, the lower arm and then the hand. But while that worked well in creating arms going to the side, it created spider like arms whenever the arms had to be brought in. This is because hands going inward change direction and arms become foreshortened. So consequently the arms and hand both had to be adjusted to compensate for the change in perspective that occurs.
Fixes were done by converting the bones animation into single frame keyframes, then replacing the hands and arms with in the frames in which the foreshortening occurred. For one scene in particular it was necessary to just break down the whole arm into a frame by frame rotoscope of myself bringing an Iphone up. This scene would be used as the transition into the live action in which the characters phone would be zoomed in on and become a video of a RAK moment. This frame by frame however was taken care of by another animator, and then I integrated that animation symbol into my scene animation. Eventually all bones of the character had to be broken into frame by frame anyway because the project had to be moved into Adobe Creative Cloud.
As part of the explanation about RAK, a portion of the video had to feature someone being helped by someone else in a moment that could be shown as inspiring someone else. A story we decided to go with was in which one of our classmates, Ryan, was helped up a hill after his wheelchair lost power. His father would be struggling to get up the hill, and a classmate would come along to help them unasked. In the meantime someone sitting nearby would watch and share it on the RAK app.
To get the scene ready, we went to our school’s main campus which had a perfect hill near a parking lot. I created a storyboard that laid out the storyline, and informed the actors their roles. We then recorded the story using an HD video camera. I then edited the story into a 26 second clip in Final Cut Pro.
While the piece has not yet been completed, the expected final steps are almost there. At the moment we have 80 percent of the video complete. This so far is the latest.
In order to integrate both the animated character and the live action video, we will be bringing the video files into After Effects. The characters animation, including her hands and hair movements which will be brought into Flash, and placed where needed. We expect then that all scenes will be rendered as videos separately so that superior audio quality can be added back in in Final Cut Pro. Then those clips will be exported as a single video file. That animation video will then be brought into a Master After Effects files, which will contain the live action video, and a special rotoscoped intro which will be added on top of the live action video.
The live action video will be composed into the Iphone that the female character holds up, and will increase in size as the character’s Iphone is zoomed in on.
With the effects in place, the video will be exported as one final video and be ready for promotional use on Youtube and hopefully be launched off the ground.