Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Run Cycle

This is jumping ahead a little, but is something that I have been practicing and working on for quite some time. It was Ken Harris who said, "Learn walks, everything else will follow" and I believe him. Since I started practicing and learning how to do walk cycles and learning the ridiculousness involved in the process of walking (Fall, catch, fall, catch) my other animation seems to have begun to pick up a stronger sense of reality - or rather the opposite, but people are more willing to accept it because of the way I bend their perceptions.

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Now my characters will run like this (No inbetween frames).

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And walk like this (No inbetween frames).

Whereas before...then would have been bobbing up and down at the front of the screen so that I didn't have to draw legs and other complicated movements.

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I remember at one point I was proud of this walk....

It all seems so innocent and kind of rubbish now and that wasn't animated that long ago at all. Progress is constantly been made, though it is an uphill battle. I feel like I am finally making some headway though, which is important and my characters are beginning to show weight and timing, even though there is still a long way to go yet and a lot more techniques to try.

Animation Magazine

This Website...
...Is home to Animation Magazine a publication that has been running since 1986 and has covered every aspect of animation at every level without bias. It is one of the most accepting formats going, covering everything thing and anything to do with animation just for the love of the art.

They have great features on the website every week linking you to things going on in the world and on the Internet related to animation. Interviews with people in the industry and reviews of current technologies mean you are always are the front of what is currently happening.

This Book...
...Collects together all of the best parts from the last 20 years of the magazines publication and is a book that I have been eyeing up for some time. Sadly, it is very expensive.

Animation Magazine is great for research and has been a valued resource throughout my journey in becoming an animator. Sadly, I have only been able to garner scraps from it and around the Internet as it isn't published in this country and none of the resources i.e. library etc. stock it. One day I will make my way through the entire collection!

The Bouncing Ball

The bouncing ball technique is among the very first things you learn as an animator. Richard Williams, author of 'The Animator's Survival Kit' opens his book by reviewing how well all animators this technique, because even though it is a reasonably simple technique at first sight it really does carry with it every thing you will ever need to remember as an animator.

Weight and timing make things come to life, everything in animation is based on this principle. As humans we have built in perceptions that need to be exploited for us to understand and relate with what we are seeing. If we saw a bowling ball, a heavy object that we associate with throwing, floating away like a balloon, we as humans would be confused and irritated because something that we recognise hasn't reacted in the expected way - other people find that kind of thing very inventive and creative and enjoy being surprised, but if a child was to see it they would be quite frustrated that the TV was telling them something different to what they thought they knew.

To understand weight and timing you don't need to do that much research....you just need to look at the things around you and the things you already know well. If you have grown up understanding that balloons float, then nothing changes because of animation - they still float and that is all you need to know. But have ever noticed that in animation the balloon doesn't just pull tense the string its attached to, instead it bobs up and down even if the person is stood still - this way we show that it is in fact floating around. If we were to show a static balloon, just hanging in the air we would use of previous perception of the behaviour of a balloon to question the animation. So the point I'm obviously trying to make is that weight is just as much about understanding as it is about emphasis. In cartoon land a bowling ball isn't heavy, it's HEAVY!!! The character can't lift it! He straaaaains his back and his arms elasticate and his face contorts to emphasize his struggle - unless he is a superhero, then he can just lift up a house. That is weight, timing something we will delve into next time.

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This is one of my very first attempts at the bouncing ball technique from a few years ago.

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This is one of my later attempts....

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And this is my current level i.e one I just knocked up.

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Here it is in half time so you can see exactly whats going on....this one seems quite jagged, but whe you run ti at full speed you don't see it....then again you don't really see the ball either. Still a lot of room for improvement, I will come back to it in a later blog to search for improvement.

As you can see, there is a significant difference. Not in drawing style - that isn't even to be considered as there are only rough sketches not full animations. All you need to do is watch the film and question yourself - 'Do I believe that is a ball bouncing up and down?' If you're answer is yes, then it has weight and timing.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

New Proposal

I have drafted a new proposal for my T&P after lack of enthusiasm with the other one and the realization that it was quite a pointless venture, when I could be working on something that would improve my output and animation skills. To put it in laments terms, I realized that the Techniques & Processes used in animation would make a much better Techniques & Processes project! Its taken me a little too long to figure that out - but I am sure I can more than make up time considering I was working on this all summer. I feel rather stupid at the moment.

Here is my new proposal:

For my T&P I will be investigating and experimenting with the Techniques & Processes that make up Animation. There are many skills and practices that make up animation and many advanced ways of observing and creating life like forms that move in a way we perceive as ‘real’. Behind these lie very basic principles and techniques – these are the things I will be looking into.

Ken Harris, famous Disney animator from the Golden Era of Animation put it best when he said, “The true gift of an animator is being able to take the unbelievable and make it believable”. You cannot turn a cat inside out or break limbs in silly directions in real life, but in cartoons you can do just about anything and get away if you are a good animator. But reaching that stage is something that not all animators manage and in the modern climate it is something that is very often not required. I on the other hand do want to reach that stage and then go even further, so this line of investigation and practise is not only important knowledge, it is essential.

