Based in San Francisco, California, GitHub has become the place where software is built. More than 11 million people use GitHub to collaborate on software. GitHub emphasizes design and creative in the process of shipping software, and brings the designers directly into the development stage. In addition to providing development tools for designers and developers, GitHub also created the popular Octocat character that has come to symbolize their users.
Video and animation are a big part of how GitHub describes its platform and products. The Creative Department—which includes illustrators, animators, and designers—is in charge of coming up with new animations whenever there is an occasion for them. With a new product in the pipeline, it was time to start sketching – a new animation was needed for their content marketing. youtube.com/watch?v=vq2jYFZVMDA
GitHub's animation department consists of Tony Jaramillo, Animator/Illustrator and João Ribeiro, Animator/Illustrator/Concept Artist. Jaramillo and Ribeiro took some time to talk to us about how they achieve their stylistic goals using GitHub, Toon Boom Harmony, and a range of other software.
Like most creative projects, they start by brainstorming. Jaramillo described this process.
"At the brainstorming stage, we'll produce thumbnails for various concepts to help visualize ideas, which helps in the decision making process. Once the message is laid out and an idea is agreed upon, we start to work on an animation script. Everyone in the Creative Department, as well as some others, collaboratively work on a cohesive script through markdown files on GitHub, which enable us to work asynchronously on our text files, easily tracking our comments and suggestions, while also maintaining version control."
After final script and thumbnails are done, they move on to creating storyboards and colour script. These are also presented to the team via GitHub. "The Issues section enables us to post images and debate the concept until we're satisfied it's the best it can be."
Sound plays a big role in most animations and GitHub's are no exception. "This is the time to plan out and gather any sound files that will have an active role in the animation timing," says Jaramillo. "João and I work closely with our sound team, led by Patrick Dunnam, to map out the specifics."
For the backgrounds, vehicle, and character design, Ribeiro creates the concepts. He builds these by creating simple reference 3D models, on top of which he does line art work. After this, he begins the process of painting.
Foreground characters or animated props are coloured in Harmony, which is GitHub's tool of choice for animation.
"In the animation phase, we exclusively use Harmony," says Ribeiro. The Xsheet is key for planning out shots, framing our timing with keys and breakdown labels, and notation for sound and any other key movements."
As the animation progresses, animatics are regularly produced and submitted on GitHub to track progress, as well as for review and approval. "In Harmony, the overlay/underlay/line art/colour art layers in a drawing help to keep our drawings organized so there is no confusion when passing shots back and forth," says Jaramillo.
Once the animatics are complete, the GitHub team moves on to finalizing the keys and breakdowns. Because their main character moves with tentacles instead of hands and arms, they decided to do little to no rigging. "It's paramount to us that her movements are fluid, so 99% of the animation is hand drawn."
"Harmony provides the interactive experience we need for experimentation and creativity," says Ribeiro. "First pass and cleanup phases are infinitely more efficient. Harmony's pencil tool enables us to manipulate vector lines while maintaining a variable stroke, and the keyboard shortcuts keep the process fluid and continuous."
The colour style Jaramillo and Ribeiro employ works extremely well with Harmony with solid, local highlights and shadows. The variety of tools available gives them creative control in an efficient workflow.
"Harmony's palettes are easy to create, organize and manipulate. The colour picker tool is extensive with a range of colour selection options. The simplicity of importing and exporting palettes helps cut down on future work, as well as maintain a consistent palette over various animations. And, the line art and colour art layers are very useful when layering artwork – they give us the ability to stack our artwork how we see fit in vector format, and maintain a high degree of control over the stroke and various block colours."
When asked how Harmony helps them create their distinctive animation style, Jaramillo talked about the importance of animation tools when working in a small team.
"Animation is a time intensive process. Features like Shift and Trace, the pencil and colour tools, and key, breakdown and in-between tagging help us animate efficiently so we can achieve our desired level of quality. Considering there are currently only the two of us, Harmony makes it possible to level up our animation productivity without sacrificing quality. We were able to extend the frame count of our animations exponentially. Again, it comes down to Harmony's efficiency from animatics to colour stages."
Both Jaramillo and Ribeiro have used many other creative and animation software suites before Harmony, so the transition was pretty easy.
"Harmony has a great UI that is familiar to animators. There are, of course, new techniques to learn that are specific to Harmony, but it is easy to use and there is plenty of documentation on the Internet," says Jaramillo. He adds, "The ability to create vector graphics in Harmony is a big plus for us. The versatility of vector manipulation in Harmony makes it a superior product. We're big fans."
The new GitHub animation came out October 1st with the launch of their GitHub Universe conference. For more information, go to githubuniverse.com.
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