Timbrée is an amazing animated short film that was constructed in Apple Motion. Alain Boisvert takes us through the process of creating the complex animations and why he chose Motion over Adobe's After Effects.
When my father passed away, he left me his big stamp collection. It remained in a a chest for a few years and one day I finally opened it. This is when the story for the film Timbrée started.
Timbrée in French means « stamped » but it also means « A bit crazy ».
Looking at all those stamps, which I was familiar with, confirmed that stamp making is quite an art and the graphics are often very interesting.
A story took shape.
I wanted a tourist to visit Canada through the imagery of the stamps. I was also inspired by the crazy ads we find suggesting that we visit a country in 9 or 12 days. We rush through and jump from one city to another. So that was the way my tourist was going to do it. It also stems from the fact that most tourist have no idea how big Canada is, and they want to see everything touristy such as Niagara Falls, Vancouver, Montreal, polar bears etc…in 10 days.
Sketches were done, storyboard created, and then came the question of how do I do this?
The easy decision was to do it all in 2D in a 2D stamp world. Characters would also be 2D, but must have a different aesthetic compared to the stamps. I also wanted to use the stamps textures, paper and varied styles as well as the album as a general design concept.
The tourist and the bird were done with a 2D cut-out design in mind.
All I needed now was software to animate all this. I hadn’t got my head around using Motion. I didn’t know the software well, and I had a hard time getting my bearings on how to use it properly.
From AE to Motion
I was using Adobe Animate and AE when I started the project.
I tried After Effects. It was a complicated interface, layers were a bit confusing to me and not being able to see live what I was doing frustrated me quite a lot. The need to do reference layers to combine more layers visually was not user-friendly for me. Comps and more comps. It had a lot of bells and whistles. I learned and moved on at a slow paste until one day I just thought there has to be a more fun way to do this. I can’t work if I am frustrated.
AE for me was frustrating in many aspects.
I guess this is the time I need to say, AE is just a tool, the same as Motion. Did I master the tool? No. What it fun working with. No. These are my failings.
I decided to reshoot what I had done in AE with Motion. Strangely, my labour with AE helped me understand how Motion works and once that… I will call it enlightenment…happened, everything became fun to do. I could watch live what I was animating. I could use masks to make more complex scenes. There was a small learning curve for the mask as I was animating and masking at the same time.
Some masks were animated frame by frame. I was using a bunch of layers nested in other layers. I understood how it works, and I could concentrate on the result, the artistic, the aesthetics and the animation I wanted to do. Animating in Motion was great because I could do frame by frame and really be finicky on what I wanted.
The character was broken down in to different parts, which were easy to group and animate as a whole or specifically (only the hand).
I could duplicate the character and have it move from front to back on different sets. This would happen when the Tourist comes out of windows or if certain objects were placed on different planes.
Some scenes were done by simply interpolating. Animating graphical elements was nice since I could add hand drawn lines when needed.
A word about using PDF. My character was entirely made up of PDF files. PDF head, PDF arms, PDF legs etc… That was really great, as I could scale as needed without losing any resolution. The only aspect I had to think of is very small sizes or very big ones. I would do bigger or smaller PDF images as needed, but my character was usable in many sizes.
I also liked the timeline. Clear and simple. Keyframes were easy to see and when I needed to tweak anything I just worked in the keyframe editor. This is where I had a bit more work to do. At first, I had a hard time getting the keyframes to work like I wanted to. Mostly, the deceleration or speeding up of animation requested more precise placement of handles. To be honest, I did quite a lot of it frame by frame as I controlled a lot better what I wanted to do.
When the scenes were done, it was very simple to export and use them in Final cut. If I needed to alter anything in Motion it would update in FC.
I worked on the project for one year with a Canada Council for the Arts grant.
I am currently preparing another animated project which I will do in Motion. Character design is done in Affinity Designer, but I have also created the characters directly in Motion because the aesthetics and graphic design makes this possible. They are 2D characters with textures.
You can watch the film above or on Vimeo here: https://vimeo.com/814630416
Music by Sébastien Dufour is pretty good too !