Surf Rider

My animation for an upcoming iPhone game. All character animation was hand drawn (Acme punched paper or ToonBoom Pencil Check Pro). The breaking wave was worked out the same way.

This is a really fun project.  I was given a list of characters and then put on a very long leash.  Actually, I even came up with the idea for the surfing Sumo.  I did surf for several years, and then paddled a whitewater kayak.  There is a small amount of overlap in these experiences, giving me a wealth of ideas.

Of course I wouldn’t be animating anything until I knew how they would be viewed, and that meant figuring out the break (wave).  I first thought of a thick powerful barrel, like Pipeline.  My client, however, knew that the game play wouldn’t be as good, so we went with a head-on view.

After a lot of experimentation, I finally hand drew the form of the wave with all its splash and foam.  I drew some key frames on large paper.  I didn’t want any restrictions on how to express a force of nature.  I put the drawings on my large flatbed Epson scanner, then started working up more key frames in Pencil Check Pro.  When the break looked good (including a closeout for future carnage), I processed different render passes, to be used as mattes for ‘building’ the wave.  I textured the wave face with fractal effects in After Effects.  I didn’t use anything that is actually labeled as water effects.  I just have my own techniques.

The surfers didn’t have to be completely realistic, since robots and space aliens are part of the group.  That said, I wanted most of them to have a physicality that could make them surfers.  People that surf in different types of conditions are very able bodied.

I took a few liberties when it came to physics.  The Sumo is so heavy that I made him capable of a mystery move.  In whitewater, that’s when the force of water makes a kayak and paddler completely disappear underwater –  until buoyancy again (and sometimes dramatically) takes over.  Our massive loinclothed ring master has those surfing skills.  Everyone has some ‘special’ moves.

The Islander, I felt, was a special case.  Hawaiians invented surfing.  So, I wanted to show a special reverence for this character.  She is not just at play in nature, she is an intricate part.

To finalize the look we had to make subtle, yet important decisions about the look of character color.  For toon shading I saw three general choices – lighting for contour, soft side lighting, or emphasizing highlights.  To provide a little extra richness to the scene, I added and animated spot and parallel lamps during compositing.

I also designed and illustrated the menus below.

Character Model Shading