January 16, 2022
It always strikes me how gracefully gliders are lifted into the sky and seeing them fly on the currents above is like looking at an aquarium. I wanted to capture a snippet of that observation in this short animation.
I started by drawing thumbnails of the images in my head and edited those until I was left with somewhat of a general idea and flow. I then transferred the edited thumbnails to a storyboard:
This storyboard was also trimmed down. Shots of the winch pulling the plane were unsuitable for the mood I was aiming for. There was a probability of it becoming too much like the real thing, making it quite bland and predictable. I also decided to reveal the plane only until the very last end, so as to maintain a slight mystery.
The things to be animated were almost exclusively man made objects: a windsock, a rope, a plane.
Animating the plane was one of the hardest things I’ve drawn so far. Getting the angle right, the way it lifts or drops by the wind and foreshortening the wing span in perspective; just to name a few hurdles. At one point I almost bought a scale model of a glider so I could see with my own eyes how the form behaves.*
Keeping control of the form took so much time and effort that I decided to deprioritize that and focus on the movement and overall timing instead.
The rope pulling the plane was also trickier than I thought. It turned out I was incapable of drawing the exact same curves over and over again, resulting in a juttery line, so I opted for the vector tool in Opentoonz. That way I could draw a curve, duplicate and edit it in the consecutive frames.
The little bird in the background - the only animate organism - is a nine frame loop. I followed the bird flight guide in Whitaker and Halas’ book Timing for Animation. Here it is isolated:
All the backgrounds are results of a long process of tuning the composition, grading the colours and layering of various elements. I was partially inspired by a beautiful short animation called L’Ondée, so in the beginning everything was grayscale. Eventually I saw that colours were needed in my particular case to make it more dreamlike and give it more depth, since the gray made it look a little too flat sometimes:
In the final stages I was looking for a melody to accompany the images. Then I remembered Saint-Saëns’ Aquarium, alluding to the aforementioned observation of the gliders in the sky. It took some tweaking and shifting of the animations and cuts to follow the rythm and development within the music, but it worked out quite okay. The windvane even seems to mimic the scales in the introduction.
I can’t deny this choice of music invoked a little nod towards Days of Heaven.
All sound effects and recordings used are licensed under creative commons.