WIP Sci-Fi Scene Animation

Hello there. I’m working on an animation for my demo reel. If anyone wants to weigh in or just observe the process, I’m going to upload bits and pieces as I finish it.

The first step I’ve done is a block-out or sort of a live story board. I thought about actually drawing a storyboard, but I tend to feel more comfortable just diving straight into 3D, so I did. I figure the drawn storyboard is more important if you need to share your ideas with co-workers, and I don’t have any.

I’ve left out the intricate motions like running and walking for now. I’m mostly trying to nail down the camera angles and the overall timing. Next step will be to fill in the details of the animation.

My thoughts so far:

-The whole thing is still too fast and frantic in places. It’s targeted to 60FPS, and Blender goes at like 12FPS in runtime, so it’s difficult to assess. The more I work on it, the better paced it will get.

-The camera zooming in to look at the room feels kinda cheesy to me. Originally, it had been a jump cut, but then it was jump cutting between elements that are kinda visible between frames, and that felt worse.

-I could make the cut of her looking and shooting a bit longer. Give it more emphasis.

-The scene of the lizardman getting shot is a little weird. My original thought was that she would fire multiple shots into the room, the first one misses but alerts the lizardman to her presence, he points his gun at her, but the second shot hits him before he can pull the trigger. I switched to one shot because I’m sure how I want to approach the shot special effect, so it’s less complicated to work on one shot at a time, but also because it feels wrong for her to be shooting willy nilly in the direction of the MacGuffin.

-I don’t know if calmly walking into the room is the best way, I might change that to running or sneaking or walking with the gun ready.

-I’d like for the MacGuffin to be spinning perpetually until she picks it up, but that’s an extra leveling of annoyance that I didn’t want to deal with in the block-out process. Not sure if I want to manually brute force it or come up with some clever rig.

-Right now, I’m thinking about the Halo effect below for the beam bullet. This effect does not show up when I playblast, so I can’t really test it until the final version, but I’ve used it before for single renders, so I’m at least familiar with it. I can see already that I should have used an icosphere instead of a UV sphere. In my head I was imagining an 80s anime lazer effect, but I don’t actually know how to do that, and the Halo is close enough.


Try getting a mic, record some sounds, from near you, like step - sounds, you can buy a fire-cracker for the explosion, Make some sounds, it look really good - - or, download some free sounds, when - ever . . you can add sound in most video editing programs, Nice look - -

You should give it a title, splash-screen - Foxy Ladies Unit XOO24, and maybe ask a girl to do some voices, a good friend, or family may-be - -

It Looks nice, Well done - -

Maybe there are some good opensource video editors, Just for starters - - Good luck, Can’t wait to see more, Love games, Good stuff - -

Oh my… :joy:

I wasn’t originally planning to do sound, since most of the demo reels I saw are silent. I suppose since it’s already more advanced than just a dancing Norman, I could give it a try. I don’t think I need voice for this scene, maybe just an “ugh!” for the lizard. I think this would probably be the final step, I need to clean up the animations first.

You know, I looked around and people say the best opensource video editor is Blender.

YEP! But if you need some VFX that Blender does not have ( YET!!!) try Natron…it’s open source as well, and will do some amazing things.

Next up, I’m going to start filling in the animations. The run cycle is probably the most intricate segment, but since I’ve made such things for video game graphics, I’m a little familiar with it.

I decided to create the run cycle separately and then place it into the scene I created earlier.



There is still some stiffness to it, so I need to admit that I need more practice, but there isn’t anything that I can think of a specific fix for right now. At the same time, I want her to look focused on her goal and determined to succeed, and I think that kind of emotional state is a little stiffer than others.

I was told in 3D school never to animate the root bone, but I find it very annoying to do walk and run cycles that way. I have made game animations with root motion, so I figure I can make it work.

The tails are really annoying to work on. Normally I use an IK rig for posing tails, but I’ve changed it to FK for this animation. These follow-through kinds of animation is something I need to work on.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to do with her gun while running. I was thinking that it should be held more to the side, but I couldn’t nail the pose, so I settled on this which has the least weirdness of all that I tried.

it reminds me of crash bandicoot but not as comical.

Next logical step, add the running cycle into the blocked out scene:

-There’s still a bit of slidey feet in places, so I might need to go over with another pass. For the most part, it’s not super noticeable.

For the most part, I tried to be very precise about moving the root bone with each step, but for the end of the first scene, I just put one keyframe far apart and it looked fine. Since you can’t see her feet as well as she gets closer, I think it works okay.

