Monday, 19 January 2009

X-Sheets or Exposure Sheets

Exposure Sheets or X-Sheets are used in animation to time shots. They generally run down the page and they provide a guide to the camera man for how to shoot the scene and a guide for the animator on the timing of the shot.

In traditional animation X-Sheets provided a way to make sense of a shot when you couldn't just output every time you adjusted your shot to see how it looked. The best you had was holding the sheets up and flicking the paper to see how the animation flowed...you had to develop a sense of timing. Modern animators don't have to do that because if something isn't working they can change it and test output in about a half second to see how it looks. I have been developing my sense of timing for a while now or trying to at least and it is a very difficult thing to do. By using FlipBook, which uses a tradition X-Sheet layout, my timing has significantly improved. I now understand how long certain movements need to last for a required look. To an extent at least anyway. I still output constantly, because I have the fortune and ability to do so, so why not.

The X-Sheet is essentially a timeline and as such I feel it is only fair to get fair cop out of the amount of work I put into making my animations, so I have taken some screen shots of some of my time lines from my animation to prove just how much effort goes into making any kind of animation, let alone traditional animation.

This is a traditional X-Sheet. On it you would write the numbers of the drawings next to the appropriate frames. A certain number of frames represents a foot of film and this is how animators would time things, by referencing to a distance they could visualise. Certain studios expected nearly 8ft of work from an animator every week. Insanity!

The timeline in Flash isn't that different. You have the number of frames along the top. Each black dot represents a Keyframe. Keyframes are the drawings that HAVE to be there for the shot to make sense.

The wonders of modern technology allow use to see all of the drawings in the timeline if we want to, so that we can see how they lay out. This can be handy for checking the timing on things and learning for the future. He we see the cannon extend and then do a flip before returning to its normal position. Above it was see the smoke that puffs out of the cannon and disappears over a few frames.

Click the image to make it bigger. Here we see all of the frames that make up a scene I am still very proud of. The jumping shot from Eligh's Dark Fable.

Here we see Captain Uber crouching down preparing to blast off and defeat his arch rival, Pervert Man! Literally thousands and thousands of minute changes or completely new drawings go into every shot and as I have got better at animating there are now significantly more complete drawings than ever before...which means more time and effort :)

So this is where the heart of animation lies. How things look depend on how you dangle them on the time line. With practise and patience you get better and better at it.

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