No time for drawing or bad at animating? How about greenscreen? Friday, November 28 2014

A special guest blog by Written by Jason Farmer (@thecacktus).

That’s the issue I was faced with while putting the graphics together for the game I’m currently working on. I’m a so-so 2d artist and a terrible animator. After spending a lot of effort getting a game running only to have my efforts overshadowed by the terrible animation caused me to think seriously about the direction my art was taking.

It wasn’t the first time I’d had to consider my animating skills. (or lack thereof) Back in 2007, I wrote a game which won the Pascal Game Development forum competition, It was called Crashblock, a game which fused platforming gameplay with tetris (the theme of the competition was Multiplexity). After having the idea it quickly became apparent that my desire to create a character with fluid animation seen in games like Flashback or Another world would be beyond my capabilities. So one day, I decided to film my wife running, jumping and climbing on bins in a local park to get the movement I needed. The exercise was a success, I had my in-game character and it fit with the game really well. Although I almost gave myself carpal tunnel syndrome from the manual rotoscoping of each frame and I vowed never to do that again.

So back to the current game, I realised that I would yet again be unable to build the models and animate the characters and make them in any way lifelike, so I built costumes, purchased equipment and captured all of the animations using a greenscreen. Employing friends and family to dress up and pretend to be heroes and by-standers.

This again turned out to be a lot of work, however the majority of this was in developing a piece of software to isolate the frames into loopable sections to make smooth walk, run and idle animations possible. To record the walking and running animations, I filmed the actors on a treadmill moving at a set speed. This did result in having to manually erase the treadmill in post production but it was a lot easier than rotoscoping a person from the busy background of a local park.

Our process is as follows:

  1. Set up greenscreen equipment.

  2. Film actors doing their thing.

  3. Take footage from camera and place into a sensibly named directory

  4. Load the animation into Adobe After Effects and reorientate and scale as required.

  5. Apply the chromakey effect and ensure that the greenscreen is completely transparent with as few artifacts on the subject as possible.

  6. Crop and Render the animation as individual frames into another suitably named directory

  7. Load the directory into my Folder Animator program and designate start and end positions for looped animations.

  8. Export these frames into another directory.

  9. Load frames into TexturePacker, configure for the project as required.

  10. Export from TexturePacker - producing a nice texture containing the images and a plist file (or whatever file the engine/framework needs - texturepacker is great!)

The great thing about this process is that it can cater for pretty much any kind of shooting, be it people, soft toys or racing cars.

Most of all, it frees people from the idea that to make something look good, they need to be an expert in Maya or 3DStudio. If they have an idea, they can use real world items or even make the items in the real world and take pictures.

After-all, the guns in Doom were all manipulated photos of toy guns from toys r us - and that worked out well for iD.

We’ll be bringing a selection of props with us which can be manipulated by someone wearing a chromakey bodysuit or rotated by the Legotastic turntable (pat pending on that btw)

Oh, I forgot: Step 11. Have fun making the game and worrying less about the graphics.

See you on Saturday