Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Magic is in the Texturing

When you are designing characters or scenes for 2D or 3D animation, texturing is not a necessity, but a choice. There are a lot popular 2D projects that don’t texture many of their elements and focus on a minimalist approach. This is how it was done in early age cartoons, like the Looney Tunes shows.

Bugs Bunny - Image Source

As you can see, the character is outlined in a black line and filled in with solid colors at full opacity. There is no texturing applied to the character at all, but instead the outline implies texture. For example, the leaf on the carrot was softly drawn to show that the leaf itself is soft. Another example is Bugs Bunny’s face. There are lines drawn to signal fur without actually having to add texture to the character. There are still shows today that take this minimalist approach, like Family Guy or South Park.

Another variation of 2D texture is simply using texture for background elements to add depth and detail to your scene. A good example of this can be seen here in a still from the show Hey Arnold!

Hey Arnold! - Image Source

Here you can see that the characters are a little more detailed, but still take that approach we say in Bugs Bunny. There is a hard outline of the character and drawn in lines to imply texture. However, now our backgrounds are textured. The wood molding on the building looks like wood, the sky looks somewhat like an oil panting, and there is even rubble on the ground at the bottom right. While the approach still looks simplistic, you can see how much of a difference just a little texture can make.

Now, let’s dive into texturing as it applies to 3D animation. While 3D animation in general is very driven by texturing and lighting, there are still variations in how far creators will go with their texturing. Disney, for example, is known to go all out, but let’s take a look at a popular Disney show, Doc McStuffins.

Doc McStuffins - Image Source

Clearly, this show is utilizing textures in both their character and scene designs. You can see the sheep character has some light wool texturing, the girl has textured hair and a knit looking shirt, and the walls even have a little grain to them. From a 3D animation standpoint, this is somewhere in the middle in terms of texture. The artists for this show could’ve brought more detail to the scene with further texturing, but they made a stylistic choice and it works. Let’s look at a popular Disney movie, Brave, and the difference in textures between the two.

Brave - Image Source

The elephant in the room is that every single element we see in this shot is textured. Even further, it’s textured so realistically that it looks like you could reach out and touch anything in this scene. This level of detail in texturing takes a lot of time to conceptualize and apply, which in turn costs a lot of money. The budget for this movie was $185 million and it was 93 minutes long, which averages to roughly $33,150 per second of this film. Of course, that includes everything from scripting to talent acquisition and through the animation phase, but a project of any size requires those steps.

Now take a moment to scroll back up through the variations and consider what impact you think texturing adds. Is the magic of texturing the realism it can bring to a scene? The detail? Or is it simply the depth it adds? The next time you start an animation project, think about texturing before you begin and see how it sculpts the rest of your creative decisions.

Looking for your very own animation project to start? Email us at info@swagger-media.com and let us bring magic to your project.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Why 2D Sketching is the First Step to 3D Modeling

3D modeling is the term used for digitally mapping out your character’s or object’s geometry within a 3D software. It's a meticulous and time consuming process, so it’s always recommended to have your details completely fleshed out before mapping them out digitally. Having a blueprint to work from ensures you’re being timely and efficient and avoids any unnecessary back and forth in the process. For Jimmy’s Big Adventure, we went through several sketches before finalizing the look and styles of each of our main characters and even a few key scene elements. Here’s how we did it!

Our football player is a major character in Jimmy’s adventure. He is Jimmy’s idol and a widely known star in Houston. We needed him to be strong, big and chiseled to not only reflect the style we’ve chosen for this part of town, but to really embody the persona of a football player. On the other hand, we didn’t want him to be so firm and large that he was unapproachable. It was essential for this character to embody both strength and kindness.

To Houstonians, this design may resemble someone we all know and love. After all, the number 99 is well known by our football fans. Though we did draw inspiration from this individual, we also drew upon other iconic characters in his development, like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast and even Kristoff from Frozen.


The Armadillo was a particularly tricky character because his design is extremely detailed. We wanted to maintain the general anatomy of a real armadillo, but we wanted to spruce it up. We took inspiration from a number of characters, like Mad Eye Moody from the Harry Potter series, the mobster rats from Flushed Away and even popular mole characters. A few things we knew we wanted were the spectacle glasses, a fancy overcoat or vest, and the iconic shell. Throughout this sketching process, we played with a number of head shapes, clothing options, and accessories. We even debated if its pant should be worn under his tail. (We opted out for that one because it showed too much backside.)

