Making an animated short film in Clip Studio Paint by Manuel López
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How did you become an artist?
There’s a bit of an overcoming story behind this short. Most artists will tell you they have drawn since they were little but that wasn’t my case at all. I didn't pick up a pencil until I was 19 years old.
I entered the 3D Animation program at Veritas University and I was absolutely intimidated by the draftsmanship level other students in my generation had. So, as a defense mechanism, I convinced myself that I didn’t need to learn how to draw. Years went by until I faced my graduation short film and I needed to make a choice. It wasn’t just “what kind of short film do you want to make?”. For me it was more like “What are you truly passionate about? What do you love about animation?”. There was no doubt in my heart that the answer was 2D frame-by-frame animation, and THE ONLY reason I wasn’t doing it already was because I didn’t want to face the fact that I was awful at drawing.
Right then and there I took a chance and decided to face my fears and use this short film to force myself to work on my fundamentals. There were many times during the making of this short where I almost bailed but the promise of telling my own stories in the future kept me going. Now that my short film is done I’m still not at the level I want to be, and I’m working on it. But right now I can tell you without a doubt, working in 2D animation every day, and seeing the audience's reaction to my first film, I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life and I can’t wait for the next one! I hope I can make it even better!
What’s your film about?
"After his alcoholic father's death, a young man decides to sell the last memory of him - his taxi."
As an avid movie watcher and an aspiring Director I wanted to create an animation where cinematography, lighting and composition are also main characters in the story. So I definitely needed to develop the skills to be able to create the illusion of depth and be able to place the camera wherever I want with the lens I wanted to. This required me to dive deep into perspective drawing so I could draw and show on the screen what I was seeing in my head.
While studying structural drawing and perspective I was inspired by how, almost since the beginning of 2D animation, animators used perspective drawing to emulate camera movements and rotations. This allowed them to move in space and tell richer stories long before 3D was invented and some of them still do these kinds of animation. Here is an example of 1931
These animations never fail to give me goosebumps when I think whenever the backgrounds move, they have to draw the entire frame over and over again. I wanted to try making this kind of animations, so I decided to go on a full 2D animation approach. No 3D software was used in any area of the project so 100% of the film is 2D drawn, animated and painted “tradigitally”.
Here is a behind the scenes look at some of the scenes that used these perspective techniques:
Why did you decide to use perspective drawing for the camera movements instead of 3D software?
After 4 years studying in a 3D program I faced a lot of obstacles that relied on the software (rendering and lighting issues, rigs breaking, you know the drill..) and the only way to avoid them was to dedicate a huge chunk of time to study the software. For me this is dozens of hours poured into knowledge that could become obsolete in a really short span of time (since software is evolving so fast). Then I hop into 2D animation where the fundamentals for animation I’m learning have remained the same for almost a hundred years, and if we talk about drawing fundamentals then we have to go centuries back. This makes every step you take towards learning these bases a really solid step and I loved that.
But there’s something far more important. Paraphrasing Eric Larson, one of the nine old men: “2D animation is limited by only 2 things - Your ability to imagine, and your ability to draw. If you can imagine something and then draw it then you can put anything you want on the screen”. To me this freedom is beautiful and this is the reason why I choose to work on 2D rather than a 3D software.
I now know better than anyone how time consuming these kinds of animations can be so I don’t reject the idea of using 3D software in the future if time is of the essence. But if I’m offered the liberty to take the fundamentals I learnt during this project to the next level, I would be more than glad to do even crazier 2d rotations and movements! (in fact I might or might not be already working on some new stuff hehe).
Why did you consider Clip Studio Paint for the creation of your film?
In the research for a software that allowed me not only to animate characters but entire camera movements with big perspective grid calculations, and also the freedom to paint and render backgrounds to my heart’s content and quickly switch between these two processes I started work in this project in Adobe Photoshop. This only lasted for little over a week since I found the timeline function in Photoshop frankly lacking, it is just not made for animation. Then I went for software that was made with animation in mind and in these cases, even in the ‘best’ of them, the brush or pencil functions were a compromise. It just didn’t feel good to draw on them and this project depended entirely in me being able to draw comfortably. And if we’re talking about the ability to paint and render backgrounds this was just non-existent in all of them. I would have to paint backgrounds in photoshop and then animate in another software.
One day I stumbled upon Clip Studio Paint and it was all I ever wanted and more. The timeline was superb, the drawing brush was the best of them all, supported both vectors and bitmap and allowed me to paint and render backgrounds with all the ease I’ve already been accustomed to. From day one I knew this was the answer to my prayers.
On which stage(s) of the production process you used Clip Studio Paint?
Everything. The entire short film used Clip Studio Paint. Since the early stages of preproduction (storyboards, colorscript, animatics, background painting, etc..) to the latter stages of production (all rough animation, clean up, 2D lighting passes, color fills, defining the final look of each scene and the backgrounds animations).
Did Clip Studio Paint achieve your expectations as a professional illustration/animation software?