-Changing direction around the corner was easier than I thought. Just a slight weight shift for one frame (well, one keyframe, it’s 3D). I was thinking that it might feel more natural to have turned on the other foot and spun the lifted leg around the outside of the turn, but then I thought that one probably doesn’t wait until you’re on the proper foot to turn while running, so it’s probably just as fine to turn on either foot. Probably. Whenever something is easy, I worry that I’ve done a sloppy job…

-I added a new scene where the camera is closer up. I think her expression is a bit too blank and the transition to looking to the side could be nicer, so I’ll do another pass to this one later as well.


So this is the video after the first round of “cleaning”. I changed a bunch of stuff around. Some things are pretty much done, some things I still want to work on. In general, as I smooth over the roughest bumps, I’ll starting noticing more smaller oopsies and smooth those out as well.

I decided to make a major change to this segment of animation, so I needed to quickly catch it up with the rest of the animations cleaning level. And I decided this could be a fun little demonstration of the animation cleaning process.

There are six iterations of this scene. The main goal of the cleaning is to go from twitchy mechanical movements to more fluid and organic movements, and to fill in details that are more distant from the core, like facial features and fingers. I’m also working on the timing in general. Usually, I would be more thorough about fixing the timing first, but since I’m adding this motion in the middle, I’m doing it all at once.

Quite good or interesting concept. Good for you for taking the first step into creating something on your own, it is with projects like this that you can become better.

Some notes about the speed. Is impractical to pump the scenes with content, other times you end up getting lots of duplicated content in multiple files and multiple scenes. Other times you end up loading a huge amount of objects and get all your resources eaten. So the solution here is to master the secret art of proxy objects and linking to other files. I agree that “linked objects” Blender are quite horrible :slight_smile: but at least there is a good Addon (for 2.7) that allow you to Tab-Edit some linked assets and go immediately into edit mode where currently is not a supported feature out of the box.

Next step is to double check the render quality. I need to check that everything will look right in the final render, shaders look good, lighting is correct, etc. These things can only be seen with a full render, and renders take a long time. It will take literally days of rendering to do the entire video, so for testing, I’ve only rendered every 100 or so frames to get a snap shot of each scene, which really tells me all I need to know. As you can see, there are some obvious gaps in the action when things speed up, so I did make some extra renders at these moments while I was getting everything done.

For the final render, I’ve switched from the toon shader to a minnaert shader. I like toon shading, but it tends to get distorted when there are multiple light sources, and I love prop lighting more than I love toon shading.

I’ve also done some more work on the explosion too, but now that the explosion is done, there’s nothing left to do but the final render, so I’ll show that off along with everything else.

Just now noticed your project! Looks real cool, I love this kind of characters :slight_smile:
Yeah, Toon shading tends to be very difficult with many light sources. One possible solution is having two or more view layers with specific lighting for each… but I too don’t think toon shading is that important.
The animation and the cinematic feeling is looking great! Good job!

Thanks. Well, if you (or anybody) wants to use characters like this for your own projects, they are actually on sale on CGTrader: 3D Models by AcetheSuperVillain | CGTrader

Now is the rendering, and geeze, I didn’t expect it to take so long. After 3 days at least, I’m up to frame 1700 of 4020. I’m understanding now why all my school projects were only 10 second animations. If I make a habit out of this, I guess I’ll have to slim down on render quality for future animations. I’m wondering if the Eevee render would be faster. I still hate using 2.8 to work in, but maybe I could make the animation in 2.79 and then import to 2.81 for render.

Well, the explosion segment of the animation has finished rendering, and as it turns out, I did an oopsie. Not all of the settings were correct, although there’s enough to see what I was going for.

But I thought this was a good teachable moment. This is why you should always render to frames and not directly to video. Instead of starting the whole render over, I can just render the specific parts that are incorrect, just a few dozen frames.

There are a few oopsies. In the high speed animation, some can be a little hard to miss, but they’re glaring problems if pointed out. First is that the beam bullet appears too soon, and hovers in the air waiting for her gun to catch up to it. I’m not exactly sure when I messed that up, since it was done correctly in all of the working renders before, but I did make some changes to beam bullet, and I guess I must have removed a keyframe without realizing. Second, there is supposed to be a boolean modifier on the lizardman body. It’s actually on at the wrong time, you can briefly see the boolean object intersecting his tail when he spins around, which means it’s on when it’s supposed to be off, and off when it’s supposed to be on. It is working properly for his clothing and hair, so you can kinda see what I was going for. Finally, the gun bounce is very buggy. That might be some problem with the graph editor curves. Since I originally didn’t plan for the lizardman to drop his gun, I forgot to Set Inverse on the gun’s parent constraint, so it was very wonky when I tried to make it drop.

So at what point do I fix this? I’m tempted to open up the same file in a new instance and render do this at the same time, but I worry that would be inviting disaster of some sort. But since it’s been hard to mentally come up with something else to do while this in render limbo, I might give it a shot out of boredom.