Some of the things I will be investigating include:

• Line of Action
• Whips
• Breaking Joints
• The Process of creating an animation: working from the stick figures through to final coloured piece.
• Forms
• Character creation
• Realistic and unrealistic movement

I hope that by practicing the T&P behind animation I can become a stronger animator with a better understanding of not only how the process of creating an animation works, but also how to make my animation more believable. I think this is essential research and practice and I believe it will do nothing but benefit my studio work and indeed my future as an animator.

FlipBook and a change of heart....

Having recently making the transition to FlipBook and wondering how I have ever managed to try and become an animator without it, I have made the executive decision to change my proposal and looks at something a bit simpler: The Techniques and Processes Behind Animation. This is going to center around 2D work, but as always with these things there is room for expansion. I will be animating the same piece of footage in several different mediums including 2D, hand drawn scans and 2D images - even going as far as to trace and hand paint some Cels. Primarily I want to look into the actual techniques behind animating, things like the 'line of action' and 'whip action' and many other techniques that are essential to becoming a good animator. I have been working on all of these things in my own time on top of all my other work and after some consideration it seemed ridiculous to not do this for my T&P when it is so important in becoming a solid animator.

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Above is a time lapse of me creating the video you can see below.

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28 minutes work to make just over 1 second of animation.

It is rough sketches, basic positioning with no timing and no in-betweens - in other words it isn't polished. I will be polishing up the lines, transforming the stick figure into a character of my own design, inbetweening and then coloring the character and adding a background to show the entire process of 2D digital animation - this is to illustrate the animation process, from beginning to end. After that I will begin working on Animation techniques and doing rough stick drawings practicing and investigating techniques.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Scanning and Converting Images to Vectors

Scanning a document into a computer is easy, but converting it to vectors without losing too much detail is difficult.

When you scan an image, it is a file type that memorizes the image with pixels. The word 'Pixel' is a contraction of the words 'Picture' and 'Element', two words that perfectly summarize both what a pixel is and what they are used create. It is the smallest piece of information in an image and is typically a sample of the original image, so that when many are grouped together they create a clearer image of said image. It is a very clever system, but it is also quite a dated system. This is only a very concise description of what pixels are, but I am not writing this blog about pixels, but rather about Input and more specifically conversion of said Input.

Vectors differ from Pixels greatly. Vector is a word we might more often associate with coordinates and algebra rather than computers and interesting enough, that is exactly what they are - coordinates and math for the computer. Vectors use Geometric shapes, lines and points to equate graphics, rather than samples of the original image. By doing this, not only can the computer calculate them faster (Because computers are built around binary, they are made to calculate data and numbers - that is what they were originally built to do) but they actually look better - there is no resolution distortion or loss of image quality. 'Better' isn't a great term: digital might be better. The images look better on computer screens, they are brighter and more alive but they are also significantly less human.

OK, now that we are clear on what the difference between Pixels & Vectors are, we can begin working. I will be creating a very short animation and using many, many different mediums to transfer that image to the computer. I will then be comparing the results, for clarity and future usage. For instance, will an animation turn out better if I scan images in, convert them and then use them in an animation or will the results be better if I just draw straight into a computer. I will be looking at many different mediums including pencil, clay, photographs, scanning and so forth. I will use the same piece of animation in all of these different mediums so that the difference in the results is crystal clear.

As an example of the difference in results that I expect, I will do a starting test by scanning in two different drawings of the same image and converting it to vectors, before comparing the results.

The first image was a very rough drawing in pencil. The second image is a traced version of the drawing in a darker, clearer pencil - this would be the drawing animation studios would use to scan in, so I expect the results to favor the traced drawing.

Both images are below scanned at 300 dpi. Can you tell which one is traced and which one is rough?



Already we see the higher image quality in the lined drawing. The paper that I used for tracing the image is professional 40grm animation paper - obviously that has made the difference. I will now convert the images in vectors and we can compare the difference in results.




As you can see from above, neither drawing transferred to vectors very well. There are probably just too many lines in this complicated image for the program to deal with. I will look into different programs and see if I can better results for when I actually start scanning in the scenes. I think this is going to be quite a fun investigation in using different methods of animation and it is also going to be very helpful in the future for knowing the ins-and-outs and difficulties of each method of animation.

Although, this was the not the result I was expecting, with a bit of work with Flash, you could probably get tighter vectors and better results - but this was mainly just an example of the kind of thing I will be doing throughout my T&P project. I will animate the scene I will be shooting, then I will begin doing the same animation in a series of mediums recording the difficulties and advantages to all the methods and the time spent and everything else.

A list of things to look at....

  • Scanning and converting to vectors in Flash
  • Scanning and converting to vectors in Illustrator
  • Drawing into the computer with a mouse
  • Drawing into the computer with a tablet
  • Different programs for drawing into the computer, Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator, Flipbook
  • Tracing Images with a tablet
  • Tracing Images with a picture taped to the monitor
  • Drawing to pixels and the differences
  • Drawing to vectors and the differences
  • Converting bitmaps
  • Cintiq tablets
  • Wacom brand vs other brands
  • Tablet PC's + Laptops
  • Touchscreen Monitors

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

INPUT.

