Tony Ross (also known as TonyTeach) is an animator and instructor who has taught courses for the Atlanta College of Art, Lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning. He has also worked with Toon Boom to get artists and animators comfortable with working in Harmony Premium — professional animation software used at animation studios around the world — and has helped independent animators develop their production pipelines. We brought Tony onto our Twitch channel to talk about his... Read more »
Diving into animation and live-action with Gonzalo Azpiri
To show our community what is possible in Toon Boom Harmony 20, we invited seven artists and teams to produce the official demo video, each contributing scenes inspired by a short prompt. These teams were drawn from both the Toon Boom Ambassador Program and our international community of artists, and were given total creative freedom to make a splash with their scenes.
Gonzalo Azpiri is the owner and general producer at Hookup Animation in Buenos Aires, which is relied on around the world for high-quality promotional animation. In our interview, we discuss the process of including animating characters in live-action scenes.
What was the prompt that you were given, and how did you interpret it for this project?
I chose the line "Every creative dream, every style," and I used animation mixed with live action footage.
For the first part of my scene, I knew I wanted dynamic action with an animated background and end with live-action footage. My character runs through the woods, jumps over a car, slides on a hill and dives in the ocean. All in six seconds!
What are some of the elements you needed to consider when approaching a project like this?
Well, the mix with live action during the quarantine was tricky because, in order to work properly, the footage has to be planned and shot with the animation in mind. As there was no possibility to shoot anything, I had to search for suitable stock video footage.
Usually many artists are involved in a professional scene that blends animation with live action: rotoscoping, camera tracking, animation, and compositing, so I needed to balance the time I was allocating for preproduction, production and post.
Colour explorations for Every Creative Dream provided by Gonzalo Azpiri.
The main character in your sequence appears to be a humanoid ferret wearing a tracksuit. What inspired this design?
In fact, it is not specifically a ferret. I'm not sure what it actually is! Maybe a fox? That face mask might be confusing. Anyway, I wanted to have an urban-fantasy kind of character. I was inspired by the design of a bear I did a few years ago for a short film.
In regard to the costume, I drew inspiration from tracksuit photos from online stores. I wanted very vivid colors. Even though the scene is set during the night, the character and the background are lit as if they were in plain daylight, which I think gives it a dream-like feeling. That was part of the text I drew from for inspiration.
Which features in Toon Boom Harmony were most useful on this project?
The main Toon Boom Harmony feature that I used was deformers, which is something you can't find in other software. Although that was my main tool, there are so many other invisible effects such as cutters for masking, color selectors, blending options and many more.
I also used some other subtle options like artistic brushes and tools for time-consuming tasks that make the work so much faster and fun.
These kinds of scenes with animated backgrounds end up being quite complex due to the many elements involved, but Harmony has put together a lot of friendly aids to organize the work, which made my scene easier to handle.
Rough animation and final renders from Every Creative Dream provided by Gonzalo Azpiri.
How did this sequence compare in scope with other projects that you and your studio have worked on in the past? Was there anything that surprised you?
The challenging and most fun part or this project was that I had the chance to come up with the character, idea, animation, art style... everything! That's a rare case in this industry where usually clients provide a lot of this stuff — and we usually take it from there.
It was also awesome that this was a collaborative project between Toon Boom and animators from so many different places.
Did you have the opportunity to try new features in Harmony 20 that you would be interested in using in your work?
Yes! Although I was more focused on the scene itself, I tried to explore the new features.
I used the scene markers, which helped me keep track of different parts of the project, the new renaming options, the Set Ease option for keyframes, the undoable selections, the cable cutter mode and many others.
There's so much left I’d like to try. With the way I like to animate, the Deformer on Deformer wizard sounds incredible.
Rough head rotations for for Every Creative Dream provided by Gonzalo Azpiri.
Hook Up Animation is a well-regarded animation and VFX studio in Buenos Aires. We realize this is a broad question, but as a studio owner do you have advice for aspiring animators and artists in Latin America?
I would tell them to keep improving. For this, I would recommend them to study the work of the professionals they like. To find that thing that engages them and to go ahead and try to do it themselves. To compare their work with those of whom they admire, allowing them to spot the skills they need to work on. If you love animation this is a lot of fun and rewarding.
And also, although the artistic skills are the most important ones, they should try to be on the same page with the industry regarding the technology they use and the professional procedures.
Was there anything we didn’t ask you about that you would like to say to our readers?
Yes! I hope you enjoy the final piece and give Harmony 20 a try.
Concept art for Every Creative Dream provided by Gonzalo Azpiri.
Want to dive deeper into of Gonzalo Azpiri's work? You can find Gonzalo on Instagram and be sure to visit Hookup Animation's website and follow the team on Instagram and Facebook. Interested in hearing more about this project? Be sure to join us on Twitch for a Q&A with Gonzalo Azpiri on Thursday July 2 at 4PM EDT.