It far exceeded my expectations, both in illustration and animation I’ve never felt limited, on the contrary I feel Clip Studio’s freedom to animate plus its robust painting tools invite you to keep raising the bar and testing how far you want to take your projects. It just makes so much difference when the software allows you to create a scene with exactly what you’re picturing in your head without having to compromise in any aspect.
This freedom allows you to focus on what matters the most: the story!
Again, if you can imagine and you can draw it, then you can put anything you want on the screen. So being able to bring your vision to life without the software limiting it is a must.
What tool made your life easier while developing your project?
First of all, since I mentioned I started this project in Photoshop you might assume all that work was lost or it was a dreadful process to switch from one software to another but I’m glad to say Clip Studio supports both opening and saving PSDs so in a matter of minutes I was already working full speed in my new software with my old files. Also keyboard shortcuts are 95% the same so the transition was practically seamless.
Then, I have to give a big shout out to the brush tool. I know this sounds insignificant but in every other animation software you have to compromise and get “used” to the brush not doing what you want it to. Clip Studio was the first time the brush felt exactly like I wanted it to. In fact I know several animators who use it exclusively for rough animation.
Mostly being able to both have a great timeline for animation and a robust painting and color correction tool in the same software was what made this short film possible in the amount of time it took me since I was doing the entire film on my own. It’s the best of both worlds in one package.
Did you used other software on the production of your film?
Pre-production and production where entirely done in Clip Studio Paint. From there I exported all the image sequences and backgrounds and used Adobe After Effects for the final post-production and encoding of the video. I also used Cubase 7 to compose the music for the short film.
How long did it take you to complete the film?
The total production time was little over year and a half, but this process was a bit on and off since it required a long grind on my part to be able to draw the characters and paint the world to a level I was happy with.
During this time I was also working at Rocket Cartoons and was a member of the team that produced a pilot for Cartoon Network called Terror in Doomsville (https://kidscreen.com/2016/07/26/cartoon-network-acquires-first-costa-rican-production/). This and other projects during my time working there made me grow up really fast in a lot of areas and definitely shaped my short film into what it ended up being.
Where can we watch your film?
You can watch “Memories for Sale” on CGMeetUp’s youtube channel
What are you working on now and what’s next?
Right now I’m working as an animator for Lackadaisy‘s upcoming animated pilot (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ironspike/lackadaisy-the-animated-short-film). It’s a huge honor to be part of the crew that’s bringing this famous comic to life! The whole crew has been warm and welcoming, and I know I’ll learn a lot during this production so I’m in a great place right now. They have even allowed us to stream our animation, so you can catch me working on Lackadaisy live at https://www.twitch.tv/ManuMercurial.
That being said, my true calling is as a storyteller. I can’t wait to be able to bring more of my own characters, worlds and stories to life. I’ve recently released a small teaser of one that’s coming your way codenamed: Xeraphine. (https://www.instagram.com/p/B98KpuWjw5M/). This one was also drawn, animated and painted in Clip Studio Paint. You don’t want to miss it!
Where can we follow your work?
I’m @ManuMercurial in every platform you can think of. You can follow my new adventures in these two, there are big surprises coming your way at:
I’m also working on content dedicated to anyone who just started in animation with topics like the most important lessons I learnt while working on a short film on my own and how to create a successful launch to your short film if you’re like me and you just started growing your following online.
They will be available in my youtube channel:
And finally you can catch LIVE working on the new Lackadaisy Animated Pilot at https://www.twitch.tv/manumercurial
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Daniel Rojas – Co-founder of Rocket Cartoons and Producer at Relish Digital Inc. Tutor and professor at Veritas University.
How do you think Clip Studio Paint benefited Manu’s project?
I believe Clip Studio Paint EX really benefited Manuel's project as drawing in the software actually feels very natural. This allowed him to further develop his draftsmanship skills while working on the different shots, as the project progressed. Clip Studio Paint EX does an excellent job at capturing each stroke and every detail, and that allows for hard work to provide amazing results. It quickly turned into a matter of how far Manuel wanted to go, and the software was always there to allow him to push his boundaries.
How do you think Clip Studio Paint compares with other industry tools?
I believe Clip Studio Paint EX is one of the very best 2D animation softwares for tradigital 2D Animation out there. It is certainly my personal favorite at the moment, especially because of how its drawing tools feel so real and how it’s all about a more Traditional Animation approach. There are no gimmicks or shorthands in here, and there’s something really satisfying about seeing your project come to life from your own hands. There’s simply no substitute to that.
Would you recommend Clip Studio Paint for your student's projects?
I certainly would. I already do and I will continue to do so for both academic and professional projects. Clip Studio Paint EX has become my go-to solution for projects that could benefit from the traditional 2D Animation approach and this hand-drawn feel that Clip Studio Paint EX provides so perfectly.
*** Stay tuned because Manuel will do a Webinar with us in August about the production of his short film "Memories for Sale" ***
Thank you for hosting this interview, it was amazing!
I had to opt out in the middle of the webinar yesterday, I’m wondering if the recorded video will be available to re-watch here?
Thanks in advance.
love you work, am a 2D anim for year this film got me <3 <3 <3