Hypochondrinomicon, An Interview with an Animator

One of the most impressive skills in the creative industry, in my opinion, is being able to bring ideas to life with animation. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to do. Don’t take my word for it though, Calum can tell you himself!


1. What is your name and how long have you been animating?

My name is Calum Donaghy and I’ve been creating animations since 2014. My first “proper” animation was Starry Knights. Starry Knights was a 3D animation made for a contest in 30 days, which turned out awful. I’ll probably always have it up as a reminder of how much I’ve improved and changed style over the years. The contest was run by Saban and I didn’t make the cut, but it turned me from someone with a dead-end job and no idea how to animate into someone who had… a vague idea of how to animate but was still in a dead-end job. So it got me started!

2. What is your animation about?

The animation coming out tomorrow is called Hypochondrinomicon. It’s my honours project for University that takes the form of stereoscopic pixel art that can be viewed with a VR phone headset. It’s a music video for the chiptune artist “FearOfDark”‘s track “Fake President”. It’s sort of an overview of the early story of Hypochondrinomicon- which I hope to expand on after this is done.

AllIntros

It has four main characters that all fall under standard RPG classes. Darren Féro is their brawler, Nora Borealis is their spellcaster, Jack Ratchet is their engineer and Raven is their necromancer. I’ve been marketing it as “a year in the making” but the process is actually a lot longer… The biggest piece of evidence you’ll find of this is actually in Starry Knights where one of the characters is called “James Richter”, which is because he’s one of many incarnations of Jack… but Saban would have owned the rights to the intellectual property had I won the contest, so I changed his name.

3. What difficulties have you faced while animating?

Well, I didn’t know how to make pixel art for starters! This animation is my first foray into the style or any real attempt at 2D animation. In fact, I wanted to render the entire thing in 3D with a pixel art surface I’d developed for my character’s models. I’d spent so much time making their 3D models over the summer of 2018 that I decided to have them spread across the table like toys in the intro of the animation, so look out for that.

Other than that I really struggled with walk cycles. I’m told this is a really common problem but I found that once I had the base leg movement I could start having fun with it. Namely Darren, who keeps kicking the lower half of his outfit as he walks.

 

4. What part about animating do you enjoy the most?

It’s been fun most of the time, but once I get a subtle motion just right or a character design just spot-on, there’s this fantastic sense of achievement and pride I get. This is tenfold if it’s an impulsive decision.

Other than that, I love animating little subtleties, there are a few occasions where I’ve got no idea how I’m going to animate a character and I employ this technique that seems to work especially well for pixel art- where you focus less on the in-between frame and more on the frames just before and just after the action. A good example of this is when an experienced animator will tell you never to draw the moment of a punch’s impact, but the millisecond after where it’s already made an impact.

5. Be honest, who is your favourite character you made?

PosterPlanMoreQRAdjustThis is difficult… I love Jack. I love his creepy smile and odd demeanour. I base a lot of his mannerisms on my own, and at times I write him as I would write myself. He’s sort of my self-insert.

Raven, on the other hand, he’s by far the coolest design. He’s a killing machine that doesn’t know any other way… Can I come back to this?

It’s funny, I try my best to put Darren and Nora front and centre as often as possible, framing them as the main characters, but I’ve always been attracted to the side characters way more. So I suppose it’s a tie between Jack and Raven.

6. Who or what was your inspiration for your animation?

Who inspired me artistically was Paul Robertson. He made the sprites for the Scott Pilgrim VS the World video game, and he’s a common source of inspiration among the pixel art community. I’m ashamed to say, I’ve used some of those sprites as bases… The main offender is Darren, from a glance you can see that the way he carries his fists and has constantly narrowed eyes comes from Stephen Stills.

What inspired me is different- a lot of the ideas for this animation came from listening to the song “Fake President” by FearOfDark on the “This week in chiptune” podcast. It was so amazing, and as soon as I heard the part of the some that I timed to the villains’ intro, it all came together in my head. I can’t wait till everyone sees it.Darren6

 

7. Do you have any advice for those out there who want to get involved in animation?

My advice would be to start doing something daily, make it a habit and don’t break the chain. If you like to draw, do that. If you’re interested in 3D pick up a copy of blender since it’s freeware, and if you want to do pixel art, the latest version of GIMP is a great start for that until you decide to invest in Aseprite which is on Steam.

8. Where can people find your work?

The easiest way to find my stuff is through the contact page of my website, the contact page has links to the social media you can find me on. My video premiers tomorrow, so by the time you read this, it might already be up!


Please check out Calum’s work and support him. He is one of the nicest people I have ever met and he has worked so hard on this project as well as several others.

I for one can’t wait for the premiere!

 

 

 

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