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, August 21, 2012

No. 13, Problem 3: The Fox On the Man's Head (Part 2)

As stated, the first thing I want to do here is to change the "take" to something more subtle, and rather more amused than alarmed.  Here was my first try at the revision:

Better than before, but it still isn't quite right.  The arm movement overstates the reaction (not to mention that the framing will be a tighter closeup), and the eyes stay closed for too long.

Let's try again, letting the shoulders do the work and making the blink much shorter.  Here it is again:

Good; this is what I was looking for.  He just shows that he is aware that the fox is moving, without being too worried about it.

Next I will re-time the unwinding of the tail, slowing that down and also bringing it to a hold at the end after the body does, as it is seldom good to have everything stop all at once.

Next: The Fox Unwinds

Thursday, August 16, 2012

No. 12, Problem 3: The Fox On the Man's Head (Part 1)

First, you will need to understand the story at this point.

The Story: 
The man has arrived home to present 3 things to his wife.  He has already given her the goose and a bag of grain.  But he has concealed his third purchase as a surprise: under his hat, perched atop his head is a live fox.

In problem 2 we saw how he pulled his hat off, using the stagger effect.  Now we see the fox, his ears down and his tail tightly furled around his body, so that the man's wife is not sure what she is seeing.

The Scene:
Closeup.  The fox uncoils his tail and shakes himself out.  The man reacts in a subdued "take" at the movement of the fox.

The First Version:
In my first pass, I had the man reacting with alarm as the fox uncurled.  Here is the pencil test of that:
Pencil Test 1

In fact, the first test had the man waiting until the fox was completely uncurled before he reacted.  This was poor planning, a too literal interpretation of the rule of thumb that the movement of a secondary character can draw the viewer's attention away from the main movement of the primary character.  Often that means to have only one character moving at a time. But I realized it doesn't work well for the man to wait all that time before reacting to the movement of the fox; he should logically react right away.  Therefore as you see above, I have moved his reaction up to the beginning of the movement of the fox.  This is better, but still, it does distract.

What would be a better solution?

In watching the movement of the fox (which I am basically happy with), I realized that it would be more effective to have the tail begin to unwind much more slowly, then time the man's reaction to happen with that.  Thus the man will be at rest (and not distracting us) by the time the fox goes into his more violent movement.

There are two other things I am going to change here.  First, the shot was to be a wide view as you see in Pencil Test 1.  Since planning that, I have had more experience in Toon Boom AnimatePro, and found how easy it is to use a Camera Module.  I decided I wanted a tighter closeup, excluding the wife from the frame, more like this:

The other change is to the man's reaction itself.  Instead of being alarmed by the fox's movement, he should react only a little here, with an expression more of delight than of uncertainty.  Notice that I have the man's head moving very little, because I want the fox to remain fairly stationary.  I will stay with that constraint, mostly moving his shoulders instead of his head, and giving him that more pleased expression.

Next: Problem 3: The Fox On the Man's Head (Part 2)  We fix the man's "take".

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

No. 11, When Good Enough Isn't Good Enough: Pursuing Excellence

The fox on the man's head.
If you have read my previous posts, you will see that I have shown some examples of improving my own work.  In the animation business, as in many others, one cannot always do that.  There are many good reasons for this.  Sometimes the budget is too tight, or the screen time allowed for some bit of action is too short, often dictated by the timing of a script that is already locked down.  Very often,  a short deadline does not permit the careful planning that might make for better animation and storytelling.

Perhaps these are excuses rather than reasons.  In any event, I have spent most of my career doing work that was good enough.  It was good enough for my clients and good enough to give me a career doing animation in TV commercials, video games, and now for the internet.  I have done work where there was no time for pencil tests or for doing anything over, and it has been good enough.  And--don't get me wrong!--much of it has turned out very well.

And yet, I have done some animation I cannot bear to watch anymore and which you will never see on my demo reel.  (I think most serious creative people have work that they personally do not like to look at, even though others may admire that work.)

Also, in television commercials and other short work that I have done, there has never been time to develop character or to have very much character interaction.  There was seldom more than one character on screen at a time.  Therefore I never professionally had a chance to develop my character animation skills to their highest level.

When I began work on my current personal film The Crossing, my attitude at first was as usual:  to make it "good enough."  So I have completed the pencil animation on a good portion of it at that level.  At some point, though, I asked myself why I was doing that.  Why was I only making it good enough, when I now had the time to make it as good as it could possibly be?  I decided I wanted it to be excellent, even if that meant doing some work over again.

Thus, we have the basis for this blog:  a series of examples of "good enough" animation being improved; being made as good as I can make it.  I hope you will stay with me and perhaps benefit from the process of re-thinking all of these little scenes along with me.

Next: Problem 3: The Fox On the Man's Head