Eleven seconds isn’t a lot of time, but sometimes it can make for a full day.
That’s what Timberline students Ben Bellosillo and Owen Knudsen found when they competed in 3-D animation at the Skills Canada provincials in Abbotsford. (A couple of other Timberline students, Josh Wouters and Chloe Schofield, took silver in the 2-D animation event.)
Bellosillo and Knudsen’s assignment was to produce an 11-second video, and by the end of the day, they found out they’d won gold.
Actually, they had to catch a ferry back to Vancouver Island, so they only learned of their win as they were getting off the boat in Nanaimo via email. Later this month, they will head to Halifax for the Skills Canada National Competition, which takes place May 28 and 29.
The event marked the second time in Skills Canada for Bellosillo, who’s in Grade 12, but it was a first for Knudsen, who’s in Grade 10. Bellosillo started with animation a few years, first taking two-dimensional drawing, but he became more interested in 3-D. Knudsen is nearing the end of his second year with classes.
To get ready, they would meet in the morning a few times a week, and for the provincials, they were permitted to prepare certain things, like characters they could use.
“That is the one thing we brought with us,” Knudsen says.
They received an information sheet with some specifications a week or two prior to the event to help them plan. Examples of the criteria for the event included the file type, the duration of the project – in this case, a concise 11 seconds – and a detail that the film must end with two characters hugging.
However, they would only learn of a wild card factor once they arrived for the provincial in Abbotsford on the morning of April 15.
“The wild card happened to be a pie in the face,” Knudsen says.
They started about 8:30 that morning and had until mid-afternoon to finish. The pair spent the first hour or so story-boarding their idea, then split off to different computers to start work on the different elements. Knudsen focused on details like the pie, books and furniture in the room while Bellosillo worked on the characters and the odd detail like the potato chips one of the characters holds. Later, they started to refine the details of the characters’ movements and moved files over to one computer.
“In the later stages, everything can really only be done on one computer, so everything’s just moved over and we have a master copy,” says Bellosillo.
One of the differences from the regional finals was they did not have to use a prescribed sound clip for the animation but had more free reign from a folder of sound effects files.
“What we wanted to do would’ve been a lot longer than 11 seconds,” Knudsen says.
“It took us a lot more time to come up with ideas,” Bellosillo adds.
As they neared the end, most of the work focused on fine-tuning details such as character expressions. They finished with about a half hour to spare, and they say it was interesting to see what the other teams devised.
“It was quite close,” Bellosillo says.
Of course, they had to leave time at the end for video rendering.
“That’s probably the most stressful point of the process,” says Bellosillo. “You have to make sure you give yourself enough time.”
Early on, they sent a test image for rendering to measure the time needed. From there, they multiplied that length of time by the number of frames to get an estimate of the total time they would need for rendering.
“At that point, your hands are off the computer, and the computer does the rest of the job for you,” Bellosillo says. “That’s definitely the part where you kind of stop having control over your animation,” he says.
For the nationals, they know they will have many similar parameters for their project such as the time frame and file type, but then there’s always that wild card.
“It’s hard to know how to get ready with that wild card floating in the air,” says Bellosillo. “Really, all we can do is just keep practising our animation.”