story / concept / animation

Kuiper’s Sail

The following is my process for my music video for The Junior Boys’ “Teach Me How to Fight” song.


Before I started any work on this animation, I first created this character. I knew I wanted a young, impressionable, astronaut character. I wanted to create something similar to my favorite movie of all time, The Fountain. I liked spheres, simple, flat colors, as I knew I was going to animate it using the puppet-tool in After Effects. I knew that I wanted him high-quality and vector. So I created this in illustrator. This was the first image of him that I still have. I have long lost the original sketch I drew on a post-it note about 2 years ago.

Concept art for the monster character came much later in the process. I hadn’t figured him out, originally, and so this was very exciting. These are some sketches I came up with. I knew that I wanted this emotional astronaut to encounter a massive beast. I drew a size comparison to show how big his ship would be next to the monster’s eye. I decided to go with the manta-ray type creature. I then illustrated the ship, monster, and a version of the earth in Illustrator.

Before I even boarded out the animation, I did an animation test of the astronomer in his ship, as well as the monster “wading” in some space clouds.

With that, I moved into boarding out the entire film.


Even though the film would be entirely a digital, vector piece of animation, I wanted to make the boards gritty and traditional. I wanted to get a more hands-on feel to the look to test out ideas with texture and other ideas that kept popping up into my head. I used charcoal and sharpie markers for the boards on bristol board.

The story was simple:

Astronaut gets lost in space. He can’t find earth. He finally gets swallowed by an enormous beast. He finds earth intact and completely well in the belly of the beast. The end.

Click for fullview!

With that, I decided to do a color key for the entire film. I wanted to progress from dark, moody cool colors into a climax with dark red, and then ending on a light, bright, happy yellow note.

Click for fullview!

Once my boards were complete, I moved into creating an animatic. I chose to do so in Toon-Boom, as I used the program at my internship and have always loved the simple paperless workflow of Animate Pro.


While I was creating the animatic, I was also creating separate assets in Illustrator to get prepped for the final animation. I needed to have all my assets ready to go before I could begin animating my film. And so, I would post test renders of some of the effects to get some feedback and critique. Here are some early renders of the film before I went into After Effects fully committed.


Once I fully committed myself to the project in After Effects, it has just been a long road of organization and timing. I’ve been compiling all of my separate assets for over a month now and it’s been rather tough to stick with it and stay focused. It seems like everything changes from the preview to the final render. I find myself going back and having to tweak the hypergraph, keyframes, and opacities on a consistent basis. It can get rather tiring. However, it is getting done. Here is a recent render I uploaded to show my current progress:

Final Animation:

Finally finished the animation just in time for the senior premiere. It was tough getting it done on time, but I like the result. I made some quicker-than-usual decisions in my animation that I wouldn’t normally take because of the pressure and last minute deadline. This, I personally believe, gives me a better result than going at it at my own pace. Take a view:

Sound Remix:

Having finished the film, it was time to enter it into festivals, hoping to at least get some recognition for it. However, I could not do that with the original sound, because I do not have the rights to the song that the Junior Boys put out. And so, I added Stephen Yonkin to the Mourou team and he came up with a superb track just in time for the Ottawa International Animation Festival’s deadline. This is the final product, so please enjoy Kuiper’s Sail:

Copyright (c) 2010-2011 Ryan Paxton

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