This post is an insight to the various steps involved from brief to final animated piece, and how even though this was a short animation there’s still a lot to consider upfront to create an efficient workflow and deliver on time.

Kingfisher Animation Brief

Web designer Ryan Gittings contacted us to create a looping animation of a Kingfisher diving for food as a background video for his new website. Excited by the opportunity to animate a kingfisher, we accepted and created a gorgeous scene for it to live in.

Watch the final looping animation below:


The focus of this piece is the Kingfisher and working out what can be done to make this an interesting looping animation. First and foremost was studying how a Kingfisher moves and acts to help dictate the narrative of the video. Various segments from documentaries on Youtube helped us to piece together the action.

One of videos we took reference from was from David Attenborough’s ‘Rhythms of Nature in the Barycz Valley‘ (See below from 0.49 seconds). This clip became the foundation we built the animation and scene composition around.

Key Poses

The images below are the initial pencil sketches of the Kingfisher’s key poses which shows how the animation would loop. Each drawing is followed by a new pose going in a clockwise direction to create the loop. These initial sketches were scanned and put into Illustrator where the body pieces were colour coded to work out what pieces could be reused and save on drawing new assets. Once this was decided, it was drawn up with a colour set (that would later be built upon) to create a rough model to test the animation inside After Effects.

Preparing for Animation

When creating an object that’s going to move, you need to think about how many parts does it have that will need to be animated. Once you work out all these pieces, it’s then working out how to best control it as an animatable rig. The first test was done by putting in the separate body pieces (head, torso, left wing, right wing), with each body piece having multiple variations e.g. the wings flapping at different stages.

At this stage, that’s enough to test the animation from the key poses. After this test, it was down to fine tuning the rig to create a more efficient workflow. When animating, you want to have as few layers to work with as possible, as it can easily get into a mess, and a messy, unorganised timeline can disrupt your flow of animating when you’re having to look through a lot of layers to find the one piece you want to animate.

Not all rigs are the same, it’s down to understanding what needs to move and how best to control it to make an efficient workflow. You have to think far down the line as you don’t want to end up hacking your rig to do things it wasn’t built to do because you didn’t plan for a particular action. This adds unnecessary time and effort that could be used to perfecting an animation.

Rig Breakdown

The Kingfisher was broken down into body pieces inside After Effects. Each body piece was it’s own composition, which had all the positions of that piece laid out in a timeline, which was then controlled by time remapping. With me so far?

This meant, the main composition had only a single layer per body piece that could be switched out to a new shape/position by changing the frame number within the precomp.

Scene Design

The overall scene composition was based on the Richard Attenborough video we used for initial reference. Although the design evolved to become grander and allow room for text at the top, it didn’t move far from the original layout.

Here are screenshots on how the shot developed from the original sketch, to how it currently sits on Ryan Gittings website with header text and navigation over the top.

Creating a living scene

With the core animation in place of the Kingfisher, it’s time to bring the scene to life. To do this we animated small details within the scene, some of these details are so subtle, you may not consciously notice them on 1st glance. But brought together with other subtle movements, they collectively make the scene feel alive. Take a look at the fish in the water, the chimney smoke in the distant, the ripples in the water and the reeds in the foreground.

One of the secrets of post-production in animation is adding light. For this, we utilised Video Copilots Optical Flares to brighten up the sun, which adds a haze over the footage along with a subtle flare on the lens.

TL;DR Breakdown Video

Here’s a 1 minute video that quickly breaks down and shows all the stages involved to create the final animation.


Thanks to the upfront planning and research, there were very few problems encountered throughout the project. There are times we took shortcuts in the animation (such is the nature of animation) but we didn’t have to break the rig to achieve what we wanted. There are perhaps some elements we’d do differently next time, which is a great thing to take away after a project as you’re always learning and always improving.

Salt Bar that resides in Cardiff Bay’s Mermaid Quay, a location of food, drink and entertainment day and night. We were tasked to add our own animated touch to their new on-location promotional videos.

Salt Bar that resides in Cardiff Bay’s Mermaid Quay, a location of food, drink and entertainment day and night. We were tasked to add our own animated touch to their new on-location promotional videos.

Orchestrated by Fizzi Events, the project was to create a series of videos that promotes Salt Bars deals and events that would play and loop on the screens around the venue. With Joe Marvelly (creative videographer) filming and editing the final video, we were brought in to compliment his striking and creative footage by adding animation to help draw even more attention to the deals and events on offer in the bar, especially on busy nights.

Working closely with Joe, we were able to plan and shoot a series of motion tracked visuals that showed off the food and beverages available. This technique was especially effective when adding details to highlight the process of making cocktails.

Watching cocktails being made can be fascinating and the intention of adding extra details to the footage is to grab the viewers attention in the hope that afterwards, knowing a bit more on how it’s made and what goes into it, that they’ll head to the bar and buy themselves one.

Motion Tracking

One of the fun things about motion tracking is being able to put something digital into footage and make it look like it exists there. In order for us to achieve this we used Mocha. Mocha is an extra piece of software that comes bundled within After Effects and allows us to track objects with great precision.

However, depending on the footage, what you need to track doesn’t always go as planned. For example, in the video above, we added some spiky audio waves to the DJ Pioneer Decks. To do this you’d probably think of tracking each deck to apply the effect. As the camera was moving and the decks end up out of focus and off screen, we weren’t able to capture sufficient data to create an accurate track. The solution was in tracking the Pioneer name because it was on screen for the duration and stayed in focus enough for us to follow.

