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View Full Version : Mouse Guard animation! (short film)



Mazeburn
2011-05-06, 12:35 PM
Welllll, as of about 12 hours ago I finally finished my major project, culmination of about 8 months' work, so I figure I'd post it on a few places while I'm still coasting in the glow of vague pride before reality sets in and I start to hate all the problems. x)

I imagine a few people here have read the Mouse Guard comics/RPG? Well, it's based on that (with permission). A little bit brutal, but not gorey at all. You won't believe how hard it is to storyboard a fightscene till you try.

Link here. (http://vimeo.com/23369728)
Same, on DA, with more info. (http://pspynett.deviantart.com/#/d3fpedl)

Anyway, I'd love to hear feedback. Any other animators around? :)

Comet
2011-05-06, 01:16 PM
I'm no animator but that was way awesome.

Like, seriously, took me right by surprise. Good job!

Teddy
2011-05-06, 01:22 PM
Welllll, as of about 12 hours ago I finally finished my major project, culmination of about 8 months' work, so I figure I'd post it on a few places while I'm still coasting in the glow of vague pride before reality sets in and I start to hate all the problems. x)

I imagine a few people here have read the Mouse Guard comics/RPG? Well, it's based on that (with permission). A little bit brutal, but not gorey at all. You won't believe how hard it is to storyboard a fightscene till you try.

Link here. (http://vimeo.com/23369728)
Same, on DA, with more info. (http://pspynett.deviantart.com/#/d3fpedl)

Anyway, I'd love to hear feedback. Any other animators around? :)

I'm not an animator, but it was really cool. The mouse's (Gwendolyn?) moves were really good. The owl's moves, not so much. They looked rather slow and clumsy...

Also, don't the mice move upright in the comic most of the time? :smallconfused:

And finally, where did Gwen(?) find Lieam's sword? :smalltongue:

Ninjaman
2011-05-06, 03:38 PM
Looks really good, but i agree with teddy, the owl´s motions look slow and clumsy.

Kneenibble
2011-05-06, 07:17 PM
Great work! Bravo! Love the choice of music too.

Sithis
2011-05-06, 09:15 PM
As an animator-in-training (sort of), I must say, nice job!

The characters were really well made, I was pretty impressed. The animation for the mouse was quite fluid, and worked very well.

A few things seem to need a bit of work, however. The animation on the owl, as others said, is a bit stiff and unnatural. Also, some of the transitions between shots were kind of jarring, and there were a few where I had a hard time keeping track of what exactly was going on.

Overall, quite good, I liked it a lot.

Out of curiosity, what programs did you use to put it together? And did you do all of the models yourself, because those models were quite nice.

Asthix
2011-05-06, 09:16 PM
Well done. As a long time fan of Brian Jaques, I've always meant to check out Mouse Guard since it seems so similar.

Mazeburn
2011-05-07, 09:46 AM
Thanks, everyone. :)

Yeah, most people do seem to say the owl animation could use more work - really, that is quite true considering we got the rig really late and my friend only had about a week to do all the owl animation. I had a good month or so for the mouse stuff. Might well try and edit that at a point when we're less burned out. ^^ Fair points about a couple of jarring transitions too - I think I know which ones you mean, and we're planning on adding a couple of extra little shots to smooth it out when we re-render for HD. But that'll be later. xD


Also, don't the mice move upright in the comic most of the time?

And finally, where did Gwen(?) find Lieam's sword?

They do indeed. Buuuuut being a fan of the RPG system, I really liked the idea of the Nature system, which is kinda about how 'mouse-like' or 'human-like' they are. I wanted to try and suggest her being timid at the start by having her mouse-like and later, more human in actually being able to confront the owl (rather than freaking out and getting eaten like my pet mice definitely would).

As for the sword... Maybe it was hers first and she gave it to Lieam later? x)


Out of curiosity, what programs did you use to put it together? And did you do all of the models yourself, because those models were quite nice.

Maya for all the 3D stuff, Photoshop and Zbrush for textures and backgrounds, Nuke for the compositing. And yeah, I did most of the models and my friend Z-brushed them (basically sculpting in the tiny extra details like fur). :) Thankyou!

Fri
2011-05-07, 09:54 AM
It's amazing. As an art student that just graduated you make me feel ashamed on the quality of my final project...

Teddy
2011-05-07, 11:19 AM
They do indeed. Buuuuut being a fan of the RPG system, I really liked the idea of the Nature system, which is kinda about how 'mouse-like' or 'human-like' they are. I wanted to try and suggest her being timid at the start by having her mouse-like and later, more human in actually being able to confront the owl (rather than freaking out and getting eaten like my pet mice definitely would).

Ahh, I see. I'm not familiar with the RPG system, so I wouldn't know.

