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

Monday, June 17, 2013

No. 42, Jim on a Limb: One (Part 1)

Jim on a Limb

This is the first of my posts in which I am attempting something difficult, a piece of animation not in the books, and where I am not completely sure of myself.  Plus, I am letting my readers see from the beginning most of my thoughts and all of my attempts to get it right. In the words of the Anglo-American expression, I am "out on a limb".  For me it will be an adventure, and I invite you to ride along with me.
Have I mentioned that animating pantomime is harder than animating dialog?  Oh, yes.

The uninitiated think that dialog makes animation more complicated, but in fact it affords the animator much in the way of guidelines and direction.  The actor's performance, if expert, sets up most of the timing, emphasis and emotion for the discerning animator.  The performance can inspire the animator to strong poses and expressions.With a scene that is entirely in pantomime, on the other hand, the animator is the only actor, and all timing and other nuances of the performance must come from within.

The scene I am involved with here concerns  three characters--the woman, the man and the fox--each of whom must be made to perform convincingly not just in isolation, but in relation to the other two.

And the section of that scene I am focused on now is the most difficult I have faced to date.

The fox, held in the hands of the man, has bitten the woman in the nose.  In shock and pain, she has pulled away, but the fox has held on, forcing the man to lift the fox up in order to ease the strain on the woman's nose.  She has stopped, and slowly she lowers her head as the man carefully lowers the fox.  The man then relaxes a little and straightens himself, his head rising up warily as he keeps his eyes on the fox.  The woman watches the man.  Then the man tilts his head for a better look at the fox.  The woman pulls herself into an attitude of supplication and, looking now at the fox,  attempts a forced smile.  They end the scene in stalemate.

Let's take a look at some rough key drawings made while working this out. 

Fig. 1.  This is the last frame of the action shot where she has just been bitten by the fox and has jerked away.
Fig 2.  This represents an extreme closeup that will last about 30 frames, or 1 1/4 seconds.
Fig. 3.  First frame as we cut back to the same framing as before.  The characters have settled into their poses (compare to fig. 1).
Fig. 4.  The man and woman, watching each other, carefully lower the fox back down.
Fig. 5.  They have come down as far as they will go.  Short hold.  The woman still watches the man, but he has moved his attention now to the fox.

Fig. 6.  The man drops his shoulders and straightens up,  He is now regarding the fox with alarm and confusion.  How could this little animal do such a thing?
Fig. 7.  He begins to lower his head again but stops, hesitant.
Fig. 8.  He lowers his head the rest of the way and peers at the fox; he is disappointed and bewildered.
Fig. 9.  Now the woman turns her attention from the man to the fox.  This is an anticipation.
Fig. 10.  Unsure what to do, she turns her head a little and gestures as if about to speak to a human.
Fig. 11.  Realizing that that is futile, she instead tries to smile at the fox (perhaps that will help!), and helplessly brings her fists together in supplication.

So there are the key drawings as I see them now.  As of this writing I have not worked out the exact timing.

Wish me luck!

Next: Timing and Spacing, and the First Animatic

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