February 27, 2019

The assignment: animate a cannonball.

Dr. Davis’s fault for not specifying which kind.

I storyboarded with an eye towards animation difficulty - planning this way allowed me to restrict myself to only objects that were easy to model and strictly necessary to communicate the joke.


You’ll notice even this storyboard goes a bit over: I cut out the expository bushes and fence. Starting the pan up to the diving board already in the sky makes the diving board that much higher.

Also, the sinkhole is missing from the storyboard. I threw that in last-minute in post - the image was sitting there on my desktop from the last time I used it and hey, why not.

Don’t get me wrong, I like animating - but post is where it’s really at. Sound effects, title cards, credits - I went for a Hanna-Barbera-y vibe with these, and (shhh) I almost like them more than the animation itself. The spiky star designs are borrowed directly from Knick Knack.

editing in Premiere

Here’s every principle of animation I used:

Squash and stretch. The cannonball’s body grows and shrinks as a form of “body language.” I didn’t do this perfectly - I forgot about the rule that the cannonball’s volume shouldn’t change, so when the cannonball stretches in one direction, it doesn’t squash in the other direction. But it’s exaggerated body language, so I think it works.

cannonball taking a deep breath

I also didn’t squash and stretch in perhaps the most obvious place - the cannonball hitting the diving board. But animating the cannonball to be on top of a solid, but constantly moving, diving board required a lot of tedious, frame-by-frame diddling that, combined with squash and stretch, I found to be too much.

Staging. This wasn’t difficult to stage - there’s so little happening in each shot that the main action isn’t fighting for attention from anything else. But I did play around with the timing - I give you a few frames at the start of each shot to get your bearings before anything starts moving.

I also used the camera angle as a tool to communicate - a fast zoom out helps convey fear. The way it moves from a side view of the cannonball to a dead-on front view, combined with the booming sound effect, conveys a sense of resolve in the cannonball. And so on.

Slow in / slow out. Almost every keyframe-to-keyframe transition is done on a slow-in-slow-out bezier curve.

Bezier curves

Arcs. Whenever the cannonball reaches an extreme (like when it peers over the edge or exhales at the end of a deep breath), it always goes a little too far in the direction of motion, then arcs it back to the “real” ending position.

cannonball peering over edge of diving platform

Secondary action. When the cannonball inhales at the start of a deep breath, it wiggles a little bit at the peak of its stretch. When it rolls back in fear, it shudders a little bit. (I could’ve made these a little more visible. They also don’t communicate well in pictures. Oh well.)

cannonball stretching up while taking a deep breath

Exaggeration. After the cannonball jumps, the diving board stays up in the air, like it’s waiting for the cannonball to fall back down.

diving board waiting for cannonball

There’s also the extreme height of the diving board - I start my pan up already in the sky. That, plus the sinkhole.

Appeal. It’s a cannonball - all I did was hit the sphere button and call it a day - but I think I conveyed personality and feeling and relatability and all that. (It helps if you’re scared of heights.)