Educational Animation 1

January 27, 2019

Project 1 - Planet Animation

This is the first of a series of posts about projects I'm making for Dr. Timothy Davis's computer animation class. The finished product:

Phase one of this project: follow a tutorial to make a solar system.

I didn't follow the tutorial perfectly - I noticed that Jupiter and Saturn's moons clipped through each other, so I nudged Saturn over a bit. I also ignored the author's suggestion to make Mercury reddish-brown, instead opting for the gray that it actually is.

And I swapped out Maya's boring, gray, My First Animation background for a bright Day-Glo green - which allowed me to do this:

Nothing a little Premiere post-production can't handle!

Then, the fun part: customization. My tweaks:

As mentioned before, I nudged Saturn and I changed the color of Mercury and the background color of the render (with some post-render green screen fun).

I didn't love how all the planets started out neatly queued up behind the sun. So I gave each planet a randomized starting point and a randomized number of degrees to revolve around the sun, manually tweaking to produce a balanced composition at the beginning and end.

randomized planets

I made Uranus go the other way around the sun. About this - I guess I really believed that Uranus did this. But then someone (Chris) told me that Uranus goes the same way as the other planets, it just spins, itself, like individually on its axis, the other way. Not once did he stop me before I hit render and say, Adam, you might want to double check that with NASA or something. So I'm blaming him, and I'm keeping it.

uranus goes the other way

I also didn't like how the sun stayed perfectly still - especially since, given that we're looking at the solar system against a bunch of other galaxies, we'd expect our sun to be hurtling through space as well. So I added a little bit of zoom and tilt to the entire solar system - the plane that the planets revolve in moves as well. The effect is subtle and best viewed in motion, but compare the start to the end:

starting position of planets ending position of planets

All that brought me to this movie. But it's just so boring:

For my final-final movie, I mashed up my planet animation with one of my favorite old videos:

The intense zoom in on the planets is all pixelated and crunchy - you can see the remnants of the green rendering background I (mostly) removed. The pan from Jupiter to Uranus is linear and abrupt. But I really, truly, unironically, I-promise-I'm-not-just-being-lazy-ly love it that way. I'm a huge fan of on-purpose low-effort editing - blunt, garish, every bit as present in the video as the content itself, tacking on a second layer of funny. It's an acquired taste. But I made the video, so...