The result allowed us to capture position data that we ported into After Effects and apply to a Null that the visual would follow. Compared to After Effect’s own built in tracker, Mocha is a fantastic tool that’s quicker and smarter, with functionality to get an accurate track.

Mocha allowed us to capture a lot of position data quickly and easily, that in the end we could drop in any new visual and it would sit in place as if it already existed there.

The final result was a fun and stylised video with motion tracked visuals that complemented the appetising footage.


Footage: Joe Marvelly (
Client: Salt Bar ( and Fizzi Events (

Ellie Makes Music is a singer-songwriter from Cardiff and ‘MOUNTAINS’ is an animated music video we made to promote her second EP ‘Are You Listening? (2015)


We were approached by Ellie to create an animated music video for the lead single ‘Mountains’ to promote her forthcoming EP Are You Listening?’.

The song is about empowerment and resilience, It was discussed early on that the video essentially be a literal interpretation of the song and follow a scenic journey of overcoming obstacles.

Our aims for the video was to reflect the song and make it feel big, colourful and up lifting. Focusing on Ellie as the protagonist, the animation follows her as she overcomes varying obstacles of size. Starting with tying her shoelaces, jumping over a river, to ultimately succeeding in climbing a mountain.

Ellie along with Bounce publishing were terrific to work with, making it a fun project to work on.

Animating Ellie

To create Ellie as an animated character, we called upon the DUIK character rig for After Effects to bring her to life.

Ellie was designed in Illustrator, then imported into After Effects where she was rigged for animation. The DUIK rig is a huge time saver that’s built upon using Inverse Kinematics for it’s movement.

Using IK helps to add little nuances to the movement that you’d perhaps miss if using Forward Kinematics. This is especially useful when you’re animating to a deadline and wouldn’t otherwise have time to spend on those little details. To give an idea of it’s efficiency we’ve included a time lapse of a scene below.

Ellie Makes Music Links

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1455052354206{padding-top: 30px !important;}” el_class=”lead”]When we’re editing videos, we often pull from a library of various elements and presets we’ve created and downloaded to help speed up our productions.

We feel it’s time to give something back to the videographers, animators and visual artists who have shared resources that we’ve used and benefitted from.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Motion Elements

Behold, the Jammy Custard Motion Elements Pack free to download and use.

Whether you’re a professional or just starting out, these elements will no doubt help with your productions in both saving time and adding that extra detail in production value.

In the pack there are 26 motion elements and transitions designed to add that extra flair to your videos. The video below gives you a look at the elements which include various pops, loops and transitions rendered in 30fps, 1080p with alpha backgrounds. So you can drop them directly into your NLE of choice and use them right away.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=””][vc_btn title=”Download Jammy Custard Motion Elements Pack” style=”custom” custom_background=”#f71b78″ custom_text=”#ffffff” size=”lg” align=”center” link=”|title:Download%20Jammy%20Custard%20Motion%20Elements%20Pack|”][vc_column_text]

Creative Commons License
Jammy Custard Motion Elements Pack by Jammy Custard Studios is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at


Instructions for After Effects

After you’ve downloaded and unzipped the pack, create a folder in your After Effects project and drop in the elements to keep your workflow tidy.

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”1931″ img_size=”full”][vc_separator][vc_column_text]We’d love to know if you’ve used this pack, so don’t hesitate to drop us a tweet or a comment on Facebook to let us know what you think.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

[vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1450282072943{padding-top: 40px !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″ css=”.vc_custom_1450185039003{padding-top: 20px !important;}”][vc_column_text el_class=”lead”]To celebrate the release of The Force Awakens, we’ve dug through our (4 year old!) Star Wars Lego animation ‘A Merry Christmas You Must Have’ to give you a little insight in to how it was made.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]

VFX Breakdown

Below we’ve created a video that shows a side by side comparison of before and after VFX (visual effects).

The left screen is the raw footage taken in camera and the right is the result of Post Production when layers of effects, clean ups, colour work and audio is added.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=””][vc_column_text]

Making Yoda Jump

The most common question we get asked is “How did you make Yoda jump?”

Well firstly, the action is choreographed in storyboard form and then acted out with the minifigures on set to work out the best placement for the camera. Once that’s been decided we need to capture a clean plate. A clean plate is just a shot of the set without any of the characters or anything that’s likely to move which is used later in Post.

Next we continue with the animation, using rigs to position the character. In the photo below we’ve used a bit of transparent plastic to hold Yoda in the air, this is a two person job that requires stamina. One person is in charge of holding Yoda, whilst another is animating Santa, making sure Yoda has moved correctly and then captures the frame.

In post we mask out any rigging and shadows and use the clean plate to fill in the gaps. After that we can then add the lightsaber effect, sparks, lighting and anything else we can think of now the shots are locked in.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”1609″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center” onclick=”link_image” css_animation=”appear”][vc_column_text]

Lightsaber effect

If any of you budding VFX artists want to know how to make the lightsaber effect, we used VideoCopilot’s Lightsaber preset which comes with a tutorial on how to use it with AfterEffects[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]

Final Film

Here it is, after weeks of work we present the final film ‘A Merry Christmas You Must Have’.

So sit back, enjoy and have a Merry Christmas from all of us at Jammy Custard Studios[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][/vc_row]