For People Crazy About 2D Animation!

Acme Punched! is for people crazy about 2D animation. It may be enjoyed by beginners and others, but it is aimed at animators who know already something about the process of animation and the basics of character animation. In large part, it will attempt to provide a deep look into the problem solving that goes on in my head as I work out a scene, often in step-by-step posts that I will sometimes enter in "real time", without knowing in advance what the outcome will be. Mistakes and false starts will not only be included but emphasized, so that the creative process of animation will be portrayed realistically. And, while my own bias is for 2D drawn animation, many of the effects and principles discussed here can apply to CGI 3D animation as well. I hope the blog will prove useful and instructive for all.

-Jim Bradrick

Thursday, December 27, 2018

No. 177, A Wish for the New Year

At Year's End...

A wish for Peace on Earth, at second thought, is not enough right now. An equally important hope is is for An End to Tyranny, which is on the rise, even in the United States where the man now in the White House wants to be our tyrant.

Sorry.  I try to keep this blog non-political, and yet...

...and yet,


Sunday, December 16, 2018

No. 176, Staging with Perspective

Using Extreme Perspective in Staging, with Notes on Matching Consecutive Shots

Creating a layout with unusual perspective
Just now I am working on a scene that has to match the previous scene closely; the difference between the two is just a matter of "camera" angle on the two characters.

The first scene, 5-24, looked like this in storyboard:

(The female officer is about to draw her service pistol, but the male officer  quickly blocks her move with his hand. She then looks up at him to see his face.)

Then after animation, it looked like this:

The following scene, 5-25, was drawn this way in the storyboard...

(The male officer shakes his head, as if to say: You don't need that here.)

...but this drawing no longer matched the animated version of 5-24, so my problem was to make a layout of 5-25 that looked like a natural change of angle.

I had to imagine and draw a rotation of the crouching woman officer and a corresponding view of the man.  It took me a couple of tries before I got what I was looking for. Note that the perspective is quite close to the storyboard panel above.

The version on the right was what I felt I needed. Though the final layout was to be a closeup, this long shot showing the characters' full poses was important for understanding how the heads and shoulders should be positioned. Note the faint perspective lines behind the two figures.

From here it was a simple job to do the closeup layout. In the end what is important is the eye contact between the two characters, but getting the poses right helps to make a convincing and dramatic shot.

The final layout for scene 5-25.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

No. 175, Going To and Fro

In animation, sometimes a character moves, then returns to her original pose. Most obviously it happened all the time in games animation a few years ago, where a character always had what was called a root position. With the increased complexity of computer gaming animation nowadays, it probably isn't so important, but back then whether a character took just one step or ran and chopped with her sword, the animator always had to add the frames that got his character back to the root.

And when you have to animate something like that, you will always ask yourself what it would look like if you just ran the to drawings in reverse, so you wouldn't have to do any fro drawings.  Because you are always looking for ways to economize on drawings, right? Unfortunately, the answer is usually no; it won't look good.

When it comes to animating the whole figure, this just about goes without saying. Running the drawings backwards will just look like running the drawings backwards, and not like anything natural at all.

What about a head turn?  Yes, it can work, if certain conditions are right.

Here is an example that just came off my disc this week:

This man is looking off to the left of the screen.  For a moment, he turns his head to look to screen right, holds, and then returns to his original position exactly. I filmed it with two repeats in this pencil test so that you can observe it carefully.

It works because there is nothing in the head that is subject to drag or follow-through. (If the man had long hair, you would have both drag and follow-through.)

It works because what he sees when he looks to the right does not cause a change in expression or demeanor. (If he saw something that startled him, it is doubtful that he would return to his original pose afterwards.)

It works because the blink in the middle of the move works in either direction.

Yes, and yet I did do something to make the return different from the original move: I added three more inbetweens to the return move, six frames that were just enough to show a slower rate of speed.

*    *    *
And did you notice a drawing error in this pencil test?  I did; the hair on the side plane of his head should look narrower after he turns to screen right, but it doesn't. My bad! as they used to say.  But I have now fixed the drawings.

Friday, November 30, 2018

No. 174, Designing on the Fly

In feature animation production, the storyboard artists are not required to stay too much on model with the characters. As long as one can tell what character it is, and if expressions and body language are conveyed, a character may be drawn roughly and loosely.  For them, the important things are staging and camera viewpoint and clarity of action.

The independent animation film maker who is doing everything himself will sometimes design a character during the storyboarding process. In such a case, it is equally okay to be a bit careless about details and accuracy, because the character design is still fluid.

By the time real animation begins, however, it is well to have a model sheet made up.  I have a good example of that here.

I have a number of short scenes featuring these two characters, and I intend to animate all the scenes  as a group. This is a good way to minimize a tendency to keep on designing as the work goes along; if I were to do one scene in the group now and another six months later, there would be a likelihood that I might have trouble getting the character to look the same.

