Thursday, 15 January 2009

Slurs & Blurs

Slurs and blurs are a common effect in animation and they stem from research done in the 1930's at many studios around America and continue through to Chuck Jones experimental work at the Warner Brothers Studios in some of his films.

When animators slowed down live action films to study the motion in them for practise, they saw an unusually high amount of blurred frames. This struck them as strange because at normal playback speed they were barely noticeable. Cameras back then weren't quite as good as they are today and couldn't capture motion quite as well, that said even today if the eye can still only see at 24 frames a second, so anything faster than that will blur and distort. Because of this, animators started to experiment with blurs and slurs in there films and they soon found them to be quite useful for conveying very fast motions or actions and adding a bit more life to their animations.

Slurring and Blurring are basically the same thing and are an extension of the stretch and squash techniques. By dragging a cartoon out to unrealistic proportions for just a millisecond, the action that follows it becomes immediately more vibrant. To do this you might draw just a whole blur of colours, or stretch the character from one place to another and the following frame have him snap back into place. In traditional animation they often used dry brushing rather than stretching entire drawings. This was the simple are of taking a dry brush with some ink on and trailing beyond a fast motion in the scene.

Chuck Jones experimented with endless kinds of effects to try and get more action and motion into his cartoons especially his faster cartoons like Roadrunner in which you will often just see a blue blur instead of a bird. So how can you apply slurs and blurs effectively in your work?

Here are a few examples from my own work:


In modern animation you don't see slurs and blurs quite as often as you used to because everything is stylised and rubbish. But if you use them effectively they can give a great classic cartoon feel to your work. These two shots above for instance follow on from some fairly straight forward animation without any unnecessary embellishments. But by just adding two frames at the end with the feet and legs zipping out of shot you show the character leaving the scene at inexplicable speed.


To clarify the difference the above shot is squash and stretch, two principle animation techniques. These are not slurs and blurs.


However these two are. Looking at them on their own they make no real sense, in fact you can barely see what they are. But whizzing past at 24/25 frames a second, you get a fluid and lovely motion that gives a lot of emphasis to your work.

Mastering slurs and blurs is difficult. You can over use them and end up with really messy looking scene and at the end of the day, nothing makes a scene look quite as good as just good solid drawing and good solid drawing.

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