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Transformers (the Movie) and eCard Animation


By Katie da Silva
7/16/2007

I saw the movie Transformers, directed by Michael Bay, last week and was blown away. Watching a full model vehicle transform into a two story high robot within ten seconds left me in a state of awe. The robot anatomy was intricate and incredibly detailed down to their tail light textured eyes. I had never seen this level of complexity in 3-D animation. As an artist I couldn't help but wonder how these robots were animated and how long it took to make vehicles come alive. I loved the movie by the way. Can you tell?

Like any other animation artist, Jeff Mann, one of the production designers for transformers, knew he had to focus on the purpose of each character throughout the film. He asked himself basic questions like, "What are they before they transform and how do they transform?" These questions determine every detail of the animation no matter how complex. It took six months for Jeff Mann's team to develop the final character concepts for all the robots. Twenty-five artists developed conceptualized storyboards before they move forward with animation. They had to think of topics like facial structure and how the eyes and mouth moved. Overall it took two years to complete the animation for this film.

What does this have to do with eCards? My boss asked me the same thing... Animating an eCard is a million times easier than creating an animated 8,000 pixel, thousand-piece interchangeable robot character; but, you wouldn't believe just how long it takes to animate an eCard. Animated eCards can be like mini movies.

For example, animated eCards need to have a storyboard -- that could take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. I have to keep in mind the purpose of the element I will be animating and how it will animate. These are the same questions John Mann had to ask before he could begin. I work with Macromedia Flash MX, so its best if I create, whatever animation elements I'm using, in vector. Vector is a way to create points, lines, curves, and polygons based on mathematical equations, perfect for animation and low file sizes. Once my elements are in vector its time to put them in motion. Concept, timing, style, realism, all come into play when making anything move.

Sometimes it takes days or even weeks to complete an animated card. It all depends on the level of complexity of the elements starring in the animation.



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