The art of the animated glyph

James Curran explains how he came up with a sword-toting pirate from a simple bracket.

Most of my work involves transitions, but I prefer to do them in a way where reveals aren't just out of nowhere so it feels like a solid object or a shape. The bracket felt like it could be a slice through the screen.

I didn't really sketch anything out, but just started animating. I did things in reverse: I started with the finished path position for the bracket and then moved points individually to make it disappear. I did it a couple of times to get the timing right and refined the curves to make it really look like a sharp knife slice.

I added the knife next, masking it off over the animated slice path animation. Because you don't see the handle, it needed to be really clear that it was a knife from the shape.

Most of my work involves transitions, but I like to do them in a way where reveals aren't out of nowhere

Next I worked on the character. Originally he was a bit darker, more like a serial killer with a mask, but then I realised it could be a pirate as it was a good way of making the animation fun quickly. At first I added shadows to everything and found crazy ways to use the limited palette at different opacities, but it started to get a bit messy.

The last thing was the hand pulling on the bracket and making it stretch – again, to make the bracket feel like a solid object. My colleague Jeroen Krielaars came back to me and said maybe it would be better if I changed the colours, so I swapped them around and that was it. The whole thing took about a day in total.

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Words: James Curran

James Curran oversees a team of animators at global production company Partizan, working largely on social media campaigns. This article originally appeared in Computer Arts 231.