Elder Tsofu
2011-05-07, 12:24 PM
Just wanted to chime in and say that it is really nice work. I'm glad I'm not an arts student. :smallcool:

UserClone
2011-05-07, 02:20 PM
Very nice work. As I am not an animator, and the only quibble I had (the owl's slightly stiff movements) with the actual animations has already been addressed, I want to talk more about the choices you made with the scripting/storyboarding. I am going to be brutal, because I love Mouse Guard and, more importantly, I loved this piece. It was fantastic!:smallbiggrin:
(Spoilered for length)

When the mouse first escapes the owl's clutches, that is dramatic and awesome. I especially liked the moment where we see the shadow cast over the mouse inside the log and she finally notices. Not so the slightly long pause between her diving out of the hollow log and switching to the shot of the owl landing. I get the fact you were doing the dramatic swoop of his shadow over her body, but I feel like that shot should have been done in about half the time.

Now next, when the owl makes its little hop, I think it may have been a bit more...owl-like?...to have it come at her with talons first, since that's how owls hunt small creatures like mice.

However, even having gone with a beak attack as opposed to talons, I just don't get why the owl would sort of sweep side-to-side with a closed beak as if it were a sword. He has jaws. Use 'em! :smallwink: I might have had the owl snap its beak at the mouse, and perhaps he catches the sword in his beak, and because she held on to it, he flings her to the side. Same effect, but makes more sense, IMO.

Then another long pause. Suddenly, we see her lying on the ground, swordless. A bit of a jarring cut, but the main issue for me is that pause where we see the owl looking down at the mouse. I think you could have just had that shot for half as long again, or at least had her stirring back to awareness and moving slightly. Maybe she's dazed, we think, but then she suddenly snaps into action and gropes about for her blade (loved the sword-grabbing shot, btw, CLASSIC!)

Finally, Mr. Feathers does what we would expect of an owl faced with a mere mouse - a talon-grab. But in true Lieam fashion, she comes back with the sword in the nick of time to save herself and it is instead the owl who pays the price. Very cool. My only gripe with this shot is lack of a reaction shot from the bird. Not only does his foot not recoil, but we don't get to see that classic pupil dilation and ruffling of feathers. At least having him cry out in pain would be good here.

Could have used a longer transition between the stabbing of the talon and her ending up on her feet, six inches away from his wing. Maybe a couple tumbles, ending with her either sprawled again, but recovering faster than the owl, or just landing gracefully, but either way, I think that this epic bit of acrobatic magic could have been done more justice.

Next, when she climbs up onto his wing, I think you could have hat a bit more focus on that. Next shot, she's suddenly up on his back, and they're flying. I'd say either a shot of him flapping his wing to try and dislodge her, but she lets go at just the right moment and ends up on his back, so he flies away with her, OR he just flies away, and we see her struggling just to hold on with one paw (because obviously the other one has her sword in it). I'd opt for the second one, because it allows for that bit of suspense you have going here where we don't know what happened to her, but there's a focus on it so it isn't quite as jarring a transition.

...Owls' eyes do NOT rotate inside their sockets, so this spoiled this building shot for me slightly. However, an owl can turn his head 180 degrees, so it might have been interesting to see him whip his head back and forth (NO! Not you, Willow Smith, the owl!) in search of her, then have a bit of a smug, satisfied look, just before...

EPIC SHOT IS EPIC. I love, love, love this! By far, the best shot in your piece, and I can't say enough great things about this shot. It absolutely made the animation for me. I also want to point out the really great directorial decision on your part to NOT show the killing blow, but to instead cut away to the shot of the forest canopy in the sunset. Only thing I might change about this second shot is the classic "small scared birds." By this, I mean that as the owl cries out in death, have a couple birds get scared and fly up out of the trees, as tends to happen with sudden, loud noises in the woods. Without something, anything, going on in this shot, it's a bit of a waste, IMO.

Great fade out/in to the next shot, this time of the dead owl. This one kind of almost falls flat for me, though. The textures on the ground were fairly dull, and I think just a set of mouse tracks coming off of the tip of his wing could spruce it up quite a lot. If you wanted to get really ambitious about it, I would recommend starting zoomed further in, and pulling your imaginary camera back to the point where you can see those tracks, so you still have a moment of suspense (did she make it?) and simultaneously, you aren't stuck with such a static image, so you engage your viewer more.

The final shot is bitchin'! Really liked the dramatic pause here, as it was far more warranted than before. It helps to ease the tension, since we're processing that yes, she has survived. Stylistically, I would have liked to see her slightly damaged, like a pronounced limp. I also could have used her sheathing the sword as if to say "it is done." Walking over the crest of the hill is the perfect ending to your story, however, and I would keep that no matter what.

Also, I totally saw and LOVED the transition between "mouse nature" and "Guardmouse." Speaking of Mouse Guard, I think you probably should have had your own subtitle to the video, since it does not in and of itself encompass ALL of Mouse Guard.

