Saturday, 29 November 2008

Jumping, Swinging, Blurring, Slurring, Elongating....

No this isn't a post about some of the spam you find in your inbox every single day, tis about animation instead.

I have a big long list ahead of me of things to go through in my T&P. Different techniques I have been trying a testing for a while and some new ones I have just come across and have never used. At some point, as part of my T&P, I will be dissecting one of my favourite cartoons (As well as quite a few other animators) of all time: 'The Foghorn Leghorn' directed by Bob McKimson for Warner Bro's back in the Golden Era. It is a tribute to everything animation should be and I love it - but that is for another post. The reason I mention it, is because it is packed full of different animation techniques with varying degree's of subtlety - from the promiscuous right through to the damn right blatant - I have learned a lot from that piece of animation and some of what I am going to talk about today has come straight out of that cartoon.

This is a test piece for Eligh's Dark Fable - so its rough, but I'm pleased with the amount of action I have got out of it. Firstly, I will show you the what I have done.

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It doesn't look like much because its short - but there is nearly 40 drawings in there as its all done frame by frame.

Let me talk you through some of the techniques I have tried to apply just in these few seconds. Firstly, the character entering the screen. A sound piece of advice that I have found works well is from Richard Williams 'The Animators Survival Kit'. "Always make sure that if a character enters or exits shot, it is done of at least 5 frames". I have applied this piece of advice here and in many other places and it has always helped smooth the characters entrance or exit.

Secondly, something that intend to discuss in detail in a separate blog: The Elongated Inbetween. An inbetween in a drawing between the key frames - a filler. People often look at inbetweens a necessary evil - they take a crap load of time, but they make things look smoother. Well, for a while that is how I looked at them - but then I started to try and have fun with them. The Elongated Inbetween is great for adding cartoon impact to things. It was used profusely in 40's animation - sometimes way, way over the top for ridiculous effect. You see these inbetweens in everything, even in 'people films' - but unless they are pointed out to you, you won't notice them. If you have ever paused a DVD on an action scene and somebodies face has been blurred across the screen - then you've seen an elongated inbetween and that is where animators got the technique from.


When something is moving so fast that even a camera can't catch it on 1's, things blur and slur. But adding in the elongated inbetween you can help things move more believably - even though the drawing is quite literally a load of blobs. I have used this here to minimal but goo effect.


Here it is used to minimal effect, with the head just slightly tearing off. But it adds a sense of motion that brings the animation to life.


The above example is my final example. Animators watching old films in slow motion back when animation was being born were startled by the amount of blurs and multi frame shots that got caught on old cameras...not so much of a problem today - but out of it was born the above technique. Drawing in a single frame with multiple things happening. This is a great device for the shot before the impact. It tells the views eye exactly what is happening but in extra fast motion just for one still. The mind just blanks it over, but the eye takes it all in. The eye can see at a maximum of 24 frames a second before everything becomes blurry - so when you want the fastest possible action, this is one of your go to methods.

I will cover these techniques and some more in detail in another blog - but I thought this was a great example of how I am applying the things that I am learning from my T&P research.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Boy Run

For my current Studio Project, I am animating a small boy doing many different things, including running, jumping, and walking and I thought it would be a good idea to tie it into my T&P. That way I get to practise everything once, before it goes into my final studio piece. It means I can get it wrong here - then get it right for my final product, which is a good thing.

To start with I thought I would begin by doing a run from a drawing I made of the little boy from my current project. This is the original concept drawing:

It is a cute little drawing and I want the run to match - even though, after planning my storyboard today I have had to write this scene out from the final piece due to time constraints.

I have made three mistakes with this particular run. 1) I have tried to make a cycle and they rarely ever work 2) I didn't plan it out, I just rushed in and 3) I started on the pass position frame....so my contact position was never worked out from the beginning.

This terminology pass position and contact position are taken from Richard Williams brand of planning a walk. I have always followed his work, I have read 'The Animators Survival Kit' back and forth and still haven't really made any progress. I can copy things out of it perfectly and get fantastic runs and walks....but I don't feel like I'm inventing anything. I have fully grasped the basics, I am just yet to put any of it into action. So I decided to change that - threw away the book and just went for it. It was a mistake not planning it, but I think learning the hard way is some times the best way for the kind of person I am. Let's just say, when I come to do my next piece of animation, it will be well planned in

Here is the basic run I drew. I wanted to get the legs going first.

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Once I had got the leg cycle going I added in the arms which you can see below. This isn't quite right. It looks OK. Obviously its wobbly, because it hasn't been cleaned up and its also on 2's. But I have learned a lot just for this simple drawing. I won't be attempting a cycle again for a while - I'm just used to working with Flash and now that I'm working with a genuine animation program its taking me a little longer to get used to it.

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The its not that bad, but it isn't quite what I was hoping for. At least I know what is wrong with it and how to make it better next time.

I was going to go over it, inbetween the entire thing and add the rest of the detail, but time has run away from me so that is for another day. Overall the result gets an OK from me, but it means I won't make the same mistakes in my final piece - which is all that's important.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Bigger Picture

Tonight one of my older pieces of work, 'IGOR: The Unhappy Clown' was shown at the IMAX cinema in Bradford as the opening piece of a show reel before a 3D film about a journey into space. It was quite a revealing experience in many ways: 1) I didn't know that I would get nervous about it playing and be quite as shy as I was at hearing my own voice (Masquerading as a Eastern European) put through a cinema's PA and 2) Seeing your own work on the big screen is quite an unusual thing.

I have seen it on big televisions, small monitors, portable devices, MAC's, PC's and a whole range of stuff - I've even seen it projected before. But watching it up there on the big screen with over a hundred people watching was a surreal experience that I honestly did not expect to be happening for many, many moons to come. And even when it did happen (Because I'm confident it will) I expected to be frustrating the person sitting next to me by pointing out all of the inbetweens (That's where it will probably start) or the Key frames (Hopefully that is where it will lead) or scenes (*Closes eyes and prays*) that I have animated as they flick by at some predetermined number of FPS.

Anyway. It was awesome. Nuff said.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Bouncing Ball Refined....

I said I would go back to the bouncing ball (And I will continue to do so throughout my career) because it is the most basic and also the most important technique an animator can know. It teaches weight, timing and material based physics. I wasn't happy with my previous attempts and at the moment I am forced to use make puppets out of my characters with Flash...so this took me about 5 minutes, but it was relief that I cannot explain. It felt good making every single frame. Planning the timing of the bounce, knowing where each frame needed to go to make a nice smooth bounce through the screen. T&P is my relief at the moment - Flipbook is definitely the tool for me.

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