Monday, 10 December 2012

Year 4, Semester 1 - 'Crab on a Beach' project

The second project I have been working on for my specialist skill, animation, is Sarah Rettie's visual effects project 'Crab on a Beach'. (http://poppinsin3d.blogspot.co.uk/) Integrating a 3D model of a crab, that has been rigged, textured and animated, into a live action plate of a sandy beach. The crab should blend into the environment and look part of the original footage. I will be animating this crab, therefore I have been researching the movement and behaviour of crabs, from real-life to animated film.

The type of crab that will be integrated into the footage is the Green Crab, therefore my research started there:

I then began to look at the anatomy of a crab, how the legs and claws move, their leg joints only have 1 degree of movement, much like a hinge:


Expanding on my research of how a crab walks, I watched and analysed some footage of their walk cycles. This video here shows the crab walk cycle through the amusing use of a treadmill:


The notes I took from this, and other such videos of real footage of Green crabs, are that they do not walk on the tips of their legs (much like a spider walks), but rather the leg folds under. The video above shows the crab walking underwater. Whereas the one I will be animating walks on the beach. This lead me to investigate the differences between walking underwater and on dry land. The main difference being that there is much more bouncy steps in the walk cycle when underwater due to the water density - almost mimicking a lack of gravity:


Watching a clip from The Little Mermaid's 'The Great Sebastian', I found that the walk cycle of 'Sebastian' was not very accurate. However this was not really a surprise as he is a very cartoon-y character that needs to have a lot of expression and exaggerated movement:


I started to examine other crab characters from film. I began to think of other behaviours that I could animate the crab doing. The original plan of Sarah's project was to have the crab just walking about on the beach. However through the research of different behaviours crabs have, it might be interesting to include some of these behavioural traits. One was the defensive/aggressive stance it takes when it feels threatened by something, it raises its front claws into the air to both ward off predators and be the aggressor. An example I found of this are the crabs from 'Finding Nemo', who mimic this behaviour while protecting their food source:



The Pirates of the Caribbean pebble crab was another reference for the walk cycle:

Another way I looked into for analyzing the movement of crabs was researching robotic crab and spider-like characters from film. I found this very useful being able to see the joints of the legs:



My brother recommended I research the Corpser from the 'Gears of War' video game.

I have also done some primary research by going to St Andrews Aquarium. The only crab that I was able to see there was the Hermit crab. However, I found looking at other crustaceans such as Lobsters and Crawfish was very useful, as the Hermit crab didn't move very much, however the Crawfish were very lively:




The plan for next Semester is to put this research into practice and have a finished realistic crab animation. I will be establishing with the director of the project, Sarah, exactly what the crab will be doing in the beach environment.  I feel that this is a good project to work on as it is a contrast to the 'Krokodi' project I have been working on, which is a much more cartoon-y styled animation and therefore these two projects will be enhancing my animation skills further.