How about something like, Mouse Guard: Hunter and Prey? IDK, just throwing that out there, but it should have some sort of subtitle, IMO.

Finally, please understand that the only reason I went to the trouble of closely analyzing and critiquing every shot is because I think it was AWESOME! If I hadn't liked it so much, I wouldn't have bothered, so please accept the criticism for what it is meant to be, which is friendly and hopefully helpful directorial advice, vs. bashing, which it is not AT ALL. :smallsmile:

TL;DR
I absolutely loved this, and I think it can be done even better with a bit more research and some more apt stylistic choices. The main thing is, it grabbed me, and I wanted to watch it all. That says something right there. Moreover, I wished for it to be longer, because I wanted to see more. Now THAT, IMO, is telling. In short: Outstanding Job!:smallcool:

Mazeburn
2011-05-08, 05:46 AM
It's amazing. As an art student that just graduated you make me feel ashamed on the quality of my final project...

Don't! There were three of us working on this, could not have done anything close on my own.

UserClone:
Spoilering this for length:-
Well holy hell, that's the kind of comment which makes all this worth doing. <3 You really didn't need to go out of your way to write something so long and insightful, but it's incredibly helpful and there's a lot of points I'll definitely take forward to the version we'll be re-rendering. Very much appreciate it.

Shot of her on the ground - totally agree with you on that one. xD It was originally like two seconds but then my tutor kept on bitching at me to make it LONGER till I eventually caved. I'll probably edit that one down a bit, it does seem a tad incongrous.

Good points about the clash moment too; we spent quite a long time trying to work out exactly how to make a mouse swordfight with an owl. I think similar happens in the comics, but it's with a giant axe not a sword, so it makes a bit more sense. xD

Jarring cut is jarring, I know. ^^; I'm definitely adding one of her hitting the ground before that, which should hopefully help it to fit together. Wish I had you on my storyboarding team, gotta say. :smalltongue:

I was hoping nobody would notice the appearing-six-inches-away thing. xD We were trying to keep shot length down to keep the action up, but looking at it now it does seem like a bit of a jump. Actually, I could add her either jumping or rolling there, which would be fast enough to not drastically lengthen the shot.

We did originally have a shot of her landing on the back from the wing, which is actally one I really miss - it looked kinda like this:
http://pics.livejournal.com/lolhyena/pic/00046shx
Might see if there's a way I can work that back in, actually. We used to have a bunch of slow-motion shots which we cut because we never worked out a way to edit them to actually look good, and that one got cut then too. But something similar might be able to fit.

Do owls' eyes seriously not move about? Damn. I feel I should know that. I can tell you a hundred other irrelevant facts about owls if you like. Really. I have a lot of them. xD

Thanks about the epic shot. :smallredface: You have no idea how long that took to animate. Mouse climbing... Okay. Can do that. Mouse climbing moving owl's head.. Alright. Mouse carrying sword climbing moving owl's head in strong wind with sense of determination. OW MY BRAIN.
Should really add the birds too, though. :3 Could probably just animate them in 2D and stick 'em over.

Definitely adding the tracks in the downed owl shot. The camera movement's a nice touch too, I considered a few types for that shot but not that one. Would also make it seem less like she just... disappeared.

I like the subtitle idea too, I'll think on that. I'm tremendously lazy at titles so I was mostly just glad to be able to use one which already existed. :smalltongue:

Anyway, I have to say that this the most useful and perceptive advice I've recieved on this piece, and possibly any, and thankyou so much. I'll definitely be taking a lot of those points to heart and I'll drop you a line when I've put together the modified version in a couple of months. Out of interest, do you do film editing yourself at all, or are you just really talented? xD And can you stow away to England and replace my tutor?



TLDR: OMG THANKYOU YOU ROCK SO MUCH. :smallbiggrin:

UserClone
2011-05-08, 09:39 AM
Anyway, I have to say that this the most useful and perceptive advice I've recieved on this piece, and possibly any, and thankyou so much. I'll definitely be taking a lot of those points to heart and I'll drop you a line when I've put together the modified version in a couple of months. Out of interest, do you do film editing yourself at all, or are you just really talented? xD And can you stow away to England and replace my tutor?

Thanks! I'm glad the advice was well-received. I'd really like to see the finished product, so please do PM me when the time comes. I do absolutely zero film editing, though I did have one semester (maybe two?) of Radio & T.V. Production back in High School (so, maybe 10-11 years ago? ****, I'm old...) IF I have a talent, it's for criticism, really. I seem to have the ability to look at something good and pick out what keeps it from being awesome. I wish I could stow away to England, but the U.S. Army would probably be upset with me for going AWOL, and my Irish gf also probably wouldn't like me living with some random English Uni student. :smalltongue: Pen pals are always good fun, though. Feel free to bounce future ideas off of me.