Sunday, June 20, 2010

Citroen 2CV - Process

Several months ago, myself and a few fellow SCAD classmates started collaborating on a side project that started as a playful doodle. While we were drawing one day, I had happened to spy a fantastic caricature of a car my friend Lyle Nagy's sketchbook. The car, a 1970's era Citroen 2CV, just oozed personality and begged to be animated. At around the same time another friend, David Riddle, was looking for something new and different to model. I introduced the two of them and a little while later Lyle provided David with several more drawings to work off of and the project was off and running. The images above are examples of David's work.

The next step was getting the car "rigged". For those who are not familiar with the term, rigging is the process by which a digital skeleton is built inside the model so that it can become animated. These digital joints are assigned to controllers that the animator can use to position the character into the desired poses. Rigging is a very technical and involved process that requires intense attention to detail and strong problem solving skills. Derek Superville, another friend and fellow classmate, was up to the challenge. Derek was really interested in the chance to rig an automobile because up till that point most of his rigging experience had been limited to bipedal characters. The technical challenges posed by a vehicle, he said, would be a welcome change of pace.

The first question Derek asked me, the animator, was "How would you like this character to move?". It was a lot like going to the barber. Before the scissors come out, you're asked "How would you like your hair cut?". Answering this question and has proven to be one of my favorite parts of the project. Typically we animation students are provided with ready-made rigs that are freely downloaded online off of popular animation sites. The conversations we had to determine how the rig would operate were interesting, and they got me even more excited about animating with the final product.

Derek's rigging questions were great because they also forced me to more carefully consider what I was looking for in the final rig. I had always envisioned the Citroen as an agile, athletic car. I really liked the attitude of the Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee, but the 2CV wouldn't be that intimidating or powerful. A better fit turned out to be rally cars and Mini Coopers because they had a pleasant, positive vibe while still maintaining a sense of confidence and purpose - Like a Jack Russell Terrier. Jack Russell's have an uncanny ability to appear cute and intense at the same time - I wanted be able to portray that quality in the 2CV.

Derek and I agreed that the appearance of the Citroen lent itself cartoony squash and stretch actions. Since David was able to maintain a lot of the hand drawn feel in the digital model, it was also important to be able to have that 2D animation quality come across in the motion and poses. This increased elasticity would also hopefully allow me to hit poses that convey attitude and personality without having anthropomorphic facial features on the vehicle. Besides, cars already look like they have faces!

In addition to photo references, I also provided Derek with thumbnails of the kinds of poses and positions that I imagined I'd be putting the car into. Derek was particularly interested in the squashy/stretchy positions because, as he said, "It's better to have the ability to squash and stretch and not need it than it is to need it and not have it." The possibilities (and options) are virtually endless, so the more you can define what you're looking for before you get to the computer, the better off you are.

One of the most important elements Lyle, David, Derek, and I have all learned from this process has been communication. So often in our classes we are assigned a project that we complete largely by ourselves from start to finish. This side project has been a great experience because it can be really challenging to articulate the images in your head. The goal of any creative collaboration is to amplify one another's abilities, talents, and skill set - and that's exactly what this character has allowed us to do.

Thanks again :)