And here it is, animation finished! Well anyways, the animation is finished, but I have yet to add any sound. I’m not sure if I will. I was originally envisioning this as a demo reel item to display my art talents, not my sound engineer talents. Sound effects have always given me trouble, it’s not something that I understand particularly well. I tried downloading some free sound effects but they all sound very amateurish and not exactly what I want. (what does a bare fox foot on metal sound like anyways?) So maybe I’ll do it just to do it, maybe I’ll leave it silent.

I was also thinking of maybe scoring the animation with music. Writing music is something that I did feel much more confident about. I haven’t done it for many years and I’ve been wanting an excuse to do it again. So that’s another option.

Also, question, if I want to do a finished topic for this animation on Blender Artists, how should I do that? Just post the topic or should I ask a moderator to move it or something?

Looks good, but I see “a few seconds you could still cut” to make the animation even tighter.

  • One concern that I do have, early on, is that the female character with her two tails appears to be swimming. There’s too much symmetry in that motion.

  • Now, on to the first cut: when we first see the prize, the camera trucks forward the entire distance. This is a great place for a so-called “jump cut.” Start the move forward, then immediately cut to the end of the motion.

  • In this scene, there are of course two things that we need to establish: the presence of the bad guy, and then “the prize,” which is the thing that our hero’s attention would naturally focus on. Hence, the jump-cut.

  • When the bad(?) guy realizes he’s been spotted, we should not see him “think.” We should see him instantly try to fight back, and get blasted. Don’t bother showing us the bullet in-flight: (1) he makes a move; (2) she squeezes the trigger; (3) the bullet hits.

  • When the heroine picks up the prize, she wastes time “contemplating it.” Fractions of a second can be cut here. As soon as we see what the object is, and that she’s got it, cut immediately to her leaving with it.

You often do need to render these things in order to select the exact frames to cut. It is also common practice for the earlier, establishing, shots to be a little longer, and for the duration and frequency of the cuts to rapidly shorten (building tension …) as the sequence moves to its conclusion. The last couple cuts are then slightly longer, relieving some of the tension now that the bad-guy’s blasted and the prize is in her hands.

A custom music-track is also helpful since you can time the various music “hits” to the key points in the edit.

Well, I do have some disagreements. I contemplated jumpcutting to the MacGuffin (the prize) originally, but I decided not to because it’s a small item and I don’t think it would be obvious enough that she’s looking at something inside the room. Maybe it could truck faster, but I decided that this is necessary to correctly convey the information that the viewer needs to appreciate the scene.

Time isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I think that since you’re looking through her eyes for that shot, taking time gives you the sense that she’s being careful and taking it slowly. Same deal when she looks at item at the end. You’re supposed to get the impression that she’s drinking it in, she’s appreciating the moment. The MacGuffin is important to her, it deserves the time that she’s giving it.

This sounds like something that came up in my animation studies. There’s a certain school of thought that believes animation should always be completely mile-a-minute action packed all the time. They’re afraid that if the motion stops for even a second, the audience will lose interest. I really disagree with this approach, I think this is what makes people think of animation as second-rate entertainment. When I see live acting, it’s often the pauses, the look on someone’s face, that really sells the moment and that’s something that I want to bring to my animation style.

The moment of the guy getting shot is a little awkward because I changed my mind about how I wanted to do the scene. Originally, I wanted to make a scene where there are two guards, the gal fires once over their heads, then hits the other two one by one. So one goes down before realizing they’re under attack, the other grabs his gun and aims at her but doesn’t get a shot off. I added the MacGuffin because I decided that a shoot-out alone wouldn’t be interesting enough and I decided to do just the one guy to make it easier for myself since I didn’t know at the beginning how I was going to tackle the special effects. I wanted the fox to come across as a competant femme fatale and thinking it through, I figured she’s probably not going to shoot wildly into the room with the MacGuffin in it and she wouldn’t miss a careful shot at close range, so I decided to shorten it to a single shot. I really should have rethought the lizard’s reaction, but in the end I stuck to what was in my head originally so he’s still doing what the original plan would have called for, reacting to the wild shot and fallen comrade that never happened and it does look a little weird.

I do think it’s still important to see him think. I wanted to humanize him somewhat, and not just be like a robot or psychopath that you shouldn’t feel bad about, which is also why you see him suffer as he gets disintegrated. And this goes back to the idea that the MacGuffin is important. It’s not some random shiny that she impulsively decides to steal, it’s something that she’s willing to do harm for. But looking back, I think I could have rearranged the scene to make that work better, like you said, it would have made more sense for him to have noticed her and then reacted, and then she takes the shot.

And I appreciate the advice, but after weeks of render time, I really really really don’t want to change anything more about the animation. I know this could be better, but I’m done with it, the next animation will be better.