Figure 1

Figure 1 shows a collage of storyboard images of the two characters I am calling Ben and Bev.  They are male and female security personnel at the airport, in charge of moving people through the luggage X-ray process.  Here, Ben's images are more consistent than those of Bev, whose hair style keeps changing through the sequence's storyboard.

Figure 2

In Figure 2, I have retraced all the images from Figure 1, plus many more from a second sheet, working to make consistent all the details and proportions as I drew. The result is a model sheet that will definitely help me to keep these characters in line for all of their scenes.

Friday, November 23, 2018

No. 173, Making It Bigger

Working Too Small

We all know by now that CGI character animation has the ability to be far more subtle in movement than hand-drawn work could ever be. The limit of hand-drawn subtlety is easily defined: it is basically down to the width of a pencil line. That's why in our hand-drawn medium, we look for other ways to distinguish our craft than by competing with CGI in this area where they are clearly the champs.

That said, we still need to express some subtlety and slow movement in our work, sometimes getting down to that pencil-line thickness between drawings in order to put across our ideas in animation.

Why, then, would anyone work at a smaller scale than they have to?  The bigger your image, the more subtle you can be.  A character drawn 9 inches high can be much more subtle than a character drawn only 4 1/2 inches high, because the width of that pencil line stays the same. Right?

Yet scaling my characters smaller on the page than they have to be is a mistake I have repeatedly committed in my own work. I just caught myself doing it again, struggling with miniature hands and fingers and other details until I realized my mistake.

Animators who do their hand-drawn work paperless, drawing digitally with a stylus directly into the computer, do not really have this problem because they can zoom their view in and out at will. It is to those of us who still animate on paper that I am talking to here.

In the days of filmed animation, the animator was usually forced to work at the scale dictated by the action within the layout. A character might have to run off into the distance until it was quite small on the paper, losing detail and integrity, going off-model along the way. There were examples at Disney where tiny onscreen characters had been animated large, then reduced to the correct relative size with photostats before inking, but that was expensive to do and rare.

But if, like me, you do a hybrid sort of animation, working first on paper and then scanning the drawings into ToonBoom, TV Paint, or other such software, you can take advantage of the software's scaling capability in reverse.  For example, if you have a situation where your field to photograph is 11 inches wide, and your character in that scene is two inches high, you can animate that character on paper at 6 or 8 inches high and then, after scanning, bring that layer down to the correct scale relative to the background.

One limitation to this is a character who must be animated showing her whole height; in that case you would not want to scale it up so much that it would crop off any of the limbs.

The point is to always think about this when approaching a scene.  Could you be drawing larger? If you could, then probably you should.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

No. 172, Indiegogo Campaign for "Hand Drawn" Feature Film

"Hand Drawn"

As an enthusiastic supporter of anything promoting 2D animation in this CGI age, I am happy to make known to you an Indiegogo project called Hand Drawn.  This will be a feature-length film of commentary and interviews with many well-known and lesser-known animators from across North America and perhaps also Europe and Asia.

Indiegogo is a crowdfunding website where you pledge what you can, from one dollar to several hundred, with perks increasing according to how much you put in.  I just learned of the campaign today (15 November, 2018), only eleven days before the deadline.  So if you want to help, go now to this direct link.

You can also go to the project homepage, here, to see all the details.

If you love 2D animation as I do, and you want to preserve and promote it, this is an opportunity to contribute to that cause. They are asking only $15,000 dollars, and as of now they are a little more than halfway there, so your effort, even if it is but a few dollars, can really make a difference.

Don't  wait!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

No. 171, The Actor Who Might Have Been an Animator: Scott Wilson

Scott Wilson

Most fans of The Walking Dead probably know that actor Scott Wilson died at age 76 on October 6 of this year.  As a character actor he was also well known for movie roles in such films as  In the Heat of the Night and In Cold Blood, both from 1967, and in The Great Gatsby and many others over the years.

What is not well known is that he was always interested in animation, and that he had wanted to be an animator at one time.  Looking through online obituaries, I have not found a single mention of this obscure fact.

Years ago--I don't know where--I read of this interest of his, and I just filed it away in my trivia filled mind. Then, not long ago, when reading or listening to a Richard Williams piece on You Tube, I was fascinated to learn that Wilson as an older man had attended one of Williams' four-day animation class seminars. Richard Williams quoted Wilson as having made a remark in class about a similarity between live acting and acting in animation, and in Williams' book, Scott Wilson and his wife, Heavenly, are mentioned on his acknowledgements page.

To me it was a validation of my previous knowledge of Scott Wilson's interest, and it showed that his fascination with the art of animation still burned somewhere in his heart, despite success in his acting career.

I don't know any more than this simple fact, but with me it earns him this respectful obituary not only as a fine actor, but as an animator who might have been.