The main reason I have chosen this topic to study for my T&P is because I believe a better understanding of this subject will help me create better animations at a faster rate and decide whether drawing directly into the computer or drawing onto paper and transferring things into the computer is the better way. I would like it to turn out that the later is best way, but that is just because I am a traditionalist.

I thought the best thing to to begin this blog would be to go through some of the input methods I have previously used and talk about their pro's and con's.

Tablet
I have worked with a tablet now for many years, going through many different brands and price ranges before I reached a tablet that I was happy with...which of course turned out to be a 'Wacom'. Wacom represent the great jump forward in interfacing with the computer. This is been taken to the next level with touch screen monitors and laptops that allow direct input - but this will most likely be discussed a little later on in the blog.

I have used several brands of drawing tablet now, including Touch, Face and several others and have found Wacom to be of the highest availiable quality. I found the A3 tabet to be quite frustrating for animation because it in ivolved a lot of movement and even though it gave me a bigger surface area to work with, it actually hindered my animation work. It was handy for tracing pre-drawn images and drawing over them on the tablet - but this wasn't as acurate as I hoped. The A4 tablet was the best, but I had to settle with the next one down due to money issues. That said, it is still of the same high quality - just a smaller surface area. I will be covering Tablets in more detail later in the blog.

Here is a short list of some of the things I will be covering in no particular order:

  • Scanning and converting to vectors in Flash
  • Scanning and converting to vectors in Illustrator
  • Drawing into the computer with a mouse
  • Drawing into the computer with a tablet
  • Different programs for drawing into the computer, Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator, Flipbook
  • Tracing Images with a tablet
  • Tracing Images with a picture taped to the monitor
  • Drawing to pixels and the differences
  • Drawing to vectors and the differences
  • Converting bitmaps
  • Cintiq tablets
  • Wacom brand vs other brands
  • Tablet PC's + Laptops
  • Touchscreen Monitors


Testing, Testing...One, Two. One, Two...Alrighhhht....

This is where my T&P research and progress will be documented. On the internet for all to see! For my T&P this year, I am going to experimenting with input devices for Animation. Looking at different devices and methods of inputting images into a computer to use in an animation. This is my brief:

T&P Proposal
Digital

What will I be investigating?
For my Digital Techniques and Processes project I am going to investigate different methods of converting drawings into digital data. A major issue that animation companies around the world have is the input of drawings into digital animation programs and the digitalisation of hand drawn images. Not only is it a very lengthy and time consuming process, it is also very expensive and extremely inaccurate. I have wanted to research and investigate new methods of importing sketches and drawings into a digital space for a long time but have been waiting for the correct time and opportunity to try and test several ideas that I have already had.

What are the main problems I am likely to come across during my investigation?
There are many, many problems with importing images and then converting them into different types of digital data so they can be used with animation programs, but the main issues I have found are:

  • It takes a ridiculous amount of time to scan many, many images if you are working at even if you work with a low frame rate or at the standard frame rate ‘on 3’s’ (A drawing every three frames).
  • There is a loss of image quality leading to wobbly lines.
  • Converting images to vectors of other ‘digital ink’ can take a long time for a computer to process.
  • Keep the continuity of the animation becomes increasingly difficult when you start cutting and pasting. It then takes a lot time once again to reposition each drawing correctly so that the drawings ‘line up’.
  • It costs an awful lot of money and creates an extra workload to employ somebody to scan in hundreds and hundreds of drawings. You are not replacing the camera-man of the traditional animation world, instead you are creating an entirely new job – scanner/scannist/image digitiser.
  • Drawing directly into the computer is a time consuming process and is extremely inaccurate unless you have a dedicated studio or a ridiculous equipment budget. A tablet PC or even screen tablet such as the Wacom Cintiq are expensive pieces of equipment and providing hundreds or even just tens of animators could end up been a quarter of a million pound job.

How do I intend to go about solving or overcoming these problems?
During this project I will be trying and testing several new methods looking mainly for a way to ‘cheapen’ the process of image conversion and looking at different ways animators on a cheap budget can get better results without having to spend thousands and thousands of pounds. At the same time I will trying and testing new methods of importing drawings, sketches and images and converting them into ‘digital ink’. These will include investigation into conversion to vector images, pixilation and the use of ‘true images’ in computer animation. Animation has always and will always be a time consuming process, but a large part of my investigation be looking into ways I can speed up the scanning, conversion and output processes. Realistically, these are the only areas that can be sped up – there will more than likely never be a quicker way to make thousands and thousands of consecutive images that together create the illusion of movement. Slave labour and dedication are the only way to animate.

Things I will be testing include:

  • Do different levels of DPI in scans affect the outcome of conversion of images into vectors?
  • Do different types of pencil and pen affect the outcome of conversion?
  • How accurate do the drawings need to be when scanning in?
  • How does the tolerance level affect conversion of images into vectors and what is the best tolerance when using say a 2B pencil?
  • Etc.