I had the opportunity this year to be one of the animators on “You are Here: Wendy’s Welcome to the ED.” I had two main tasks on this project: to convert conceptual sketches into finalized drawings and to develop Wendy’s poses / movements.
I was approached by the project team after they had already developed the general process for creating Wendy’s character. I was quite surprised to hear of the various talents of the other team members, and I wanted to bring my own talents to the table to help on this incredible endeavor. I have a great appreciation for graphic design, and have a background in healthcare architecture where I’ve learned to design spaces to improve the healthcare experience for all users. My personal experiences with graphic design and studying how people use space is what I felt I could use to my advantage on this project.
As a graphic designer, I wanted to make sure that I developed a consistent style for the entirety of the animatic. One of our teammates was an incredible sketch artist who I felt was able to craftily produce drawings that had great character. He would sketch depictions of doctors, nurses, healthcare related instruments and equipment, even toys; and I would then have to translate his sketches into a more concrete line drawing in Adobe Illustrator. Now, sketches are a little more forgiving than a hard line drawing. By that I mean a sketch doesn’t need to be complete for one to get their point across. A sketch often has multiple lines that don’t necessarily connect with one another, so the viewers mind overcomes the ‘fuzziness’ of the sketch and completes the image. Hardline drawings are very crisp in nature, and have to be complete and clear for the viewer to understand the image; otherwise, the image looks incomplete. I had to continually massage the illustrator image in order to find a balance between the image still maintaining the character of the sketch, but also making sure that the clarity of the image was getting its point across.
Example of a before and after comparison of one of the sketches. Below see the work in progress.
As an animator, I was most interested in making sure that ‘Cartoon’ Wendy’s body language was matching with the way she was speaking to the viewer. To do this I had to watch how people moved their bodies as they spoke – we even created a video recording of one of our team members while they read the script in order to capture these movements. We used Adobe After Effects as our main scene animating software, which was a bit of a learning curve for me since I had never used the program before. My process for generating Wendy’s movements was to first listen to a very small audio clip of Wendy reading the script. This ‘small’ clip could have been something as simple as, “hi, I’m Wendy.” I would sometimes ‘act’ out the motions while listening to the audio, and cross-referencing my motions with the motions of the recorded body language video. I would choose from our ‘pool of hand/arm gestures’ that we had created in illustrator, then I would start pushing and pulling the various other body parts in our ‘Wendy Rig’ to get her into a pose that I felt best reflected not only what she was saying, but how she was saying it. We chose to go with more of a stop-motion animatic, where Wendy isn’t constantly moving while she was speaking; instead, she’s changing poses every 5 seconds or so. This meant that the timing for when she changed poses needed to be spot on with the audio. Developing a minute worth of poses matching with the audio could take several hours to produce! Needless to say, I was very familiar with the script, and found myself repeating certain audio clips during the day, just because I was listening to them on repeat.
In addition to my contributions to the project, I also want to share some insight into what I’ve learned from the project. I found Wendy’s story to be extremely captivating, and this video has become another lens to look through when I’m making design decisions. Because of this project, I was given the opportunity to further study how the human body works – when you move your head, the rest of your body eases with that momentum, which starts a chain reaction of motion all the way to your feet. As a healthcare designer, I’m constantly trying to understand how we move through and use healthcare architecture, and this video allowed me some insight into how a pediatric patient would describe that architecture to another person. I am very proud of what the project team was able to produce, and hope that others are able to get as much out of it as I have.
Bringing Lines to Life
Payette Team: Stuart Baur, Brian Carlic, Caitlin Cashner, Leon Drachman, Austin Ferguson, Gordon Grisinger, Dave Hamel, Garrett House, Alan Kawahara, Mike Lee, Parke MacDowell, Justin Miller, Erin Polansky, Scott Rawlings, Karen Robichaud, Dan Smith, Bob Schaeffner, Heather Taylor, Jamie Zhong, Jie Zhang.