Making a Short - Part 1

In the last two weeks I've committed myself to creating an animated short, which is typically referred to as a "personal project." Completing a personal project is notoriously difficult because so much goes into an animation: writing, storyboarding, designing, animating, editing, sound designing, etc. It can be really hard to do it all on your own. The main reason I don't complete more of them is that the amount of work is just so daunting that I don't usually progress past the "idea" phase.

I'm hoping that by writing about it in this blog I'll be able to hold myself accountable and keep working, even when I feel like quitting.

Rough sketches of various ideas

For the past two years I've been studying Japanese in my free time, so I thought it'd be fun to create a short video that shows the highs and lows of learning a new language. When I began learning, I initially tried to do it all on my own with apps and textbooks, but it's no surprise that you get a lot more fulfillment when you actually talk to real people. I reflect the importance of a human connection in this story when two people, who struggle with language learning on their own, connect with each other and find the fun in it again.

With a story roughly figured out, the next step was to determine the style. This is typically done by creating "style frames." A style frame is a still image that will appear in the final animation. They help you more easily visualize how the whole video will look in the end.

Four discarded style frames of the same scene: somebody studying late at night.

I struggled a lot with finding a design I was happy with and I restarted quite a few times. I finally liked a direction I was going in when I tried using letters, in both Japanese and English, as structures for the scene. It took me some more time to get the colors right, but once that was solved it felt like everything else clicked into place.

This style frame is finally finished!

With one frame completed, it was a lot easier to progress through the others.

Person relaxing in a park, trying to find a language partner online
Using an app to practice reading and writing
A language learning app. The green wings are in reference to Duolingo.

Here are the style frames I have completed so far. I still have a few more to do, and then it'll be back to storyboarding to really finalize the flow of everything.