Creative Process: Pop-up Book Animation

I made this pop-up book animation during my internship at UNC’s Undergraduate Admissions Office to represent the top five majors at the university. I had previously tried to make a similar animation when I was in middle school, but I didn’t have access to Adobe After Effects at that time, so I was never able to try it out. But, like I’ve said in a few of my other blog posts, my internship gave me a lot of artistic autonomy to create unique content, and this was just one of the many opportunities I had to test out something new.

As per usual, I followed a YouTube Tutorial for a simple pop-up book animation. In the tutorial, the guy created the actual animation first, and then added in the vectors to replace the filler shapes he had put in their place. So, I started by making the vectors to represent each of the majors in Adobe Illustrator. It was sort of challenging to pick visuals for some of the majors, such as psychology and exercise sport science, because I wasn’t really sure what objects would best symbolize them. But once I had sorted out the images, the vectors only took a couple of hours to make.

I then followed the tutorial to make the animation, which I found to be a lot less complicated than I had initially thought it would be. I made each page-flip animation separately, and then compiled them all together to make the actual book. Doing it this way kept things super organized and not too overwhelming. One thing I did differently from the tutorial was give my book some depth to it by utilizing the 3D layer feature to make it seem a little more realistic. Another thing that took me a while to figure out was the lighting, as some of the shadows looked a little funky, but I was able to fix it just by making some slight adjustments (changing the size of some of the vectors, moving the light source around, etc.).

What made this project so challenging and time consuming, though, was After Effects. The application would get stuck and freeze anytime I made even a slight adjustment. Moreover, whenever I tried to watch the animation, the playback would lag and was choppy; this also made it hard to see what needed to be edited or fixed. However, the most frustrating part of this project was rendering the final video. The first two or three times I tried to export the file, it would render for three hours and then crash. I realized that my computer’s processor probably couldn’t handle rendering such a big file, so I decided to divide and export it into six separate videos. It took the first three videos, which were all around four seconds long, about an hour and a half each to render. I then realized there was a huge gap between some of the pages. After fixing that issue, rendering all of the videos, and then compiling them into a final video, I finally finished the project after about two to three weeks.

Had I made the files smaller, I’m sure I wouldn’t have encountered so many issues, and the process probably would’ve only taken about four or five days to complete. It’s not the cleanest or most realistic pop-up animation, but I didn’t have the time (or patience) to adjust it before it needed to be posted. Nevertheless, I’m still pretty proud of myself for finally learning how to make it. If I ever talk myself into making another pop-up animation, I hope to make the page flips less stiff by giving them a little more movement and curve, and I will make sure that the file sizes are much, much smaller.