Sonic vs. Belle Animation Behind-the-Scenes
Last June, I finished up a really awesome fan project(maybe you saw it?). This year, I took some time to summarize and break down my process for a contest(remember the one I mentioned a few posts back? Same one, different category.) The entry is below:
Modeling, Rigging, Animation, Post-Production, FINAL! I oversaw this fan project from beginning to end, based on elements from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. It was an absolute blast, and now I’ll show you my process! Are you ready? Let’s dive in! Jesus loves you!!!
First off, this was a fan project. Sonic the Hedgehog, Belle the Tinkerer, and Infinite(who’s mask I modeled below from reference; I also either referenced or traced something to create the inner ear texture on that) belong to SEGA and it’s affiliates. I modeled Belle using her official concept turnaround as a template/guide, while also referencing additional artwork. The animation was based on story in official Sonic comic panels and a video/post on the internet helped me regarding the sign language for Romans 10:9. Additional credits can be found in the video’s description.
This project was a chance to prove to myself that I could 3D model a character WITHOUT the video tutorials I initially learned from, which I think is something that I questioned in the back of my head prior to completing this. Sure, I looked to other tutorials and resources to help me on this journey, but it was a real victory to complete this without THOSE videos, clearly validating my skills as a 3D modeler to myself.
I documented the modeling journey on my site, and modeling was NOT smooth sailing(ha--I don't think any phase of this production was), but the challenge is what makes it fun! Long story-short, at the very beginning there was some scrapping and salvaging, but let's just say that was a warm-up.
Belle's concept artist provided useful details on her model sheet, like the fact that her nose and eyes are varnished to look wet, letting me know to make them extra shiny. However, there were times that involved artistic interpretation, deep analysis, and searching for answers that the concept art didn't directly reveal. Referencing supplementary artwork of the character that showcased different views and styles, plus a detour to research wooden peg dolls, was a part of pulling everything together.
There was also the mystery of Belle's hands. I could not wrap my head around them, turning to sketch studies of her hands at different angles in an effort to help me solve this riddle. Thankfully, I eventually found official art that revealed the detailed system operating under her gloves, which was a game-changing discovery!
I essentially created higher quality duplicates for her eyes and freckles by tracing the temporary textures I used from her concept sheet, with possible influence from other art for the color style of her eyes. The finger lines were fairly simple to create, but the spiral striped tail texture is what had me stumped. With some help from the internet, I found a path to creating what I needed, and she was pretty much complete!
Serving as the bridge from a motionless model to a lively animated character, it was rigging time.
I used BlenRig5 and its official video tutorials to guide me through the process. It was technical because I had to customize the rig and adjust bone/group weights, but not to the point where I was building an entire rig from scratch. I also had help from extra resources for rigging her tail.
The official panels were extremely great points of reference, they were like key frames. It was really fun, also forcing me to be inventive as I animated the frames that would theoretically take place between panels. For example, when Belle goes to backflip, I added her feet coming forward to propel herself backwards, which wasn’t in the comic. As stated above, I had help from additional resources, like the sign language for Romans 10:9(SO HELPFUL), and a frame-by-frame backflip breakdown that I used as a reference photo to align Belle over in 3D.
Also can't forget to mention the brief 2D animation that appeared in this project! Just a couple of frames depicting the comic action, showing Sonic's fists and such flying through the air. Notably, the action-angled 3D camera perspective was in place for this animation after a suggestion to do so. (thank you!)
Creating the intro art based on the official comic panels' style and action, compositing the 2D and 3D animation renders with voice recordings and sound effects, adding subtitles and credits, placing transition screens that won't abruptly pull the audience out of the experience, and carefully selecting music that harmoniously ties it all together--that's the bulk of this stage.
And of course, the project couldn't close without one more problem at the last-minute. I thought the video was pretty much wrapped up, until I realized that my frame rates were wrong, so I had to spend a bit of time backtracking…check your FPS, everyone!
--CLOSING & FUTURE--
Huge thank you to Jesus, my family & friends, school, all involved with Belle & Sonic(as characters), and you! This entire project pushed my skills to the max, helping me gain confidence and learn in a way that only hands-on experience can provide. I'm proud of myself for completing this in under 3 months amidst other projects I had going on, and I hope it inspires you!
I've used Belle in other projects, like a mock-up "Belle Frontiers" trailer with cool VFX that I learned to render from the internet(above), and I continue my journey in digital art, more recently as a comic creator! The main takeaway(s)? Practice makes you better; don't give up, even when it gets frustrating; Jesus loves you!!!
What did you think? Heart if you'd like to see more in-depth process posts like this and read about my other entry! FYI: For more behind-the-scenes on this particular project, view THIS POST that I wrote as I updated as I was creating Belle!