My friend Ian Brown is embarking on a flash animation of his children’s book called ‘The Widdershins’ which a story about a little girl that survives a rather horrific helicopter crash in the woods. Post crash, she has a magical, if rather unsettling, adventure as she tries to make her way back through the forest to her school.
A lot of the designs were already done by the comic illustrator Craig Dixon but I volunteered to do a concept sketch for the evil villain, Bartimeaus the fire dragon. I was heavily influenced by the prehistoric ‘Hatzegopteryx’ Pterosaur from the BBC Series Planet Dinosaur. The Hatzegopteryx is one of the most frightening creatures I’ve ever seen!
I first draw different heads and wings for the dragon onto paper and then scan them into Photoshop so I had a kit of different wings and heads and mouths. Then I coloured them in using the ‘multiply layers’ techniques so I could paint into the lines. I learnt this from Jason Brubaker’s blog:
I knew that the dragon needed to be full of fire so I used a lot of transparencies with the pen and bucket tool on 65% opacity so the flames would show through underneath.
Then once I had my different body parts I imported them into After Effects. Now because my enthusiasm outweighs my perfectionism, I use a lot of blur filters set to 1.5px to hide the pixelated and scrappy black lines from my scans. This always turns my shoddy bucket fill paint work to classy brilliance.
The pic above has no gaussian blur added, look how scrappy the left wing looks….
1.5 – 2.5 pixels of ‘gaussian blur’ added and it’s transformed!
Then I record my dialogue and find my sound effects so I can animate to the sounds and import the audio files in. Then I show the waveforms on the timeline which means I can ‘see’ the audio without having to play it. This enables you to cut to the ‘beat’.
Then when I’d done the basic animation, I had to create the fire effect. Now with most things I tend to trawl the internet for tutorials and this was no exception. Here is the link I used and not only does it show you how to create brilliant fire effects; it uses no extra plug-ins so when I send my After Effects file to Ian, so he can add the character to his project, he can run with it straight away from CS5 without having to buy anything extra…
Then with the fire added the creature is really cooking! I created a QT movie of the creature, in the ‘Cloverfield’ film style and emailed it to Ian to see if he likes the design.
And there you go!