Ultra Short: Sapling's Fall

December 3, 2021

This started out as a simple experiment of a tree bending in the wind, but I realized I could create a tiny story around it.

Drawing the tree

Animating traditionally, with a deprecated 24fps stopwatch app called JAniCA

Animating traditionally, with a deprecated 24fps stopwatch app called JAniCA

Animating big slow moving objects takes a very long time and a lot of drawings. I was drawing the tree by hand on paper - and with more detail - so I was very conscious of this and explored various ways on how to mitigate the possibility of being driven absolutely nuts.

When I looked into how The Man Who Planted Trees was made, I noticed they used a double exposure, meaning they shot two drawings in two exposures on a single film frame, so as to ‘fade’ between the drawings to making the transitions less jarring, but this also meant that they didn’t have to draw the inbetween, saving them lots of time on an already massive project.

The tree in this short only consists of 8 drawings. I timed them on 4’s and duplicated the column, shifted it two frames and added a transparency effect to recreate the digital version of the aforementioned double exposure technique.

Animating the sapling

Quick story sketch.

Quick story sketch.

After drawing the tree I decided to expand the animation by adding a character with a follow-up shot. Even though I enjoy animating on paper, I did want to fasten the pace a bit so I decided to animate the character digitally in Krita. It really helps with plotting down a rough animation and editing it on the go.

I mostly held on to the squash and stretch principle for this one, since it’s a creature without any bone structure. Animating the little stick and fig leaf were especially fun; I tried making them pop like pimples.

Drawing and colouring the forest floor

I’m a big fan of Amanita Design’s games. I particularly like their intricate backgrounds which are basically pencil drawings painted and textured in the computer, so I took this opportunity to apply the same technique.

After drawing the linework on paper it was then painted in the computer with a handful of scanned watercolour textures I made earlier. Tweaking the blending modes of the layers and applying lots of layer masks until I was satisfied enough.

Compositing it all together

Opentoonz keeps proving to be a solid open source compositing application for 2D animation. I definitely understand why Studio Ghibli uses it. I enjoy the traditional elements like vertical columns together with ‘modern’ inventions like a node based compositing system.

In this case, to create a sense of depth in the second shot, I added two foreground drawings which are then positioned closer to the camera on the Z-axis, as if to create a little diorama.

Closing thoughts

To conclude I’d like to credit Nicolas Drweski for his triangle sound pack. Almost all of the sounds in this short animation originate from it.

Again I hope this may help someone. By using open source tools freely I feel obliged to at least contribute by explaining how I use them.