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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

No. 18, Rare Animation Books: Animation in Twelve Hard Lessons

The cover of the book, its title drawn in so ornate a style that one can hardly read it.
Animation in Twelve Hard Lessons was first published in 1972 by the author's own company, Robert P. Heath Productions, of Tampa, Florida.  I think I got my copy about 1980, and in those days before the internet, it is probable that I saw an ad for it in the catalog of Cartoon Colour Company of Burbank, California, which is still in the business of selling animator's supplies to this day (including, I must mention, animation paper which is acme punched.)

Bob Heath's one claim to fame was that he animated the short cartoon "The Critic" for Pintoff Productions.  With comic narration by Mel Brooks, this cartoon won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Subject for 1963.

Heath subsequently ran his own animation studio and developed the book during this time.  Originally it was designed as a correspondence course, which means that students would enroll by mail, receive lessons by mail, and send in their work and receive corrections and comments by mail.  Complete the whole course of work, and you get a certificate of completion.  It is the same idea as was successfully carried out by such schools as the well-known Famous Artists School and is similar in concept to the online courses available from independent schools today.  However, I don't know if it was ever actually offered to the public as a correspondence course, or only as the book that came into my hands.

It was a large format book, 11" x 14" (28cm x 35.5cm) and 142 pages long, and it offered a practical education in basic character animation in a "limited animation" character design style that was fashionable in the 1950's and 60's,  more UPA than Disney.  After some introductory material about equipment, the 12 lessons included three on inbetweening, two on assistant animation, one on general animation, and then a chapter each on animation pans, the animation camera, tricks of the trade, animation actions, working with animation, and technical animation.

Each of the 12 chapters had exercises or problems to be solved, and each had solutions to its problems provided at the back of the book, thus maintaining the lesson and answer structure of the correspondence course.  My copy of the book is somewhat mutilated because of the necessity in doing the lessons of cutting up the pages to remount the drawings in register on animation paper.  But I have kept all the material together and haved taped the pages back together so that today I have virtually the whole book.
A typical page of illustrated instruction from Animation in Twelve Hard Lessons.

Personally I never completed all the lessons because by the time I got Animation in Twelve Hard Lessons, I had already learned many of these basic lessons elsewhere.  I don't know how many animators benefitted from this book, but I believe a person who had absorbed all its information would have been qualified for at least an entry level position at any studio producing animated television commercials in its time.

In addition to the book, I purchased at the same time the animation disc offered by Heath Productions.  It was manufactured of molded particle board with a frosted glass inset panel and movable Acme peg bars of black plastic with metal pegs.  I used this disc until I replaced it with the much cooler and more expensive aluminum disc I still use today.
The Heath Productions animation disc.  The only way to lock down the sliding peg bars was to tape them down...but it worked!
Although this book is long out of print, as of this writing there are several American booksellers offering used copies online.

Next: Getting Your Paper Animation into Toon Boom Animate Pro.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

No.17, Problem 3: The Fox On the Man's Head (Part 6)

Head To Tail: : Putting It All Together

Because I have up to four layers here in the pencil test, I took the time to clean up all the drawings in black pencil so you will get the clearest possible view.   Here is the result.

This is about how I want it.  I will add  a couple of eye blinks to the man, but I will do this on the fly, in Toon Boom Animate Pro.  I will also add a camera move at the end, trucking in on the fox as he sits down.

This scene is ready to be inked and painted, and I have decided to go ahead and do that so you can see the final result and get the full production picture of a scene from rough pencil tests through final color.

This will take me a while, so in the meantime I will do a few posts on rare animation books you may never have even heard of.

Next: Animation In Twelve Hard Lessons

Monday, October 15, 2012

No. 16, Problem 3: The Fox On the Man's Head (Part 5)

The Breakout of the Shakeout

Before we get back to the tail, I thought you might like a close look at the drawings involved in the fox shaking himself out after being matted down beneath the man's hat.  It involves drawings on both 1's and 2's, and also the use of multiple images.

Here again is a look at this portion of the sequence at full speed.  I remind you again, we are at this point ignoring the tail, which will now be on its own layer.


Now here is another  version of the same drawings, but this time with enough frames exposed for each that you can observe every drawing and its relationship to the others.


Up through drawing 61, the drawings are all exposed on 2's, with 61 itself being held for 4 to stress the anticipation.

Then 55 through 78 are on 1's, after which we return to 2's with 79 through 85.

The drawings with two heads each--66, 69, 72 and 75--are used where the fox whips his head across from one side to the other, spanning a distance where there can be no overlap of forms of the head.  In such a situation, some artifice is usually advised to help the viewer bridge the gap between the widely spaced drawings.  This might be a blur, a smear, a trail of speed lines arcing across, or, as in this case, the use of multiple positions of the moving object on one drawing.   (Note: The trailing heads on drawings 69, 72 and 75 are drawn in red only to make them stand out in the pencil drawings from the blue lines that they cover.)

Note that the head in the drawing following each of these is very closely related to the forward head of the multiple drawing; it is advanced just a little more, and the ears continue forward in a follow-through.

Mine is only one way that this might have been done.  There are many ways of convincingly  animating a quick motion like this, and therein is the joy and intrigue of animation, that although it is possible and useful to work with formulae, one may also invent something new that may be more effective than the old. 

Next: Tail and All: The Full Scene Put Together

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

No. 15, Problem 3: The Fox On the Man's Head (Part 4)

Shakin' It Out

Before doing the rest of the tail, which after all is a follow-through item, I needed to finish all necessary work on the body, lest the tail end up wagging the fox.

The two unresolved elements were: 1) how the fox sits down after shaking himself out, and 2) how his bristly fur settles down, and what kind of timing that called for.

Sitting Down

Previously I had only done key drawings.  Now I added in my inbetweens and got this:
This was good in most respects, but I thought the head turn, where he looks down, should hold longer.  (Remember, we are more-or-less ignoring the tail for now.)

I altered the timing so that he is looking down for 8 frames instead of two.  Here is how that looks:
Much better, and I am now ready to look at it together with the shakeout that comes before.  Also I now add detailed drawings showing his fur, which is all bristled out after the violent shake, settling down as he goes into his hold.

Here is all of that together:
All seems to be working.  Yet to do is the final timing, mostly on its own layer, of the tail itself, and then a test of the entire combined scene.

But first...

Next: An Analysis of the Shakeout Drawings and Timing