Nov 05, 2021

macOS Monterey & Toon Boom Harmony

macOS Monterey & Toon Boom Harmony
Toon Boom Animation recommends that Harmony users delay updating to macOS Monterey (12.0.1)

Read more

Apr 27, 2021

Apple M1 Chipset & Toon Boom Software

Apple is in the process of transitioning their line of macOS computers to a new ARM-based hardware architecture. The first Macs powered by the Apple M1 chipset were released on November 17, 2020.

Read more

1 of 2

No notification to see.

Melissa Lyn on animating a mood in Sweet

Still image from Sweet provided by Melissa Lyn.

Mercury Filmworks, the Ottawa-based studio behind Netflix’s Kid Cosmic, has launched a series of shorts showcasing the incredible animation talent that the studio fosters through their team. After enjoying the first four films, we had many questions, and were fortunate to have our questions answered by the creators themselves!

Melissa Lyn introduces a real treat of a short in Sweet. Heavily influenced by music, Melissa brings a strong sense of rhythm to all of her animation, a quality visible in the synchronized transitions. Taking us on a day-dream through nostalgic scenes with soft, familiar images, Sweet is an effective example of simplicity in hand-drawn animation. As Melissa says, if you think something is simple, make it simpler!

We sat down with Melissa to discuss her process on the short, and talked about authenticity, inspiration, and how she cultivates a colourful aesthetic. She runs us through her use of Harmony’s charcoal brush and movement on pegs: techniques she employed to achieve her fuzzy, dreamy vision for Sweet.

Sweet, an animated short by Melissa Lyn.

Hi Melissa! Please give us a short introduction about yourself for our readers!

Hi!! I’m Melissa Lyn, a Jamaican-born Canadian animator currently residing in Ottawa! I’m an Animation Supervisor at Mercury Filmworks by day, and probably best known for being a supportive goof. I really enjoy spreading warmth and kindness and also eating food, so it was just a matter of time until I made something like Sweet!

What is the concept behind Mercury Filmworks’ shorts?

Mercury Filmworks’ shorts program is, as far as I understand it anyway, an opportunity for the artists and staff at the studio to create something small that’s completely their own, with a network of support around them! It’s totally brand-new and so I am sure it will evolve as time goes by. It’s also there to help us evolve in the way we tell stories and collaborate.

Can you talk us through the process of making Sweet?

Sweet came to me as a concept that floated through my head literally while the Mercury Shorts program was announced! I was probably thinking about eating candy and then thought: “How do you animate the feeling of eating something sweet? What if you do something sweet? What about sweet skateboard tricks!” 

Once I pitched my idea and was selected, I knew that choosing music was the first step to this project. I found a song that fit the vibe I was going for, and then all of the design and timing was based around the BPM (beats per minute) of that song, which is Tsundere Jazz by Tsundere Labs. Inc! 

In terms of Art Direction, I knew I wanted something simple, organic, hand drawn and in black and white. But as I designed it, I felt like it had to have some colour or it’d be too cold. And, as we had 4 days to work during studio hours over 8 weeks total for this round, I ended up doing a mix of hand drawn and peg animation techniques to do it fast! It was a mad dash to the finish but we made it happen. And I couldn’t be happier to have seen it all the way through.

Still image from Sweet provided by Melissa Lyn.

What software features can we see used in the process?

Throughout the short, the very soft, kinda hazy warmth and occasional sparkle embellishments were all done with compositing magic and particle effects. The texture of the linework is all from Harmony’s charcoal brush, and every frame is hand drawn with some peg movement!

How did you arrive at the aesthetic and art style we can see in Sweet?

The aesthetic I think mostly comes from my own personality; I love cute things and right now, I’m really fascinated by fairy-kei fashion and styles of animation that are more punctuated. I think it goes without saying that anime has the biggest influence on me. But I also really enjoy the airyness of the Red Bull commercials, and really admire the almost storybook quality of Ernest et Celestine

Making this short was a chance for me to choose some of my favourite things and find a way to make them compatible with each other: electronic music, candy, wholesomeness, and so on. Put it all together and what do you get? Doughnuts that turn into bubble tea!

Still image from Sweet provided by Melissa Lyn.

What inspired the various objects and experiences that feature in Sweet?

For Sweet, I think I listened to Tsundere Jazz like 20 times on loop before getting started. I didn’t really think about the objects, I just picked a thing I liked and scribbled it down on each beat. Then as I refined my board, I started looking at the objects and concepts I chose and decided on ways to relate them to each other. I structured it so that the food items were in a certain part of the song; then it changes into emotional concepts and more abstractions when the song gave me a sort of rising, warm fuzzy feel. Feelings are weird but it’s fun to try to express them like that. 

Also, there was a point where I had a kitten in the rotation, but it had gotten replaced by the heart and the flowers once I did my later board passes. It was the only thing that wasn’t food or a feeling!

What advice do you have for finding that inspiration?

If you’re looking to be inspired in a similar way to how I am: be as authentic to yourself as you possibly can be. Lean into the things that you love and have experienced as a human being. We are all people that have different lives, and yet somehow we can relate to each other too and that’s such a beautiful thing to be a part of! Share you with the world; not what you think the world is expecting from you. Your style is you! And many people would love to see it, including me!

Still image from Sweet provided by Melissa Lyn.

Who are the characters we can see in Sweet? How would you describe their relationship?

The characters in Sweet are all a bunch of randoms. Except for the one at the end! That’s a representation of me sharing a sweet (candy, but also the film) with you! Or, throwing sweetness at you. That’s also an accurate viewpoint, I think.

I love the music in Sweet! To what extent does music or rhythm drive your animation style?

Thank you so much! I love it too, it’s such a great piece by Tsundere Labs Inc. I’m really grateful for them letting me use the track because music is everything for me when I animate! Even when I’m doing things for work, I have to have the right playlist going if I am going for a certain type of energy/feeling. Character animation to me is like animating dances all the time, even if there’s no music playing, there’s an underlying rhythm that I try to tap into.

Still image from Sweet provided by Melissa Lyn.

Can you explain how you used the transitions in the short to move the narrative along?

Yes! I chose transitions based on what the music had me feeling like on that particular beat of the song. I had originally thought to only do transitions for the food items and do hard cuts for the others, but it was visually too jarring. So I found a middle ground by doing wipes, big spacing pops and cross-dissolves for some of the characters and more abstract concepts. 

I wanted the way the transitions and the music changed, to prompt the audience when we were gonna stop seeing food! It was really fun being both free to do whatever, yet still deliberate in this way.

What are some other ways you use Toon Boom Harmony in your role at Mercury Filmworks?

When I’m supervising at Mercury, Harmony is my everything and I use it in a completely different way! My day-to-day specialities are in doing animation with rigs, and we really push the program to the limit here. 

I feel like on almost every Harmony production, we have a new feature, script, or somebody discovers this thing that you could always do since the beginning of time that everyone else forgot about. It’s a lot, and I love it!

Do you have plans to develop the world and characters or world you’ve shown us in Sweet?

Sweet was this one-time cute thing that I wanted to make, so I don’t think I’ll be developing its world. However, I could definitely see myself revisiting it sometime in the future and taking it a step further — maybe even using the whole song! That would be a dream come true.

  • Curious to learn more about this production? Melissa shares more details about Sweet on Mercury Filmworks channel on YouTube.
  • Want to see more of Melissa Lyn’s work? Follow her on Instagram for sketches and recent projects.