January 22, 2013

Speel Je Toekomst

Aegon Insurance company recently launched an online platform where visitors can find out how events and choices in their lives will impact the buildup of their pensions. Here's a short video by Aegon explaining the concept.

The platform environment was developed by Momkai, who asked my agent, Comic House, if they were willing to produce the character animation that was needed; the two main characters, a male and a female, there were three age groups; young, middle aged and senior. The idea was that the player would be appointed an avatar matching their own age group and would then experience, represented through character animation, how the build-up of their own pensions will look like. That meant that every bit of character animation had to be reproduced, exactly the same, five more times for the remaining age groups. All in all it meant that a staggering amount of animation had to be produced in a short time.

To meet this challenge we found a solution by building a character rig in which all six characters where compiled. That way we could just swap certain body parts to change the age and sex of the avatar, for example, a young man into an elderly female. Then instead of reanimating we would just render the animation out for the different sexes and age groups. Quit technical, and  frankly, not very important from an artistic point of view, but it does explain why the characters look the way they do. All the different parts had to fit and not look strange when switched to another age group so that the player would not notice this aspect of the animation.

I believe we succeeded in this; the game environment looks great and the characters seem well integrated. The platform as a whole looks very functional and quite stylish. Have a look on this presentation page by Momkai, where you can see what the website environment looks like and how it is used.

The game environment and background elements were designed by Momkai. The character animation was done by Michélé de Feudis , David de Rooij, Gerben Steenks, Arjan Wilschut and yours truly. I designed all the characters, build the rigs and worked on the storyboards. Comic House produced and provided the necessary facilities.

Here are some early presentation sketches for the characters. We kept the proportions of the different age groups quite close to each other, mostly to not overcomplicate the animation.

The eventual character line-up.

Some extra family members and a rough presentation sketch for various house pets that might appear in the life span of the avatars.

To give the client a rough idea of what the animation would look like, we made moving storyboards, quick, rough and dirty, but it did the job and helped the clients get an idea of what they were getting, visually and timing wise. Here are some that were made by me and Hans Buying.
You can see how the last two rough boards translated to animation here and here on Arjan's website. Finally here are two standalone pieces of animation that I made. This is how they were delivered to Momkai (except for the blue backdrop which I added for this weblog) who further integrated them into their website application.
All these animations where made with animated rigs using an inverse-kinemactic bone system, I know, more uninteresting technique, but I want to show what that looks like on my screen.
For someone like me, who comes from a tradition of hand drawn animation, this this just looks crazy! But I admit; when used to, it works quite well and for certain projects it definitely gets the job done right and on time, so welcome to the 21st century!

January 18, 2013

Life Drawings Part 1

Here are some sketches from life drawing sessions. Mostly quick sketches; 5 to 10 minutes tops. I've always found it a great way to sharpen my drawing technique and observational skills. It's hard work as it requires all my concentration but at same time it's great fun too.
And to be able to produce a drawing that's somewhat representable once in a while feels very rewarding, because, to be honest, most aren't. For me it usually seems to be hit-or-miss with these quick sessions.


January 7, 2013

Go For It

Here is a collage of black-and-white illustrations that were used by ThiemeMeulenhoff to teach English grammar to Dutch secondary-school students. It was commissioned as a bulk order and I had to find a clear graphic style in which I was able to work fast. Looking back, it was pretty fun challenge. I had a good time drawing these!

January 4, 2013


A while ago I was asked to participate to make a short film for a, part art, part educational-project called "DICHT/VORM Klassiers". The idea was to connect classic Dutch poets and their contemporary artists with present day animation. Quite a challenge!

From a number of poems I chose Regen (Rain) by J.H. Leopold and wrote a synopsis, visually connecting (my interpretation) of the poem's tenor to the more abstract paintings of Paul Klee.

I eventually came up with this moving storyboard. Rough and dirty and there is no sound but the intention is clear enough.

The end result was to be no longer than 2 minutes and to give the whole thing the scope I wanted. I chose to compose the 2d animation, which was done -the old fashioned way- on paper, in a 3d environment.

All the elements and objects were drawn by hand and then placed in a 3d environment. Here's a screenshot of the 3d setup.

Looks a bit daunting, doesn't it? Rendered out it eventually looked like this:

In the end it worked out quite well, I think. I especially like the pacing and the atmosphere, thanks in no small part to the brilliant and effective music that was composed by Harry Koopman.

Here is the result, like I said; it's an oldy, but (if I may say so myself) still good.