Though this character won’t play a major role in Jimmy’s Big Adventure, we think his design is going to be spectacularly detailed and we can’t wait to share every bit.


Sugarland’s history is greatly rooted in the town’s now unoperational Imperial Sugar Factory, so naturally it framed our landscape for this scene. We didn’t want to stick too much to the factory’s actual appearance, but still wanted it to be somewhat recognizable. The silos are a big component of that. We thought the silos were the most defining aspects of the factory’s landscape, so we decided to focus our attention to detail there first. We explored many options and styles for these, but the melted and puffy silos definitely stole our hearts. We liked that they looked so unique and really helped to embody this “out of service” look we’re going for.

We also wanted to really play up the fact that the factory isn’t operational. We knew we wanted it to appear overgrown and dramatic, but not scary or intimidating. We decided the best approach for this would be to “overgrow” the factory with candy. We used twisted licorice candy to act as vines and colorful gum drops as flowers. We also will have one of the silos overflowing with mounds of sugar that will help bring some dimension to the scene.


Of course, the character that deserved the most attention was Jimmy. In the script, we see Jimmy at 2 ages. At first, he is younger, about 8 years old. This is when he receives his football from his father, along with a disappointing note. Young Jimmy needed to look completely innocent and soft. We wanted his eyes to be very large, his nose very small, and his clothing to fit a little loose to emphasize his small body. Even though we see him in a very emotional time, we wanted young Jimmy’s appearance and facial features to still show he is a hopeful, playful and brave young boy.

When we see Jimmy next, he has grown to be around 13 years old. His edges are a little more refined, he’s grown into his big eyes a little bit, and he’s a very active and strong young man. We are right on the cusp of Jimmy’s transition into manhood, so he still maintains much of that innocence and hopeful feeling we first saw. In the design, we used his eyes to embody those emotions and to really tie the two versions of Jimmy together.

What do you think of our initial sketches? Which character is your favorite? What would you add to really make the characters stand out? We want to know! Tell us in the comments below, or share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to follow the behind the scenes campaign as we continue to give you an inside look into every step of the creation of Jimmy’s Big Adventure.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

A Behind the Scenes Look at Storyboarding

Whether you’re filming a video or crafting an animation, a storyboard is a helpful and arguably essential planning tool. The purpose of storyboarding prior to filming or animating is to visually break down your project and give everyone a sense of the framing, pacing and flow. It will act as a reference for your entire team throughout the project and will ensure everyone is visually on the same page. At Swagger Media, we storyboard before beginning any project, so of course we’ve done the same with Jimmy’s Big Adventure. For this project, a storyboard was especially important because we outlined some very big ideas in the script and have a large team all working on different facets of this project at once. Luckily, to create a storyboard, all you really need is an artist and a script.

To be more specific, you need the script to be broken down into an A/V format, or Audio/Visual format. This allows you to map out the camera movement, graphics and reactions for each part of the script. This is how your storyboard artist will be able to a fully fleshed out storyboard.

Storyboard Scene 1 - Jimmy's Past

We wanted to make sure our character designers had full creative freedom to imagine what each main character looked like, so the best way to do that was to create generic and basic placeholders for our initial storyboard. We decided to use basic shapes and color coding to represent our characters and essential objects. Here’s what that looks like.

Storyboard Scene 3 - Transition 

Storyboard Scene 3 - Moment of Fear

Now we have a visual map of our project and will know that our animators and designers will have the same visual to reference. It may seem simplistic, but it is extremely important to have a single visual reference when working with a team of creatives. The best thing about creative professionals is they envision everything in their own way. However, when they all have to work together, it’s important to set a baseline for them to work from. This eliminates room for individual interpretation and ensures a more cohesive final product.

Of course, the storyboard is just one of many steps we will take to make sure our team is always informed with the same information. Now, as we move into the design phase, we will let the creative juices run wild. When we’re ready to begin prepping for the 3D Animation phase, we will reconvene and create an animated version of our storyboard that will help us block the characters within the environment and set the pacing for each scene.

Stay tuned as we continue to share with you every part of this process. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so you don’t miss out on any of the behind the scenes action! Have questions about anything? Just ask! We’ve started the conversation, you just have to speak up.