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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

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No. 2, Problem 1: Fixing a Bad Drawing (Part 1)

They say we learn not from our triumphs but from our mistakes, and I certainly subscribe to that idea.  But it also may be possible to learn from the mistakes of others, so on this blog I am going to expose some of my own mistakes for your benefit.

The mistake in this case was to not plan well enough to get the very best possible storytelling drawing to put across my idea, and the result is a scene that is okay, even perhaps good in many respects but for this one drawing.  Yet this drawing is critical, and its replacement is causing me a lot of work.

Let's first look at the pencil test of the rough animation with all layers present:

video


My pencil tests are done using Toki Line Test, so as they are intended only as an in-house working tool and not to be seen by anyone but the animator, the contrast is forgiveably poor.  But though detail may be hard to make out, the movement and timing can be seen, which is the important thing.

In the scene previous to this, the man had the goose under his left arm.  He stepped forward and released it into the arms of the woman, who has just caught it as we cut to the scene in question.

The momentum of the goose causes the woman to momentarily lose her balance.  Holding the goose, she rears back, nearly out of control, then suddenly kicks her left foot forward, helping her to recover and go into the stabilized pose at the end.

Only, wait a moment.  Let's look at that drawing where the woman is supposed to be farthest off balance:


Now I take off my animator's hat and and put on the critical hat of a director or supervising animator.  (As a one-man studio, I have to assume all these roles, and more.)  "What the hell are you thinking, Jim?" I say.  "This woman isn't off balance at all.  In fact, she is in perfect control. She even has the center of gravity of the goose right above her own.  It doesn't tell the story, and it isn't funny."

Red-faced, I return to my animator's desk.  The director is right: it isn't funny, largely because it means I have a lot of work to do to get it right.  Many drawings will have to be changed or replaced before this mistake is corrected, which means extra work not only for me, the animator, but also for my assistant (me) and my inbetweener (me again!)

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Looking at the drawing, I realize one probable reason it is so constrained: I  had found myself near to the edge of the paper, and I was unconsciously worried about getting it all on.

In cel animation this might have been a real problem, calling for a new layout or complete restaging.  But in my world where dependence on the physical limitations of art materials ends once my drawings are scanned, it is only an imaginary constraint.  I can easily splice more paper onto the edges of my drawings to get the job done.

First  thing to do, obviously, is to redraw that bad extreme.  Here is my result:



Okay, now the woman is in real danger of falling over backward.  The goose is big and it has been flapping its wings, which adds to her instability.  Plus, with the goose nearly turned on its side, there is more of a sense of lopsidedness.  Also its confusion and discomfort  add more humor to the scene.  So I like the new drawing and, more important, the director likes it, too.  (Don't worry that the goose is just a big marshmallow shape right now; that will be taken care of on a second pass, as secondary animation.)

Nothing to it, right?  So now there is nothing left to do but CORRECT ALL THE RELATED DRAWINGS  THAT COME BEFORE AND AFTER IT.

Next:  Fixing the Recovery

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